Thyroid Hormone Help 101

For some, the thyroid can be a best friend. It’s the Han Solo to your Luke Skywalker. Had a greasy cheeseburger and topped it off with a milkshake? No problem. That thyroid hormone will kick in and turn your body into a metabolic furnace. For others it’s a mortal enemy. Like a Dr. Evil to your Austin Powers. Walk by a bakery and getting just a whiff of some bread can make the scale go up a few pounds. Of course everyone is a unique snowflake when it comes to hormone levels, but a basic understanding of your thyroid hormone will help.

Your thyroid gland has two lobes and basically resides in the area of your throat. There are two thyroid hormones: triiodothyronine (called T3) and tetraiodothyronine (referred to as thyroxine, or T4). Your body releases far more T4 than it does T3, but most of that T4 is converted into T3 in your bloodstream. This is good news, because T3 is more potent than T4.

You can see here that things can be a little confusing. It isn’t as simple as “I have a low thyroid” because testing needs to be done in order to see the levels of T3 and T4 in your blood. To take it a step further though, your body also has another hormone called “thyroid stimulating hormone” or TSH. The anterior pituitary gland releases TSH; it’s then the job of TSH to cause the release of T3 and T4. There’s yet another hormone called thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) which gives the green light to TSH to work its magic. Seeing how complex this is, you can cut your doctor some slack for all that testing being done.

At the end of the day, a medical doctor can confirm your thyroid status. But here’s some points that you can keep in mind for a healthy thyroid:

  1. Iodine. Your T3 and T4 hormones are made from iodine, a mineral found in salt. Marine life is rich in iodine (definitely seaweed), as are eggs, navy beans, strawberries, and potatoes.
  2. Excessive juicing. Whole food meals stoke your thyroid hormone more so than liquid meals. This is why people who rely on crazy detox diets put so much weight back on months after the juicing – there’s too much metabolic damage.
  3. Toxic trash. Studies have shown that BPA and phthalates can affect thyroid function (1). BPA is used to make plastic products. You can cut down on your exposure by using glassware instead of plasticware, looking for a “BPA free” label on products, and not using the microwave. Phthalates are used to soften things and can be found in lotions and cosmetics.
  4. Calorie consumption. One thing you can help is your overall metabolic rate. Metabolism mimics calorie consumption – so excessive low calorie intake can shunt your metabolism.

Understanding your thyroid hormones is like trying to interpret those terrible Ikea instructions. Those with serious inquiries should consult with their family physician. But, you don’t necessarily need a PhD to make good choices in your life. A whole food diet coupled with strength training and plenty of sleep can go a long way to having a healthy thyroid.

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