How to Have a Happier, Healthier Thyroid
Our thyroid is the master of regulating our body's metabolism. It controls our energy levels, weight maintenance and temperature regulation right down to a cellular level. Basically if your thyroid isn't happy, you're not happy. If you missed the Facebook LIVE video on the topic, check out my top tips for having healthy, happy thyroid below!
I've struggled with an autoimmune thyroid condition since I was seventeen. Because of this I've learned a thing or two about how to fix an unhappy thyroid, both for myself and in my clinical practice for patients also suffering from thyroid disorders.
The most common form of thyroid disorder is hypothyroidism, meaning a sluggish thyroid. Hypothyroidism symptoms can include:
- weight gain or inability to lose weight
- constipation or slow transit time
- dry skin
- easy hair breakage and hair loss
- cold intolerance or feeling cold all the time
- goitre or enlarged thyroid causing vocal issues like hoarseness
- on blood work: elevated TSH, reduced T3, T4
The most common form of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disorder. This is when your body confuses your thyroid tissue as a foreign invader and decides it need to attack and destroy it. About 80-90% of hypothyroid cases are Hashimoto's and it's important to have the proper blood work performed to rule in/out this condition. In addition to TSH and T3/T4, anti-TPO should also be part of a thyroid work up. Elevated anti-TPO is indicative of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
So what can you do?
While consulting with a qualified health care professional is incredibly important for the management of hypothyroidism, I thought I'd talk a bit about my top tips on how you can have a happier, healthier thyroid.
Inflammation plays a major role in Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The term "thyroiditis" literally translates to "inflammation of the thyroid". Reducing thyroid inflammation includes dietary, lifestyle and supplementation, including:
- A potent fish oil. Fish oils are great at reducing overall inflammation by quieting our bodies' natural inflammatory cascade. The active ingredients of a fish oil, EPA and DHA are heavily involved in pushing inflammatory mediators into a more anti-inflammatory state. My favourite fish oil is called Bend and it's primarily marketed for skin health and anti-aging. With good reason - this fish oil is aimed to reduce inflammation and boost antioxidant status, both of which is necessary for optimal skin (and thyroid!) health.
- An anti-inflammatory diet. Another term for anti-inflammatory diet is a whole food diet, an in don't eat crap you can't pronounce. Trust me. This will help your body and your thyroid out tremendously. We're already bombarded with chemicals on a very regular basis, might as well make a conscious effort to reduce your body's chemical burden by limiting them in your food. We don't always have a choice with regards to what chemicals we're exposed to on a regular basis in the 21st century but we do have a choice in what we put in our mouths. If it comes in a box or a bag and you can't pronounce an ingredient, you probably shouldn't be eating it. A simple, quick fix to help your thyroid out.
- Get a dose of selenium. Selenium helps our bodies reduce autoimmunity against the thyroid. Proper selenium supplementation also helps with thyroid hormone conversion and antioxidant status. Selenium can be found in Brazil nuts (the best source!), chia seeds, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and mushrooms.
Reduce Stress on Your Body
Chronic stress boosts cortisol levels in our bodies, a hormone involved in the "fight or flight" response. While cortisol is important to have in our bodies, many of us are so chronically stressed that we're constantly being exposed to elevated levels of cortisol and too much of a good thing, well, isn't a good thing. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can mess around with our thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroidism. Both physical and mental/emotional stressors can lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels. Here's what you can do:
- Get a good night's sleep. Insomnia, or irregular sleep patterns can mess around with cortisol levels and leave us feeling sluggish and stressed. Make sure you're getting a minimum of 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to avoid sleep-related stress on the body. You can read more about the important of sleep HERE.
- Adopt a stress-reduction plan. Many of us have NO idea how to properly manage mental/emotional stress. It's a huge issue and one I continue to maintain advocacy for. If you'd like to learn more about how to reduce your stress levels so you can be a happier, healthier you and have a happier, healthier thyroid too, sign up for my FREE masterclass HERE.
Fix Your Gut
I'm a fan of Hippocrates, the man was smart. As he says, "all disease begins in the gut" and I couldn't agree more. Fixing the gut can help a list of different health complaints and the thyroid is no exception.
- Identify any food sensitivities. There's testing out there for this but I believe it's best to try a mini-elimination first. Get rid of foods that are more likely to cause inflammation in your gut, like gluten, dairy and sugar for a short period of time and see how you feel. I'm not saying you have sensitivities to these foods, I'm saying giving your body a break can help reduce any gut inflammation so you can get back to feeling more like yourself.
- Get a potent, quality probiotic. Depending on what presenting gut issues there are (and there usually are gut symptoms in a hypothyroid patient), there are different probiotic strains ready for the job of helping you feel better. The world of probiotics is fascinating and we now know that it's not just about popping any probiotic. Certain strains and subspecies of strains can exhibit different effects on the body and are used therapeutically for different reasons. This is something I highly recommend talking to your health care professional about - someone educated in probiotics and how to use them properly.
It is possible to fix your thyroid, naturally. Depending on the extent of the condition or how much damage has been done to the thyroid tissue, thyroid hormone replacements can sometimes be necessary in a majority of cases. It's safe to take thyroid hormone replacement while cleaning up your thyroid heath, as long as you're regularly monitoring your thyroid hormone levels through blood work and having your medical doctor dose your thyroid hormone medication accordingly.