The thyroid gland might be a small part of the body, but it’s anything but insignificant. In fact, it’s kind of a big deal. The thyroid, found in the middle of the lower neck, produces hormones that affect every cell in the body. These help the body use energy, regulate the production of protein, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should. If the thyroid produces too much (hyperthyroidism) — or too little (hypothyroidism), it can create major problems. So what can be done to help balance thyroid hormones?
- An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.
- Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.
- Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
- Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put people at risk for certain serious conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.
There’s an intimate relationship with one of the main female hormones – estrogen – and thyroid. But first, let’s look at the thyroid gland itself, and what some common thyroid issues are.
If your thyroid gland is under-active, this is known as hypothyroidism and your body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This is a common imbalance and can lead to symptoms including:
- Weight gain
- Increased sensitivity to the cold
- Enlarged thyroid glands
- Difficulty with weight loss
- Dry skin, hair and nails
- Hair loss (including eyebrows)
- Muscle weakness and joint pain
- Menstrual problems
- Brain fog
- Low stress resistance
- Recurrent infections
If your thyroid gland is overactive, bodily functions will speed up, as it does in hyperthyroidism. Symptoms often associated with hyperthyroid could include:
- Weight loss
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Frequent bowel movements
- Nervousness and irritability
- Thyroid gland enlargement
- Sleep disturbances
So, without getting too scientific, here’s how the thyroid works:
Thyroid hormone terms:
- TRH — Thyroid Releasing Hormone
- TSH — Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
- T4 — thyroxine, the inactive form of thyroid hormone
- and T3 — triiodothyronine, the active form
It all starts in the brain. First, the hypothalamus senses that cells need more thyroid hormones, so it produces TRH. That then tells the pituitary gland, a tiny but major endocrine gland, to produce TSH. Then TSH travels to the thyroid telling it to produce T4. Since T4 is the inactive form of thyroid hormone, the body can’t use it until it is converted into T3. Once this happens, T3 must get inside every one of our cells, to bind to a tiny nuclear receptor so it can regulate metabolism. When all these parts are working together the way they were intended, you have a healthy metabolism.
Assuming all your other hormones are also in balance, a healthy metabolism means normal body temperature, healthy hair, skin, and nails, balanced hormones, steady mood, healthy sleep patterns, ideal weight and body composition, and regular bowel movements.
Some of the main causes of thyroid dysfunction:
1. Autoimmune issues – Your body’s signals are crossed
There are many underlying reasons for thyroid problems. The most common cause is an autoimmune thyroid problem like Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease, in which your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. Various research estimates that up to 90 percent of all cases of hypothyroidism are autoimmune in nature, with the most common result being Hashimoto’s disease. When this happens, your thyroid is not the source of the problem, but the victim of a misguided immune system attack in which your body mistakes your thyroid for a virus.
2. Treatment over-response – Could destroy your thyroid
Hyperthyroidism is often treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications. The goal of these treatments is to get thyroid function back to normal. But sometimes, correcting hyperthyroidism can end up lowering thyroid hormone production too much, or destroying it, resulting in permanent hypothyroidism.
3. Stress – Impacting more than just your emotions
Stress can negatively impact your body in a variety of ways, including your thyroid function. Cortisol, your main stress hormone, can inhibit or block proper thyroid hormone conversion, leaving you “thyroid resistant.” This is particularly prevalent in those who are ‘chronic stressers’.
4. Medications – Side effects that could harm you
A number of medications can contribute to hypothyroidism. These include:
- Lithium, which is used to treat certain psychiatric disorders
- Amiodarone, which is used to help make the heart beat more regularly
5. Hormone imbalances – Is estrogen wreaking havoc on your thyroid?
Your hormones are all connected, and the ripple effect from dysfunction in one endocrine gland outputting any hormone can negatively affect your thyroid. If your body is low on progesterone production (as is common with stress or aging), the delicate balance with estrogen gets thrown off, causing the body to react with too much estrogen production. This results in a body state of estrogen dominance, which affects all kinds of functions in your body – and can hit well before menopause, even before you hit your 30s.
For your thyroid specifically, when estrogen is out of balance, the liver starts producing high levels of “thyroid binding globulin” (or TBG), a protein that binds the thyroid hormone, decreasing the amount of thyroid hormone that can be properly used by cells. The result? Hypothyroidism and all the symptoms that come with it, including an imbalance between dopamine and serotonin, oftentimes leaving you feeling sad and depressed without knowing why.
