The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands. It is found in the neck, below the thyroid cartilage (“Adam’s apple”). The thyroid gland regulates how efficient the body uses energy, produces proteins and controls the body response to other hormones.
The thyroid gland synthesizes an array of hormones with principal set of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine that is often called tetraiodothyronine (T4). Both principal hormones are produced from iodine and tyrosine. The other important hormone is calcitonin, a polypeptide hormone that is involved in calcium homeostasis.
Hormonal composition produced from the thyroid is mediated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) produced by the anterior pituitary, which itself is balanced by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) synthesized by the hypothalamus.
The three common thyroid conditions
There are three commonly occurring adverse thyroid conditions that are the result of an impaired thyroid function
- Hyperthyroidism – is the overproduction of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4, commonly caused by the development of Graves’ disease, but can be implicated in other conditions that often are a mild representation of overactive thyroid gland
- Hypothyroidism – is the underproduction ofT3 and T4 thyroid hormones.
- Hyperthyroidism followed by hypothyroidism – is the overproduction of T3 and T4 followed by the underproduction of T3 and T4 hormones. There are two types of this pathology:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – tends to run in families meaning it can be seen as a genetic disease. Other common conditions associated with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are diabetes type 1 and celiac disease.
- Postpartum thyroiditis – sometimes occurs in females after the birth of a child. The gland becomes inflamed and the condition presents with overactivity of the gland followed by underactivity. Often, the gland may recover with time and resume its normal functions.
Hypothyroidism is mostly an autoimmune disease in 90% of cases. Multiple studies has shown a connection between gluten and autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) [srs1, srs2, srs3, srs4]. The reason is the molecular structure of gliadin (the protein portion of gluten) closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gluten is consistently introduced in the diet, the number of antibodies increase and their action is applied to both, the gliadin and the thyroid gland. Upon discontinuation of complete illumination of gluten consumption, it may take up to 8-10 months for antibodies that attack thyroid function to significantly decrease. The gluten tests are mostly not reliable due to imbalanced th1/th2 adaptive system response, often resulting in false negatives. It is estimated that 70% of Americans are affected by gluten intolerance. The presense of anti-gliadin antibodies not only causes digestive track problems but also affects connective tissues, joints, skin, respiratory tract and other organs.
Mineral deficiencies and the lack of iodine in diet also frequently promotes adverse effects on the thyroid gland, where compensating or restoring the nutritional deficiencies often reverses the adverse effects, restoring the thyroid function.
Thyroid function tests
The thyroid function can be checked utilizing a group of the following tests (TSH alone is not sufficient)
Since the thyroid function is variable throughout the day, 2 or more test would be required to see if any abnormalities are present during a symptomatic event.
- TPO (antimicrosomal antibodies)
- Thyroglobulin Ab, ANA (antinuclear antibodies)
- TBII (thyrotropin-binding inhibitory immunoglobulin)
- TSI (thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin)
- TSH, Free T3 and T4
- Vitamin D and Vitamin B12
Treating thyroid naturally
The following foods and supplements can help restoring the thyroid function
If you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, avoidance of iodine as added to salts and vitamins, and iodine rich foods may alone help to significantly improve the hypothyroidism [srs].
- Cheese, cow’s milk, eggs, yogurt
- Saltwater fish, seaweed, shellfish, soy sauce
- Zinc (accelerates the function, can cause palpitations). If zinc is taken long term, it should be taken at 10:1 ratio to copper.
- Copper (slows down thyroid, can treat palpitations at 2.5mg for 10 days). Supplementing with copper long term can deplete sulfur (MSM, Methylsulfonylmethane). Sulfur deficiency has been observed in Fibromaylagia.
- Molybdenum increases utilization of copper, and if taken in excess can deplete the copper causing hyperthyroidism.
- Manganese and vitamin B12 are used for proper iron utilization and promote healthy thyroid function.
- Selenium is required for a balanced T4 to T3 conversion, although deficiency may create an abnormally high conversion rate. Selenium is also used for heavy metal detoxification. If the person’s heavy metal toxicity is somewhat increased via mercury amalgams or other metals ingested via water or food contamination, the selenium will not be properly utilized and will be quickly depleted.
- Boron slows down thyroid via estradiol synthesis
- Chromium stabilizes insulin synthesis. Insulin affects T4 to T3 conversion, where excess produces hyperthyroid and insufficiency contributes to hypothyroid.
- Iodine deficiency may result in a goiter, since the gland inflammation results from thyroid hyperactivity with no sufficient nutrients to produce the hormones.
- Potassium and magnesium antagonize each other and both are required to keep the thyroid function regulated. Supplementing with magnesium may deplete the stores of potassium and cause tremors, whereas over consumption of potassium can decrease the availability of magnesium creating the same effect. With hyperthyroid, magnesium needs to be used with copper to remain in proper levels. Magnesium relaxes the muscles and copper slows down the heart rate. As magnesium levels fall, the relaxation phase is decreased which may result in a higher heart beat rate.
- Calcium excess may accompany hyperthyroid response, meaning strong and fast heart beats. Irregular, fast and weak heartbeats could be calcium deficiency. Excess calcium causes the relaxation rate to shorten, increasing the heart beat rate.
- Vitamin B5 deficiency can cause insufficient calcium/magnesium metabolism, therefore it should be checked and supplemented if necessary.
- Vitamin C should not be supplemented in excess if 1000mg per day as it may affect thyroid metabolism and cause over-conversion of T4 to T3 and even a reverse T3 to T4 in some situations.
- Fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K are important in RDA amounts if dietary intake is insufficient.
- PABA is also helpful in hyperthyroid condition.
- Vitamin complex B-50 contains some of the crucial vitamins necessary for thyroid function.
Some studies show that low protein and low fat diets may predispose thyroid function to become hyper.