THYROID – The Queen Of Metabolism

WHAT DOES OUR THYROID CONTROL?

The thyroid, a small butterfly- shaped gland in the throat, is the queen of metabolism, producing the master metabolism hormones. Thyroid hormones interact with insulin, cortisol, oestrogen and testerone, but the thyroid trumps these hormones. If your thyroid is out of kilter, so are your mood, energy, weight and brain clarity.

WHAT CAUSES THYROID DYSFUNCTION?

Common causes of thyroid issues include:

AUTO IMMUNE DISEASES – In these, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s are the diagnosis when there is an autoimmune component. It can be triggered by a number of factors, including genetics, toxic exposure to mercury or other environmental toxins, a deficiency of vitamin D or other nutrients, and gluten intolerance.

SELENIUM DEFICIENCY – Modern farming techniques mean our vegetables are often deficient in the immune-building mineral selenium, which is necessary to create active thyroid hormone.

EXCESS OESTROGEN – Too much of this powerful hormone can suppress thyroid function.

ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS – Bisphenol A (BPA) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) , which are still used in some plastic water bottles and takeaway food containers, can leach toxins into foods.

TOO MUCH STRESS – Cortisol levels can interfere with thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Stress is one of the environmental triggers for thyroid issues.

LOW IODINE – A fine balance of iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function, and breast and brain health. Too much or too little iodine can worsen conditions.

DO YOU HAVE A THYROID IMBALANCE?

  • Do you have a family history of thyroid issues?
  • Do you feel tired after exercise, in the afternoon or throughout the day?
  • Do you have unexplained swelling?
  • Do you find it hard to get out of bed even after eight or nine hours of sleep?
  • Do you feel the cold more quickly than other people?
  • Are your hands and feet often the first to feel the cold?
  • Do you suffer from constipation?
  • Is the final quarter of your eyebrow missing or wispy?
  • Do you crave sugary foods?
  • When you miss a meal, do you feel shaky?
  • Is your skin dry and itchy?
  • Do you find it hard to lose weight?
  • Do you often feel depressed, moody or irritable?
  • Do you have low libido?
  • Do you look puffy or bloated, especially around the eyes?
  • Do you need a lot of sleep?
  • Do you have low blood pressure?

If you answered yes to eight or more of these questions, you could have a thyroid imbalance. Consult your qualified Naturopath or health professional for further assistance on how to rebalance your hormones.

SYMPTOMS OF THYROID IMBALANCE

An underactive thyroid bland or Hashimoto’s disease can lead to:

  • Depression and exhaustion
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Dry and puffy-looking skin
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of hair
  • Loss of the outer quarter of the eyebrows
  • Slow bowels
  • Sensitivity to cold

An overactive thyroid or Grave’s disease can lead to:

  • Weakness and weightloss
  • Nervousness
  • Heat intolerance
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Loose stools

HOW TO REBALANCE THYROID HORMONE

Hormone rebalance is about creating a “clean slate”. The process is similar to an elimination diet, but because you will be filling your plate with so much goodness it doesn’t feel like elimination. When inflammatory foods such as gluten and dairy are removed, many people experience immediate and positive results!

 

  1. Cut out Gluten

If you have a thyroid issue, either high or low, I suggest removing gluten and dairy from your diet because both can be inflammatory. When we eat gluten, or foods that are irritating but not necessarily allergenic, it can cause what’s known as leaky gut. This occurs when the lining of the gut develops tiny gaps between the cells that make up the membrane wall. It becomes irritated by foods to which we are sensitive or allergic. Rather than absorb nutrients as it should, the holes allow toxins, microbes and undigested food to sneak from the digestive tract into the bloodstream, where the body interprets them as invaders. It creates an immune response, which often manifests as something unpleasant, such as puffiness, nervousness, sleeplessness and numerous other subtle health hijackers. It attacks organs associated with the thyroid or digestive systems, which then don’t operate as well as they should.

If you miss your bread fix, try gluten-free break made from buckwheat. While it has “wheat” in its name, buckwheat is a pseudo-cereal made from a non-gluten grain. I recommend it over other non-gluten and rice bread because it’s low-carb and very high in nutrients.

 

2.  Increase your intake of mineral-rich foods

The thyroid requires the right levels of minerals to function well. We used to obtain these trace minerals from foods grown in soil, but changes in farming techniques mean that these levels are often to low. Foods high in selenium, which assist thyroid function, include tuna, sardines, prawns, mushrooms, yoghurt and spinach. Eat a small handful of selenium-rich brazil nuts in the morning or afternoon every other day.

Iodine is essential for brain health, metabolism and the thyroid. Before taking an iodine supplement or eating high-iodine foods, consult a Naturopath or GP, because too much iodine can be as detrimental to health as too little. Good sources of iodine include Himalayan salt, dulse flakes (added to salads, soups and casserole), yoghurt, eggs, tuna, butterbeans, corn, prunes and dried edible seaweed such as kelp.

If you have hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), there are specific dietary recommendations to follow:

Avoid raw cruciferous vegetables: uncooked cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, turnip, watercress and kale contain isothiocyanates, which appear to block some thyroid functions. These are some great liver cleansing foods, luckily you can eliminate the effect on the thyroid gland by cooking them.

Avoid non-fermented soy – Soy phytoestrogens are not good for the thyroid. Remove soy milk, tofu and soy cheese from your shopping list. You can replace with fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh.

Avoid bromine – Bromine is an endocrine disruptor and interferes with the absorption of iodine by the thyroid gland. It can be found in bread, baked goods, soft drinks and sports drinks.

3.   Turn off the chaos and de-stress

The thyroid is very susceptible to stress. It’s one of the environmental triggers of thyroid autoimmune conditions. Even though most thyroid problems are attributable to genetics, environmental factors can also play a role in susceptible individuals. These environmental factors include infections, stress, iodine intake, smoking, medications such as amiodarone (for abnormal heart rhythms) and interferon (for cancer), radiation and environmental toxins such as triclosan (an antibacterial compound in many soaps) and BPAs (in plastics).

If you have symptoms of depression, hair loss, muscle pain, fatigue, sensitivity to cold and heat, fluid retention or constipation, in addition to checking TSH levels, we recommend that you ask for a test of the thyroid antibodies and free T3 and T4, even if it means paying extra money for the test to be taken. T3 and T4 are the hormones that actually deliver the thyroid messages to cells, with a key stop at the liver to convert inactive T4 into active T3 followed by a message to regulate metabolism and cholesterol levels.

In some cases thyroid sluggishness can be restored and underpinned by a nutritional and lifestyle support, but it often requires the intervention of an endocrinologist if medication is also required. Eating foods high in nutrients and antioxidants can, however support you significantly if you have thyroid dysfunction.

 

 

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