What is the thyroid and what is its purpose?
Most of us know someone who has a thyroid dysfunction as this is a growing issue in the Western part of the world. The thyroid is a very important gland that sits just below the Adam’s apple. It is a butterfly-shaped gland positioned low on the front of the neck along the front of the windpipe. The thyroid has two side lobes, connected by a bridge, called the isthmus, which is in the middle. Brownish-red in color, the thyroid is rich with blood vessels as well as nerves which are important for voice quality. The thyroid secretes several hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones with the main hormone, thyroxine, also called T4.
Thyroid hormones act throughout the body, influencing metabolism, growth and development and body temperature. During infancy and childhood, adequate thyroid hormone is crucial for brain development.
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists reports that an estimated 27 million Americans have thyroid disease with approximately 13 million of them undiagnosed. The risk of thyroid disease increases with age, and women are seven times more likely than men to develop thyroid problems. There are many thyroid conditions which are defined as any dysfunction of the thyroid with the three most common types known as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer; however, it is not uncommon to have both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism at the same time.
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is the result of excessive thyroid hormone production causing the thyroid gland to be overactive. It is most often caused by Graves’ disease or an overactive thyroid nodule which is an autoimmune condition.
Another type is goiter which is a general term for thyroid swelling. Goiter can be harmless but it can also represent iodine deficiency or a condition associated with thyroid inflammation called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
A thyroid nodule is a small abnormal mass or lump in the thyroid gland. Thyroid nodules are extremely common but few are cancerous causing no problems at all. However, they may secrete excess hormones causing hyperthyroidism.
Another form is thyroiditis which is inflammation of the thyroid, usually from a viral infection or autoimmune condition. Thyroiditis can be very painful but at times, there are no symptoms at all. Thyroid storm, deemed as rare, occurs when there are extremely high thyroid hormone levels. This can cause severe illness.
Another term that you might hear for this problem is thyrotoxicosis which refers to high thyroid hormone levels in the blood stream, irrespective of their source.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
Thyroid hormones play a significant role in your metabolism. If the thyroid hormone levels are too high, this can cause the functions of the body to move much faster than normal increasing the metabolism.
This can also create more energy initially, but some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism typically include nervousness, irritability, increased perspiration, heart racing, hand tremors, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, thinning of the skin, fine brittle hair and weakness in some muscles, in particular, the upper arms and thighs.
It can also cause more frequent bowel movements. This activity may result in weight loss and many women experience lighter menstrual flow and fewer menstrual periods.
Over time, the body tends to break down and become very tired. Hyperthyroidism usually begins slowly but in some young patients, these changes can be very abrupt. Often the symptoms are mistaken for simple nervousness due to stress and can be confused for positive weight loss for anyone who is dieting.
With Graves’ disease, the most common form of hyperthyroidism, the eyes may look enlarged and bulging because the upper lids are elevated and some patients may experience swelling of the front of the neck from an enlarged thyroid gland which is referred to as a goiter.
What causes hyperthyroidism?
The most common cause of more than 70% of those affected is due to the overproduction of thyroid hormone by the entire thyroid gland and is known as Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is caused by antibodies in the blood that cause the thyroid to grow and secrete too much thyroid hormone which is why it becomes overstimulated.
This type of hyperthyroidism tends to run in families and is most common in young women, yet little is known about why specific individuals get this disease. Another type of hyperthyroidism is known as thyroid nodule and is characterized by one or more nodules or lumps that may gradually grow and increase their activity so that the total output of thyroid hormone into the blood is greater than normal.
This condition is more specifically known as toxic nodular or multinodular goiter. A more temporary type of hyperthyroidism is a condition called thyroiditis. This condition is caused by a problem with the immune system or a viral infection that can develop a leak of stored thyroid hormone.
Taking too much thyroid hormone in tablet form can add to the problem.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is the low production of thyroid hormones. Thyroid damage caused by autoimmune disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is an under active thyroid gland and means that the thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. Ultimately, people are diagnosed with hypothyroid if they have too little thyroid hormone in the blood.
Common causes are autoimmune disease, surgical removal of the thyroid and radiation treatment.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
When thyroid hormone levels are too low, the body’s cells can’t get enough thyroid hormone and the body’s processes start slowing down. As the body slows, it is common to feel colder, tire more easily, has drier skin, become forgetful and depressed and experience constipation.
