Your thyroid & why it's essential to keep it healthy & happy
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped endocrine gland that sits in the front of your neck just above your collar bone. The thyroid has an extremely important job and releases hormones directly into the bloodstream. Every cell in your body depends on the hormones your thyroid produces - triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Your thyroid helps your body use energy, keeps you warm, aids in keeping your heart, brain, muscles, and other organs working as they should, regulates heart rate, blood pressure, impacts weight, fertility, menstruation, skin tone, sleep, memory, digestion and so on. Your thyroid impacts nearly every other body organ.
See, it’s important!
But things can go very wrong with this fancy gland, which can have far reaching effects:
Rapid weight gain or weight loss
Memory problems or brain fog
Sensitivity to cold or heat
Straw like hair
Menstrual issues, irregular periods etc.
And so on….
Getting your thyroid hormones tested
One of the issues is that the testing you may get from your doctor may not tell the whole story. Many tests are done just checking the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level, but you can have normal TSH levels and still have abnormal thyroid function. Monitoring TSH levels should actually be done two or three times a day at different times to ensure accurate numbers, but unfortunately this does not happen.
Also, quite often the T3 and T4 levels (thyroid hormones) don’t get tested and neither do the antibodies. So, again, there isn’t an overall picture happening here. You may get told your thyroid is fine, when it actually isn’t!
When your thyroid and hormones aren’t functioning correctly, this can lead to issues like hypothyroidism (where not enough hormones are being produced) and hyperthyroidism (where too many hormones are being produced), a goiter (enlargement of the thyroid) and can even result in, or stem from, autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease.
If you are wanting testing done, below is an outline – you may be able to get these tests from your doctor, or if not, I can put you in touch with other specialists who would carry out the full spectrum of testing.
Thorough thyroid lab tests should include:
Thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPO antibody)
Thyroxine binding globulin (TBG)
Thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI)
Plus, additional testing of iodine, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D and vitamin B12 may be a good idea too.
Here are a few ways that you can protect your thyroid and keep things in balance.
Iodine is essential for hormone health and is important for thyroid hormones T3 & T4. Without iodine your body simply cannot make these hormones which can result in hypothyroidism, goiter and ultimately diminished mental capacity.
Most iodine is eaten in the form of iodised table salt but this is not recommended because it is heavily processed, it lacks natural minerals and it contains anti-caking agents. Sea salt and Himalayan salt actually has less iodine, but Himalayan has more minerals, therefore meaning that it is the healthier option.
But, if you aren’t getting iodine from your salt, this is where food steps in.
Foods high in iodine include:
• Kelp and other sea vegetables such as kombu, wakame, dulse flakes
• Good quality organic dairy
• Seafood like scallops and shrimp
• Free range eggs
• Navy beans
Not going too low carb
Low carbs don’t work for everyone. Research shows that thyroid hormones are influenced by major changes in the amount of carbohydrates consumed which can cause symptoms of hypothyroidism, even though the lab tests still look normal. So, it is recommended to have some carbohydrates in your day.
Avoiding too many raw brassica's
These are vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower etc, that when eaten raw can actually block the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland. So, if you are a lover of these veggies (which are great for detoxing oestrogen), make sure you eat them cooked most of the time.
This is important for thyroid gland function and helps it convert hormone T4 to T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone). Food sources are Brazil nuts, grains, seafood, organ meats, poultry and dairy products, so try to get some of these in your day.
Upping your antioxidants
Berries and colourful vegetables are full of antioxidants and also protect the integrity of the thyroid cells.
Managing your stress
Stress equals raised cortisol levels which has a major effect on the thyroid and slows down thyroid function. Elevated cortisol negatively impacts the thyroid by creating an imbalance of thyroid hormone production that can lead to hypothyroidism, so make sure you keep an eye on your daily and long-term stress levels.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals
These are synthetic chemicals referred to as xenoestrogens which are commonly found in many plastic products and can disrupt thyroid levels. You can read more about these here.
Eating sugar (both natural, hidden and added) can cause insulin resistance which means that this high insulin state in the body can contribute to autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. Sugar is hidden in a lot of foods that aren’t even sweet such as bottled salad dressings and tomato sauces. So, it’s important to read ingredient food lables on all products to determine the sugar content.
It’s a good idea to eliminate gluten from the diet because it contributes to leaky gut, gut dysbiosis and autoimmune disease. A key factor in healing the thyroid is to avoid wheat and possibly other gluten products depending on sensitivities.
Also, read the article on 8 toxins to avoid for thyroid health.
Got any others suggestions? Let us know below…. Or if you would like to get in touch to discuss thyroid and general health more, book in for a complimentary 30 minute health and wellness chat.