hormone health

Written by Vera Coetsee, Health and Nutrition Coach

16 January 2023

Hormone health has become a popular topic among health conscious individuals in the last decade, and we are now starting to understand the importance of hormones on our overall health. More research is pointing to unbalanced hormones being the root cause of many unwanted symptoms, and it is becoming necessary to include hormone testing in our yearly check up. Although hormones related to PMS, menopause and andropause have taken the limelight, our thyroid glands need investigation too when it comes to hormone health. Thyroid disease affects an estimated 200 million people worldwide, with women being 5 to 8 times more likely to have thyroid problems, and many are unaware they have these issues.

But what is the thyroid gland and how do we know we have thyroid problems? Our thyroid is located in the neck, over the trachea, and is an integral part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is in charge of producing, storing and releasing hormones directly into the bloodstream. As blood flows through our body, these hormones are carried out to vital organs. The thyroid produces two main hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), and these hormones regulate many important biochemical reactions. These hormones are key when it comes to your metabolism and every cell in the body depends on thyroid hormones for moderation of their metabolism. Thyroid hormones affect consumption of oxygen, rate of energy consumption and rise in body temperature. They increase heart rate and affect blood pressure. They stimulate the formation of red blood cells and the activity of other endocrine tissues, and they accelerate the turnover of minerals in the bones. 

When your thyroid is not functioning properly it can lead to either an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), where your metabolism either speeds up too much or slows way down. These two conditions affect the thyroid in different ways and have different symptoms to look out for. 

Overactive Thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

An overactive thyroid occurs when thyroid hormones are produced in excessive quantities. Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include high blood pressure and heart rate, flustered skin due to speedy metabolism, restlessness, sweating, diarrhoea, anxiety and emotional instability, and weight loss. 

Underactive Thyroid (hypothyroidism)

Underactive thyroid is very common and its incidence seems to increase every year. Living in areas where the soil is deficient in iodine, exposure to free radicals and radiation, and the use of mercury amalgams in dental fillings have all been linked to the cause of an underactive thyroid. Symptoms of low thyroid function include tiredness or sluggishness, unnatural sleepiness, lack of motivation, dull hair or hair loss, constipation and low body temperature. Short bouts of depression may be caused by fluctuation of thyroid hormones. This is common particularly during menopause when the endocrine system may be working overtime. 

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease, a disorder in which the immune system turns against the body’s own tissues. In people with Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid. This can lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), a condition in which the thyroid does not make enough hormones for the body’s needs.

Recommendations for underactive thyroid:

When looking to improve thyroid health it is important to eat a balanced diet containing lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and especially sea vegetables to ensure adequate intake of iodine, selenium, zinc, copper and iron and to avoid processed foods, chemicals, pollutants and unnecessary medications that may inhibit the body’s ability to metabolise the fundamental nutritional building blocks of the thyroid. 

hormone health

It is important to note that an imbalance in your thyroid hormones are easily missed when doing most standard blood tests. The reason for this is due to the lack of testing all thyroid hormones. The thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) stimulate the thyroid to produce T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). Some standard blood tests show only the level of T4 which is produced in large quantities. However, T4 has to be converted into T3 by enzymes in the peripheral tissues. Some T3 is produced by the thyroid gland, but 85-90% of T3 reaching the cells is produced by the conversion of T4. This distinction is not evident in most standard blood tests, and some clients with normal blood test readings may still have a thyroid system imbalance due to their inability to convert T4 to T3. 

If you suspect that you might have thyroid problems and need support with hormone health, make an appointment at our clinic and our Doctor will test your complete thyroid profile and provide you with the correct protocol to manage your symptoms.