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Health & Nutrition
Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD

3 Secrets To Thriving Thyroid Health From A Nutritional Therapist!

 

Are you struggling with low thyroid function? Or perhaps you just want to give your thyroid gland a little extra love? Then you’ve come to the right place!

Experiencing thyroid issues can be incredibly frustrating, and it’s common to feel uncertain about how to navigate these types of conditions. While it’s important to work alongside a healthcare practitioner if you’re struggling with thyroid disease, powerful natural and holistic tools can support your thyroid gland to function optimally and help you get your zest for life back!

 

 

 

First things first, what is the function of your thyroid gland?

 

 

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is an essential part of the endocrine system. It produces hormones that regulate many critical processes and functions, including:

  • Metabolism
  • Heart rate
  • Digestion
  • Energy levels
  • Tolerance to cold
  • Skin & hair health
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Mood
  • Weight

Hormones involved include:

  • TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)
  • Free T3 - the active form of thyroid hormone
  • Free T4 - the primary form of thyroid hormone in your blood before being converted to T3
  • Reverse T3 - an inactive form of thyroid hormone that plays a role in regulating metabolism, stress, inflammation, and more.[1]

 

 

 

What type of thyroid gland problems are there?

 

 

There are many different forms of thyroid disease which include:

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones (also known as an underactive thyroid). If hypothyroidism is autoimmune in nature, it is referred to as Hashimotos disease.

 

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormone known as thyroxine. If hyperthyroidism is autoimmune in nature, it’s referred to as Grave’s disease, which affects around 1-3% of adults in the United States. 

 

Thyroiditis 

Thyroiditis refers to inflammation of the thyroid gland.

 

Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer occurs when a growth of malignant cells begins in the thyroid gland tissue - often involving a combination of genetic and environmental factors. 

 

Goiter 

A goiter is an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland, usually occurring due to iodine deficiency or inflammation. 

 

 

 

What are the signs and symptoms of thyroid gland problems?

 

Overactive thyroid gland/hyperthyroidism symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the neck caused by goiter
  • Feeling too warm
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hair thinning
  • Weight loss
  • Twitching or trembling
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat

Underactive thyroid gland/hypothyroidism symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Low body temperature
  • Dry skin
  • Low libido [2]

 

 

 

So, you think you may have a thyroid problem; now what?

 

First things first, check in with your primary health care practitioner in order to get thyroid testing done and discuss the symptom/symptoms you're experiencing. Some practitioners may only request one thyroid hormone test, known as TSH, but according to functional medicine, this often doesn’t show the full picture of your thyroid function. To get a detailed overview of your thyroid health, it’s best to request a thyroid function test that includes a full panel of biomarkers such as:

 

TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and Thyroid Antibodies (TGA & TPO)

Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is considered the most common thyroid disorder and is generally the easiest to support. Many people also struggle with suboptimal thyroid function that doesn’t yet meet the criteria for a diagnosis of clinical hypothyroidism, referred to as subclinical hypothyroidism. For this reason, the information in this article will mainly focus on supporting low thyroid function. 

Together, you and your healthcare practitioner can decide if you may benefit from thyroid hormone replacement therapy (thyroid medication) while supporting your thyroid health from a holistic perspective as well. 

 

 

 

Nutrition & thyroid health

 

 

Nutrient deficiencies are a potential root cause of low thyroid function. The most essential nutrients for thyroid gland health include:

Iodine

According to the American Thyroid Association, iodine is considered one of the most essential minerals for the production of thyroid hormones, and deficiency is strongly linked to low thyroid function. 

Our bodies don’t produce any iodine; therefore, iodine needs to come from dietary sources with the most abundant sources, including seaweed, particularly bladderwrack and Irish sea moss, which you can find in our organic wild-crafted Seaweed Complex! (It’s important to note that those suffering from hyperthyroidism should not supplement with seaweed or iodine and avoid eating an excessive amount of iodine-rich foods)

 

 

Selenium

This mighty mineral helps convert the thyroid hormone known as T4 into the active form T3 to support energy, mood and focus. Brazil nuts, in particular, are an incredible source of selenium, with just 2-3 nuts per day providing the daily recommended allowance. 

 

 

Vitamin D

Low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with thyroid dysfunction, particularly hypothyroidism and autoimmune-related thyroid diseases such as Hashimotos disease and Graves disease. Vitamin D3 is the most bioactive and bioavailable form of Vitamin D, which is why we’ve included it in our new AdaptoZen Vitamin D3 + K2 drops.

 

 

Iron

Iron supports both thyroid hormone production and conversion. Plant-based sources include chickpeas, lentils, beans, hemp seeds, dried apricots, and quinoa.

