By Dr. Keara Taylor, ND
Are you feeling tired or sluggish? Have you been experiencing a low mood, weight gain or difficulty losing weight? These are all symptoms that potentially point to an issue with your thyroid gland.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located in the neck and controls many vital functions of the body including energy levels, metabolism, body temperature, and heart rate.
The thyroid gland can be overactive (hyperthyroidism), or underactive (hypothyroidism), although hypothyroidism is more common. Additionally, women are more likely than men to experience a thyroid issue at some point in their life. Some other symptoms of hypothyroidism include: cold intolerance, constipation, brain fog, irregular periods, heavy periods, infertility, high cholesterol, hair loss, and fluid retention.
Since there is overlap between these symptoms and other conditions, it is important to get your thyroid levels tested. The first line test is TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which is released from the pituitary gland in our brain, and therefore may not provide an accurate picture of what is going on at a cellular level in the periphery of the body. Accordingly, it is important to get a full thyroid panel which includes TSH, free T4 and free T3, reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies. There is some controversy over ideal lab values as the range of TSH has changed over the years, and therefore it is imperative to have a practitioner who is informed about optimal thyroid levels to assess your blood work in combination with your symptoms.
Depending on the results of your thyroid hormone panel, treatment will be different. A tailored treatment plan could include dietary changes and targeted nutrient supplementation, as well as thyroid replacement therapy, either in the form of levothyroxine or dessicated thyroid hormone, which can be prescribed by some Naturopathic Doctors.
While it is important to seek individualized health advice from your Naturopathic Doctor, the following are a few nutrient and dietary tips that can help to support the health of your thyroid:
- Selenium – This mineral is important in the conversion of T4 to the active form T3 and has also been found to reduce thyroid antibodies. Brazil nuts contains selenium, however, you do not want to exceed the recommended dose of approximately 100-200 mcg per day, which, depending on the mineral status of the soil, may be consumed in 3 brazil nuts per day.
- Zinc – Also a co-factor in the activation of thyroid hormone, it is important to get adequate amounts of this mineral. Zinc is rich in shellfish, especially oysters and pumpkin seeds.
- Iodine – This is a crucial component of thyroid hormones, and a deficiency of which is the number one cause of hypothyroidism in iodine-deficient regions. Due to the fortification of table salt with iodine, this is not as much of a problem in North America. However, if you do have an iodine deficient diet, then this could cause a thyroid issue. Supplementation with iodine should be done under the guidance of a practitioner as it can worsen autoimmune disease, however, iodine rich seafood and seaweed can contribute to a healthy part of your diet.
- Lifestyle tips – Thyroid health is greatly impacted by cortisol, our main stress hormone, and therefore managing stress is an important part of boosting thyroid health. Try and dedicate at least 10 minutes per day to doing something that you find relaxing, that can get you into your parasympathetic nervous system. Examples could include a walk in nature, an Epsom salt bath, drinking a cup of tea with a good book, deep breathing or meditation.