4 Things That Wreak Havoc On Your Thyroid
Your thyroid, one of the largest endocrine glands, greatly influences almost every cell in your body. The thyroid plays a part in nearly every metabolic process and when the thyroid isn’t working you won’t feel well!
Aside from regulating your metabolism and weight by controlling the fat-burning process, thyroid hormones are also required for the growth and development in children and in nearly every physiological process in your body. When your thyroid levels are out of balance, so are you. Too much or too little hormone secretion in this gland can spell trouble for your overall health and well-being. According to some estimates, 40 percent of the population suffers with some form of low thyroid function. Women, especially older women, are the most susceptible group for developing hypothyroidism. People who are elderly or who have other existing autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease, these people are also at higher risk.
Hypothyroidism is a condition related to having an under-active thyroid gland that doesn’t properly make or release thyroid hormones. Typical lab work usually will not discover a thyroid issue until the thyroid is already in active dis-ease. Patients will present with symptoms long before it will show in blood work.
Often, at first, you barely notice the symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and weight gain. You might simply attribute them to getting older. But as your metabolism continues to slow, you may develop more obvious signs and symptoms are listed below:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Unexplained weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches and pain
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slower heart rate
- Depressed mood
- Impaired memory
The first step in treatment of hypothyroidism is to eliminate the effects and causes of the thyroid dysfunction, such as inflammation, overuse of medications, nutrient deficiencies, reduce toxic exposures, heal the leaky gut and address any changes in hormones due to stress.
Our goal in functional medicine is to implement strategies before the thyroid is in dis-ease that help restore function.
These are some key contributing factors that can ruin your healthy thyroid function:
- Gluten – Gluten, along with other food sensitivities, is a notorious culprit of thyroid dysfunction, as they cause inflammation. Gluten causes autoimmune responses in many people and can be responsible for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common autoimmune thyroid condition. Approximately 30 percent of the people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have an autoimmune reaction to gluten, and it usually goes unrecognized.
Gluten sensitivity can cause your gastrointestinal system to malfunction, so foods you eat aren’t completely digested, often leading to a leaky gut syndrome. These food particles can then be absorbed into your bloodstream, where your body misidentifies them as antigens – substances that shouldn’t be there – and then produces antibodies against them. These antigens are similar to the molecules in your thyroid gland. Because of this, your body accidentally attacks your thyroid. This is known as an autoimmune reaction, in which your body actually attacks itself.
Testing can be done for gluten and other food sensitivities, which involves measuring your IgG and IgA antibodies.
- Soy– Soy is not the wholesome health food the agricultural and food companies have led you to believe. Virtually thousands of scientific studies now link soy foods to malnutrition, digestive stress, immune system weakness, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders, infertility, and a host of other problems, on top of the damage it causes your thyroid. Soy phytoestrogens are potent anti-thyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.
Properly or traditionally fermented, organic, and unprocessed soy products such as natto, miso, and tempeh are fine – it’s the unfermented soy products that you should stay away from, like soy meat, soy milk, soy cheese, etc.
- Stress and Adrenal Function – Stress is one of the worst thyroid offenders. Your thyroid function is intimately tied to your adrenal function, which is intimately affected by how you handle stress.
Many of us are almost always under chronic stress, which results in increased adrenaline and cortisol levels, and elevated cortisol has a negative impact on thyroid function. Thyroid hormone levels drop during stressful times, which is when you actually need it the most.
When stress becomes chronic, the flood of stress chemicals – adrenaline and cortisol – produced by your adrenal glands interfere with your thyroid hormones, causing a whole gamut of health-related issues like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and/or unstable blood sugar levels. A prolonged stress response can lead to adrenal exhaustion, which is also known as adrenal fatigue and which is often found alongside thyroid disease.
But that’s not all. Environmental toxins place extra stress on your body, too. Pollutants such as petrochemicals, organochlorines, pesticides, and chemical food additives negatively affect thyroid function.
- Bromines – Bromines are a common endocrine disruptor. Because bromide is also a halide, it competes for the same receptors that are used in the thyroid gland to capture iodine. This will inhibit thyroid hormone production resulting in a low thyroid state.
When you ingest or absorb bromine, it displaces iodine, and this iodine deficiency leads to an increased risk for cancer of the breast, thyroid gland, ovary, and prostate – cancers that we see at alarmingly high rates today. This phenomenon is significant enough to have been given its own name: The Bromide Dominance Theory.
In addition to psychiatric and thyroid problems, bromine toxicity can manifest as skin rashes and severe acne, loss of appetite and abdominal pain, fatigue, a metallic taste in the mouth, and cardiac arrhythmia.
Bromine can be found regularly in a number of places, including:
- Pesticides used on strawberries
- Plastics used to make computers
- Bakery goods that use dough conditioner called potassium bromate
- Soft drinks including Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Sun Drop, Squirt, Fresca and citrus sodas.
