The thyroid is the unsung hero of the human body. This butterfly-sized gland is an essential part of our endocrine system. It produces hormones that regulate many of our daily functions. Unfortunately, about 20 million Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disease. Scarily, 60% of people don't even realize they have a thyroid issue!
Your thyroid health is essential for how you burn fat, absorb nutrients, and feel emotionally. Poor thyroid health is typically associated with women. However, men can also suffer from thyroid disease. Let's discuss why thyroid health matters and what you can do about it.
What is Thyroid Disease?
The thyroid produces two types of hormones -- H3 and H4. Fun fact, H3 is the active thyroid hormone that does all the work. However, our thyroid produces very little T3 compared to T4. So, the body uses other minerals to convert T4 into this active hormone!
When the body produces an irregular amount of thyroid hormones, it can cause several health-related problems.
Common types of thyroid disease include:
- Hyperthyroidism (Producing Too Much Thyroid Hormones)
- Hypothyroidism (Producing Too Little Thyroid Hormones)
- Thyroiditis (Inflammation of Thyroid Gland)
There are other reasons for thyroid disease. However, these are the most common. They tend to be caused by other underlying issues. So, you must include your physician as part of your thyroid health regimen. Let's discuss why your thyroid health matters.
Why Thyroid Health Is Important
When people think about hormones, they think of estrogen and testosterone or serotonin and cortisol. Thyroid hormones do all the work and get none of the glory. This gland becomes neglected, and we start to feel the adverse effects of poor thyroid health. Here are five significant reasons why you must take care of your thyroid gland.
Regulates Digestive System
Hormones are like signals to the body. They regulate most of our physiological functions and emotional responses. Thyroid hormones are an essential part of this communication network.
An important thyroid function is to regulate our digestive tract. These hormones play an essential role in the frequency of our bathroom visits. One study found that those with hyperthyroidism are 30% to 50% more likely to experience frequent bowel movements.
Subsequently, a meta-analysis of children with hypothyroidism finds that those with this thyroid dysfunction tend to experience constipation.
More adult studies are needed to draw a more defined link. However, the chances of hormonal imbalances will only increase as we age. So, if you are an adult with frequent constipation issues, speak to your doctor about your thyroid hormone levels.
Influences Reproductive Hormone
An essential function of the thyroid is to regulate our metabolism. The metabolism is the cycle our cells go through to proliferate. Essentially, proliferation means that healthy cells divide and conquer to ensure a stronger, healthier system.
Our metabolism plays a significant role in the development of placental, ovarian, and uterine tissues. Experiencing hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can throw off menstrual cycles. Furthermore, they can cause infertility and subfertility issues.
While women and thyroid issues are more synonymous, men can also be a casualty of underactive or overactive thyroid glands. In particular, studies point to a link between hypothyroidism and poor semen quality.
T3 hormones work with other hormones, namely luteinizing hormone (LH) and Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I). Together, they help create Leydig cells. Leydig cells promote the production of testosterone. So, without adequate thyroid levels, men might experience hair loss, loss of sexual appetite, and fertility issues.
Dictates Weight and Energy Levels
The metabolism also controls how we store and burn energy from the foods we eat. Without proper signaling between T3 and T4 hormones and the rest of the system, our bellies can become a traffic jam of food.
These issues can be more troublesome if you experience constipation from hypothyroidism. You can sit with potential toxins in your GI tract that might cause cancerous growths.
Those with hyperthyroidism and use the bathroom too much might miss out on nutrients. You can dispel essential vitamins and minerals from the system before you can absorb them. Nutrient deficiencies can cause inflammation that results in weight gain.
Monitors Cholesterol and Heart Health
All of our cells have cholesterol. There is low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol). HDL is considered the "good" cholesterol, and LDL is the "bad."
Our cells use cholesterol to make hormones and assist with digestion. Thyroid hormones play a significant role in maintaining cholesterol levels. They help break down fat lipids so that excess cholesterol doesn't float around the bloodstream, clog arteries, and cause heart disease.
Those with hypothyroidism are at an increased risk of high levels of LDL cholesterol. Therefore, they have a greater chance of developing atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Although LDL cholesterol is considered harmful in high doses, our body still needs it. So, creating too many thyroid hormones can also be problematic for heart health. While uncommon, low cholesterol caused by hyperthyroidism can cause health problems, including eye disease, osteoporosis, and stroke.
