Common expressions: “Look how big the children are!” or ”I am so tired” or “I love chocolate” and ”I dislike the cold”. We can thank the small gland that’s wrapped around the trachea, our thyroid for our likes, dislikes and pains. This small butterfly organ has 3 principle functions: cellular differentiation, growth and metabolism. Two key hormones (thyroxine) promotes the body’s growth & development and with help from the parathyroid gland, there’s bone formation and control of calcium in the blood (hormone calcitonin). The small double lobed gland claims to fame are also attributed to: sleep patterns, weight maintenance, moods, immune system, muscle agility and heart rate, etc.
While the thyroid is busy deciding how it will control the bodies energy, there may be an over production of the thyroid hormone (autoimmune disease or Graves Disease) it’s called Hyperthyroidism. Other causes linked to hyperthyroidism may be attributed to inflammation, nodules or tumors on the thyroid. You may notice an increased heat rate with exercise and excessive sweating with or without exercise.
There maybe a time in it’s lifespan that the thyroid hormone output is reduced, called Hypothyroidism. Some of the initial symptoms are: weight gain with no change in diet or exercise, depression, and exhaustion. The negative effects of untreated hypothyroidism are: increased cholesterol levels, strokes, cardio vascular disease and the immune system that turns on the body first attacking the thyroid itself (Hashimoto Disease). THE GOOD NEWS is that hypothyroidism is easily treated through daily medication.
Typical reference ranges for normal thyroids
|TSH||0.4||4.5||mU/L (milliunits per litre)|
|FT4||9.0||25.0||pmol/L (picomoles per litre)|
|FT3||3.5||7.8||pmol/L (picomoles per litre)|
These ranges are only a guide. The reference range for FT4 in particular does currently vary between methods and so any ‘typical’ reference range quoted will be subject to method and local interpretation
Test results outside the reference range
- A high SH level with a low FT4 level: Hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid)
- A low TSH level with a high FT4 level and a high FT3 level: Hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid)
- Abnormal TSH levels together with normal FT4 levels indicate you may be at risk of developing a thyroid disorder
- A low TSH levels together with a low FT4 levels can indicate a disorder of the pituitary gland
SYMPTOMS OF MALFUNCTIONING THYROID can be noticed at any age and can even be misinterpreted as signs of aging;
- Irregular Periods
- Dry skin or brittle nails
- Unable to tolerate the cold
- Memory problems
There are several nutrients that play key roles in the thyroid gland and the thyroid hormone function: zinc, copper, iodine, selenium and omega-3 fats. A multi-vitamin along with eating foods high in these minerals, is essential for normal thyroid hormone production and metabolism.
Dietary sources of zinc include: seafood, beef, oatmeal, chicken, liver, spinach, nuts and seeds.
Copper is mainly found in liver and other organ meats, eggs, yeast, beans, nuts and seeds.
Iodine is also an important building block for thyroid hormone. Nutritional sources of iodine include sea fish, sea vegetables (kelp, dulse, hijiki, nori and kombu) and iodized salt. Iodine is such a key component of thyroid health.
FOODS TO LIMIT. Caffeine, calcium should be consumed in limited amounts. Goitrogen foods are also able to block iodine, therefore, utilization of these foods should be limited. They include:turnips, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, cassava root, soybeans, peanuts, pine nuts and millet, (peaches and strawberries may also interfere). Cooking, however, usually inactivates goitrogens.
Selenium. One of the best natural sources of selenium is Brazil Nuts. Selenium is an important mineral that contributes to the health of the thyroid. 1 ounce of nuts a day will benefit the small gland.
Omega-3 fatty acids will also contribute to normal thyroid function, which can be found in fish and fish oils, as well as vitamin A, which improves thyroid receptor binding and thyroid hormone activity.
Tyrosine, an amino acid and a precursor for making thyroid hormone. A deficiency of tyrosine or low protein diets can contribute to low thyroid function. Check with your doctor if supplementation at a dose of 500-1,500 milligrams (mg) daily, which has therapeutic benefits, is needed.
Exercise. Daily exercise stimulates thyroid gland function and increases tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormone. Try walking, biking, dancing at least 20 minutes a day. However, walking 30 minutes twice a day, seems to encourage both the fuctionability of the thyroid and weight loss versus weight gain normally associated with hypothyroidism. While with hyperthyroidism an exercise regimen should be advised by a doctor in order to monitor a fast heart rate.
By Kimberly Crocker
- University of Colorado State
- Mayo Clinic
- Hypothyroidism and Research
- Effects of evening vs morning ingestion of thyroxine/synthroid http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17201800
- Thyroid Function Tests http://www.btf-thyroid.org/index.php/thyroid/quick-guide-index/thyroid-function-tests