Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Is your thyroid slowing you down?

The thyroid is controlled by the pituitary gland, a small peanut sized gland found at the base of the brain. When the levels of T3 and T4 drop to low in our blood stream the pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH), turn when the thyroid receives this single the levels of T3 and T4 are increased in the blood, then the pituitary receives that the levels have increased and stops sending out TSH. You can think of the pituitary glad as a furnace stoker, seeing that the fire (T3 and T4) is getting lower he adds more coal to the fire, in turn the fire increases. The pituitary glad itself is controlled by a glad in the brain called the hypothalamus. This glad produces TSH releasing hormones to let the pituitary know at what level to keep that fire burning. The hypothalamus can be thought of at the train conductor telling the fire stoker how much fire is needed to keep the train, our body, at the speed it needs to be at in order to run smoothly (metabolism).

The thyroid can be subject to several problems, some being extremely common. Some problems are concerning production of hormones, whether it be too much or too little. Another problem can increased growth of the thyroid causing swelling in the neck compressing the trachea and other part of the neck, also appearing as a large growth on the neck, called a goiter. And lastly nodules or bumps that develop on the thyroid and can become cancerous.

For the purpose of time as well as keeping with the topic of the article I want to only explore the problems of too little hormonal production from the thyroid. Hypothyroidism is the condition where not enough T3 and T4 hormones are being produced so the metabolism slows down in the body. This condition can go years before it is properly diagnosed. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, dry hair and skin, depression, weight gain, constipation, and poor memory as well as lack of energy. Women who suffer from this condition will also notice extreme PMS symptoms; tender breasts, irregular cycles, and pelvic pain during ovulation as well as excessive body hair growth including facial hair.

Studies indicate that approximately one in fifty women and one in one thousand men will develop an under-active thyroid at some point in their lives. [1] The simplest cause of this affliction is too little iodine in the body. We now have iodine added to table salt in helps to prevent this condition; however, it has not halted even here in the USA. It is important to remember too much iodine can also cause poor thyroid function. Also during pregnancy a mother’s immune system decreases to allow the growth of the fetus, occasionally the thyroid does not pick up where it left off after delivery. Other causes can be an autoimmune disease.

Antibodies are proteins designed to defend the body from foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. In autoimmune diseases, antibodies attack the body itself. In autoimmune hypothyroidism, antibodies destroy thyroid gland cells preventing the gland from being able to release normal amounts of thyroid hormones. Diabetes type one is considered an autoimmune disease as well as Hashimoto or Grave’s disease. These diseases named here are also contributing factors in weight gain. See, the circle goes on for the fight against obesity. If you look closely enough you can find all the strands to the web of this affliction and one by one define treatment.

If you suspect you suffer from an under active thyroid you can perform simple tests to back up your suspicions. Checking body reflexes is a good way to start. Slower thyroids tend to give a person a slower reaction time. Recording body basal body temperatures is a great indication as well. For women testing basal body temp should begin 5 days after the cessation of menstruation. Recording the temperature for a week, with a result lower than 97.8 degrees could indicate a slower than normal thyroid. Consult your doctor or a full thyroid panel to be completed; be sure it includes free T3 and free T4 levels in the screening.

Treatment for thyroid should be monitored by your doctor; herbal remedies as well as dietary solutions should improve the clients over all feeling of well being as well as result in a healthier metabolism. Diets should be high in natural sources of iodine. Egg yolks, garlic, pears, seafood and turnip greens are easily found in a local market place and can be added easily to a client’s daily diet. Calcium and Zinc as well as a good source of vitamin B are important to add, greens such as dandelion are very good for these needs.

Herbal support can be found in Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) which is also an excellent diuretic[2] which helps with weight factors. Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) is high in organically bound iodine, also present as diiothyrosine. Parsley is high in vitamin C and is useful in returning the immune system to proper function while treating a client with a slow thyroid and should be added to the use of Alfalfa and Bladderwrack. Contact a certified herbalist for a full thyroid supplement.

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