Thyroid: Is Yours Under or Over Performing?
by Shaun Dyler, N.D.
Millions of Americans have poorly functioning thyroid glands. In fact, more than 55 million of us have hypothyroidism or low - thyroid function. Another six million have an overactive thyroid g l and or hyperthyroidism. These numbers are certainly reflected in the clients I care for.When I see a client for the first time, chances are pretty good he or she is either already on thyroid medication or has some sort of thyroid problem that has yet to be diagnosed.
THE THYROID'S PURPOSE
Located in the middle of the neck, just under the skin below your Adam's apple, lies the thyroid gland—a small, yet mighty, member of the endocrine system. It measures about 2 inches across and has two halves or lobes, making it look like a bow tie or a butterfly. Because it is responsible for healthy metabolism, when it's operating sub-optimally, weight gain and sluggishness usually result.
The thyroid gland combines iodine from the foods we eat and the supplements we take to make thyroid hormones. These thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are released into the blood stream and transported throughout the body. The thyroid's production of T4 and T3 is under the control of the pituitary gland—an even smaller gland (about the size of a peanut) located in the brain. If the level of thyroid hormones drops too low, the pituitary gland produces thyroidstimulating hormone (TSH). Under the influence of TSH, the thyroid makes T3 and T4—raising their levels in the blood.When the pituitary gland detects T3 and T4 in the bloodstream, it decreases its TSH production.
A simple way to understand these many actions and reactions is to think about how your home is heated. If your body was a house, your thyroid gland would be your furnace, your pituitary gland would be your thermostat, and T3 and T4 would be the heat flowing out to warm your rooms. When the thermostat detects that the rooms are too cool, it signals the furnace to make more heat.
This is just like the pituitary gland detecting insufficient levels of T3 and T4 in the bloodstream and sending a signal to the thyroid gland to make more hormones. Once released into the blood stream, thyroid hormones are transported throughout your body to regulate your heart, metabolic, and respiratory rates, skin maintenance, menstrual cycle, memory, cholesterol level, fertility, and many other functions.
ENDOCRINE SYSTEM AND METABOLISM
The adrenal and thyroid glands are both part of the endocrine system and work hand-in-hand to help maintain ideal metabolism.When either of these glands becomes nutrient-depleted, it puts an extra burden on the other gland. The adrenal gland is most affected by stress, whereas the thyroid gland is more vulnerable to toxins, such as heavy metals and substances like chlorine, fluorine, and bromine.
As endocrine glands, they share some nutritional needs. For example, stress of any sort rapidly depletes vitamin C levels. While all organs rely on this crucial vitamin, during times of physical, emotional, or mental stress both the adrenals and thyroid need even larger amounts of vitamin C every day. Other supportive nutrients for these glands include iodine, vitamin B6, betaine, the amino acid L-tyrosine, trace minerals (zinc, copper, and manganese), and high-qual i ty glandular extracts to supply the amino acids, enzymes, and other key actives that endocrine glands need to function at peak performance.
The most common thyroid problem is hypothyroidism. Synthroid (levothyroxine) is a synthetic thyroxine and is most often prescribed to treat hypothyroidism. While many people do well on synthetic thyroid replacement, others hit a wall and their progress stalls. If you are officially diagnosed with low thyroid, ask your doctor about the prescription drug, Armour Thyroid. It has a complete array of thyroid hormones and is often successful.
Less common and more difficult to treat is hyperthyroidism. The cause of this is somewhat of a mystery, but is most likely related to genetic predispositions, nervous system overdrive, and sensitivity to iodine. Excess thyroid can cause a fast heart rate and severe anxiety, and most often needs serious medical intervention.
Some people dislike taking prescription drugs and, in an effort to use only natural products, use thyroid nutritional supplements in place of Synthroid or Armour Thyroid. This can be helpful in mild cases of hypothyroidism, but will not be sufficient for moderate to severe hypothyroidism. It is important to remember that by federal law, natural thyroid supplements cannot contain any thyroid hormones. Because they do not contain T3 or T4 or any other thyroid hormone, they cannot directly change your TSH levels.However, they can and do provide superior nutrition, or "food," for the thyroid gland which can help your thyroid function more efficiently.
AN IMPORTANT LAST NOTE
Treating thyroid disorders is highly complex and requires care from a doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner. But don't leave the care of your thyroid gland only in your doctor's hands. The very best health outcomes happen when you and your doctor work together to meet the goals of thyroid gland treatment.