Thyroid health is something I deal with everyday, not just professionally as a Nutritionist but because I work hard to keep my own thyroid happy, since being diagnosed 11 years ago with Hashimoto's, along with a pituitary adenoma - code for a benign tumor on the master hormone gland.
Every cell in the body has receptor sites for thyroid hormone, which is why thyroid hormones influence the function of every cell in your body! Their primary responsibility is to regulate your metabolic rate, which affects every system of the body. So in a nutshell - an unhappy thyroid can wreak havoc on your overall health and wellbeing - both physically and mentally.
The frustrating thing about thyroid disorders is you can be eating a healthy diet, getting daily exercise AND plenty of sleep, yet your thyroid can still go bonkers! "What the" I hear you ask? Well let me explain, you see there are MANY factors that can cause your thyroid to become 'wobbly', ranging from nutrient deficiencies - primarily iodine and vitamin D, heavy metal toxicity, leaky gut syndrome, viral infections, long term use of certain pharmaceutical medications and or recreational drugs, pregnancy and of course chronic STRESS - probably more so than any other factor! The reason why stress can have such a profound impact on your thyroid, is because the thyroid and adrenal glands are directly interconnected, so what goes on in the house of one gland, affects the other - to put it simply. Your adrenal glands are responsible for the production of stress hormones - cortisol and adrenalin. The long term, excess production of stress hormones, can lead to the underproduction of thyroid hormones in an attempt by your body to protect it from the effects of excess stress.
To add insult to injury, many people with an underactive thyroid, also suffer from an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s - where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. You can read more about AI diseases here. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common form of hypothyroidism and is rapidly on the rise. The resulting inflammation leads to an underactive thyroid gland, so in many respects the function of the thyroid is dictated by the function of the immune system and degree of inflammation.
So what to do if you suffer, or think you may suffer from an underactive thyroid or Hashimoto's? I wish I could give you the answer in one blog post! But starting with changing to an anti inflammatory diet will eliminate many of the antagonists that impact on the function of your thyroid. Taking a step back and addressing the stress in your life and what YOU are doing to contribute to it, is the second most important step in working towards a healthy, happy thyroid. Without these two steps, you will struggle to get back on track, even if you take thyroid medication and nutritional supplements.
For many sufferers of an underactive thyroid, supplementation with thyroid hormone is often required for a successful outcome. Although supplementing with thyroid hormones is not my first line of action, as I always start by implementing a comprehensive nutritional and herbal supplement program to heal the gut and replenish any nutrient deficiencies, along with an anti inflammatory diet, but although diet and nutritional supplements lay the critical foundations for optimal thyroid health, it may not always be enough, in which case I refer the patient for prescription of a compounded thyroid hormone formula.
Now days my thyroid is pretty well behaved and my auto immune activity is virtually non existent, thanks to many years of research and experimenting with what works and what doesn't - and believe me its a minefield out there when it comes to accessing the right information AND treatment protocols - especially when the standard testing and treatment for thyroid conditions is totally lacking in my view. But more on the reasons why in another post. If you have hypothyroid symptoms but your lab tests are normal, your Dr probably told you - "you’re fine”. But when it comes to pathology testing, I have a saying - 'you only find what you look for' and in the case of thyroid physiology, its both complex and intricate, and requires casting a broad net to obtain an accurate diagnosis, followed by implementing a multi faceted approach to treatment - not just popping one pill and - 'she'll be right mate'! as I've heard some Dr's tell their patients.
Here's a checklist for some of the most common symptoms associated with an underactive thyroid:
Sluggish metabolism / weight gain
Poor digestion - bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort
Hypoglycemia - blood sugar imbalances
Poor fat digestion
Cognitive problems - depression
Weak brittle nails
Cold hands and feet
Disrupted menstrual cycle
Poor immunity - susceptible to regular colds and flu infections.
Do you suffer from Hashimoto's or hypothyroidism? I'd love you to share your experiences and frustrations in your journey to getting adequate diagnosis and treatment in the comments section below.