Have you searched on Google and read about all the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism or a sluggish thyroid and thought, THAT’s ME! Yet, every time you ask your heath care provider to run your labs they say your thyroid looks fine.
This is something I hear my patients say almost daily.
Looking at WebMD or google for your symptoms may not be your style; however, the symptoms I am about to list may resonate with you.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms below, you may have a sluggish (or suboptimal) thyroid.
- Dry Skin
- Hair Thinning (or changing texture- brittle and dry)
- Cold Intolerance
- Weight Gain
- Poor circulation (cold feet and hand)
Before we discuss the thyroid any further, it is important to understand the pathophysiology. Lets start by finding out who knows where the thyroid is located on your body. Show of hands? Anyone.
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits at the base of your neck. However, in order to determine if your thyroid is functioning optimally we have to go upstream to the brain. Your thyroid function actually starts in your brain when the hypothalamus sends the thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) to your pituitary which then produces the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that regulates how much T4 (thyroid hormone) your thyroid produces. Clear as mud?
We are not done yet.
One of the most important (and often overlooked) steps of the thyroid is examining T3. Once your thyroid produces T4 your body has to convert it into T3, which is thought to be the most bioactive thyroid hormone. Therefore it is important to have your health care provider or clinician run TSH, T4, T3 free and total and reverse T3.
WHY WOULD YOUR THYROID BECOME SLUGGISH?
The three main reasons I see the thyroid become sluggish is stress, nutritional deficiencies, and inflammation (Hashimotos). Stress can be psychological or physical stress. For example, marathon runners and pro athletes’ bodies are continuously under physical stress as they train. This physical stress produces cortisol, just like your body produces cortisol when you are running late for an important meeting and stuck in traffic.
WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN STRESS AND A SLUGGISH THYROID?
Well, it all goes back to the brain. Your pituitary gland also produces the adrenocorticotropin hormone that stimulates your adrenals to make cortisol. When all of your energy is going to produce cortisol, your other hormones can suffer. Also cortisol is one of the main hormones that block the T4 to T3 conversion within your body.
The primary nutrients that help with thyroid function are iodine, selenium, zinc, and b vitamins.
So how can you support your thyroid function today? Well try these five tips:
- Eat iodine rich foods: seaweed (or seaweed chips), kelp, codfish and yogurt
- Add selenium rich foods to help your body convert T4 into T3: brazil nuts, halibut, sardines, grass-fed beef, turkey
- Make sure to get plenty of zinc: spinach, pumpkin seeds (my favorite are these sprouted pumpkin seeds), oysters, crab, and grass-fed beef
- Add stress-reducing exercises daily, whether it is yoga or 5 minutes of deep breathing or prayer. You need to get in a habit of being able to find the calm in the storm to prevent stress from impacting your health.
- Don’t over train. Athletes, runners, or avid workout junkies do not over train. Make sure to give yourself recovery days. These recovery days are crucial to retaining adrenal-thyroid health and preventing injury to the body.
In order to achieve your wellness goals, it is essential to have your thyroid hormones optimal. You never know if a sluggish thyroid is causing you to be too tired to work out or making you gain weight despite putting yourself on a very restrictive diet.
If you want to dig deeper and have all your hormone levels checked, book a visit here.
Kristin Oja, DNP, FNP-C, PT-C