Thyroid problems are becoming more and more common, particularly amongst women. One complaint I hear from clients is that, despite taking thyroid medication, they still don’t feel any better. Your thyroid is simply one piece of a complex puzzle. In order to heal it, or prevent thyroid problems in the first place, it’s important to understand how it fits into the puzzle. I’m going to break that down for you so that you can fully understand how to rebalance your body with a strong, healthy thyroid.
WHAT IS THE THYROID GLAND?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck. It produces hormones that control pretty much all of the metabolic processes in your body. In other words, it has a vital role in growth, development, and creating and using energy. When the thyroid isn’t functioning how it should, it can cause all sorts of problems. However, it’s not always the thyroid that’s to blame. I’ll explain why.
HOW DOES THE THYROID GLAND WORK?
As a Functional Medicine Coach, I look at the entire body to find the root cause of the problem. Whereas conventional Western Medicine might give you medication to treat the thyroid alone, I wanna know why that gland is acting out and stop every part of the symptom-causing process.
Having said that, here’s a whole-body look at what the thyroid does. First, the brain sends messages to the thyroid to produce hormones: Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The thyroid then sends the T3 and T4 to the liver and the digestive system to be converted to a usable state, which is then sent back out into the bloodstream so your cells can utilize it.
That last part is super important when looking at thyroid issues because it is potentially the real source of where the problems and imbalance of thyroid hormones are occurring, rather than the gland itself.
HOW THYROID HORMONES ARE MADE
T3 and T4 are basically your fresh produce versus your long life shelf produce. T3 is ready to go, shipped off to every single cell in your body as soon as it’s made. On the other hand, T4 needs to be converted before it can be used. 93% of the thyroid hormones are in the form of T4, so it’s essential it’s converted for absorption.
Once the T3 and T4 get into your bloodstream, they need to latch on to your cells. Just like slotting a puzzle together. If your cells are inflamed, the receptors on them don’t fit into the T3. They can’t be utilized by the cells in your body.
In addition to this, the thyroid hormone metabolism creates a byproduct called Reverse T3 (RT3). It’s basically the evil twin of T3. It’s almost the exact same shape, but made in a mirror image, so it easily fits onto the body’s cells in the same way that T3 would. However, the reverse shape also sends the reverse message. Whereas T3 gives you energy and boosts your metabolism, RT3 tells your body to slow down. RT3 is produced in excess when we are experiencing stress and our cortisol levels are raised.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY GET THYROID HORMONES?
Now that your liver and digestive system have converted all of this thyroid hormone, our cells need to bind to it for it to be any use to us. They can only do that if the T3/T4 is free. That is to say, it’s not already attached to something else. You wouldn’t be getting close and personal with someone else’s spouse, right? Well, your cells don’t want to be a second choice either. If the cell is already attached to another, it’s off-limits.
Hormones bind to the thyroid-binding globulin cells to be carried around the body via the bloodstream. Just like the oxygen binds to hemoglobin. Our cells need these hormones in the same way they need oxygen. If the hormone cells are already bonded to the binding protein (globulin), then they are no longer available to the cells.
PROBLEMS WITH THE THYROID
When your thyroid hormones are imbalanced it can cause a wide range of symptoms. Too much hormone causes hyperthyroidism, resulting in anxiety, irritability, weight loss, hair loss, difficulty sleeping, and more.
Conversely, not enough hormone uptake causes hypothyroidism, resulting in fatigue, weight gain, constipation, depression, higher cholesterol, and more.
HOW TO HELP YOUR THYROID
There are lots of easy to implement steps you can take to rebalance your body with a strong, healthy thyroid. Here are some suggestions:
- Eat a well balanced, nutrient-dense diet. Focus on whole unprocessed food and stay away from high sugar content.
- Check your Vitamin D levels. Low levels of Vit D have been associated with autoimmune thyroid diseases. Make sure you get some sunlight every day or take a supplement in the winter if you live in a darker/wetter country.
- Avoid environmental toxins. According to The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, long-term exposure to endocrine disruptors can trigger thyroid problems. This includes flame retardants, phthalates in fragranced products, bisphenol-A in canned food linings. You can check out this blog post on how to replace your toxic cleaning products with easy, homemade cleaners that actually boost your immune system.
- Reduce stress levels. Keeping your stress on the down-low means you produce less RT3, creating more opportunity for the real T3 to bind to your cells and be absorbed into the body.
So, ultimately, your thyroid issues may not be the result of problems with the gland at all. Treating your body as an interactive puzzle, dependent on each corresponding part, will give you the best results in understanding and caring for it.
Have you suffered from thyroid problems? I’d love to know what whole-body healing strategies you are using. Leave a comment and let me know =)