It’s really amazing how a butterfly shaped gland has such an important role for your entire body. The way your body releases hormones depends on this insect shaped organ, that not many people know about. Even if you’ve heard of a thyroid, chances are you have some confusion regarding its function and how it regulates hormones that can keep you in shape or cause unnecessary weight gain.
What’s a Thyroid?
As mentioned before, the thyroid is butterfly shaped and is located in the front of your neck. Everybody has one, and that’s a good thing! The thyroid’s job is to release hormones that manage many metabolic processes throughout the body. The functions that the thyroid manages are the following:
- Central and peripheral nervous systems
- Body Weight
- Heart Rate
- Menstrual Cycles
- Muscle Strength
- Body Temperature
- Cholesterol Levels
So, by looking at the list above, the thyroid has a lot to cope with on its dainty, butterfly wings. The thyroid gland is pretty tough considering its only 2 inches long. It’s has two sides, which are called lobes that sit on each side of your windpipe, and are attached by a layer of thyroid tissue referred to as an isthmus. There are some people who don’t have an isthmus, therefore their thyroid lobes are separated.
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How Exactly Does Your Thyroid Gland Work?
The thyroid is part of your endocrine system, which is an assortment of glands that produce, store and secrete hormones straight into the circulatory system so they can venture out to your body’s cells. The foods you eat that contain iodine are of particular importance for the thyroid gland, because the thyroid uses iodine to produce two fundamental hormones:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
You have to think of your T3 and T4 levels like a hormonal Goldilocks. That live in your body, and want their levels not too high nor too low, but just right! Therefore, another two glands in your body, specifically in the brain, the hypothalamus and the pituitary interact with each other to keep T3 and T4 levels harmonized. Eating a diet low in carbs and high in fat can affect female hormones.
Here it gets even more interesting, since when your hypothalamus notices that your T3 and your T4 levels are too high or low, it produces TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH) that waves a red flag to the pituitary gland to warn the thyroid gland to produce more or less of T3 and T4 by raising or reducing the discharge of a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
When your T3 and T4 levels are insignificant in the blood, the pituitary gland releases additional TSH to let the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones. Supposing that your T3 and T4 levels are high, the pituitary gland releases barely any TSH to the thyroid gland to slow down the production of more thyroid hormones.
What Would Happen If I Removed My Thyroid Gland?
Although your thyroid gland is a small insect shape gland, you would suffer a lot if you thought removing it wouldn’t make a difference. Probably right now T3 and T4 are moving around in your bloodstream to get to as many cells in your body. These hormones balance the acceleration of how fast your cells and/or metabolism work. For instance, T3 and T4 control your heart rate and how quickly your intestines process food. Therefore, those times you feel constipation and experience weight gain could be because your T3 and T4 levels are low and your heart rate is taking it too easy.
Here are some symptoms of too much T3 and T4 in your body (Hyperthyroidism)
- Nervousness, hyperactivity
- Hand trembling/shaking
- Irritability or moodiness
- Sweating or sensitivity to high temperatures
- Hair loss/ Thinning of hair
- Missed or loss menstrual periods
- Weight loss
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
- Problems with fertility
- Vision problems
Why Do People Who Suffer from Hyperthyroidism Have It Harder?
When someone suffers from hypothyroidism, a doctor would usually prescribe synthetic hormones like Synthroid to restore the hormones your thyroid doesn’t produce. However, hyperthyroidism doesn’t have many medical options. The medications that are used to control hyperthyroidism are very dangerous when taken in the long run.
These drugs often destroy the entire thyroid, which eventually leads you to hypothyroidism. In regards to symptoms and discomfort, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can equally make you feel horrible. However, most endocrinologist agree that it would take you longer to succumb to no thyroid hormone than having to deal with too many hormones in your body’s system. The reason being is that too many hormones can quickly lead to stroke and a heart attack.
What Causes Hyperthyroidism?
Generally speaking, hyperthyroidism is caused when a person suffers from the autoimmune disorder Graves’ Disease. When you suffer from this ailment, your body produces an antibody. This is a protein made by the body to protect against a virus or bacteria, known as thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) that results in the thyroid gland generating too much thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease is hereditary and usually found in women.
