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Thyroid Health depends on your Liver

Did you know a healthy thyroid gland depends on a healthy liver?

Your thyroid gland produces two main hormones: T4 (also called thyroxine) and T3 (also called triiodothyronine).  These hormones help to control your metabolic rate, that is the rate at which your body burns calories.  They also have a huge bearing on your energy levels and maintenance of normal body temperature.

T4 is not the active thyroid hormone; it must be converted into T3 in your body in order to exert its effects.  The majority of this conversion does not occur in your thyroid gland.  Most T4 to T3 conversion happens in your liver, kidneys and muscles.  If you have a fatty liver or a sluggish liver, this conversion will not be effective.  This can leave you feeling tired, depressed, puffy, overweight and with dry skin and thinning scalp hair.  Indeed you would have a thyroid problem caused by a faulty liver.

If you are taking thyroid hormone medication in the form of thyroxine, it too must be converted into the active form in your body.  Therefore if you are taking thyroid medication but still not feeling much better, your liver could be to blame!  It is vital that you work on improving the health of your liver if you want healthy thyroid hormone levels.

Apart from having a healthy liver, you can also keep your thyroid gland in good shape with the following strategies:

  • Obtain adequate iodine in your diet.  Iodine deficiency is becoming an increasingly common problem.  The thyroid gland requires iodine in order to manufacture the hormones T4 and T3.  Iodine is mostly found in the oceans, therefore is present in seafood (as long as it came from the ocean and was not farmed), and seaweed.  Kelp is a rich source of iodine and is available in supplement form.  Your doctor can organise a urine test for you to determine your body’s iodine level.
  • Obtain adequate selenium in your diet.  Selenium is a mineral that is required for the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 into its active form, T3.  People taking thyroid hormone replacement such as Synthroid or Oroxine benefit from selenium supplementation because it enables their bodies to use the medication more efficiently.  Selenium also helps the immune system and can reduce the production of auto-antibodies in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.  Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium, however supplementation is usually required to achieve optimal levels in the body.  Selenium and iodine are found in thyroid health capsules.
  • Consume good quality protein.  The amino acid tyrosine is required for thyroid hormone production.  Tyrosine is found in protein rich foods such as chicken, fish and cheese, and also in smaller quantities in avocados, bananas and almonds.  Protein rich foods are also a good source of zinc, which is needed by the thyroid hormone receptors in your cells, to allow thyroid hormones to bind there.  Eating enough protein is one half of the equation, the other half is to make sure you digest the protein properly.  Irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, heartburn and reflux can all indicate that you don’t digest protein properly.  Taking a digestive enzyme supplement, sipping some diluted apple cider vinegar before meals, and making sure you are relaxed while eating can all help.