You probably know about fast and slow metabolisms. In part this is the work of the thyroid gland. Facial hair, weight gain or loss, lack of energy and even hot flashes, the thyroid is mighty; it affects many aspects of our health and life.
Unfortunately, the thyroid tends to get out of sync and does not produce enough hormones during times of hormonal imbalances such as after having a baby, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause. That is the reason we are talking about this gland. Many of the perimenopause and menopause symptoms are a result of thyroid problems.
I am healthy but ….
I have a few friends, including 2 MDs, who are otherwise very healthy and follow a healthy lifestyle, but they take thyroid medicine, because their thyroids are sluggish. In other words, they suffer from hypothyroidism. I also had the same issue when I entered perimenopause and my weight started to skyrocket although I followed a healthy lifestyle. I took the natural path and it worked.
Hypothyroidism is very common in women over 35 and it contributes to lack of energy, lack of libido, weight gain and other symptoms. A healthy lifestyle does not always spare you from this condition, because stress and environmental toxins play a role in it.
Now let’s see the other side of the coin: Hyperthyroidism. This is when the thyroid is too active and produces too much of the hormone. In this case the person tends to lose weight and facial hair may appear, among others symptoms.
The table below illustrates the most common symptoms of both conditions.
Puffy face and/or hands
Muscle aches and stiffness
Pain, or swelling in joints
Heavy or irregular periods
Slowed heart rate
Enlarged thyroid (goiter)
Thin, brittle hair or fingernails
Pins and needles
|Unintentional weight loss |
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Nervousness amd anxiety
Tremor in hands and fingers
Changes in menstrual patterns
Feeling hot easily
Frequent bowel movements
Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
Fine, brittle hair
Why should you care for your thyroid?
Well, it affects your energy levels, weight, libido, skin and hair and your total wellbeing. On top of that the thyroid gets affected by other important organs and by autoimmune conditions.
We can say that the thyroid is the first one to make noise when something is wrong in the body. That is the reason why instead of just taking a pill (which is necessary in some cases) we need to look deeper at what else needs our attention.
Causes of hypothyroidism
- There are many potential causes including:
- Autoimmune disease
- Hyperthyroidism treatments
- Radiation therapy
- Thyroid surgery
- Certain medications such as medications to treat certain psychiatric disorders
- Congenital disease
- Pituitary disorders. This is rare.
- Pregnancy. Some women develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy
- Iodine deficiency. This is more common than normal medicine reports
- Hashimoto’s disease. This is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. Hashimoto’s disease, is cause by autoimmune issues.
- Thyroiditis. It can be caused by viral or bacterial infections, an autoimmune condition or following pregnancy.
For women over 40 the most common causes are:
- Weak adrenals due to excess stress
- Liver issues
- Excess accumulation of toxins
- Nutrition deficits especially of zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, iron, essential fatty acids, tyrosine (amino acid), vitamins A and D
- In natural medicine it is also believed that some emotions affect the thyroid
- Autoimmune disease
How to know if you have low or high thyroid activity?
Check the list of symptoms and see if you suffer many of them. If you go to a regular doctor he or she may or may not find the problem. If your deficiency or excessive level of the hormone is way higher than the expected level, it will be found, but if it is small it probably will not be found. A functional practitioner will, however, find it.
The discrepancy is that in functional medicine the range of normal levels is narrower than in conventional medicine and there is also more testing. In functional medicine, normal is not what the majority of people have right now, instead it is the optimal level for wellbeing and health.
In my case I had many symptoms such as excessive hair loss, dry skin, weight gain, constipation, I had lost part of my eyebrows, and other symptoms. My regular doctor did not find anything wrong in my tests, everything was perfect. But I had the symptoms and I refused to accept that “that is how we age”.
What can you do to have better thyroid function?
If you feel that you have too many symptoms you should get tested first by your doctor, and then if nothing is found, you can go to a functional or natural medicine practitioner.
The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is a synthetic hormone. For hyperthyroidism, there are medications. There are also many natural treatments if you want to try this path.
With the natural treatments, that also require lifestyle changes, you will solve the problem and the roots of the problem. With the pills you will be taking them potentially for life, they don’t work for everybody and you will not be addressing the roots of the problem. Those roots may manifest later on in other ways.
Improving your thyroid function
If you only have some symptoms you can try to improve your lifestyle and add some supplements to improve thyroid function. Some of the natural recommendations are:
- Eat natural, unprocessed foods
- Try to minimize environmental toxins such as normal cleaning products, normal skin care products etc.
- Lower sugar intake
- Increase omega 3 intake
- Make sure you are eating enough proteins
- Make sure you are having enough iodine
- Make sure you are having enough zinc and selenium
- Take a break from foods that causes allergies in many people such as gluten, dairy and soy. It is just a break to determine if you have an allergy.
- Take probiotics
- Eat a lot of vegetables
- Lower stress
- Sleep enough hours
- Make sure you are having enough fats (I had this problem, I thought fats make you fat and I was not having enough fats)
- Be active and workout. This eliminates stress and helps to eliminate toxins. You need a workout that doesn’t create more stress. Workouts that become too competitive or too intensive are not recommended. Swimming, walking, Pilates, yoga, strength training, HIIT, hiking, outdoor bicycle, dance type workouts and others are very beneficial.
- You may take supplements for adrenal support and thyroid support if you think you have hypothyroidism.
Thyroid support with supplements is tricky. If you buy one, pay attention that is does not have any animal gland parts of hormones added, check the ingredient list. Avoid taking thyroid support for more than a few months. Most thyroid support pills have a lot of iodine, it is better to follow smaller doses than the recommended in the bottle to avoid too much iodine.
If you have hyperthyroidism you have to follow a gluten, dairy and soy free diet. But hyperthyroidism requires more care and a visit to your natural practitioner is better.
If you need advice creating your perfect menus for thyroid support you may want to take our upcoming program for hormonal balance. Sign up to be informed of its release.