In the U.S. nearly 5% of Americans are dealing with low thyroid function, with women 5-8 times more likely to develop hypothyroidism compared to men! Australia is following suit, as it generally does, with statistics showing that well over 1 million Australians may be living with an undiagnosed thyroid disorder.
I am seeing adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism more and more with clients these days, especially women. Bloody hormones!
As someone who has had, and is still battling Hypothyroidism, I can honestly say that changing lifestyle habits is so beneficial in the management of this condition.
I really notice that when my capacity to handle stress is challenged, the bad habits return and then my thyroid quietly tells me to pull my head in and look after myself again!
If you are in your later years of life, or you have an existing autoimmune condition like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or celiac disease, please read on, as you may be at a higher risk of a low functioning thyroid as well.
Our thyroid produces hormones that are crucial to the process of turning the nutrients we get from our food into the energy that our body uses to function, playing a major role in our metabolism.
Thyroid dysfunction has a flow on effect to nearly every other organ system in our body, including our cardiovascular system, digestion and immunity.
Some Symptoms might include:
Yep, its a list alright...
Life gets busy AND life is for living!!
If we can't enjoy simple pleasures in life, then what are we here for right?
But what if we are over-indulging in those guilty pleasures more and more, and they come in the guise of alcohol, baked goods, sugar laden treats and other processed foods like chips (my downfall), followed by late nights of binging your favourite shows.
Seriously, Why do we do this to ourselves? Stress? Escape? Addiction?
After years of dealing with adrenal fatigue and poor thyroid health, I honestly still partake in some of those rituals outlined above, but I have also finally cottoned on to the fact that this really might be self-sabotage rather than anything else that my body is actually craving. Going to bed early a few nights of the week left me feeling like superwoman! So, what did I do? I ran myself ragged again for the rest of the week with long work hours, late nights catching up with myself and…. repeat.
Like so many mums, that time when the kids go to bed is sacred. It is peaceful, quiet, and a time to steal moments in your own thoughts, a time to self-indulge or just have the space to think of nothing and escape into a trashy show!
You feel me?
The instances of these moments are fewer and farther between nowadays, and I feel all the better for it, better able to cope with life.
Poor diet and lifestyle choices, including lack of exercise can really impact the way our hormones behave as well as damaging our gut health. Genetics, stress and certain medications also play a role. These are ALL factors that affect our thyroid function.
If you suspect you have a low functioning thyroid, then it is important to seek the support of your doctor or trusted health practitioner. Maybe ask for the tests, not just the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) test, but a full thyroid profile. T4, T3 and the thyroid antibodies, which can determine if there is an autoimmune factor involved. This comes at a cost, but what is the cost to your health, right?
The “normal” range for TSH levels in your returned pathology test sits between 0.4–4.0 milliunits per liter (mU/l). Someone with TSH levels of 0.4 will most likely look and feel very different to someone coming in at a level of 4 or more. Something to ponder. That is why a full thyroid profile with antibodies will give you the bigger picture. My TSH levels were on the upper side of normal, but I was heading to autoimmune town. Just my personal experience.
So, what can we do to support our thyroid?
HYDRATE. Drinking clean, filtered water is best. Hydration on a cellular level supports improved digestion, improved mood and energy and lowers those sugar cravings! Did you know that sometimes those cravings will just go away with a nice drink of clean water. It could be you are just thirsty. DRINK! Most of us are dehydrated on the daily.
EAT WELL. Sustainably sourced happy food! Meat, eggs, poultry and fish… I am talking wild caught, pasture raised, grass fed here, these are not only a wonderful source of protein, but also have greater levels of omega 3 fatty acids essential for our thyroid and general hormone function. As do flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds, which are great added to smoothies and salads!
Coconut oil is another wonderful fat that provides medium-chain fatty acids to support metabolism and increased energy.
Edible seaweeds like wakame are a wonderful natural source of iodine, and foods high in probiotics like kefir, kombucha, fermented veggies and even coconut yoghurt are highly beneficial for our gut health. Brazil nuts are a rich source of selenium (although it depends on the mineral quality in the soil these days).
Eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, as well as high fibre foods supports your energy, blood sugar regulation and those darn cravings by keeping you fuller for longer. These foods also support the body to eliminate waste through the gastrointestinal tract and out your bum, which is exactly where it should go. Backed up? Constipation is on the list of symptoms.
STAY ACTIVE! Move your body regularly and also find time in your day to manage any stress that pops up, go for a walk, talk to a friend, meditate, read a great book. Find your calm.
What should we avoid for our thyroid health?
There are certain foods called Goitrogens, and when eaten in large amounts can impact thyroid function in those people who have a thyroid condition. Foods in the Brassica family of vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower in particular are ones to consider. Just be mindful to cook them, and don’t eat bucket loads of them!
TAP WATER, Stay away! Fluoride mucks up your hormones and chlorine can inhibit iodine absorption which is vital for the thyroid.
GLUTEN should be avoided as it is highly inflammatory and contributes to leaky gut, which fuels food intolerance, digestive upset and exacerbates the symptoms of autoimmune conditions. Many people unknowingly have a sensitivity to gluten. How do you feel after eating bread or pasta?? Tired? Moody? Farty?
SUGAR and processed refined flour products can cause hormonal imbalances through those blood sugar highs and crashes, impacting energy, weight, digestion and fueling the stress “fight or flight’ response.
DAIRY today is very different to how it used to be. It is highly processed, and many nutrients are largely destroyed during pasteurization and homogenization, with an end product that can trigger inflammation. If you love milk you could try A2 milk (organic) where only the A2 casein protein is present. The structure of A2 protein is said to be more comparable to human breast milk, as well as milk from goats and sheep, many say it is easier on the digestive system. In general though, dairy is a usual suspect for inflammation.
Nut milks these days are everywhere but just beware as canola oil, vegetable and sunflower oil are common ingredients and are highly processed and highly inflammatory.
Processed foods in general are difficult for the body to digest. Much of the manufactured foods these days contain chemical concoctions, preservatives and hydrogenated (trans) fats which our bodies do not recognise as foods.
I hope this helps you to understand how hormone dysregulation and a low functioning thyroid can really make us feel like crap.
I am a qualified Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner [FNTP], Restorative Wellness Practitioner [RWP] and PSYCH-K® Facilitator. My passion lies in holistic health, and coming at it from EVERY angle. Food, hydration, movement, stress, emotional, environment... and even through the subconscious.