5 things to do to help your thyroid

The thyroid.

One of the more con­fus­ing glands I felt to under­stand when I was going through school­ing for natur­o­pathy; it is small but mighty, and when it’s not work­ing prop­erly, many things are not in their prop­er balance.

I am going to describe briefly how the thyroid is sup­posed to func­tion, and some simple tests we have star­ted using to find out if it is work­ing. Please be aware that I will be men­tion­ing vit­am­ins that the thyroid uses for prop­er func­tion­ing, but I would recom­mend that if you are not see­ing a health pro­fes­sion­al to identi­fy these defi­cien­cies not to rush out and pur­chase any­thing. The thyroid is com­plex, and heal­ing it takes some time and wis­dom! This is to help you under­stand your thyroid bet­ter. This post will be about hypo­thyroid­ism, or when the thyroid under-func­tions. The basic activ­ity of the thyroid is the same how­ever even for oth­er thyroid conditions.

The thyroid gets its instruc­tions and march­ing orders from the hypo­thal­am­us and pitu­it­ary, two centres in the brain that decide upon its activ­ity. TRH, thyroid releas­ing hor­mone, and TSH thyroid stim­u­lat­ing hor­mone. TRH from the hypo­thal­am­us tells the pitu­it­ary to release TSH so that more thyroid hor­mone is cre­ated, and the thyroid itself gets to work mak­ing T4.

In order to become act­ive thyroid hor­mone, the chem­ic­al T4 must be con­ver­ted to the act­ive con­stitu­ent T3. This requires an enzyme thyrop­er­ox­i­dase and the pres­ence of sel­en­i­um, zinc, and iod­ine. This is a simplist­ic dis­cus­sion, as there are fur­ther com­plex­it­ies, but in a nut­shell, that’s what is required.

There are a few places this con­ver­sion can go wonky:

  1. We don’t have the cofactors (zinc, sel­en­i­um, iodine)
  2. The enzyme thyrop­er­ox­i­dase is not work­ing properly
  3. We don’t have enough T4 to make T3
  4. The body makes anti­bod­ies against the thyroid — seen in immune dys­func­tion like infec­tion — like anti-thyrop­er­ox­i­dase anti­body and anti-thyroglobulin
  5. T4 is made into an inact­ive form of T3 called reverse T3, that floats around and looks like T3 but isn’t active

Why does this make a dif­fer­ence to you?

The thyroid has many respons­ib­il­it­ies — meta­bol­ism (weight gain and loss), flu­id move­ment, growth, and if it is strug­gling to get act­ive T3, you will feel many effects including:

  • depres­sion
  • weight gain
  • water reten­tion
  • exhaus­tion
  • dry skin
  • con­stip­a­tion
  • elev­ated cholesterol
  • feel­ing cold all the time
  • hair that is fall­ing out
  • swell­ing of the thyroid gland (goiter)
  • feel­ing dif­fi­culty swal­low­ing or a pres­sure in the throat

What I’m describ­ing above is more asso­ci­ated with hypo­thyroid­ism; the thyroid is under-func­tion­ing. The TSH (thyroid-stim­u­lat­ing hor­mone) will increase to try to get more T4 pro­duced to pro­duce more T3, and yet noth­ing happens.

What is also known to occur is the body tem­per­at­ure will start to decrease. This is well-doc­u­mented in what is known as Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome; low body tem­per­at­ure will indic­ate that the thyroid needs help and needs to be supported.

5 things to do to help your thyroid

  1. Test your body tem­per­at­ure. For more inform­a­tion here see Dr. Wilson’s font of inform­a­tion, but in a nut­shell, if it’s below 98.3 con­sist­ently (nor­mal is 98.5) the thyroid is hav­ing trouble (even if your test num­bers are normal).
  2. Test all of your thyroid with your doc­tor — this means TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3 and anti-thyroid antibodies 
    • Please note: Anything over a TSH of 2.5 can be con­sidered hypo­thyroid­ism, des­pite clin­ic­al guidelines stat­ing that TSH is con­sidered “nor­mal” under 5. Many people feel symp­toms of hypo­thyroid­ism well below 5, so it’s an import­ant dis­cus­sion to have with your doc­tor if you are in this category.
  3. Eat food with iod­ine (but not too much)
  4. Eat foods with zinc
  5. Eat foods with selenium

If in test­ing your body tem­per­at­ure and your thyroid func­tion­ing, you will need to make a decision with your doctor

  1. Take a T4-deriv­at­ive med­ic­a­tion (giv­ing the body more T4 avail­ab­il­ity can help it to make more T3)
  2. Get T3 sup­port directly
  3. Take sup­port­ive herbs that also increase the avail­ab­il­ity of T4/​T3
  4. Increase the cofactors (zinc, sel­en­i­um, iod­ine) with hopes that the T3 will be act­ively utilized

Depending on the per­son, some­times all that is needed is a very good dose of nutri­ents to help the thyroid get back to nor­mal func­tion­ing. However, if you are exhausted and your TSH is very high (10+) then we know the thyroid is really strug­gling and med­ic­a­tion can be neces­sary to get it back on track. Sometimes the med­ic­a­tion is required for a long time or indef­in­itely, some­times it is just a few weeks to months.

Make sure to ask many ques­tions. This is a very simplist­ic break­down of hypo­thyroid­ism and there are oth­er syn­dromes that exist that mim­ic low thyroid functioning.

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