There are incidences when hyperthyroidism is brought about from a toxic nodular or multinodular goiter, which are masses or nodules in the thyroid gland that encourage the thyroid to produce lots of thyroid hormones. Moreover, thyroiditis or more commonly known as inflammation of the thyroid gland, can result from a virus or issue with the immune system that temporarily causes symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Although, having some iodine in your diet is a good thing, don’t go overboard with the stuff. People who get too much iodine from either their foods, supplements and perhaps certain medications that include iodine are at higher risk of having a thyroid gland that overproduces thyroid hormones. On top of that, some women get hyperthyroidism during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby.
How to Get a Hyperthyroidism Diagnosis
If you feel that you are suffering from some of the symptoms associated from hyperthyroidism, its highly recommended to talk to your doctor immediately. Your doctor will probably suggest a physical exam and blood tests to measure levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormones T3 and T4. He or she may also suggest that you get an ultrasound or nuclear medicine scan of your thyroid to check if it has nodules, its inflamed or overactive.
Also, you could be asked to test your triglycerides, since low triglycerides are linked to an elevated metabolic rate. Obviously, treatment depends on factors like the severity of your hyperthyroidism, age and pre-existing medical conditions.
Foods to Eat When You Have Hyperthyroidism
When your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, you won’t be able to manage it with just diet. You may not be able to cure hyperthyroidism completely with your diet, but you can ease some symptoms and make your struggle with hyperthyroidism less of a struggle. However, some foods can help with mild hyperthyroidism symptoms.
- Berries - Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries have a lot of antioxidants that can keep your immune system strong. Therefore, having a serving a day is a great idea!
- Cruciferous Veggies – Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale can lessen the amount of thyroid hormone your thyroid gland makes
- Vitamin D and Omega-3s – Salmon is good for hyperthyroidism because it contains vitamin D, which is an important nutrient that works with calcium to stop bone loss. Salmon carries a punch when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids to keep you fit. It’s really important to get omega-3 fatty acids, because your body doesn’t naturally produce these fatty acids. If fish isn’t your thing, get your vitamin D from eggs and mushrooms. Go nuts for your omega-3s from walnuts, olive oil and flaxseed oil. Try to eat these foods every day.
- Turkey – Don’t keep turkey for just Thanksgiving! It’s a perfect source of protein, which your body needs for energy and to maintain muscle mass. One of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism is weight loss, so get as much protein as you can to ensure you keep a healthy weight. If you’re vegetarian, beans and nuts will give you the protein you need.
- Green Juices – Green is the go to color for combating symptoms of hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease. Try to get your green juice from nutrient dense vegetables such as kale, spinach and spirulina that provide very important nutrients.
Foods to Avoid When You Have Hyperthyroidism
Just like there are foods you should chow down on to help improve hyperthyroidism, there are some you have to clear away from. It’s important to tie healthy eating with the right medications and supplements for a tried and tested approach to fighting the daily battle against hyperthyroidism. Here are some of the foods you should avoid to help minimize symptoms of the disease such as insomnia, rapid heartbeat, tremors, increased hunger and unexplained weight loss.
- Caffeine – Don’t forget that the first 5 letters of the disease spell out ‘HYPER’ and that’s exactly what your thyroid is. It’s overacting and very energetic, so there’s no need for you to make dashes to Starbucks and pay for overpriced coffee beans. Stimulants like coffee, sugar, or any other foods and beverages that give you a perk just intensify the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
- White Bread. Pastas and Cereals – Carbs are what we all crave, but it is very hard to let these bad boys go. If you have hyperthyroidism, its even more of the case to limit these types of carbs from your diet. Stick to pasta, breads, snacks and rice that are whole grain. Eat more barley, quinoa and air-popped popcorn. Keep in mind that whole grain can still alter gut bacteria.
