Functional approach to thyroid health
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located on the front of your neck. It affects almost every cell in your body. An underactive thyroid would lead to a slowed down metabolism, weight gain, infertility, fatigue, brain fog, cold limbs, depression and high cholesterol, while an overactive thyroid would fire up your metabolism and lead to weight loss, anxiety, insomnia, shakiness and faster heart beat.
From a functional medicine perspective, to effectively address a thyroid issue, you need to look at the body as a whole and find the root cause of the problem, which leads to the following:
The adrenal glands:
When you’re under stress, the hypothalamus, located in the brain, sends a signal to the pituitary gland to release cortisol. Once cortisol enters your bloodstream, the fight or flight mode gets turned on and other functions that your body deem not important in this stressful situation such as digestion, detoxification and immune function slow down.
Both, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which happen to be responsible for regulating the thyroid hormones as well, will also slow down the release of your thyroid hormones.
To exit the fight or flight mode and return back to normal levels of cortisol, your body needs 24 to 48 hours. This means that being under stress and constantly having high amounts of cortisol in your blood will suppress your thyroid function.
- Adaptogens such as Rhodiola and Panax (American ginseng), B vitamins, cod liver oil, magnesium and vitamin C can all help support your adrenals. Reducing your caffeine intake and diffusing some lavender oil can turn out very helpful!
Extra amounts of estrogen in your body increase the level of the thyroid-binding globulin (TBG), a protein that allows your thyroid hormones to travel through your bloodstream. When thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) are attached to TBG they remain inactive, so T4 can’t be converted to Free T3 and your thyroid can’t function properly.
- Avoid using plastics (even the BPA free ones), chemical-based household cleaners, fragranced body lotions and moisturizers, as well as pesticides laden food as they all create synthetic estrogen within the body.
Without adequate amounts of iodine, your thyroid won’t be able to produce sufficient amounts of the hormones T4 and T3. Furthermore, heavy metals and other toxic compounds such as mercury, bromide, fluoride, chloride and nitrates are chemically very similar to iodine and their presence can block its absorption.
- These can be found in baked goods, cosmetics, amalgam fillings, processed foods and toothpastes.
Twenty percent of the T4 to T3 conversion takes place in the gut. Stress, lack of sleep, the use of antibiotics, antibacterial healthcare products, pesticides in foods and antacids kill the good bacteria in the gut and create inflammation, which hampers the T4 to T3 conversion process. These are some tips maintain a healthy gut:
- Remove all food allergens such as gluten, dairy, and eggs, as well as all other irritants.
- Repair the mucosal membrane. Cow colostrum, vitamin A, zinc and vitamin D have all been scientifically proven to help heal the gut.
- Replace your digestive enzymes and stomach acid. Eat a nutrient dense diet that includes healthy fats (such as butter, ghee and coconut oil), vegetables, fruits and clean protein.
- Re-inoculate your gut with a good brand of probiotics. Good bacteria account for around 70% of your immune system.
Have you ever suffered from a thyroid issue? We'd love to here from you!