Do you often find yourself looking for tasks you can (continue to) push off? How about that untouched pile of things to do still lurking on your desk?
Did you used to have the motivation and the stamina to get things done, but now you find yourself exhausted and barely able to get through the day? Or maybe you've been carrying around some extra weight you've tried to get rid of more times than you can remember. But no matter how many changes you make to your diet and how much exercise you do, you just can't seem to lose that stubborn body fat. It's like hitting a plateau before you've even begun.
Serious fatigue and difficulty losing weight are two common signs often associated with an imbalance in your thyroid function.
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that produces hormones responsible for regulating all of the metabolic processes in your body, from your digestive system to your circulation.
Millions of Americans have thyroid imbalances, and many take prescription medications to relieve their thyroid-related symptoms. Hypothyroidism, or under-activity of thyroid function, is a common type of thyroid imbalance. When the thyroid slows down too much, so can circulation and metabolism, causing a wide range of symptoms.
Every cell in your body has its own metabolism and is, thus, affected by thyroid hormones. Therefore, you can experience symptoms of an imbalanced thyroid in almost every bodily system. This wide range of symptoms can make it hard to recognize thyroid imbalances and address root causes to bring the thyroid back into the correct relationship with the rest of the body.
Another reason that an imbalanced thyroid goes undetected is that conventional medical lab testing ranges can underestimate the degree of thyroid imbalance. In fact, if your thyroid is in the abnormal range on one of the standard diagnostic tests, your thyroid has likely been out of balance for years.
The good news is that if you suspect or identify an underactive thyroid, you can take supportive steps to bring your thyroid back into balance.
If these symptoms go unchecked over time, your thyroid activity can continue to decrease, making all of the symptoms worse.
One of the hidden consequences of low thyroid is low mood. This can result in poor work performance or an inability to manage household tasks, and it can take a serious toll on your overall state of mind.
Thyroid imbalances can also begin after childbirth, which is already an extremely vulnerable time for a new mother. Caring for a new baby is a tiring job, and a mother suffering from excessive fatigue may find it even more difficult to tend to her child's needs.
Low thyroid can also result from prolonged low calorie diets or intense exercise regimens. Looking at your thyroid is a particularly good idea if you've been leading a healthy lifestyle but just cannot seem to lose weight or keep it off.
Once a thyroid imbalance takes hold, it can lead to profound fatigue and loss of motivation. This can negatively affect your ability to reach personal goals and to be present in your relationships. People with long-term thyroid imbalances may have difficulty with daily responsibilities making life increasingly challenging.
You can learn to rebalance your health naturally through changes in your diet and lifestyle habits and using supportive nutritional supplements. By discovering exactly what is going on with your thyroid and addressing those issues, you can empower yourself and improve your long-term health. People who devote the time to tackling their thyroid imbalances can improve not only their own lives but also the lives of those around them.
Prolonged stress on the body can exacerbate thyroid issues. This stress could be caused by issues at work, in relationships or demands on your body such as infection, toxins or overexertion.
Under stress, the brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands instructing them to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These are the hormones responsible for a fight-or-flight reaction in the body, focusing all of the body's processes on survival. This focus on survival imbalances the thyroid gland, usually in the direction of slowing down.
An imbalanced gut can also lead to thyroid imbalance. An imbalanced digestive system can spill proteins, bacteria and other toxins into the bloodstream, which can cause the immune system to overreact.
If you have any predisposition to thyroid imbalances (which could be noticed through a family health history), an imbalanced immune system could lead to thyroid imbalance.
There are several toxicities and dietary deficiencies that can lead to thyroid imbalance. Heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, bromides and arsenic can contribute to issues with the thyroid. These toxic metals can affect the body in various ways, contributing to impaired immune function and unhealthy levels of inflammation. The use of birth control or other medication can interfere with hormone levels, which also influence thyroid function.
Another often overlooked factor is that there are specific minerals you need to support thyroid function including iodine and selenium. A lack of these essential minerals from your diet or ability to utilize them effectively, can contribute to thyroid issues.
The best way to identify whether you have a thyroid imbalance is to test thyroid function at a hormonal level. This will give you clear inforamtion about what is going on inside your body.
At-home lab testing can identify levels of TSH, T3 and T4 thyroid hormone, which indicate how well the thyroid is functioning. Additionally, it will test a thyroid-specific antibody that may indicate an imbalanced immune system. You can also take an even deeper look at your overall hormone health by adding cortisol, sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA, vitamin D and blood sugar regulation in a Complete Stress, Mood and Metabolism test.
Just as there are many factors that can cause internal imbalances, there are also a variety of approaches to maintaining balanced hormonal levels. Taking a holistic approach can mean more energy, improved attention and focus, and reduced stress.
Your diet is very important to your body's endocrine system and overall health. When you eat a nutrient-rich, whole food diet you provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs to function properly. Include a wide variety of colorful fruit and vegetables that are rich in fiber, healthy fats like avocado and olive oil and reduce your overall intake of processed foods and alcohol.
Making more meals at home rather than eating out is another way you can improve your diet. Prolonged levels of stress can also start to take it's toll on overall hormone balance and thyroid function, so finding ways to wind down and relax each day are important. Maintaining good sleeping habits and getting the rest you need is another essential ingredient for supporting hormone balance.
Sarah, a community member, had been navigating hypothyroid for 11 years. By following a detox program and paying attention to her TSH levels, she was able to stop taking synthetic thyroid medication and instead takes a natural thyroid replacement medication. Although she'd had success boosting her thyroid's health by using the detox program and watching her diet, she wondered what else she could do.
The answer? Dig deeper.
In functional medicine, you should learn as much about your body functions as possible. Every organ in the body is part of a complex system that affects other organs. The thyroid is a vital part of the endocrine system, which produces and regulates hormones. Even after treating the thyroid, it's possible that a deeper hormonal imbalance will keep it from functioning optimally. Knowing how all the systems in your body are working can help you achieve balance — and ultimately, wellness.
Sarah's at-home lab test revealed that she needed to bring her adrenals back into balance to achieve the best results in relation to her thyroid. After months of following a focused program, she was able to discontinue her thyroid replacement medication completely and says she now enjoys energy and productivity levels she hasn't experienced in years.
Do not underestimate the importance of your thyroid in whole-body health. The thyroid is one of the body's most important organs, as it regulates the activity of almost every cell you have.
Once thyroid function becomes imbalanced, it rarely rebalances on its own. When your thyroid is not balanced, it can affect so many aspects of your well-being that it can feel difficult to do just about anything; when it's off track, so are you. Pay attention to what your body has to tell you — it's depending on you!