January is thyroid awareness month. Thyroid disease is more common in women where three out of four women suffer from some type of thyroid issues. Some women go undiagnosed until it is caught by a routine doctors visit. So what exactly is the thyroid?

This small gland plays a big part in the function of many other organs including the heart, brain and liver, skin and kidneys. The thyroid gland works by using the iodine found in your bloodstream. It uses the iodine to make the two thyroid hormones called thyroxine known as T4 and triiodothyronine also known as T3. These hormones are stored in your thyroid and are secreted into the bloodstream to meet your metabolic needs of your cell. In short, it’s the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain tells the thyroid gland how much thyroid hormone to make in the form of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The pituitary gland gets its information from the amount of T4 in the blood. It also responds to the hypothalamus, which is the section of the brain that releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the TSH production in the pituitary gland. Should these hormones become unbalanced that is when thyroid dysfunction can occur.

 Thyroid dysfunctions include:

Hashimoto’s an autoimmune disease that can cause hypothyroidism

Hypothyroid an underactive thyroid not producing sufficient thyroid hormone

Hyperthyroid and over active thyroid producing too much hormone

Graves Disease and autoimmune disease causing hyperthyroidism

Goiter – enlarged thyroid caused by either hypo or hyperthyroidism

Nodules- benign (non cancerous) lumps

Thyroid cancer – malignant lumps or nodules

 There are many contributors to thyroid disease that we may not give much thought to. Many of them are part of our daily lives and involve the food we eat. Many of these contributors also have an affect other body parts as well as the thyroid.

 Pesticides can be and endocrine disruptor, which can block the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 from their normal functions. A dangerous pesticide called methyl iodide is a neurotoxin and carcinogen that causes thyroid tumors and neurological damage.

Some foods high in these types of pesticides include grapes, peppers and strawberries.

 Artificial sweeteners including sucralose, splenda, and aspartame disrupt the serotonin levels and hormone levels and have a negative impact on the endocrine system. Aspartame changes the ratio of amino acids in the blood, blocking or lowering the levels of serotonin, tyrosine, dopamine and adrenaline.

 A diet low in fat, no fat or too high in the wrong fats can weaken the immune system, which can contribute to poor healing and malfunctions in the hormonal system.

Get rid of the fake fats like the margarines, candy, and packaged foods. Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K and B12 should be consumed by monounsaturated fats like olive oil and polyunsaturated fats found in fish, fish oils, nuts and seeds. Remember Vitamin A and D is required for protein and calcium assimilation to create hormones and support endocrine function. Low vitamin D is associated with autoimmune disease.

 High refined and processed package foods contain poor quality fats, GMO’s and pesticides. All of which disrupt the endocrine function.

 Are you a vegan or vegetarian? Be sure to get an adequate amount of protein. Animal protein is required to make the thyroid hormone and convert it to its active form in the liver.

 Interested in learning more about the thyroid, diabetes or inflammation check out my upcoming classes at Hanover Hilltop Farm in late February.