Skin conditions associated with thyroid hormone are common. In fact, thyroid hormone is actually an important regulator in the homeostasis of the epidermal. If the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, the skin will not be able to regulate as easily.
There is even a scientific term for thyroid associated skin disorders. Myxedema refers to skin disorders caused by increased glycosaminoglycan deposits in the skin otherwise known as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid refers to a sluggish or downregulated thyroid, which can cause the accumulation of dermal acid mucopolysaccharides (hyaluronic acid) in the skin. This leads to a sort of calcification to the skin, appearing very dry and almost scaly in texture.
However, that is not the only way the thyroid can affect skin health.
Skin manifestations of thyroid dysfunction can be divided into three categories:
- Direct effect of thyroid hormone on skin tissue
- Skin manifestations of direct thyroid hormone action on non-skin tissues
- Autoimmune skin disease associated with thyroid dysfunction
How Thyroid Effects Skin Health
The skin is affected not by the thyroid itself, but thyroid hormone secreted by the gland. Thyroid hormone then affects the skin via the thyroid hormone receptor. All three recognized thyroid hormone binding isoforms have been found present in skin tissues. Thyroid hormone receptors are present in various areas throughout the skin matrix including the epidermal keratinocytes, skin fibroblasts, sebaceous gland cells, vascular endothelial cells, and throughout the hair follicles and scalp. In other words, when thyroid hormone is secreted, receptor sites in the skin are notified and respond accordingly.
Epidermal Changes in Hypothyroid and Hyperthyroid
One of the most common and obvious signs of thyroid related skin issues is in the case of hypothyroidism. During this condition, the skin becomes thick, dry, rough and covered with fine, flaky skin. Additionally, the skin tends to be both because of the increased dermal mucopolysaccharides, dermal water content and decreased mitochondrial respiration efficiency causing poor blood circulation. Also, increased dermal carotene in the skin can cause yellow hue on the palms, soles and nasolabial folds. This yellowness may also indicate poor liver function. Keep in mind the liver is in charge of converting 60% of t4 into t3 (usable thyroid). On the other hand, when the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism) there is an overproduction of thyroid hormones, leading to thyrotoxicosis. This can cause the skin to become thin, and potentially inflamed (eczema, psoriasis). To understand this, consider the effects of thyroid hormone on the regulation of the skin. In studies, T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone) has been shown to stimulate the growth of both epidermal keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts. So in other words, increased thyroid hormone means faster growth, which would explain how increased thyroid hormone leads to psoriasis, an autoimmune condition where keratin (skin protein) is overproduced.
Thyroid Hormone, Testosterone and Skin Problems
Hypothyroidism can cause low luteinizing hormone (LH) to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). A primary role of LH is to stimulate the production of testosterone in male genitalia. This points out a strong connection between underactive thyroid and low testosterone. When chronic, low testosterone production can cause hypothyroid, leading to a vicious cycle. What does this mean for your skin? Considering the fact that sebaceous glands (the regulatory oil produced by the pores) is ruled by androgen hormones like testosterone. Sebum is very important for the health of the skin. In short, sebum is a protective barrier for the skin. It keeps the skin protected from bacteria and environmental toxins and it regulates the ph. of the skin. Therefore, if testosterone is low due to poor thyroid function, then sebum production can also be affected, resulting in unhealthy skin, acne, oily or dry skin and skin that is unprotected from stressors that can attribute to skin aging.
Causes of Poor Thyroid Function
One of the first steps to healthy thyroid function is to remove causative factors that disrupt thyroid function. The most common include:
- Polyunsaturated Fats
- Long-term low carb diet (the thyroid needs glucose, if you’re not getting it from your diet, your body will break down protein to get glucose, putting a stress on the liver and its ability to convert thyroid hormone)
- Adrenal Insufficiency (excess stress depletes the adrenals, which then puts a greater stress on the thyroid)
- Irregular blood sugar
- Poor digestion (digestion precedes metabolism, which is ruled by thyroid hormone)
- Chronic stress (stress can occur biologically, physically, psychologically, chemically, thermally and electromagnetically)
- Inflammation (a diet and lifestyle full of toxins and unnatural substances and activities)
Tips for Improved Thyroid Function
For improving the health of the thyroid, check the list of causative factors then take action to eliminate these things from your life. Some will be easier than others, so start with the easiest ones then create an action plan for eliminating the more difficult such as chronic emotional stress. Once you’ve handled the causes, the thyroid should naturally start to regulate. However, some things you can do actively to support the health of the thyroid include:
- Right Nutrition: Eliminate all processed foods, especially ones containing polyunsaturated fats (read more). These “non-foods” have strong anti-metabolic properties, which elevate your blood sugar, which leads to mineral imbalances, inflammation and directly suppresses the thyroid. Focus on eating whole, real foods free of PUFAs, and other harmful toxins. Pro-thyroid foods include healthy proteins, seafood like oysters and other shellfish, grass-fed liver, cooked cruciferous veggies and healthy fats like grass-fed butter, ghee, egg yolks and coconut oil.
- Supplement with Good Salt: Iodine deficiency is a common cause of hypothyroidism. Iodine is a naturally occurring ingredient in good salts like Celtic Sea Salt. This salt is free of chemicals and additives and improves thyroid function.
- Exercise: Exercise not only improves heart rate, metabolic rate but also improves detoxification. An accumulation of toxicity can weaken the liver, resulting in poor thyroid function.
- Focus on Good Sleep: Sleep is the healthiest thing you can do for your body; it is the only time your body goes into a deep state of regeneration and rejuvenation. This is the time where your body releases growth hormones and your immune system builds. Without good sleep, your body will age rapidly and immune system weakens. Aim to sleep according to the natural circadian cycles, going to sleep when the sun is down (10 pm) and waking when it comes back out.
- Master your Emotions. Your emotions are just a manifestation of thoughts, brought to life by hormones. So if you want to know what your hormones are doing, just observe your emotions. Are you all over the place emotionally, going up and down from serene to depressed? This says a lot about the balance of your hormones. Nothing weakens the liver like chronic emotional turmoil. In fact, the health of your emotions is senior to the health of your body, because your emotions are determined the function of your entire biology. So, if you want to have a healthy body, you must learn to master your emotional state. The thyroid is a hormone-producing, master calibrating gland in the body; it is very susceptible to mental and emotional stress. Not only is it working to regulate external stressors (diet, toxins, etc.), it is also working to balance and process your emotions.