new_health (2006-28)

Metabolize This 

The thyroid’s connected to the neck bone

by Wendy C. Smith

The thyroid is a very specialized, interesting gland. It is small, bowtie-shaped and located in the neck around the Adam’s Apple area where it kind of wraps around the windpipe. It’s a little guy with a Napoleon complex, and it is the general of the body’s metabolism.

The thyroid gland governs how fast the body burns fats. It produces hormones, two of which, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), are mighty important to metabolic health and not produced by any other organ (although other organs can convert T4 into T3). These hormones help the cells obtain oxygen and help the cells convert calories into energy for the body. The thyroid is responsible, in conjunction with the pituitary gland, for the rate at which energy is converted and calories are burned. 

 In Eastern medicine, the thyroid is governed by the liver. It is thought that when the liver is stagnant, a lump may be felt in the throat, even if it is not physically present. This lump can translate to an inactive or diseased thyroid. Western physiology, as well, believes that the thyroid is related to the liver because when a visible lump or goiter (an enlarged thyroid) exists, it is a sign of a congested liver.

The most common type of thyroid disease is hypothyroidism, which is often referred to as an under-active or low thyroid. Symptoms of low thyroid can be fatigue and weak muscles, unexplained weight gain, unusual depression, poor memory and concentration, appearance of a goiter, cold hands and feet, unusually high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and puffy face and eyelids. Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is by means of a blood test.

Thyroid disease can be caused by a number of things. Pollutants in our body that stress the adrenal system are thought to be partially to blame for the increasing number of people who contract low thyroid. Other contributors are over-exposure to radiation, over-consumption of isoflavone-intensive soy products, prescription drugs such as lithium, an over-consumption of iodine food or iodine containing supplements, or an under-consumption of iodine as experienced by some folks on a low-salt diet.

The conventional treatment for hypothyroidism is a prescription for a synthetic thyroid hormone, which the individual must take for life. Synthetic thyroid hormones are linked to side effects such as severe headaches, bone loss and insomnia to name a few. Before it reaches that point though, there are natural ways to support and regulate the thyroid.

Exercise is one. It helps the body regulate its metabolism and stimulates circulation. Sunbathe in the morning for half an hour. It stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands, which in turn stimulate the thyroid. Avoid refined foods. Eat plenty of iodine rich foods such as seafood, seaweed, mushrooms, garlic, lettuce and yellow vegetables (squash, carrots). Avoid foods that inhibit the processing of iodine (peanuts, turnips, cabbage).

Stop drinking fluoridated water or using products that contain fluoride. Fluoride depresses thyroid activity. If you want to go a more Eastern route, stimulate the liver by drinking a glass of water with a fresh-squeezed lemon’s juice every morning. Since the thyroid is part of the liver system, activating the liver will enliven the thyroid. There are several supplements on the market that support the thyroid. One in particular is Thyroid Support, an organic herbal mixture made by Gaia Herbs, a North Carolina company.    

The hyperactive side of thyroid disease is much less common. It is called Hyperthyroidism or Grave’s Disease. This disease is symptomatic of the thyroid being too active and secreting too much thyroxine. Contributing factors to hyperthyroidism are autoimmune diseases, stress, diet pills, fatigue, or in a few cases a bacterial infection in the thyroid gland. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism are unhealthy weight loss, inability to rest, irritation, sudden aging, a goiter, nervousness, temperature (climate) sensitivity, and bulging eyes and blurred vision.

The conventional method of treating Grave’s Disease is to use radioactive iodine to kill the hormone producing cells in the thyroid. The patient then goes on synthetic thyroid hormones for life. These hormones have the same side effects as the hormones used to treat hypothyroidism.

It might be wise to first try some more natural ways to treat this condition before “killing” the thyroid. Exercise. As before, it helps regulate metabolism. Eat thyroid de-activating foods like broccoli, cabbage, kale, beets and spinach. Get plenty of B vitamins and take a thyroid-supporting supplement.

The thyroid is a very important gland, and its health is intimately connected to your metabolic well-being. If you have a family history of thyroid disease or think you might have a thyroid imbalance, get it checked out before serious damage occurs. In the meantime, exercise. It can’t hurt and it seems to help a lot of things these days.