How to Care for Your Thyroid
The thyroid is an important part of the endocrine system. More people than ever have thyroid problems, but many people don’t know it.
The thyroid gland is nestled into the front of our necks. It works closely with the pituitary and hypothalamus in the brain to regulate every single organ in our bodies.
While people may discover that their thyroid glands aren’t working in top condition by having a blood test, there are other indicators that your thyroid may need a little extra attention.
The thyroid produces thyroid hormone, called T3 or Triiodothyronine, that regulates our metabolism, energy levels, and sleep cycles. T3 also regulates our heart rate, blood pressure, and even our neurological functioning. If you have any of the following symptoms, it could mean that your thyroid hormones are not balanced:
- Fatigue even after a full night’s rest
- Memory loss
- Cloudy thinking
- Dry skin
- Problems with your weight (gain or loss)
- Hair loss
- A growth delay (in children)
- Feeling excessively cold
- Slower than normal heart rate
- Autoimmune disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Allopathic Cures for a ‘Broken’ Thyroid
Allopathic medicine offers hormone replacement therapy, radioactive therapy treatments, partial or complete removal of the thyroid via surgery, or iodine supplementation to help “cure” a broken thyroid, however, many of these cures do not address the underlying condition which may be adrenal fatigue, an overall hormonal imbalance, chronic inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, and more.
Moreover, if the thyroid is simply removed via surgery, there is still a large possibility that other endocrine glands will fail to function properly, thereby failing to restore health.
Natural Remedies for Thyroid Health
There are many alternatives to allopathic medicine’s “cures” for thyroid dysfunction. These methods do not require invasive and expensive surgery, nor do they chemically alter the delicate balance of hormones in the body without taking the whole organism into account.
From a functional medicine or natural approach, the thyroid is part of a system of organs, and must be healed in conjunction with the other organs to restore hormonal balance, and physical vitality.
Let’s start with some of the easiest ways to address thyroid health.
To safely care for your thyroid disease, you can turn to some powerful herbal remedies. Here are some commonly used herbal remedies that have successfully restored hormonal health, including the health of the thyroid gland:
Ashwagandha – This herb is an adaptogen. That means it adapts to your body’s needs and provides healing in the way that you need it. Ashwagandha is named for the “strength of a stallion,” and has been used in Ayurveda for centuries to restore health to the adrenals and thyroid gland.
These endocrine glands are often under constant assault in the modern world due to our incredible levels of stress. Scientists don’t know exactly how adaptogens like Ashwagandha work, but they have been proven in countless scientific studies.
Ashwaghanda is simply amazing in that it can help both hyper and hypo thyroidism. It works for both people who have a sluggish thyroid gland, is in the case of Hashimoto’s disease, and helps to calm an overactive thyroid in those who have Grave’s disease.
Holy Basil – Another adaptogen, Holy Basil has been used for centuries for its numerous healing benefits. This herb reduces cortisol levels (one of the stress hormones) and aids those who suffer from adrenal fatigue, anxiety, and hypothyroidism.
Rhodiola – This herb, another adaptogen, has been proven to be effective at curing short-term hypothyroidism. Rhodiola is also beneficial for decreasing depression, improving work performance, and generally adapting to support the body in handling stress.
Ginseng – Panax Ginseng has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine for more than 3000 years. It is known for reducing depression, helping the body deal with stress, and acting as an immune system modulator. It helps boost the production of killer T cells and may help those who suffer from thyroid diseases due to auto-immune disorders.
Licorice Root – This herb has long been used as a curative for digestive disorders, but it may also help with thyroid health. It has medicinal effects which include helping us deal with stress, reducing incidence of depression, and lowers fatigue that can be caused be adrenal overuse, thereby leading to thyroid conditions.
Licorice root seems to work primarily by supporting the adrenal glands, which work closely with the thyroid to help mitigate the effects of stress.
Dietary Supplementation for a Healthy Thyroid
Additional natural solutions for thyroid health include dietary changes and nutritional support.
