By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness
It seems like everywhere I go, I meet someone suffering from hypothyroidism. I’m surprised because it really isn’t that common. In fact, only two to three percent of Americans have pronounced hypothyroidism, and an additional 10 to 15 percent have subclinical or mild hypothyroidism, according to the American Thyroid Association. Of those, half don’t even know they have the condition.
Hypothyroidism (slow or underactive thyroid) occurs when the thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroid hormones for optimum health.Why does it matter? Because, even though the thyroid is small, it plays a giant role in maintaining the health and balance of every cell in the body. A butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the base of the throat, the thyroid works with the pituitary gland to manufacture hormones that are carried through the blood, affecting metabolism, maintaining body temperature, and keeping muscles and organs like the heart and brain working properly. When the thyroid is out of balance, so is the rest of the body.
Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism
The symptoms of hypothyroidism is like reading a neverending laundry list. They can include cold hands and feet, low body temperature, fatigue, apathy, irritability, weight gain resulting from a slow metabolism, difficulty losing weight, increasing aches and pains, sensitivity to heat and/or cold, constipation, recurring infections, carbohydrate cravings, hair loss, dry skin and hair, brittle fingernails, high cholesterol levels, infertility, insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety, memory problems, low libido, headaches, fluid retention, puffiness around the eyes or ankles, Raynaud’s syndrome, anemia, easy bruising, a hoarse voice, tingling hands and feet, a slow pulse, slow reflexes and sadness or depression. Some health experts even link hypothyroidism to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Autoimmune diseases, the surgical removal of the thyroid, and radiation treatment of the thyroid or pituitary glands are common causes of severe hypothyroidism. But mild hypothyroidism can by triggered by something as simple as insufficient iodine in the diet, high estrogen levels (which explains why hypothyroidism is more common in women than men), stress, nutritional deficiencies, physical inactivity, some medications and hormonal changes relating to pregnancy or menopause.
Mainstream medicine relies on blood tests to diagnose hypothyroidism. But many holistic physicians consider these tests inaccurate and diagnose the condition based on symptoms. According to these health providers, if your average body temperature is below normal for three days in a row and you have several of the symptoms listed above, you probably have an underactive thyroid.
Unlike conventional doctors who usually prescribe synthetic thyroid hormones, many holistic physicians prescribe a natural thyroid hormone, along with dietary changes and supplements that support thyroid balance. For example, kelp and other sea vegetables, fish, and unrefined sea salt—all sources of iodine, the mineral most associated with the thyroid—can help. But too muchIcan be just as harmful as too little, so iodine supplements aren’t recommended unless you’re iodine deficient. If your diet is already rich in saltwater fish and sea vegetables or if you use iodized salt, you may not need supplemental iodine.
Other minerals important to healthy thyroid function include zinc, selenium and copper. Make sure you take a high quality multivitamin-multimineral supplement every day if you have an under active thyroid. Hypothyroidism has also been linked to a deficiency of the amino acid tyrosine, which is used by the body in the synthesis of thyroid hormones. The recommended dosage is 500 to 1,000 mg. of supplemental L-tyrosine. L-tyrosine supplements should be taken before meals—preferably 30 minutes before—and divided into two doses daily.
A new study by Indian researchers shows that the Ayurvedic herb aswaganda boosts thyroid hormones in the body, confirming earlier studies that found that ashwagandha increases both thyroxine, the more abundant thyroid hormone (and a widely used prescription drug), and T3, its more potent counterpart. This is especially relevant news, since very few natural products have been shown to increase thyroid hormones in the blood. Try taking 200 mg. of ashwaganda before bed since this herb has a relaxing and sedative effect.
If you suffer from hypothyroidism, it’s also critical that you avoid foods that can interfere with the action of thyroid hormones. Known as goitrogens (goiter-causing substances), these foods include, rutabagas, turnips, radishes, cauliflower, potatoes, corn, millet, cabbage, peaches, pears, strawberries, soy, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Finally, drink filtered or bottled water in order to avoid tap water’s fluoride and chlorine, which also suppress thyroid function.
Living with hypothyroidism doesn’t necessarily require wholesale changes to your lifestyle. Adding fish, sea vegetables and iodine-enhanced salt to you diet while avoiding goitrogenic foods can significantly improve your symptoms. Need more help? Try adding aswaganda for a calming way to enhance thyroid production.
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