The thyroid gland is a 2-inch butterfly-shaped organ located in the front part of the neck. Although small, the thyroid glans is a major gland in the endocrine system and affects virtually every organ in the body.
What is the function of the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland regulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism, respiration, body temperature, brain growth, cholesterol levels, the heart and nervous system, blood glucose levels cycle, skin integrity, and more.
Thyroid Diseases Explained
Thyroid disease generally involves an underactive thyroid gland, also known as hypothyroidism. In the USA, an autoimmune reaction called autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease usually causes hypothyroidism. As with all autoimmune disorders, the body identifies its own tissues as an invader and strikes until the organ is destroyed. This chronic attack will finally prevent the thyroid gland from producing thyroid hormones. The lack of these hormones may slow down metabolism and also cause weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and hair loss as well as lead to difficulty concentrating. Hashimoto’s thyroid disease affects approximately 5 percent of the US population, is seven times more prevalent in women than men, and generally occurs during middle age.
Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland, is another frequent thyroid disease. The form is Graves’ disease in which the body’s autoimmune reaction causes the thyroid gland to make too much T3 and T4. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include weight loss, high blood pressure, nausea, and a rapid heartbeat. The disease also disproportionately affects women and presents until the age of 40.
Hashimoto’s thyroid disease is more common than Graves’ disease, but both are known as autoimmune thyroid disease (ATD), which has a strong genetic link and is associated with other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and celiac disease. A goiter, or enlargement of the thyroid gland, may be caused by hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, excessive or insufficient consumption of iodine from the diet, or thyroid gland, the most frequent endocrine cancer whose prevalence studies imply is increasing.
Key Nutrients for Thyroid Disease
Many dietary factors play a role in optimizing thyroid function. But, excesses and both nutrient deficiencies could cause or exacerbate symptoms. Working in collaboration with a doctor is ideal to determine status for optimal thyroid health. Many functional medicine practitioners specialize in functional nutrition, which can help with thyroid disease.
Iodine is a vital nutrient in the human body and essential to thyroid function; thyroid hormones have been constituted of iodine. Iodine deficiency is the cause while disorder is the primary cause of thyroid dysfunction in the United States
Iodine deficiency has been considered uncommon in america since the 1920s, largely as a result of widespread utilization of iodized salt. This, along with poultry, milk, and grains, is a major source of iodine in the conventional American diet.
However, iodine intake has decreased during the last few decades. Americans get approximately 70 percent of their salt intake from foods which, in the USA and Canada, don’t contain iodine. A 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that, on average, Americans are receiving sufficient amounts of iodine, together with the potential exclusion of women of childbearing age.
Both iodine deficiency and surplus have significant dangers; thus, supplementation ought to be approached with care. Supplemental iodine might lead to symptom flare-ups in individuals with Hashimoto’s thyroid disease because it stimulates antibodies.
Iodine intake often is not easily apparent on a dietary recall because the quantity in foods is largely determined by levels from the soil and extra salt. But, experts state that, “Clients carrying iodine tablets are a red flag. Frequent intake of foods such as seaweed or an avoidance of all iodized salt may serve as signals that further exploration is required.”
Vitamin D deficiency is connected to Hashimoto’s, according to one study showing that over 90 percent of patients studied were deficient. It’s uncertain whether the low vitamin D levels were the direct cause of Hashimoto’s or the result of the disease process itself.
Hyperthyroidism, especially Graves’ disease, is known to cause bone loss, which can be compounded by the vitamin D deficiency commonly seen in people with hyperthyroidism. This bone mass could be recovered with therapy for hyperthyroidism, and specialists indicate that sufficient nourishment, such as vitamin D, which are particularly important during and following
Foods which contain some vitamin D include fatty fish, milk, legumes, eggs, and mushrooms. Sunlight also is a source, but the sum of vitamin production depends upon the season and latitude. Supplemental D3 could be necessary, if clients have low vitamin D levels, along with the customer’s doctor should monitor progress to ensure the individual’s levels stay within a suitable range.
