Thyroid Hormones: Mastering the Importance of the Thyroid.

Thyroid hormones are chemical substances, made in and secreted by the thyroid gland. They are essential for normal metabolism and development. There are three types of thyroid hormones—thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3), and calcitonin.

What Is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck, just above your collarbone. It’s a crucial part of your endocrine system, the collection of glands that secrete hormones into your bloodstream to regulate various bodily functions. Your thyroid produces hormones that regulate growth, maturation, and metabolism.

What Do Thyroid Hormones Regulate?

T3 and T4 are created through a hormonal chain reaction. These hormones are produced by the thyroid, but the thyroid itself is controlled by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is, in turn, controlled by the hypothalamus. When thyroid hormone levels are low, the hypothalamus produces a hormone called thyrotropin-releasing hormone or TRH. This stimulates the pituitary gland to produce TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone. Thyroid-stimulating hormone, surprise, stimulates the thyroid, which produces T4. Some of this T4 is then converted to T3 in the thyroid, liver, and pituitary gland.

T4 and T3 are primarily composed of converted iodine. Of the two, T4 is more common throughout the body. About 80% of thyroid hormone produced is T4, but T3 is far more potent. T4 and T3 both serve similar functions—they act as chemical messengers and affect the metabolism of every cell in the body. Starting in the womb, and continuing throughout life, these hormones are essential to growth and development. Tadpoles deprived of thyroid hormones fail to develop properly into frogs, and the effects on humans aren’t much different. In fetuses, infants, and children, a lack of T4 and T3 stunts physical growth and cripples brain development. This means pregnant women need to be on top of their own thyroid health status and make sure their baby receives complete nutrition as well. Thyroid hormones also regulate metabolism. In this role, T4 and T3 increase oxygen consumption in all tissues. They govern the rate at which your body burns fat and processed carbs. As a side effect of their role in metabolism, T4 and T3 also affect body temperature. If you notice that you’re always colder or warmer than everyone else, imbalanced thyroid hormone levels might be the cause.

A third hormone, calcitonin, is also produced in the thyroid. The biological role of calcitonin is not as well understood as that of T3 or T4. Because of this, calcitonin is often neglected in discussions about thyroid hormones. Calcitonin is produced in special thyroid cells called C-cells. It seems to lower calcium and phosphate concentration in the blood.[4] Some theorize that the hormone plays a role in the distribution of calcium and phosphate in bone, but this hypothesis has yet to be proven conclusively.

Doctors can run a hormone panel to check the levels of these hormones in your blood. Include TSH, T3, and T4 panels along with other hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, metabolic panel to rule out other causes.

Thyroid Hormones

Role of Essential Minerals in the Thyroid

In order for the thyroid to do its job of creating vital hormones, it needs raw materials. You can’t build a house without wood, stone, and metal, and the thyroid can’t synthesize T3 and T4 without iodine, selenium, iron, and zinc. Iodine is an essential mineral—possibly the single most important mineral to maintaining thyroid health. It’s a core component of thyroid hormones. Within the thyroid, specialized cells convert iodine and the amino acid tyrosine into T3 and T4. There are no substitutions—if you don’t have enough iodine in your system, your thyroid absolutely cannot produce these hormones. Lack of iodine can cause several disorders including:

  • Goiter: a severely enlarged thyroid gland that appears as a large mass on the neck
  • Stillbirth and infant death
  • Permanent cognitive impairment
  • Stunted growth
  • Deaf-mutism
  • Cerebral palsy

Iodine deficiency is a huge problem. Worldwide, it’s one of the leading causes of cognitive impairment in children. The real tragedy is that the effects of iodine deficiency are completely preventable. Many countries have taken to adding iodine to table salt in an effort to provide everyone with this essential nutrient. Great strides have been made, but iodine deficiency still affects some 2 billion people worldwide.

Selenium is another crucial mineral to thyroid health. It improves thyroid structure and is required for proper hormone synthesis and activation. Most people can get an adequate supply of this trace mineral from food, but the selenium content in food is dependent on the selenium content of the soil in which it was raised. Many regions suffer from selenium deficient growing conditions. Other conditions, like HIV or kidney disease, can also contribute to selenium deficiency.

While iodine is most closely related to thyroid health, iron and zinc are equally crucial. Iron deficiency, known as anemia, reduces the thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine, leading to iodine deficiency even when proper iodine levels are present. A deficiency in zinc reduces the thyroid’s ability to secrete proper amounts of thyroid hormone and can result in a goiter. Conversely, zinc supplementation has a positive effect on thyroid health, increasing T3 levels in the body.

The Role of B-12 in Metabolism and the Thyroid

The best-known biological roles of vitamin B-12 are cellular metabolism and DNA synthesis, but it may also play a part in thyroid health. The exact nature of the role is not yet fully understood, but B-12 deficiency is very common in cases of hypothyroidism.

One study of hypothyroid patients found that those with B-12 deficiency showed immediate improvement upon supplementation. Confusingly, hypothyroid patients without this deficiency also showed remarkable improvement after receiving B-12 supplementation. B-12 and thyroid health seem to be linked, but further research is necessary before we can confidently say why.

The human body can’t make its own B-12. You must get this vital nutrient from food and supplements. The best B-12 foods are mostly animal products like meat, dairy, and seafood. The only real plant sources are cereals and plant-based milk that have had B-12 added during processing. If you follow a vegan diet, I highly recommend you consider B-12 supplementation.

