Posts Tagged ‘metabolism’

The Many Ways Thyroid Effects Our Health

Many people don’t realize the far reaching effects that your thyroid can have on your general health. Most of us know that your thyroid is connected to your metabolism, your energy level and your ability to gain or lose weight. But, did you know that there are many other effects of suboptimal thyroid function? In addition, the prevalence of thyroid dysfunction in United States is widespread; as many as one in seven Americans have thyroid glands the don’t work as well as they should.

Thyroid function is also very important for heart health. We have two major thyroid hormones in our body, T4 and T3. The thyroid gland normally secretes about 90 percent T4, which has some activity. However, our body usually converts T4 to T3, which has five times more activity! This conversion is dependent on some nutrients like selenium and doesn’t happen as readily if you have a lot of stress. Therefore, many of us don’t convert our T4 hormone to the more active T3. Also, this inability to convert T4 to T3 may not show up with routine testing for thyroid function such as TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). 

Not only does this affect your metabolism, it can affect your heart.

Decreased T3 production will raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, due to decreased metabolism of fats. Decreased T3 also reduces the availability of your essential fatty acids, EPA and DHEA, which reduce inflammation and help to protect your heart. You can also obtain essential fatty acids by eating cold water fish such as mackerel and salmon and supplementing with a good-quality fish oil. But, it’s important to make sure your thyroid is functioning well so you have as much of the heart healthy EPA and DHA available as you can. Because inadequate T3 lowers your metabolism, it reduces the rate at which you burn oxygen. That can contribute to free radical damage to your heart.

If you have any symptoms of low thyroid such as weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, constipation, dry hair and skin or difficulty concentrating, call your physician and ask for thyroid testing that includes TSH, free T3, free T4, reverse T3 and thyroid antibody testing.

Improving Thyroid Function

The key function of the thyroid is to help metabolism. T4 is the major hormone produced by the thyroid, which also converts to T3. T3 is five times more active than T4, so it helps regulate metabolism better. However, this conversion can get tricky because selenium is required and if there isn’t enough selenium it won’t covert and you’re left with the less active T4.

The presence of too much cortisol from stress can also stop the conversion. It’s important to remember that you can have adequate amounts of T4 but still experience some thyroid imbalance symptoms due to the lack of more active T3. Those symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, puffiness around the eyes and face, foggy thinking, dry hair and skin, etc.  Low thyroid can also cause increased cholesterol and LDLs because you’re not metabolizing fats as well. Heart issues, particularly a higher risk of heart disease, can also occur.

So how can you improve thyroid function? There are several ways. First, there are several nutrients that can help: selenium, zinc, the B vitamins, vitamin A and vitamin C. Reduce stress levels so there is no conversion issue. Avoid toxin exposure to mercury, lead, BPA and phthalates by eating more organic and not drinking out of plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. Fish oil and vitamin D are good because they are anti-inflammatory and the herb ashwagandha stabilizes the adrenals, helps metabolism and lowers cortisol.