For such a tiny gland, the thyroid is an absolute champion in terms of what it does to keep our body in balance. It sits at the front of the throat, is shaped like a butterfly and if you press carefully around the bottom half of the throat you might be able to feel a little bit of its outline. The main role of the thyroid gland is to produce thyroid hormone, which is needed all throughout the body to maintain and regulate body temperature. That is not the only role of the thyroid, but it is at the top of the list. If the thyroid gland is not functioning well, usually one of two things is happening: It is underactive and for some reason not responding to the brain’s insistence that it work harder; or it is overactive and for some reason is not listening to the brain telling it to calm, and goes into overdrive.
Sometimes this can be happening as a response to an auto-immune condition that has developed in the body, or due to stress and/or trauma, and sometimes it is diet related. If a person has experienced rapid weight gain or loss, is feeling extremely cold no matter how much they try and warm up, or extremely hot and sweating no matter how cold it is, going to the GP to get their thyroid checked is a good idea. The test that the GP orders will most likely be the levels of TSH in the blood; the thyroid stimulating hormone. Essentially this is the measure of how hard your thyroid is working or not responding.
Bearing in mind, that many pathology labs will have a very large reference range for what is considered “normal” or “within range” for TSH. This can be anywhere between 1-4 for TSH, however in my own education and clinical experience, I would suggest that a TSH higher than 2, means that a person’s thyroid is working harder than it needs to be, and should be investigated further.
The main micronutrients required for the thyroid to be able to create thyroid hormone include iodine, zinc, selenium and copper. It is very important that if a person suspects they have an underactive or overactive thyroid that they first get a full thyroid panel checked by their GP, and quite possibly do the required blood tests to check the levels of the above-mentioned micronutrients before self-diagnosis and self-medicating.
By Dr Karina Smith.
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Karina Smith is a Melbourne based Doctor of Chinese Medicine and Yin Yoga Teacher, Teacher Trainer & Educator. With a passion for women's health, through Yin and Chinese Medicine Karina aims to improve the health of her students, patients and clients.After years of dancing and its emphasis on performance, yoga was an unexpected beacon of self-care and restoration for Karina, where her relationship to movement shifted to something that was there to nourish her mind and body.
A year after commencing practice at the Australian Yoga Academy (AYA), Karina knew she wanted to do the yoga teacher training on offer there - and from thereon it has been a deep-dive into the rich offerings of this ancient practice.
Karina has now studied and taught yoga extensively - including two 350hr Teacher Trainings (AYA and Shantarasa Institute, India), studies under the renowned Bernie Clark and Paul Grilley, over a decade of teaching at numerous studios in her home town of Melbourne, and lecturing for The Australian Yoga Academy.
In 2018, Karina launched her own 50 Hour Yin & Functional Anatomy Teacher Training and continues to run this course. Karina’s love of Yin Yoga revealed a deeper fascination for human anatomy and led her to pursue Chinese Medicine. After graduating in 2019, she now runs her own clinic offering acupuncture, herbal therapies, moxibustion and cupping treatments.