January is National Thyroid Awareness Month which aims to spread awareness on how to care for the thyroid. If you’re suffering from hypothyroidism, there are a variety of methods to reduce hypothyroidism symptoms and support thyroid function. Nutritious foods, supplements and hormone therapy can provide natural solutions to balancing thyroid hormones.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the front of the neck. It consists of two lobes located on both sides of the windpipe (trachea). A normal thyroid gland is not usually visible to the eye nor able to be felt by touch.
The thyroid gland absorbs iodine from food to produce hormones that regulate metabolism and digestive functions, brain development and bone maintenance. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain send chemical messages to the thyroid such as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH instructs the thyroid on how many hormones to produce. The thyroid gland produces different types of hormones including Thyroxine (T4): and Triiodothyronine (T3).
Due to its role in regulating metabolism, the thyroid breaks down fat and promotes weight loss. Thyroid hormones control how fast carbohydrates and fat are burned which helps regulate body temperature. They also influence cerebral metabolism, prevent cognitive impairment and nourish thin, sparse hair, dry skin and thin nails.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
If the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough T3, then hypothyroidism can develop. Hypothyroidism is a disease caused by autoimmune conditions, poor iodine intake or drug side effects. T3 and T4 are essential for physical and mental development. Untreated hypothyroidism during childhood can cause mental impairment and reduced growth.
Hypothyroidism in adults causes a weak metabolism. Symptoms can include fatigue, intolerance to cold temperatures, low heart rate, weight gain, reduced appetite, poor memory, depression, stiff muscles and reduced fertility.
1. Foods That Support Thyroid Function
Certain foods contain minerals that can aid in thyroid function. If you have hypothyroidism, try adding these five foods to your diet.
Seaweed, such as kelp, nori, and wakame, are naturally rich in iodine—a trace element needed for normal thyroid function. Eat seaweed with sushi or try packaged seaweed snacks to toss in salads.
Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts are excellent sources of selenium, which helps support healthy thyroid function. Pack a small bag of assorted nuts to snack on throughout the day.
Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and selenium, which both help decrease inflammation. Bake salmon, cod, sea bass, haddock, or perch for a healthy dose of omega-3s and selenium.
Dairy products like yogurt, ice cream, and milk contain iodine. The thyroid needs iodine to prevent its glands from becoming enlarged—known as goiter. Treat yourself to a low-fat serving of frozen yogurt to get sufficient levels of iodine.
Eggs contain healthy amounts of both selenium and iodine. For the most health benefits, eat the whole egg, as the yolk holds most of the nutrients.
2. Supplements That Support Thyroid Function
NBH’s Thyroid Health formula supports the thyroid gland in its normal daily function of controlling metabolism and energy production. Our supplement includes ingredients that provide three different kinds of thyroid support.
- Glandular Support includes the glandulars thyroid concentrate, anterior pituitary, and hypothalamus to promote a balanced metabolic activity level and regenerative capabilities.
- Nutritional Support promotes energy, metabolism, and healthy thyroid function. This natural formula contains various vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B6, Zinc, copper and SeaSel® Kelp.
- Enzyme Delivery System includes protease and a variety of polysaccharolytic enzymes for improved delivery of ingredients.
The mineral zinc is required for thyroid hormone production. An optimal concentration of zinc is needed for healthy levels of T3, T4, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
The thyroid needs iron to convert T4 into T3, the active form of thyroid hormone. Iron deficiency is associated with thyroid dysfunction.
3. Thyroid Hormone Therapy to Support Thyroid Function
Thyroid hormone therapy uses natural hormones to raise abnormally low levels T3 and T4. The hormones can be delivered in pill form and the most commonly prescribed is pure thyroxine T4. According to Endocrine Web, “The benefit of taking only T4 therapy is that you’re allowing your body to perform some of the actions it is meant to do, which is taking T4 and changing it into T3. The half-life of T4 is also longer compared to T3 (7 days versus 24 hours), that means that it will stay for a longer time in your body after ingestion.”
Providers often use blood test results to determine how much T4 will balance out an individual’s hormone levels. The blood results also reveal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels released by the pituitary gland. Increased levels of TSH may indicate an underactive thyroid or that therapy levels need to be increased. Hypothyroidism can be a progressive disease and therefore dosage may need to increase over time.
Hopkins Medicine states: “To make sure that thyroid hormone replacement works properly, consider the following recommendations:
- Maintain regular visits to your healthcare provider.
- Take your thyroid medicine at least 1 hour before breakfast and any calcium or iron medicines you may take. Or take at bedtime, or at least 3 hours after eating or taking any calcium or iron medicines.
- Tell your healthcare provider of your thyroid hormone treatment before beginning treatment for any other disease. Some treatments for other conditions or diseases can affect the dosage of thyroid hormone therapy.
- Let your healthcare provider know if you become pregnant.
- Tell your healthcare provider of any new symptoms that may arise.
- Tell all healthcare providers of your thyroid condition and medicine dosage.”
5 Benefits of Thyroid Hormone Therapy
By balancing out T4 levels, thyroid hormone therapy can restore metabolism and digestive functions leading to more energy, focus and productivity.
- Increase energy, body temperature, and warmth
- Balance temperature, metabolism, and cerebral function
- Increase fat breakdown resulting in weight loss and lower cholesterol
- Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment
- Increase hair, skin, and nail health
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