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Anatomy and Physiology
The thyroid gland is located just below the larynx and in front of and to the side of the trachea.
We will be discussing three major hormones secreted by the thyroid. The first two - thyroxin and triiodothyronine are primarily controlled by TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. The third calcitonin does not seem to be under pituitary control.
Thyroxin and triiodothyronine perform almost identical functions. Triiodothyronine is a more potent hormone (approximately four times as strong) but thyroxin is much longer lasting. Both hormones after being secreted into the circulation attach to protein molecules and are then released very slowly into the tissues. Thyroxin once secreted into the bloodstream takes 10-12 days to reach its maximum activity and will continue to remain active for about sixty days. On the other hand, triiodothyronine reaches peak activity in about 60 hours. The thyroid gland needs about 1/5000th of a gram of iodine daily to be used in formation of these two hormones.
The functions of thyroxin and triiodothyronine are as follows.
1) They increase the basal metabolic rate of the body by up to 100%. In other words, they set the rate of the chemical reactions that occur in the body.2)They increase the rate that the body uses food for energy (they thus play an important role in determining your caloric requirements).3) They increase the rate that the body both makes and breaks down glucose (gluconeogenesis and glycolysis). They increase the absorption of glucose by the cells in general and by the gastrointestinal tract.4) Increases insulin secretion by the pancreas.5) Increases respiration rate and depth of each breath.6) Increases rate of both protein synthesis and breakdown.7) Increases the growth rate of adolescents while quickening the closing rate of epiphyses in bones.8) Increases fat deposition into the circulation to be burned for energy.9) Increases appetite.10) Increases urinary excretion of calcium and phosphorus.11) Increases secretion of digestive enzymes and peristalsis in the gastrointestinal tract.12) Dilates blood vessels thus increasing blood flow.13) Increases heart rate and systolic blood pressure while decreasing diastolic pressure.
The parafollicular cells of the thyroid gland secrete calcitonin.
When levels of calcium in the blood are too high calcitonin is secreted and has the following effects: it increases the activity of bone forming cells (osteoblasts) and decreases the activity and formation of cells that break down bone (osteoclasts). This process helps build new bone and lower serum calcium, which in turn stops calcitonin secretion. Because of the close relationship of calcitonin and Para hormone of the parathyroid gland, most of our discussion on symptoms, causes, etc., of calcium disturbance will be in our chapter on the parathyroid gland.
Symptoms of Thyroid Dysfunction
The person secreting too little thyroxin and / or triiodothyronine can exhibit some of the following symptoms:
1) Due to a decreased metabolic rate the person will often be overweight and have a hard time losing weight even with a restricted caloric intake.
2) This decreased metabolic rate will also make them require more sleep and even when awake they will be tired and exhibit very little motivation and ambition. They will tend to have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and can exhibit a poor memory.
3) Due to a decrease in the burning of fats, they may tend to build up cholesterol deposits and be more prone to heart troubles. The sluggish circulation will also manifest in having cold hands and feet.
4) Too little thyroid hormone production can lead to an imbalanced output of estrogen and progesterone by the ovaries, leading to prolonged and painful periods, with an increased tendency toward water retention.
5) A decreased depth of respiration will make it easy for the person to get out of breath with just a little exertion.
6) Decreased peristalsis may lead to constipation.
7) The person with hypothyroidism will get depressed easily and often cry or go to pieces from situations that do not warrant these reactions.
8) Other symptoms observed with this condition include - balding or thinning of hair, brittle nails, hands and feet that tend to peel or crack, chapped lips, decreased resistance to infections, tendency to get muscle cramps easily.
9) Because sudden temperature or seasonal changes put the thyroid under stress, in hypothyroid people, they will exhibit increased health problems at these times.
The person over secreting thyroid hormones can exhibit some or all of the following:
1) Have trouble putting on weight (they will often be quite thin and wiry).2) They will be nervous, worry a lot and have a hard time falling asleep (even when tired).3) They will tend to sweat most of the time and dislike the heat.4) Have a tendency toward diarrhea (see chapter on large intestine for other diarrhea causes).5) More severe cases will possibly exhibit hand tremors and protrusion of eyeballs.
Causes of Thyroid Dysfunction
1) Increased exposure to the cold especially without properly clothing the extremities will via the hypothalamus and pituitary cause an increase in thyroid hormone output which over time can overwork the thyroid thus leading to dysfunction.
2) Various strong emotional states can also affect TSH and thus cause thyroid hormone output to change. If this emotional state isn’t properly dealt with, thyroid dysfunction will eventually result. Other causes of pituitary dysfunction (see pituitary chapter) can cause thyroid disturbances secondary to pituitary malfunction. In these cases the pituitary must be restored to normal function for the thyroid to be also restored.
3) Nerve pressure at the mid cervical spine (See Appendix A) can cause thyroid dysfunction. I have seen time after time in patients of mine involved in car accidents with resultant whiplash and cervical nerve dysfunction that they will go into a state of hypothyroidism and put on 10-30 pounds over the next 3-4 months.
4) If you suffer from hypoadrenia (see adrenal chapter), the thyroid will often slow down to decrease your metabolic rate and give the adrenals a chance to rest.
5) Because of the thyroid’s effect on insulin secretion, prolonged intake of refined carbohydrates and sweets can cause the overtaxing of your thyroid gland and lead to dysfunction. Our bodies were not designed to handle large amounts of refined products and physiologically we pay the consequences when overindulging.