Thyroid Disease

Nearly anyone can develop a thyroid disorder, but some groups are more at risk than others. Women suffer from thyroid disorders more than men. Thyroid disease is also more common in people over 50.

Thyroid disease. Woman getting her thyroid checked by a doctor.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid fails to produce enough hormones. In developing fetuses and growing children, hypothyroidism can stunt physical and mental development. Adult sufferers of hypothyroidism may experience:

  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Brittle hair and fingernails
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
  • Joint and muscle pain

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism, also called overactive thyroid, is when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Goiter
  • Frequent bowel movements and diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Sweating and increased sensitivity to heat
  • Hair loss
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Heart palpitations
  • Restlessness and Insomnia

Lifestyle Support for Thyroid Wellness

Unhealthy activities, like eating the wrong foods or not getting enough rest, or excessive stress create a toxic environment in the body. This strains everything, including the thyroid.

Ultimately, the best way to support thyroid health is to live an overall healthy lifestyle. Drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and reduce stress whenever possible. Iodine, selenium, iron, and zinc are all essential minerals for supporting thyroid health. No matter the state of your thyroid, it’s important to fill your diet with foods rich in these minerals. Most people should be able to get enough thyroid nutrients from food, but nutritional deficiencies are still a problem for many. The amount of thyroid supporting minerals in food varies greatly by region and soil quality. Iodine, for example, is plentiful in seawater, but sparse in mountainous regions and areas far inland. If you can’t get the essential thyroid nutrition from food, or just need a little boost, we do offer a Thyroid Health Kit™. This kit contains three of our very best thyroid-supporting supplements—Detoxadine Nascent Iodine, Selenium, and VeganSafe B-12. It’s the best source of specialized nutrition for thyroid health.

Advertisements

10 Symptoms of Thyroid Problems.

The thyroid gland is one of the body’s most important components. The thyroid regulates hormone balance and contributes to weight, mood, and mental stability—and that barely scratches the surface. Because of the thyroid’s influence on so many of the body’s important, and even “secondary” functions, an unhealthy thyroid can have far-reaching, unexpected, and odd effects that manifest into symptoms that many doctors fail to identify as thyroid-related. In fact, of the 12% of Americans that will develop thyroid disease, 60% will never know they have it. That’s a problem. Awareness is key, so to help, here are ten, easy-to-miss symptoms of thyroid problems.

1. Cholesterol That’s Too High or Too Low

Too much fat in your diet causes high cholesterol, right? Wrong. High cholesterol can have a number of originating factors, and diet is a small contributor compared to others. And, in some cases, low cholesterol may be a problem. If your cholesterol is off and diet and exercise don’t help, it may be time to consider the possibility of an underlying problem. If you take medication for cholesterol and it’s not working, it’s time to have your thyroid checked. You may have hypothyroidism, or low thyroid hormone levels. It’s always a good idea to get tested for hyperthyroidism, a condition caused by an overabundance of circulating thyroid hormone.

2. Sore Joints and Nerve Pain

Research has found that thyroid diseases, both hypo- and hyperthyroidism, can cause nerve pain. Getting thyroid health in check has produced improvements in wrist pain and tingling sensations in some people. In one case, a 60-year-old Italian woman suffering from a burning sensation in her feet displayed symptoms of hypothyroidism. As she progressed with her thyroid treatment, the pain went away.

3. Heart Disease

Thyroid hormones play a direct role in heart health, so if you have heart disease, you need to be aware of your thyroid status. A 2014 study out of John Hopkins University reported low thyroid hormone levels were common in young and middle-aged adults with early-stage coronary artery disease and blood vessel calcification. A Polish study similarly compared 25 patients with low levels of thyroid stimulating hormone to 25 patients with normal levels and found that those with lower levels had more cardiac events.

4. Weak, Fragile Fingernails

Fingernails that crack or flake may reflect thyroid problems, as those with hypothyroidism often have soft, fragile nails. Additionally, persons with hyperthyroidism often experience a nail that comes off the bed of the fingertip. In both cases, dry skin and brittle hair often accompany these symptoms.

5. Anxiety and Mood Imbalances

Your hormones play a huge role in affecting how you feel. Low hormone levels, such as in the case of hypothyroidism, can leave you feeling down in the dumps. Conversely, an excess of hormones can lead to anxiety or panic attacks. If you have feelings like this, it might be a good idea to get your thyroid tested before considering psychiatric drugs that could make your problems worse.

6. Inexplicable Weight Gain or Loss

If you’ve lost or gained weight and can’t explain why it could be your thyroid. Metabolism depends directly on hormone activity. A sudden change in weight, up or down, can be an indication of a thyroid imbalance.

7. Constant Fatigue

Constant fatigue is a common problem that often gets ignored. Many young adults write off fatigue and low energy as a sign of their lifestyle; but if you have an established routine and get regular sleep, you shouldn’t ignore chronic fatigue. If you get 7-8 hours of sleep and it’s not enough, it could be an early symptom of a thyroid issue. Those suffering from hyperthyroidism may find it hard to fall asleep, which can leave you dragging during waking hours.

8. Low Libido

Since the thyroid is all about hormones, it comes as no surprise men and women experience problems with their reproductive organs. Women can have a more frequent, longer menstruation with low hormones and shorter, light menstruation—or have a cycle stop altogether—with too many circulating hormones. Fertility may also be a problem. Men experience infertility, low libido, and may even develop enlarged breasts when sex hormones and the thyroid become imbalanced.

