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Thyroid: Your Body's Master Metabolic Regulator



The thyroid is part of the endocrine or hormonal system, which includes the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals, parathyroid, pancreas, gonads, and gut. These components work together in harmony to maintain balance within the body.

Because the thyroid gland serves as the body’s thermostat — continuously regulating crucial factors such as temperature, hunger levels and energy expenditure — symptoms of thyroid problems can affect nearly the whole body.


The thyroid gland controls many aspects of metabolism, including regulating the production of various hormones that enable the body to carry out vital functions, such as digestion and reproduction.


Thyroid-stimulating hormone is produced by the pituitary gland in order to regulate the production of hormones released by the thyroid. Sometimes the thyroid winds up pumping out either too much or too little of certain hormones. Either scenario is problematic for things like body weight regulation and mood stabilization.


Two of the most important thyroid hormones are T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). These two hormones, once released, travel through the body via the bloodstream, converting oxygen and calories into energy. This energy is crucial for cognitive functions, mood regulation, digestive processes, a healthy sex drive and much more.


There are two main categories of thyroid problems:

Hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid) and Hyperthyroidism (an over-active thyroid).


Hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid):

Hypothyroidism is by far the more common type of thyroid problem. Most people with hypothyroidism are women, especially those who are of reproductive age or middle-aged. Most women are diagnosed between the ages of 30 to 50 years.

In the case of hypothyroidism, your body literally slows down. This is why symptoms like weight gain, brain fog, and sluggishness are common.

These occur due to the thyroid not producing enough of the thyroid hormones T3 or T4 (or both). It can also cause elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone levels.


Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid):

Hyperthyroidism causes the opposite effect of hypothyroidism. It almost speeds up one’s metabolism to the point that the heart may beat faster, and the person may have a hard time eating properly or keeping enough weight on.


Hyperthyroidism occurs when the body has too much of the needed thyroid hormones.


What causes thyroid problems?

There are many factors that can contribute to thyroid problems, ranging from genetics to poor lifestyle habits — like skipping sleep, exercising too much or too little, and eating too many inflammatory foods.


Causes of Hypothyroidism:

In the U.S., by far the most common reason for hypothyroidism is a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, where the body mistakenly attacks the thyroid and destroys cells, thus compromising its functioning. It’s also sometimes called chronic autoimmune thyroiditis and chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis.


Hashimoto’s is a type of autoimmune disorder. It takes place due to an autoimmune response (the body attacking its own tissue with T and B cells), interfering with the normal production of hormones. It affects women seven to 10 times more often than men due to chromosomal susceptibilities.


The prevalence of hyperthyroidism in the U.S. is approximately 1.2% of adults. Graves' disease is the No. 1 cause of hyperthyroidism, but lumps on the thyroid (having a goitre) or taking too much T4 in tablet form can also contribute to hyperthyroidism. The underlying cause is the excess production of thyroid hormone.


Causes of Hashimoto’s disease can include high amounts of stress, nutrient deficiencies (such as low iodine), low immune function (immunosuppression) and toxicity. However, on a worldwide level, an iodine deficiency in the diet is the No. 1 cause of hypothyroidism.


Some of the more common signs of thyroid problems;

  • Anxiety

  • Weight changes

  • Low energy

  • Thinning hair

  • Slowed heart rate

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Changes in libido

  • Fertility

  • Digestion.

Nutrient Deficiencies:

Several nutrients, such as iodine and selenium, play an important yet often overlooked role in regard to the thyroid functioning properly. The thyroid converts iodine and amino acids (the “building blocks” of proteins) to the hormones T3 and T4.

Research shows that some of the most significant known risk factors for thyroid problems include:

  • Deficiencies in three important nutrients that support healthy thyroid function — iodine, selenium and zinc deficiency

  • Poor diet high in processed foods with things like sugar or unhealthy fats. Too much caffeine and/or alcohol can also contribute to emotional stress and poor gut health.

Either too much or too little iodine can disrupt thyroid function. The same can happen when someone lacks B vitamins, zinc and other minerals, including electrolytes.

Additionally, problems absorbing and converting nutrients from the diet can make matters worse. Leaky gut syndrome (also referred to as intestinal permeability) is one contributing cause of symptoms of thyroid problems since it raises inflammation levels and interferes with certain metabolic processes.


