There is a butterfly-shaped organ that is located at the base of the neck that plays a huge role in hormonal health and helps the secretion of hormones to each of the various organ systems and that is the thyroid. The thyroid in the body makes sure that hormone levels are regulating normally and making sure that unwanted pathogens are not disrupting the hormonal signal to cause the body to overproduce or underproduce hormones and cause hypo or hyperthyroidism. In this 3 part series, we will be taking an in-depth look at the thyroid, its functions to the body when dealing with stress, and how different supplements can benefit the thyroid. Part 1 discussed what andropause is, its symptoms to the male body, and how different supplements can dampen andropause effects on the body. Part 2 discussed what menopause is, the symptoms to the female body, and the beneficial supplements that help with menopausal symptoms.
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As everybody knows, the thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped organ that is located at the base of the neck. This gland may be small but it has a huge role when it comes to supporting the body. The thyroid helps make the hormones in the body help control many vital functions that help the body to function normally. Research shows that this vital hormone gland’s major role helps with the metabolism, growth, and development of the human body. By releasing a steady amount of hormones into the bloodstream, the thyroid can help regulate many body functions and organs to make sure that everything is working properly.
However when there are unwanted pathogens that are affecting the body and disrupting the hormone signals from reaching their designated areas in the body. When this happens, these unwanted pathogens can cause the endocrine system to produce more or fewer hormones causing hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism and when it is not treated, it can develop into chronic illnesses over time.
How Does Stress Affect The Thyroid?
Stress is a natural response to the body and the body needs stress to function properly. Stress is a hormone that helps the body by giving it a mini boost of energy whenever an event happens. Now stress can come in two categories: acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is the little thing that individuals are dealing with. This can be getting interviewed for a job to studying for a big test. Chronic stress, however, is long-termed stress that is prolonged in the body and a person can not relax. When this happens it can lead to chronic illness. When there is an increased cortisol level that inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3 and favors conversion to rT3 secondary to diversion of tyrosine to cortisol production vs. thyroid hormone production.
Where there is an increased level of oxidative stress, the rT3 decreases cellular energy production in the body and it can increase in T3, reversing thyroid production. Studies have shown that when stress starts to directly or indirectly go through the nervous system and the endocrine system, it can affect the immune system. Not only that but stress can be one of the factors that can cause thyroid autoimmunity.
The Metabolic Effects On The Thyroid
Stress is not the only effect that can happen to the thyroid. There can also be metabolic factors that can affect the thyroid. When the serum T3 and T4 are in range, TSH is slightly elevated and it can become largely undiagnosed. However, it is becoming more recognized as the stems from the thyroid can have the inability of target cells to convert T4 to T3 or increased RT3 production. Other metabolic factors that can cause an effect on the thyroid include:
- Glucose tolerance
- Thyroid hormone influences the rate of glucose absorbed from the GI tract and taken up by cells.
- Insulin resistance
- Hypothyroidism reduces target cell insulin binding/number of insulin receptors expressed.
- Cardiovascular health
- Decreases metabolism of fats and increases serum lipids.
- Decreases the availability of cardioprotective essential fatty acids.
- Inadequate T3 lowers oxygen consumption, contributes to lipids peroxidation and free radical damage.
- Subclinical hypothyroidism – an independent risk factor in atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction
Supplements For The Thyroid
All is not lost since there are supplements that promote thyroid health. Studies have shown that there are micronutrients and supplements that can help the thyroid from getting autoimmunity and can be beneficial for thyroid disease management. Some of the supplements that are beneficial to thyroid health are:
Chromium is an essential micronutrient that helps support thyroid function by improving T4‐T3
conversion and even helps support balanced blood glucose and insulin levels. Chromium is also an insulin receptor activation, which means that it can increase insulin-dependent GLUT‐4 levels in the body. Diets that are high in simple sugars and is comprising more than 35% of calories, can increase chromium excretion in the urine. This means that overweight/obese individuals have reported low in chromium (20‐40% lower than healthy) and take about 600‐1,500 mcg daily chromium GTF.
There are benefits for individuals that take chromium in supplemental form as studies show that the effects of chromium supplements can help improve metabolic syndrome and even type 2 diabetes in individuals. Other beneficial properties from taking chromium include:
Selenium is an antioxidant that not only helps support immunity but is also a cofactor in the conversion of T4 to T3. The thyroid gland has the highest concentration of selenium per gram of organ tissue which helps converted into selenoproteins. There have been reports that selenium is effective in supporting autoimmune thyroiditis.
