More Than Butterfly(ies) In Your Stomach

Your thyroid gland!! Not to worry, no actual butterflies were harmed in this pun/joke. The thyroid gland is one of the most important glands in your body, often described as a butterfly as the 'body' is in front, and the 'wings' wrap around the trachea (leads into our lungs, next to our esophagus, and, closed off by the epiglottis when we eat so food doesn't get trapped in our respiratory tract).   

The thyroid gland plays a major role in metabolism, and not just referring to weight loss. A common symptom of a low functioning thyroid is constipation, because it's lack of movement. Similar to hair that may be thinning or falling out, and dry skin, as the body is more sluggish in metabolizing these nutrients to facilitate the right processes. The body finds ways to compensate, sometimes in ways that turn into symptoms, or we find ways that help us 'get by'.  

What lab tests give a full picture of thyroid health? 
  • TSH- how much thyroid hormone your body is actually produces. However, not all of it is active.
  • Free T4- mostly inactive hormone (only 10% active), and the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Essential in assessing what's available to our cells.
  • Free T3- our most active thyroid hormone, and is converted from T4 mostly in the liver.
  • Total T4- like Free T4, this represents both bound and unbound inactive hormones, important in determining with the other values if enough, or the right forms are being made.
  • Total T3- total amount of metabolically active hormone, and understand how much of it is bound
  • Antibodies- many women who have thyroid conditions have an autoimmune component, such as 80% with hypothyroid have Hashimoto's, or autoimmune hypothyroid. 
  • Reverse T3 (rT3)- your body converts from T4 into rT3 under stress, so will bind to T3 receptor site, but not activate it. Could explain low free T3.

How can I optimize my thyroid health?

  • Stress management 
    • Yoga, deep breathing, meditation
    • Do what you love!! It takes such a toll on our bodies, mentally and emotionally to not have an outlet of joy and happiness. In whatever instance, finding the silver lining.
    • Laugh!! Go to a comedy club- doctor's orders!
  • Lots of vegetables
    • Spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli get a bad reputation because all have goitrogenic compounds that can inhibit thyroid function, but they are negated when cooked (e.g. bake, steam). They're also extremely good for liver health.
      • That said, you're still better off eating raw vegetables when choosing between a salad and fries.
    • Sea vegetables- rich in iodine, which helps convert T4 to T3.
  • Avoid gluten
    • Found in wheat, rye, and barley, and not what it 'used to be'. It puts a huge strain on anyone's system, even if not felt 'right away'. And it's not always gut symptoms- headaches, insomnia, mood swings, and other symptoms that strain the body may even disappear when  eliminated from the diet.

Our thyroid is an important gland that is also an instrument to the orchestra of our physiology. It interacts with many different organs to promote health, so tips to optimize thyroid health also optimize many other aspects of health and double as prevention.