Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • June 2018
Written by 

What does your thyroid do? — Is it functioning properly?

Feeling exhausted, depressed, cold, brain fog and can’t lose the extra weight? It could be that your thyroid isn’t functioning properly.

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits right below your Adam’s apple. This vital endocrine gland plays a key role in both energy metabolism and temperature regulation. It’s also important in sex hormone metabolism, cholesterol regulation, heart rate, bone health, fertility and cognitive function. In fact, every cell in the body has receptors that respond to thyroid hormones. When the thyroid gland becomes imbalanced, thyroid hormone production gets thrown off and things can go awry causing seemingly unrelated symptoms to manifest throughout the body.

The thyroid gland uses iodine and tyrosine to make thyroid hormones T4 and T3. It is important that neither of these hormones are too high or too low. The hypothalamus releases a hormone (TRH) that tells the pituitary gland to release a hormone (TSH) to the thyroid gland, and the thyroid gland then makes T3 and T4 hormones. Those hormones eventually make their way into the cell nucleus. A lot can happen along that pathway for the thyroid to not be producing adequate levels of T3 and T4.

When testing thyroid function, it is common to only test TSH levels. If that number falls within a “normal” range, their thyroid is considered optimally working. However, there are many more markers that ought to be considered to fully understand the health of the thyroid. 90 percent of thyroid disease (in the US) is autoimmune, so testing for thyroid antibodies as well as T4, T3, Free T4, Free T3, and reverse T3 gives us a better picture of how the thyroid is functioning.

Symptoms of under-active thyroid: fatigue, sensitivity to heat and cold, hair loss, cracked heels, depression, menstrual problems, muscle pain, fluid retention, constipation.

Symptoms of over-active thyroid: nervous, anxious, irritable, irregular heartbeat, sleep problems, frequent bowel movements, weight loss.

Why is thyroid disease so hard to diagnose? There are many factors that can impact the function of the thyroid:

  • Inflammation, which can be a result of an infection, allergy or illness
  • Stress (cortisol suppresses the release of TSH from the pituitary)
  • Insulin resistance
  • Dysbiosis, imbalance of the intestinal bacteria
  • Thyroid medication
  • Iron deficiency
  • Environmental toxins
  • Birth control or hormone replacement therapy

Nutrition is often overlooked as a viable way to support a healthy thyroid. Many people are overeating processed sugars, refined flours and poor quality fats causing nutrient deficiencies that are critical for a healthy thyroid. It is important to eat foods rich in selenium, zinc, iodine, tyrosine, omega-3s and many antioxidants. Some people may also be sensitive to various dietary triggers (gluten, dairy, corn, soy), which can lead to increased gastrointestinal permeability (aka “leaky gut”), chronic inflammation, and a possible elevation in thyroid antibodies that would show the presence of Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune hypothyroidism). The diet can also be an environmental source of toxins (pesticides, BPA, heavy metals, etc.) that can also hinder the function of the thyroid.

Through dietary changes and improvement of gastrointestinal, gallbladder and liver function, it is possible to restore the health of the thyroid. The thyroid is a small yet very complex gland that affects all cells in our body. It is crucial to our health to have a healthy thyroid! 

Katie Jackson, Nutrition Therapy Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer, is the owner of Foundational Nutrition in Appleton. She offers either local or remote consults. For more information, call 920-257-9964, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.foundational-nutrition.com.

Katie Jackson

Katie Jackson, Nutrition Therapy Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer, is the owner of Foundational Nutrition in Appleton. She offers either local or remote consults. For more information, call 920-257-9964, email [email protected] or visit www.foundational-nutrition.com.

Website: foundational-nutrition.com

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