Is your thyroid making you fat and tired?
If you are experiencing significant weight loss resistance, despite your best efforts with a healthy low carb eating plan – you may be suffering from an underactive thyroid. Other signs that your thyroid is not working as it should include: fatigue, brain fog, depression, hair loss, achy muscles, painful joints, sensitivity to cold, dry skin and constipation. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate, muscle control, bone maintenance as well as heart, brain and digestive functions. Unfortunately, when it comes to your thyroid, the road to optimal health can be a long and frustrating one. Many people are told that their blood test results are completely normal and have been sent home with a prescription for an anti-depressant or instructions to get more sleep, eat less and exercise more. This isn’t very helpful when you consider that every single cell in your body requires thyroid hormone in just the right quantity. If you have too little your metabolism will slow down, leading to weight gain or severe weight loss resistance as well as low moods and poor concentration.
According to Dr Amy Myers, author of The Thyroid Connection, thyroid dysfunction is one of the most under-diagnosed and poorly treated health conditions today. Testing is very often not comprehensive, results are misinterpreted and treatments given not sufficiently holistic.
If you suspect that you have a thyroid condition, the first step is to find a doctor that will really listen to your list of symptoms and who will then order the right tests. In her book, Dr Myers lists the tests she feels should be part of any comprehensive thyroid panel.
- reverseT3 and
- thyroid antibodies.
The second step is to know what to look for when interpreting results. The ‘normal’ ranges used by the pathology labs are so wide, that many people go undiagnosed despite their results being far from ‘optimal’. The third step is to get the right treatment. Your thyroid is affected by lifestyle, nutrition and environmental factors. It is therefore important that a treatment plan target all of these factors, which is sometimes enough to correct a thyroid issue. Other times, thyroid hormone replacement is also required to bring thyroid function back into balance.
Dr Myers believes thyroid dysfunction is a complex issue requiring consultation with a health care professional who understands hormonal balance and functional medicine. It is not as simple as making sure you have normal levels of TSH and T4. This is where conventional testing with your family GP usually starts and ends. Determining if your thyroid issue is autoimmune in nature is a very important piece of the puzzle, so testing for thyroid antibodies is critical. Hashimoto’s is a disease where antibodies attack the thyroid gland and gradually make it incapable of producing thyroid hormone. You also need to know if your inactive T4 is converting effectively to the active T3 and whether the T3 is actually getting into your cells. If your reverseT3 levels are too high, you can be sure that you aren’t getting a sufficient amount of active T3 into your cells since reverseT3 blocks your cell’s receptor sites. When this happens your metabolism slows down, thyroid function at the cellular level is reduced and the result is full-blown symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Natural treatment options
The thyroid responds brilliantly to diet, targeted nutritional therapy and effective stress management. So, in addition to getting onto the right medication if required, there are also natural strategies one can implement to support your thyroid. As Dr Myers states in her book, “food can either be your best friend or worst enemy”.
Gut health is vital for thyroid health and your gut is very much affected by the foods you eat. The key is to avoid inflammatory and toxic foods that damage your gut lining (leaky gut) and disrupt thyroid function. The worst offenders are sugar, gluten, grains, legumes, soy, dairy and processed foods. Some people may, once their gut lining and thyroid function have been restored, be able to again incorporate some of these foods into their diet in small amounts. However, if you have an autoimmune thyroid disorder like Hashimoto’s, you will want to keep grains, gluten and legumes out of your diet permanently.
Caffeine and alcohol can also be problematic and are best avoided while trying to heal your thyroid. Goitrogenic foods, such as broccoli, kale and other cruciferous veggies, can suppress thyroid function if eaten in their raw state, so these veggies should largely be eaten cooked or fermented. Dr Myers’ approach can be likened to a Paleo-style diet which includes quality animal protein, lots of veggies, some fruits and healthy fats.
Nutrient deficiencies can also be the reason your thyroid is functioning below optimal levels. Zinc, magnesium, iodine, iron, B vitamins, selenium, vitamin A, C and D, omega 3 and protein are all essential to thyroid function. If your doctor suspects or has tested for nutrient deficiencies, they might start you on a supplement protocol and/or encourage you to eat foods high in these specific nutrients.
Stress is another factor that disrupts thyroid function. Excess cortisol (the stress hormone), cues your body to slow its production of thyroid hormone and reduces the conversion of T4 to T3, making less of the active hormone available to you – this is not good. When in a state of ongoing stress your levels of reverseT3 also increases, effectively putting the brakes on your metabolism. This is where good quality sleep, exercise that doesn’t strain your adrenals, and stress management become essential.
Reducing your exposure to toxins is another element of a good treatment plan for your thyroid. This task is easier said than done. There are toxins everywhere, from plastic water bottles to non-stick cookware, pesticides on food, dental fillings containing mercury, beauty and cosmetic products full of parabens, phthalates and fragrances – but don’t get overwhelmed. By making small changes you can make a significant difference to your toxic load. Buy organic where possible, choose ‘clean’ beauty products, don’t store leftovers in plastic, throw out the Teflon pans and drink filtered water from glass bottles. You can also improve your body’s ability to detoxify by supporting good liver function through foods and supplements that enable your liver to filter toxins out of your blood. Lemons, avocados, leafy greens, garlic, turmeric and milk thistle are a few good choices.
Arm yourself with good information and select the right people to be on your team. In this way you can make great strides in getting the help you need to correct a thyroid disorder and finally win the battle of the bulge. Dr Amy Myers’ book, The Thyroid Connection, is not only an excellent read but a good source for more information. She covers everything you need to know about thyroid disease, including its true underlying causes, how to work with your doctor, how to choose the right medication and a 28-day programme to get your life back.
“As you address the root causes of your condition and start on the right treatment protocol, you’ll see your symptoms start to disappear, your energy will return, your mood will stabilize, and your health and your life will transform” – Dr Amy Myers.
Article written by Nicky Perks for Lose It magazine (Volume 17)
Posted on May 25, 2017, in Primal 101 and tagged hashimoto's, hypothyroidism, leaky gut, problem foods, stress, thyroid, thyroid testing, tired all the time, toxins, weight gain, weight loss resistance. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.