What does the thyroid do and where is it located?
Your thyroid gland is located just below your Adam’s apple, towards the bottom of your throat. Your thyroid gland helps to control your metabolism. It does this by releasing hormones, mainly T4 and T3, which travel to and affect almost every cell in your body. T3 is the more active form of thyroid hormone, and has more of an impact on your cells’ metabolism.
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How does metabolism work?
Metabolism is all the chemical or biological processes that happen within your cells. When it comes to thyroid hormones, metabolism generally means the way your cells convert foods and nutrients (mainly glucose and fats) into energy needed for your cells survival. Metabolism also includes the way your cells detoxify, communicate with each other, release chemical messages, release hormones and stimulate your immune system. All these processes require the use of energy, so you can see why your thyroid and thyroid hormones are crucial for all metabolic processes that happen in your body. If you have low thyroid function, or imbalanced thyroid hormones, metabolic functions in your body suffer, leading to chronic disease, mental illness, sluggishness, improper bowel function and a myriad of symptoms related to cellular and organ dysfunction.
What are ways you can heal your thyroid and keep it healthy?
There are many reasons why you might have an unhealthy thyroid, and there are therefore many ways to keep your thyroid healthy, depending on the root cause of thyroid dysfunction. Let’s look at a few examples.
The two most common causes of low thyroid function are chronic stress or burnout, and chronic inflammation. A third common cause of low thyroid function is “poor communication” or “not being able to speak your truth” or “suppressed emotions”. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Emotional problems can cause physical issues in your body.
How to Relieve Stress
Let’s look at stress and burnout. When you’re stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight mode” and requires more energy to be used up by your cells. This means your thyroid gland has to work harder to meet the demands of all your cells. Eventually, if the stress doesn’t resolve, your thyroid gland will “burn out” and will become less efficient in its function.
At the same time, during stressful periods, your entire body and your thyroid gland use up a lot of nutrients like selenium, iodine, magnesium, B vitamins and other nutrients important for optimal thyroid function. If you don’t replenish these nutrients fast enough, your thyroid will not have enough nutrients to work optimally, leading to low thyroid function.
During stress, another set of organs – your adrenal glands – go into overdrive. If stress continues and your adrenal glands don’t get a break, you go into adrenal fatigue – a common condition for many people in today’s stressful world. With adrenal fatigue, certain hormones like cortisol and adrenalin become imbalanced. When cortisol becomes imbalanced, it affects your thyroid hormones negatively, leading to thyroid dysfunction.
So, reducing stress, supplementing with thyroid and adrenal friendly nutrients like selenium, zinc, (sometimes iodine, depending on other factors), ashwagandha, astragalus, B vitamins, amino acids and also eating healthy nutrient dense foods can help keep your thyroid healthy. Releasing childhood and adult emotional trauma can also improve your thyroid function because unresolved trauma often keeps people in a “semi-stressed” state, which also uses up nutrients and negatively affects your thyroid and adrenal gland function.
How to Reduce Inflammation
Now let’s talk about chronic inflammation, another cause of thyroid dysfunction. Chronic inflammation is a process in your body which occurs when your body is damaged, has too many toxins or is exposed to certain foods that don’t agree with you. This is known as having “food sensitivities”. Chronic inflammation usually starts in your gut, whereby certain foods, pesticides and toxins damage your gut lining and aggravate your immune system. Your immune system becomes hyperresponsive to these toxins, leading to an “immune response” or “chronic inflammation” everywhere in your body.
Because chronic inflammation happens everywhere in your body, chronic inflammation negatively affects all your organs, including your thyroid gland. Chronic inflammation also causes a cortisol imbalance, which, we saw earlier, also negatively affects your thyroid hormones.
Therefore, to keep your thyroid healthy, it’s important to also keep your gut and liver healthy. You can do this by eating organic pesticide free foods, removing foods that you might be sensitive to (these are typically gluten, dairy, sugar, excessive alcohol), talking to your doctor about changing medications that might be damaging your gut and liver, and also using supplements to heal your gut lining. Most naturopathic doctors prescribe probiotics and other gut healing supplements to improve gut health and reduce inflammation.
Another important organ that affects your thyroid is your liver. Over 60% of your inactive T4 is converted into active T3 in your liver. If your liver is toxic or burdened with excessive pesticides, medications, inflammation, alcohol or toxic chemicals, your conversion of T4 into active T3 will likely be compromised, leading to symptoms of a sluggish thyroid.
What are ways you can boost your metabolism and why do they work?
As you can see, there are many ways to boost your metabolism. The first way is to remove toxins, foods and stress that damage your body, cause inflammation, and overwhelm your nervous system. Once these foundations of lifestyle and health are addressed, you can take further steps to boost your metabolism. These steps include:
- Eating nutrient dense foods like green vegetables and protein rich foods to provide the right resources for all your cells to function optimally
- Using certain herbs and vitamins that support your metabolism. These include B vitamins, Vitamin C, Zinc, selenium, ashwagandha, astragalus, rhodiola and ginseng, depending on your individual needs and health status. Consult a qualified health professional before using any of these herbs and supplements because they could interact with your medication, aggravate certain health conditions and have side effects.
- Exercising is also a good way to boost your metabolism. Exercise improves the way your cells use up or burn energy. It also helps you to release stress and detoxify – two important side effects that will have a positive effect on your thyroid.
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