The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Thyroid

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By Kylie Wolfig

The Doctor tells us our thyroid is “fine”, but we know there is something wrong.

But we don’t know that the pathway leading to a healthier thyroid is tricky. If we are to hitch hike our way to that destination, what we need is reliable road map. With nothing to guide us, we soldier on, trying to convince ourselves that we are “fine”.

We are fine, we tell ourselves, but it takes two hours and three coffees to feel semi alive in the morning. We are fine, but scared to wash our hair because it continues to fall out. We are fine, but our skin is so dry and our heels are so cracked that our pantyhose ladders before leaving the house, and dainty girly sandals are just not an option.

So we are not really fine, are we?

Understanding the Thyroid Pathway.

Our first hurdle is our lack of understanding of the Thyroid Pathway and how it works. The only way we can feel better with this disease is to understand the basics and alter our lives accordingly to make that pathway work. Our Doctors can’t do this for us. Only we can make the necessary changes.

So let’s go through the simple Thyroid Pathway. Now this is not the fancy science version. Most of us don’t need all the extra details and frankly it just makes our heads hurt.

We are going to start at the thyroid, which produces the hormone we know as thyroxin. For people with hypothyroidism or those who have had their thyroid removed, thyroxin may come in tablet form.

Once the thyroxin (which has a long and difficult to pronounce name so has is commonly called T4) enters our body it needs to be activated. You see, what most of us don’t know is that T4 is inactive and must be converted to its active form to be useable to the body. The active form is called another long name, or simply T3.

This conversion process, or lack of, is why there is often only a slight change in symptoms once standard thyroxine medication begins.

To activate the T4, the body needs the following basics

Vitamin C

In our body, Vitamin C is a major antioxidant, helps produce collagen, is involved in the making of neurotransmitters in the brain, produces serotonin, and helps to convert T4 to T3.

 

Food sources of Vitamin C include Papaya, Citrus, Kiwi Fruit, Capsicum (Bell Peppers), Pineapples, sea vegetables, sweet potato and cantaloupe.

Vitamin B2

Also called Riboflavin, Vitamin B2 turns your urine yellow if you are taking other B Vitamins, and it contributes to the weird urine smell caused by eating asparagus.

This micronutrient is found in Beet Greens, Mushrooms (particularly Crimini), Eggs, Asparagus, Almonds and Turkey.

Selenium

One of the most important micronutrients in the Thyroid Pathway, Selenium appears in two separate thyroid processes.

It is found in Brazil nuts, Turkey, Scallops, Chicken, Lamb and Tuna.

Before we all cry out in unison about the amount of mercury in Tuna, there actually are studies that suggest the type of selenium in Tuna counteracts the mercury content.

Ever wondered why fish don’t die from mercury poisoning?

Iodine

Iodine is the ‘3’ and ‘4’ in the T3 and T4, so pretty important, right?

However, this is not a reason to run out and start medicating with iodine. I did my final paper on iodine and the thyroid and found out that when iodine is the cause of thyroid disease, half of these cases are caused by too much iodine and the other half by too little.

It is wise to note that iodine-induced thyroid disease is rare. In 90 per cent of cases, an out of control immune system is the cause of thyroid disease.

So when it comes to iodine we need to be extremely cautious and perhaps look to food sources, which also carry other micronutrients to help us absorb the iodine appropriately. We are talking about foods like seafood, fish, pears and mushrooms and – of course – moderation is important.

Tyrosine

The amino acid Tyrosine is the T in the T3 and T4, so it is important. It is a non-essential amino acid, which means the body can make it as long as it has the right ingredients, predominantly phenylalanine, which is another amino acid. To get Tyrosine from animal sources, the body needs zinc, Vitamins B1 and B2, and a healthy amount of stomach acid.

Tyrosine is an essential ingredient in brain neurotransmitters and particularly in the making of adrenalin and dopamine. This may explain the thyroid’s connection to our adrenals and mental health issues.

 

Vanadium

The trace element Vanadium is little known but important. It is found in mushrooms, parsley, dill, gelatin and shellfish.

It has only recently been discovered as being necessary to human life. However, like anything, too much of it will give almost the same symptoms as too little, so balance is the key.

Apart from the role it plays in Thyroid Conversion, Vanadium is also involved in cholesterol, heart disease, blood pressure and blood sugar.

Healthy liver function

A whopping 70 per cent of our thyroid hormone is converted into its active form in the liver. A liver that is in any compromised cannot do this conversion to its optimal standard.

Coffee enemas, herbs such as Silymarin and Globe Artichoke, foods from the sulphur family, such as onions garlic and legumes, and plenty of lemon water help clear the liver and make the pathway involved with the thyroid hormone work more efficiently.

Healthy Gut function

A smaller but arguably more important 20 per cent of thyroid hormone is converted in the gut.

Without healthy gut function we experience weight gain, lowered thyroid hormone conversion, mental health problems and inflammation.

The gut is also involved in combating bacteria, viruses, toxins and communicable diseases.

We need probiotics. (Pic 1 of a probiotic added here)

For many years, I have taken a quality probiotic with my thyroid medication. It does not interfere with thyroxine, and hormones simply cannot function without great levels of good guys in our tummy.

Prebiotics are the food source of probiotics, and some researchers would argue that they are more important than probiotics. Good food sources include Jerusalem Artichokes, Dandelion Leaves and Persimmons.

When T4 becomes T3

The journey doesn’t end there though.

If all of those nutrients and pathways are optimal, then we have a winner, and our T4 becomes T3.

We now have T3 running around in our bodies. Only when it is in our cells can we begin to feel better.

To get T3 into our cells our body needs more selenium and progesterone.

Many thyroid sufferers have low progesterone and excess oestrogen. If we have been through menopause, the progesterone comes from the adrenal glands, which means adrenal health is another major player in thyroid health.

Finally, there is another player that stops T3 getting into our cells. It is known as Reverse T3 (RT3).

Reverse T3 is like a soldier and its job is to block T3 getting into the cells.

Why does it do this? Because in our little soldiers’ wisdom, it thinks it is protecting us.

This little soldier assesses how much stress we are under and if it deems we are suffering too much stress (and who isn’t?) it decides we will be safer lying in bed all day. Then we can’t possibly get eaten or hurt and we won’t use up much of our fat stores, so we won’t starve either.

So by blocking the T3 there is no energy getting into our cells and we should dutifully tuck ourselves into bed and stay safe. This is obviously impractical, and so we go through our day feeling horrid instead.

How to change our Thyroid Story

Having all the nutrients and healthy organs for the thyroid to make thyroxin, convert it and then get it into the cells needs to be our priority.  We don’t need to do everything at once. To begin, it is better to select a few things we can do, and slowly add new habits bit by bit.

Steadily introducing all these changes into my lifestyle during the past few years has helped reduce my medication from a whopping 250mcg to 100mcg, and so far my weight loss is 20kg.

Changing and improving all these areas of our health will contribute to a better functioning Thyroid Pathway and change our Thyroid Story for the better.


Kylie Wolfig is the founder of Thyroid School and the author of four  thyroid books, including Thyroid Habits – Simple Changes to Improve Thyroid Health. Visit Thyroidschool.com