Did You Know… a thyroid imbalance can affect your entire body?
Your thyroid may be tiny—it’s only two inches long and weighs less than an ounce—but don’t let that mislead you. From its perch below your voice box, this butterfly-shaped gland sends out signals that affect every cell in your body. Because thyroid function impacts your entire body, it can be difficult to diagnose when it goes awry.
The Far Reach of Your Thyroid
The two main functions of the thyroid are to metabolize calories into energy and to manage the production of hormones that oxygenate your cells. Each cell in your body contains receptors for thyroid hormones, so if production slows down or speeds up, the consequences can be wide-ranging.
Varied symptoms make misdiagnosis common and can lead to treatments focused on one superficial issue, not the underlying cause. Experts estimate that at least 24 million people experience thyroid dysfunction, and more than half of those who do go mis- or undiagnosed. Some key indicators of a thyroid imbalance include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Unusually cold hands and feet
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain and puffiness
- High cholesterol
- Mood Swings
- Memory loss
The First Step to Restoring Optimal Thyroid Function
If you suspect your thyroid function may be less than optimal, a good first step is to evaluate your diet. Certain foods are known to improve thyroid health, while others are known to undermine it.
Foods with high concentrations of selenium and iodine can be particularly beneficial. Seaweed, blackstrap molasses, navy beans, cranberries, and Himalayan salt are all rich sources of iodine. To up your selenium intake, experts say you should try incorporating Brazil nuts, shitake mushrooms, and chia seeds into your diet.
In addition to adding foods that support thyroid function, you should try to avoid foods known to aggravate thyroid issues. Caffeine, and especially coffee, appears to inhibit production of thyroid hormones. Unfermented soy may also disrupt thyroid function. In some cases, foods containing gluten can worsen problems linked to a thyroid imbalance.
So much of your health comes back to what you do and don’t eat. If you’re seeking to restore and enhance thyroid function, keep that end goal in mind when making dietary choices.
Looking at Your Health as a Whole
Dietary changes alone may not completely resolve thyroid issues. Vitamin deficiencies may be a factor, as well. If you’re low in vitamin B12… vitamin A… or vitamin D, your thyroid will slow its production of hormones. A deficiency in vitamin A can cause an especially rapid decrease in hormone levels. Even if you’re emphasizing natural, whole-food sources of these vitamins, you may find you need to introduce vitamin supplements as well.
Another factor to consider is that your thyroid may be responding to an overgrowth of gut bacteria… the presence of heavy metals in your body… or toxins in the bloodstream. In these cases, you will need to detoxify your body to restore thyroid function to its optimal level.
Remember, no part of your body stands alone. An issue in one area can send ripples through the entire system. Natural health experts stress that the more you focus on full body equilibrium, the better you will feel.