- Medications such as Atrovent inhaler, Atrovent Nasal, Pro Banthine for ulcers and anesthesia agents
- Fire retardants used in fabrics, carpets upholstery and mattresses
The more you can free your body of the toxic halides, the more iodine your body will be able to hang onto, and the better your thyroid will function. Laura Power, a nutritional biochemist, offers these suggestions for increasing secretion of fluorine and bromine:
- Increase your iodine and vitamin C intake
- Opt for unrefined sea salt
- Have Epsom salts baths
- Sweat in a far-infrared sauna
Iodine: Probably Your Best Weapon Against Thyroid Problems
Iodine is perhaps the biggest player when it comes to thyroid hormones. It is a vitally important nutrient that is detected in every organ and tissue. It is essential for healthy thyroid function and efficient metabolism, and there is increasing evidence that relates low levels to numerous diseases, including cancer.
Iodine is a potent anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and anti- cancer agent. It has four significant roles in your body, namely to maintain your weight and metabolism, to develop brain and cognitive function in children, to optimize fertility, and to strengthen your immune system.
Though thyroid health is often what people think of when they think of iodine, other tissues also absorb and use large amounts of iodine, including your breasts, skin, salivary glands, pancreas, brain, stomach, cerebral spinal fluid, and thymus.
Iodine deficiency or insufficiency in any of these tissues will lead to tissue dysfunction. Hence the following symptoms could provide clues that you’re not getting enough iodine in your diet. For example, iodine deficiency in:
Salivary glands: Disables your saliva production making your mouth dry
Skin: Results in rough and dry skin and inability to sweat normally
Brian: Lowers alertness and IQ levels
Muscles: Produces nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis and fibromyalgia
Simple Steps That You Can Do to Improve Your Thyroid Health
Here are simple ways that you can take in order to improve the performance of your thyroid:
- Identify and treat the underlying causes. Find out what’s really triggering your thyroid problems – whether it’s iodine deficiency, hormone imbalance, environmental toxicity, or inflammation – to address it appropriately. For best results, consult an integrative medical practitioner.
- Remove sugar and processed foods: Sugar and refined carbs increase inflammation in the body overall
- Load up on fresh iodine-rich foods. As an alternative to iodine supplementation, eat enormous amounts of toxin-free sea vegetables or sea weeds like spirulina, hijiki, wakame, arame, dulse, nori, and kombu, which are loaded with the thyroid-friendly nutrient, iodine, and other beneficial minerals. However, make sure that these are harvested from uncontaminated waters. The recommended dose is about five grams a day or about one ounce per week. Raw milk and eggs contain iodine as well.
- Pay attention to other key aspects of your diet. Munch on Brazil nuts, which are rich in selenium. Load up on foods high in vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids. Consume coconut oil. Veer away from gluten and soy-containing foods and beverages.
- Minimize your stress levels.Take a break, meditate, soak in the tub, go on vacation – do whatever works for you. Practice Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), an energy psychology tool that excellently reduces stress.
- Make an effort to limit your exposure to toxins. Filter your air and water to avoid contact with poisonous contaminants. Use an infrared sauna and hot soaks to help your body combat infections and detoxify from petrochemicals, metals, PCBs, pesticides, and mercury. Taking chlorella for detoxification is also advised.
- Avoid all sources of bromide as much as possible– Bromides are a menace to your endocrine system and are present all around you. Despite a ban on the use of potassium bromate in flour by the World Health Organization (WHO), bromides can still be found in some over-the-counter medications, foods, and personal care products. Being a savvy reader of labels can save you from tons of toxic trouble.
- Get adequate amounts of sleep. Inadequate sleep contributes to stress and prevents your body from regenerating fully.
- Get plenty of clean water every day.
- Probiotic-Rich Foods – These include kefir, organic goat’s milk yogurt, kombucha, natto, sauerkraut and fermented veggies. Probiotics help create a healthy gut environment which reduces leaky gut, nutrient deficiencies, inflammation and auto immune reactions.
Learn more on how to make your fermented food in our class – “Go with your Gut: Incorporating Fermented Foods Into Your Diet” August 10th from 6:30-8:30pm @Forum Health Clarkston – Call to reserve your seat 248-625-5243
- Exercise directly stimulates your thyroid gland to secrete more thyroid hormone and increases the sensitivity of all your tissues to thyroid hormone. It is even thought that many of the health benefits of exercise stem directly from improved thyroid function. Walk your dog in the park, jog in the morning, and incorporate strength training and other core-building routines.
Cindy Crandell, R.N., C.N.
Forum Health Clarkston
7300 Dixie Hwy, Suite 500, Clarkston, MI 48346
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