Thoughts on Thyroid: Could It Be The Culprit?
The thyroid gland is like your car. It’s life changing when it breaks down, throws your whole system and routine out of whack, and often you need a specialist to figure out how to fix it. Yet somehow, it still doesn't work the same as before, affecting your everyday normal.
I’ve lost count of the number of patients I’ve seen with sluggish, poor functioning thyroid glands. They move in and out of endocrinologists offices trying to feel more “normal.” They want to reverse the odd weight gain that happened overnight, to stop being the coldest person in the room, have consistent refreshing sleep, less brain fog, and regain the moist skin and dense head of hair they remember so well. They wonder why they always feel better in the summer (the thyroid doesn’t have to work as hard to keep them warm), and after the sun goes down (odd but true) and are so darn tired in the morning.
While prescriptions for Synthroid, Naturthroid, and Cytomel bring relief for some, the secret sauce for many can be found in carefully curated diet, lifestyle and supplements.
These natural and simple additions can often – miraculously - bring you closer to the YOU that you used to be. Teasing out which gives you the biggest advantage is squarely in the wheelhouse of naturopaths.
In my practice, we follow three key steps to rebalancing, maintaining, and supporting good thyroid function.
Achieving Thyroid Health, In Three Steps
Step 1: Know Your Numbers
Step one is to get a thorough thyroid, adrenal and sex hormone blood work panel done – many patients come in with this – some don’t.
Why throw in adrenal and hormone work ups? Because both the adrenal and sex glands affect thyroid function. Stress can wear down adrenal glands, and can put drag on the thyroid; and if the hormones are off - irregular/heavy periods and PMS - the thyroid struggles to regulate itself.
The thyroid is a major piece of the body's mechanics, and if it's imbalanced, fatigued, or strained, the whole system is affected. It's a domino effect.
Step 2: Make Small Lifestyle Tweaks
Step two is to get a clear picture of lifestyle habits.
- What are you eating/drinking?
- How much are you sleeping?
- Are you exercising? Too much? Too little?
- How much stress are you under?
- What kinds of changes in any of these areas are realistic?
A typical patient comes in with a TSH (a common thyroid marker) somewhere in between 2.5 and 5. They have many of the standard frustrating symptoms, like:
- Weight gain
- Difficulty losing weight
- Brain fog
- Feeling chilly
- Coarse hair
- Dry skin
- High stress
- Lack of consistent, quality sleep
- Feeling 'wired and tired'
- Heavy menstrual bleeding and moderate to severe PMS (for women not taking birth control pills)
When discussing lifestyle, I start with food advice. The thyroid needs tyrosine and l-theanine (amino acids found in protein), iodine, and selenium (a trace mineral) to work well. To support this, three big dietary changes help: a high protein morning smoothie, cutting out all wheat, and eating brazil nuts daily (they’re high in selenium).
Sound too simple? You’d be surprised how often these changes reduce symptoms. Here are some hacks on how to hit all three of the thyroid 'super-nutrients' in a day.
- High Protein Smoothie - A typical high protein smoothie includes some type of organic protein powder (I like collagen protein powder, brown rice, pea, or sacha inchi protein as a base) combined with a nut milk, berries and a greens powder. I like Green Vibrance by Vital Health. Aim for at least 24 grams of protein and have it for breakfast, when your thyroid needs it most.
- Eliminate Wheat - In the United States, foods containing wheat are all processed with bromine. The bromine interferes with critical iodine receptors in the thyroid and can affect function. It helps to eat seaweed to get more iodine, but cutting down on bromine is key to this change having effect. (Note: Chlorine and fluoride can interfere as well, though I find that reducing bromine intake has a bigger effect than telling someone to not swim in a chlorinated pool or find a fluoride free toothpaste.)
- Brazil Nuts - Trace minerals like selenium are hard to get in the diet, but Brazil nuts are so rich in this vital nutrient. Just 3 nuts per day can make a huge difference.
Usually after a month or two of these changes, patients start to feel more like themselves. We then work on fine tuning and adding to this list, depending on any left over symptoms.
Step 3: Get Your Supplements In
Step three is checking areas that may need supplement support. In my practice, we target therapy to adrenal/ thyroid support, gut health, and sleep support when it comes to thyroid rebalancing.
- Adrenal & Thyroid Tinctures - There are some really terrific herbal tinctures for both adrenal and thyroid glands and supplementation can be used either to enhance prescription medications or to reduce the likelihood that you need them.
- Maintain Good Gut Health - Digestive function is often sluggish with thyroid disorders – indigestion, constipation, poor nutrient absorption are all common. The dietary suggestions above can help, but short term gut centric supplements speed healing and get things moving faster.
- Support Sleep - Short term herbal sleep support can facilitate giving the body the rest it needs to nurture an overworked thyroid.
The best practice in rebalancing your thyroid and setting your whole system straight again is a having customized treatment plan that is uniquely tailored to your blood work panel results, your lifestyle habits, and your key areas that require supplementation support. Come in for an appointment and together, we'll get you feeling back to yourself.