Have you been tired, moody, struggling with unexplained weight gain or weight loss and have noticed a change in temperature sensitivity?
Well, maybe it is time to get your thyroid checked!
Thyroid: The butterfly hormone gland
If the thyroid gland is not functioning optimally, it can cause a range of symptoms such as weight changes, low energy, reduced mood, depression, anxiety, menstrual changes, fertility problems, digestive issues, intolerance to heat or cold, and changes to the skin and hair. The list goes on.
Australia has such a high prevalence of thyroid disease, it is alarming. Many of the causes of thyroid disease are linked to our dietary and lifestyle choices.
When it comes to why your thyroid is not functioning as best as it can, there are a number of potential triggers that could be investigated:
- Nutritional deficiencies – Iodine and tyrosine are what we call the precursors to the production of thyroid hormones. This means they are used to produce the thyroid hormones. Therefore, it makes sense that if the body is deficient in the nutrients that it needs to make the thyroid hormones, it will not be able to produce the hormones. Iodine deficiency is re-emerging in Australia due to deficient soils, a lack of seafood consumption, and reduced use of iodised salt. Other nutrients involved in optimal thyroid function include selenium and zinc.
- Chronic stress – when we are stressed, our body releases certain hormones, which inhibit the production of TSH, thus leading to reduced thyroid function.
- Environmental toxins and chemicals – some toxins can interfere with the uptake of iodine in the body, and thus indirectly impact the production of thyroid hormones. Other chemicals directly impact the endocrine system – these are called endocrine-disrupting hormones, and can play havoc with our endocrine systems, such as the thyroid gland and reproductive glands.
- Molecular mimicry: Sounds strange, but it is straightforward. It is when the body starts attacking bodily tissue that it thinks is an “invader” because they look similar in molecular structure to the real “invader”. There is a lot of research centred around the role of gliadin (the protein portion of gluten) and its role in autoimmune thyroid disease. Now, we are seeing more research focusing on certain strains of gut bacterias playing a similar role.
- Autoimmune diseases – Grave’s disease is an autoimmune thyroid disease that leads to an overproduction of thyroid hormones. Hashimoto’s is also an autoimmune disease that causes a reduced production of thyroid hormones.
You may have had your TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) tested in blood tests, as this is the standard test. However, testing TSH on its own does not give a complete picture of thyroid function – it is important to also look at the levels of the thyroid hormones, antibodies and co factor nutrients in order to gain a thorough assessment of thyroid function.
Identifying the cause of thyroid disease is important, however, as with any condition working towards a lifestyle geared towards prevention is equally as important. As we now see some of the contributing factors like toxins, stress and nutrient deficiencies are aspects of health that you can start to take into your own hands today.
Co authored by: Suzi Le Fanue (Naturopath) & Carly Stewart (Nutrition)