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Recognizing and Treating Thyroid Issues

Posted by Smarter Nutrition on

"Symptoms of thyroid disease can easily be mistaken for or overlap symptoms of another issue. This is why thyroid issues are easy to overlook."

Today Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist is talking about thyroid health, in the first of her 3-part series on the thyroid.

Thyroid conditions are very common, and left untreated can have a major impact on your metabolism, weight, and so many other aspects of health. One in five women and one in ten men are known to be affected, yet it’s believed that 50% of people with thyroid disease go undiagnosed.

Today we'll talk about what your thyroid gland does, common signs and symptoms that indicate a thyroid issue, why thyroid conditions are difficult to diagnose, and some of Dr. Nancy's top health tips to ensure your thyroid is healthy and functioning properly.

Video Highlights

    • 00:10: Thyroid tonic recipe
    • 04:42: What is the thyroid?
    • 05:52: Main hormones produced by thyroid glands
    • 07:24: Possible signs of a thyroid issue
    • 10:57: Dietary factors and lifestyle and environmental factors affect thyroid health
    • 12:07: The main role of thyroid hormones
    • 12:32: Signs and symptoms of a possible thyroid issue
    • 14:10: Why thyroid issues are hard to spot
    • 15:47: Tips to support a healthy thyroid 
    • 15:55: Lose excess weight
    • 16:44: Maintain healthy iodine levels
    • 18:05: Supplement with zinc and iron
    • 18:52: Cut down on intake of harmful inflammatory fats
    • 20:48: Manage stress levels
    • 23:45: Summary
    • 26:26: Answers to questions about traditional thyroid treatments

What is the Thyroid Gland?

They say that big problems sometimes come in small packages. This is certainly true when it comes to your thyroid gland and your health! We hear a lot about the thyroid and how important it is to our health. But what exactly is it?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits low on the front portion of your neck. The thyroid lies below your larynx, and along the front of your trachea—or your wind pipe. The thyroid has two side lobes, and it's connected by a bridge in the middle.

When the thyroid is its normal size, you can't feel it. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, and secretes several important hormones, known collectively as thyroid hormones

The main hormones produced by the thyroid are called triiodothyronine, also known as T3, and thyroxine, known as T4. Your thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods that you eat to make these two hormones, and it's very important that the levels of T3 and T4 are never too high or too low. When the T3 and T4 hormone levels become too high or too low, your body develops either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. We'll cover both of these conditions in the next two parts of our thyroid series.

Thyroid hormones act throughout the body, influencing many things including metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature. They are an essential component to the function of your heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and even skin. Your thyroid regulates these vital functions, so if they are out of whack, you may want to find out if a thyroid issue is behind it.

Some things that could get off kilter or fluctuate, signaling a possible thyroid issue include:

  • Breathing rate
  • Heart rate
  • Central and peripheral nervous system functions
  • Body weight
  • Muscle strength
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Body temperature
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Metabolism.

The thyroid gland helps regulate all of these things, so you see how important a healthy, properly functioning thyroid is!

As we said earlier, it's believed that 50% of thyroid diseases go undiagnosed. Many who are diagnosed are prescribed medications, which they must take sometimes for the rest of their lives.

Thyroid conditions also contribute to inflammation in the body, and the inflammation can trigger additional heart problems, including difficulty metabolizing sugar you eat in the blood. If you've followed us for any amount of time, you know we are constantly encouraging people to do everything possible to reduce the inflammatory load on the body. As we always say:

Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = A Healthier You!

One thing that you can do to daily reduce the inflammatory load on your body and promote whole-body wellness, is to supplement with Smarter Curcumin

Many dietary factors, along with lifestyle and environmental factors also affect the health of your thyroid, so managing these factors can help optimize thyroid health. 

The main role of the thyroid hormones is to stimulate metabolism. It's a process that affects almost every function of the body! This is why your thyroid is so important, and why it can cause so many symptoms and health issues. So how do you know if your thyroid is functioning properly?

