[Editor's Note: For more information, come check out Sean Croxton's free online event, The Thyroid Sessions.]
Your thyroid, or thyroid gland, is one of the largest endocrine glands in your body, hence the importance of your thyroid health. It’s located in your neck below the thyroid cartilage. It’s responsible for how your body reacts to other hormones, makes proteins, and how your body uses energy, all via the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones, called triiodothyronine (also called T3), thyroxine (also called T4), and calcitonin.
You need to understand your thyroid. There are several disorders of the thyroid gland: hypothyroid ism, hyperthyroidism, thyroiditis, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer.
Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is decreased activity of the thyroid gland. This happens when it fails to produce enough thyroid hormone and can result in symptoms such as weight gain, tiredness, and poor ability to tolerate cold. In kids, it can lead to intellectual and growth development delays. The main cause of hypothyroidism is iodine deficiency. In countries where there is enough dietary iodine, the main cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune condition.
For many hypothyroid sufferers, their bodies don’t convert T4 to T3. Since pretty much every cell in your body relies on the proper function of the thyroid, a disorder of the thyroid, particularly hypothyroidism, can cause profound changes to a person’s health and can impact someone’s life in pretty much every aspect of life. It is underdiagnosed in mainstream medicine.
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is increased activity of the thyroid gland. The thyroid produces too much T3 and T4. A lot of times, the disorder is asymptomatic, but when symptoms are present, they include irritability, muscular weakness, nervousness, heart racing, anxiety, thinning of the skin, brittle hair, increased perspiration, hand tremors, difficulty sleeping, weight loss, vomiting, infrequent menstrual periods, fatigue, hair loss, intolerance to heat, memory loss, and frequent bowel movements. Graves’ disease is the most common cause.
Signs Your Thyroid Isn’t Working Properly
Estimates are that more than 30 percent of all women over 35 have a thyroid disorder. At least 30 million Americans are affected, 300 million worldwide, and half of them are undiagnosed, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
Some of the symptoms of thyroid problems are listed above, but generally, if you suffer from a combination of any of the symptoms listed below, you should probably ask to have your thyroid hormone levels checked. Specifically, ask to have your T3 levels checked in addition to TSH and T4.
Here are those symptoms:
- Altered appetite or taste buds
- Fuzzy brain feeling
- Decreased interest in sex
- Dry skin
- Unpredictable bowels
- Difference in menstrual cycle or flow
- Painful muscles or extremities
- High blood pressure
- Temperature regulation is off
- Your neck feels funny
- Your voice is hoarse
- Altered sleep schedule for no apparent reason
- Weight gain or loss
- Thinning hair
- Hair loss
- Difficulty conceiving
- High cholesterol
- Jittery or fluttery feeling
Natural Thyroid Solutions
There are several natural thyroid solutions for treating thyroid problems; if you’re averse to using pharmaceuticals, these might pose an alternative. Certain minerals and plants can:
- Help maintain the regulation of the thyroid hormone;
- Provide you with a boost in energy levels; and
- Allow you to reduce or even get off those prescription drugs.
Iodine and selenium are well-known remedies for hypothyroidism, but there are other options available. Naturopath doctors will know which plants and minerals will best work with your condition to help your body work its best.
Speak with your doctor before making any changes to your medication.
Foods To Support Thyroid Health
Foods For Hypothyroidism
- Sea weed is naturally high in iodine and other trace minerals essential for thyroid function.
- Shellfish are also naturally high in iodine.
- Coconut oil can stimulate the metabolism and thyroid hormone production.
Remember, moderation is key; too much is bad for you, too.
Foods for Hyperthyroidism
- Fermented soy foods are goitrogenic, which suppress thyroid hormones.
- Millet and raw cruciferous vegetables are also goitrogens. Eat cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, turnip, and rapini with millet for the best effects.
Foods To Avoid For Thyroid Health
Just like there are foods that help support thyroid health, there are also foods that won’t do you any favors if your goal is to optimize thyroid hormone production.
Coffee is a stimulant and it can also inhibit hormone formation, making it best avoidable for people with either hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
Unfermented soy foods are linked with autoimmune thyroid disease. Choose fermented soy if you must eat it, and keep it in moderation.
Gluten is another substance linked with autoimmune diseases. There’s also evidence that there may be a connection between thyroid disease and celiac disease.
[Editor's Note: Again, for more thyroid health information, come check out The Thyroid Sessions.]
Have you had any thyroid issues? What did you do? And what would you recommend?