Where is Your Thyroid and

What Does Your Thyroid Do? 

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Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck just below your Adam’s apple.

It's a small gland that everyone ignores unless there are issues relating to it where the signs are pretty obvious once you know what you are looking for.

Where is my thyroid imageIt produces two main hormones (T3 and T4 - the 'T' refers to the thyroid hormones) that act as triggers, carried round in your blood stream and aimed at other particular organs in your body; the main ones being the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, brain.

Other hormones are released too and the amount of hormonal triggers in the blood stream are controlled by a very small gland called the pituitary sat at the base of your brain. If certain ones are needed from your thyroid it gets the message from your pituitary via your blood stream and gets on with its job of providing those hormones (triggers) rushing directly to any particular shortfall your body has, causing those organs to react as rquired to keep yourself in good working order.

The pituitary and thyroid glands are part of the endocrine (balancing) system within your body that keep your bodily functions on an even keel by checking for faults and correcting them automatically, so that many times if there is a problem you are not even aware of it.

You can see from the above that your thyroid needs to be kept in perfect working order to control your bodily fluctuations at the drop of a hat, like when to pump your heart faster, speed up your metabolism, allow you to rest, cool you down with sweating, shiver when you are cold to cause musculature heat, drink when you are thirsty, go to the toilet - the list goes on and we take them all for granted.

So what happens when your thyroid is removed?

start of a goitreIn this case a check will be made by your doctor for malignancy after your neck swells (a goitre - possibly a cancerous growth) and it will be decided upon whether to treat it with medications, take a section of the thyroid out or remove it altogether (a thyroidectomy).

Either way if the thyroid is removed daily synthetic hormonal medications (pills) are given to combat the shortfall and life can be resumed almost as normal with regular checks to see if the hormone treatment needs adjusting.

If you stop taking the meds you become very listless, lethargic, can't be bothered with anything.

So what does it mean when your thyroid is high?

In hyperthyroidism, (hypER is high - hypO is low as far as hormone production goes - it's easy to remember  - the 'O' is towards zero) the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine or triiodothyronine and speeds up the body's metabolism, meaning all food is converted to energy, so no fat is deposited for your body's energy reserve when needed, other than what your muscles and kidneys have as a standard reserve.

These hormones are called thyroxine (T3) and triiodothyronine (T4) and they affect processes such as heart rate and body temperature, and help your body keep going by converting food into energy.

Simply put, your hormone output is out of kilter, it's too great. Excessive amounts of the thyroid hormomes means your metabolism is slipped into a higher gear and results in the following hyperthyroid symptoms:
  • You lose weight unexpectedly
  • You become nervous and anxious 
  • You have hyperactivity - where you can’t keep still and fidget more than most - everything has to be done yesterday - if not before...
  • You can't concentrate for too long on any particular thing as your restless mind's all over the place
  • There may also be a swelling of the thyroid gland which causes a noticable lump, known as a goitre, to form in your throat
Parts of this are a wishful dream for many with the obesity epidemic spreading around the world right now where the thyroid has gone the opposite way into a lower gear and slowed down in most cases, bringing their metabolism to almost a standstill, more often than not caused by a totally unnatural diet, but more on that later...

It needs to be added that
for a lesser number of people the opposite takes effect, but this is extremely rare.

So what causes an overactive thyroid gland?

There are several possible underlying causes, the most common being Graves' disease, in which the body's immune system targets the thyroid gland and causes it to produce too much of the thyroid hormones.

Around 1 in 20 people with Graves' disease will also develop symptoms affecting their eyes, such as:
  • double vision
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • tearing (an excessive production of tears)
  • possible bulging eyes
Bulging eyes from thyroid overactivityThis is known as Graves' ophthalmopathy and should be seen by a doctor who specialises in treating eye conditions (an ophthalmologist).

A rarer and more serious complication is a sudden and severe flare-up of symptoms known as a thyroid storm. A thyroid storm can be life-threatening as it causes extreme dehydration and because of this heart problems occur.

It is estimated that women are 10 times more likely to have an overactive thyroid gland than men and around 1 in 50 women in the world currently live with an overactive thyroid gland and it does appear to be genetic.

