The thyroid is a small gland located in the front neck, near the throat, that synthesizes iodine to produce several hormones that are essential to the proper functioning of the body.
The most important of these hormones are thyroxine (T4),
which controls growth, regulates the overall metabolism, controls body temperature and influences mental and emotional balance, and triiodothyronine, (T3). Together these hormones regulate sleep, growth, energy levels, appetite and many other basic bodily functions. Another hormone that is important to thyroid health is thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is actually produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid to produce hormones. The pituitary is, in turn, stimulated by the hypothalamus region of the brain. Another hormone made in and secreted by the thyroid is calcitonin, an integral element in adding calcium to the bones.
There are several serious medical conditions that stem from an over or under active thyroid, or just thyroid imbalance. The importance of maintaining thyroid health is clear, but how to actually do this is not so straightforward.
Iodine is crucial to thyroid health and a lack of it results in a thyroid disease called a goiter.
Goiter has been effectively prevented by the addition of iodine to salt, if you live in an area where the water has low iodine levels, you must be certain to purchase iodinated salt. Most thyroid diseases, but certainly not all, are autoimmune in nature and become in evidence during the childhood or young adult years. If you do not have a thyroid disease, the adage, “if it works, don’t fix it ” springs to mind. If you do suspect a problem and experience hair loss, sudden weigh gain or loss, accompanied by nervousness or lethargy, visit your doctor and ask for a referral to an endocrinologist.
Many people believe in nutritional supplements and herbal remedies to maintain thyroid health. These may be good, when indicated, but remember that the thyroid, perhaps more than any organ in the body, is a gland of exquisite balance. Carefully consider any supplement that you are tempted to take to improve your thyroid health and consult your doctor before taking anything. There are many supplements that promote thyroid health. When considering these, look for formulations that contain natural ingredients such as kelp, black walnut hulls or bladderwrack, all of which are good sources of iodine. Bladderwrack also is high in other trace minerals, such as potassium. Cleavers is an herb that has been used for goiter treatment and is also a diuretic. Gentain is also an herb that is high in iron and B complex vitamins, so is a good source of necessary nutrients. Another herb, burdock root, is a good source of nutrients including iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, silicon, iodine and vitamins B1 and B2. Watercress is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B1, B2, C and E, as well as potassium.