Welcome to the wonderful world of thyroid issues
Many people with thyroid problems struggle with intense fatigue and feel unable to workout or lose weight. Sound like you? Read on!
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at front of your neck and sets your entire metabolic rate. Thus it controls your weight, whether you feel sluggish or energetic, mentally crisp or foggy, cheerful or blue, and is involved in the control of everything from your cholesterol to your female hormones.
Many women suffer from hypothyroidism and go untreated.
You’re more likely to develop hypothyroidism if:
- You’re a woman
- You’re over age 60
- You have a family history of thyroid disease
- You have another autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus
- You’ve been pregnant in the last six months
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, difficulty metabolizing carbohydrates and sugars, joint pain, depression, infertility or irregular periods, tightness in the throat, sensitivity to heat and cold, panic attacks, high cholesterol, memory loss, vision problems, dry skin and hair loss, and/or Impaired memory (“Brain fog.”)
Diagnosis for hypothyroidism is made by measuring blood levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Generally, if the TSH level is above normal, it means hypothyroidism. A low T4 level also indicates hypothyroidism.
When dealing with hypothyroidism there can be many things to consider
First and foremost, make sure you have a doctor who understands endocrinology. Your primary care doctor should be running a TSH, T4F, and T3F (minimum) to determine thyroid health and function. Many providers will only run a TSH. TSH alone can be misleading and not properly diagnose a thyroid issue. Be an advocate for yourself and your health care. ASK for those tests. Ask for an explanation of each test and the result as well. You can also technically be ‘in range’ but not feel 100%. Too often, when interpreting lab values, the doctor looks for normal rather than optimal.
Consider a TPO test as well. A TPO test will show antibodies in your system. Antibodies are an indicator of Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.
If labs show abnormal results, then test for deficiencies of selenium, iron, and zinc and make sure there is adequate dietary intake or supplementation if needed. (Talk to your doctor.) Fatigue can be a result of low levels.
Always take your medications as prescribed. Your medication is what replaces those low T3 hormones.
Diet helps immensely with fatigue and energy levels when you are hypothyroid. Adopting a diet rich in high-quality proteins and fats, with lots of fresh, seasonal, and organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and nutrient-dense booster foods is the shortest, straightest path to nutritional thyroid support. Increased protein is recommended since lowered thyroid function reduces the body’s ability to benefit fully from the protein foods eaten.
Limit caffeine (which can actually cause adrenal fatigue) and take a quality multivitamin. (I recommend New Chapter Every Woman’s One Daily.) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water is your friend.
The only time I ever recommend a gluten-free diet is with true celiac or Hashimoto’s. The gluten molecule is very similar to thyroid tissue and it is thought that the immune system identifies the thyroid gland as gluten and attacks it. Going gluten free can reduce fatigue and inflammation.
Sleep is important. If you are tired, nap! Get 7-9 hours per night. I know it’s hard, but it’s your health. Make it a priority.
I recommend following Aviva Romm, MD – She is a wonderfully trained Yale doctor who specializes in functional medicine and writes amazing pieces on thyroid health.
Holistic Approaches to Improving Your Thyroid Health (Thanks Kris Carr!)
Holistic approaches to treating thyroid issues are few and far between but there are some proactive things you can do to boost your overall thyroid health:
- De-stress through meditation, yoga, chamomile tea, more sleep, and/or exercise. Under times of stress, the hormone cortisol suppresses TSH production. Managing stress is one of the best ways to ensure your thyroid gland doesn’t slow down.
- Exercise! Low-intensity and regular aerobic exercise can stimulate the production of thyroid hormones.
- Get your nutrients. Selenium, iodine, and vitamins A, C, D, and E are all important for thyroid hormone production. Vitamin D is essential for thyroid hormone’s efficacy in your body’s cells. If your diet is lacking in any of these nutrients, consider supplements.
- Go easy on gluten. Like other foods that can cause inflammation, gluten is a sticky subject. You might find that gluten aggravates autoimmune thyroid issues, so it’s best to steer clear.
My story: I was diagnosed hypothyroid at age 20. I have been on levothyroxine for 6 years. Recently, I was re-diagnosed as Hashimoto’s. My thyroid antibodies are 900+ (normal range is < .9) Through healthy diet, medication, and supplementation I was able to increase my energy levels and lose the excess weight.
Don’t let that thyroid bring you down!
Your turn: If you’ve experienced thyroid health issues, please share what has helped you along the way!