Under the leadership of the pituitary gland – the “conductor” – the thyroid, pancreas, adrenals, ovaries (or testes) are part of our “glandular symphony”. The influence of thyroid on the body is important because it is the thyroid that controls our entire metabolism: body temperature, heart rate, the rate at which food is converted into energy.
The thyroid produces a hormone called thyroxine, or T4. If the level of thyroxine in blood is low, the pituitary increases its secretion of TSH, a hormone that stimulates thyroid function. Hypothyroidism is clinically diagnosed when TSH is high and the amount of T4 remains low.
This type of problem is spreading like a bush fire in women at the time of menopause. In America, it is estimated that over five million people are infected and that 90% of these people are women.
Symptoms associated with hypothyroidism are identified by fatigue and a feeling of abnormal nervousness. Depending on the size of the problem, there is also an unexplained weight gain, hair loss, constipation, depression, menstrual pain, fertility problems, often elevated cholesterol levels, sometimes a flow of breast milk, accompanied by cramping muscle weakness, etc.
By isolating the problem, the doctor prescribes a synthetic thyroid hormone, whose dosage is adjusted according to the normalization of TSH and T4 in the blood.
If we return to our “glandular symphony” and look at the whole problem, we find that:
- When the cortisol (stress hormone) increases in the blood, there is a decrease in thyroid function;
- Thyroid produces much of T4 but very few of T3 (active form of the hormone) and its activation is in the liver and a lack of activation of this hormone can also lead to hypothyroidism;
- Estrogen slows the thyroid while progesterone activates it, the right balance of these two hormones is crucial (especially for perimenopausal women);
- Production of thyroxine (T4) requires specific nutrients: an amino acid called tyrosine, iodine, zinc, selenium, vitamins E and A. A deficiency of these nutrients can cause a slowing of thyroid function.
- Fluoride (toothpaste) and chlorine (tap water) can take the place of iodine on thyroid receptors and contribute to hypothyroidism.
Some foods, especially if eaten raw and in large quantities, can have a goitrogenic effect, that is they hinder the use of iodine by the thyroid. These include vegetables from the cruciferous family: cabbage of all kinds and all colors, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and rutabaga, peaches, spinach, millet, peanuts, pine nuts and soybeans. Although studies are contradictory on this subject, it seems that their negative effects are abolished or reduced by the cooking of these foods and a daily intake of seaweed can help the counterbalance.
Soy and Phytoestrogens: Can they Accentuate the Slowdown of the Thyroid Gland?
First, we must know that phytoestrogens are a thousand times less powerful than estrogen itself. They just saturate the estrogen receptors on the surface of cells, not the physiological role of estrogen and therefore cannot directly contribute to slowing of the thyroid. Moreover, studies on phytoestrogens and their deleterious effects have been conducted from isolated phytoestrogens and concentrated isoflavones in capsule and not with food.
In contrast, epidemiological studies on diet of Asian women have confirmed and reconfirmed the protective effect of soy consumption. There is an input of 60 mg of isoflavones per day in Asian food. A glass of soy milk contains only 20 to 35 mg of isoflavones, and a block of 115 grams of tofu 115 contribute only 53. Therefore there is nothing to fear from the consumption of this category of food in moderate quantities.
If you have a problem with hypothyroidism, you are advised to:
- Assess all elements of the “glandular symphony” that can affect thyroid function;
- Take steps to rebalance all metabolisms involved;
- Pay attention to your diet to minimize the effect of goitrogenic foods and ensure an adequate supply of items necessary for the proper functioning of the thyroid.