The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland sitting just above the trachea in the throat. Three of the major hormones it secretes are Thyroxine (T4), Triiodothyronine (T3) and Calcitonin. Aside from vitamin D, the thyroid hormones are the only hormones in the body that affect every cell in the body. It’s no wonder why under or overproduction of its hormones lend to so many symptoms, including weight gain/decreased metabolism, fatigue/insomnia, elevated cholesterol, intolerance to cold, poor concentration/mental fog, digestive issues, constipation, infertility, aches & pains, and much more.
In the modern world you live in, there are so many factors that could not only negatively influence your thyroid’s ability to function properly, but also affect how your cells utilize its hormones. Some of these influencers can actually create additional issues which further influence function, creating somewhat of a snowball effect. Below are some of the factors that affect the thyroid’s ability to perform as intended.
Nutrition & Nutrient Deficiencies
There are several nutrients that are necessary for the thyroid gland to function. The minerals iodine, selenium, chromium and zinc, as well as tyrosine (an amino acid) are required for T4 production. Selenium and zinc are also required for the conversion of T4 to the more active hormone, T3. If any of these nutrients are depleted, the thyroid will not function properly.
There are many factors that can cause any or all of these nutrients to be depleted. First and foremost, a diet high in processed or refined foods is these nutrients because they’re destroyed in the refining process. Also, eating conventionally grown fruits & veggies are missing many of these nutrients.
Studies have shown that conventionally grown produce contains less than half the nutrient quantity of organically grown produce. In addition, genetically modified crops (GMO’s) contain chelating agents that leach to the minerals making them unable to be absorbed when ingested. So, even if you’re eating a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies, if they’re not organic, you may not even be obtaining the nutrients that otherwise should be inherently available.
In addition, all medications prescribed by your doctor deplete the body of certain vitamins and minerals. So, if you’re like most Americans who are taking medications, prescription or OTC, they may be causing nutrient deficiencies, and our bodies run on nutrients, not drugs. Aside from medications, there are many other toxins in our homes and environment that also use up these nutrients, which will be discussed shortly.
Not to be mistaken by food allergies, food sensitivities can have a huge impact on thyroid function. When your immune system is compromised (if you’re having a thyroid problem, it likely is), the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract can become overly permeable, allowing partially undigested food particles to seep through into the blood.
Eating certain foods, whether “healthy” or not, can trigger an immune response, where the immune system will begin to attack those undigested amino acid strands. This can not only create further permeability, but also overwhelm the liver and use up many the nutrients needed for thyroid function like glutathione and selenium.
The immune system has a fantastic memory, so it remembers those undigested amino strands, which can resemble proteins elsewhere in the body, like the thyroid. Then, the immune system may begin attacking the thyroid gland, causing autoimmune hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s.
To piggyback off what was mentioned about food sensitivities, intestinal health can influence thyroid function in several ways. Aside from an overly permeable intestinal lining, a compromised immune system can also prevent the body from properly dealing with parasites, bacteria or fungus. These pathogens emit toxins that cause further dysbiosis (imbalance in friendly bacteria) and further intestinal permeability.
An example is yeast. When a dysbiosis is present, yeast can build up within the intestines. Yeast emits very toxic compounds called exotoxins. These exotoxins not only feed the bad bacteria like e. coli or enterobacter, but can also bind with cell receptor sites, making them think they’ve bound to a hormone (hormone masking).
Thyroid hormone receptor sites are extremely vulnerable to this type of masking. Because the cells think they’ve received the thyroid hormone, a negative feedback loop is created, alerting the thyroid gland that it’s received the hormone, causing the thyroid to slow its production. However, the cells never actually received the hormone, so hypothyroid symptoms appear even though the labs your doctor has run indicate your thyroid is functioning properly.
As the yeast emits endotoxins, more good bacteria is killed off, allowing the yeast to further thrive, potentially leading to yeast toxicity. Ironically, symptoms of yeast toxicity are very similar to those of hypothyroidism, like weight gain, decreased body temperature, fatigue, constipation, decreased mental focus, and dry skin, nails and hair.
When we think of enzymes, we most often think of those necessary to break down food, like lipase, protease and amylase, but enzymes are catalysts in almost every metabolic pathway in the body. Within the cells, enzymes bind with substrates, initiating changes in cellular metabolism.
Aside from assisting in the breakdown of food particles for proper absorption, enzymes also regulate cellular respiration, converting broken down food into molecules to be used as energy by the cells. Enzymes are also required for the conversion of EFA’s to prostaglandins and act as messengers to help deliver hormones to the target cells.
Unfortunately, enzymes can be easily destroyed by different toxic substances; like heavy metals, drugs, household chemicals, personal hygiene products, pesticides, etc. Once destroyed or denatured, they cannot deliver the hormone “messages” to the cells, yet another reason why your thyroid panel may appear “normal”, but you still feel like garbage.
Two enzymes that are all too often destroyed are cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and iodothyronine deiodinase. cAMP aids in the production of TSH, LH, FSH, ADH and calcitonin, so when destroyed or denatured, it’s going to affect the release of TSH, which will then affect the production of T4.
Iodothyronine deiodinase assists in the conversion of T4 to T3, and is very susceptible to destruction by mercury. Are you one of every two Americans who have amalgam dental fillings, or have been bombarded with mercury containing vaccines? If so, then this could partly be the reason for low T3 levels.
Well, we can’t leave out thyroid peroxidase, which is also affected by heavy metals; may also partly explain your Hashimoto’s disease.
Chronic stress not only affects the adrenal glands but also the thyroid. When under stress, the pituitary signals the release of ACTH, which instructs the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. Cortisol requires tyrosine to be produced.
When that stress becomes chronic, and excess cortisol is produced, it depletes tyrosine levels, making it unavailable to the thyroid gland for production of its hormones. Elevated cortisol also inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3.
Increased ACTH production also prevents the pituitary from releasing TSH. In addition, chronic stress depletes chromium and zinc, both of which are needed for T4 production.