Thyroid issues are all too common. Affecting mostly women, low (hypo) or high (hyper) thyroid can have many, many unwanted effects.
Now, before I go into the symptoms of thyroid problems, I have to make a disclaimer: Just because you have some of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have a thyroid problem. So, be careful not to self-diagnose too aggressively.
At the same time, if you see a pattern and want to double check by getting some bloodwork done with your physician, please do so. It’s always better to catch these problems early.
The thyroid gland secretes hormones that are critical to metabolic force and stability. Essentially, these hormones help cells use and make proteins, generate heat, and stay active. In Chinese Medical terms, thyroid hormone belongs to the “Yang” or “Fire” aspect of the body.
When thyroid hormones are out of balance, either too low (hypo) or too high (hyper), the result is metabolic deficiency or excess, respectively.
Low or hypo-thyroid will lead to feeling cold, tired, and bloated. Hair may start falling out at faster rates than normal. And, skin will become dry and brittle. All of these are end results of reduced metabolic force leading to lower temperature, less energy, and less tissue replenishment.
High or hyper-thyroid is the opposite. Energy increases, heart rate can become unstable and excessive. Insomnia can be an issue. And, the body overheats and starts breaking down healthy tissue, leading to rapid weight loss and muscle wasting.
So, I just described two pathological states: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. These are states of disease.
But, like anything else, there’s a spectrum, with many gray areas, where you aren’t sick, but you just don’t feel well. And, the thyroid can be part of this equation.
The more common issue I see in clinic is subclinical hypothyroidism, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.
If you feel tired a lot, or find that you have difficulty losing weight, thyroid is often part of the picture. But, because you’re not sick, if you get your blood levels checked, the levels may be within normal limits.
Nevertheless, you can tell your metabolism isn’t functioning optimally. You feel sluggish, your hair and skin have lost their luster. Maybe you tend to easily retain water. And, it may be extremely difficult to wake up in the morning.
These are symptoms telling you that your body’s fire is not burning efficiently. And, there are simple things you can do to “stoke the flames” and keep them burning brightly and consistently.
Keep in mind, if you do have thyroid disease and are on medication or need medication, it is important to discuss any changes to your medication with your doctor.
Even if you are taking thyroid medication, the tips I present here will still be immensely helpful and MAY lead to reduced need for medication. Again, you must discuss any changes to your thyroid medication with your physician.
(As an aside, I have always been amazed at the Chinese Medical lexicon describing what we today call “hypothyroid”… Its ability to detect and correct subtle thyroid issues way before they become disease states is unparalleled and unbelievably effective. Pretty much everything you’re about to read is Chinese Medicine translated into biomedical, Western terminology.)
Eat foods rich in zinc and selenium
Zinc and selenium are trace minerals that are extremely important for healthy thyroid function. Processed, boxed foods and fast foods are woefully deficient in these essential minerals.
For selenium, nothing beats Brazil nuts. Tuna, chicken, and beef are also good sources, as are sunflower seeds and mushrooms.
For zinc, shellfish is king. Beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, and cashews are also great sources.
Get outside more
Yes, being outside is GOOD FOR YOU — particularly your Vitamin D levels. Thyroid function depends heavily on Vitamin D, as does proper immune function and about, oh, 10,000 other essential bodily processes.
But, here’s the key… Autoimmunity to thyroid tissue and/or enzymes is the most prevalent cause of thyroid disease is autoimmune. Keeping your Vitamin D levels at a healthy level reduces the risk of developing autoimmune conditions because of it’s immuno-supportive properties.
Your body easily makes Vitamin D in response to sun exposure. This is THE MOST POTENT form of Vitamin D — your bioidentical version, in essence. And, contrary to what conventional wisdom holds, sunlight is amazingly beneficial for your health on every level, including mood, immune function, hormonal balance.
Sun exposure only becomes a problem when you over do it and your skin doesn’t have time to adapt. That’s called sunburn. When your skin DOES have time to adapt, it’s called suntan. Even if you are fair-skinned, daily, moderate sun exposure is fine. You may need to wear sunscreen more than your mediterranean friends, but you still receive amazing benefits from being outdoors.
Remember earlier when I mentioned thyroid as the body’s “fire” hormone? Well, being outside in the sun, the primary “fire” of our solar system, helps your internal fire. Yes, it really is that simple.
Reduce your caffeine use and rest more
As biological medicine evolves into a more “functional” model of the body — called “functional medicine” — they are starting to realize connections between body systems that Chinese Medicine has known for centuries.
One of these, is the connection between the adrenals — your stress glands — and thyroid.
When your adrenals become tired, they emit a substance called “Reverse T3”, which essentially slows metabolism down. In essence, they try to make you tired. They need the rest, and by slowing down metabolism, they’re trying to get it.
Unfortunately, most people respond to these early signs of adrenal fatigue — brain fog, afternoon tiredness, never feeling fully rested — by increasing their caffeine consumption.
The caffeine does provide a brief boost, but the increased alertness comes at the expense of the adrenal glands, which the caffeine stimulates. Working harder and harder, the adrenal glands become more and more depleted as more and more caffeine is consumed on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Eventually, this bleeds over into thyroid function. In fact, in my opinion — and biomedical research is starting to support this — adrenal fatigue is one of the primary causes of autoimmune disease. This is because unstable levels of cortisol — an important immunomodulator — confuse the immune system.
Imagine you’re a firefighter, and the alarm goes off. You rush out to where you think the fire is, but then the alarm stops, and you are called back. Soon enough another alarm sounds, you rush out again, but you are called back again in short order. If this happens over and over, you’re going to be very, very depleted and stressed.
This is what happens to immune cells under unstable cortisol levels generated by a tired, failing adrenal system.
So, reduce your caffeine, rest when you’re tired, and you’ll be doing a world of good for your whole body, particularly your adrenals and their cousin, the thyroid.
Simply put, thyroid issues are more common than we think. It’s not always about obvious, measurable thyroid disease. It can be much more subtle than that. But EVEN IF you have true thyroid disease, even if you’re taking medication, the recommendations in this article will only help.
I would love to hear your comments and questions below!