Natural help for thyroid problems encompasses a holistic approach to diet and lifestyle, as well as naturopathic medicine to assist in the management of thyroid gland problems.
It’s no secret thyroid gland problems are fast becoming the leading cause of weight gain, depression and ongoing fatigue….and 1 in 4 women suffer without knowing it.
Thyroid gland problems are far reaching. The symptoms of an underactive thyroid can have a profound effect on your mood, body weight, even your feelings of wellbeing. The severity of symptoms can range from a mild deficiency state, which is hardly detectable with standard thyroid blood tests to a severe deficiency state.
What are the common causes of thyroid gland problems?
Why are thyroid disorders so common? Like many other hormone imbalances, low thyroid problems are due to the impact our modern lifestyle has on our health including adrenal health. Some of the common factors affecting thyroid gland health include:
- Nutrient deficiency (especially iodine and selenium)
- Oestrogen dominance caused by stress and pollution (excess oestrogen suppresses thyroid function)
- Hormone imbalance
- Heavy metal toxicity (especially mercury)
- Auto-immune disorders
- Infection/latent viral infection, especially Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) which causes glandular fever.
What is a thyroid gland & where is it?
The thyroid gland lies in the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. This butterfly shaped gland measures about two inches across and normally cannot be seen. It can barely be felt upon palpation. An enlarged thyroid, known as goitre, can easily be detected by your health professional upon examination.
The thyroid gland secretes hormones which control the body’s metabolic rate in two primary ways: by stimulating tissue response in the body to produce specialised proteins, and by increasing cell oxygenation. To produce these vital hormones, the thyroid needs iodine, which is ingested from food and water.
The thyroid gland has the parathyroid glands (glands that regulate calcium) embedded within it. This important gland, shaped like a shield, is our shield as it is responsible for regulating and controlling a variety of bodily functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which food is converted into and the body uses energy, makes proteins, as well as how sensitive the body is to other hormones.
The regulation of thyroid hormone levels is controlled by several mechanisms. The hypothalamus, located in the brain just above the pituitary gland, secretes thyrotropin-releasing hormone, which triggers the pituitary to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). When the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood reaches a certain level, the pituitary will produce less TSH; conversely, when the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood decreases to a certain level, the pituitary produces more TSH.
Furthermore, thyroid dysfunction is thought to affect psycho-emotional disorders from depression to mania.
The thyroid gland secretes two major hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
The pituitary gland (located at the base of your brain) sends messages in the form of hormones to tell your thyroid what to do. The hormone messenger is called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and it regulates your two main thyroid hormones – T4 and T3.
Thyroid deficiency occurs when the thyroid gland under-produces the T4 and T3 hormones needed to regulate the body’s metabolic rate. In a healthy person, T4 converts to T3. It is T3 that is very important for weight loss. It boosts your metabolism and prevents your body storing fat. If T3 levels are low, this can lower your basal (resting) metabolic rate, which alone can lead to weight gain.
In some people, the thyroid does not properly convert T4 to T3, the metabolically active form; and instead converts into an inactive form, called reverse T3. If reverse T3 levels are elevated, your metabolism is affected, causing greater weight gain. Selenium is necessary for the conversion of T4 to T3.
Would you like to lead a healthier, more energized life?
Today, more than ever it is important to educate yourself about the value of good nutrition and healthy eating to support your thyroid.
As part of natural help for thyroid problems, a natural thyroid diet places an emphasis on consuming a wide variety of fresh, natural foods that supply an array of nutrients to support healthy thyroid activity.
Below are some general guidelines:
- The thyroid requires iodine for proper function. Iodine is an essential component of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). An under-performing thyroid function can sometimes be impacted by low iodine levels. In addition to getting out to the sea for a walk to breathe in the iodine-rich air, and eating shellfish, try adding organic seaweed and sea vegetables to your meals (best to stay away from Japanese seaweed for the time being due to potential radiation pollution – a great alternative is locally cultivated seaweed such as from Cornwall or Brittany). Seaweed can add flavour to soups, salads, steamed veggies or legumes.
- Cook your brassica vegetables for six to seven minutes. These vegetables contain ‘goitrogens’ which prevent the use of iodine. Goitrogens are found in broccoli, sweet potato, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, turnips, brussel sprouts and mustard greens. Cooking inactivates the thyroid inhibiting effect.
In addition, pairing brassica vegetables with iodine-rich foods or eating them in fermented versions (sauerkraut) will help counter their effect on iodine binding. Please note eating these vegetables is only an issue if you eat significant amounts raw and have a thyroid dysfunction – they are otherwise rich in many other nutrients and should be included as part of a healthy diet.
- Avoid soy and processed soy ingredients. You need to check the ingredient list on the food labels to find out if a food item contains some type of soy ingredient. Fermented soy may be tolerated.
There are some studies showing that the isoflavones (also known as goitrogens) in soybeans can inhibit the enzyme (thyroid peroxidase) that adds iodine to the thyroid hormone. These studies indicate that soy isoflavone might bond with the iodine and diminish the reserve for thyroid production. Furthermore, unfermented soy contains protease inhibitors, which interfere with the digestion of protein as well as phytates which tie up minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron. So, if you do add soy to your diet, it is best to go with GMO-free and fermented (miso, soy yogurt, natto, etc) since fermentation destroys the protease inhibitors and the phytates. In addition, if you have hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), it is best avoided or eaten only in very small quantities.
- Avoid soy oil which is often labelled as ‘vegetable oil’. This makes it sound healthy, but it is far from nutritious. The term vegetable oil can describe soy oil, Canola oil and palm oil, or even a mixture of these oils which are harmful to the thyroid.
- Eat selenium-rich foods such as asparagus, Brazil nuts, grains, garlic and mushrooms. Selenium assists activation of thyroid hormones.
- Eat foods that provide a plentiful supply of zinc such as oysters and pumpkin seeds. Zinc is a necessary nutrient to assist healthy thyroid activity.
- Gluten: There seems to be strong evidence showing a connection between gluten intolerance, coeliac disease, and autoimmune thyroid issues. Gluten is found in many grain-based foods, and can trigger a whole series of digestive issues, impact hormonal imbalances, and cause immune dysfunction, especially the gluten found in wheat products. Avoiding or decreasing gluten-based foods in your diet, especially wheat, can support thyroid function and immunity.
- Avoid trans fats or ‘plastic fats’ found in margarine, TV dinners, bakery foods, commercially prepared snack foods and deep-fried food. These very unhealthy fats are very damaging to the thyroid cell membranes.
Want to find out more about thyroid problems?
Why is The Natural Thyroid Diet One of the Best Guides to Help Recover Thyroid Health?
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