Did you know thyroid health depends on your liver?

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Are you being treated for a thyroid condition and not experiencing the improvements you’d hoped for? Many of our patients are taking thyroid hormones yet continue to suffer with low energy, low mood and inability to lose weight. Your liver could be responsible.

Your thyroid gland produces two main hormones: T4 (also called thyroxine) and T3 (also called triiodothyronine).  These hormones help to control your metabolic rate. They also have a huge bearing on your energy level and mood.

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 as effective.  This can leave you feeling tired, depressed, puffy, overweight and with dry skin and thinning scalp hair.

If you are taking thyroid hormone medication in the form of thyroxine, it too must be converted into the active form in your body. All the same problems mentioned in the paragraph above could be happening. It is vital that you work on improving the health of your liver if you want healthy thyroid hormone levels.

Liver health can be compromised by several things

Some of the common ones include:

  • Abdominal obesity. If there is excess fat sitting on your torso, some of that fat will be clogging your liver, impairing its ability to function. Lots of things can cause weight gain. It’s not just about the calories you eat and the exercise you do. Causes and solutions are in Dr Cabot’s book I Can’t Lose Weight and I Don’t Know Why.
  • Digestive problems are a huge cause of poor liver function. If you have an overgrowth of the wrong gut bugs, they can inflame your gut lining and give you a leaky gut. That means intestinal waste and microbial toxins can leak to your liver, greatly increasing its workload. Gut Health powder helps to heal leaky gut. BactoClear capsules may provide relief from medically diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Viral infections can compromise liver health and lead to liver inflammation.
  • Several different medications can cause liver inflammation. Examples include pain killers, cholesterol-lowering drugs and medication for epilepsy. Please don’t discontinue any medication without speaking with your doctor. Perhaps there are safer alternatives you could try.
  • Insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome are all strongly associated with fatty liver. Most people with these conditions have elevated blood levels of insulin. This can promote fat deposition in the liver. You can get insulin down via a low carb diet, exercise, fasting and there are some effective herbal remedies.

Helping your thyroid

You can help your thyroid 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 Oroxine need to make sure they’re getting enough selenium.  Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium in theory, but in recent years soils have become depleted.
  • 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 diluted apple cider vinegar before meals, and making sure you are relaxed while eating can help.
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