Understanding the Thyroid: The Shield Within
Your Master Gland
At the front of your neck is your thyroid, a shield-like shaped gland that secretes two hormones, T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). The thyroid is an important part of the human endocrine system as these hormones influence most functions and metabolic processes throughout your entire body; instructing your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, your digestion to absorb food and your cells to convert that food into energy.
It plays such a big role in overall health and vitality for such a small gland. But, despite being so powerful, it’s a delicate glad, easily thrown out of balance. Numerous factors contribute to this which leads to many aspects of your health also being affected.
When the Master Suffers
When the thyroid becomes dysfunctional, it can become overactive or under-active, leading to several different conditions that can arise:
Hypothyroidism: This is the most common thyroid condition, and refers to an under-active or sluggish thyroid. This slows down your metabolism, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, depression, intolerance to the cold, dry skin and constipation.
Hyperthyroidism: This is when the thyroid become overactive, speeding up the metabolism. This displays symptoms like a rapid heart rate, excessive sweating, weight loss, fatigue and agitation.
Autoimmune Thyroid Disease: Autoimmunity is when the body’s immune system attacks itself. In the thyroid, this manifests as either Hashimoto’s (creating an under-active thyroid), or Graves’ disease (creating an overactive thyroid).
Goitre: A goitre is the enlargement or swelling of the thyroid gland. It can occur with both an under and overactive thyroid, as well as nutrient deficiency such as iodine.
Driving the Thyroid to Dysfunction
There are many factors that contribute to an unbalanced thyroid gland, however, two of the biggest drivers are stress and an iodine deficiency.
Stress: This can be a major cause or aggravating factor for Thyroid dysfunction. Physical or emotional stress can reduce the level of hormones your thyroid makes, and can also flare an existing autoimmune thyroid condition.
Iodine deficiency: Iodine is a component of thyroid hormones, making it vital for healthy thyroid function. In Australia, the average diet is extremely low in iodine-rich foods, which can head to an under-active thyroid or goitre formation.
Other causes are environmental toxins. There is increasing evidence that environmental exposures, specifically to pesticides, should also be considered potential risk factors for thyroid disease. Certain insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, should also be considered potential risk factors for thyroid disease.
Nourish your Thyroid Naturally
There are key nutrients and herbs that can address the drivers of thyroid issues, helping your thyroid to function optimally.
Iodine: If you are deficient, supplementation of this mineral will help to support the production of thyroid hormones, and reduce your risk of hypothyroidism and goitre growth.
Magnesium: This mineral helps to reduce the activation of the stress system, saving the thyroid from the strain. Magnesium also assists cells in utilise iodine.
Ashwagandha (Withania): When the thyroid is under-active, this Ayurvedic herb can work to boost the synthesis of thyroid hormones, whilst also helping the body to cope when stressed. It also helps balance dysfunctional immune function, lessening the impact of auto-immunity.
Kanchanara Guggulu: A classic Ayurvedic formula for an under-active thyroid.
Zinc: Important for the correct function of T3 and T4.
Selenium: Important for the correct function of T3 and T4.
Thyroid Loving Tips
Potent things you can do to support the optimal function of your thyroid gland:
Iodine consumption: Iodine rich food also helps in regulating and normalising the functioning of the thyroid gland. Iodine rich foods include oysters, fish, seaweed, dairy and beans. If not currently consuming these foods regularly.
Sleep hygiene: Quality sleep is essential for good thyroid function; ensure you are getting 7-9 hours per night. Additionally, turning off all electronic screens and bright lights at least 1 hour before retiring will assist in good quality sleep.
Stress management: Take some time out each day to reduce your stress levels. This might be going for a walk, chatting with a friend, attending a yoga class or your twice daily Meditation.
Some home remedies and other diet regimen include:
Flax-seed: Flax-seed is an important home remedy for normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Flax-seed is common in essential omega 3 fatty acids. People suffering from hypothyroidism should take flax-seed regularly to regulate the functioning of the thyroid gland.
Dose: Take one tea spoon of flax-seed powder with water regularly to balance the thyroid hormones.
Ginger: Ginger is an important home remedy for thyroid functioning. Ginger is rich in zinc, potassium and magnesium. Ginger is good herbal remedy as it has anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger may be used in various ways to treat thyroid disorders.
Dose: Drink ginger tea or consume it in the dried form to treat hypothyroidism.
Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a good remedy for the treatment of thyroid disorders. Coconut oil may be used as a cooking oil to maintain the normal functioning of the thyroid gland.
Sun: Exposure to sun is also a good remedy for regulating the functioning of the thyroid gland. Exposure your body to sun for 10-15 minutes every day to maintain healthy immune system.
Yoga: Good exercise and yoga asana may also help in regulating the functions of the thyroid gland.
Show your Thyroid some love
If you are experiencing any symptoms that can be associated with thyroid issues, speak to your natural medicine Practitioner or book into a stay at Sukhavati and undergo our ayurvedic rejuvenation program. We will be able to provide you with further guidance on assessing and managing your presentation.
Article based on a Metagenics practitioner resource.
Author: Tegan Wallis
Tegan is a Naturopath, Ayurveda Health Consultant, and Yoga Teacher.