Hypothyroidism affects over 10 million Americans and the number of women affected is more than 10 times that of men.1 Unfortunately, risk naturally increases with age.
Noticing that you have hypothyroidism is tricky, especially at the beginning. The symptoms are discreet, but they worsen over time without treatment.
When your hormone imbalance first occurs you feel drowsy and gain weight unintentionally. As time progresses you experience fatigue, depression, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, irregular menstruation (women) and may find it difficult to concentrate.
Although some of these conditions can happen to anyone, it's the combination of several symptoms that may alert you that you could have hypothyroidism.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is an auto-immune disorder affecting the thyroid gland. The gland itself is butterfly shaped and located in the throat just below the larynx. It is responsible for dictating energy level, metabolism and improving the function of your immune system.
Hypothyroidism is often triggered by a lack of iodine, which is necessary to produce the two primary thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Receptors for these hormones are found throughout the body and affect multiple systems. If the thyroid is inflamed or lacking appropriate blood flow, the body struggles to produce the essential thyroid hormones.
According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, it is not functioning properly. Over time, this can weigh on an individual's overall lifestyle. Interference to your thyroid often causes the buffet of symptoms above, and has even been linked to memory loss and rheumatoid arthritis.
North Americans are more frequently affected by a related condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is marked by a thyroid inflammation. This condition is not influenced by lack of iodine (there is too much salt in our diets!). Though the exact cause of Hashimoto's thyroiditis is not known, it is far more common among women. The best way to check the health of your thyroid is with a blood test.2
However, your diet can be tweaked to improve the function of your thyroid. The first step is to limit the foods that may actually put you at higher risk for hypothyroidism.
Foods that May Aggravate Hypothyroidism
In order to prevent or relieve symptoms found with the condition, Kharrazian recommends that certain foods be avoided because they increase an autoimmune attack on the thyroid.
Many of the foods listed below are regarded as nutritious and healthy, while others are well known for being genetically modified. In either case, the following contain high levels of goitrogenic chemicals and increase risk of thyroid disorders:
- Canola oil
Goitrogenic chemicals induce antibodies that counteract with the thyroid gland and the enzymes responsible for many of the hormones needed to regulate metabolism. These chemicals alter the body’s ability to use iodine which is needed for a healthy, full-functioning thyroid gland.
Treat and Prevent Symptoms Naturally
To treat thyroid disease or any autoimmune condition, you must attack the source of the imbalance.
By making informed lifestyle choices in your everyday life, you can increase blood flow to the gland itself and treat the cause of the condition. Utilize some of the following nutrients, supplements and basic techniques:
Plant-based proteins (nuts, quinoa, and legumes) and antibiotic-free animal products (chicken, fish, etc,) are high in zinc. Zinc is commonly deficient in people with hypothyroidism, and it increases thyroid function.
Vitamins (vitamin D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, copper, vitamin A). Each of these nutrients helps regulate thyroid function, and can be obtained from a high-quality multivitamin or more specific nutritional supplements.
Stretching, meditation and vibrations will create blood flow near the voice box. By increasing the flow of blood to the thyroid causes it to work harder, making it more active.
Irish moss and kelp boost the metabolism and increase blood flow to the thyroid gland. Their high iodine content also supports the production of your essential thyroid hormones. Black walnuts are also high in iodine.
Heliotherapy (sunlight) can marginally improve immunity, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen to the blood, sex hormone production and stress levels.
Exercise increases blood flow to the thyroid. Surge training three times a week can increase thyroid function and decrease insulin resistance.
What You Can Do
To maintain a healthy thyroid, eat smart and seek out supplements that support the function of your thyroid.4 Smart choices in your lifestyle decrease your chances of suffering from the chronic fatigue, depression and weight gain that accompany thyroid disorder.5