June is Thyroid Awareness Month in Canada, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about the importance of the thyroid gland. I’ll explain the function of the thyroid gland, how to test your thyroid health, what signs and symptoms to look for if your thyroid is not properly functioning as well as natural ways you can take care of your own thyroid health.
How does the Thyroid work?
Our thyroid is a small bufferfly shaped gland located in the front of our necks. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones which help with our growth and development as well as our metabolism. The brain communicates with the thyroid using a hormone called TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and the Thyroid releases two hormones called T4 (Thyroxine) and T3 (Triiodothyronine). T4 is produced in a much higher amount from the thyroid gland compared to T3 because the T4 will convert into T3 at the organs or tissues. T3 is 3-4x more potent than T4. T4 can also convert into Reverse T3 (rT3) which competes with T3 at the cellular level. We want very low levels of rT3.
How do we test our Thyroid Health?
Simple – a blood test. This blood test will measure your TSH, T4, T3, rT3 and TPO. This will show how your thyroid is functioning and your health care practitioner will explain each test and what your levels indicate.
What are signs and symptoms of an over-active thyroid (HYPERTHYROID)?
- Fast heart rate
- Weight loss
- Muscle weakness
What are signs and symptoms of an under-active thyroid (HYPOTHYROID)?
- Course, dry skin and hair
- Low Mood
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Weight gain
- Cold hands and feet (or cold all over your body)
- Muscle cramps and weakness
What are natural ways you can support your Thyroid Health?
- Manage your stress – the thyroid gland is very sensitive and stress will increase the conversion of T4 to rT3. Meditation, walking, mindfulness, exercise and counselling can all help with stress management
- Eating organically whenever possible! – the thyroid gland is affected by pesticides and herbicides. So grow your own food or buy organically when you can.
- Eat a varied diet! – the thyroid gland requires iodine, zinc and selenium to properly function. Foods like legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and animal protein will all help to support thyroid function.
Are you concerned that you might have an issue with your thyroid gland?
Within my practice, I see many patients with thyroid imbalances. We figure this out together after the initial intake and after extensive blood testing. This process is essential in figuring out the underlying cause of a patient’s health concern. And for each of my patients who do have an imbalance in their thyroid health, I create a treatment plan specific for them using diet, herbal medicine or pharmaceutical medicine. This helps to support and rebalance their thyroid function. If you feel you might have a thyroid imbalance, please contact me directly for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).