- Added Sugars – Cane sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup cause extra calories and make your blood sugar levels spike up. These sugars have little to no nutritional benefits. They are only added to foods to give them a sweet flavor, and we have to admit, very desirable taste. If you control your blood sugar levels, you’ll be able to control heart palpitations which many hyperthyroid sufferers have.
- Red Meat – Red meats are rich in saturated fat, which has been traditionally viewed as not very good for your heart, and could increase the inflammation due to hyperthyroidism. However, what we've been told about saturated fat it shrouded in myth. So we've broken down the truth about saturated fat here. Also, avoid processed, fried meat as well as sauces that accompany meat dishes. Get your protein from cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring. If you are vegetarian, get it from beans.
- Avoid Allergic Foods – Watch out for certain foods that make you feel a little off or give you unexplainable rashes, hives, a feeling of being bloated and nausea after you eat them. You could be allergic to these foods and as a person with hyperthyroidism, you should stay clear of these foods. The most common allergies from food are lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, peanut allergies, wheat allergies and allergic reactions caused by food additives.
Ways to Solve Hyperthyroidism Naturally
Your doctor may have put you on radioactive iodine treatment to help cure you of your hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, but you want to help your body more. A healthy diet as we mentioned before is a great way to give your body that extra boost in the right direction and so are these natural remedies.
- Bugleweed – Is a type of plant. People use the parts that grow above ground as a natural remedy for hyperthyroidism. It has certain acids that lower levels of thyroid hormone. Take 2ml 3 times a day for best results.
- L’ carnitine – It’s a nitrogen containing compound that moves long-chain fatty acids into your body’s cells for oxidation. You can get it as a supplement or from the foods you eat such as fish or chicken. L’carnitine helps with hyperthyroidism because it discourages the production of the thyroid hormone, resulting in reducing cardiac symptoms that most hyperthyroidism suffers encounter. Take 2 ml 3 times a day for maximum results. ALA - alpha lipoic acid similarly breaks down fatty deposits in tissue. ALA helps to clear toxins that are fat soluble and have an affinity to attach to and remain in our cell's lining (phospholipid bilayer). These toxins can remain in our cells for years and are released with fasting, exercise, and stress.
- Lemon Balm – It’s an herb that can grow almost everywhere. You can use the dried leaves and make them into a tea. Lemon balm is so helpful with hyperthyroidism that it lowers the production of the thyroid hormone, reduces stress levels and improves sleeping problems. Take 2ml 3 times a day for best results. If you're looking for a super clean, natural sleep aid. Momental Mend is an essential herbal sleep aid loaded with nutrients to decrease stress and anxiety while improving how our brain and body restore and recover during sleep. Mend accomplishes this by extending available nutrients that increases the amount of time you spend in deep sleep; where our brain and body undergoes the greatest tissue regeneration.
- B-complex - All the B vitamins are important for healthy thyroid function and every B vitamin has a different job to do. For instance, B1 (Thiamine) helps with an overactive thyroid. B2 (Riboflavin) without it, your thyroid and kidneys would fail to secrete thyroid hormones and B3 (Niacin) is needed to keep the body’s cells in good working order. Basically, you get the idea. B vitamins are good, so get as many as you can! We recommend 50mg 2 times a day for improved results.
- Plant Sterols – Don’t forget that hyperthyroidism (Graves’ Disease) is when the body gets confused, begins an autoimmune attack and starts to fight against its own friend, in this case the thyroid gland. Plant sterols keep the immune system in check, so the thyroid can return to its normal working form. For dosage, follow the directions on the bottle.
- Essential Oils – Oils like frankincense and myrrh help to relieve stress on the body and help thyroid function. Try putting 2 drops of frankincense oil on the roof of your mouth on a daily basis and smear 2-3 drops of Myrrh on the thyroid area twice a day.
Nobody said its easy living with hyperthyroidism, but it’s not impossible. The battle may be long and uphill; but with good doctors, medicines, supplements and support from family as well as friends you can stare hyperthyroidism down and let it know that it chose the wrong thyroid gland to mess about with.
Where can I buy supplements to improve metabolism?
You can find alpha lipoic acid in the supplements aisle of your local health food store or you can purchase through online retailers like Amazon.
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