By Dr. Jennifer Fisher, ND
I am giving this presentation in light of the recent events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Over the last few days, there have been many health concerns and questions regarding radiation exposure and the use of the emergency potassium iodide tablet to prevent thyroid cancer. This presentation will focus on the thyroid gland, and it will not discuss how radiation affects other parts of the body.

The goal of this presentation is to inform you as to how you can ensure that your thyroid gland is functioning optimally and what you can do to protect your thyroid. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits here at the base of the throat. It produces thyroxine, also called T4, and triiodthyronine, also called T3. These are thyroid hormones that are important for growth, brain development, nutrient metabolism of your carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and they help and regulate your basal metabolic rate.

Your basal metabolic rate affects the rate of which your cells and all your organs function. The thyroid gland is very important in our body because it affects every cell and every organ. Unfortunately, there are many environmental factors that influence the functioning of our thyroid gland. These can include chemicals that we eat in our food, chemicals that we drink in our water, pollutants that we inhale in the air, and even radiation.

So you must be curious about iodide and iodine. These are minerals that you absorb through your diet. Once you absorb them, they go into your bloodstream, which goes to your thyroid gland, which soaks them up like a sponge because it has a special affinity for iodine. If the iodine is radioactive, your thyroid would absorb that as well, and it would cause health issues.

Within the thyroid gland, it converts iodide to iodine, and to make T3, it takes three iodines and puts them on one tyrosine. To make T4, it takes four iodines and put them on a tyrosine. The purpose of the thyroid gland is to regulate metabolism. Metabolism is the rate at which our cells function and how our body functions as a whole.

If a person has a low thyroid function, we call that hypothyroidism. That may present with symptoms such as constipation, fatigue, dry skin, dry hair, brittle nails, and depression.  If somebody has a high thyroid function, we call that hyperthyroidism, and that can present with symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, trembling hands, and heat intolerance.

In order for the thyroid gland to function optimally, it needs specific nutrients such as iodine, tyrosine, which is an amino acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, copper, and selenium. So you may think that you need to run off to the store and buy a bunch of supplements, but I suggest focusing on your diet.

The first step is to remove processed and packaged foods from your diet. This includes fast food, such as fries, hamburgers, pizza, pasta, anything that comes from the frozen food aisle that you can just pop in the microwave and anything that’s packaged that has synthetic additives and preservatives in it.

Unfortunately, processed foods do not have the nutrients or vitamins that your thyroid needs for optimal functioning. Instead, I recommend eating foods found in the produce aisle, preferably organic, and if you eat meat to eat organic meat. You should eat whole organic foods because they contain the vitamins and nutrients that your thyroid needs, such as flavinoids, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, and all the minerals. A good food source of iodine is seaweed, which is commonly eaten in miso soup. It is unique, and it has both iodide and iodine, and they are in an absorbable form, which allows your body to utilize it.

So what about supplements? Over the last few days, we have heard a lot about the emergency potassium iodide. You only want to take this when you are in close proximity to a nuclear incident because it provides such a large dose of iodide that it suppresses the thyroid function and it can cause a lot of harm within the body. So if you want to take an iodine supplement, that’s fine. You could take 150 to 250 micrograms a day, which is a low maintenance dose, to help fill any iodine deficiencies and to help your thyroid function optimally. And the best part is you can find these supplements at your local health food store.

I hope you now understand that you do not need to take the high dose emergency potassium iodide. The best thing that you can do is to remove processed foods from your diet and to eat whole organic foods. If you want to take an iodine supplement, you can get one at your local health food store. If you have any concerns about your thyroid function or concerns about any other health condition, I recommend that you find a naturopathic doctor who can create a customized treatment plan for you.

Find Dr. Fisher at www.nawellness.com

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