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Maximize Metabolism With a Healthy Thyroid

Note from Carolyn:
It's important to be aware of the needs our bodies have for Iodine. I have been using Thyactin for over a year, because my thyroid enjoys the boost it gives. 
 
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So, how much do you know about the thyroid gland? Some people have never even heard of it. Thyroid health should definitely be on your radar because its primary function is to release hormones that control your metabolic rate. In other words, a healthy thyroid helps your body utilize energy quickly for cellular activities. And that's what keeps your body – right down to the individual cells – in motion, using energy efficiently throughout the day (and night) to function properly and stay in good health.

The Basics

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front part of the neck, just below the voice box (larynx). Thyroid activity is stimulated by the pituitary gland, which secretes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to signal the production of thyroxine in the thyroid. There are two main thyroid hormones consisting of two aromatic rings of tyrosine linked together with the addition of iodine at select places: T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (tetraiodothyronine). When these hormones are insufficiently produced due to thyroid dysfunction, a condition known as hypothyroidism can occur.

When assessing for thyroid function, many doctors will first test TSH levels. As discussed, elevated TSH can be indicative of primary hypothyroidism. Most resources cite 0.4-4.0 mlU/L as normal range. However, many patients express symptoms of hypothyroidism with TSH higher than 2.5 mlU/L. This diagnosis is often referred to as subclinical hypothyroidism. Even in these less severe cases, hypothyroidism can cause many classic symptoms including weight gain, sensitivity to cold, constipation, menstrual problems, fatigue, edema, and dry skin, hair, and nails. Depression is also common in these patients, and many report forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating.

Nutritional Factors

When analyzing thyroid function, three nutrients of concern are iodine, selenium, and the amino acid tyrosine. Remember, thyroxine is synthesized from tyrosine bound to iodine molecules. Selenium acts as a co-factor for enzymes known as deiodinases. These enzymes are the catalysts in the reactions involved in thyroid production and conversion. Patients concerned with thyroid health should work with their doctor to carefully monitor their intake of all three of these essential nutrients.

The most common example of nutrient deficiency causing thyroid disease is iodine deficiency. Prior to the introduction of iodized salt in the 1920s, iodine deficiency was common in the Great Lakes and Appalachian regions of the United States. This region was referred to as the "Goiter Belt" at that time due to the characteristic enlarged thyroid (goiter) seen in people with iodine deficiency.

It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of the world's population is at risk for iodine deficiency, and outside of the United States, this remains the leading cause of impaired thyroid activity and mental retardation. Even here in the U.S., despite the prevalent use of iodized salt in our food supply, undiagnosed iodine deficiency remains a cause of hypothyroidism. While the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I), conducted from 1971-1974, found that 2.6 percent of U.S. citizens suffered from iodine deficiency, NHANES III [conducted from 1988-1994] saw that percentage rise considerably, up to 11.7 percent suffering from deficiency.

If you find yourself expressing symptoms of low thyroid activity, talk to your doctor, who may run tests to check your TSH and T3/T4 levels. And keep in mind that while less common than hypothyroidism, you can also experience hyperthyroidism: an overactive thyroid that releases too much hormones instead of too little. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include weight loss, increased appetite, nervousness, restlessness, weakness, itching, nausea and vomiting, among other unpleasantries. Talk to your doctor about thyroid health and keep some Thyactin available.

Clair Denaird, BSc - To Your Health

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