Being diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic a few years ago I have had to learn how healthy living can affect our health. Despite orders from my Doctor I refused medication as I wanted to try diet and exercise, a year later but cutting down on carbs and having exercise three times a week I kept my blood sugars to an acceptable level without the need for drugs.
Five years on and I have had a change in lifestyle, living in France with a wonderful cook didn't help and I do spend too much time sitting at the PC. I am now on a low level dose of Metformin, which my Doctor told me would have to happen in the future no matter how much exercise that I did.
However, the story goes to show that with a healthy diet exercise you can rely on lower levels of medication. I feel myself lucky that I am only type 2 because type one is totally different ball game.
I was sent an article about diet and medication which is not really relevant to this site but never the less informative. It does contain a few links to medical suppliers that you do not need to click on, although it will do no harm if you have an over or under active thyroid glad. The links are not affiliate links.
Until recently, little attention was paid to links between certain eating patterns and hypo or hyperthyroidism. Over the past couple of years, however, a sizeable body of literature has appeared, citing links between the consumption of certain vitamins and minerals and increased control of thyroid conditions.
Now, many healthcare practitioners recommend supporting thyroid related drug treatment programs with particular dietary practices.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is a large endocrine gland. It is butterfly-shaped and is located in the neck, just below the ‘Adam’s apple’. The thyroid gland regulates the speed with which our bodies make proteins and use energy. Additionally, the thyroid gland determines the extent to which our bodies are sensitive to related hormones.
Two key hormones are released by the thyroid gland; triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxin (T4). When functioning normally, these hormones support cells by helping the body to collect energy from food, whilst, at the same time, helping to regulate levels of blood calcium and body temperature.
Within childhood, hormones T3 and T4 can be linked to brain development, growth and physical maturation.
Medical Conditions Linked to the Thyroid Gland
There are two medical conditions linked to the thyroid gland; hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland). Of the two, hypothyroidism is the most common, and is thought to account for close to 80% of thyroid disease.
Hypothyroidism means that too little thyroid hormone (T3 and T4) is produced or released into the bloodstream. This leads to symptoms such as high cholesterol, weight gain, depression, fatigue, dry skin and bloating. If not treated effectively, hypothyroidism can result in heart disease, obesity and infertility.
Hyperthyroidism, which is less common, is the production or release of too much thyroid hormone (T3 and T4). This leads to symptoms including weight loss, excessive sweating, fine or wiry hair, sleep problems, increased heart rate, hand tremors and heightened levels of anxiety.
In the majority of cases, hyperthyroidism is caused by a condition called Graves’ disease. This disease, which is classified as an autoimmune disorder, means that the body’s immune system produces excessive antibodies which stimulate the thyroid, in turn causing it to produce inflated levels of the T4 hormone.
Traditional Drug Treatments for Hypo and Hyperthyroidism
Traditionally, hypothyroidism is treated using levothyroxine. This drug, often branded as Levothroid or Synthroid, can be taken daily to restore correct T3 and T4 hormone levels. Whilst re-establishing correct hormone levels, levothyroxine works to lower raised cholesterol and establish corrective weight loss.
Several drug treatments are available for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Though treatment plans primarily focus on anti-thyroid medications, drugs are often used in conjunction with radioactive iodine. Crucially, iodine is used to slow down production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Further, a surgical procedure to remove part of the thyroid gland is occasionally undertaken.
Whilst stressing that drug treatment programs play an essential role in the treatment of hypo and hyperthyroidism, many healthcare practitioners now highlight the need for individuals to maximise health benefits of treatments in order to limit the need for high dosages of prescribed drugs. Recommendations include the establishment of particular dietary regimes.
Dietary Recommendations for those with Hypo and Hyperthyroidism
Pivotal to such dietary regimes is the inclusion of key vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids within every-day food consumption. Examples include omega-3 fats, zinc, selenium, antioxidants and B vitamins.
Omega-3 fats, commonly found in fish products, have been linked to improved levels of sensitivity between cells and the thyroid hormones.
Zinc, Copper and Iron
Small amounts of zinc, copper and iron are required for optimal thyroid function. Zinc has been shown to increase levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone, in turn, supporting treatment of hypothyroidism. Equally, links have been made between low iron counts and reduced levels of thyroid efficiency. Finally, a correlation has been made between copper traces and optimal thyroid hormone production.
Selenium is a mineral directly linked to the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. The mineral is used by the body, both to produce and to regulate production of the hormone T3. Foods containing selenium include tuna, Brazil nuts, cod, shrimp and shitake mushrooms.
B Vitamins and Antioxidants
Oxidative stress, which can trigger thyroid damage, can, to a certain degree, be neutralized by vitamins A, C and E. Further, B Vitamins, which are used by the body in the production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4, are essential in ensuring satisfactory levels of thyroid function.