Hypothyroidism otherwise known as underactive or ‘sluggish’ thyroid is a common problem with many of my clients so I thought it would be a good idea to share with you the Body Ecology approach.
So please read on if this concerns you already, or you may even just discover you have the symptoms described below and be prompted for a check-up.
Let’s start with a quick definition of the thyroid gland.
It’s a butterfly-shaped gland, which sits at the base of our neck just below our Adam’s apple.
It’s our ‘energy’ gland and keeps all of our systems going – digestion, circulation, immune, hormone and even emotional!
And it does this by producing a hormone called T4 which we then cleverly convert into an ‘active’ hormone called T3 - so we can then use our food and convert it into energy. We can do this conversion with the minerals iodine, selenium, zinc and the amino acid tyrosine.
What a vital gland! Needless to say if this gland goes ‘under’ our body will do the same.
And unfortunately there are a number of common negative factors which can upset our thyroid gland - environmental toxins, poor immunity, malabsorption and other hormonal imbalances are just a few.
A really big negative trigger for our thyroid gland is… you guessed it.. stress!
Stress can upset our thyroid gland in complicated and profound ways. And the effects of stress on our thyroid can be long-lasting and hinder our ability to cope or recover from trauma.
So when our precious thyroid gland is upset it can go hypo (underactive) or hyper (overactive) or in some cases both!
In this article we are looking at the underactive or ‘hypo’ thyroid gland – commonly known as Hypothyroidism. An extreme case is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Disease. When we have hypothyroidism our good old thyroid gland slows right down and doesn’t give our body enough of the essential hormone
Symptoms of a tired thyroid gland may include:
- Slow metabolism (weight gain)
- Fluid retention
- Reduced immunity
- Recurring Infections
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- A slow pulse, poor circulation, feeling cold
We can also just feel sluggish! Blah!
These symptoms can also really creep up around menopause! And we may just put it down to getting older, so it is worth having a thyroid test with the GP if the above symptoms are present.
To diagnose hypothyroidism a GP tests our blood for levels of T4 hormone and the one we convert from T4 - the ‘T3’ hormone. And without getting too technical there’s an important third test for levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. TSH levels are also a good indicator of thyroid imbalance – if this level is high it could indicate that it’s overworking to compensate for our thyroid gland.
If the above tests indicate an imbalance, your GP will most likely prescribe a synthetic version of the hormone to compensate for the shortfall.
These tests are also invaluable to prevent slight hypothyroidism from blowing out to more serious stuff where medication is required – and this is where preventative health shines.
Holistic GPs, Naturopaths or Nutritionists can step in here. If they can see from our tests our levels are slightly low they can recommend a comprehensive protocol of foods and supplements to stimulate thyroxin production and in some cases, even prevent the need for thyroid medication. Generally the minerals iodine, selenium, zinc, amino acid tyrosine, liver-supporting herbs, vitamin B complex and homeopathics may be prescribed, to balance the sluggish thyroid.
Note: (The above protocol is only for those who definitely do not have an autoimmune form of hypothyroidism Hashimotos. A different protocol is needed for Hashimotos. Always consult with your GP)
So now I can share the Body Ecology Diet’s answer to a sluggish thyroid gland.
Once again, I always ascertain my patient definitely does not have the autoimmune version Hashimotos as I would undertake a different protocol.
So generally in our diet, the thyroid gland responds to a nutrient dense, well combined range of foods. Sometimes I find clients who are under-eating, or strictly dieting with unrealistic weight loss goals, over-training or even those who are simply too busy to eat are really stressing their thyroid gland.
Our thyroid gland needs plenty of well-combined, well-balanced nutrient-rich foods to work well. To give the thyroid gland a kick-start I particularly recommend a balance of iodine-rich foods from ocean plants such as dulse, kombu, nori, agar, arame, hijike and wakame. There are so many wonderful, tasty ways to prepare these fantastic ocean plants – they make a great addition to our diet and combine well with gluten free grain-like seeds, starches and animal protein. And if you are following the Body Ecology Diet these ocean plants are so versatile for food combining!
For convenience and a real boost I recommend a food product we have at Your Digestion called Ocean Plant Extract. It’s in capsule form and features a potent fully digestible array of minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese selenium and iodine. Selenium, zinc and iodine are vital minerals to convert hormone T4 to the ‘active’ version T3 as I mentioned earlier.
Ocean Plant Extract is sourced from a wild ocean vegetable off the coast of Tasmania. And due to low-temperature processing – the nutrients are still there in abundance for you to absorb.
A fantastic companion to the Ocean Plant Extract is another food product available at Your Digestion called Livamend. I love to recommend this (also in a convenient capsule), as it features liver-cleansing and liver-protecting herbs such as Globe Artichoke and St Mary’s Thistle. Livamend helps cleanse our blood and tissues of toxins and allows our liver to do its job – to transport important hormones around our bloodstream. In this case it’s to help our body transport the important thyroid hormone and thyroid stimulating hormone.
And thirdly, to ensure we are absorbing the vital nutrients and minerals from our foods, I love to recommend our wonderful fermented probiotic drinks! What an easy and incredibly effective way to help balance our good bacteria or biome as we call it now. By boosting our gut and digestive tract with the good biome we are able to efficiently break down and absorb the nutritious food we eat, thereby nourishing our thyroid gland. They also support the thyroid by cleansing the liver.
Remember it takes good guts to gain great health!