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Olwen Anderson's Blog

How well is your thyroid?

Saturday, September 20, 2014
You’re reaching for a jacket when everyone else is comfortable in short sleeves. Your hands and feet feel perpetually icy, and your days are filled with a sluggish fatigue. Extra sleep doesn’t make a difference. Even your brain seems to be dragging its feet and your mood is, well, ‘unmotivated’. To make it worse you’re putting on weight, your skin is incredibly dry, you’re constipated and your hair is falling out. This is the world of a person with an underactive thyroid.

To set the ‘speed’ of your metabolism is the most important role of your thyroid gland. That means how fast you create energy, how rapid your digestion, how strong your circulation. Like other organs the thyroid gland can become unwell, and if it does the effects can echo throughout your body, altering even your emotions. Other elements of your endocrine system (like reproductive hormones) can be affected too.

Your thyroid can become underactive from a lack of raw materials (minerals) to produce thyroid hormone. It can also be attacked by your immune system. In a healthy body the immune system recognises accurately which cells are foreign, like invading bacteria (to be destroyed), and which cells are part of you (to be left alone). However when it’s dysfunctional the immune system can get the wrong idea, thinking that your thyroid gland should be attacked. These cells, called thyroid antibodies, can have a negative effect on the work your thyroid can do. In my experience, thyroid problems often emerge after a period of heavy and relentless stress in a client’s life (because stress will effectively upset the healthy function of your immune system).

The standard medical test for thyroid function is the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which shows how loudly your pituitary gland is 'shouting' at your thyroid to work harder. I explain in 'The Empowered Hypothyroid' why this isn't such a useful measurement. If you don't know whether your doctor has done a test, or what the results of your last test were, ask for a copy.

Full thyroid function tests are available that reveal the amount of circulating thyroid hormone (T3 and T4 and rT3) as well as the presence of thyroid antibodies that could flag an auto-immune problem for your thyroid.

If your thyroid is already healthy, there are some foods that will actively help your thyroid stay healthy. Seafood, some nuts and red meat are particularly good as they’re rich sources of vitamins and minerals. Iodine is an important mineral for thyroid function but keep in mind that if you take too much you can actually slow your thyroid down so please don’t self-prescribe. If you already have an underactive thyroid there are some foods containing goitrogens, naturally occurring food chemicals, that can hinder thyroid production, so shouldn’t be eaten in excess. These are the brassica family of vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) and raw kale.

Naturopathic treatment includes establishing the underlying cause of your thyroid problems (stress? poor nutrition? imbalanced immunity?) and utilising the tools of nutrition, herbs and homoeopathy to bring your thyroid gland gently back into balance.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy reading 'The Empowered Hypothyroid' available for free download from this website.

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Olwen Anderson @olwenanderson


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