6. Inflammation or toxins – Blocking proper absorption
Every cell of your body depends on thyroid hormones to function properly. If your cells’ receptor sites are stifled because of inflammation or toxins, those hormones aren’t getting where they need to go. In this case, your TSH test will be normal, but you’ll feel miserable. Toxins such as pesticides, plastics, antibacterial products, and heavy metals are just some of the culprits behind dysfunctional thyroid activity. They are also suspected triggers for autoimmune disease and flare-ups.
What are the options to balance thyroid hormones?
Traditional/Medical treatment for your thyroid:
If you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your doctor would most likely prescribe thyroid hormones in the form of a pill. With this method, most people with hypothyroidism will need to take thyroid hormones for the rest of their lives. For hyperthyroidism, the most common option in treating adults is radioactive iodine, which destroys the thyroid gland over the course of 6 to 18 weeks. Once the gland is destroyed, or removed by surgery, most patients must begin taking thyroid hormones in pill form to make up for the missing gland.
Natural options for your thyroid:
While it’s true that, at least when it comes to autoimmune conditions, once the genetic switch is activated it doesn’t turn off again. However, there is still much you can do to lessen, and even reverse the autoimmune response, dramatically reducing or even eliminating symptoms naturally.
1. Balance your hormones naturally
At BeBalanced we have found historically that when insulin and cortisol levels are balanced by making diet and lifestyle changes, while balancing sex hormones, the thyroid gland becomes much more efficient, lessening and even eliminating the need for medications.
- Eat a hormone-balancing diet – Avoid sugar, artificial sugar, and gluten. These tend to be especially inflammatory and immune-provoking for those with many autoimmune conditions. Focus on whole, natural foods concentrated around fresh organic veggies and fruits, high-quality proteins, healthy fats, and fibrous foods.
- Avoid skincare and household products containing harmful toxins – Thousands of man-made products contain xenoestrogens, industrial chemicals that mimic the behavior of estrogens and disrupt your hormone balance. Switch out your body care and cleaning products with ones that contain only natural ingredients.
2. Manage stress
Stressful events and chronic stress are often the triggers for autoimmunity.
- De-stress – Practice stress-reducing techniques on a daily basis. Try mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, soundwave therapy and yoga. These activate your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which will make you feel more relaxed, while also boosting healthy thyroid function.
3. Support your thyroid with vitamins and herbs from their natural source
- Vitamin A – This fat-soluble vitamin has been shown to boost T3 levels and normalize TSH. True vitamin A, called retinol, is only found in animal products like fish, shellfish, fermented cod liver oil, liver, and butterfat from grass-fed cows.
- Selenium – Selenium is essential to convert T4 to T3 in your liver. Selenium also protects against autoimmune thyroid problems. Eat a variety of nuts (especially Brazil nuts), seeds, and shellfish which contain selenium.
- Natural Salt – Table salt is highly processed and can aggravate and increase some autoimmune conditions. Go with more natural salt that contains trace minerals such as Himalayan sea salt.
- Herbs – Herbs that help heal gut lining damage include slippery elm, marshmallow root, and deglycyrrhizinated licorice. These ancient remedies have been used for gut dysfunction for hundreds of years.
- Iodine – Iodine is extremely beneficial for thyroid function. However, it’s best to get your iodine from natural sources instead of synthetic versions. Too much iodine can be just as detrimental as too little. Add sea vegetables to your diet like nori, kelp, dulse, kombu, wakame, and more as they are rich sources of iodine.
- BeBalanced Pure-100 MCT Oil – MCT oil has been shown to boost thyroid function, providing increased energy and metabolic function, while helping your body burn fat and have more energy.
- Maca – Maca brings balance to the entire endocrine system including the thyroid. Maca also provides energy and vitality while helping to repair your adrenal glands.
Addressing the root cause of thyroid dysfunction
For both your body and emotional health, it’s critical to get to the root of any problem and bring your hormones back into balance. By addressing the root cause, instead of just treating the symptoms, you will begin to help your body do what it was built to do – find holistic balance. For more information about supporting your thyroid, losing stubborn weight, having more energy and better sleep, feeling focused and calm, and alleviating symptoms related to PMS or menopause, reach out to us today! We offer free consultations at all BeBalanced Centers across the country. Click here to find a center near you or fill out our FREE hormone assessment to see if your hormones could be holding you back.