Thyroid Iodide & Our Immune System,
May 22, 2021
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how the immune system relies on the thyroid in order to function properly, and why it's essential to maintain adequate iodide nutrition in order to keep your thyroid humming smoothly.
For all your iodide needs, Terragenx has you covered.
The Immune System
The immune system can be thought of as two parts: Innate, and adaptive.
Innate immunity is the immunity that we are born with. Its main tools are anatomical barriers and white blood cells.
Anatomical barriers are the physical, chemical and biological defenses used by your body to keep pathogens (bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing micro-organisms) away. Skin, tears, inflammation and healthy gut bacteria are all examples of anatomical barriers.
White blood cells, called leukocytes, are cells that move throughout the body capturing and processing cellular debris and foreign microorganisms. They constantly patrol your blood and lymphatic vessels on the lookout for intruders.
White blood cells have a variety of functions, but in general their role is to raise the alarm when pathogens are encountered, mark the pathogens for destruction, or to directly attack the pathogens themselves.
Adaptive Immunity is the protection against pathogens that we acquire throughout life.
Whenever we get sick, our immune works to create an antibody that can combat the virus or bacteria that caused it. Our body stores a copy of these antibodies so that the next time we encounter the pathogen, we are ready to fight it off.
Antibodies are specific to each pathogen, so we need to encounter the virus at least once before we can create them.
Current vaccines work by using synthesized material to mimic a ‘dead’ sample of the pathogen into our body, which prompts the immune system to create a corresponding antibody. The next time we encounter the disease, our body is prepared to fight against it.
This is also why children get sick so easily – they haven’t had time to build up the same store of antibodies as adults or teenagers. For the first few years of their life, babies actually make use of antibodies given to them by their mother.
If you’d like a more comprehensive overview of the immune system, here’s an article by the U.S. National Institute of Health that goes into a little more detail.
As mentioned in previous articles, the thyroid is a gland in your neck which uses iodide to produce thyroid iodine hormones T3 and T4.
There are two ways that thyroid hormones influences the immune system: by controlling the energy production (metabolism) that our entire body needs to function, and by directly influencing the cellular activity of some of our white blood cells.
One of the primary functions of the thyroid is to control your body’s metabolism - the process by which your cells convert nutrients into energy. This is why you feel tired and sluggish when you don’t get enough iodide, as your thyroid isn’t running at full capacity.
The thyroid regulates the fueling process that provides your cells with energy
This process takes place in nearly every cell of your body, and as you can guess, if your body isn’t getting enough energy, your immune response will be inhibited (an ‘immuno-suppressive condition’). Your white blood cells aren’t getting the fuel they need, and so they’re not working as hard as they could be.
Apparently, our bodies evolved to divert energy away from the immune system when we are malnourished and devote these resources to the brain and cardiovascular system instead, which are more immediately necessary to sustain life.
Thyroid Hormones and the Immune Response
While the primary role of the thyroid in the immune response is the production of energy, a growing body of evidence suggests that the thyroid has an impact on the immune system at a cellular level as well.
Here's an excerpt from an article in the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information:
“In monocytes, macrophages, leukocytes, natural killer cells, and lymphocytes, a wide range of immune functions such as chemotaxis, phagocytosis, generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and cytokine synthesis and release are altered under hypo- and hyperthyroid conditions. (hypothyroidism is when your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, while hyperthyroidism means it’s producing too much)
What this means is that in order to function as they’re supposed to, the cells mentioned above need to be getting the proper amount of T3 and T4 hormones from your thyroid.
To function properly, your thyroid needs a certain micro-nutrient in sufficient quantities. We look at this in the next section.
Where Does Iodide Come in?
Quite simply, iodide is the essential nutrient that your thyroid relies on to produce it’s it’s T3 and T4 hormones. When you’re not getting enough iodide, your thyroid dips into a state called ‘hypothyroidism’, which basically means that it’s not producing enough thyroid hormone (hypo is Greek for “under”).
As we have learned throughout this article, an insufficient level of thyroid hormones can mean a whole host of negative consequences.
Not only will your immune system suffer, but symptoms of an under-active thyroid can also include the thinning or loss of hair, and difficulty losing weight. (Feel free to check out our article on some of the clues that might indicate an iodide deficiency.)
The moral of the story is simple: keep your thyroid happy with adequate iodide nutrition.
In return, it will keep supplying your immune system with the energy it needs to fight off infections, viruses, and other pathogens that might be trying to harm you.
Dip into a state of hypothyroidism, and you are much more likely to get sick, or to have an infection get out of control.