The Truth About Thyroid Health

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Hello friends!

I think it’s about time we got into the complex yet exciting topic of…hormones! I spend a LOT of time as a practitioner making sure that my patients have got their hormones under control. From menstrual irregularities to menopause, gut health to thyroid troubles, hormones rule our lives. And the closer to balance we are, the better off we are! Our sleep habits, mood, and even longevity depend on our ability to maintain a healthy balance – and that’s something worth working for.
Sadly, most of us deal with some kind of hormone imbalance that affects our quality of life. A common example is an imbalance of cortisol – the stress hormone. When this is out of balance, we tend to put on weight, sleep poorly, and develop cardiovascular issues.

One of the most interesting and telling signs of whole-body wellness is the health of the thyroid. The thyroid may be a tiny little gland, but it’s effects on the body control ever tissue and cell we have…big job! This is definitely an area of our health that’s worth spending a little time on, so let’s dig in and get to know our thyroids a little better.

Why is Thyroid Health Important?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that lies in the region of the neck. It has the responsibility of maintaining your body’s homeostatic temperature, metabolism, fat-burning powers, energy level, and other necessary functions.
The thyroid can either over-achieve (hyperthyroidism) or under-achieve (hypothyroidism). For our discussion, we are going to focus on hypothyroidism, because this is the imbalance I see most often in my clients. Hypothyroidism is mostly marked by feelings of fatigue, sluggishness, weight gain, cold, depression, and anxiety. You may try dieting and exercising but keep gaining weight. You may work hard to eat a healthy diet that provides you lots of energy, but you are still lethargic and sleepy. Perhaps you are even having trouble conceiving or suffering from menstrual issues. The problem may not be how hard you are trying or your habits, but your hormones.
When our thyroid hormones (yes, plural!) are off, there is little we can do to overcome these issues outside of fixing this inherent balance. The beauty, however, is that once these hormones are re-balanced, everything else tends to fall right back into place.

Thyroid Health Facts & Figures

If you suspect (or know already) that you have an issue with your thyroid, don’t fret. For one, you are not alone! There is a widespread epidemic of thyroid imbalance in our country and abroad. The most important thing is to find out just what the issue is and work to fix it. Let’s take a look at just how common thyroid issues are:

  • Over 12% of the US population will develop a thyroid issue during their lifetime!
  • About 20 million Americans are currently struggling with a thyroid condition.
  • Up to 60% of people are unaware that their health conditions are caused by thyroid imbalance.
  • Women are 5-8 times more likely to develop thyroid issues than men.
  • Thyroid imbalance can lead to more serious health concerns like cancers, cardiovascular disorders, osteoporosis, infertility, and pregnancy complications.
  • Hypothyroid conditions are more common over the age of 60.
  • A family history of thyroid disease or a personal history of autoimmune diseases will increase the likelihood of developing a thyroid issue.
You might be suffering from hypothyroidism or thyroid imbalance if…
  • You’ve been gaining weight despite dieting or exercise efforts.
  • Your metabolism is poor, especially for carbs and sugars.
  • You are low in energy and often feel fatigued, even with little activity.
  • You’ve been feeling depressed or having difficulty with anxiety or panic attacks.
  • You may be suffering from memory loss, vision changes, dry skin, hair loss, throat tightness, or cold sensitivity.
  • You have had trouble conceiving or struggle with menstrual disorders.

Gut and Thyroid: The Missing Link

I’m a strong believer that all health issues have some link to our gut health – and thyroid conditions are no different. Our guts manage all that we take in and put out. It houses not only the immensely important microbiome, but our “second-brain.” The gut rules supreme and nearly every health issue requires an investigative look into the gut.

So how does the gut connect with thyroid issues like Hashimoto’s? It usually comes down to our immune systems and a case of “Leaky Gut.”

Leaky Gut Syndrome occurs when our digestive tract loses the protective barrier that keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. Essentially, the barrier becomes permeable, or leaky, and larger protein molesters escape into our bloodstream. Our dutiful immunes systems recognize these intruders and launch an attack against these proteins. While there’s nothing wrong with our immune system doing its due diligence, over time this causes quite a bit of inflammation and can lead to autoimmune conditions, such as Hashimoto’s .
Where does the thyroid come into play? The thyroid is integral in maintaining that strong, semi-permeable gut barrier. In particular, hormones T3 and T4 are protective to the gut lining. With low levels of these thyroid hormones, the gut will become more permeable, leading to increased inflammation and a propensity to autoimmune conditions.

