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The Thyroid

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a gland in the neck, about the size of a plum and weighing less than a slice of bread.

Despite its diminutive size and weight, the thyroid has a huge amount of control over the way the body works, in particular the speed at which body cells work – such as metabolism, breathing, heart rate, rate of digestion, nervous system function, menstruation, body temp, cholesterol levels and more.

What does the thyroid do?

The thyroid secretes two hormones, called T3 and T4. T4 gets converted to T3, so really it’s *all* about the T3 in the end. Simplifying it quite radically, these two hormones are made from iodine bound with a protein, therefore healthy thyroid function relies heavily on there being enough iodine in the diet.

By the way, dairy is a great source of iodine, so cutting dairy can significantly affect thyroid function.

The head honcho, the director of the Thyroid Department if you will, is the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus tells the pituitary how much thyroid hormone should be in the blood. The pituitary gland is a sort of thyroid ‘thermostat’ because it detects the level of T3 and T4 in the blood then sends a message to the thyroid telling it to secrete more or less hormone to keep a balance. But instead of sending an email, 🙂 it sends thyroid-stimulating hormone, or ‘TSH’.

What can go wrong? The thyroid can start to produce too much or too little hormone. More commonly, too little, which is what this article is about. This is known as hypothyroidism and needs treating with lifelong drugs as it doesn’t correct itself. Some potential causes are pregnancy (this can be temporary or lasting hypothyroidism), certain drugs, Hashimoto’s Disease, autoimmune dysfunction, chronic inflammation, chronic stress, over-exercising and heredity. Ten times more women than men have hypothyroid and 1 in 20 people in the UK are sufferers.

Just to reiterate, it might not even be the thyroid gland’s direct fault, it may be a problem with the pituitary or hypothalamus giving wrong instructions.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroid?

Too many to list but the more common ones are:

  • unusual tiredness and fatigue,

  • feeling the cold more than usual; general temperature fluctuations,

  • muscle weakness,

  • hair loss,

  • eyebrow thinning,

  • poor nail quality,

  • slow weight loss,

  • low heart rate,

  • depression and anxiety.

There is no dietary intervention to address hypothyroidism but it’s essential to get enough iodine in the diet. The richest sources of iodine

Is there a

Because the thyroid controls metabolism an underactive thyroid, if left untreated, can make it more difficult to stay at a healthy weight.

To understand Healthy eating doesn’t have to be overly complicated. If you feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there, you’re not alone. It seems that for every expert who tells you a certain food is good for you, you’ll find another saying exactly the opposite. The truth is that while some specific foods or nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on mood, it’s your overall dietary pattern that is most important. The cornerstone of a healthy diet should be to replace processed food with real food whenever possible. Eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it can make a huge difference to the way you think, look, and feel.

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