January is thyroid awareness month, and so I wanted to share a bit about why the thyroid gland is so essential to our overall health, and what you can do to make sure your thyroid stays healthy! Under-functioning thyroids are becoming more and more common, and there are many lifestyle + dietary changes that can greatly support thyroid balance. Read below for more information on this all-important gland!
THE THYROID GLAND
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly shaped gland, located at the base of the neck below the adams apple. This glad is tiny, but very powerful and important! An easy way to think about the role of the thyroid is the analogy of a car engine. Just like the engine of a car, the thyroid sets the pace at how our bodies operate, and at what speed. The thyroid receives its direction from the pituitary gland in the brain (otherwise called the "master gland") which secretes the hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). This sends a signal to the thyroid to secrete thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). Without getting into too many details, these hormones are essential for regulating the following processes:
- heart rate
- central + peripheral nervous systems
- body weight
- muscle strength
- body temperature
- menstrual cycles
- cholesterol levels
- and more!
Problems can arise from the thyroid gland for MANY different reasons. A thyroid "condition" can, and many times is, caused by dysfunction outside the thyroid gland itself. Some people have dysfunction in the pituitary gland, leading to low function of the thyroid, or even in the liver where thyroid hormone is converted to it's active form. Thyroid + hormone balance can be a tricky area to navigate alone, which leads to the importance of seeing a holistic physician to help you navigate your thyroid and hormone balance to find the root cause of dysfunction.
An overactive thyroid causes an excessive amount of thyroid hormone. This is most commonly caused by an autoimmune condition known as Grave's Disease. Additionally, a goiter or nodule(s) on the thyroid or a problem with the immune system are causes for hyperthyroidism. Some symptoms experienced are weight loss, hand tremors, increased frequency of bowel movements, anxiety, rapid heart beat, trouble sleeping and skin dryness. While we at Be Optimal treat people experiencing an overactive thyroid, we more commonly see hypothyroidism.
Low functioning thyroid (or hypothyroidism) is a very common issue that many of my patients face. Some experience this from an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. However it presents, at Be Optimal we want to find the root cause and work to balance the whole system + body. Wondering if your thyroid is running in tip-top shape? Check out these common symptoms of low thyroid function:
- Excessive fatigue, especially in the morning
- Cold extremities (hands and feet)
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Memory loss or brain fog
- Excessively dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Neck discomfort or swelling in the neck
- Feeling "low" or depressed
- Puffy face
HOW TO HELP THE THYROID HEAL, NATURALLY
There are many safe and effective ways to help the thyroid gland be in better balance. See below for my top 5 ways to boost thyroid function, naturally!
1. Get Adjusted!
Chiropractic care helps our body function at it’s best - including our glands! The nervous system controls every function of our body and helps us function in a balanced state.
2. Exercise Smarter, Not Harder
With patients dealing with hormonally based issues (often resulting from burn out) I recommend gentle, low-intensity workouts. Think your thyroid is underperforming? Opt for a gentle yoga class, walk outside, or light cardio session. Allow your body more rest to get back into balance.
3. Ditch the Carbs! (Especially gluten)
Carbohydrates not only cause inflammation to spike in the ENTIRE body (thyroid included), they also massively disrupt blood sugar. When blood sugar levels are up and down, so is our energy! Focus on fueling your body with whole foods such as: protein, vegetables, and healthy fats for longer energy reserves. Think gluten doesn’t negatively affect thyroid function, check out the articles below!
4. Say No to Soy
Soy is estrogenic in nature and can cause havoc with thyroid function and hormone balance. Always check any protein drinks, powders, and bars for hidden soy content! As a protein substitute opt for vegetable based protein, such as pea protein, instead.
5. Use Your Voice
Do you tend to hold your thoughts in and keep your opinions to yourself? Thyroid issues on an emotional level often correlate to a lack of speaking one’s truth and voicing their needs. Many, MANY times I find this correlation with my thyroid patients. Start speaking up about your needs and desires, and see how it shifts your symptoms!
I hope this article is helpful and helps you gain balanced thyroid function again! As always, it’s important to consult with a physician before beginning any specific recommendations and/or supplement regimens
Dr. Abby Kramer