9. Gut Problems

IBS isn’t always caused by diet. In fact, metabolic imbalances may be to blame. This prevents necessary enzymes from getting to the gut to help with digestion. If constipation, diarrhea, or IBS are ongoing problems and therapies aren’t helping, it may be time to consider checking your thyroid.

10. Weakness

Hormone imbalances don’t exist in a vacuum, they often lead to other imbalances throughout the body, and an extreme dip in energy levels is one that’s standard. Your thyroid, metabolism, and energy levels are all connected. If you get enough sleep and follow a balanced diet and routinely provide your body with the complete nutrition it needs to perform its functions, and you still feel weak, it’s time to consider underlying possibilities, and your thyroid is one.

Promoting Thyroid Balance

Many factors influence thyroid health, and there are a few things you can do to encourage optimal thyroid function.

  1. Make sure you get enough iodine. It’s not a cure or treatment; it’s simply the exact nutrition your thyroid needs to function normally. Iodine-rich foods are one way to get your iodine requirements; an iodine supplement is another.
  2. Exercise regularly. The goal isn’t to become a bodybuilder; it’s to use and work your muscles—all of them. Get up and move around.
  3. Eat a balanced diet that meets all your nutritional requirements. Your body is like a Swiss watch; all its parts need to be precisely aligned for it to function properly as a whole. If you have nutritional deficiencies, of any kind, you’re not going to feel balance.

Selenium: The Missing Link?

Have you experienced thyroid problems that prove difficult to pinpoint? The culprit could be selenium deficiency. Selenium is an essential mineral that helps protect the thyroid and support normal thyroid function. As with iodine, you can get all the benefits of this mineral by consuming selenium-rich foods or by taking a high-quality selenium supplement.

Thyroid Health: What You Need To Know.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck, sort of like an internal bowtie. Part of the endocrine system, your thyroid produces and secretes the hormones T4 and T3. These essential hormones regulate growth, development, and metabolism.

A Closer Look at Thyroid Function

The thyroid consists of two lobes joined together by a narrow band of thyroid tissue called the isthmus. These lobes are themselves made up of many small lobules joined together with connective tissue. On a cellular level, the thyroid is made up of follicular cells, which secrete the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

Thyroid Gland Anatomy.

The thyroid is controlled by the pituitary gland, which acts as sort of a hormonal thermostat. When it senses low hormone levels, it releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). As you might guess from the name, TSH stimulates the thyroid to produce T3 and T4.

T4, T3, and Calcitonin

Thyroid hormones T4 and T3 control your body’s metabolism. Specifically, they signal your cells to convert oxygen and calories into energy. Every cell in your body depends on these hormones. The thyroid produces them in a constant stream but will release more when at times when your body needs extra energy. Feeling cold? Your thyroid will release extra hormones to keep you warm. Bun in the oven? The thyroid boosts hormone production to support the energy demands of pregnancy.

Your thyroid uses iodine to manufacture T4. About 80% of the thyroid hormone in your body is T4. T3 is a less common, but far more potent form of the hormone. T3 is refined form of T4 in the thyroid, liver, and pituitary gland.

Your thyroid also produces a third hormone called calcitonin. It seems to be involved in calcium and bone metabolism in some animals, but the exact biological role of calcitonin in humans is not yet fully understood. Likely because of this, calcitonin is generally not considered a thyroid hormone proper for T4 and T3.

Thyroid and Endocrine System

Endocrine System

The endocrine system is a system of glands that secrete hormones directly into your bloodstream. It acts as a sort of messaging system within the body and regulated processes like growth, development, and reproduction. The endocrine system communicates with the rest of the body through the bloodstream using hormones as chemical messengers. There are many types of hormones in your blood at any given time, but each type of hormone only communicates specific information to specific types of cells.

Endocrine Disruptors

The endocrine system can be disrupted when the chemical signal somehow gets lost or corrupted. It can happen in a variety of ways, but most commonly through malnutrition or chemical interference.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the hormonal signals of your endocrine system causing numerous developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune disorders. They can block, mimic, or alter the production your natural hormones. This can cause your hormone levels to spike or plummet with devastating consequences to your health.

Endocrine disruptors can cause a variety of debilitating health problems including birth defects, reproductive problems, cancer, and nervous and immune system disorders. This is a particular threat to fetuses and infants whose organs and neural systems are still developing.

There are many endocrine disruptors including, dioxins, PCBs, and pesticides. They’re found in dozens of common products including plastic bottles, food containers, household chemicals, pesticides, plastics, cosmetics, and pesticides. Prevention is the strongest medicine. Remove known endocrine disruptors and toxins from your environment.

Inadequate nutrition can also cause severe thyroid problems. Your endocrine glands can’t just make hormones out of anything. They need specific nutrients, like iodine, to use as raw materials to make hormones.

Common Thyroid Disorders and Symptoms

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid that doesn’t make sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. Symptoms include:

  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Brittle hair and fingernails
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
  • Depression
  • Hair loss
  • Slow heart rate
  • Puffy face, hands, and feet
  • Hoarseness

Hypothyroidism is especially devastating in those still developing. In children, infants, and fetuses, the condition can lead to permanent physical and mental underdevelopment. It’s especially important for expectant mothers to ensure they get proper thyroid nutrition.

Hyperthyroidism

Not to be confused with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid gland. This condition occurs when the thyroid creates too much thyroid hormone. There are several potential causes of hyperthyroidism including Graves’ disease, toxic adenomas, and subacute thyroiditis. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Goiter
  • Frequent bowel movements and diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Sweating and increased sensitivity to heat
  • Hair loss
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Protruding, itchy eyes

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder and the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It causes the immune system to mistakenly identify the thyroid gland as a foreign body and attacks it with antibodies. This inflames the thyroid and causes overproduction of thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease can affect people of any age or gender but is most common in females over 20.

Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis is inflammation of the thyroid. It can be caused by a viral infection, trauma, immune disorders, or drug reactions. Pain may or may not be a symptom, depending on the type of thyroiditis.

Hashimoto’s disease is a type of thyroiditis in which your own immune system targets and attempts to destroy your thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s works slowly. Early stages may be undetectable but it can eventually lead to inflammation, an enlarged thyroid, and hyperthyroidism. It is most common in middle-aged females and people with a family history of thyroid disorders.

Subacute thyroiditis is a swollen, inflamed, and painful thyroid thought to be caused by viral infection. It occurs most frequently in middle-aged females who have recently had an upper-respiratory tract infection.

Goiter

A goiter, or goitre in British English, is an enlargement of the thyroid gland, often causing visible swelling in the neck. Goiters can grow to tremendous sizes. Worldwide, the most common cause of goiter is iodine deficiency. When the thyroid isn’t getting enough, it grows larger in an attempt to capture as much iodine as possible.

Thyroid Nodules

A thyroid nodule is a small lump of growth in the thyroid gland. The majority of thyroid nodules are noncancerous and don’t invade other tissues.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is the 8th most common type of cancer in the United States. It’s the most common cancer of endocrine system, and rates are rising. The good news is that most types of thyroid cancer grow slowly and can be successfully treated if detected early. The survival rate for thyroid cancer is usually good.

The most common traditional treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery, involving either the full or partial removal of the thyroid gland. This is usually combined with hormone treatments and radiation therapy.

Thyroid cancer can affect anyone, but certain groups face a greater risk. Like all types of thyroid disorder, thyroid cancer affects women at a much higher rate than men. Age also plays a factor. For women, the risk peaks in their 40’s and 50’s, while men are most vulnerable in their 60’s and 70’s. Family history plays a minor role. Those who received radiation treatments to the head or neck, especially during childhood, also face a higher risk.

Types of Thyroid Tests

Diagnosing a thyroid disorder can prove difficult. Different conditions that require different treatments may have similar symptoms. Conditions that have devastating symptoms in one individual may produce no symptoms in another. Healthcare providers can perform an array of tests that can help identify thyroid disorders. Your thyroid health is too important to leave to speculation and a “try it and see what works” approach to healthcare. If you suspect you have a thyroid disorder, please schedule a thyroid test with your healthcare provider.

A test typically involves having your blood drawn and analyzed in a lab, who will measure your hormone and antibody levels. Thyroid health is complex—what is considered normal for one person may be abnormal for someone else. Certain medications can also skew results. Your healthcare provider should take your full medical history into account before making a diagnosis.

Thyroid health tests include:

TSH Test

The TSH test checks blood levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone. It is the most reliable test for hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism and is typically the first test your healthcare provider will perform. High levels of TSH means that the pituitary gland is working overtime, trying to get the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone. Alternately, low THC means that the pituitary senses abnormally high levels of thyroid hormone and has restricted TSH production. Low TSH usually indicates hyperthyroidism, and high TSH indicates hypothyroidism.

A Woman getting her thyroid checked.

T4 and Test

A T4 test checks the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. If you have an overactive thyroid, the test will show too much T4 while an underactive thyroid will show too little. An overactive thyroid could indicate Graves’ disease, thyroiditis, thyroid nodules, or overuse of hormone medicine.

Some conditions and medications may skew results. Both pregnancy and birth control pills will cause T4 levels to spike, but do not necessarily indicate hyperthyroidism. Asthma, arthritis, and skin medications may cause lower T4 levels without indicating hypothyroidism.

T3 Test

As a T4 test has already measured thyroid hormone levels, a T3 test may seem redundant. However, it’s important to check both. Certain cases of hyperthyroidism may show normal T4 levels but high T3. The T3 test is not a useful indicator of hypothyroidism as T3 levels generally remain fairly stable until the condition is severe.

TSI Test

TSI stands for thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin, an antibody present in cases of Graves’ disease. TSI mimics TSH and causes the thyroid to secrete excess hormone. The TSI test is usually ordered when Graves’ disease is suspected, especially during pregnancy.

Antithyroid Antibody Test

As the name suggests, antithyroid antibodies are antibodies that target the thyroid. A normal result should be negative. A positive test for antithyroid antibodies could indicate Hashimoto’s disease.

Can You Live Without Your Thyroid?

Thyroidectomy is the partial or total removal of the thyroid gland and is used to treat the most severe thyroid disorders. The most common causes for this are goiter, nodules, severe hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer. Survival rates after thyroidectomy are very good. So yes, you can live without a thyroid, but there will likely be complications.

After a total thyroidectomy, you will likely need to take hormone replacements daily for the rest of your life. Your thyroid may still be able to function normally if only part of the gland is removed. However, you will be at a much higher risk of hypothyroidism. After any kind of thyroid surgery, it is critically important to make sure your body has the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy hormone balance.

Thyroid Diet Considerations

A malnourished thyroid is a malfunctioning thyroid. You can’t expect your thyroid to operate properly if it’s starved of the nutrients it needs to do its job. A carefully planned diet containing the best thyroid-supporting foods is crucial for maintaining thyroid health. If the food you eat lacks the proper nutrients, consider supplementation to fortify your diet with essential nutrients like iodine and selenium.

