The Thyroid is an Extremely Important Endocrine Gland in our Body
It is responsible for producing hormones which regulate our metabolism, stimulates growth hormone, as well as regulation of nervous tissue development. When the thyroid hormone is diminished, common symptoms are fatigue, depression, brittle hair and nails, thin skin, and a slow metabolism which can lead to weight gain. Many people are hypothyroid, and it is certainly a worthwhile lab test to have done if you suspect you may have an under functioning thyroid. There are many things that can affect thyroid health, including nutrients such as iodine, selenium, copper, and vitamin A. Though nutrition is crucial for a healthy body, there are some deeper issues that are often affecting thyroid health, which make an even bigger impact when addressed adequately.
Stress is probably the number 1 influencer of thyroid function, if, for no other reason than its ubiquity in our society, and most people don’t handle it very well. In fact, those who “think” they’re handling their stress well, often are poorer at it. If you’re in denial about your stress, it’s still affecting you. The main stress hormone, cortisol, actually hinders the conversion of thyroid hormone into its active form, leaving you with a functionally low thyroid level. Stress also lowers your immune function, and depletes your body of vitality, leaving you feeling crummy for a whole host of reasons.
The first thing necessary to lowering stress is admitting that you have it. An awareness that you have stress will allow you to discover why you’re having it, and what types of approaches to take to work with it – movement, meditation, therapy, sleep, etc.
2. Other Hormones
All our hormones are intertwined. It is very possible that if you are low thyroid then other hormones may be out of balance as well – testosterone, estrogen, insulin. And all of these hormones are also affected by STRESS, environmental toxins and nutritional status.
Making an appointment to see a naturopath, where certain lab tests can be run to assess hormone levels may be an appropriate first step. If you’ve already been diagnosed with hypothyroid, but are still having symptoms, it may be worth looking into.
3. Toxins and Artificial Sweeteners
Toxins such as pesticides, plasticizers, heavy metals, and even artificial sweeteners can all affect thyroid function.
Detoxifying your life will not only benefit your thyroid, but many other aspects of your life, including sleep, mental clarity, and digestion. And, YES, they are all related.
4. Microbiome Problems
Much research is being conducted on the connection between the bacterial flora of our digestive tract and health and disease. It is likely that microbiome does influence thyroid function, especially since up to 20% of thyroid hormone becomes active in the gut. The most common reason why people develop problems with their microbiome is antibiotics.
If you have been on antibiotics it is generally accepted, and supported by naturopathic physicians, to take probiotics for a certain time period to inoculate the gut with healthy bacteria.
There is some supporting evidence that gluten may predispose individuals to autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s). Gluten sensitivity is also very common in the United States due to genetically modified crops, and general gut inflammation from such a high rate of sugar consumption.
There’s a connection between an increased rate of autoimmune thyroid conditions and individuals who are genetically susceptible when they are smokers.
Any way you cut it, smoking isn’t good for you. If you’re worried about your thyroid health, and you’re a smoker, find some support for quitting:)
Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.