The maximum concentration of selenium is found in the thyroid gland, and it has been demonstrated to be a necessary element of enzymes integral to thyroid function. Selenium is a vital trace mineral and was shown to have a deep effect in the immune system, cognitive function, fertility in both women and men, and mortality rate.
A meta-analysis of randomized, placebo-controlled studies has shown advantages of selenium on both the thyroid antibody titers and mood in patients with Hashimoto’s, but this impact appears more pronounced in people who have a selenium deficiency or insufficiency in the outset. Conversely, an excessive intake of selenium can lead to gastrointestinal distress or perhaps raise the risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer. So clients will benefit from getting their selenium levels tested and integrating healthful foods into their diets, including Brazil nuts, tuna, crab, and lobster.
Studies show that about 30 percent of people with ATD experience a vitamin B12 deficiency. Food sources of B12 include salmon, sardines, mollusks, organ meats such as liver, muscle meat, and dairy. Vegan sources include fortified cereals and yeast. Severe B12 deficiency may be irreversible, therefore it is important for dietitians to suggest clients have their levels analyzed.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage naturally discharge a chemical known as goitrin when they are hydrolyzed, or broken down. Goitrin can interfere with the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Nonetheless, this is usually a concern only when combined with an iodine deficiency. Heating cruciferous vegetables denatures much or all of this possible goitrogenic effect.
Soy is another possible goitrogen. The isoflavones in soy may lower thyroid hormone synthesis, but many studies have discovered that consuming soy does not result in hypothyroidism in individuals with adequate iodine stores. But Dean cautions clients to consume soy in moderation.
The potential exclusion is millet, a nutritious gluten-free grain, which might suppress thyroid function even in people with adequate iodine intake. If a dietary recall indicates frequent millet ingestion in patients with hypothyroidism, it may be wise to indicate they choose another grain.
Foods, Supplements, and Medication Interactions
When it comes to thyroid medications, it is very important to RDs to know the drugs can interact with common nutritional supplements. Calcium supplements have the capacity to interfere with absorption of thyroid medications, so when taking the two patients need to consider the timing. Studies recommend limiting calcium supplements and thyroid drugs by at least four hours. Coffee and fiber nutritional supplements reduced the absorption of thyroid drugs, so patients should take them one hour apart. Dietitians should affirm whether customers have received and are adhering to these guidelines for optimum wellness.
Chromium picolinate, which is marketed for blood sugar control and weight reduction, also impairs the absorption of thyroid medications. If clients decide to take chromium picolinate, then they ought to take it three to four hours apart from thyroid drugs. Flavonoids in vegetables, fruits, and tea have been shown to have potential cardiovascular benefits. But, high-dose flavonoid supplements can suppress thyroid function. The Natural Standards Database provides a comprehensive list of nutritional supplements with a possible impact on thyroid function, thus taking precautions and coordinating patient care with a knowledgeable practitioner is sensible.
A discussion on thyroid disorder and good health is not complete without stressing the importance of physical activity. Lisa Lilienfield, MD, a thyroid disorder specialist in the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean, Virginia, and a certified yoga teacher, is a firm believer in the value of exercise, especially. “With hypothyroid patients, certainly exercise can assist with weight gain, fatigue, and depression. With hyperthyroidism, anxiety and sleep disturbances are so common, and exercise might help regulate both.”
In addition to the obvious impact exercise has on weight and metabolism, a study of patients with Graves’ disease found that a structured exercise plan revealed remarkable improvements in fatigue levels, and significantly more patients have been able to successfully quit taking antithyroid medications with no relapse.
Celiac disease presents unique challenges as a result of unwanted weight changes, significant cardiovascular disease, and symptoms such as fatigue, mood changes, and gastrointestinal upset, which can hinder the growth of healthful behaviors. It’s vital that dietitians focus when counselling clients on setting goals that are realistic for adjustments and routine exercise. With so many nutrient deficiencies and interactions with medications and nutritional supplements, it will be important for dietitians to coordinate with their clients’ health care team for health outcomes.
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By Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Wellness
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