In celebration of Thyroid Awareness Month, let’s explore the intricacies of thyroid health, hormonal harmony, and a crucial ally in the delicate balance of our endocrine system—seaweed!
The Endocrine System, Your Body's Hormonal Orchestra
Ever heard the intriguing phrase "hormonal harmony" before? This popular buzzword is more than clever marketing jargon, it’s a helpful way to conceptualize the key bodily network that coordinates everything from your cognitive development to your reproductive health throughout life: the endocrine system.
Imagine the endocrine system as your body's hormonal “orchestra” and each hormone molecule it produces as a single musical note: this network consists of hormone-producing glands and organs that ensure the proper function of myriad co-dependent physical and emotional bodily functions, processes, and development. In biological females, the ovaries, pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands are of particular importance. Each component of the endocrine system produces specific hormones that are released into the bloodstream. Hormones act as “chemical messengers” that target various organs and tissues in order to coordinate our bodily functions . When the glands within our endocrine system are healthy, they maintain ‘hormonal harmony,’ promoting healthy bodily functions and guiding each stage of bodily development throughout life.
Your endocrine system is guided by the activity of the thyroid gland, so supporting thyroid health can substantially impact your overall hormonal harmony as well as your energy levels, metabolic rates, growth and development, weight, mood, and more! According to the American Thyroid Association, this is particularly important for women, who are 5-8 times more likely to suffer from thyroid disorders than their male counterparts.
The Thyroid, Your “Master Energy Battery”
The thyroid plays a vital role in maintaining equilibrium within our body's hormonal orchestra. Located at the base of your neck, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that relies on iodine from food (or dietary supplement) to produce two key hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Named for the number of iodine atoms they contain,T3 and T4 play a role in regulating metabolism, energy levels, sleep, cell repair, and growth patterns including weight fluctuations .
Our thyroid hormones power healthy functioning of the brain, heart, and muscles, give us that feeling of lasting, sustained energy throughout the day, and help us to get a restful sleep at night. This underscores the holistic influence of thyroid activity, extending not only to physical health but also cognitive and psychological health.
Iodine & Thyroid Health
One way to supplement thyroid health is by consuming sufficient dietary iodine as part of a balanced and nutrient rich diet. A deficiency in iodine can compromise the thyroid’s ability to produce T3 and T4 hormones, exacerbating or contributing towards the development of conditions related to an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism and goiter, an enlarged thyroid and early clinical sign of iodine deficiency, are common ailments stemming from an underactive thyroid: “If a person’s iodine intake falls below approximately 10–20 mcg/day, hypothyroidism occurs” . Hypothyroidism, characterized by sluggish metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, and mood disorders like depression can become a chronic health issue. For the first time in recent history, women are iodine deficient in the US, prompting researchers to call attention to iodine deficiency as an emerging public health concern . A deficiency in iodine has a profound impact on cognitive functioning and is recognized as the leading cause of preventable intellectual disability in children .
Physical and emotional symptoms caused by an underactive thyroid can be difficult to attribute and may even be misdiagnosed if thyroid health is overlooked. Today, 60% of thyroid conditions continued to be undiagnosed in the US. It’s important to check your thyroid health with a medical professional on a regular basis, particularly if you experience any of the symptoms previously described. While research suggests that a healthy thyroid will excrete excess dietary iodine, excessive iodine can be disruptive in the case of an under or overactive thyroid. Particularly in the case of hyperthyroidism, consuming more than the recommended dietary allowance of iodine can negatively impact your health.
Seaweed: Nature’s Thyroid Supplement
Today, two billion people worldwide are deficient in iodine. Since our bodies are incapable of producing it, iodine must be acquired through external sources such as food or supplements. Although iodine is naturally occuring in soil and the ocean, industrialized farming practices have largely depleted soil iodine content in certain regions, in turn affecting the iodine content of many staple food crops . While iodine can be found in a variety of foods, from fruits and vegetables to eggs and milk, the most iodine-rich foods are found in the sea. As a result of widespread dietary changes in the United States (including the decreased popularity of iodized salts), iodine deficiency has become increasingly prevalent for women with severe implications for fertility, rates of miscarriage, and maternal and fetal cognitive development ,. Uptake of iodine and overall thyroid health declines as we age, which can worsen perimenopause symptoms including fatigue, dryness, and more.
Sea vegetables, or seaweeds such as kelp, nori, kombu, and wakame, are the most potent source of bioavailable iodine . Seaweeds store minerals in chelated and colloidal forms, rendering them easily absorbable through our digestive systems (making them more “bioavailable”) . The knowledge of seaweed's medicinal and nourishing properties is nothing new to humanity: for millennia, seaweed has been eaten as a traditional food and medicine by cultures around the world, while simultaneously supporting ocean health and reducing human dependencies on land-based foods. In multiple global Blue Zones–regions with statistically lower rates of disease and significantly longer life expectancy–seaweed is regularly consumed as a dietary staple. We think it’s about time that seaweed emerged as a superhero in western culture too.
Iodine: The Goldilocks trace mineral
Are you supporting your glands with the fuel they need to support hormonal harmony? Eating the recommended dietary allowance of iodine (150mcg - 225mcg depending on your life stage) is an excellent way to support a healthy thyroid, and is considered safe (and is sometimes recommended) in the case of hypothyroidism . One serving of Rootless Daily Bites provides your complete dose of daily iodine as well as a host of other essential minerals, vitamins, fiber and heart healthy fats. The Daily Bite contains the “goldilocks” amount of seaweed and iodine to ensure you’re getting your daily dose–no more or less–reliably, and in the most bioavailable form available. This also explains why the #1 most felt health impact from consistent consumption of the daily bites is increased energy. We hope you will start to - or continue to - give your thyroid, the master battery of your body, the love and the fuel it needs to power you!
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