Our thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped organ at the base of the neck, is responsible for releasing hormones that help in regulating our metabolism. Some other vital functions of the thyroid are:
- Body temperature
- Body weight
- Central and peripheral nervous systems
- Cholesterol levels
- Heart rate
- Menstrual cycles
- Muscle strength
Lying near the front of the throat and just beneath the Adam’s apple, the thyroid comprises two sides called lobes. These lobes are connected by a strip of tissues which are called the isthmus.
The total size of the gland powerhouse is 2 inches.
How Does the Thyroid Gland Work
Thyroid: a large ductless gland in the neck that secretes hormones regulating growth and development through the rate of metabolism – Oxford English Dictionary
The thyroid is a constituent of the endocrine system, which is a collection of glands responsible for producing, storing and releasing hormones into the bloodstream. The thyroid gland uses iodine, mainly from the foods we eat, to manufacture two very important hormones, T3 and T4.
Thyroid hormone production is regulated via a feedback loop between the thyroid gland, hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which are two deep and tiny areas of the brain.
The production of T3 and T4 hormones is a complex process. And as with anything complex, it’s not uncommon for thyroid problems to surface.
Signs of Thyroid Troubles
It is estimated that around 25 million Americans have a thyroid issue. Of these 25 million, around half of them do not realize this. Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is responsible for around 90 percent of all thyroid conditions.
Here Are Seven Of The Most Common Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism:
Our body’s energy production requires a certain amount of thyroid hormones. A significant drop off in this production can lead to exhausted energy levels, producing a powerful sense of fatigue and weakness.
A shortage of thyroid hormones slows the body’s metabolic rate. When this happens, we don’t digest as many foods and fewer calories are converted into useful energy.
For many thyroid patients, a lack of treatment or insufficient treatment, can make losing weight nearly impossible, even while following a proper diet and doing exercises.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, is one of the most common types of hypothyroidism. A suppressed immune system makes it much more difficult to ward off harmful bacteria and viruses.
This results in more frequent illnesses. The most troubling fact is that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis causes the immune system to attack healthy organs and tissues.
Loss of Coordination
Hypothyroidism that goes untreated can damage the peripheral nerves. These nerves relay information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, including our arms and legs.
If these nerves are damages, they may cause numbness, pain and tingling in the affected areas.
Our brain has a particular type of immune cell called microglia. Around 10 to 15 percent of all the brain cells are microglia, which are responsible for stimulating the body’s immune defense in the central nervous system (CNS).
Brain for is directly linked to brain inflammation, a byproduct of irritated microglia cells. Forgetfulness, the inability to concentrate and reduced cognitive ability are all signs of brain fog.
Anxiety or Depression
The brain is also susceptible to inflammation. Except experiencing brain fog, our neurochemicals, or rather neurotransmitters are thrown out of balance.
As the human brain is already susceptible to anxiety thanks to the fight-or-flight feeling, further imbalances can increase the risk of anxiety and depression.
Various “Under the Surface” Symptoms
Sometimes we intuitively know when something isn’t right with our body. Thyroid problems are notorious for creating a mess of subtle but distractive symptoms.
Here is a short list: mood swings, excessive sleep, muscle and joint pain (including tendonitis and carpal tunnel), cold hands and feet, brittle nails, dry skin, hair loss, constipation, swelling of the neck.
Maintaining Thyroid Health
Many people around the world downplay the importance of a healthy thyroid gland. Some are utterly unaware of what the thyroid is and what its function is. This is one case for why thyroid health is crucial.
Myxedema, an advanced form of hypothyroidism is rare, but when it occurs, it can be life-threatening. Signs and symptoms include low blood pressure, decreased breathing, decreased body temperature, unresponsiveness and even coma. In extreme cases, myxedema can be fatal.
Dr. Amy Myers, a board-certified physician, and survivor of Grave’s disease recommends the following ten things to improve thyroid health.
- Make sure you are taking a high-quality multivitamin with Iodine, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin D, and B vitamins.
- Take a tyrosine supplement such as this one by Thorne Research to help with the FT4 to FT3 conversion.
- Go gluten-free! If you have Hashimoto’s, try going completely grain and legume free.
- Deal with your stress and support your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands and thyroid work hand and hand. I recommend restorative yoga and adaptogenic herbs (which) support the adrenal glands in coping with stress.
- Get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.
- Have a biological dentist safely remove any amalgam fillings you may have.
- Watch your intake of raw goitrogens. There is a bit of a debate surrounding this.
- Get fluoride, bromide and chlorine out of your diet and environment.
- Heal your gut. A properly functioning digestive system (gut) is critical to good health.
- Find a functional medicine doctor in your area and have them run the above laboratory test and work with you to find your root cause of the thyroid imbalance.