Few might think that the thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland beneath the Adam’s apple, would make such a big impact on our health and the way our bodies perform. But it does.
The thyroid releases hormones that heavily influence our growth, development and metabolism. Given this importance, when the thyroid malfunctions, it can cause problems with this growth and development that affect both body and mind.
Having too few of these hormones is called hypothyroidism and having too much is called hyperthyroidism.
Hypothroidism can cause weakness, weight gain, fatigue, poor skin and hair health. It can disturb both the digestive and reproductive systems. It can also be a factor in depression and weight gain. A common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease.
Hyperthyroidism can cause weight loss and hair loss, as well as a feeling of anxiety and stress or even a feeling of having a panic attack. Pregnancy can cause hyperthyroidism. A common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease.
While many need medication to treat problems with the thyroid, there are also natural treatments that may help.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism is necessary in almost all cases to prevent further symptoms and to protect the body’s immune system. Make sure you check with your doctor to advise you on what type of treatments you need and take any medications prescribed.
It is possible that thyroid issues due to pregnancy can revert to normal after pregnancy and birth, but ongoing monitoring may still be necessary.
Food isn’t just for energy. It can also heal the body and prevent certain conditions so when choosing what to eat, making healthy choices is important.
Because certain elements in your food, like fats and protein, can impact your thyroid function, it’s important to have them in your daily diet.
EmpowHER expert Dr. Daemon Jones, a naturopathic physician, suggests including healthy fats in your diet like olive oil, fish, nuts and seeds so that your “good” cholesterol can improve thyroid function. She says that protein is very important in your diet as it’s instrumental in moving the hormones the thyroid secretes throughout your body.
Additionally, Jones advises, “Since one of the underlying causes [of thyroid dysfunction] is autoimmunity, food sensitivities could be playing a role. Having a specialized food allergy panel identifies foods that should be removed from your diet. Some common food allergies include gluten, soy or dairy.”
Jones also recommends staying away from foods called goitrogens, specifically raw goitrogens. These are foods that can negatively impact thyroid functions. Raw broccoli, pears, spinach, kale and legumes are just a few examples.
Exercise should be an important part of everyone’s lives. Exercising at least every other day for at least 30-60 minutes is needed for your heart health, to build strong bones and muscles, and to improve your mental health.
Exercise is also very important for thyroid health. In fact, because your thyroid health impacts your mental health, and exercise is good for mental health, it’s a double barrel benefit.
Dr. Yaroslav Gofnung, MD, an endocrinologist at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California, spoke to everydayhealth.com about the connection to exercise and hypothyroidism.
“Low-impact aerobics get your heart rate up and your lungs going without putting too much pressure on your joints, which is important because joint pain is another common hypothyroidism symptom,” he stated.
He also recommends exercise as a way to keep weight down, since hypothyroidism can affect the metabolism and cause extra pounds.
3) Talk it Out
Depression is a common side effect of having thyroid problems. In fact, many people are quite down by the time they get their diagnosis. Some doctors aren’t sure whether the thyroid issue is the first problem or whether depression is, but all agree there is a link.
If a person is feeling depression, a thyroid check is important. And if there is thyroid-related depression, talk therapy may help, although medication may be needed too.
Weight gain, hair loss and fatigue are all symptoms of thyroid problems and these symptoms alone can cause anxiety and even depression in sufferers.
Optimal thyroid health depends on a holistic approach. The mind, body and spirit should be cared for, like all other physical conditions.
Symptoms are not always physical. They may also be seen in our emotional health and how we live our lines.
When we treat health conditions holistically, we can return to our healthy selves sooner.
EmpowHER.com. Thyroid Conditions. “5 Ways Hypothyroidism Can Be Treated Naturally with Food. ” Web. Retrieved January 20th, 2015.
Everydayhealth.com. The Hypothyroidism Workout. Web. Retrieved January 20th, 2015. http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/healthy-living-with-hypothyr...
Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved Jan. 25, 2015.
Reviewed January 26, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith