Exploring what Thyroid Disease is, How to Identify it, and Arming you with Knowledge to Empower your Healing Journey
Thyroid Awareness month has become near and dear to my heart over the last decade as I had to learn what my thyroid needed to be healthy and for us to be friends again. I wanted to offer some insight on how you can make sure your thyroid is working properly and what to look for if it's potentially not working optimally.
First of all, if you don't already know, your thyroid is the butterfly shaped gland at the base of your neck. The thyroid produces hormones that control metabolism as well as functions related to digestion, heart function, mood, and brain development. Therefore, it's very important to maintain the integrity of this significant gland.
In this article, we will explore what thyroid disease is, how to identify it, root cause determination, and ways of supporting your thyroid through nutrition and supplementation before there is a problem.
There are several types of thyroid disease, which include:
1. Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland is enlarged, produced too much thyroxine hormone that can cause symptoms including:
Rapid heart rate, palpitations
Increased bowel movements
Sensitivity to heat
2. Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland can not make enough thyroid hormone to keep your body systems running smoothly. Symptoms may include:
Sensitivity to cold
3. Hashimoto's Disease is the autoimmune version of thyroid disease. In this case, your immune system produces antibodies that attack your thyroid gland. The thyroid becomes damaged, and in turn cannot produce enough thyroid hormones- causing hypothyroidism. As your thyroid tries to compensate, your thyroid becomes enlarged. This enlargement is a goiter and is caused by an inflammation response. Symptoms of Hashimoto's includes:
Irregular menstrual cycle
Elevated thyroid antibodies
4. Graves disease is an autoimmune version as well that causes hyperthyroidism. In this disease, your immune system attacks the thyroid, causing the thyroid to make more thyroid hormone than your body needs. The goiter in this disease is caused by over-stimulation of thyroid gland. Symptoms include:
Unexplained weight loss
Tremor in hands/fingers
Thick red skin on feet or shins
Vision changes-double vision, loss, puffy eyes, pressure or pain
Increased heart rate or palpitations
Identifying Potential Thyroid Disease
Common Risk Factors of developing a thyroid issue:
Exposure to toxins like mold, heavy metals, fluoridated water etc.
Gender-Women are 8x more likely to develop Hashimoto’s than men
Age-Typically occurs between the ages of 30-60 years of age, Commonly seen in teenagers and young women
Genetic Predisposition -specifically HLA-DR3 and DR5 alleles
Other Autoimmune Disorders-25% of individuals with autoimmune disorders develop additional autoimmune disorders.
Testing and Who to See:
I always suggest seeking out a Functional Medicine or Integrative Medicine provider and dietitian to help you sift through your symptoms, diet, lifestyle, and appropriate testing. Adequate testing along with symptoms can help you discover what the problem and root cause may be. Along with the following thyroid panel, stool testing and nutrient value testing all provide valuable information to help treat the root cause.
If you have symptoms of any of the above thyroid condition, talk with your provider about ordering a full thyroid lab panel, not just TSH. This includes :
Throid Peroxidase Antibody Blood
Other common lab tests to discuss:
When it comes to healing your thyroid, it's essential to reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and address potential intestinal permeability (leaky-gut) issues. Using nutrition can be an integral way of preventing thyroid issues long term, especially if you know you are at risk.
I recommend including gut healthy foods daily, such as bone broth, ghee, collagen, and fermented foods (if tolerated). These foods improve the intestinal barrier and keep you healthier overall.
Concentrate on a whole food, nutrient dense diet by avoiding foods that are highly processed, contain processed sugars, colors and additives.
Include high quality, organic fruits and vegetables, wild caught fish, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, high quality meats/poultry and plenty of clean water.
Strictly removing gluten long term has been beneficial for individuals with thyroid disorder- especially the autoimmune conditions.
It's OK to still include goitrogenic (goiter causing) foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, kale etc- but lightly cook the foods first to reduce the goitrogenic affect.
Root Causes to Investigate:
Dysbiosis in the gut can affect nutrient bioavailability. About 20% of conversion of T4 to T3 is in the gut. Therefore, if there is dysbiosis present, it can affect the conversion of thyroid hormones.
SIBO- (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), Small intestinal dysmotility or slowed motility can lead to chronic GI symptoms. There is also clear associations in research betweem SIBO and Hypothyroidism
Histamine Intolerance is when there is a reduction of DAO enzyme present or overabundance of histamine present in the body. This is often a side effect of untreated SIBO-overabundance of bacteria, which results in histamine production from the proteins of undigested food.
Common Nutrient Deficienies include: Vitamins A, B, D, Protein, Iodine, Iron, Selenium, Zinc, and Minerals.
Food Intolerances can often cause inflammation and trigger autoimmune diseases. Work with a dietitian to see a comprehnesive food panel or elimination diet would be a good fit for you.
Toxin Exposure- especially mold and heavy metals can disrupt detox pathyways.
Genetic Predisposition may include strong family history of thyroid conditions or genetic SNPs that affect your thyroid such as MTHFR, COMT along with others.
Supplements to discuss with your dietitian or physician
Myo-Inositol with Selenium
A 2017 study found that supplementation of myo-inositol (formerly Vitamin B8) with selenium decreased TSH, Thyroid AB, and Thyroglobulin AB. It also optimized thyroid hormones and personal well-being. The combination also restored normal thyroid function in patients diagnosed with hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism in 6 months
L-glutamine helps heal the lining of the gut which is particularly helpful in those that have an autoimmune form of thyroid disease. It improves intestinal barrier function especially in high stress individuals to prevent gut issues or heal current issues.
Probiotics are beneficial in increasing gut diversity as well as relieving symptoms of SIBO and gut dysbiosis. To allow the probiotics to work effectively the best time to take these is first thing in the morning, about 20-30 minutes after a meal, or right before bed. My favorite probiotic for thyroid issues and those with the autoimmune versions is Seeking Health Probiotoa HistaminX.
MultiVitamin with methylated B vitamins and trace minerals
Multivitamins can help fill in the gap of nutrients you may be missing from not eating a diverse diet or from having deficienies that have gone untreated. Methylated B vitamins are essential to appropriate absorption and supporting detox pathyways, especially for those with the MTHFR gene mutation and autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin D levels are commonly low in those with hashimoto's and other thyroid disorders. You are most at risk of low Vitamin D levels if you live in a northern climate, work/live indoors most of the time, have darker skin tones, using sunscreen and being overweight.
Zinc is required for synthesis of thyroid hormone. If you are deficient, it causes potential for thyroid issues.
Please always discuss symptoms and supplements with a qualified providers.
Whether you are learning to prevent thyroid disease, or have already been diagnosed with one of the above thyroid conditions, you can start to implement the nutrition tips above. Please reach out to a qualified provider for further insight and guidance.
Wishing you Health and Happiness!