Taming the Thyroid Through Science and Prevention
The thyroid gland is typically described as a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower front section of the neck. This all-important gland has one purpose – to produce thyroid hormones (TH). These hormones help the body regulate temperature, ensure vital organs such as the brain and heart work as designed, and have a dramatic impact on the body's energy supply and metabolism.
Nearly 30 million people in the United States have a thyroid that produces either too many or not enough of these essential hormones. The problems are more common in women (nearly 10 to 1) with nearly one in eight women developing a thyroid issue sometime in their life, according to the American Thyroid Association. The chances of having an issue increase considerably for women over 35 years of age. Surprisingly, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists estimates that half of those with thyroid disorders do not know they have one, attributing the effects of an ineffective thyroid to other health or lifestyle problems.
Physicians and researchers are not certain what causes the thyroid to misfire. For some, it could be related to genetics. Other times, life events such as pregnancy, menopause, excessive stress, or even exposure to environmental toxins seem to flip a switch on the gland and cause it to go crazy. It is often hard to distinguish a thyroid problem from other issues because the gland affects almost every bodily function in one way or another.
For example, there are many reasons you may feel tired. Yet, if excess lethargy and fatigue plague you for an extended period of time, your exhaustion may be linked to an under-active thyroid. If tiredness is linked to days of stress, poor sleep, or other issues that typically cause weariness, this is one thing; however, if you have been getting a good night's sleep and are still tired when you wake up and remain so through the day, that is a clue that something is wrong. When the thyroid is under-active, a disorder known as hypothyroidism, the body does not get the "wake up" signal from the blood and the body stays in a constant "low" state.
Since your body does not get the message that it is time to get going, the brain does not function at top capacity, either. If it feels as if your head is in a fog, it may be because your brain has not been told to wake up yet. Too many people associate their loss of cognitive functioning with aging or sleep disorders when it is actually a lack of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream.
One way to challenge this problem is through a thyroid energy supplement. Iodine and tyrosine are both necessary for thyroid secretions, and proper levels of selenium, zinc, and copper are required for normal thyroid functioning. Thyroid energy formulas like Thyroid Energy 180 from NOW foods, which contain a combination of these essential elements along with Ayurvedic energy extracts such as guggul and ashwagandha, have been shown to increase energy and improve cognitive functioning by stimulating the thyroid.
Another option is to supplement with pills containing tissue from healthy functioning thyroid glands. Studies show that nourishing a depressed thyroid with healthy and active bovine (cow) thyroid tissues increases metabolism and energy by increasing the amount of hormone being released into the blood stream. Thyroid Glandular 130 mg 90 tabs by American Biologics is just such a remedy.
Depression is another ailment often attributed to hypothyroidism. When the thyroid does not alert the brain to release enough serotonin, a person's overall mood may be hampered. Since serotonin is a neurotransmitter which makes it possible for messages to get from one part of the brain to another, a lack of serotonin can depress moods, sexual desire, appetite, sleep, memory, and learning. Too often people associate their depressive state with other problems, and take numerous medications to combat their depression, when the problem was really just an under-active thyroid.
Weight gain is a tremendous problem in America, and people jump through numerous hoops and over hurdles to try to take it off. Yet, many times this weight gain is related to low thyroid levels. The lack of thyroid hormone does not inspire the desire for exercise, and the cells themselves are not energized. When the body's metabolism is slowed down because the thyroid has not told it to speed up, less energy is burned. When the body burns less energy, more calories are stored as fat and obesity is just a step away.
Since people gain and lose weight all of the time, weight gain in and of itself does not signify a thyroid problem, and doctors will likely not think about the thyroid right away. Even so, weight gain is one of the main reasons people end up seeing the doctor about their thyroid. This is especially true if they have been eating the same amount, or less, but the weight keeps piling on.
Dr. Robert Hedaya is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center. He notes, "A lot of people make what we think are lifestyle choices but are actually our bodies reacting to factors we can't control...too often we put the onus on the individual, and there are factors that sometimes justify a doctor's help."
Often associated with and complicating weight gain is the slowing of matter through the intestines, which leads to chronic constipation. In fact, the slowed digestive process is one of the most common symptoms of a slowed thyroid.
While increased weight can have many negative effects on blood pressure all by itself, when weight gain is caused by hypothyroidism the problems can be significantly compounded. Several studies have found people with low thyroid function to be two to three times more likely to have hypertension than those with normal thyroid hormone levels. Doctors believe this may be due to a lower pumping strength of the heart caused by the low hormone levels.