 In most cases, symptoms will begin to show somewhere between the ages of 20 and 40, though they can start at any age including childhood, and an overactive thyroid condition shows up mostly in White and Asian people, with it being less frequent in Afro-Caribbean people and is predominantly shown to be in smokers.

Graves' disease is an autoimmune condition and this means the immune system mistakes something in the body for a toxic substance (something that shouldn't be there) and attacks it and this leads to an overproduction of thyroid hormones.

It is not known what triggers the immune system to do this but like so many of the autoimmune conditions it is thought that a combination of both genetic and environmental factors are involved, with the environmental side getting progressively worse over the last 100 years.

What is an underactive thyroid

Having an underactive thyroid simply means your thyroid does not produce enough of the hormones T3 and T4 to keep your body in tip-top condition resulting in symtoms like the following:
  • feelings of extreme tiredness
  • putting on weight, but with a poor apetite
  • coarse, thinning hair and brittle nails
  • weak or sore muscles
  • puffy eyes
  • a croaky, hoarse or deeper voice
  • skin drying or pale
  • more sensitive to the cold
There is no obvious outward sign of this initially other than feeling lethargic all the time which means you tend to put weight on very easily, but the other symptoms will develop with time. This condition can result in two main ways, the first is naturally through a poor diet and the second is after partial removal of your thyroid owing to it being overactive in the first place.

Generally speaking this can be alleviated by the use of daily oral medication in the form of pills prescribed by your doctor or in the case of borderline thyroid underactivity it can be controlled by diet alone.

So are there any underactive thyroid foods to avoid?

The prime ones to avoid are:
  • Gluten rich foods
  • excess sugars
  • excess caffeine
  • milk and dairy products
  • foods high in iron, mercury, calcium, magnesium and aluminium.
  • soy
  • (unnatural) blended margarines and cooking oils
Sounds like there's nothing left doesn't it?

Gluten can trigger all sorts of digestive and hormonal imbalances and this also effects the endocrine system. Most breads and breakfast cereals are the biggest problem here.

High sugar foods should be avoided as this reduces the production rate of your thyroid, plus your metabolic rate will be slower making you more prone to underactive thyroid weight gain which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes and its serious complications which can definitely be reversed if caught early enough.

Caffeine can be taken only in moderation as this also slows the production of your thyroid hormones. It boosts your immediate alertness but slows your long term metabolism leading to further unwanted weight gain.

Milk and dairy products contain casein which can disturb your endocrine system leading to unbalanced hormones being realeasd by your thyroid gland, as can antibiotics and hormones given to cattle which ultimately end up in your milk.

Spinach should be avoided owing to the iodine blocking characteristics it has which would normally help your thyroid function. Goitrogen is found in cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, turnip, pine nuts, soy beans and peanuts and has a detrimental effect on your thyroid. Cooking helps reduce this goitrogen making these foods more acceptable, but do not eat them raw or in great quantities.

It has been proved that the iodine isoflavones in soybeans can inhibit the enzyme which adds iodine to the thyroid hormone known as thyroid peroxidase and this is an essential nutrient for thyroid hormone production.

The blended margarines and cooking oils our bodies simply cannot break down, so they act like a shroud stopping the signals for hormone production in many parts of the body, which in turn leads to weight gain and other organ malfunctions.

Fast food outlets are a perfect example of where not to go if you want a healthy thyroid.

Are there any good foods for thyroid health?

The main requirement are foods rich in iodine, coming mainly from sea foods like salmon, haddock, clams, shrimps, oysters, sardines, in fact most sea creatures.

On top of this sea vegetables (sea weed like kelp) are much more beneficial as they are rich in iodine, even better than fish.

There are many others as shown in The Hypothyroid Revolution covering much more of the do's and don'ts associated with improving your thyroid's hormone production naturally.

So is there a cure for hypothyroidism and can it be done naturally?

In a word YES, but it does involve some discipline on your part with sticking to a basic staple diet, not using factory processed foods, keeping away from blended cooking oils, margarines and fast foods in general and avoiding specific foods. There's no need to think you will be going hungry here, it is just a simple change of lifestyle.

For more eye-opening information on how to stimulate your thyroid to get it working properly again so you have a bit more get-up-and-go when you need it most, speeding up your metabolic rate no end and more than likely getting some weight off in the process, check out this link. You won't be dissapointed.

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