Iodine – Our bodies need iodine if we are to have a correctly functioning thyroid. Iodine deficiency is the cause of many thyroid conditions; however, it must be in balance with selenium, as the two minerals work synergistically to keep the thyroid gland healthy.
According to the American Thyroid Association 40% of the world eats an iodine-deficient diet. To get your iodine from healthy, organic, vegetarian sources try eating:
- Sea vegetables like kelp, arame, wakame, kombu, hiziki, and more
- Organic yogurt
- Organic strawberries
- Organic potatoes
- Organic cheese
- Certain whole-grains
- Legumes, beans
- Nuts and seeds
Selenium – One of the critical nutrients needed for thyroid health is selenium. Selenium protects the thyroid gland itself, but it may also help to convert T4 hormone to T3.
Moreover, thyroid hormone metabolism is impaired without selenium because iodine-based enzymes, called iodothyronine deiodinases, cannot be synthesized.
We don’t produce selenium in our bodies, so we must get it from the foods we eat. Vegetarian food sources that are high in selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Shitake mushrooms
- Chia seeds
- Lima or pinto beans
- Seeds like sunflower, sesame or flax
- Brown rice
- Broccoli, cabbage and spinach
Addressing Environmental Toxins for Thyroid Health
There are thousands of environmental toxins that act as endocrine destabilizing elements. The thyroid is particularly sensitive to toxins in our food, air, water, and soil. Most of these toxins come from industrial waste, but you’d be surprised how many are in every-day items. Some of the biggest thyroid-harming chemicals are:
Perchlorates – These toxins are a byproduct of the manufacture of jet and rocket fuels, fireworks, and air bags found in your car. Percholate prevents the creation of thyroid hormones in the body.
PCBs – Also known for their longer name, polychlorinated biphenynls, this type of toxin is found in plastic products, but also cookware. Though it was banned in the 1970s on the US, and earlier in the UK, you can still find them in waterways throughout both countries. They affect liver enzymes that affect how the thyroid functions. PCBs also cause an increase in thyroid hormones – not a good thing if you have an overactive thyroid gland.
Dioxins – more commonly known for their use in the herbicide Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War, dioxin is still used today though it causes absolute havoc on the nervous system, and endocrine system.
Pesticides and Herbicides like Glyphosate – there are hundreds of pesticides and herbicides that affect how the endocrine system and thyroid functions, but glyphosate – the main ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling weed killer, Round Up is linked with endocrine disruption.
Inflammation, Gut Health, and the Thyroid Gland
The aforementioned environmental toxins, stress, along with a lack of exercise, and a poor diet all lead to chronic inflammation. This is when the body fails to eliminate whatever was causing its initial immune response – inflammation – and starts, instead, to attack its own healthy cells.
This can affect gut health, which in turn affects endocrine functioning and the health of the thyroid. Certain auto-immune diseases which result from chronic inflammation are linked directly to compromised thyroid health.
Reducing Stress for thyroid Health
There is a silent killer in the world, and it causes a malfunctioning of the thyroid and adrenal glands. It’s stress!
Scientific research has shown that inflammatory cytokines IL-1 beta, IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which are released during the stress response, down-regulate the HPA axis and reduce levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
Chronic stress also affects the adrenal glands, causing even more stress on the thyroid, and eventually causing adrenal fatigue and thyroid failure.
The adrenals sit on top pf the kidneys. They release hormones like cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones all regulate the stress response. Once the stress-response is altered, the body starts to think it needs to be on high alert constantly, and will pump out stress hormones all the time, effectively “blowing out” the adrenals like old tires on a car.
You can begin to see why finding ways to reduce stress are vital to protecting the thyroid and your overall hormonal balance.
Try meditation, seeing a funny movie, spending time with friends, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or even delegating some of your to-do list so that you can find time to relax and recuperate. Your thyroid gland will thank you for it!
Stress, diet, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental toxins all play a role in our thyroid’s health. By eating better, taking powerful adaptogenic herbs, reducing stress, and lowering chronic inflammation, we can restore the thyroid gland, as well as the whole endocrine system to its optimal functioning.