In order to determine whether you have hypothyroidism, you may need to take a simple blood test. Unfortunately, there is no cure for hypothyroidism, and most patients have it for life but there are a few exceptions. If treated, thyroid function can return to normal.
What causes hypothyroidism?
There are numerous reasons why the cells in the thyroid gland may not make enough thyroid hormone, but here are some of the major causes.
Autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease is way more common these days. An autoimmune disease surfaces when the immune system, which protects the body from invading infections, confuses the thyroid gland cells and their enzymes for invaders.
When this happens, they attack them depleting the thyroid cells and enzymes needed to make enough thyroid hormone. This is more common in women than men. Autoimmune thyroiditis can begin suddenly or it can develop slowly over years.
The most common forms are Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and atrophic thyroiditis. A study reviewed hyperthyroidism in Graves' disease to hypothyroidism in Hashimoto's thyroiditis noting autoimmune as the most common organ-specific thyroid disorder affecting 5% to 10% of the population in Western countries.
While the exact etiology of thyroid autoimmunity is not known, the interaction between genetics and environmental factors appear to be two important characteristics that may initiate the process of thyroid autoimmunity. This report concluded that the importance of several factors such as iodine, drugs, and infections may contribute. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22735372
Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland. Some people with thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, or Graves’ disease choose to have part or all of their thyroid removed. If the whole thyroid is removed, hypothyroidism is inevitable which is a good reason to avoid surgery if possible. Sometimes part of the gland can remain and may be able to make enough thyroid hormone to keep blood levels normal.
Radiation treatment. Many with Graves’ disease, nodular goiter or thyroid cancer are treated with radioactive iodine with the intention of destroying the thyroid gland. Patients with Hodgkin’s disease, lymphoma or cancers of the head or neck are commonly treated with radiation and usually lose part or all of their thyroid function.
Congenital hypothyroidism (hypothyroidism that a baby is born with). There are some babies that are born without a thyroid, with a partially formed thyroid or a thyroid that develops in the wrong place within the body, known as an ectopic thyroid. This will often cause the thyroid cells or their enzymes to function improperly.
Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland, usually caused by an autoimmune attack or by a viral, parasitic, bacterial or fungal infection which causes the thyroid to release the entire supply of stored thyroid hormone into the blood at once. When this occurs, it can cause hyperthyroidism followed by an underactive thyroid. I always refer to a functional medicine doctor trained in systemic or thyroid infections such as Dr. Todd Watts. At www.drtoddwatts.com
There are some medications that can prevent the thyroid gland from being able to make hormone normally and can trigger hypothyroidism. Check with your doctor if you are taking any medications.
Damage to the pituitary gland. The pituitary is super smart and lets the thyroid know how much hormone to make. It is important to keep the pituitary gland working properly; otherwise, it may no longer be able to provide the much-needed signals to the thyroid causing it to stop making enough hormone.
What Is Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is very rare compared to other cancers; however, according to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 45,000 patients are diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the U.S. as compared to over 200,000 patients with breast cancer and 140,000 patients with colon cancer. Fewer than 2000 patients die of thyroid cancer each year.
Thyroid cancer is usually very treatable, even when thyroid cancer is more advanced. Thyroid cancer is more common in people who have a history of exposure to high doses of radiation, have a family history of thyroid cancer and are older than 40 years of age. However, for most patients, we do not know the specific reason why thyroid cancers develop.
Thyroid cancer can also be caused by radioactive iodine released during nuclear disasters such as the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl power plant in Russia or the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan related to the tsunami. Children are usually the most affected and often develop cancers within a few years of exposure but adults exposed during these accidents have been known to develop thyroid cancer as many as 40 years later.
A study reported that greater height and excess weight throughout adulthood are associated with higher incidence and mortality of most major types of thyroid cancer, including the least common but most aggressive form, anaplastic carcinoma.
Ideal Lifestyle Recommendations If You Have Thyroid Dysfunction
Avoid gluten and dairy
Wheat and dairy products are the cause of most allergies today because of the hybridized proteins of gluten and a1 casein. These proteins can cause many issues within the gut which in turn will cause inflammation of the thyroid affecting it’s much-needed function.
Avoiding gluten in your diet, or grains altogether can greatly reduce this inflammation. Because dairy is very hard to digest, it causes inflammation when consumed. If you must consume dairy products, make sure it comes from A2 cows, goat’s milk or sheep's milk.
