"I think I'm losing my mind." -- is what I heard from a patient last week. She's not losing her mind, but something is definitely going haywire and all signs point to one thing: her thyroid. Until recently, the thyroid gland hasn't gotten much press time, but if healthcare had its own twitter it would be a #trendingtopic every damn day. So what's a thyroid? Why is it so important? Why can it make you feel INSANE when it gets wacky? Let us fill you in.
Do I have one, and where does it hang out?
Unless you've gone under the knife, your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the middle of your neck (think adam's apple region). It makes hormones responsible for our metabolism, sleep cycle, energy production, and temperature regulation. It also supports the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs to work as they should. So, it's kind of a big deal.
Ok, but a thyroid disorder is probably super rare, right? (Wrong.)
- 20 million Americans have a thyroid disorder
- Over 60% are undiagnosed
- Women are 5-8x more likely to be affected
- Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for more serious conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility
- Pregnant women with undiagnosed (or unreated) hypothyroidism have an increased risk of miscarriage, and preterm delivery.
- Most thyroid diseases are life-long conditions that can be managed if diagnosed.
How do I know if it's working? - PAY ATTENTION!
This is where we ask you to be *mindful* and aware of your body. When you're wrapped up in the "rat race" of life, you don’t take the time to pause and be aware of how you feel on a day-to-day basis. You work hard. You're pulled in several directions. So give yourself a few minutes to acknowledge how you feel every day. You don't have to full on meditate (even though it would be good for you, damn it), but maybe while you're waiting in line for coffee, sitting in traffic, or walking the dog. Take a few ticks to assess yourself. This is not the time to discount how you feel and blame it on your crazy busy life. Don't excuse your fatigue, exhaustion, sore muscles, achy backs, crazy cravings, or fuzzy memory. You're body is trying to tell you something, and you should probably listen.
Signs your Thyroid could be a little screwy:
- You're tired. Like a lot of the time.
- Sore muscles... and not because you started power lifting.
- You fall asleep exhausted but wake up in the middle of the night WIDE awake
- Constipation or diarrhea. (Yes, this affects your gut too...)
- Hot flashes and/or night sweats
- No amount of exercise actually helps you lose weight.
- You're bummed out or depressed
- Irritable (or anxious) is your middle name, and you cry for no reason sometimes.
- Heart palpitations
- Thin or dry hair (even after a spa day)
- Puffiness in your face and neck (can you see your collarbones? Can’t find em? Take note!)
- You're exhausted but you can't really sleep
- Low to no SEX DRIVE! (Boo, hiss, *throws theoretical rotten tomatoes at screen* - figure it out asap!)
WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME?!
Often times a thyroid disorder isn’t suspected because:
You just had a baby and your fatigue is blamed on being a new mom. So this is your “new normal”, suck it up. (That could be true… but it could be your thyroid instead!)
You're a superhero, and run 100mph all day long causing you to be exhausted and need extra rest. (Very possible, so try this free guided meditation)… BUT is it because your thyroid is keeping you up at all hours?
Your doctor may not be running a complete thyroid panel. How often do I get patients who have had their thyroid "checked” but are still out of whack? ALL THE TIME. If your doctor is only checking 1 or 2 thyroid hormones, you're not getting the full picture. You may have an awesome doctor, but unfortunately, what we know now about thyroids may be different than what your doctor learned in school.
You might be considered “sub-clinical." Your doctor runs your lab work and says your levels are normal but doesn't tell you they're out of your ideal range. There's a difference between a whole house burning down (full blown thyroid disorder) and a tiny fire in the kitchen (sub-clinical thyroid dysfunction). Ideally, you'd like to put out the fire in the kitchen before it spreads to the whole house. AKA we'd rather support your thyroid to be in optimal-function-land, rather than waiting for it to crash and burn.
You're close to menopause so your symptoms get blamed on another dysfunction. Both can be going at the same time since our hormones are so intertwined.
