If those descriptors hit a cord, consider your thyroid function may be suboptimal. The thyroid gland is the “master control gland” that is located at the base of your throat. It has its hand in all functions of the body as it controls metabolism of every single one of our cells.
When the thyroid is overactive, it’s termed hyperthyroidism and the resulting symptoms are that of rapid metabolism: hot body temperature, high blood pressure, fast pulse, racing thoughts, nervousness, insomnia, diarrhea or loose stool and difficulty putting on weight (wouldn’t that be nice!).
More commonly though, hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is the typical presentation when the thyroid has malfunctioned. Some common hypothyroid symptoms are:
- Low body temperature
- Slow pulse
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Frequent headaches
- Dry, thinning hair
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Depression, memory loss
- High cholesterol
The most common cause of hypothyroidism in North America is an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland, Hashimoto’s disease. We can see this on lab tests as an increase in antibodies that are attacking our vital gland. When autoimmunity is to blame, naturopathic doctors will not only support the thyroid gland but will use nutritional and supplemental support such as vitamin D, fish oil and sterols and sterolins (plant compounds) to modulate the hyperactive immune system and “quench the fire”. In many cases hypothyroidism can be well controlled with diet, lifestyle and supplements.
Physicians use a blood marker called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to screen for thyroid imbalance. However, this test can be inaccurate, not accounting for subtle shifts in thyroid health. Patients may be experiencing all the hypothyroid symptoms but their blood tests are still normal. The thyroid can then easily be overlooked, but it’s important to realize that often this scenario requires further investigation. An excellent resource on this subject is Datis Kharrazian’s book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal.
Simple steps you can do now to keep your thyroid functioning optimally:
- Detox regularly. The liver plays a major role in the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to active thyroid hormone (T3) and also metabolizes other hormones such as estrogen and cortisol. High estrogen and cortisol can impede thyroid function.
- Eat seaweed. Dried, seasoned seaweed can be added to soups and salads and ensures the body gets its daily dose of iodine, a nutrient required in thyroid hormone production.
- Remove food sensitivities. Foods such as dairy and wheat that we eat on a regular (shall I say constant) basis tend to cause immune reactions over time. When the immune system is upregulated and inappropriately mounting an attack against foods like dairy and wheat, it is more likely to turn the tables and start attacking self-tissue as well. A susceptible tissue is the thyroid gland. Studies have linked gluten intolerance with Hashimoto’s disease, and patients with an autoimmune thyroid condition will often dramatically improve on a gluten-free diet.
- Ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients through a healthy diet. In particular, selenium, iron and zinc are essential cofactors in thyroid function. A free online program such as www.FitDay.com is an excellent tool to input several days’ worth of meals and find out how your nutrient status stacks up.
To re-create your happiest, healthiest self, ensure you’re doing everything you can to support a healthy thyroid!
Why Thyroid Patients Can Find Themselves with Low Levels of Iron, B12, Vitamin D, and More (Stop the Thyroid Madness!)