A couple of people have asked me about increasing their metabolism & my mum has had hers removed and is taking a thyroid hormone supplement so i decided to I explore this important gland, it’s role in our bodies and some of the problems that can occur with the thyroid.
Your thyroid is located in the neck and is commonly associated with the regulation of metabolism & body weight but practically effects every cell in the body. Thyroid hormones are also essential for normal reproductive function and when planning for a little one it is essential in foetal neural development, bone growth post birth and normal tooth development.
The thyroid needs iodine from the diet to synthesise hormones. These hormones are produced with the amino acid tyrosine along with with iodide residues to form T4 and T3 (which is the more active form of thyroid hormone). T4 is circulated throughout the blood stream and T3 is formed at the target cell converted from T4.
The thyroid can store precursors for hormone supply that can last two to three months. Taking excessive amounts of iodine can lead to suppression of the thyroid gland. This is only a short term effect as it can adapt and function normally to the increased supply. When there’s a shortage of iodine T3 is made preferably over T4.
Iodine can be found in sea fish, shellfish, seaweed, sea salt and all supermarkets stock iodised salt. Australian bread must also contain iodised salt (but I generally stay away from bread as many of my friends will know).
Thyroid hormone has a wide range of effects on most tissues and effect all body systems. Thyroid hormone regulates
- basal metabolic rate (BMR) / body temperature
- carbohydrate/lipid/protein metabolism
- nervous system
- cardiovascular system
- muscular system
- skeletal system
- gastrointestinal system
- reproductive system
- the skin
Problems people may come across are an over-active or under-active thyroid.
Men, we are lucky here as thyroid problems are more common in women so give a little sympathy for the females in this instance. Although mostly unaffected this doesn’t mean men aren’t completely immune to thyroid problems as a deficiency may cause impotence!
HYPERTHYROIDISM – (increased output) Caused by toxic nodular goitre or Graves’ disease.
- mood – agitated, anxious, nervous
- poor sleep
- always feels hot, sweating
- increased heart rate
- swollen breast tissue in women
- weight loss
- fine tremor
- muscle weakness
- bulging eyes, vitiligo, myxoedema – thickening of skin on lower legs, and finger clubbing (Graves’ disease)
- goitre (bulging of thyroid gland in the neck)
HYPOTHYROIDISM – (decreased output) Mostly caused by iodine deficiency although autoimmune causes are also possible.
- dry hair & coarse skin
- “puffy” appearance
- always feels cold
- reduced heart rate
- weight gain
- muscle weakness
- cold feet
So what’s the best way to take care of your thyroid to keep it functioning normally?
Your diet should include seafood. Oysters and other shellfish are especially rich in iodine. Iodised salt can be used instead of regular table salt but ensure not to go overboard with it! Lifestyle factors include sustaining a healthy weight for your height, regular exercise and ensuring you keep stress levels manageable as the hormones released by stress inhibit thyroid hormone production. On an interesting final note the cold (in infants) and being pregnant also increases thyroid function!
Hope that helps you in understanding a little bit more about the wide effects your thyroid gland does for you!
Hinson, J. (2010). The endocrine system: basic science and clinical conditions (2nd ed.). Edinburgh ; New York: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier
Marieb, E. N. (2013). Human anatomy & physiology (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson
Nutrition Australia. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/iodine-facts