Is Your Thyroid Slowing You Down?

Is Your Thyroid Slowing You Down?

Thyroid problems are one of the most common health issues affecting women.  If you’re feeling exhausted all day, struggle to concentrate and remember things, have low mood, constipation, or weak hair, your thyroid may be underfunctioning.  The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism are often mistaken for other conditions such as stress or menopause, so hormone testing is important.

What does the thyroid gland do?

Think of it as being like the accelerator in a car.  When it’s underactive, all your body processes slow down, as if you had taken your foot off the gas.  Equally, it can go overactive.  An overactive thyroid can cause palpitations, restlessness, difficulty maintaining weight, diarrhoea, and anxiety.  All the body processes are speeding up – the accelerator is being pressed too hard!

The symptoms of a sick thyroid can be mixed.  Some people experience constipation, tiredness and anxiety, while others have no problem losing weight but feel exhausted and struggle to concentrate.  Sometimes the gland can go overactive for a short while before crashing and underfunctioning.

Hashimoto’s & Graves Disease

There are different reasons why the thyroid gland becomes sick; one of these is auto-immunity.  During auto-immune conditions the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the body, causing inflammation and damage.  If this happens in the thyroid gland it can lead to:

– Hasimoto’s Disease: hypothyroidism (under functioning) caused by auto-immunity

– Graves Disease: hyperthyroidism (over activity) caused by auto-immunity

It’s important to know if your thyroid imbalance is an autoimmune one or not.  If it is, you may need to be tested for other auto-immune conditions like Coeliac disease or rheumatoid arthritis.  An autoimmune condition is primarily an imbalance with the immune system that happens to be affecting the thyroid – it’s not just a straightforward thyroid issue.  A Registered Nutritional Therapist can support you with managing an autoimmune issue.  Nutrition and lifestyle medicine can be hugely helpful for these conditions.

What medication is there for hypothyroidism?

The standard medical treatment is Levothyroxine.  This is a synthetic version of T4, one of your thyroid hormones.  However this is only prescribed if you fall below certain parameters on blood tests.  Many people suffer with sub-clinical hypothyroidism where the gland is underfunctioning but not badly enough to be prescribed meds.

Simply taking Levothyroxine is only part of the picture of managing hypothyroidism.  Your body converts T4 to T3, the more biologically active thyroid hormone.  If this conversion doesn’t work very well, you can still have all the symptoms even though you’re taking medication.

This conversion of T4 to T3 is disrupted by stress, poor diet, and digestive problems.

Blog_Thyroid_snipSimply replacing T4 by taking Levothyroxine is just the first step in managing hypothyroidism.  A personalised whole-body approach focusing on:

Healthy digestion: making sure foods are broken down and digested properly, and bowel movements are regular and comfortable

Foods to support thyroid function and hormone conversion: Brazil nuts, sea vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, oats, sweet potatoes, avocados, eggs, slow-cooked red meats, naturally gluten-free grains – these are some of the best thyroid supporting foods

Relaxation & movement: vital for managing stress and supporting T4/T3 conversion

is the most positive way forward for true thyroid balance.  Contact a Registered Nutritional Therapist today to find out more! 

Using Sea Vegetables for Health

Vegetables don’t just grow on land; sea vegetables make a tasty and nutritious addition to all kinds of meals: quiches, sauces, soups, stews, casseroles…

The different types of seaweed are rich in minerals – particularly magnesium, iron, iodine and zinc; B-vitamins, antioxidants, long chain fatty acids (omegas 6 and 3), prebiotic fibres and certain types of carbohydrates called fucans. 

Fucans have been shown to possess a range of positive effects including:

– reducing inflammation

– supporting immunity through anti-viral actions

– supporting healthy blood flow and circulation

– helping to maintain our friendly gut flora through modulation of intestinal pH, short chain fatty acid production and the gut mucous secretions.

(Lordan S et al (2011) Marine Bioactives as Functional Food Ingredients: Potential to Reduce the Incidence of Chronic Diseases Marine Drugs vol 9(6):1056-1100)

You don’t need to eat vast quantities of seaweeds to gain these benefits.  In traditional Japanese meals, small amounts of sea vegetables are used to lift and strengthen the flavours of the meal and enhance digestion.

Nori flakes, mixed sea vegetable flakes and kombu strips are the easiest ones to start with.  The flakes can be sprinkled over soups, casseroles, scrambled eggs and even mashed potato!  Add a 2″ piece of kombu to the pan when simmering beans or pulses; the seaweed nutrients help to breakdown some of the tough starches in the legumes, making them easier to digest (i.e. they will cause much less flatulence!).

Sheets of nori are used to make sushi and also offer an interesting alternative to bread for making sandwiches – ideal for a gluten free option!  Simply place your filling on the sheet and roll it up, adding a dab of water to stick the end of the roll in place.

The mixture of minerals found in sea vegetables makes them ideal for optimising energy and wellbeing – particularly if you are struggling with an under active thyroid.  The iodine, zinc and magnesium found in sea veggies support thyroid hormone formation and function, giving your thyroid gland a much needed boost!