The thyroid gland is located in the throat just below the larynx. The thyroid gland produces hormones that go to organs and other glands of the body stimulating them to produce their own chemicals that in turn send messages to other parts of the body for performance of functions dealing with all of the important systems of the body. The thyroid gland is part of the system of our bodies known as the endocrine system. The endocrine system includes glands throughout the body. Each of these glands sends hormones via the bloodstream to each other to maintain the functioning of the systems of the body.
The thyroid gland is thought of as the body’s thermostat or thermometer because of its role in regulating the metabolism. I have found in my research that metabolism is a confusing term because it has a blanket meaning of the processes necessary to sustain life but there are three different components to it. The most familiar to people is the process of the cells of the body using glucose for calories to use for energy. The second is the process of synthesizing essential nutrients into more complicated compounds for uses in the body. The third is the process of breaking down compounds into their more basic components for the body to be able to use them. Don’t feel bad if you found the term metabolism confusing when you were trying to find answers. I was frustrated myself when trying to find answers only created more questions.
Since the thyroid gland has a major role in regulating metabolism it affects body temperature and the rate of using calories and food. It affects weight gain and weight loss.
The nervous system and endocrine system are connected. The process starts when the brain sends messages to the hypothalamus. This is a small gland in the lower brain. The hypothalamus then in turn sends hormonal messages to the pituitary gland which is located just below the hypothalamus. The pituitary gland then sends hormones to specific glands of the body which in turn excrete hormones for various functions of the body. When the pituitary gland sends messages to the thyroid gland the thyroid will produce hormones.
The most common thyroid ailments are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much hormone. This causes metabolism to be overactive, speeding up all of the body’s processes. Symptoms include irritability, nervousness and feeling too hot. There can be weight loss, rapid heartbeat, insomnia and fatigue. There can be hair loss and goiter which is a condition that creates a swelling in the throat.
Hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too little hormone. This causes chronic fatigue, slow heart rate and a lowering of the body temperature. There can be intolerance to cold and weight gain. There can be elevated cholesterol levels, muscle weakness, muscle cramps and fertility problems. There can be migraine headaches, increased infections, concentration problems, slow speech and goiter.
Thyroid problems affect women more than men and cause problems with women’s menstrual cycles. Thyroid problems can be caused by poor nutrition, fluoride in water, pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables and x-ray radiation. Fluoride blocks iodine receptors in the thyroid gland. Silver-mercury amalgam dental fillings in the teeth contribute to thyroid problems as well as many other disorders.
It is believed that thyroid problems in many cases are caused by abnormal immune response. The immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid and disrupt hormone production. Myxedema is a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
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The health of the thyroid gland is dependent on the health of the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus gland. With a more holistic view the health of entire system of glands (that is the endocrine system) should be considered. Since the body can really only heal itself there is much that can be done with nutrition and medicinal herbs.
I am a firm believer that the start of the healing process should begin with eliminating all possible sources that could cause the illness. Since thyroid problems can be caused by chemical pesticides a person should turn to organic fruits and vegetables in the diet. Since supermarket and other retail chains have produce that is labeled organic but only meets the bare minimum standards required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic foods labeling law it is wise to shop at natural food co-operatives and farmers’ markets. It is good to buy organic foods produced locally and educate oneself about organic foods. Keep in mind that herbs and spices in supermarkets may be radiated with ultra-violet radiation or even atomic radiation. The ultra-violet radiation destroys nutritional value and the nuclear radiation is life threatening. Microwave ovens destroy nutritional value and their radiation is dangerous if one is in close proximity while the microwaves are turned on. Avoid fluoride and unnecessary x-rays. Have silver-mercury amalgam fillings removed from the teeth. Those who have had amalgam fillings removed improved dramatically from chronic fatigue, lack of resistance to infections, allergies and thyroid problems.
For hyperthyroidism the foods that are recommended are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, peaches, pears, soybeans, spinach and turnips. These will suppress thyroid production. Avoid dairy products for three months. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. Deficiencies of vitamins C and E can promote overproduction of thyroid hormone.
For hypothyroidism the foods that are recommended are apricots, dates, molasses, parsley, potatoes, prunes, raw seeds and whole grains. Raw milk and cheeses are helpful. Avoid foods that suppress thyroid production such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, peaches, pears, radishes, spinach and turnips. These foods can be eaten in moderation unless the symptoms of hypothyroidism are severe. Herbs that can help with hypothyroidism are bayberry, black cohosh and goldenseal. Goldenseal should not be used internally on a daily basis for more than a week at a time. Do not use goldenseal if pregnant or if allergic to ragweed.
Iodine is a trace mineral that the thyroid gland needs because it is an important ingredient in the hormones it produces. If people research iodine as a nutrient they may find that iodine is in some animal food sources and many plant food sources. Unfortunately in America there is very little iodine in the soil so there is almost no iodine in these food sources. People in other parts of the world may not have to worry so much about iodine deficiency. There is iodine in ocean waters. Most people I have known who had thyroid problems refused to eat fish because they did not like the fishy taste. Eating cold water ocean going fish is good for an underactive thyroid gland. The thyroid gland needs the iodine in fish to produce hormones. Kelp helps to slow an overactive thyroid gland. Vitamin B12 which is found in fish and seaweed is necessary for a healthy thyroid gland. The body needs vitamin A and B vitamins to use iodine properly. It is good to avoid meat other than fish to stay on a low fat diet. Brown rice is recommended and miso soup once a week. Essential fatty acids help the thyroid with metabolism and can be found in flax seed oil.
Since it is necessary to have a healthy pituitary gland and hypothalamus gland for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland using herbal formulas that cleanse and nourish all the glands is necessary. A simple herbal formula for herb tea is kelp, alfalfa and dandelion root. Chlorophyll helps with the assimilation of nutrients from kelp and alfalfa. Blue green algae such as spirulina can be added. It helps to clean and nourish the glands. Other herbs that are good for the glands are Siberian ginseng, licorice root, sarsaparilla and black cohosh.
Since myxedema is an illness in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland the basic principles of autoimmune illnesses apply. The immune system wants to attack damaged cells. Using the principles of healing the glands of the body as well as the principles of healthy cell growth with the proper natural nutrition will start the healing process. All of the nutrients for cell growth in proper balance are important but I cannot stress enough the importance of certain nutrients essential for cell growth. These include vitamin B12, folic acid and CoQ10 enzyme. It is too easy for people to be deficient with one of these essential nutrients. A person can eat foods such as meat rich in vitamin B12 but still be deficient due to malabsorption. Eating cold water ocean going fish such as mackerel, tuna and salmon helps with a low fat diet, vitamin B12 and CoQ10 enzyme. Folic acid is destroyed from over cooking and microwaving. It can be found in green leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Spinach contains folic acid and CoQ10. Other sources of CoQ10 include peanuts and sardines. Other nutrients essential for cell growth are the trace minerals, selenium and germanium. Both of these can be found in garlic. Selenium is, also, in Siberian ginseng. Natural brewer’s yeast is a good source of many of these cell growth nutrients.
Since anti-oxidants help to repair damaged cells these nutrients are important for autoimmune illnesses. All of the anti-oxidant nutrients are too numerous to name and many sound rather complicated. However some of them are commonly known vitamins such as vitamins C, A, E and D. The more organic fruit, vegetables and whole grains in the diet, the better. Sweet potatoes and parsley are sources of vitamin D but don’t forget natural sunlight on the skin.
If you are interested in herbal supplements for thyroid gland health try: Thyroid Care Herbal Supplement