What is Metabolism?

We have all heard about “metabolism” and that our metabolism slows as we age, but many don’t know what metabolism is, how it’s defined, how it works, or what controls this complex mechanism. Metabolism is defined as the set of life-sustaining chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms. When we talk about our metabolism we are referring to an entire range of biochemical processes that happen within us. Metabolism consists of both,’ Catabolism,’ and, ‘Anabolism;’ which are the buildup and breakdown of substances. Metabolism is most often used to refer particularly to the breakdown of food and its subsequent transformation into energy. Now that we have a slightly better understanding of what metabolism is, we must know the role the thyroid and TSH play in contributing to our metabolism.

The Thyroid Gland, TSH and TRH

Thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland found inside your neck, right under your larynx or voice box. It is a two-inch long, brownish red, highly vascular gland. That has two lobes located on each side of the windpipe that are both connected by a tissue called the isthmus.  Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is produced when the hypothalamus releases a substance called thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). TRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release TSH. TSH’s job is to tell the thyroid gland how much thyroid hormone to produce. The pituitary gland could be seen as the control tower that monitors thyroid hormone levels in the blood, and if they’re low, what it will do is produce higher amounts of TSH, or thyroid-stimulating hormone.

Master Metabolism (Thyroid) Hormones

TSH triggers the thyroid gland to produce the master metabolism hormones Triiodothyronine (T3), Thyroxine (T4), and Diiodothyronine (T2). T3 and T4 are then released into your bloodstream for transport throughout your body, where oxygen and calories convert them to energy.1 Every cell of your body uses thyroid hormones and they act on nearly every function in the body including; the brain, G.I. tract, cardiovascular system, bone metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, gallbladder and liver function, steroid hormone production, glucose metabolism, lipid and cholesterol metabolism, protein metabolism, and body temperature regulation.

Inactive T4 and Active T3

Most of the hormone produced by your thyroid is in the form of T4, the inactive form. Your liver then converts the T4 into T3, the active form, with the help of an enzyme. The correct amount of T4 will be available and converted to active form T3. This is if everything is working as it should, but this is where problems can occur. If adequate amounts of T3 aren’t being produced either from inadequate production of T4 and T3 or poor T4 to T3 conversion. Then, our whole body suffers because T3 is critically important. T3 tells the nucleus of your cells to send messages to your DNA to rev up your metabolism by burning fat.

Primary and Secondary Hypothyroidism

There is a condition known as Hypothyroidism that can cause a variety of problems. Hypothyroidism, occurs in two separate ways, primary and secondary hypothyroidism. Primary Hypothyroidism is when the Thyroid cannot produce the amount of hormones (T4, T3, T2) the pituitary is calling for. Secondary Hypothyroidism is when the Thyroid isn’t being stimulated by TSH, sent from the pituitary gland, to produce thyroid hormones (T4, T3, T2). In either scenario, the thyroid is not producing enough of the master metabolism hormones.

2 Major ways to Help Keep Optimal Thyroid Function or Help Repair Thyroid Function

There are so many problems that could be associated with not producing enough of these hormones,2 that I’m not going to try to list them all here. Instead, I’d like to go over 2 major things you can do to help heal your thyroids function or to keep your thyroid working optimally. For many but not all gluten and more specifically gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, causes the immune system to create gluten antibodies. These will attack thyroid tissue as well as the gliadin particles. I’d like to mention though that there’s nothing inherently wrong with gluten itself. Many people have a problem with digesting it because of some type underlying problem. Secondly, gut health is also essential to proper Thyroid function. Leaky gut, which is causing inflammation contributes to hypothyroidism. Therefore, foods that degrade our gut health should be avoided. These include foods high in sugar (especially refined), pasteurized milk and even raw milk (for some people), un-soaked or un-sprouted grains, non-fermented soy, and genetically engineered foods. I recommend following the GAPS diet3 if you’d like to optimize or reset your guts health. GAPS Diet focuses on removing foods that are difficult to digest and damaging to gut flora. Then, replacing them with nutrient-dense foods to give the intestinal lining a chance to heal.

  1. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-your-thyroid-works
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/hypothyroidism/print.html
  3. http://www.gapsdiet.com/
Fact of the week

The Total Diet Study,4 performed by the FDA, reported an iodine intake of 621 micrograms for two-year-olds between 1974 and 1982, compared with 373 micrograms between 1982 and 1991. During the same time period, the baking industry replaced iodine-based anti-caking agents with bromine-based agents.

This is important because Iodine is perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to thyroid hormones. It is a vitally important nutrient that is detected in every organ and tissue. It is essential for healthy thyroid function and efficient metabolism.

4.     https://www.fda.gov/food/foodscienceresearch/totaldietstudy/default.htm