The butterfly-shaped gland in front of your neck–aka the thyroid–is a vital gland. Your thyroid gland creates, stores, and releases hormones which control your metabolism.
Metabolism is like a generator: using material from the food you eat and converting it into energy to provide power for your body to keep all your organs working and your body running smoothly.
The thyroid gland uses a mineral called iodine from food to create your thyroid hormones: T4 or thyroxine and T3 or triiodothyronine. These two hormones tell your cells the right speed in which to work in order to meet the energy demand of your body.
But, there’s more to the picture. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland (in your brain) also control the release of thyroid hormones. If T3 and T4 levels are low, the hypothalamus produces TSH-a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland to release TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). This TSH commands the thyroid to increase the production of thyroid hormones. So basically, your pituitary gland is your thyroid’s boss and your thyroid is responding to the hormonal messages received from your pituitary gland.
This works vice versa. If T3 and T4 are high in the blood, the pituitary gland releases less TSH so that the thyroid gland also releases less thyroid hormones (so the pituitary gland does listen and respond to the feedback provided by the hormones in your blood).
What Thyroid Hormones Do
Thyroid hormones are very important because they affect almost every cell of your body. Remember, they control metabolism. When you have low T3 and T4, your heart rate slows down, your digestion slows down…You may have a hard time processing the food you ate, so you’ll probably end up with constipation and weight gain. The opposite occurs if you have high T3 and T4. Your heart tends to beat rapidly, you may have diarrhea, and weight loss.
In a nutshell, when your thyroid doesn’t work properly, it throws off just about everything else in your body and symptoms are going to start popping up.
There are different diseases that can impact your thyroid’s function. It can either be a tumor, an autoimmune disease, or iodine deficiency or excess. Whichever it is, two conditions can happen with regard to your thyroid hormone production: hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone in the body) and hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone in the body).
I encourage you to take a look at the mineral iodine to support optimal thyroid function. Since iodine is what is needed to make thyroid hormones, it is important to get 150 mcg of iodine/day as recommended by the National Institute of Health.
In addition to keeping the thyroid healthy, iodine is also essential for brain development in utero and in infancy.
Unfortunately, about 2 billion people around the globe have an iodine deficiency.
Best Sources of Iodine
The best sources of iodine are fish and other seafood, sea vegetables (nori, kelp, wakame), dairy products (yogurt, cheese), and iodized salt.
If you are looking to add non-food iodine, pure iodine solution contains easy-to-absorb iodine that you can take orally for your thyroid or even topically as a spray to give your skin added protection.
Of course, if you have any underlying disease condition (like autoimmune thyroid), talk with a healthcare professional first before trying anything. I also recommend functional testing on a regular basis to see what your iodine levels are so that you can see if supplementation beyond diet-rich iodine foods makes sense for you.
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