Research shows that there are beneficial properties that selenium provides to the body. Since selenium is a micronutrient that is highly essential, it helps the body by properly functioning all the organisms that are making the body work at maximum. Some of the benefits that selenium provide are:
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Improves cognitive function
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces cardiovascular diseases
- Prevents thyroid disorders
Bladderwrack is a genus of brown algae found mainly in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This type of seaweed is high in nutrients like:
This plant is chaulked filled with micronutrients and the iodine levels from the plant are up to 600 mcg/gm. Not only that bladderwrack is high on phytochemicals that can help lower oxidative stress and are also high on fiber that can help support a healthy gut microbiome.
There are many beneficial properties that bladderwrack can provide for the thyroid and the body. Some of the benefits from consuming bladderwrack include:
- Help improve thyroid hormone levels
- Topical treatment for skin issues
- Lower obesity
- Lower thyroid dysfunction
- Dampen urinary tract infections
- Improves iodine deficiency
Coleus forskohlii is a herb commonly used in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine. In vitro forskolin helps stimulate the secretion of T3 and T4 for the thyroid hormone levels while also increasing the c‐AMP levels in cells. Coleus forskohlii can help with the stimulation of iodine organification, activate adenyl cyclase, and increase thermogenesis; lipolysis in the body. In a randomized study, 30 overweight/obese men with a BMI >26kg/m2 have taken about 12 weeks of forskolin (250mg BID std. 10% forskolin)
or placebo and the results show that the serum-free testosterone is significantly higher vs placebo and up to 33.77% compared to a lower result in the placebo group. What this means is that the Leydig cells become more sensitive to LH in the body and coleus forskolin can improve bone mass.
Studies have shown that Coleus forskohlii have a variety of beneficial properties to help numerous amount of disorders that affect the body. Some of the benefits that coleus forskohlii offers to the body include:
- Improving cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous system
- Decrease BMI and BIA
- Improve testosterone levels
- Improves blood pressure
- Decrease body composition
Also known as “Indian ginseng”, ashwagandha is a herbal adaptogen that can help improve performance and decrease fatigue in the body. There are lab studies that report that ashwagandha can improve thyroid hormone levels, especially T4. In 2018 study showed that individuals (ages 18‐50) all had elevated serum TSH levels (range 4.5‐10 ulU/L) and some took the ashwagandha root extract (600mg) daily or placebo x 8 weeks to see if there were any changes. The results showed that those that took the ashwagandha treatment had normalized thyroid levels after 8 weeks of therapy. What this means is that the treatment with ashwagandha may be beneficial for normalizing thyroid indices in subclinical hypothyroid patients by improving serum TSH, T3, and T4 levels significantly.
There are many beneficial properties that ashwagandha can provide not only for the thyroid but for the overall body. Studies have shown that ashwagandha is very useful in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and even Alzheimer’s. Other beneficial properties that ashwagandha can provide include:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Reduce blood sugar
- Improve brain function
- Reduce rheumatoid arthritis
- Reduce Osteoarthritis
All in all, when physicians are evaluating the cortisol levels in thyroid patients, it shows that their results are their salivary 4 points or urinary 5 points. By informing individuals to increase their low to moderate exercises actually helps improve their thyroid function, while also explaining to athletes that high levels of exercise can help lower their thyroid hormones to be normal. By exercising regularly, eating the right amounts of foods, drinking enough water, and taking their vitamins and supplements regularly, the body can produce hormones normally and continue to function properly.
Babiker, Amir, et al. “The Role of Micronutrients in Thyroid Dysfunction.” Sudanese Journal of Paediatrics, Sudan Association of Paediatricians, 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7282437/.
Davidson, Katey. “Bladderwrack: Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 8 July 2020, www.healthline.com/nutrition/bladderwrack-benefits.
Germany, Cologne. “How Does the Thyroid Gland Work?” InformedHealth.org [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 19 Apr. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279388/.
Henderson, Shonteh, et al. “Effects of Coleus Forskohlii Supplementation on Body Composition and Hematological Profiles in Mildly Overweight Women.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 9 Dec. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129145/.
Kieliszek, Marek. “Selenium⁻Fascinating Microelement, Properties and Sources in Food.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), MDPI, 3 Apr. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6480557/.
Maret, Wolfgang. “Chromium Supplementation in Human Health, Metabolic Syndrome, and Diabetes.” Metal Ions in Life Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30855110/.
Medical Professionals, Cleveland Clinic. “Thyroid Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Testing & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, 19 Apr. 2020, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8541-thyroid-disease.
Mizokami, Tetsuya, et al. “Stress and Thyroid Autoimmunity.” Thyroid: Official Journal of the American Thyroid Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15650357/.
Singh, Narendra, et al. “An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines: AJTCAM, African Networks on Ethnomedicines, 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/.
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