Updated: Apr 30, 2021
What are the most common thyroid conditions and symptoms?
Hypothyroidism: underproduction of thyroid hormone. Low thyroid function causes symptoms like:
cold hands and feet,
brittle hair & nails,
muscle & joint pain,
loss of outer 1/3 eyebrow.
Hyperthyroidism: can be caused by an overproduction of thyroid hormone or an excessive release of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland due to inflammation and/or gland destruction (Grave’s disease). An overactive thyroid will cause symptoms like:
increased BMR (Basal Metabolic rate) leading to weight loss and diarrhea,
excessive hair loss,
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: This is one of the causes of hypothyroidism and an autoimmune condition where the body attacks its thyroid tissue eventually killing all the tissue leaving the thyroid unable to produce hormones. At first, you may not feel any different as this autoimmune condition gets started but over time you can fluctuate between over and underproduction of thyroid hormones making it hard to treat for some.
I actually found out through my recent training that I have cellular hypothyroidism - meaning that my thyroid is working fine, but I’m suffering from hypothyroid symptoms because my thyroid hormones cannot get into my cells.
What really freaks me out is that most doctors don’t even go as far as ordering a detailed thyroid panel (T4, T3, free T3 & T4, reverse T3, or thyroid antibodies) to see if enough thyroid hormone is produced but maybe not converted, … nor do they actually check what these women are eating or not eating, because sometimes it’s simply a deficiency in iodine that will cause this and by integrating it in your diet you can fix it!!!!
What levels are normal?
Your TSH should range between 1 & 2 ulU/ml (these are functional ranges, which are world-wide the same). I know that most labs don’t flag anything above 4.5 or even higher, but believe me, if your TSH is at 2. you’ll likely already feel the impacts. The labs actually determine their ranges on the average of samples they're getting from patients, so you see that they can vary a lot and are also not very representative.
The TSH is a general marker that can indicate if something is out of range, but as I mentioned, it is important to understand if your thyroid is producing enough Thyroxine (T4) which is inactive, and convert it into enough Triiodothyronine (T3). It may be that your TSH is still fine, but your conversion is off. Or you’re not producing enough T4, but your TSH is still fine, because this is just starting to happen. So just checking TSH is not sufficient in my opinion.
Nutrition is one thing, but did you know how much impact stress and gut health have on our thyroid?
Instead of taking a pill, I think it’s much more important to look at the root cause, because taking that pill will just mask the symptoms and not fixing the root cause will create a wealth of other health issues in the future.
Here are some factors to consider if you’re dealing with thyroid issues:
Stress: It is quite common to develop low thyroid symptoms after stressful life events such as loss of a loved one, divorce, losing your job, financial problems, homeschooling kids in a pandemic, ….etc. We know today that stress, especially when paired with a poor diet, digestive problems, frequent travels and poor sleep can create the “perfect storm” that triggers an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s. And let's be honest, when stressed, most people are also letting slip their diets, indulging in alcohol, sweets and fast foods and that’s just human. When stressed (mentally or physically), our body releases a hormone called Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that will trigger our adrenal glands to produce cortisol. CRH inhibits the production of TRH thyroid hormone and that in turn inhibits the production of TSH.
Too high estrogen levels or estrogen dominance (an imbalance between levels and proportions of estrogen and progesterone) will have a negative impact on thyroid function. This can also be related to xeno- estrogens or environmental toxins. High estrogen is blocking thyroid hormones from being able to get into the thyroid hormone receptors. Excess estrogen also elevates TBG (thyroid binding globulin) which, as the name indicates, binds up thyroid hormone and if it binds too much, the thyroid hormone is simply not available for our cells.
Genetics can play a significant role: if thyroid issues run in your family, you are definitely at risk to also develop thyroid issues. Just because you have certain genes though, doesn’t mean that they will be turned on - your lifestyle & diet choices play a huge role that can influence your genes to stay dormant.
Dysglycemia (imbalanced blood sugar) weakens and inflames the digestive tract, lungs, and the brain. It can exhaust the adrenals and wreak havoc on other hormones. Each of these outcomes have a significant impact on the thyroid gland.
