Thyroid health is becoming a huge issue in today's society, especially among women. The number of people on medication for their thyroid or having their thyroid removed is quite alarming to say the least.
However, thyroid health doesn't have to be a horrible diagnosis, and it can be managed and/or helped with diet and lifestyle changes. Even if you don't have thyroid issues now, working on supporting your thyroid before it is too late is extremely important!
Our lifestyles are what most commonly tax and harm our thyroid. We are constantly stressed out, eating foods that contain inflammatory compounds, and not getting enough sleep or physical activity.
Plus, these effects can add up over time. For instance, several decades of a nutrient-poor diet and constant stress can prove to be too much for your thyroid.
Other disorders can also coincide with thyroid issues, including adrenal dysfunction, brain fog, dementia, depression and anxiety, diabetes, IBS, obesity, and insomnia. This goes back to our topic of root cause medicine and how the body doesn't work in a vacuum - everything has an impact on the entire body!
With thyroid issues, you can have either a hypothyroid or hyperthyroid.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid is underactive and you aren't producing enough thyroid hormones. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include feeling cold, weight gain, brain fog and poor memory, fatigue, depression, hair loss, dry skin, hormone irregularities, slow heartbeat, high cholesterol, and simply not feeling yourself.
Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid is overactive and producing too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include feeling warm, anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, losing weight without trying, hair loss, irregular cycles or infertility, and heart palpitations.
It's also important to note that symptoms can often overlap or symptoms that alternate back and forth (tired and wired, hot and cold, etc). This can make diagnosing thyroid issues a problem.
On top of that, conventional medicine testing for the thyroid isn't great. The levels that are recommended, as well as the actual hormones being tested are often inadequate. Typically, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is all that is tested in conventional medicine. However, this isn't enough to make a proper diagnosis. Instead, you must request a full thyroid panel to get other hormones tested, including: free T4, T4, free T3, T3, reverse T4, reverse T3, thyroid peroxidase antibodies, and thyroglobulin antibodies.
In addition, I also recommend a different set of optimal lab ranges than those from conventional medicine. These lab values are a big tighter in range and more reliable. Ranges are taken from The Thyroid Connection by Amy Myers.
TSH 1.0-2.0 uIU/mL
Free T4 >1.1ng/dL
Free T3 > 3.2pg/mL
Reverse T3 < than a 10:1 ratio of reverse T3 to free T3
Thyroid peroxidase antibodies <9 IU/mL or negative
Thyroglobulin antibodies <4 IU/mL or negative.
It is important to test properly to see where you are at if you suspect you have thyroid issues. However, there is still a ton of factors that you can work on that will also have a huge impact on your thyroid. Here's a list of items to consider working on or trying if you have any thyroid issues or concerns:
Eliminate gluten, grains, and legumes, as they contain anti-nutrients that effect your thyroid
Eliminate dairy, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, refined sugar, soy, and processed foods
Work on your gut health, especially with the 4R protocol (read more here)
Start taking a probiotic
Eliminate toxic cleaning products and skin care products from your household/routine
See if where you live has toxic mold
Reduce your usage of plastics
Of all the items on this list, obviously working on your diet and gut health are by far the most important. They thyroid is especially effected by grains, legumes, and dairy because of their inflammatory compounds and anti-nutrients. Eliminating them for a period of time (usually at least a month) is the best way to determine whether or not these foods effect your thyroid.
Thyroid health is such a broad topic and requires working alongside of a professional. However, I mentioned Amy Myers book the The Thyroid Connection earlier, and I highly recommend grabbing a copy to help get you started on the basic knowledge surrounding the thyroid. This way, you are armed and prepared when you work with your doctor to take charge of your thyroid health instead of turning to medication or removing the thyroid immediately. I understand that this is necessary in some cases, but not all.
You can grab Amy Myers' book here.