5 causes of thyroid dysfunction
Chronic stress: Who doesn’t suffer from 1st world problems? The barista jacks up my triple whip no foam soy cage free latte like, every day, not to mention my bad hair day. Ok, I kid, but some of us really have crazy sh** going on, like divorce, sick parents or friends, raising tumultuous teenagers, changing jobs, and so on. If this is you, you might want to look into our nutritional stress support too. Stress can be the cause of our thyroid going haywire because it doesn't allow our thyroid hormones to fit in the right receptors. It's like when you have your blinker on ready to park in a crowded parking lot. Inevitably, some jerk in a mustang pretends he doesn't see you waiting and takes the spot you had your eye on. Cortisol (stress) is that jerk in a mustang, blocking your thyroid hormones from the spots they rightfully deserve.
Mmmm, bread/cookies/crackers/beer/etc… you consume them OFTEN: I say this lovingly, but... you dummy. Most of those goodies (unless otherwise specified) are chalked FULL of gluten. While I myself choose Coors Lite, (classy signature drink, right?) I cannot get across more intensely, gluten is a thyroid's worst enemy. Every time you (ok, we...) eat gluten, it's placing stress (remember the jerk in a mustang?) on your body, and either directly or indirectly causing thyroid dysfunction. Inflammation is being created during the digestion of gluten. Inflammation is at the core of dysfunctions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune disorders, and yes, thyroid conditions. You can ease the burden on the thyroid gland by giving up the gluten.
You just had a baby: Estrogen and progesterone aren't the only hormones to undergo a serious shift. Thyroid hormones like TSH, T4, and T3 can also be affected. It's tricky to know, but if your body has a really rough time recovering, you might want to look into supporting your thyroid post-baby.
You got your momma’s genes: She’s got a thyroid disorder, as does your sister, and your aunts... the good news is you have more resources now than ever before to address it, so don't curse your gene pool just yet!
You've been on an antibiotic recently or often: Antibiotics (while sometimes necessary) can damage the health of our gut. Antibiotics kill bacteria, but also kill the “good bugs” in our gut lining that are responsible for proper digestion. These good guys act as a barrier protecting our gut, and help with the breakdown of fat cells (they use it for energy production and removal of our toxic waste). Gut bugs ALSO activate 20% of your thyroid hormone T4, and that's 20% you wish you had! So if you need an antibiotic consider increasing your dose, or adding probiotics to your nutrition regimen during and a few weeks after your antibiotic course.
The Natural Thyroid FIX: You have options before the Rx
- Have a functional medicine practitioner (a doctor with some extra training!) FULLY assess your thyroid. Get a full picture by testing ALL of the thyroid hormones. They can help you determine if your thyroid is over-active, under-active, cycling in between (autoimmune disorders like hashimotos or graves), or completely normal.
Add Omega 3's or eat more fish! These good fatty acids help reduce inflammation, which decreases the burden on your thyroid gland.
- Cut out processed foods, paying special attention to soy and gluten (both known to interfere with hormone levels).
- Use coconut oil as a lotion, and in cooking. This good fat helps convert thyroid hormone T4 to T3 (I won't get into specifics, but this is important, trust me!)
- If you're prone to stress, promise 3 minutes of your day in complete alone time. Can you squeeze in 2-3 yoga classes or a massage in the next 30 days? Find yourself with rare free time? Dive into some valuable decompression time.
- Start a 3 month supply of Thyro-Well while incorporating some of these lifestyle modifications. Your thyroid needs certain nutrients to function properly, and you can find them in the Thyro-Well blend.
THYRO-WELL: Feed your thyroid what it needs
ThyroWell is a unique formulation which provides a blend of nutrients and botanicals that work synergistically to support thyroid health. ThyroWell includes:
- Iodine, an essential trace element recognized for its traditional role in thyroid hormone synthesis (naturally sourced from potassium iodide and kelp) Both iodine and the amino acid L-tyrosine are essential components of T4 and T3 thyroid hormones.
- Ashwagandha and bladderwrack leaf, which have been used by herbalists for a long long time to balance the thyroid. Not to mention they improve your stress response.
This can be a lot, so for quick reference we made you a little thyroid cheat sheet.