As in previous article I mentioned about Cortisol the stress hormone and its effect on Women Health when high or low. Another Important hormone down the line responsible for Optimal Hormonal Health in Women is Thyroid Hormone which regulates the metabolism, energy expenditure, regulate temperature & keep our weight in check.
Thyroid Imbalances and disorders are most common among women. Hypothyroidism (Low Thyroid Function) is most common disorder of Thyroid Gland. To understand the disorders we have to understand how Thyroid gland function.
Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Thyroid gland work in a schematic manner and thus all three conjunctively referred as Hypothalamus Pituitary Axis (HPT Axis). Hypothalamus in brain releases Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone (TRH) which stimulates the Pituitary gland to produce TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). This mechanism is controlled by negative feedback of T3, T4 and Reverse T3 levels in blood which means when levels are T3, T4 or rT3 is high the Pituitary gland and Hypothalamus senses it and stop producing TSH and when levels drop below or close to normal, it start producing TSH. The hypothalamus also senses the temperature and response accordingly to increase or decrease body temperature and adjust metabolism. This is the reason why our appetite increases in winters and decreases during summers.
After receiving signal from TSH, thyroid gland produce mainly T4 and also T3, T2, T1, rT3. The amount of T4 production depends upon iodine and TSH levels. The T4 produced by thyroid gland is the inactive form and usually converted into active T3 which requires nutrients like zinc & selenium.
How Stress can impact Thyroid hormones?
- Reduced Thyroid hormone production – When someone is under chronic stress, it means he/she must be producing more cortisol which have negative feedback loop system to shut down the hypothalamus and pituitary function. As you know by now that Hypothalamus releases TRH while Pituitary release TSH, any inhibition of these affect the TRH and TSH release too.
- Higher rT3 production – Cortisol blocks certain enzymes necessary for T4 to T3 conversion. Under stress there is higher production of rT3 and less conversion of T4 to T3 affecting the TSH levels and hence thyroid functioning. If there is higher rT3 then there is highly chances that it competes with T3 at the cell receptors site causing Thyroid Resistance. Low calorie diet also leads to excess cortisol production thereby increasing rT3 production. Gut dysbiosis or gut infections increases inflammatory cytokine production which increases rT3 productions affecting cellular sensitivity.
Factors affecting Thyroid Functioning
What is Reverse T3 (rT3)?
rT3 is inactive metabolite of T4 and act as a feedback system to keep everything in balance under normal circumstances but when rT3 levels increases due to stress, trauma, inflammation or low calorie diet, it affects cellular sensitivity by replacing T3 at the binding sites. In that’s case a person will experience all the symptoms associated with low thyroid functions with all tests being in normal reference range.
Reasons of Low Thyroid function (Hypothyroidism)
- Stress – As described affect the higher cortisol production under stressful conditions either directly or indirectly affect the thyroid functioning .
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – Its an autoimmune condition where excess antibodies attack the gland itself. There can be multiple reasons for gland destruction like Gut infections, food sensitivities, toxins, heavy metals, weak immune system and long term stress.
- Environmental toxins – Toxins such as BPA (Bisphenol-A) has been shown to block the cell receptors sites of thyroid hormones.
- Nutritional Deficiencies – Selenium, zinc, iodine, iron and vitamin A, D are require for optimal functioning of Thyroid gland and hormone production and cell sensitivity.
Symptoms of Low Thyroid Function
- Weight gain
- Loss of Hair
- Loss of lateral eyebrow
- Sensitivity to Cold
- Cold hands and feet
- Constipation and indigestion
- Mood fluctuations
Simple Ways to Fix Thyroid
- Remove the source of stress – Find the root cause of your stress and work accordingly. Exercise, massage, meditation, yoga and music helps to relive the stress. Too much of exercise when combined with low calorie diet lower down thyroid function by increasing rT3 levels and cortisol. Thats why most people doing extreme dieting and too much calorie output by using running and cardio activity failed to lose weight after certain period.
- Optimise GUT – Removing pathogenic microbes and restoring healthy microflora helps in optimal absorption of nutrients along with lowering the inflammation.
- Reduce toxic exposure – Removing endocrine disruptors like BPA in daily use can be helpful if you are differing from low thyroid functions. BPA is commonly found in food cans, plastics containers and bottles, mattresses and paper products
- Avoid Goitrogenic foods – Certain foods like Soy, millet and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts contains goitrogens which interfere with proper functioning of thyroid glands. Usually cooking these food make the goitrogens inactive except in soy and millet.
- Nutrient Deficiencies – Zinc, Selenium, Iron and Vitamin A deficiencies are common in people with low thyroid functioning specially when you have GUT issues. Zinc should be balanced with copper if you decide to take zinc in supplemental form. Zinc is found in higher amounts in oysters, nuts, seeds and meats. Best source of selenium is brazil nuts (only 2 brazil nuts are sufficient for daily requirement of selenium).
- Gluten Avoidance – Recently gluten has been linked to low Thyroid function especially in Hashimoto’s disease. Work in finding out if you have any but personally I have seen people doing better on gluten free diet when thyroid is the concern.
- Medicines – Few cases do require inclusion of Bio-identical thyroid hormone like T4, T3 or Glandulars under the guidance of licences practitioner.