Your thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck and is responsible for supporting all the functions in your body including your metabolism. Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with thyroid disease and most of them suffer from hypothyroidism which means there is not enough of the thyroid hormone being released to do its job. Women are affected more than men and in the past thirty years has become epidemic.
Those in the natural medicine world believe this epidemic of thyroid problems is due to nutritional deficiencies, toxins, chemicals and pollutants which are a part of our modern world. All of the above also contribute to obesity, diabetes and chronic illness but the symptoms are often overlooked or brushed off as part of a stressful life.
The first step in figuring out if you are having thyroid issues is to get hormone levels tested which includes testing your thyroid-stimulating hormone known as TSH. If it falls above the normal range, it indicates the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone and the brain is asking the pituitary gland to make more of the hormone. Unfortunately, knowing the TSH levels will not always tell the whole story as to what thyroid hormones are doing in the body.
A full thyroid test panel is critical to know not only the TSH levels, but the T4, T3 and reverse T3 levels and a natural medicine doctor who will really listen to your symptoms even if everything looks perfect on paper. Sometimes supporting the thyroid is necessary regardless of what the say in your test panel. Many doctors prescribe medications which are typically a synthetic bio-identical hormone which helps those dealing with low T4 levels but those dealing with low T3 do well with glandular supplements.
There are some lifestyle changes and natural remedies that will improve thyroid health:
1. KELP – because it is full of iodine which helps the thyroid function properly and consumption of this precious mineral has dropped dramatically over the years with people cutting back on salt and not eating enough fish. Make sure you know if your iodine levels are too low but supplementing with a good quality kelp or seaweed is great place to start. Another important reason to take kelp is because in the early 70's, iodine was replaced with bromine in flour products which prevented iodine from being absorbed by the body creating a deficiency.
2. Avoid vegetable oils – which are found in many citrus-flavored soft drinks and commercial-made breads which again block absorption of iodine in the body.
3. Buy organic fruits and vegetables- especially strawberries because they are covered with a pesticide called Methyl-bromide which can affect thyroid function. Wash them thoroughly or look for stores that offer good organic produce.
4. Minimize your exposure to Bromine which is often replaced for chlorine in swimming pools and hot tubs. Another compound of bromine is used as a flame retardant in cars, furniture, clothing and electronic equipment.
5. Eat WHOLE foods at every meal
6. Take time to de-stress the body – if you are under constant stress, the adrenal glands will produce stress hormones causing insomnia and adrenal fatigue. This can lead to thyroid malfunction as your cells can not absorb the thyroid hormone you do produce. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Listening to meditation CD's while falling asleep help to reduce stress in the body and make it easier to fall sleep naturally.
7. Selenium – is a mineral found in walnuts, Brazil nuts, tuna, turkey and cod. Deficiencies can lead to thyroid problems so make sure you get enough of this important mineral with supplementation.
8. Delve into Yoga – the positions done in Yoga focus on proper alignment of the body and can be very therapeutic and restorative of the entire body reducing pain and supporting the thyroid in the process.