The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland which stores and produces hormones that regulate our metabolic rate, and is associated with modest changes in body weight and energy levels. By some estimates, as many as 2 million Canadians may have undiagnosed thyroid disease. Thyroid disease refers to both hypo- (underactive) and hyper- (overactive) thyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can have significant health consequences, making early detection a health priority. C-reactive protein and homocysteine levels are increased in hypothyroidism(1,2) and blood pressure is also often elevated.(2) These laboratory changes are markers of increased cardiovascular disease risk. General slowing of mental functions as well as migraine and tension headaches can be associated with hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include weight loss, increased appetite, nervousness, restlessness, heat intolerance, increased sweating, fatigue, frequent bowel movements, menstrual irregularities in women, and goiter.
So what can you do to show your thyroid the love it deserves?
- Reduce stress. Stress and high cortisol levels can suppress TSH release thereby reducing T3 production.
- Have your iodine and selenium levels tested. Iodine is required to make T3 and T4 in the thyroid gland, while selenium is required as a cofactor in the conversion of T4 to T3. Low levels of selenium are associated with increased hypothyroid symptoms.
- Check your growth hormone levels. Low levels of growth hormone impair conversion of T4 to T3, and increase levels of the inactive reverse T3 hormone.
- Test for the presence of toxic elements like cadmium and mercury. These elements poison the 5’-deiodinase enzyme and prevent conversion of T4 to T3.
- Talk to your healthcare professional about nutritional supplements you might want to consider. Vitamin B-12 is a good option, as hypothyroidism can compromise your ability to absorb the nutrients you need.
- Morris MS et al. Hyperhomocysteinemia and hypercholesterolemia associated with hypothyroidism in the third US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Atherosclerosis. 2001;155:195-200
- Tuzcu A et al. Subclinical hypothyroidism may be associated with elevated high-sensitive c-reactive protein (low grade inflammation) and fasting hyperinsulinemia. Endocr J. 2005;Feb;52(1):89-94