HYPOthyroidism, or an underactive thyroid is thought to affect many people who may be completely unaware. Some studies suggest that 10% of women experience some degree of thyroid hormone deficiency. The purpose of this post is not to go into all the ins and outs of hyper/hypothyroidism and the science of how it all works, but instead of offer some useful lifestyle related tips to help you support your thyroid function. If, however, you are experiencing symptoms it may be worth your while getting your doctor to check it out!

The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland in your neck. It makes two hormones that are secreted into the blood: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are necessary for all the cells in your body to work normally. The thyroid is responsible for regulating things like your breathing, heart rate, the central and peripheral nervous systems, body weight, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, body temperature, cholesterol levels and more. It is no surprise then that when this gland isn’t working well, or when it’s overworking it can cause havoc with various systems in the body.

Symptoms and conditions associated with HYPOthyroidism include:

Weight gain

Fatigue

Risk of inflammatory conditions

Risk of autoimmune disease

Myocardial infarction

Unable to perform routine tasks

Inability to cope

Apathy

Restless sleep

Weakness

Chronic pain

Reduced libido

Asthma and allergies

Dry skin

Irritability

Memory loss

Constipation

Coarse dry hair

Hair loss

Lifestyle factors play an important role in your thyroid function and the tips below will help your thyroid function better. Again, if you are suffering extensive symptoms, get to your doctor, continued hypothyroidism can be a major problem.

1 STRESS

Cortisol, the hormone released when we are stressed significantly affects the functioning of the thyroid. Do everything you can to limit the stress you are under. This includes, psychological, emotional, physical stress. If you can’t get rid of it, can you at least find ways of managing it better?

2 AVOID EXPOSURE TO POPs

POPs are persistent organic pollutants. These are considered a hazardous organic chemical compound that is resistant to biodegradation and thus remains in the environment for a long period of time. They can interfere with the body’s hormonal control system and can seriously affect health. They majority of these are manmade and found in chemicals and other industrial processes. POPs are themselves the subject of another blog post, however, these general guidelines will suffice here. Avoid plastics. All plastics. Try and use something else where possible. Avoid using pesticides and seek out fresh foods that haven’t been doused in the stuff. Heavy metals in food are another threat to hormone health. Try and source non-polluted fish and shellfish. Avoid hairsprays, hair dyes, perfumes and colognes and use green quickly degrading cleaning and washing products in the home. Give up smoking and/or avoid second-hand smoke.

3 AVOID EXPOSURE TO MOBILE PHONES

Yep, there’s now research showing the use of mobile phones and their electromagnetic field affect the levels of thyroid hormones. Yet another reason to get off your phone.

4 OPTIMISE YOUR INTAKE OF MICRONUTRIENTS

Micronutrients are the little things in food – vitamins and minerals and other trace elements. Thyroid function depends on copper, zinc, selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Iodine and Ferritin. Consider whether your diet is nutrient dense. Are you eating very little raw food, or even unable to digest it properly after years of eating a not great diet? Increase the nutrient density of the foods that you eat to maximise your intake of these and other micronutrients important to the health of your various bodily systems.

5 SLEEP

The importance of sleep is completely and utterly both misunderstood and understated. Losing out on sleep affects thyroid function and more importantly affects it more greatly in women who lose out on sleep. Aim for at least 8 hours a night to maximise the repair, restore and rejuvenating magic of sleep.

6 GET OUTSIDE

Not getting enough sunlight exposure is linked with diminished Vitamin D which in turn is higher in individuals with compromised thyroid function. Get outside, in nature, it’ll help you destress, and get some sun on your body (no, that doesn’t mean go outside and toast yourself to a raisin like texture)!

7 CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS

Again, linked to sleep, but ensuring that you get lots of morning sunshine, and then dim light in the evening means that your normal sleep cycle of daylight and night time is established. Get into a routine. Clear up your sleep hygiene, avoiding electronics in the bedroom, particularly those that emit blue light (phones/tablets etc). Make sure your room is dark and cool so you sleep deeply and consistently.

8 MOVE

Although there is little research as yet on exercise and hormone function, certainly moving more, walking and other movement practices which don’t place an additional stress on the body are known to reduce stress and aid sleep. Even better if you’re doing that movement outside.

In conclusion, managing stress is one of the most supportive ways of helping your thyroid thrive. Reduce the obvious stresses that we all experience, family, work etc. but consider those that you don’t necessarily see/feel/touch/hear… environmental stresses, including the use of electronic devices, particularly phones, chemical and other pollutant stressors – consider filtering your water. Not getting the right quality and quantity of sleep, not exercising or exercising too much and not resting are all stresses on the body. Get enough sleep, get outside and move and ensure that your diet is as nutrient dense as you can make it, and eliminate the use of chemicals in the home and on the body as much as you can.