The Thyroid...A delicate yet Powerful Gland
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that is located at the front of the neck, it is part of the endocrine system & produces hormones which are responsible for metabolic health (absorbing & processing nutrients in your diet so the cells can use them), heat production (keeping the body temperature ideal), muscle support, brain development, digestion & bone maintenance.
Thyroid tissues are delicate & fatty & is vulnerable to toxins such as mercury & fluoride which accumulate in the thyroid. Often triggered by nutrient deficiencies, STRESS, infection & even pregnant the thyroid can become unbalanced altering the functions.
The following are the three main conditions associated with thyroid dysfunction:
- Hypothyroidism/underactive – occurs when the thyroid produces less T3 & T4 than the body needs, which slows down the body’s metabolic rate. The symptoms of this look like – hot flushes, temperature intolerance, fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, weight gain, anxiety, depression, heavy periods, irregular periods, high cholesterol, digestive issues.
- Hyperthyroidism/overactive – occurs when the thyroid produces too much T3 & T4, stimulating an increase in the body’s metabolic rate, to a rate that is unhealthy. The common symptoms associated with overactive thyroid are – racing heart, weight loss, insomnia, hot flushes, fatigue.
- Auto- immune thyroid conditions – the immune system perceives thyroid as foreign tissues & starts attacking it. This is becoming a more common thyroid condition due to the bombardment of environmental toxins such as pesticides. Mentioned earlier the thyroid is delicate & fatty & these fat-soluble pesticides now have an ideal place to accumulate. This makes the thyroid look toxic to the immune system – making it a target to take down!
It is becoming more & more common in my clinic for women to have underlying thyroid dysfunction & unfortunately simple blood test from the doctor do not give the full picture into thyroid health & often a subclinical thyroid condition will be dismissed as being “in range” thus left to worsen.
Thankfully there are extensive testing that can be done in clinic to get a full picture of what’s happening with the thyroid. Always seek out a qualified health care practitioner who has access to these testings.
Nevertheless, with thyroid dysfunction on the rise, prevention is better than cure, so here are some basic dietary & lifestyle advice that you can use to support your thyroid.
Key nutrients – iodine, tyrosine & selenium – unless diagnosed & working with a qualified practitioner I would recommend these nutrients come from dietary forms rather than self-medicating with over the counter vitamins as all of these nutrients can be toxic if not used properly.
- Iodine rich foods – seaweed, kelp, asparagus, garlic, lima beans, mushrooms, oysters, sunflower seeds.
- Tyrosine rich foods – fermented soy products, almonds, avocadoes, bananas, lima beans, pumpkin seeds & sesame seeds.
- Selenium rich foods – brazil nuts, tuna, eggs, legumes, sardines.
Another important factor to mention is the effect of wheat- gluten on thyroid conditions, especially that auto-immune thyroid dysfunction. If there is suspected thyroid dysfunction avoiding gluten is a good idea.
Avoid environmental pollutants as much as possible – as mentioned previously one of the most common thyroid conditions is now linked to auto-immunity – a key player in the this is environmental pollutants. Whilst in this world we can’t totally remove our exposure to these pollutants here are some of ones that have the most negative affect on thyroid health –
- Dioxin – the most common dietary source is from animal products such as meat, milk, eggs & seafood.
- PFC – perflurorinated chemicals
- PCB – Polychlorinated biphenyls
- Pesticides – buying organic produce is essential for healthy thyroid function.
Manage stress levels – there is a direct link between high stress hormones & a drop in the thyroid hormone, T3 & T4, resulting in thyroid dysfunction. Stress also effects the immune system which has implicated for auto-immune thyroid conditions. The following are some simple ways to manage stress levels -
- Exercise – helps to boost neurotransmitters that promote a feeling of happiness & calmness.
- Breathing – slow deep breathing increases the activity of the vagus nerve – which is part of the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for “rest & digest”.
- Nature time – spending time in nature has been shown to significantly reduce stress levels.
Heal the gut – a healthy gut microbiota has beneficial effects on the thyroid & the immune system. The opposite also exists with gut dysbiosis having a negative effect, the question lies in, which came first the gut dysbiosis or the thyroid dysfunction, whatever the case, healing the gut is essential to healing the thyroid.
- Fibre rich diet – fibre feeds the good bacteria in the gut & helps with healthy bowel function – Soluble fibre from beans & legumes, apples, Brussel sprouts. Insoluble fibre from nuts, seeds, root vegetables, wholegrains like barley & oatmeal, fruits with edible seeds. Prebiotic fibre from green bananas, onions, garlic, leek, dandelion leaf
Lower systemic inflammation – Inflammation & oxidative stress are closely related. Hormones, including that of thyroid hormones are influenced by antioxidant balance.
- Antioxidant rich diet – foods that are high in antoxidant to help reduce the effects of this oxidative stress on the body - erries, apples, pecans, cherries, garlic & green tea, turmeric, acai powder, moringa powder, artichokes, purple cabbage & purple sweet potatoes. Throwing some foods into a smoothie or making a vibrant salad with these foods is a great way to add them into the diet.
- Avoid acidic inflammatory foods – such as red meat & other animal proteins, dairy, processed grains, soft drinks, excessive caffeine consumption.
Support elimination pathways – the accumulate of toxins in the thyroid is what often will set off that auto-immune reaction, so we want to ensure our elimination pathways are working optimally to ensure toxins aren’t accumulated but rather cleared from the body.
- Liver loving foods – legumes, green tea, leafy greens, broccoli, walnuts, avocado, beetroot
- Drink plenty of water – to support the kidney’s & lymphatics & to help clear toxins from the cells.
- Regular detox – under the guidance of a natural health practitioner a whole-body detox will help to support the elimination pathways.
As you can see supporting & healing the thyroid is multifaceted, getting a proper diagnosis & understanding of what your thyroid is doing really is essential for a healthy body.
If you suspect your thyroid is not working optimally get in touch to get a natural approach to healing the thyroid, a delicate yet powerful gland.
In health & happiness
Sarah Emily Herbalist
Note - references available on request