It’s estimated that 30 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Half of those are silent sufferers who go undiagnosed. If you’re a woman over 35, your odds of a thyroid disorder are high, more than 30 percent by some estimates.
Are you experiencing low energy levels, hair loss, thinning of the outer third portion of your eyebrows, struggling to lose weight despite a clean diet and exercise, feeling anxious or depressed? If so, you may be suffering from a sluggish thyroid. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do.
1. Obtain lab testing and complete thyroid tests: Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Free T4, T4 total, T3 total, Free T3 and always include thyroid antibodies.
2. Many individuals with thyroid disorders also have digestive problems and gut dysfunction. Poor gut health can suppress thyroid function and trigger Hashimoto’s disease. Low thyroid function can lead to leaky gut and an inflamed gut.
3. Adrenal function must always be factored in with thyroid disorders. A sluggish thyroid often begins with adrenal stress and high stress hormones, which happens when we’re under chronic stress, eat too much sugar and a diet high in processed carbs, drink too much alcohol, overdo exercise, and skimp on sleep, rest, recovery and relaxation.
4. Identify your personal stressors, more importantly your perception and how you react to stressful incidents. Consistently practice a form of relaxation you enjoy to trigger the relaxation response. Hormones don’t act independently. An out-of-control stress response causes an increase in cortisol and a decrease in the conversion of T4 to T3.
5. The hormone system responds to emotions. In mind/body medicine, the thyroid is often associated with personal will, self-expression, resentment and internalized anger. Practice communicating clearly and expressing yourself.
6. Those with thyroid disorders often have hidden food sensitivities, so it’s extremely important to identify those foods and avoid them. Common culprits include dairy, soy, wheat, artificial sweeteners, corn, gluten, and eggs.
7. Test for and rule out toxic metal body burdens, which are very common in those with thyroid dysfunction.
8. Consume iodine-rich foods: seaweed and sea vegetables, clean fish and seafood, and unprocessed sea salt or Himalayan salt that contains iodine.
9. Consume selenium-rich foods: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, organ meats, mushrooms, halibut, and grass-fed beef.
10. Include more vitamin A-rich foods: free-range, pastured egg yolks, yellow vegetables, carrots, dark green vegetables and leafy greens.
11. Determine your zinc status, a common mineral deficiency. Include more zinc-rich foods: nuts and seeds, grass-fed beef, turkey, lamb, fresh oysters, sardines and ginger root.
12. Use more coconut oil, which is very nourishing for the thyroid.
13. Ensure you’re eating clean protein at every meal. Protein transports thyroid hormone to all of your tissues and can help normalize thyroid function.
14. Choose organic foods as much as possible since pesticides have been known to interfere with thyroid function.
15. Be cognizant of thyroid disruptors, which include:
• Anything with gluten. Aside from the fact that gluten is not digestible by any human, gluten is a common detriment for anyone with Hashimoto’s and autoimmune diseases. A 100 percent gluten-free diet is a must especially for those diagnosed with hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s.
• Grains, specifically millet and wheat; commercial dairy products; processed soy; artificial sweeteners; peanuts; excess coffee/caffeine intake and sugar.
• Antidepressants disrupt thyroid function and cause an inhibition of TPO.
• Red dye No. 3 increases reverse T3 and decreases T3.
• PCBs are known to cause an increase in thyroid antibodies.
• Fluorescent lights, plastics, environmental toxins and chemicals.
16. Minimize intake of goitrogen foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale, which can interfere with thyroid function. You can still enjoy these foods, just be sure to steam or cook them, which will inactivate the goitrogenic compounds.
17. It’s important to stabilize blood sugar for optimal thyroid function. Many individuals underestimate the value of this. Avoid low calorie diets, heavy carb intake, fasting and skipping breakfast.
18. Excess halogen exposure from chlorine, bromide and fluoride block iodine uptake, disrupting thyroid function. Chlorine and fluoride (unfiltered water, hot tubs, swimming pools, toothpaste) and excess bromine/bromide (breads, Mountain Dew, processed and packaged foods, hot tubs, and products with flame retardants).
19. Reduce exposure to metabolic toxins (insecticides, hair sprays, artificial fragrances and lotions, harsh chemical cleaners).
20. Optimize liver function, rule out biliary dysfunction and hemochromatosis.
21. Address hidden inflammation. Rule out Candida, underlying viruses and bacterial infections, which are extremely common and often go undetected in conventional medicine.
22. Consider color therapy: wear orange tinted glasses for 30 minutes, then switch to blue tinted glasses for five minutes.
23. Acupressure. Press the hollow at the base of the throat three times for 10 seconds to stimulate the thyroid.
24. Certain yoga poses (plow, bridge, shoulder stand, fish) are beneficial and stimulating for the thyroid.
25. Daily exercise is important for thyroid health. Strength train to increase metabolism. Avoid excessive aerobic/cardio-style exercise that deplete the adrenals.
26. Avoid synthetic HRT drugs and anti-histamines.
27. Consider alternative therapies such as acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy and biofeedback.
28. Do not take carbonate supplements, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D or iron with thyroid medication as these can block the absorption of T4, thyroxine.
29. If you take thyroid medication or glandulars, they are best absorbed when chewed and taken on an empty stomach.
30. The hormone system is a complex system. There is no best solution or a one-size-fits-all for thyroid sufferers. Consult with a nutritionist or natural care practitioner for nutritional supplementation to support the thyroid, which is always unique to each individual and their biochemistry.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of two books, is a nutritionist and fitness and fat loss expert with more than 25 years of experience. Visit Paula at www.PaulaOwens.com.