One of the most common conditions we see in-clinic are Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's Disease. We wanted to shine a light on the epidemic that is a low functioning thyroid and give you 3 key tips on how you can support your thyroid health and increase your energy levels.
A quick overview of the thyroid
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the front of the trachea in the neck. The thyroid communicates with the Hypothalamus and Pituitary glands in the brain to produce hormones heavily involved in controlling metabolism. TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) is secreted from the pituitary gland and travels to the thyroid to stimulate the secretion of thyroid hormones. T3 and T4 are the key hormones produced by the thyroid. T4 is the inactive or storage hormone which is converted into T3 the active "energy producing" thyroid hormone.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is characterised by having too little thyroid hormone. Basically the body is on the "go slow". Metabolism in slower making it difficult to lose weight, temperature may be lowered, fatigue is common, digestion is impacted and can result in constipation and physical changes such as hair loss and dry skin may be experienced. If hypothyroidism remains untreated this can develop into Hashimoto's Disease which is an autoimmune condition.
How do thyroid issues start?
There are many drivers that can contribute to issues with the thyroid. These include:
Inflammation - from stress, toxins, heavy metals, food, injuries, infection
Increased Cortisol production - stress, stimulants like caffeine
Gut health - Leaky gut, SIBO, Candida, Gut flora
Diet - Lack of nutrients or consuming inflammatory foods
Our 3 key tips to support those with Hypothyroidism
Tip 1 - Balance blood sugars
Blood sugar imbalances for someone that has Hypothyroidism is like adding fuel to the fire of your condition. When consuming high carbohydrate foods blood sugars can rise rapidly. The pancreas then releases a load of insulin to bring blood sugars back down. The surge of insulin can cause low blood sugar which can result in light-headedness, fatigue and anxiety.
We recommend the following tips to keep blood sugars balanced:
Include protein and fats like eggs, avocado, nuts and seeds with your meals
Fuel your body with food every 2-3 hours (e.g healthy snacks between meals)
Remove highly refined carbohydrates like cakes, breads, biscuits and refined sugars
Tip 2 - Remove Gluten
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. One of the major problems with gluten is that the proteins are very similar to the thyroid gland. This is where the integrity of the gut lining comes in. Often through testing we carry-out at the clinic, we see many people have a degree of intestinal permeability or "leaky gut". The usual tight gap junctions of the small intestine have become larger and proteins (such as gluten) are slipping through into the bloodstream. These proteins are then marked for destruction by the immune system. The immune system can become confused and start attacking "self", in this case the thyroid gland, resulting in the autoimmune condition Hashimoto's Disease.
Tip 3 - Enjoy gentle exercise
Cortisol production due to stress can inhibit thyroid function. High cortisol levels will reduce the production of TSH and block the conversion of T4 to T3. One of the drivers of cortisol production is high impact exercise. Of course exercise for those with a thyroid condition is extremely beneficial and choosing the right form of exercise can be crucial to the healing process. Yoga, Pilates, Walking and Swimming are all low impact and gentle ways to move your body.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Cold sensitivity - tendency to have cold hands and feet
Weight gain that is hard to shift
Irregular menstrual periods
"Brain fog" - Poor memory
What to ask for when testing your Thyroid
If you find yourself wondering if you have a thyroid issue, getting a whole picture snapshot of your thyroid hormones is definitely a great place to start. TSH is usually standard testing available from your GP and unless your symptoms are severe your doctor may be apprehensive to order more than this. Functional medicine practitioners often prefer to run the entire panel for the thyroid and include the hormones TSH, FT4, FT3, RT3 and Thyroid Antibodies. If our patients symptoms are suggesting problems with the thyroid, our go-to test is the Comprehensive Thyroid Panel. As the name suggests it provides a comprehensive look into a full thyroid panel and your antibodies to gain insight into conversion problems, resistance and determine under-functioning areas.
In our next blog post we will be looking further into these thyroid tests and our optimal ranges. If you have any questions regarding your thyroid health please leave a comment below or take advantage of our Free 15-minute introductory assessment with one of our practitioner's to find out how we can help you.
NCBI. 2018. How does the thyroid gland work?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279388/. [Accessed 21 February 2019].
Chris Kresser. 2016. The Underlying Causes of Thyroid Disease. [ONLINE] Available at: https://kresserinstitute.com/underlying-causes-thyroid-disease/. [Accessed 21 February 2019].
Romm, A., 2017. The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, a 4-week programme to rescue your metabolism, hormones, mind and mood. 1st ed. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Wentz, I., 2017. Hashimoto's Protocol. 1st ed. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.