Fatigue, weight gain, and memory loss. Constipation plus cold hands and feet. Puffy eyes, dry skin, and hair falling out. How old does this person sound? If you think they are elderly, you may be right. Or they may be middle-aged and have a malfunctioning thyroid gland. Thyroid disorders are the most common malfunction of the hormonal system, much more prevalent than diabetes. Did you know that you can suffer from the classic symptoms of hypothyroidism and still look good on paper? In other words, you can have all of these symptoms, but your blood tests come back normal. So your diagnosis may be that you’re getting older, or you’re depressed. But your gut instinct tells you there’s a better explanation for your troubles.
Your thyroid gland makes thyroid hormones that control metabolism, which indirectly affects most body functions but is most obviously related to weight loss and gain, as well as your energy level and stamina. Here are some things you should know to protect this critical hormonal system.
You need a healthy digestive tract and liver. Most of the thyroid hormone in your blood is inactive. When your body needs the power of active thyroid hormone, conversion happens in the digestive tract or the liver. Inadequate conversion means your thyroid gland produces more inactive hormone, to create more active thyroid hormone through sheer volume. This can lead to an imbalance of thyroid hormones that, if given enough time, can become apparent on lab tests. Foods rich in vegetable fibers and probiotics, for example, are essential for a properly functioning thyroid gland.
High levels of estrogen-like compounds interrupt thyroid function. This applies to men as well as women. Pesticides, environmental pollutants, plastics, BPA, and pharmaceuticals can mimic estrogen and should be minimized. Choose organic produce when possible, and store foods in glass or ceramic containers.
Remove the competition! Not ultimate-fighting style, but from a biochemistry perspective. Iodine is a key component of thyroid hormone, but it can easily be replaced by more reactive elements like bromine, chlorine, and fluorine. These elements can replace iodine and create an ineffective thyroid hormone. For example, fluorine is in non-stick coatings on cookware, in the compound PFOA. In 2010, the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported that people with the highest blood levels of PFOA were twice as likely to have thyroid disease. For this reason, use cookware made of ceramic, glass, cast iron, or stainless steel. Also, choose reverse-osmosis-filtered or spring water instead of tap water, which has added chlorine and fluoride.
Recovering from a hormonal imbalance like thyroid malfunction requires work and dedication. There is no single solution, and we’ve only discussed a few of the lifestyle changes that you can take on at home.