gonutrio

Thyroid

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits on the front of the neck. The two lobes of the thyroid which sit on either side of the windpipe are usually connected by a strip of thyroid tissue. When the thyroid is its normal size, we cannot feel it – we can feel it only when it is enlarged. The thyroid is a part of the endocrine system, whose function is to produce and release hormones into the bloodstream. Thyroid hormones play an important role as they regulate various vital functions of the body such as heart rate, breathing, growth and development, metabolism, body temperature, muscle strength and cholesterol levels. These hormones regulate the manner in which our body is going to use energy and enable it work properly.

Iodine from the foods we eat is used by the thyroid gland to make two important hormones: Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones travel to almost all parts of our body and regulate the speed at which the cells work. An imbalance in the T3 and T4 levels can cause thyroid problems. For instance, let’s take the example of our heart. T3/T4 hormones regulate our heart rate. If their levels are low then we have slow heart rate but if we have high levels of these hormones our heart rate is faster. Hence, balance is necessary and this is the task of the pituitary and the hypothalamus glands in the brain help to maintain the T3 and T4 balance in the thyroid glands.

Facts of Organ

Stress affects the thyroid

When we are under stress, our body releases the hormone cortisol. Excess cortisol production interferes with the production of thyroid hormones. Further, when we are stressed our body becomes more susceptible to auto-immune conditions.

Liver needs to work optimally for T3 to be produced

The conversion of inactive T4 to active T3 takes place in the liver. Therefore, the liver needs to work at its optimal best otherwise sufficient amounts of T3 won’t be produced. T4 is basically as same as T3, the only difference being that it possesses an extra iodine molecule which makes it inactive. 

 It is the unbound thyroid that shows its effects on cells

Most of the thyroid hormones present in the blood are attached to protein carrier molecules. It is only the free thyroid hormones or the unbound ones that exert their effect on cells. 

Thyroid hormone production is controlled by the pituitary and hypothalamus glands

The production of thyroid hormones is not controlled by the thyroid gland; instead it is controlled by the pituitary and hypothalamus glands.

Functions of Organ

Production of hormones

The most important function of the thyroid gland is the production of hormones which regulate various vital activities of the body. The purpose of your thyroid gland is to make, store, and release thyroid hormones into your blood. These hormones, which are also referred to as T3 (thyroxine) and T4 (triiodothyronine), affect almost every cell in the body and help control your body’s functions. If you have too little thyroid hormone in your blood, your body slows down. This condition is called hypothyroidism. If you have too much thyroid hormone in your blood, your body speeds up. This condition is called hyperthyroidism. Without a properly functioning thyroid, our body will not be able to break down the proteins and also it would not be able to process vitamins and carbohydrates properly. It is for this reason that people with thyroid disorders have weight problems. The irregularities of the thyroid can however be controlled through medications and a change in diet.

Anatomy

Right lobe

The right lobe of the thyroid lies to the right side of the trachea and larynx.

 Left lobe

The left lobe lies to the left side of the trachea and larynx.

 Isthmus

The isthmus is the central part of the thyroid gland that connects the left and the right lobes. The isthmus is capable of changing shape and size.

 Parathyroid

Parathyroid glands are small sized glands present on the thyroid gland. The parathyroid gland produces parathyroid hormone which helps the body to balance calcium - phosphorous levels.

Food Tips

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are extremely rich in selenium, which is necessary for proper thyroid hormone synthesis and metabolism otherwise a person may suffer from thyroid problems. Selenium protects the thyroid gland from excessive iodine exposure and is also necessary for the conversion of T4 to T3. A selenium rich diet is thus required for a healthy thyroid and reducing inflammation in the thyroid tissue which may cause damage to the thyroid glands. Macadamia nuts and hazelnuts are also high in selenium. But one should limit the intake of nuts as they are high calorie foods.

Sea vegetables

Sea vegetables like kelp, arame, wakameare rich sources of iodine hence very effective in treating thyroid problems. Iodine attaches itself to tyrosine to form thyroxine. If a person has insufficient levels of iodine, then he/she is likely to suffer from hypothyroidismthus a diet comprising of iodine rich sea vegetables can help.

Fish

Uncontrolled hypothyroidism can increase the risk of heart disease due to the presence of higher levels of low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids present in fish like trout, tuna, salmon or sardines can increase immunity levels, decrease inflammation and lower the risks of heart disease. Further, fish is a good source of selenium hence the ideal food for people suffering from thyroid problems.

Whole Grains

Constipation is one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Whole-grain foods like pasta, brown rice, oats, quinoa and cereal are rich in nutrients in addition to fiber which helps in regularizing bowel movements. But it is essential to take thyroid medicines several hours before or after consuming a diet of whole grains as it can interfere with the medications.

Seaweed

Seaweed has a high concentration of iodine which is needed by the thyroids for their proper functioning. Seaweed, sold as wakame, nori and dulse can be used in the form of sushi or soups and they are far more effective than taking iodine supplements. Additionally, seaweed offer many other nutritional benefits of vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, fiber and calcium.

Dairy

Hashimoto’s disease which is one of the causes of hypothyroidism is cased due to a lack of Vitamin D in the body. Fortified milk and other dairy products like cheese, paneer, curd, yoghurt not only have added vitamin D, but also contain significant amounts of proteins, iodine and calcium which is required for controlling hypothyroidism. Hashimoto's disease also affects the gut hence foods like yogurt which contain gut friendly bacteria are required to restore the gut balance.

Antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables

Vegetables and fruits are rich in B vitamins and antioxidants which help in the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Fruits and vegetables also help to maintain one’s weight which is one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Some of the antioxidant rich foods are cherries, berries, bell peppers, tomatoes etc.

Beans

A versatile food, beans are a great source for sustained energy beans are helpful in cases of hypothyroidism where a person is left feeling tired. Beans contain complex carbohydrates, protein, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in fiber, which is beneficial in cases of constipation – one of the side effects of hypothyroidism. However, one should stick to the recommended dose of consuming not more than 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day as excess fiber can interfere with hypothyroidism treatment.

Maca

Maca plays an important role in thyroid health as it is known to increase the amount of thyroid hormone in the body thus beneficial to people suffering from hypothyroidism. But it doesn’t affect the thyroid gland directly; instead it balances the pituitary and hypothalamus which release TSH and TRH (thyroid-releasing hormone) respectively. Theseare the hormones which regulate thyroxine levels. Macais also rich in B vitamins, zinc and iron all of which are essential for optimal thyroid production.

Lifestyle Tips

Eat the right food

Eating the right food such as vegetables and fruits and cutting out the processed food can help one maintain their thyroid health. Eating the right foods can do a world of good to the thyroids. But if a person is suffering from some thyroid issue, then they should be careful of the vegetables they take as some vegetables can aggravate thyroid problems.

Look for sources of iodine

Since iodine is required to treat thyroid problems, one needs to consume sufficient amounts of it so as not to suffer from an iodine deficiency. One of the main sources of iodine is table salt as it has been enriched with iodine. One can also get iodine from eating iodine rich foods and consuming meat of organic grass-fed animals. Some animals are given potassium iodate in their feeds, which increases the iodine content in the meat of these animals.

Increase selenium intake

A lack of selenium in the diet can cause thyroid problems such as Graves’ disease which is an autoimmune disease. Supplementing one’s diet with selenium allows for a quicker recovery from thyroid problems. Having foods that are rich in selenium such as tuna, brazil nuts, turkey, oysters and shrimp is a good way to incorporate selenium in one’s diet.

Take vitamin A supplements

When we consume less Vitamin A, our body is unable to produce TSH in sufficient amounts. TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone is required to convert T4 into T3. Taking Vitamin A supplements can regulate thyroid metabolism and help in adequate release of TSH. A minimum dosage of 25,000 IU a day is required for a healthy thyroid. You can also add more vitamin A into your diet by consuming foods like carrots, squash, sweet potatoes etc.

Get more aerobic exercise

Indulging in intense aerobic activities is beneficial to the thyroids as exercise causes the thyroid gland to secrete more hormones. Also, exercise causes the tissues of the body to be more sensitive to the hormones. Working out at least 30 minutes a day is a good way to keep the thyroids happy.

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