Both the digestive tract and the liver are primary sites for the conversion of T4 to the active thyroid hormone, T3. When they don’t function properly, this impacts your thyroid hormone production. GI function and food sensitivities are almost always contributing factors with thyroid conditions.
If you have an ongoing immune activation with leaky gut and/or inflammation, your body can no longer handle certain foods and antibodies are fighting these foods now treated as invaders, which can lead to an autoimmune attack on the thyroid. This will also cause stress hormones to rise and your overall wellbeing and hormone balance.
Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are toxins released from pathogenic bacteria living in our gut which impact our whole body and will trigger our body or rather our immune system to release antibodies. They also reduce production of TSH and conversion from T4 to T3.
Deficiencies of the key nutrients required for normal thyroid hormone synthesis, release, and function can result in poor thyroid hormone output. Nutrient deficiencies will impact our master endocrine glands, the pituitary and hypothalamus, to communicate appropriately. When one endocrine organ or gland becomes imbalanced, it will have a negative cascade effect on the others.
Heavy metals can have a big negative impact on the thyroid and play a role in thyroid autoimmune disorders.
Key Nutrients to Support Thyroid Health
Iodine is an essential mineral for the function of the thyroid gland. It is the primary cause of hypothyroidism and goiter. The thyroid gland uses the iodine from the food we eat to produce the two thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Without enough iodine from the diet, our thyroid simply cannot produce enough thyroid hormone. However, too much iodine can be problematic in general, but especially for those dealing with thyroid disease and even though iodine supplementation can help support the thyroid for those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, taking iodine can be more damaging. So supplementing with iodine can be tricky, that’s why I will only recommend that you increase your iodine food sources like seaweed, seafood, fish. And eliminate halogens that will inhibit the absorption of iodine.
Selenium is an important mineral for thyroid hormone conversion and antioxidant protection. Selenium is the base for the creation of many enzymes which then, in turn, push the conversion of inactive T4 to the active T3. Brazil nuts are an excellent food source of selenium.
Magnesium is another key nutrient necessary for proper enzymatic output and conversion of active thyroid hormones. Magnesium also helps to regulate calcium levels as well as those of copper, potassium, zinc and vitamin D. Foods high in magnesium include beans and nuts, whole grains such as brown rice, and green leafy vegetables.
Adequate levels of zinc are required for the production of T4 and the conversion to the active form of thyroid hormone T3. Food sources are oysters, and to a smaller extend high quality beef and lamb, raw pumpkin seeds, and mushrooms. It’s pretty difficult to get enough Zinc from your diet, so supplementing is often necessary. Look for zinc chelate (bisglycinate) form.
Omega 3 Fish oil helps to keep cells fluid and receptors sensitive so messages can be transmitted. It also reduces inflammation which can improve uptake of thyroid hormones. When the body is attacking itself in an autoimmune disease, like Hashimoto’s, inflammation is present so taking Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil is a great anti-inflammatory to add to your regime. Take a high potency fish oil delivered in the natural triglyceride form, derived from highly responsible and clean sources. Eating wild caught fatty fish like sardines, mackerel or salmon is a great addition to your diet on top of that.
L-Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid that supports levels of the thyroid hormone T4 and T3 – for those with low levels. These cells combine with iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T3 and T4. Tyrosine is used in the brain as a precursor to neurotransmitters called catecholamines such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, which support our energy and focus. Tyrosine is found in chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products and many other foods.
Low levels of vitamin D depriving your immune system of an essential building block and have been linked to hypothyroid conditions and a higher risk of developing autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’. Typical labs will give you a range that says 35 is an adequate amount of vitamin D, however, the functional medicine range suggests that Vitamin D should be at least at 60 ng/mL. There's not much Vitamin D in food and most of us are not getting enough and unprotected sun exposure, so supplementing daily is essential.
The final key nutrients for proper thyroid hormone conversion include Vitamin C, A, B2, B3, and B12. These vitamins can be easily found in a nutrient-dense, varied, high quality diet.