Dear Dr. Simon,
I am in my 30s and for years have struggled with low thyroid levels, yet I’m mostly within the “normal range.” Endocrinologists tell me they can’t help me until I am clinically hypothyroid, but I have symptoms of tiredness, mild depression, and weight gain already. What can I do to keep it from progressing?
Dr. Simon Responds:
Thyroid hormone influences many aspect of human health, including body temperature, body weight, mental clarity, fertility, skin texture, hair growth, heart rate, and digestion. A variety of factors including immune function and nutrition can affect the thyroid gland. Due to its widespread effects, we often suspect that thyroid problems may be contributing to physical or emotional health challenges. Fortunately, current laboratory studies are often able to detect changes in pituitary and thyroid hormone levels before they produce noticeable problems.
Since your tests don’t show a significant problem with your thyroid function, you have a good opportunity to take steps to balance your life. Look at the basics. Are you getting enough rest? Try regularly getting into bed with the lights off by 10 p.m. and seeing how this affects your energy level.
Are you exercising daily? Exercise is one of the major links between hormones and metabolism and has been shown to improve the sensitivity of cells to thyroid hormone.
A well-rounded balanced diet will supply you with the iodine and selenium necessary for healthy thyroid function. Iodine is present in iodized salt, dairy, fruits and vegetables grown in coastal soils, and sea kelp. Selenium is found in eggs, seafood, brewer’s yeast, and wheat germ. Brazil nuts are a particularly rich source of selenium.
Over the past several years concern has been expressed over the interaction between soy intake and thyroid function. A few studies have suggested that soy may slightly inhibit the absorption of thyroid hormone in people taking replacement doses. Other reports have found that if people are deficient in iodine, soy protein may further inhibit normal thyroid production. Overall, these concerns appear to be insignificant for people who follow a reasonably healthy diet.
From an ayurvedic perspective, symptoms of low thyroid reflect a Kapha imbalance. Try following a Kapha-pacifying diet, using Kapha spice blends, and drinking Kapha tea. Think stimulating and invigorating. Find more information on balancing Kapha here.
Very few herbal medicines have been studied regarding their effects on low thyroid function. One exception is the ayurvedic herb guggulu, which has been shown to have a slight thyroid-stimulating effect in animals. This herb is most commonly used as a detoxifying agent in people with arthritis and elevated cholesterol.
I encourage you not to wait for your blood tests to become abnormal. Look at your life holistically and take steps now to promote balance and wellbeing.
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