All About the Thyroid
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, and development, playing a critical role in the body's overall hormonal balance. It is part of the endocrine system and produces hormones that help regulate metabolism and other important bodily functions. The thyroid gland produces two main hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are produced by specialized cells in the thyroid gland called follicular cells, which secrete them into the bloodstream. The production of T3 and T4 is regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus produces thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which signals the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) into the bloodstream. TSH then stimulates the follicular cells of the thyroid gland to produce and release T3 and T4. T4 is the most abundant thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland, and it is converted into T3 in the liver and other tissues. T3 is the more biologically active form of the hormone, and it is responsible for most of the metabolic effects of thyroid hormone.
The release of T3 and T4 is tightly regulated by a negative feedback loop. When the levels of T3 and T4 in the bloodstream are too low, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland increase their production of TRH and TSH, to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more hormone. When the levels of T3 and T4 are too high, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland decrease their production of TRH and TSH, to reduce the production of thyroid hormone. Overall, the process of thyroid gland function and the release of T3 and T4 is complex and tightly regulated by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and thyroid gland.
The most common thyroid disorders are hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), and thyroid cancer. Hypothyroidism is typically diagnosed through blood tests measuring levels of thyroid hormones and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), while hyperthyroidism may require additional testing such as radioactive iodine uptake. Some recent research has suggested that autoimmune dysfunction may play a role in the development of thyroid disorders, particularly Hashimoto's disease (a type of hypothyroidism) and Graves' disease (a type of hyperthyroidism). A 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that individuals with autoimmune thyroid disease had a higher prevalence of additional autoimmune conditions, suggesting a possible shared underlying mechanism. (Source: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism)
Functional approaches to treating thyroid disorders may include optimizing nutrient intake, using supplements such as probiotics or selenium, and addressing underlying root causes such as gut dysfunction or chronic stress. A 2018 systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that dietary interventions such as gluten-free or low-glycemic-index diets may be effective in reducing symptoms of Hashimoto's disease. (Source: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine)
One peptide that has been studied in relation to thyroid function is thymosin alpha-1 (Tα1). Tα1 is a naturally occurring peptide that is involved in immune regulation and has been shown to have potential therapeutic effects in a variety of conditions, including autoimmune diseases. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation found that Tα1 treatment improved thyroid function in rats with induced hypothyroidism. However, it's important to note that animal studies do not always translate to humans, and more research is needed to determine the potential benefits and risks of Tα1 and other peptides for improving thyroid function in humans. BPC-157 is another amazing peptide that can help treat the stomach issues and nutrient absorption that happens with hypothyroid function and Hashimoto's disease. This amazing peptide can help to repair and regenerate tissue while reducing inflammation and load on the immune system. This can be a great addition to a Hashimoto's disease program.
One study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2004 found that elevated levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP) were associated with an increased risk of hypothyroidism in women. Another study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology in 2010 found that elevated levels of CRP were associated with a decreased response to thyroid hormone replacement therapy in individuals with hypothyroidism. A more recent study published in the Journal of Thyroid Research in 2019 found that elevated levels of CRP were associated with an increased risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
While the exact mechanisms behind the relationship between inflammation and thyroid function are not fully understood, it is thought that inflammation may contribute to the development of autoimmune thyroid disease and interfere with thyroid hormone production and regulation. Semaglutide and GLP-1 peptides can play a great role in improving weight and cellular function needed during thyroid dysfunction. This new field has continued to grow in terms of research and patients getting a weekly injection (1/4 mg for four weeks then 1/2 mg for four weeks and progress to 2.4 mg), have effects on the hypothalamus to upregulate sympathetic function raising bmr by 15% of body weight reduction. Conventional medical treatments for thyroid disorders may include hormone replacement therapy, anti-thyroid medications, or surgery. While these treatments can be effective, they may also have side effects such as weight gain, insomnia, or anxiety. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that acupuncture may be a safe and effective alternative treatment for hyperthyroidism. (Source: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine)
The most common medications used to treat thyroid disorders are thyroid hormone replacement therapies, which are designed to replace the deficient thyroid hormone levels in the body. For individuals with hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, the most commonly prescribed medication is Levothyroxine. Levothyroxine is a synthetic form of T4 that is taken orally in a pill form. Once ingested, it is converted into T3 in the body, providing the necessary hormone replacement for individuals with an underactive thyroid.
For individuals with hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, there are several treatment options available. One common treatment is radioactive iodine therapy, which involves taking a pill or liquid containing radioactive iodine. The iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland, and the radiation destroys the overactive cells in the gland, reducing the production of thyroid hormone. Another treatment option for hyperthyroidism is antithyroid medication, which works by preventing the thyroid gland from producing excess hormone. These medications, such as Methimazole or Propylthiouracil, are taken orally in pill form. In addition to medication, some individuals may benefit from lifestyle changes to support thyroid function. This can include dietary changes to support thyroid health, such as increasing intake of iodine-rich foods like seaweed and seafood, as well as reducing exposure to environmental toxins that may interfere with thyroid function. It's important to note that medication and lifestyle changes should always be discussed with a healthcare provider, and treatment plans should be individualized based on a person's specific health needs and concerns.
Diet and exercise can play a key role in supporting thyroid health. Research has shown that adequate intake of nutrients such as Iodine, Selenium, and Vitamin D are important for thyroid function. In addition, regular exercise can help improve thyroid function and metabolic health. (Source: Journal of Thyroid Research)
- Iodine: Iodine is a mineral that is essential for thyroid function, as it is required for the production of thyroid hormones. A deficiency in iodine can lead to hypothyroidism, while excess iodine can cause hyperthyroidism. A 2019 systematic review of 17 studies found that iodine supplementation improved thyroid function in individuals with mild to moderate iodine deficiency.
- Selenium: Selenium is a trace element that is also essential for thyroid function, as it is required for the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 to T3, the more active form of the hormone. A 2018 systematic review of 19 studies found that selenium supplementation improved thyroid function in individuals with autoimmune thyroiditis, particularly in those with low selenium levels. (Source: European Thyroid Journal)
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for bone health and immune function, among other things. Some research has suggested that low vitamin D levels may be associated with an increased risk of thyroid disorders. A 2019 systematic review of 23 studies found that vitamin D supplementation improved thyroid function in individuals with hypothyroidism, particularly in those with low vitamin D levels.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help support thyroid function and metabolic health, particularly when combined with a healthy diet. A 2019 systematic review of 17 studies found that exercise interventions such as aerobic or resistance training improved thyroid function in individuals with hypothyroidism. (Source: International Journal of Endocrinology)
Overall, optimizing nutrient intake through a nutrient-dense diet and supplementation, as well as engaging in regular exercise, may help support thyroid health. However, it's important to work with a healthcare provider who can help determine the appropriate dosages and recommendations based on individual needs and medical history.