The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ that wraps around the windpipe right behind the ‘Adam’s Apple’. It is the largest of the body’s endocrine glands. The thyroid gland produces several different hormones that are extremely important to the function of a vast array of metabolic processes in the body, including brain development, mood and weight regulation. A surprising number of people have some kind of abnormal function of the thyroid gland. The Colorado Thyroid Disease Prevalence Study tested 25,862 people, and found that over 9% of them had undiagnosed thyroid dysfunctions. This translates to 13 million Americans who may have this problem. In addition, this study researched the link between ‘subclinical’ low thyroid function and high cholesterol levels. Subclinical means that the low function of the thyroid is not discovered through normal tests performed by most conventional physicians.
The thyroid gland plays a key role in weight problems because it controls the body’s overall metabolic rate. When it’s not working properly, it may lead to an array of health problems, including weight gain, arthritis, depression cold hands and feet, dry skin, high cholesterol, chronic constipation and hair loss. Symptoms caused by low thyroid function are so varied, that they can easily be confused with those of other conditions.
The thyroid is the body’s metabolic thermostat, controlling body temperature, energy use, and, in children, the body’s growth rate. The thyroid controls the rate at which organs function and the speed with which the body uses food. When the thyroid is dysfunctional, there are a number of ways that it can seriously impact your weight.
Correct thyroid function keeps the body at a normal, resting temperature of 98.6° F. The thyroid sends chemical messages via hormones to every cell in the body, directing the maintenance of body temperature, heart rate, and muscle movements. When the thyroid is dysfunctional or underactive (hypothyroidism), it sends out fewer hormones, causing metabolism to slow down. When metabolism slows, the body will store rather than burn calories, causing an accumulation of fat.
Low thyroid function also leads to a sluggish digestive system, often resulting in a number of gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, gas and bloating, abdominal pain, and decreased absorption of nutrients. Decreased digestive efficiency may lead to a condition called leaky gut syndrome, in which undigested food particles enter the bloodstream causing allergic reactions and depleting the immune system. Weight gain is one of the potential results of these digestive disturbances. Because low thyroid function causes fatigue and lack of stamina as well as muscle aches or weakness, people with this condition may find it difficult to exercise which is another factor in weight problems.
Thyroid problems have been on the rise due to the increasingly toxic environment in which we live. Exposure to radiation, fluoride (in water and toothpaste), mercury from silver amalgam dental fillings, pollutants (thyocyanide) in cigarette smoke, and chlorinated compounds (found in wood and leather preservatives) are just a few of the many causes of hypothyroidism. Radiation is probably the greatest environmental cause of hypothyroidism and other thyroid problems, including thyroid cancer. PCB’s (Polychlorinated biphenyls) , chlorinated pesticides, and heavy metals such as mercury(which comprises up to 50% of silver amalgam fillings) have been scientifically proven to disrupt endocrine function. Even at low exposure levels during pregnancy, environmental contaminants can interfere with thyroid status in later life. Heavy metals also interfere with an enzyme critical in converting the inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) into the active form (T3).
Dietary factors that depress thyroid function include synthetic and genetically engineered hormones in meat, dairy products, poultry, and eggs, which block the release of thyroid hormones, and either a deficiency or excess of the mineral, iodine. Although deficiencies are rare in developed countries, excess accumulation occurs due to an overabundance of iodine in commercial salt, baked goods (in dough conditioners) and dietary supplements. Some vegetables that have a wide variety of health benefits, such as raw cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts) contain thyroid inhibitors called goitrogens, that may cause an enlargement of the thyroid gland and inhibit hormone synthesis. However, lightly steaming the vegetables stops the activity of the thyroid-suppressing substances. Soy products, especially if not fermented, may depress thyroid function. Other dietary influences include vitamin deficiencies (particularly vitamins A and B), mineral deficiencies (zinc, copper, iron, and selenium), and excess intake of polyunsaturated fats ,such as soybean, safflower, and corn oils. Alternative medicine practitioners generally begin to treat hypothyroidism by strengthening intestinal health and digestion. To help spark proper thyroid function a combination of specific foods, nutrients, exercises and therapies is needed. Thyroid glandular therapy and thyroid hormone therapy may be indicated.
Gugulipid, an Ayurvedic herb that has been used in India for over 2,500 years, is helpful for supporting the thyroid. Studies have shown that gugulipid stimulates thyroid function. Gugulipid is often available as an extract standardized to 2.5-5% guggulsterones. Yoga, Tai chi and Castor Oil packs can also be used in a thyroid healing protocol. . Proper nutrition combined with regular exercise can help restore a weakened thyroid, and lead to weight loss as well!
Ellen Kamhi PhD RN, The Natural Nurse®, can be heard on radio daily. She is the author of several books, including Weight Loss, The Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide.
Dr. Kamhi has been involved in natural health care for over 4 decades. She answers consumer questions and has a private nutrition consultation practice. www.naturalnurse.com 800-829-0918
This article was republished with permission from naturalnurse.com.
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