Understanding Thyroid Dysfunction
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located just above your collarbone in your neck. It’s primary function is the synthesis and secretion of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) & triiodothyronine (T3).
Thyroid hormones increase metabolism within all cells in the body, increasing the production of the energy currency called ATP. This creates a novel problem with thyroid dysfunction in that it can affect any organ system leading to a diverse array of symptoms, many of which we see at Nordic Clinic. If you personally have or know someone with thyroid dysfunction, you know how big the impact can be on daily functioning.
The pituitary gland in the brain secretes a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) that causes the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones. While the thyroid mostly synthesises T4, enzymes within cells convert T4 to the more active version called T3. If you have had a recent blood test, you most likely have had at least your TSH and T4 measured to check how your thyroid is working.
Improper function of the thyroid gland can lead to hypothyroidism (too little production) or hyperthyroidism (too much production). Below is a list of common symptoms of under- and over-production of thyroid hormones, but you can get other symptoms as well.
|Symptoms of hypothyroidism||Symptoms of hyperthyroidism|
|Weight gain||Weight loss|
|Cold sensitivity||Heat sensitivity|
Factors Affecting Thyroid Health
Various factors impact thyroid health. From a nutritional standpoint, iodine and selenium are critically important for thyroid function. T3 and T4 contain 3 and 4 molecules of iodine, respectively, so it is important to get enough iodine in your diet. Furthermore, the enzymes that interconvert T4 to T3 are selenium-dependent.1 Zinc, iron, copper, & magnesium also play a role in the synthesis of thyroid hormones.2
Other nutritional factors can negatively impact thyroid function. Thiocyanate, found in cruciferous vegetables and isoflavones, found in legumes, can interfere with thyroid function.1 Though, evidence is lacking that this is an issue for people consuming adequate iodine and selenium.
Environmental factors can also play a role, including smoking, environmental pollutants, radiation, excess iodine, stress, and certain medications.
People can form autoantibodies to their thyroid gland which causes autoimmune thyroid disease.3 The most common types of antibodies are to thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and thyroglobulin (TG), which synthesise thyroid hormones and store iodine, respectively. Additionally, people can form antibodies to the TSH receptor.
Autoimmune thyroid diseases are the most common forms of hypo- and hyperthyroidism. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common form of hypothyroidism while Grave’s disease the most common form of hyperthyroidism.
Testing For Thyroid Dysfunction
The most important first step in addressing thyroid dysfunction is to get a full thyroid panel to identify the best treatment course. This will include measures of TSH, T4, T3, and reverse T3, which is inactive but can block the actions of T3. A workup should also include antibody testing to rule out autoimmune thyroid disease.
If you want to learn more about thyroid function and key factors that can help recovery, come and join our upcoming free webinar on this topic. The webinar is a collaboration with Food Pharmacy and we are privileged to have Lina Nertby Aurell hosting the webinar. To read more about the webinar and to sign up, click here (Note! The webinar is in Swedish). Welcome!
This article was originally published as a guest editor post at foodpharmacy.se
By: Graeme Jones, clinical physiologist and CEO at Nordic Clinic Stockholm.