Another interesting aspect of the thyroid-gut relationship is that of “intestinal sulfates.” T4 is the inactive form of thyroid hormone, T3. This hormone is needed to keep our metabolism regulated, temperature normalized, and body functioning. T4 requires these intestinal sulfates to transform into the active T3 version of the hormone. The trick? Intestinal sulfates are made by healthy gut bacteria! Therefore, if we don’t have an excellent microbiome, we will be hard-pressed to maintain normal thyroid levels! The lesson: pay attention to your gut bacteria!

Gut Health Fixes to Support the Thyroid

Now that we see how important a healthy gut is for our thyroid health, let’s see how we can make some easy changes to revolutionize our ever-important guts.
  1. Boost the gut flora. I am a huge fan of probiotics! There are so many good reasons to add a quality probiotic to your diet (check out this article to get the whole scoop).
  2. Get friendly with fiber. Fiber is great for maintaining digestive health in general, but good quality sources of dietary fiber will also help to improve the gut bacteria and maintain natural hormone levels. Load up on fresh fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains.
  3. Add in fermented foods. While you are adding loads of lovely vegetables into your diet, why not sneak in some fermented foods too? They are an excellent dietary source of probiotics. Think sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, raw-milk cheese, natural yogurts, and tempeh.
  4. Improve your elimination. Our intestines play an important part in helping our bodies clear out excess hormones and estrogen. This can cause a decrease in the amount of free thyroid hormone available. What’s more, hypothyroidism can slow down metabolism and elimination, creating a problematic cycle.
  5. Reboot. Sometimes the easiest way to improve our gut health is to take on a total reboot. Diet, health, and lifestyle changes can move mountains when it comes to resetting the microbiome (and hormonal system). If you are ready to take on a fully-supported and integrative program to heal your gut, learn more here.

3 Extra Tips to Improve Your Thyroid Health

Now that we understand a little bit more about our thyroid, let’s figure out how to get it under control!
  1. Get Informed
    The first step to taking control of your thyroid health is getting clear on your unique situation. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get holistic testing done. Many doctor’s offices test only for TSH but this is only one small peek at the bigger picture. You want to get a comprehensive look at what’s going on so you can get a real handle on your health. Look for testing services that check not only TSH, but also Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody, and Thryoglobulin Antibody. With all of these numbers considered together, we can get a much clearer picture of why the imbalance has occurred and the best way to go about fixing the situation.
  2. Time to Detox
    Thyroid health can be greatly improved a little clean out of your home, environment, kitchen, and body itself. Toxins build up easily with our modern lives and can be big troublemakers when it comes to our hormones. To give your thyroid a little break, and to help reset some potential chemical and hormonal imbalances, it’s time for clean out.
  3. Start with your food and water.
    If you don’t have a water purifying system, it might be a good time to invest. Water is essential to our health and without healthy, clean water, we will never reach optimum health. While you’re at it, consider how clean your diet is. Where can you make improvements? Are you able to buy some produce organic or leave the processed treats on the shelf? Fill your diet with fresh fruit and vegetables and opt for hormone-free meats.
  4. Your home is next.
    Chemical cleaners and soaps often disrupt our health in sneaky ways. Little by little, these products build up in our systems and throw a wrench into the normal processes of the body. Ditch any harmful chemical cleaners and stock up on more natural alternatives. I love using simple lemon juice, vinegar, and baking soda mixtures or Dr. Bronner’s. I know they’re safer for my family too! Your personal care products might be triggering thyroid imbalances as well. Look for natural makeup, deodorants, and lotions.
  5. Go Gluten-Free
    There is a huge link between gut health and thyroid health, as we touched on before. This tip is very closely related to our gut-health fixes, as eliminating gluten can help repair the gut. Gluten tends to be a sticky, gluey substance that easily seeps through those broken barriers in the gut. These protein molecules end up causing that inflammation that wreaks havoc on our immune system, and therefore the body’s hormone balance. Studies have found that the immune response to gluten can last up to six months after eliminating gluten! This is why a total elimination approach works best for most people.

Getting the Hang of Thyroid Health

Thyroid health is a big topic among integrative practitioners. It is a complex problem that often requires a little extra attention. I have found that the real key to getting on top of these issues is being very clear on the whole picture (ignorance is not bliss!) and taking a holistic, gut-health-based strategy. It can seem daunting, but I am here to lead you along the way! Ready to take back charge of your hormones? Get in touch with me today to find out how we can transform your thyroid health!

Hi! I'm Angela

Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Integrative Wellness Consultant and Mood-Gut expert.

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Have you suffered from Thyroid issues? Did you try any of the tips above? Please let us know! Leave a comment below.

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