Do any of these describe you?
Foggy thinking, depression, dementia, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, cold intolerance, hoarse voice, irregular menstruation, infertility, muscle stiffness and pain, weight gain and my speciality…weight loss resistance. If you have been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism you will be quite familiar with the above symptoms. However, if you are one of the unlucky ones who feel they suffer with these symptoms and yet your thyroid levels are normal, then you will want to keep reading because unfortunately, misdiagnosis is all too common in today’s medical world.
One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60 percent of these people are unaware of their condition! Plus this number is continuing to rise every year. I know I see it in my practice almost on a daily basis!
So what is this pesky little gland that is making your life miserable?
Your thyroid gland secretes hormones TSH T3 T4 free T3 and free T4, these help regulate heart rate, maintain healthy skin, and play a crucial part in metabolism aka ability to lose weight! When the gland is sluggish (hypothyroidism), it can rob you of energy, dry out your skin, make your joints ache, cause weight gain, and kick-start depression. Not so much fun!
If a woman is fortunate enough to have a Doctor test her thyroid and is diagnosed with hypothyroidism -she will be given replacement hormones without anyone looking further into what is the cause of her condition. The woman is usually so relieved that there is a reason for her unexpected weight gain that she skips down to the pharmacy, full of hope and optimism that her new thyroid medication is going to have her in that bikini she has held onto since pre pregnancy days. Only to discover that yes it helps with her energy levels and possibly some of the other symptoms, but her weight doesn’t budge!
You’re just depressed and need more exercise
Now let’s say a women goes in complaining of the same issues but her lab tests come back normal – she will quite often be told to go get more exercise and possibly be put on an anti-depressant for her symptoms. She will leave feeling defeated and ready to go home and burn that bikini.
Here comes the science part. The most common practice in the mainstream medical world is to test your levels of TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone. Which unfortunately for some people, even if the TSH level is normal, or even in some bases, low normal, there may still be a situation where one is hypothyroid at a cellular level, due to conversion problems, inadequate T3 hormone, or other factors. Inability to properly convert T4 to T3 can also result in fluctuating TSH, as the system struggles to keep balancing an out of whack T4 and T3 level, sending TSH levels up and down to compensate. Did that sound like I was speaking French to you?
No worries if it did, bottom line is to get a proper read on the state of your thyroid, you should be checking TSH, T3,T4, free T3 and free T4.
The issue here is that hypothyroidism is a very complex medical issue. The prescription for thyroid hormones can definitely be necessary and an integral part of therapy however the root cause needs to also be found. The production, conversion, and uptake of thyroid hormone in the body involves several steps. A malfunction in any of these steps can be the cause to the thyroid issue and if it’s not addressed properly her weight will continue going up or stay the same.
Underlying causes of Thyroid Disorders
The two main reasons for thyroid disorders are nutrient deficiency and autoimmune disease.
Nutrient deficiencies can be from the following;
– Iodine: a crucial nutrient for thyroid function
– Zinc: required for the synthesis of thyroid hormone
– Selenium: a cofactor for iodotyronine deiodinase, is required to convert T4 into T3
The Autoimmune Component
Up to 90% of thyroid disorders are from an autoimmune disease
Autoimmune disease is when the body is attacking its own tissue in this case attacking its own thyroid gland which is called Hashimotos disease. There are many reasons for autoimmunity and require whole other blog post. The important thing here is that the symptoms of autoimmune disease can be reversed through diet, supplements and lifestyle.
Losing weight with Hypothyroidism
Now that you know how to properly get diagnosed how does one lose weight with hypothyroidism.
In my practice I like to do a four pronged approach with supporting the thyroid with proper supplementation, following an autoimmune eating protocol, improving one’s lifestyle and gut health.
Supplementation as mentioned earlier should consist of restoring healthy levels of iodine and selenium using kelp tablets and dietary selenium. 800-1000 mcg of supplemental iodine a day has shown to be adequate and a short course in therapeutic selenium (200 mcg per day) if a person does not eat nuts or seafood, which are the highest sources. Also shown to be important are Vitamin D, Glutathione, Zinc and Ashwagandha.
-Limit goitrogenic foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, kale and canola to no more then 1 serving a day. Goitrogenics can increase the need for iodine or damage the thyroid.
– Avoid problem foods that may trigger an autoimmune response: Certain foods like nightshade vegetables, eggs, wheat and dairy products may exacerbate autoimmune disease in certain people. My recommendation is to follow an autoimmune Paleo diet for 30 days and then add them back in one at a time to determine if they’re causing problems.
– One of the largest impacts on your thyroid health is stress levels. When the body is in a constant state of stress which majority of North Americans are, our adrenal glands pump out a hormone called cortisol, which is our fight or flight hormone. Too much cortisol for a long period of time eventually leads to adrenal exhaustion. This adrenal stress reduces conversion of T4 to T3, promotes autoimmunity and causes thyroid hormone resistance. The solution is to destress your life in any way you can, learn to cope with stress through meditation or another relaxing practice.
Poor gut health can suppress thyroid function and trigger Hashimoto’s disease, and low thyroid function can lead to an inflamed and leaky gut. It is crucial that you address the gut with eating a paleo based diet even better a paleo autoimmune diet that can help protect and rebuild the gut lining. Taking a proper digestive enzyme, probiotic and gut healers like l-glutamine can help repair and rebuild the gut flora.
You can request from your medical doctor a full thyroid panel unfortunately they usually refuse. I know in British Columbia they will not test for anything other then TSH unless the TSH came back abnormal or they suspect something more serious is wrong like thyroid cancer or they found thyroid nodules. If you are interested in getting your full panel done I recommend testing through a naturopathic doctor, in Kamloops you can have this done through Kamloops Naturopathic Clinic. For more information on how I can help you begin losing weight and reclaiming your health with hypothyroidism, then email me to set up your free 20 minute consult at firstname.lastname@example.org .