 

 

Zinc

Zinc is essential for the conversion of T4 to T3. Interestingly, while Zinc supports thyroid health, having adequate thyroid hormones also helps to support the body’s absorption of Zinc. It’s important to note that the body also doesn’t store Zinc, so consistent intake is essential to maintain adequate levels!

Plant-based sources include pumpkin seeds, beans, cashews, chickpeas, and oatmeal. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

 

 

 

Gut health & thyroid function

 

 

As Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut,” and new research now shows a fascinating connection between gut health and thyroid function. You may be wondering how these two could possibly be connected. 

For one, the gut microbiome may influence the conversion of thyroid hormones into their active form. [8]

The gut microbiome also influences the absorption of minerals needed for thyroid health, including zinc, iodine, selenium, and iron. 

Also, it’s thought that the microbes in the gut may act as a reservoir of sorts for T3. [9]

Intestinal permeability or “leaky gut” may also be linked to thyroid problems. 

What is leaky gut, you may ask? Leaky gut can be defined as a widening of the gaps between the tight junctions of the intestinal epithelial cells. This can allow the entry of undigested food particles and bacteria into the bloodstream. When this happens, the immune system sees these as “foreign entities”, resulting in an immune response and a cascade of inflammatory processes. [10]

Over time, this can trigger autoimmune responses that may contribute to the development of an autoimmune-related thyroid disease like Hashimoto’s and Graves disease.

So, what contributes to leaky gut?

  • Stress increases gut barrier permeability
  • Dysbiosis (i.e. imbalances in good and bad bacteria)
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Antibiotic use
  • Toxin exposure
  • A refined diet & nutrient deficiencies.

[11] [12] [13] [14]

How can you naturally improve the health of your gut lining?

  • Include plenty of prebiotic fiber, probiotics, and anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, like green leafy vegetables, olive oil, berries, and dark chocolate.
  • Stress management techniques like meditation, breath work, and conscious movement.
  • Supplementing with the amino acid l-glutamine may help to maintain and protect the intestinal barrier (you can find L-glutamine in our Collagen or Super Immunity Complex

[15]

 

 

 

Stress & thyroid health

 

 

Stress has been linked to thyroid dysregulation due to the cascades of chemical signaling that occur within the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis (HPT, for short!). High cortisol can even reduce the conversion of T4 into the active form of thyroid hormone known as T3, elevating reverse T3 (which is an inactive thyroid hormone) and contributing to suboptimal thyroid function. [16]

Starting a meditation routine is one of the most simple and effective ways to reduce stress while bringing a sense of calm and presence into your life. And get this… There’s even research to back it up. 

For example, a randomized controlled trial found that a regular mindful meditation practice significantly decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as C-reactive protein - an important biomarker for inflammation. [17]

It’s normal to find meditation a bit daunting at first, but even just beginning with 10 minutes per day is a great place to start, and you can work your way up from there. It can also be helpful to use a guided meditation app like Retreat Sounds (your first three months are free!)

For a more thorough guide to getting into a meditation practice, head on over here.

Adaptogenic herbs can also help to reduce stress levels and support thyroid function. Ashwagandha is definitely the superstar here since it’s been clinically proven to reduce cortisol and improve thyroid hormone levels in those with hypothyroidism.

For example, an 8-week study on participants with hypothyroidism found that taking 600 mg of Ashwagandha root extract daily led to significant increases in T3 and T4 levels compared to those taking a placebo. [18]

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Here’s a brief summary of what you learned today!

  • Thyroid health affects all other aspects of our physiology, from digestion, cognitive function, skin, mental health, metabolism, and more. 
  • Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) is the most common thyroid problem people struggle with.
  • The key nutrients that support thyroid function include Selenium, Iodine, Zinc, Iron, and Vitamin D3.
  • Supporting a healthy gut microbiome and intestinal lining can help convert thyroid hormones into their active form while potentially reducing the risk of autoimmune responses.
  • Stress can directly affect the ratio of your thyroid hormones which is why it’s essential to practice stress management techniques in the form of meditation or mindful movement. 
  • Supplementing with Ashwagandha may also help to support optimal thyroid function by naturally alleviating stress.

 

 

Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD
As a qualified Nutritional Therapist (BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD), Zaheera Swing has a deep passion for restoring balance and harmony to the body through the modalities of nutritional science, herbalism, and holistic lifestyle practices. Using the functional medicine model coupled with wisdom from ancient paradigms, she aims to provide insight into the underlying root causes of poor health and the holistic tools we can harness to enhance the well-being of mind, body, and spirit.
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