Vegetarians and vegans must be careful when planning their diets as many of the most concentrated doses of thyroid-supporting nutrients are found in animal sources. Don’t let this discourage you if you are considering going vegan. A well-planned vegan diet is one of the healthiest lifestyle choices you can make for your longevity and quality of life. A vegan or vegetarian diet can still support a healthy thyroid, it just requires a small amount of extra thought and research in your dietary choices. Most vegans are already used to this.

Thyroid and Iodine

Of all the essential micronutrients, iodine is the most essential to thyroid health. T4 and T3 are made from iodine—without sufficient iodine, the thyroid cannot produce an adequate supply of these hormones. Iodine deficiency is devastating to human development, growth, and metabolism.

This mineral is prevalent in seawater, and the best sources of iodine are seafood and seaweed. Many people can’t or won’t eat marine-sourced food for reasons of access, taste, or allergy. If you’re one of these people, it’s important to fortify your diet with other iodine sources.

Iodine is so important to human health that it’s added to table salt in many countries. For most people, food sources should provide all the iodine they need. Those who have a condition that affects nutrient absorption, don’t consume table salt, or live areas with low iodine content in the soil should consider supplementation.

Thyroid and Selenium

Selenium is another crucial micronutrient to thyroid health. The highest concentrations of selenium are found mostly in seafood, meats, and dairy products. However, there are still some great selenium-rich options for vegans and vegetarians. Brazil nuts actually have one of the highest concentrations of selenium per serving, higher even than animal sources. Lower, but still significant amounts can be found in brown rice, beans, and spinach.

Other Nutrients

Iron and zinc each perform several functions in the body, but they’re also both important trace elements for thyroid health. Iron helps your thyroid process iodine, and zinc is an important component of the receptors that identify the hormonal signals.

Turmeric is an excellent supplement for supporting thyroid health. This may be because turmeric contains curcumin, the compound that gives the herb its yellow color. Studies indicate curcumin may help inhibit the growth of thyroid cancer cells. Turmeric is also associated with a lower risk of goiter formation.

Getting enough B12 is important for everyone, but it should especially be a concern for those suffering from hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism and B12 deficiency seem to be linked. More research needs to be done before we fully understand the nature of this link.

Alternative Methods for Supporting Thyroid Health

Your approach to thyroid health is up to you and a trusted healthcare provider. Traditional methods can be combined with alternative and complementary health systems. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is any system, practice, or product that is thought of as non-traditional from a Western perspective. There are two basic approaches. When a practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary” or “integrated”. When non-traditional practices are used in place of traditional approaches, it’s called “alternative.”

Although the term “alternative medicine” is used most often, true alternative medicine is fairly rare—most people use a more integrated approach. As always, consult your qualified healthcare practitioner before making any changes to your diet, medication, or lifestyle.

A Healthy Mind for a Healthy Thyroid

A core belief of most CAM systems is that a healthy mind is an important part of a healthy body. Excessive, chronic stress can affect all areas of your health, and your thyroid is no exception. Repeated, severe stress can alter hormone levels and decrease the production of T4 and T3. Stress can directly harm your immune system, and may even be linked to a higher risk for Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Stress is a natural part of life, but too much stress will cripple your thyroid health. I realize that if you have a thyroid problem (or any kind of health issue) it can be difficult to keep stress at bay. Try to keep a positive mindset, even in times of stress. Meditate or practice yoga regularly to clear your mind of stressors and relax your body. Eliminate stress from your environment whenever possible. Don’t fixate on things that are out of your control—it’s just not worth it.

 

There are also things you can do that are just common sense for maintaining any kind of good health. Exercise regularly—whatever your body can manage. Whether it’s training for a marathon or just a stroll around the park, find out what your body is capable of and stay active. Sleep. Don’t just get some sleep, get enough sleep. The right amount of sleep is different for each person, but the standard wisdom of 8 hours each night is a good starting point. Listen to your body and adjust that figure as necessary.

Entire Wellness, Our Approach to Thyroid Health

At Crooked Bear Creek Holistic Wellness Center, we believe in a whole-body approach to thyroid health. The human body is a complex machine. Seemingly unrelated systems can be linked in ways we do not yet fully understand, and a minor problem in one system can lead to major problems in other systems down the line. For example, if you have a digestive disorder that harms your ability to properly absorb nutrients. That may mean that your thyroid is malnourished and underperforming, even if you are consuming all the right nutrients.

Ultimately, wellness is your whole body in balance. It’s the body’s natural ability to care for and heal itself. True wellness is all your body’s many complex systems, organs, glands, tissues, and cells, each performing their function properly and working in harmony. When you provide your body with good nutrition, it’s more able to function normally, and you’re more able experience true wellness.

I want to make this clear. I’m not saying that you can yoga away your thyroid cancer. I’m not saying that sleeping 8 hours a day will make you immune to Graves’ disease. I’m saying that a carefully-planned, natural, healthy lifestyle will give you your best chance to experience overall wellness. A healthy thyroid is linked to a healthy body and every little bit helps.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Crooked Bear Creek Holistic Wellness Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Crooked Bear Creek Holistic Wellness Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

Health Benefits of Aronia Berries.

Aronia is a type of shrub native to North America that is now grown in Eastern Europe. “Aronia” generally refers to the berries that grow on the shrub. These aronia berries are also known as chokeberries because of their sharp, mouth-drying effect.

Aronia berries can be eaten fresh on their own or used as an ingredient in foods, such as pies, juices, and tea.