Boosts Mental Health
Thyroid hormones are extremely influential in our central nervous system. They help maintain proper communication between cells.
Without adequate thyroid hormones, this balance gets thrown off. Messages get dropped, and physiological functions don't happen. In total, it causes stress on our body, which results in mental health issues for us.
One meta-analysis of thyroid hormones and mental health determined that those with hyperthyroidism experienced anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Too many of these hormones caused them to feel overstimulated and excited.
Meanwhile, hypothyroidism had a slowing effect. Those who have this condition tend to experience depression and a lack of self-confidence.
While scientists haven't pinpointed the exact way thyroid hormones influence the system, experts did find proof that they do.
A study looked at 142 patients with hypothyroidism. Half of the group took T4 hormone supplements. 25% of subjects noted a better disposition.
Comparatively, the other half took lithium. Only 16% of this group saw improvements in their mood.
How to Improve Thyroid Health
Improving your thyroid health will have a positive impact on many aspects of your life. While you should talk to your doctor about thyroid hormone imbalances, there are some changes you can make in your daily lifestyle to improve thyroid health. Here are five tips to support your thyroid naturally.
Stress is one of the worst things for our body. It causes our bodies to produce hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones activate our animalistic instincts, putting us on high alert.
In small doses, these hormones are clutch. They make us rise up and take up conflict head-on!
When stress becomes chronic, so does the production of these hormones. They eventually start to take over the body, making less room for thyroid hormones.
Chronic stress also causes inflammation. Long-term inflammation destroys healthy cells. This type of physiological stress breeds more emotional stress, which only generates more cortisol production.
Fight stress by limiting people and situations that cause you pressure. Cut down on addictive tendencies, like social media and alcohol.
Also, take more time for yourself. Go for walks in nature, meditate, or study a subject you enjoy. These moments of self-care go a long way for your mental health, which positively impacts your thyroid gland.
More Iodine and Tyrosine
The thyroid gland uses iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to create T3 and T4 hormones. In fact, the thyroid is one of the only parts of our body to absorb iodine readily.
You should really consider increasing your fish intake. Wild-caught fish are an excellent source of iodine and tyrosine. If you are plant-based, you can also get adequate iodine from various seaweeds and aquatic herbs.
Table salt is not an adequate source of iodine. Too much table salt can cause hypertension. We're trying to prolong heart health issues by getting our thyroids in balance, not make things worse!
Other excellent sources of tyrosine include avocados, nuts, poultry, soy, peanuts, and dairy.
High-Intensity Interval Training- HITT Fitness
HITT fitness is an excellent way to increase your output in a workout in a short time frame. It works by doing high-impact activities in spurts.
For instance, you might do three minutes of intense jump ropes, take a break for one, and continue on. Another example is running hard for 30 seconds, resting for 30 more, and repeating.
Research suggests that HITT fitness increases mitochondrial levels. These cell structures help improve our Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels. ATP is currency our bodies use for energy.
Having more ATP available takes the strain off of thyroid hormones. Cells will have more resources to perform the tasks they must accomplish. Plus, you'll have more energy to burn fat and cholesterol, two things that you gain more of when you have thyroid issues.
Thyroid hormones also regulate our body temperatures. It's not uncommon to experience hot flashes with an overactive thyroid gland.
These symptoms are even more common for females. However, men can also experience this range in temperatures. So, blast the heat away with a chill down with some cryotherapy.
When we are cold, it induces shivering. This shivering causes many disruptions in our cells. These changes in homeostasis end up boosting our thyroid hormones. Here's how!
Cold therapy activates neurons within our hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis. The hypothalamus in the brain signals to the pituitary gland to fire up the thyroid. In turn, the thyroid produces Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH the precursor to our T3 and T4 hormones.
Improve Your Thyroid Health, Improve Your Life
Your thyroid does a lot for you. It's about time you paid it forward. Start being proactive with your health by keeping your hormones in balance.
Your thyroid regulates essential functions, such as your digestive system, mental health, and reproductive hormone production. When these parts of our lives become disrupted, it can cause disease and discomfort.Boost your thyroid support by reducing stress, trying cold therapy, and HITT fitness. Also, eat more foods that have iodine and tyrosine.