If added weight and higher blood pressure were not enough to worry about, hypothyroidism has also been linked to high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Because these high levels are related to the thyroid function, they often do not respond to diet, exercise, or even cholesterol medication. It should be no wonder that untreated hypothyroidism has been linked to numerous heart problems, including heart disease, enlarged heart, and heart failure.
Many studies have supported the findings that herbal extracts can increase and improve thyroid function. For example, bladderwrack seaweed, ginger,and forskohlii root function as thyroid stimulants, while rice bran contains needed vitamins and minerals specific for the thyroid. Low Thyroid 60 by ProSol not only contains these nutrients, but it is specifically designed to improve thyroid health and regulate metabolic rate.
Since your body thinks it is moving more slowly than it is, too little thyroid hormone leads to longer and heavier periods that are matched with more and stronger cramps. Making things worse, these more severe periods are often closer together than they would be on a normal cycle.
There are many health issues associated with hypothyroidism, but having too much thyroid hormone in the body, known as hyperthyroidism, can lead to numerous negative effects as well. For example, many people who feel "hyper" all of the time may think they are just ingesting too much caffeine, or perhaps they assumed they had ADHD or some other hyperactivity disorder. Instead, the body was being pressed into overdrive by an overactive thyroid telling the body to "go, go, go."
Because of the constant anxiety, rapid heartbeat, sweat, hot feelings, and so forth, it may be hard to fall asleep when too much HT is in your system. Many times people will associate their sleep disorders with the symptoms instead of looking for the cause. As a result, they are not able to find restful sleep until their thyroid is regulated.
The overactive thyroid can also cause rapid weight loss. Even though there is a feeling of hunger all of the time, the weight just keeps coming off because the body is in a constant state of high metabolism. Having the body on full throttle the whole time may make it seem as if the heart is fluttering or even skipping beats. This is often related to heart palpitations caused by too many thyroid hormones. The increased workload on the heart often causes people with hyperthyroidism to constantly feel hot and produce copious amounts of sweat.
Thinning hair and menstrual problems are also associated with an overactive thyroid. High TH levels make the body think things are moving along faster than they really are. The result is often periods that are short, light, and spaced much further apart than on a regular cycle. It is not surprising that many women having problems conceiving are found to have problems with their thyroid. Once corrected, and once the proper thyroid hormone supply is in the blood, they have much more success getting pregnant.
While periods occur less frequently, other bodily functions like bowel movements occur more frequently. With hyperthyroidism, food may move through the digestive tract so fast that it does not have a chance to be fully absorbed. This not only limits the amount of nutritional benefit gained from the food, but it can also lead to chronic diarrhea.
Thankfully, in much the same way that certain herbal formulas and active thyroid tissue can lead to an increase in thyroid function for those with hypothyroidism, there are formulas designed to slow thyroid hormone production and lead to a regulation of thyroid functioning. High Thyroid 60 capsules by ProSol provide a combination of enzymes and herbal extracts designed to help reduce the conversion of excessive thyroid hormones in order to calm the central nervous system to support general health.
Glandular therapy is based on the theory that thyroid gland tissue contains all the nutrients that the thyroid requires, so supplementing with thyroid gland tissue is a great way to support thyroid function. When combined with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients required to support and promote optimal thyroid function and balance, the thyroid can be regulated, which leads to balanced TH levels. Priority One provides several options of top-quality thyroid tissue combined with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Thyroid Plus 60 and Thyroid Plus 120 capsules are the standard, but in more serious situations Thyroid 300 mg capsules may be required.
In addition to the signs and symptoms listed above, there are some other telltale events that you should consider. For example, unexplained changes in the voice are often attributed to the thyroid, as are lumps in the throat. To check for lumps, take a drink of water and watch your throat in the mirror as you swallow. Keep your eyes on the area between the collarbone and where the Adam’s apple would be. Do this several times until you can identify the thyroid, and then check for any lumps or bumps in that area.
An enlargement of the thyroid is known as a goiter. While not all lumps, bumps, or nodules result in an abnormal thyroid, it is wise not to take any chances. For example, the toxic multi-nodular goiter is one of the leading causes of hyperthyroidism in people over 60 years of age.
People with hyperthyroidism may develop a condition known as thyroid eye disease. This is often identified by swollen, bulging, red eyes; widely open eyelids; and double vision.
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists notes that thyroid disease is more common than both diabetes and heart disease. With so much of your health dependent on a healthy and properly functioning thyroid, it simply makes sense to take necessary precautions to keep it healthy. Much as we take omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3 for heart health, taking a capsule for thyroid support is a wise preventative measure.
Vitamins, minerals, and other supplements, including thyroid medications, are no different than most other things we purchase, in that quality makes a difference. There are many choices and sources to choose from; however, when dealing with your health, quality becomes especially important.