The berries are said to have many health benefits, including anti-cancer properties.

Many of the proposed health benefits of aronia are linked to its high content of nutrients called polyphenols. A 2015 review in Food Technology & Biotechnology noted that previous research had found aronia to have the highest polyphenol content of 143 plants.

In this article, we look at some of the possible health benefits of aronia, along with the evidence for them. We also examine their nutritious content and how they can be included in a diet.

Possible health benefits of aronia

Aronia berry

Aronia berries are also known as chokeberries, and are native to North America.

Anti-cancer effects

2004 study looked at the effects of grape, aronia, and bilberry extracts in preventing the growth of colon cancer.

The study found that while all the extracts inhibited the growth of the cancer cells, aronia had the strongest effect.

2009 study found that an aronia extract helped to reduce cell damage in relation to breast cancer.

The study’s authors concluded that the aronia extract had been shown to have protective qualities in people experiencing breast cancer.

Anti-diabetic effects

Research seems to support the anti-diabetic effects of aronia. A 2015 study in rats found that an aronia extract helped to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation related to diabetes.

2012 study, looking at insulin-resistant rats, found that an aronia extract fought insulin resistance on several levels. This result potentially makes it an effective aid in preventing diabetes from developing.

2016 study found that blood glucose levels and obesity were positively affected by aronia.

Organ health

2016 study looked at the effects of aronia fruit juice in rats with liver damage. Researchers found that the juice reduced the severity and symptoms of the liver damage.

A similar 2017 study also found aronia juice to have protective effects against liver damage in rats. The study’s authors suggested the effect might be due to the antioxidant activity of the aronia.

Another rodent study from 2017 found that aronia juice helped to reduce the severity of symptoms in rats with damaged stomach linings.

The study suggested that, in this case, the benefits of the aronia might be due to it boosting mucus production, as well as its ability to combat oxidative stress.

Artery and blood vessel health

2015 study found that aronia could protect against coronary artery disease. Aronia was thought to protect against the plaque that develops inside the arteries.

Both the aronia and bilberry extracts helped to relax the tissue, which would allow for improved blood flow. This is important, as many cardiovascular diseases result in a hardening of the arteries and reduced ability for the blood vessels to relax. This can also mean that the blood pressure drops.

Out of the three extracts tested, aronia had the most powerful effects. The researchers concluded that the extracts could have significant benefits in treating vascular disease.

2013 study supported these findings. Researchers found that aronia was effective at reducing blood pressure, and might help combat high blood pressure in the arteries.

Nutritional information

The specific nutrient balance of aronia will vary depending on the way it has been grown and prepared, as noted by a review. The review lists factors such as harvest date and where the berries were grown.

Like other berries, aronia is known to be rich in nutrients. Some of the nutritional details suggested by the review include the following:

Vitamins

  • vitamin C: 137–270 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg)
  • folate: 200 micrograms per kilogram (μg/kg)
  • vitamin B-1: 180 μg/kg
  • vitamin B-2: 200 μg/kg
  • vitamin B-6: 280 μg/kg
  • niacin: 3,000 μg/kg
  • pantothenic acid: 2,790 μg/kg
  • tocopherols: 17.1 mg/kg
  • vitamin K: 242 μg/kg

Minerals

  • sodium: 26 mg/kg
  • potassium: 2,180 mg/kg
  • calcium: 322 mg/kg
  • magnesium: 162 mg/kg
  • iron: 9.3 mg/kg
  • zinc: 1.47 mg/kg

All weights are the weight of the berries when fresh.

How to include aronia in your diet

Aronia berry juice

Aronia berries can be added to muffins, cookies, and wine. They can also be juiced.

People can eat aronia berries in many forms, including fresh and juiced.

They can also be used as an ingredient in baked goods and other recipes or taken in extract form via various dietary supplements.

Foods and drinks in which aronia can be used include:

  • muffins
  • pies
  • cookies
  • wine
  • jam
  • tea
  • juices

Possible risks and side effects

Aronia typically has a sharp, mouth-drying quality. This may be unpleasant for some people but is unlikely to present any health risk.

There does not appear to be any well-documented evidence of specific risks or hazards related to consuming aronia, although some people might be allergic to aronia.

Also,

Aronia is a nutrient-dense foodstuff, containing a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, iron, and vitamins C, B, and K.

Specific nutrient values will vary depending on the way the aronia is grown and prepared, so each brand should be investigated individually.

Research suggests that aronia may have significant health benefits in terms of combating the growth of certain cancers and the associated damage to the body.

Aronia also appears to have significant positive effects in terms of insulin and improving immune function. These effects may be especially valuable to people with diabetes or prediabetes.

Researchers believe that aronia berries may have protective effects on the liver, as well as helping to reduce symptoms and damage associated with stomach disorders.

Finally, aronia seems to be effective in reducing blood pressure and aiding blood vessel relaxation. Some researchers suggest that it could be a useful tool in treating vascular diseases.

There does not appear to be any well-documented evidence of health risks associated with aronia, though dry mouth is a common side effect of consumption that some might find unpleasant.

Food As Medicine: Sorrel

Want to add some lemony tang to your dish and receive essential vitamins and minerals at the same time? Garden sorrel can do the trick. All things in moderation, though. Oxalic acid contained in sorrel can lead to the formation of kidney stones if consumed in excess.

