Sorry I took a break from you last week, but as you can see my writing day was spent revamping my website!
Today’s post is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about for a while now. I’ve been debating it as there’s always a fine line between balancing information privy to my paying clients, and information that every person should know. Of course, I believe that the information I share with my clients is information that all should know.. but you get what I mean. Further down in this article, you’ll see why now is a relevant time to address thyroid health. So, here you have it. Today’s topic is, Thyroid Health: the secret culprit that’s keeping us fat, tired, and sick all the time.
Because the symptoms of low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, are what the every day person would chalk up to “the cost of aging”, it’s hard for people to consider that something’s out of sync. To tell you the truth, the symptoms are so similar to a multitude of other ailments it’s hard for even your doctor to diagnose. Luckily for you, today I will outline some of the symptoms to look for, and some questions to ask your doctor.
Let’s go ahead and start with the numbers. Nearly 1 out of every 5 women, and 1 out of every 10 men suffer from thyroid problems. That equates into about 30 million women and 15 million men. Unfortunately nearly half of those people are either misdiagnosed or unaware altogether (source).
But, what exactly is the thyroid?: The thyroid is “The Master Hormone” that controls everything in our body. Through the hormones it produces, the thyroid gland influences almost all of the metabolic processes in your body (source). Or technically, it is “a large ductless gland in the neck that secretes hormones regulating growth and development through the rate of metabolism” (source).
Which leads us to our next question… what is hypothyroidism?: The cause is a lack of, or underproduction of, your thyroid hormones. A drop in hormone production leads to lower energy levels and weight gain because your body’s energy production requires certain amounts of thyroid hormones (source). The symptoms are:
- Dry skin
- Dry, coarse hair, or hair loss
- Mood swings
- High cholesterol
- Low sex drive
- Fluid retention
- Poor memory
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble losing weight
- Morning headaches
One obvious, physical sign that I like to look for in my clients is if the outer 1/3rd of his or her eyebrow is receding, or missing. This almost always means they have a low functioning thyroid. As you can see, the above listed symptoms are nothing out of the ordinary for most Americans…so much so that people have a hard time identifying these symptoms collectively.
Now you might be wondering, what has caused my poor thyroid health? Well friends, here is the relevant part. The most common cause of low thyroid function is: environmental toxins. Such as BPAs (what did we talk about last time!?), plastics, pesticides (hello organic meats and produce), thallates in plastic bottles, parabens in sunblock, lotions, and make-up, chemicals in our food and water (again, organics is your most accessible solution), and heavy metals such as mercury and lead (do you eat a lot of mercury containing fish, or have a mouth full of mercury fillings?). Have you had a lot of vaccines that contain Thimerosal? This could be a contributing factor as well.
Of course, your diet has a huge influence on your thyroid health. Gluten is one of the largest causes of low thyroid function because it causes an autoimmune reaction against the thyroid. Have you ever wondered why people who cut gluten out of their diet gloat about how they’ve regained energy, cleared brain fog, and/or cleared up the acne on their face.. just to name a few? Gluten is no bueno, my friends. Also, Nutritional deficiencies may be causing or adding to the problem. Iodine, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, omega-3 fats, and vitamin A are all important for optimal thyroid function. Dr. Mark Hyman explains that, ”you can’t make thyroid hormone without iodine. You can’t convert the inactive to the active form of thyroid without selenium, and the thyroid can’t work on your cells without vitamin D and vitamin A” (source).
How do I help my thyroid heal? First thing’s first. If you suffer from the above symptoms, you must take a visit to your doctor. It’s important to get your thyroid tested because you may need to be started on thyroid replacement therapy. Luckily, for many that is not the case. Simple diet and lifestyle changes can do the trick. Dr. Mark Hyman suggests you should ask your doctor to preform the following tests (source):
- The TSH, or thyroid-stimulating hormone test
- The free T3 test*
- The free T4 test*
- TPO (thyroid peroxidase) and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. These are an indication of an autoimmune reaction against your thyroid.
- Celiac or gluten antibodies or anti-gliadin antibodies, because these also can indicate a gluten problem that can trigger thyroid problems.
- Heavy metal testing, because high levels of mercury and lead can trigger thyroid issues, too.
*It is important to get both free tests!
Lifestyle changes: It’s important for everyone, regardless of current thyroid health, to help his or her body by facilitating a healthier thyroid function through these lifestyle choices:
- Eat a clean diet, with organics as much as possible-lose the poor quality, processed, pesticide, and chemical laden foods.
- Filter your water- heavy metals and toxic chemicals can be found in your tap water. Never consume hot water from the faucet, there are plenty of toxins to be leeched out of your old pipes. Buy an electric kettle, or use a stove-top tea kettle to heat your water.
- Eat “safe” fish- certain types of fish contain higher levels mercury, eat those fish minimally.
- Minimize your exposure- the skin is the largest organ in the body, and we tend to ignore that simple fact by exposing ourselves to toxins and chemicals. Our skin absorbs whatever is put on it; clean up your makeup, lotions, household products. Experiment with making your own lotions, face wash, and body scrubs by using ingredients your have in your kitchen. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to recognize all of the ingredients, or even better.. could ingest it safely (absolutely not recommending that, but hey your skin is absorbing it all and bringing those ingredients straight into your blood.. just like the way your body processes the foods you eat!).
- Clean up your food containers- Just because you made an entirely organic lasagna doesn’t mean you can cook it in aluminum, and then store it in plastic when you’re finished. Don’t fill up a BPA lined water bottle with your clean, filtered water. Just don’t.
Eat foods that support your thyroid.
- Vitamin D-rich foods such as: mushrooms, sardines, and herring.
- Vitamin A-containing foods such as: leafy greens and carrots.
- Iodine-rich foods such as: sea vegetables, “safe” fish, and shellfish.
- Zinc-rich foods such as: pumpkin seeds and oysters.
- Coconut oil: this can help reduce the high cholesterol that hypothyroidism creates, and it can also help stimulate thyroid hormone production and increased metabolic function.
The supplemental route:
Many people take supplements regularly, and many don’t. My take is that if you honestly eat as well of a balanced, clean, and organic diet as possible, and you incorporate movement into your daily routine, supplementation will be just that.. a supplemental role to your health. I do, however, believe that for some people, targeting certain functions within the body with supplements is a necessity. For example, I think that all people should supplement with probiotics. I also think that most people should supplement immune and/or thyroid health. Some may need an extra hand in supporting joint health, as some people need some help obtaining a healthy omega balance. It all comes down to the simple notion that you know your body best, and that you need to be present enough in your daily life to know exactly what your body is asking for. Some people need a little extra help increasing thyroid function. Here are a few different supplements that can help your thyroid*:
- Swanson’s Condition Specific: Thyroid Essentials (not vegetarian: contains gelatin)
- Metagenic’s Thyrosol (contains carrageenan: some controversy surrounding this plant derived thickener.. your call)
- Gaia Herb’s Thyroid Support (vegetarian, alcohol-free, herbal)
*Note: choose one, or if you choose to take multiple brands, make sure that the ingredients are different and safe to combine so that you aren’t over doing it.. everything in moderation.
There you have it, folks! I hope this article was informative, and as always please feel free to comment below or send me a direct email with any questions you may have!