The Thyroid Dilemma
What’s our thyroid really telling us?
In the film “What the Bleep do we Know?” it is described in exquisite detail how our thoughts influence our body and how our hormones are the messengers of our thoughts. So the question isn’t “Could my weight/fertility/mood/cholesterol problem be caused by my hormones?” but actually, “what am I doing (and thinking) that is causing my hormones to be so unbalanced?” A much more empowering and interesting question!
Especially given that the incidence of thyroid problems (indeed all hormonal problems) is skyrocketing! The increase in the past decade is extremely obvious to us health professionals but arguably ignored amongst public health institutions and government. The reason for that is, I speculate, we don’t really want to know why! We’d find out that our nutrition-less food, unsustainable farming practices, poisoned waterways, and overly busy lives are what’s really contributing to body weight issues and other health complaints. But what can we do about it?
Well, there is hope! There are a lot of things you can do to improve your hormonal health generally and your thyroid health specifically. Let’s have a look first at what the thyroid is and does.
What is the thyroid and what does it do?
The thyroid is the butterfly shaped gland located in the neck. It regulates metabolism and temperature balance in the body. However, as there are thyroid hormone receptors on every cell in the body its influence on other functions in the body is profound.
Symptoms of irregular thyroid function include but are not limited to:
- Tired and sluggish, lethargic
- Dry hair and skin
- Increased need for sleep
- Weak muscles
- Constant feeling of cold
- Poor memory
- Depressed (mood changes easily)
- Slow thinking
- Tachycardia (rapid heart beat)
- Palpitation (skipping of heart beat)
- Increased sweating
- Brittle nails
- Loss of appetite
What do we do if we suspect a thyroid problem?
Thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis can have many underlying causes making the treatment of these conditions challenging and complex.
Simply measuring thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is often inadequate for getting to the true nature of the problem or addressing the root cause. Also the TSH levels for optimal function are much narrower than those considered to be normal by the pathology labs. We also want to measure T3, T4, thyroid antibodies and possibly reverse T3 as well.
Also, low thyroid function can be secondary to other issues such as adrenal fatigue and these must be investigated if you’re to get permanent results. So we may need to look at cortisol levels and other stress or reproductive hormones.
What really does influence thyroid function?
Stress levels: As stress hormones influence thyroid hormones and pituitary health, this important area must be addressed in restoring natural thyroid function. Stress puts the body into “famine mode” and weight loss becomes almost impossible. Regular yoyo dieting also affects thyroid function by increasing cortisol levels and reducing metabolism. Also if you’re not sleeping well, stress hormones may be elevated and this also affects thyroid function.
Diet: Multiple nutrient deficiencies can be present in thyroid problems and must be corrected for optimal thyroid health. Avoiding foods such as gluten, soy, raw Brassica vegetables and processed foods such as sugar, processed fats and white salt have the greatest impact on our overall health and thyroid function. Adding foods rich in iodine, such as kelp, to the diet may be helpful in correcting iodine deficiency, which can also lead to low levels of thyroid hormone.
Supplements: Supplements that include tyrosine, inositol, iodine, selenium and zinc can be very helpful. Also herbs that support adrenal and thyroid health are beneficial too as is a protocol for improving gut health and liver detoxification. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are essential. Good protein supplements and omega 3s are also recommended.
Gluten and other intolerances: Gluten intolerance is heavily implicated in poor thyroid function, particularly if it is autoimmune. Gluten sensitivity produces inflammation of the gut lining and activates an immune response, which in turn causes damage to the thyroid gland causing both under activity and over activity even in the same person! Avoidance is one part of the story, healing the gut is also essential.
Medication: Medication will address the thyroid hormone levels in your body and raise your metabolism but it won’t address free radical damage to the gland. Over time more medication is required in order to elicit the same response because the underlying damage is not being addressed. Antioxidants are essential in high quantities to help with this.
Toxicity: Toxicity plays a huge role in thyroid health. The thyroid gland seems to be very sensitive and easily disrupted by chemicals and heavy metals. These toxins are present in the air we breathe and the food we eat. Good detoxification capacity is essential.
Testing: Functional testing such as food intolerance testing, antibody testing and gluten testing along with many others, can help rule out such things as food intolerances and gut health issues that contribute to thyroid dysfunction. It can be very useful as part of the investigative process and getting to the underlying cause of your condition.
Lifestyle: We all know that the lifestyle choices we make influence our wellbeing and our hormone levels but many of us feel stuck in the routine of everyday living, taking care of things and making ends meet. The support of your practitioner as coach can be extremely beneficial in helping you to make small changes to your life but big changes to your hormone health.
The overall message…
So you can see, achieving optimal thyroid function and therefore optimal metabolism for fat burning, weight management and optimal health is a challenging objective! Many factors mentioned above, impact directly or indirectly on thyroid function and knowing what’s going on is just the beginning of the story. Making all the changes to re-balance the body is where it can get really tough. Healthy diet, homemade foods, regular exercise, stress management, fresh air, regular detoxing, good sleep, even a healthy mindset and emotional balance have a role to play, but if can feel overwhelming!
Many of us have deviated from this healthy path and our priorities have shifted to a survival approach to life – rushing, busy-ness, quick convenience meals, eating in front of the television, disrupted sleep. It’s no wonder then that our hormonal systems are out of whack and our thyroid glands are screaming. If we could translate that scream it would probably say slow down, stress less, want less, love more and learn to be happy. But do it one step at a time!
Brenda Rogers @ Sivanna
81 Showground Rd, Castle Hill, NSW, 2154 | 02 9659 7181 | www.sivannahealth.com.au