History and Traditional Use

Range and Habitat

Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa, Polygonaceae) is a wild, perennial herb characterized by slender stems supporting bright green, spear-shaped leaves, with distinctive backwards-reaching lobes.1,2 Sorrel grows in patches that average in height from 20-36” and produce small red-brown flowers, which bloom in early summer and produce tiny, hard fruits.3 Sorrel is easy to cultivate and grows best in cool, temperate climates, as well as grasslands, coastal dunes, and cliffs.1 In addition to R. acetosa, another species of sorrel, French sorrel (R. scutatus), is used for culinary purposes.4 This article will profile the history, uses, and components of R. acetosa.

Sorrel is native to Europe and northern Asia, and evidence of cultivation dates back to 4,000 BCE.2 In the Middle Ages, sorrel was a prominent vegetable throughout Europe and was also cultivated by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Often referred to as the lemon of the leaf crops, the sour-tasting leaves are the most commonly consumed part of the plant.2,5 Sorrel’s stem and flower were also used in medicinal applications.2 Sorrel’s species name, acetosa, is Latin for “vinegary,” indicating the plant’s acidic taste.6


Phytochemicals and Constituents

Sorrel is a nutrient-dense green, containing important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron.2Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports healthy vision, bone growth, and a strong immune system.7Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, essential for its role in collagen synthesis and its antioxidant properties. Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are the most abundant minerals within human cells, and each plays a role in electrolyte and fluid balance. Calcium is a structural component of the skeletal matrix, and iron is necessary for oxygen delivery and DNA synthesis.

Flavan-3-ols and other phenolic compounds in sorrel leaves provide additional benefits.8-10 Phenolic compounds have protective effects against inflammation and cell damage and interfere with tumor and estrogen receptor activities.10 The main phenolic compounds present in R. acetosa include resveratrol (41.27 µg/g), vanillic acid (130.29 µg/g), sinapic acid (5,708.48 µg/g), and catechin (75.46 µg/g). Sorrel leaves also contain beta-carotene, though not in therapeutic levels.11


Historical and Commercial Uses

Documented uses of sorrel include domestic remedies, and extend to complex medicinal therapies.2 Sorrel leaf juice has been used in fragrances and for stain removal, and sorrel leaves are a popular ingredient in French cuisine.

Sorrel leaves are considered acidic, astringent, and cooling.6 Sorrel has been used as a laxative and a topical treatment for skin disorders, sore throats, and warts.11 Sorrel leaf also was used for its diuretic properties to induce water excretion and to manage fevers.1,5,12 Due to its high concentration of vitamin C, sorrel has been used as a therapeutic food for conditions caused by vitamin C deficiencies, such as scurvy.1Furthermore, common garden sorrel was used as a treatment for constipation, cramping, and diarrhea, since the plant demonstrates soothing effects on the stomach and intestines.8,9 The astringent properties of the seeds were used to treat hemorrhages.12

Currently, sorrel is used as an ingredient in herbal medicinal remedies, such as Sinupret (Bionorica SE; Neumarkt, Germany), a proprietary blend of botanicals, indicated for sinusitis and bronchitis.7 Tablets contain 18-36mg of sorrel leaf and stem extract, in addition to four other herbs: elderflower (Sambucus nigra, Adoxaceae), primrose flower and calyx (Primula veris, Primulaceae), European vervain leaf and stem (Verbena officinalis, Verbenaceae), and yellow gentian root (Gentiana lutea, Gentianaceae).

Modern Research

Currently, studies on sorrel offer promising results in the areas of digestion, infection prevention, topical skin treatments, and anti-proliferative activity.10,12,13

A recent in vivo and in vitro study evaluated the traditional use of R. acetosa to treat stomach discomforts and distress in animal models.12 A 70% methanol extract from sorrel leaves was found to have a high acute toxicity dosage (i.e., large amounts were well tolerated and exhibited no adverse effects), relaxed the gastrointestinal tract or produced gastrointestinal contractions depending on the dose, and exhibited anti-emetic properties. These findings support the traditional use of sorrel as a constipation aid that stimulates a bowel movement.

Anti-diarrheal properties may be linked to the presence of calcium-binding components and tannins in sorrel.8,9,12Oxalic acid binds with and thereby reduces available free calcium for receptor stimulation. This leads to reduced muscle contraction and may alleviate diarrhea.12Tannins exert an astringent effect, which may help alleviate not only conditions such as diarrhea, but also chronic upper respiratory infections, by reducing excess fluid.9

Phytochemical extracts from other buckwheat families (Polygonaceae) members exhibit antiviral and anticancer effects, specifically extracts from R. acetosella, or sheep sorrel. Sheep sorrel has a history of use as an ingredient in the formula known as Essiac tea, which purportedly is based on the traditions of the indigenous Ojibwa Native American tribe.11 Garden sorrel shows similar antiviral and anticancer effects. An in vivo trial discovered that an extract of R. acetosa reduced influenza A viral invasion of host cells, and further reduced viral growth.14 Antiviral reactions are primary effects of rich polyphenol concentration. In sorrel, these polyphenols mainly include flavonols, proanthocyanidins, and hydrolysable tannins. These compounds may prevent the assembly and maturation (growth and development) of certain viruses, an important step in infection control.