When you’re under a lot of physical or emotional stress — such as feeling very anxious, overworked, fatigued, angry or going through a traumatic experience — your body may remain in a “fight-or-flight” mode where stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are elevated.


This has negative effects like narrowing of blood vessels, increased muscular tension and blood pressure, and release of inflammatory proteins and antibodies that can suppress immune function and damage the adrenal/thyroid glands. This is one reason why people with thyroid problems often experience hormonal changes related to lowered libido, fertility problems, mood swings, etc.


To keep the endocrine glands from becoming overloaded, it’s important to take stress seriously and tackle the root causes of mental strain.


Natural remedies include improving your diet, reversing deficiencies, reducing stress, staying active and avoiding toxicity/chemical exposure.



STRESS - The Adrenal Thyroid Connection.

Emotional stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression can interfere with normal adrenal functioning and weaken the immune and endocrine systems. Lack of sleep and overexercising are other causes of stress.


Too much cortisol can interfere with thyroid hormone production, stimulating the thyroid to work harder to create sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone.



How stress impacts T3

The primary hormones produced by the thyroid are called T4 and T3. Their production depends on the brain's "control centre," the hypothalamus, which accurately senses the need for more thyroid hormone in the bloodstream and signals the pituitary gland to release more.


The pituitary gland typically releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in response to changing levels of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, but this system fails with Hashimoto's and hypothyroidism. There is either too little T4 being converted to T3, the hypothalamus is not properly signalling to the pituitary gland, or the pituitary gland is not releasing enough thyroid-stimulating hormone after it is signalled to do so.


Your thyroid works in tandem with your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands, which are above your kidneys, can handle small amounts of stress well. When you encounter stress, they release cortisol, which enhances various bodily functions.


The impact of stress on the thyroid occurs by slowing your body's metabolism. When thyroid function slows during stress, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormone levels fall. Also, the conversion of the T4 hormone to T3 may not occur, leading to a higher level of reverse T3. This is another way that stress and weight gain are linked.


How cortisol markers look normal but not losing weight

Cortisol, secreted by the adrenal glands located on top of the kidneys, plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and metabolism. It is also involved in responding to stress and infections. In addition to its stress response function, cortisol is essential for the breakdown of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins in the body.


The effects of cortisol on weight can be determined not only by the quantity of cortisol present in the body but also by the body's level of sensitivity to it. Cortisol is frequently associated with weight changes, and both an excess and a deficiency of cortisol can affect blood sugar levels and thyroid function, leading to fluctuations in weight and symptoms of decreased metabolism.


Stress management

When you're under a lot of physical or emotional stress — such as feeling very anxious, overworked, exhausted, angry or going through a traumatic experience — your body may remain in a "fight-or-flight" mode where stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are elevated.


This has adverse effects like narrowing of blood vessels, increased muscular tension and blood pressure, and release of inflammatory proteins and antibodies that can suppress immune function and damage the adrenal/thyroid glands. This is one reason why people with thyroid problems often experience hormonal changes related to lowered libido, fertility problems, mood swings, etc.


Research shows that the average cortisol levels were found to increase approximately nine times in stressful periods compared with that in relaxed periods.


To keep the endocrine glands from becoming overloaded, it's important to take stress seriously and tackle the root causes of mental strain.


  • Ensure you eat a whole, anti-inflammatory diet and ditch all processed foods.

  • Exercise regularly (30 - 60 minutes, most days of the week). Avoid over-training and overexerting yourself, which causes even more cortisol release.

  • Practising relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, massage or meditation.

  • Keeping a journal and writing about your thoughts or what you're grateful for in your life.

  • Taking time for hobbies, such as reading, listening to music, or watching your favourite show or movie.

  • Fostering healthy friendships and talking with friends and family.

  • Organising and prioritising what you need to accomplish at home and work and removing tasks that aren't necessary.

  • Seeking professional counselling, which can help you develop specific coping strategies to manage stress.

  • Avoid unhealthy ways of managing stress, such as using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or excess food. If you're concerned that your use of these products has increased or changed due to stress, talk to your Naturopath.

  • Book in with one of our Naturopath's, as many adaptogenic herbs naturally assist with thyroid and cortisol issues.



For advice on your thyroid health and further support, speak with a practitioner at Infinite Health Studio.


At the Infinite Health Studio, our experienced team of practitioners use a holistic approach paired with evidence-based medicine to help support you on your health journey.



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