6) Because of the resultant change in endocrine output taking birth control pills, epinephrine, cortisone, can lead to thyroid dysfunction.
7) Taking synthetic thyroid hormone for an inactive thyroid gland will tend to make your thyroid rely more on this outside source and will thus lead to further inactivity. It makes so much more sense to the author to find out and correct the cause of the dysfunction thus allowing the thyroid to heal and return to normal functioning.
8) Overeating, especially fats and sugars over prolonged periods will make the body produce more thyroid hormones (to increase fat burning and glucose uptake) than it can comfortably produce. This can lead to hypothyroidism.
9) X-rays striking the thyroid (including dental x-rays) can damage the thyroid.
10) Prolonged intake of vitamin A supplements and also zinc can lead to hypothyroidism.
11) A lack of iodine in the diet can lead to dysfunction.
12) An imbalance in the amount of estrogen in the body (be it due to pituitary, liver, ovary, or adrenal malfunction) can alter thyroid function.
Other Indications of Thyroid Dysfunction
Not all cases of thyroid dysfunction will show up on blood tests. An easy way to check your metabolic rate at home and thus get a good picture of thyroid function is by keeping a temperature chart. Every morning before you get out of bed take your auxiliary temperature. Put the bulb of the thermometer up in your armpit and with your arm tightly against your body keep it there for a full five minutes. Record the temperature daily for one month and find the average. A normal auxiliary temperature would be between 97.6-98.4. If it is less and you exhibit some of the symptoms mentioned in the hypothyroid section, I would strongly suspect an under functioning gland and go about trying to determine the correct cause. If over 98.4 and symptoms match, I would suspect an over functioning thyroid.
Many times a person with a malfunctioning thyroid gland will exhibit a weak teres minor muscle on manual muscle testing (See Appendix C and figure 2.1).
Treatment of Thyroid Dysfunction
If your thyroid has been surgically removed you will need to take medication. If it hasn’t been removed it is the author’s opinion that medication should only be taken if all else fails, as it may further inhibit the bodies own production of thyroid hormones and might possibly produce side effects. First off, try to prevent the thyroid from dysfunctioning, but if it is too late, try to help the thyroid heal and be restored to normal function.
1) Abstain from alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, tobacco, birth control pills, and other drugs that may harm the thyroid.
2) Minimize your intake of white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, corn syrup, margarine, vegetable oil, and other refined sugars and fats. Don’t overeat.
3) If you must be x-rayed, make sure your thyroid is properly shielded.
4) When it is cold out make sure the whole body is dressed warmly.
5) Decrease the stress in your life. Your health and relationship to God should come before making that extra dollar.
6) If you’ve had a whiplash or suspect nerve pressure in your neck have a good chiropractor check it out.
7) Make sure your pituitary, adrenals, pancreas, reproductive glands, and liver are functioning properly and not causing secondary thyroid disturbances.
8) Since most soils are somewhat depleted, fertilize with liquid seaweed or fish emulsion to supply iodine to the soil.
9) There are 2 reflex points, that will help normalize thyroid function, one on each side of the sternum (breastbone) between the 2nd and 3rd ribs (see Appendix B). Rub them vigorously for one to two minutes, two times weekly, for one month.
10) Hold your hand over the thyroid gland for 2 minutes daily.
11) A treatment that tends to normalize thyroid function is to take a very hot compress and put it over the thyroid for 30 seconds and then put an ice bag over for 30 seconds. Alternate hot and ice 6 times, once in the morning and once at night for one week.
12) Poke root and white oak bark are beneficial to the thyroid gland.
13) For an under functioning thyroid you should stay away from vitamin A and zinc supplements. Avoid foods with thiourea (thyroid inhibitor) - these include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, peanuts, soybeans. Eat food high in iodine and manganese (seaweed, seeds, dark green vegetables, kale, collards, etc.). Also oats and bananas will stimulate the thyroid. A cold short bath, or a sunbath and lots of vigorous physical exercise will all help revive a sluggish thyroid.
14) For an over functioning thyroid glands an ice bag for 30 minutes daily will help slow it down. Eat foods high in thiourea - cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, soybeans, peanuts, (except sauerkraut which due to the presence of pressure amines will aggravate the problem). Avoid cheese (due to pressure amines in it), as well as bananas and oats.
15) One of my most severe cases was a woman about 50 pounds overweight, with heart palpitations, no energy or ambition, very tired all the time and needing lots of sleep. Her feet were so peeled and cracked that it looked like they were slashed with a razor blade. We altered her diet, used the reflex points listed, some seaweed, and corrected nerve pressure in her neck. She responded slowly but has lost 30 pounds so far, has normal energy and ambition, and her feet are soft and without any cracking or peeling.
Another female patient lost fifty pounds in three months (before this, even severe caloric restriction would do very little) by working the thyroid reflexes and having her minimize refined sugars and oils.Remember not all cases of obesity are due to thyroid dysfunction. Many are just due to overeating and lack of exercise, but thyroid dysfunction should always be considered, and if it is the cause or a contributing factor, restoring the thyroid to normal functioning will bring gratifying results.
We have many products, which help promote excellent thyroid health. To view and order these products, please select your preferred manufacturer below; To order on-line, simply click on the add to cart button below each product. Our products can also be ordered by calling us at (323) 661-1183.