Improve the Health of Your Thyroid in 5 Steps
Hello January! This month is not only the month of new gym memberships and juice cleanses, it is also Thyroid Awareness Month. Let’s Go!
What is a Thyroid?
It is a butterfly shaped gland located at the front of the neck. It releases thyroid hormone (T3 and T4). Your thyroid essentially dictates the speed at which you live your life. It controls body temperature, the synthesis of protein, and the release of energy from cells. Sounds like the thyroid has a pretty big job.
Signs and Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid
The symptoms of an underactive thyroid are far reaching – it is a whole body experience.
- Cold hands and feet
- Brain fog
- Dry skin and hair
- Hair loss
- Frequent colds and flus
- Heavy periods
- Low libido
- High cholesterol
- Weight gain
- Carb cravings
How to Detect Thyroid Dysfunction
If you suffer from many of the previously mentioned signs/symptoms, but your MD has told you your thyroid is “normal”, they may be missing a piece of the picture. MD’s tend to only run TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). This hormone is released from the brain, and communicates with the thyroid and tells it to make more or less thyroid hormone. When TSH is high, it typically means that thyroid hormones are low, and visa versa.
Sort of confusing.
You can liken this to a mother getting her teenage son out of bed. Sometimes the mom needs to increase the volume of her voice to the point of screaming (high TSH) in order to get a response from the teen (thyroid hormone).
I prefer to see more thyroid parameters run. TSH, T3, T4, and anti-TPO. If anti-TPO is elevated, it typically means there is an autoimmune reaction against the thyroid.
The other little trick you can do at home is to take your oral temperature. This is an indicator of your metabolic rate. If your body temperature is low, you can imagine that your thyroid is probably not functioning optimally. Here are the rules…
- Take your temp under the tongue with a thermometer
- Take your temp every 3 hours
- Starting 3 hours after you wake
For example, if you wake at 7 am, take your temp at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm
- Do this for 3 days in a row
- Calculate the average temp
The optimal temperature is 37C. If you are consistently below 36.6C, you may have a low functioning thyroid.
What do I do about it!
Below are 5 simple things anyone can do that will not only improve ones overall life, but will specifically improve the health of the thyroid. Seeing a naturopathic doctor who can run specific lab tests, and give more specific treatments may be imperative.
#1. Stress and Sleep Support
- Stress increases cortisol and cortisol prevents the conversion of T4 to T3. T3 is the more metabolically active of the two thyroid hormones. We do NOT want anything to hinder the conversion of T4 to T3
- Also, high cortisol prevents the secretion of melatonin, so you don’t get into REM sleep
- Download a meditation app like HeadSpace or Calm. Try being present with some of these guided meditations, even if only for 5 minutes per day
- Journal at night. Research has shown that pre-sleep cognitions influence your sleep quality. The best pre-sleep cognition? GRATITUDE. Every night, write down 3 things you are thankful for. Try to not use duplicates
- Proper sleep hygiene: cool room temperature, no clutter, no lights (even from a tv or alarm clock), laptops and phones away for 1-2 hours before bedtime
#2. Heal the Gut
- “Leaky gut”, or intestinal permeability, influences immune function. When the barrier in the intestine is damaged by medications and various foods, the connection between the cells is not tight. When the gut lining is damaged, food particles and pieces of bacteria cross the intestinal barrier. Once food particles and bacterial pieces are out of the intestine they can trigger immune reactions, specifically against the thyroid
- Work with a functional medicine doctor or naturopathic doctor to discover alternatives to gut-damaging medications (pain relievers like ibuprofen, naproxen, Aleve, Motrin, and proton pump inhibitors like Nexium and Prilosec)
- Do a 2 month trial of removing common gut-damaging foods like gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and sugar
- Get a requisition from an ND to have an IgG food sensitivity test done. In a nutshell, this blood test discovers what foods cause an immune reaction in your body. I need a whole other blog post to dive into the complexities of the food sensitivity test
- Finally, CHEW YOUR FOOD. By chewing each bite 40 times, you are more effectively breaking down proteins that may cause an immune reaction if they were to cross the gut barrier. I can’t be the only person in the world who used to swallow rice whole…
#3. Vitamin D3
- The average Canadian has vitamin D blood levels of 65 nmol/L
- IDEAL levels are between 100-150 nmol/L, depending on who you talk to
- Inadequate vitamin D levels are linked with autoimmune disease
- Supplementing vitamin D in vitamin D deficient patients for 4 months causes a significant decline in anti-thyroid antibodies
- Get your vitamin D levels checked and supplement accordingly
- Liquid vitamin D3 drops are much better absorbed than vitamin D3 tablets as the liquid D3 is emulsified in fat. Fat soluble vitamins (like vitamin D), are better absorbed with fat
- If you only have vitamin D3 tablets on hand, PLEASE take the supplement with a meal that contains fat (olive oil, avocado, nuts/seeds, meats etc)
- Nowadays, we have a hard time getting adequate levels of selenium in our foods because the soil is majorly depleted in this mineral
- Selenium is needed for the proper functioning of the enzyme iodothyronine deiodinase. This mouthful is responsible for converting T4 to T3, aka allowing the body to convert T4 into the MORE ACTIVE T3.
- Supplement with NO MORE THAN 200 mcg/day
#5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Autoimmune disorders, including autoimmune hypothyroidism, is a state of chronic low grade inflammation
- One of the best natural anti-inflammatories are omega-3 fatty acids
- Consume wild, cold water fish like salmon and mackerel 2x/week
- Consume plant sources of omega-3’s like ground flax seeds and walnuts daily
- Supplement with products like Wild Omega by New Roots or NutraSea liquids
- Consult with your naturopath to determine what dose and ratio of EPA:DHA is best for you
If you can get yourself started on these basic steps, you are energizing the whole system. Seeing someone who can support you through the minefield that is Dr. Google (who, last time I checked, does not have a medical degree), may be necessary. Your time is precious. Have someone chose products that are going to be MOST effective for YOU, not for Sally Somebody from the MedScape blog.
You can schedule a complimentary 30-minute consult to see how naturopathic medicine can work within the parameters of your life.
In Health and Wellness,