Avoid processed foods
Eating whole fruits and vegetables will help your body heal. Try to choose organic and consume as many raw or lightly steamed vegetables as well as fresh fruits as possible with every meal by making it the largest part of your plate. Avoiding processed foods will help eliminate toxins, which causes inflammation, in the body.
Avoid those plastic bottles!
BPA (Bisphenol A) is found in plastic bottles and containers and can disrupt your endocrine system, ultimately affecting your thyroid. Whenever possible, drinking out of glass or stainless steel is a much healthier choice for you and your family. If you use plastic bottles, make sure they are BPA free.
Do An Iodine Check
Your body does not produce iodine and if the levels are low, it can cause problems with your thyroid. To check, visit your doctor for a urine test. Consider using a kelp or organic liquid iodine supplement if levels are low.
Get Rid of Heavy Metals In The Body
Heavy metals are caused by industrial exposure, air or water pollution, foods, medicines, improperly coated food containers or the ingestion of lead-based paints.There are a few ways to release these heavy metals. By using a combination of milk thistle, turmeric, chlorella and cilantro as a detox, these harmful metals can be removed from your cells and organs.
Ingest More Selenium
A study reports that selenium has a wide range of benefits ranging from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects to the production of active thyroid hormone. To get more selenium into your diet, include some Brazil nuts, salmon, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, brown rice, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, grass-fed beef, mushrooms and onions.
Include Adaptogen Supplements
Adaptogen Supplements can lower cortisol levels and improve thyroid function like Ashwagandha and Tulsi. It does this by increasing the white blood cells in the body which help fight disease-causing inflammation.
Ashwagandha contains chemicals that can help reduce inflammation and positively alter the immune system.
Get Rid Of Those Silver Fillings.
Yes, if you are an older adult, you likely have some silver fillings. Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and copper. There was a time when this was all that was used to take care of cavities in our mouths, but we have now learned that these metals can be harmful. Consider talking to your biological dentist about removing them.
Lower Your Carbohydrate Intake.
By lowering your intake of sugars and grains and replacing them with healthy fats, you can help decrease estrogen. When women consume too many carbs, estrogen levels may increase and negatively affect the thyroid. Consuming healthy fats like coconut oil, coconut milk, avocado, grass-fed beef, wild salmon, chia, avocado, flax seeds and hemp seeds will help balance hormones.
Bentonite Clay contains many nutrients that help get rid of toxins, such as heavy metals, chemicals and impurities, in the body. Throughout history this has been used by numerous cultures for the nutrients they provide. Ultimately, clay can provide both internal and external detoxification and may help reduce inflammation in the thyroid. Here is a recipe for a mineral clay bath that you can do right at home!
Clay Bath for Thyroid Support
¼ cup Bentonite clay
½ cup Epsom salts
20 drops Lavender essential oil
Draw a warm bath and while the water is running, place all ingredients in the bath. Make sure the clay, salts and lavender are well blended in the bath. Sit in the tub for 10-20 minutes and relax! Do this a 2-3 times per week.
Things You Should Know
It is critical that you talk to your doctor if you think you have a thyroid dysfunction.. If you experience any allergic reactions or anything unusual with new changes in diet or with natural solutions of any sort, stop the activity immediately and have a conversation with your doctor.
So what can you do in summary to support your thyroid?
Here are 5 basic tips you can do to support your thyroid.
- Avoid Gluten and A1 Dairy and processed GMO foods.
- Avoid toxins as much as possible, heavy metals, plastics, perfumes and toxic products with fragrance
- Consume foods rich in selenium, and iodine
- Take thyroid supporting supplements such as Ashwagandha (mito2max)
- Use essential oils to support hormonal balance and detoxification (check out my last blog post on thyroid health here). I love to alternate this recipe in addition to rolling on DDR prime which has many thyroid supporting oils as well such as Frankincense, Lemongrass, Clove and Melaleuca
If you are ready to make a change in your life and experience more balance, wellness and feel empowered using certified pure essential oils then let’s chat. You can book a call with me by using my scheduler here or email me at email@example.com
I will provide you with a free wellness consultation and a recommended protocol for you so you can experience more balance, feel empowered and love life even more.
DISCLAIMER, essential oils are not meant to cure or treat to disease, please consult with your medical provider for treatment.
If you are ready to make a change in your life and experience more balance, wellness and empowerment using certified pure essential oils then let’s chat.
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