Additional documentation supports anti-proliferative (tumor cell growth preventing) activities seen with R.acetosa preparations.10,13 Prevention of cell growth, specifically tumor cells, was found at concentrations of 75 and 100 µg/mL of a 90% aqueous methanol extract.10

In vitro and in vivo trials displayed antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Sinupret was able to reduce viscosity, or thickness, of mucus in animal models and produce an anti-inflammatory response. Sorrel’s contributions to anti-inflammation are credited to an increased response by immune cells. Few adverse side effects related to sorrel have been reported, and include gastrointestinal disorders and correlated allergic reactions.7

47777071 - sorrel also called spinach dock a nutritious plant
Consumer Considerations

Oxalic acid within sorrel produces a bitter taste, which makes sorrel a valuable ingredient for adding a tart, lemony flavor to various dishes. However, oxalic acid is a potential cause for concern in regard to renal function.11 Crystalized calcium oxalate (which forms when oxalic acid combines with calcium) can lead to the formation of kidney stones and may also accumulate in the heart, circulatory vessels, and lungs.15 In addition, oxalic acid’s ability to bind to micronutrients, such as iron and calcium, decreases its absorption.11,13 Furthermore, oxalates may irritate the digestive system when consumed in large amounts.16 For these reasons, consumption of sorrel should be monitored for special populations affected by renal and arthritic conditions, as well as those with gastrointestinal disorders.1,11

Oxalic acid is concentrated at 300mg per 100 grams of sorrel.11 The majority is found within the leaves, followed by marginal amounts in stems.13 The concentration of oxalates depends on the plant’s growing conditions, such as soil and climate.8 Moreover, tannins in sorrel leaves are concentrated between 7-15%.11When consumed in large amounts, tannins may cause stomach upset and/or kidney and liver damage.

Fortunately, oxalic acid concentration decreases to negligible amounts with light cooking.11 For example, sorrel soup has a lower oxalic acid concentration compared to pesto made with fresh sorrel leaves.13 Also, the oxalic acid concentration increases proportionately to the size and length of the leaf, making young, tender leaves a better choice for those people affected by these conditions.


Nutrient Profile17

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 cup chopped raw sorrel)

29 calories
3 g protein
4 g carbohydrate
1 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1 cup chopped raw sorrel)

Excellent source of:
Vitamin A: 5320 IU (106.4% DV)
Vitamin C: 63.8 mg (106.3% DV)
Magnesium: 137 mg (34.3% DV)
Manganese: 0.5 mg (25% DV)

Very good source of:
Iron: 3.2 mg (17.8% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 4 g (16% DV)
Potassium: 519 mg (14.8% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (10% DV)

Good source of:
Phosphorus: 83.8 mg (8.4% DV)
Thiamin: 0.1 mg (6.7% DV)
Calcium: 58.5 mg (5.9% DV)
Riboflavin: 0.1 mg (5.9% DV)

Also provides:
Folate: 17.3 mcg (4.3% DV)
Niacin: 0.7 mg (3.5% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), based on a 2,000-calorie diet.


Recipe: Green Potato Salad

Adapted from Blue Apron18

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach
  • 6 ounces fresh sorrel leaves
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place the potatoes in a

    sauce pan

    and cover with water. Bring to a boil, salt the water, then cook until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork, approximately 15 minutes.

  2. Lift the potatoes out, reserving the water, and set aside in a bowl. Add the greens to the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, or until wilted. Drain the spinach into a strainer, pressing to release as much water as possible.

  3. Roughly chop the greens, then add to the potatoes.

  4. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss thoroughly to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Salad may be served warm, at room temperature, or after chilling.

References

  1. Rumex acetosa (common sorrel). Kew Royal Botanic Gardens website. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.
  2. Van Wyk B-E. Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc.; 2006.
  3. Bown D. The Herb Society of America: New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. London, UK: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.; 2001.
  4. Real Food Right Now and How to Cook It: Sorrel. Grace Communications Foundation website. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.
  5. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King’s American Dispensatory. 18th edition. Cincinnati, OH: Ohio Valley Co.; 1898. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.
  6. Onstad D. Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers & Lovers of Natural Foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company; 1996.
  7. Oliff HS, Blumenthal M. Scientific and Clinical Monograph for Sinupret. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 2009.
  8. Kemper KJ. Sorrel (Rumex acetosa L.). Boston, MA: The Longwood Herbal Task Force; 1999.
  9. Bicker J, Petereit F, Hensel A. Proanthocyanidins and a phloroglucinol derivative from Rumex acetosaL. Fitoterapia. 2009;80(8):483-495.
  10. Kucekova Z, Mlcek J, Humpolicek P, Rop O, Valasek P, Saha P. Phenolic compounds from Allium schoenoprasumTragopogon pratensis and Rumex acetosa and their antiproliferative effects. Molecules. 2011;16(11):9207-9217.
  11. Vasas A, Orbán-Gyapai O, Hohmann J. The Genus Rumex: Review of traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015;175:198-228.
  12. Hussain M, Raza SM, Janbaz KH. Pharmacologically mechanistic basis for the traditional uses of Rumex acetosa in gut motility disorders and emesis. Bangladesh J Pharmacol. 2015;10(3):548.
  13. Tuazon-Nartea J, Savage G. Investigation of oxalate levels in sorrel plant parts and sorrel-based products. Food Nutr Sci. 2013;4(8):838-843.
  14. Derksen A, Hensel A, Hafezi W, et al. 3-O-galloylated procyanidins from Rumex acetosa L. inhibit the attachment of influenza A virus. PLoS One. 2014;9(10).
  15. Oxalic acid. J.R. Organics website. Available here. Accessed May 5, 2016.
  16. Elpel T. Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, LLC; 2013.
  17. Basic report: 11616 Dock, raw. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture website. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.
  18. Seared Salmon and “Green” Potato Salad with Pickled Mustard Seeds. Blue Apron website. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.