Signs and Symptoms Indicating a Possible Thyroid Issue

  • Weight Loss & Weight Gain
  • Swelling in your neck
  • Increased or decreased heart rate
  • Fatigue/lack of energy
  • Irritability
  • Extreme mood shifts
  • Constipation 
  • Dry skin, brittle nails, and hair loss

It's important to point out that the symptoms of thyroid disease can easily be mistaken for or overlap symptoms of another issue. This is why thyroid issues are easy to overlook. For example, weight gain or loss, fatigue, and irritability are all pretty common symptoms of other issues. Your doctor can test your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which can help diagnose potential thyroid issues. But if thyroid issues aren't even suspected, your doctor might not perform this test. 

Thyroid issues are also commonly genetic and passed down through your family history. We certainly know more about thyroid issues today than we did 20 years ago, but if thyroid conditions or other symptoms are common in your family, make sure to point this out to your doctor.

While it is very important to involve your doctor or healthcare provider in the conversation about thyroid health, there are also several things you can do on your own to support a healthy thyroid.

Simple Tips for a Healthy Thyroid

Lose Excess Weight

Studies show that women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40 have lower thyroid function. Research hasn't determined yet whether being overweight causes thyroid issues or thyroid issues cause you to be overweight. But we do know there is a correlation between the two. So you want to do your best to maintain a healthy weight: exercise on a consistent basis, and eat healthy foods.

Maintain Healthy Iodine Levels

Iodine is a mineral found in some foods, and is essential for the body to produce thyroid hormones. In fact, iodine deficiency has been linked to a number of thyroid disorders. Here in the U.S. we have been adding iodine to table salt (iodized salt) since the 1920s as a way to address thyroid conditions. The problem is, table salt and sodium are linked to many other health issues, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Natural sea salt does not contain iodine. You need between 150 and 220 micrograms (mcg) of iodine per day, which you can get from seafood, like tuna, or sea vegetables like seaweed, sea kelp, and nori.

Supplement with zinc and iron

Iron and zinc won't prevent thyroid issues, but they have been shown to help convert the thyroid hormone T4 to the more active thyroid hormone, T3, which is required for an efficient metabolic process. Like iodine, you can look for iron and zinc from natural food sources like lentils, chickpeas, cashews, almonds, and hemp seeds.

Cut down intake of inflammatory fats

Certain dietary fats contribute to inflammation, which not only contributes to thyroid issues, but also to heart disease and obesity, and a host of other health issues. The key here is to reduce the amount of saturated fats that you eat. Most saturated fats come from animal products such as meat, cheeses, and trans fats found in fried foods. Instead, choose healthy fats that help reduce your LDL (the bad kind of) cholesterol. These include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from olive oil, avocados, chia seeds, and nuts. All of these contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can also be found in certain kinds of fish. 

Manage your stress levels

This is one of the pillars of health, and you cannot ignore it! Managing stress levels is essential for overall health and wellness. Researchers believe that stress also intensifies thyroid issues, so make sure you're practicing conscious breathing, gentle yoga, taking a walk, or other relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Make this a priority, even if it's only for a few minutes per day. Managing stress calms your central nervous system and promotes optimal mental and physical health.

The Thyroid Tonic

Ingredients:

  • Swiss Chard
  • 1/2 beet
  • A few small carrots
  • A handful of cilantro
  • A small handful of parsley
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Ginger
  • 1/4 - 1/2 apple

Add all ingredients to a juicer for an incredible thyroid-friendly elixir! This juice is packed with the nutrition you need to keep your thyroid healthy, helping to reduce inflammation and detoxify the body. It's also loaded with key vitamins and minerals. 

Summary

Our thyroid is very complex. When thyroid hormone levels become too low or too high, you might experience major weight fluctuations, increased or decreased heart rate, fatigue, tiredness, and increased anxiety. We also learned that the symptoms associated with thyroid conditions are common, and can overlap symptoms of other conditions, making thyroid issues easy to overlook. Remember that your doctor can test your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone levels as a way to look for early signs of thyroid issues. There are also a number of things you can do to keep your thyroid happy and healthy, including: exercising, eating healthy, getting adequate amounts of iodine, iron, and zinc, eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, and taking time to manage your stress every day. 

Tune in for Parts 2 and 3 of this series to take a closer look at hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism. 


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