Hypothyroidism is a lot more common than hyperthyroidism, hypo is when you have an underactive thyroid or low output of thyroid hormones (T4 and T3).
Hyperthyroid is when you've got too much thyroid hormone, causing potential anxiety, palpitations, sweating, or hyperactivity.
Women are more at risk of both types, but particularly prone to hypothyroidism, especially as we age, if it runs in the family, we have other hormone imbalances such as perimenopause or suffer from gut issues.
WHAT ARE THYROID HORMONES?
Thyroid hormones are a bit like a thermostat for our cells. So they either turn us up (increase our metabolism, energy, temperature, alertness) or they turn us down (slow down our metabolism, conserve energy, decrease temperature, shut down non-essential functions), depending on how much hormone we have available.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF HYPOTHYROIDISM
As thyroid hormones travel to every cell in the body, hypothyroidism can have a wide range of symptoms. The most common ones are;
Fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, memory loss, depression, hair loss, cold hands/feet, dry skin, brittle nails, PMS, anxiety, mood swings, puffy face, aching joints, sex drive, constipation.
Mainstream testing can be a little hit and miss, as it’s important to test 4 or 5 different markers for thyroid health (TSH, freeT4, freeT3 and thyroid antibodies), and often only 2 are considered (TSH, freeT4). Also, the reference range can be huge, so your results can appear within the normal range even though you feel far from normal!
It is clear that each of us is unique when it comes to thyroid function. We each have our own optimum levels and the strict adherence to reference ranges may not recognize any imbalance.
Private tests include a full thyroid hormone panel. I regularly arrange these tests for clients as it enables me to identify which area of the thyroid pathway is not functioning properly.
COMMON CAUSES OF HYPOTHYROIDISM
- Hashimoto’s disease
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an auto-immune condition called Hashimoto’s Disease. This is where your immune system produces antibodies to your own thyroid gland, preventing it from functioning properly. Presence of a variety of antibodies will confirm this, however, mainstream testing does not always include antibodies.
- Nutrient deficiency (including low-calorie diets)
Production of thyroid hormones depends on many nutrients. If our diets are lacking in them, we may not be able to produce enough hormones. These include iodine, tyrosine, selenium, copper, zinc, iron, essential fatty acids, Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
A cortisol imbalance can result in hypothyroidism. Too much or too little cortisol can interfere with the conversion of T4 to the active T3 hormone.
- Low progesterone/high oestrogen
High levels of oestrogen can increase thyroid-binding proteins which decreases the levels of free thyroid hormone, leading to hypothyroidism. Progesterone is needed for the conversion of T4 to T3.
- Food intolerances
One of the causes of Hashimoto’s disease can be food intolerances. The most common foods to cause an auto-immune reaction are wheat (gluten) and dairy (casein). Gluten sensitivity or full-blown Celiac disease has been linked to Hashimoto’s.If you are sensitive to gluten or casein you can develop a ‘leaky gut’or intestinal permeability where the lining of the gut lets in undigested food particles, bacteria or toxins that travel in our blood causing damage to organs and tissues. The thyroid gland is particularly vulnerable to attack as it closely resembles the gluten molecule that the immune system is attacking.
As we age our thyroid gets less efficient (just like the rest of us!) and is also affected by other stuff going on in the body (eg illness, stress, digestive health, organ reserve, toxins, menopause), and because this is a gradual process, symptoms can slowly get worse.However if hypothyroidism is left untreated it can increase the risk of more serious conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
- Family history – genetic factors can have a big impact.
9 NATURAL WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR THYROID
Whether or not you need medication for hypothyroidism, there are lots of ways to support your thyroid to improve your symptoms.
Here are my top 9;
1.Eat good protein – protein breaks down to amino acids, one of which is tyrosine, needed to make thyroid hormone. Protein also transports hormones around the body and helps to balance blood sugar. Good sources are; organic eggs, grass-fed organic meat, wild-caught fish, nuts and nut butters, seeds, quinoa, whey protein, organic dairy, beans and legumes
2. Reduce sugar – too much insulin can suppress your thyroid, so it’s important to avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar, and always try to eat protein and healthy fat with your food to slow the sugar release.
3. Get your nutrients in – thyroid hormones need good nutrient intake to function well. These include;
- Vitamin D (from the sun OR supplements)
- Vitamin A (liver, grass fed butter, animal products)
- Iron (meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes, dried fruits, whole grains)
- Selenium (brazil nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, brown rice, meat, fish, eggs)
- Zinc (oysters, lamb, nuts, ginger, whole grains, sardines)
- Iodine (fish and shellfish, sea vegetables, eggs, dairy, meat, sea salt)
- Tyrosine (chicken, turkey, fish, avocado, seeds, nuts, dairy, whey protein)
- Omega 3 fats (oily fish, flaxseeds, walnuts)
- B vitamins (whole grains, oats, meat, dairy, green veg, nuts, seeds).Get your levels tested to make sure you are not deficient (especially iron, iodine, Vitamin D and minerals).
4. Avoid food sensitivities – common ones are gluten, dairy, corn, eggs and soy. Gluten, in particular, has been linked with autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s) as the molecular composition of thyroid tissue is almost identical to that of gluten – which is why your immune system attacks your thyroid as well as the gluten – a case of mistaken identity.
5. Eat 3 meals a day – it's not a good idea to either fast (eg Time Restricted Eating) OR snack between meals if your thyroid is struggling. It's important for your metabolism to eat 3 meals a day with nothing in between. Try a protein/fat rich breakfast, some protein, veg and carbs at lunch and dinner. Don't restrict your carbohydrates too much as this can also inhibit your metabolism and thyroid production.
6. Support your gut – an imbalance in gut flora or an infection can interfere with thyroid function and stimulate an auto-immune response against the thyroid gland (resulting in Hashimoto’s disease).Include regular amounts of prebiotic and probiotic foods such as live natural organic yoghurt, garlic, onions, leeks, fermented veg (eg sauerkraut) and fermented drinks (eg kefir, kombucha). Contact us for more information on our state of the art stool tests if you suspect you have digestive issues, and supplement with good quality probiotics for extra support.
7. Check your environment – minimise your exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals by drinking filtered water, avoiding plastic food containers and bottles, eating organic food and swapping household and personal products to safe non-toxic brands. Check out biggreensmile.com for natural organic alternatives.
8. Look after your adrenals – too much stress on the body increases cortisol levels which can suppress thyroid hormones. Make sure you are getting regular relaxation time, even if it’s just some deep breathing every day. Supplement with Vitamin C, B vitamins and Magnesium if you need extra support (but always check with your Dr or health practitioner before trying any new supplements).
9. Do the right exercise – activity can increase your metabolism, helping to get nutrients to your cells and endocrine glands, and helping to eliminate toxins. CAUTION; you want to avoid long cardio type exercise as this can tax your adrenals and actually REDUCE your metabolism. Instead, focus on weights, resistance work, walking and yoga or pilates.
If you do suspect you may have hypothyroidism, here's more information on thyroid testing.
Contact us for a free Discovery Call if you'd like to get properly tested or would like more information.
You can listen to the podcast episode too.