If you are one of the millions of women struggling with low energy, hard to shift weight-gain, straw-like thinning hair and a non-existent sex-drive, you need to read this.
In this article you’ll learn
- Why the conventional tests for “slow” thyroid (hypothyroid) just don’t tell the truth
- Why your doctor told you that you’re “fine” after testing
- Which tests you really need to uncover the truth
- Why you may want to start this journey without expectations of your doctor helping
- How you can begin to heal your thyroid naturally, with nutrition & lifestyle & supplements & support.
For years now you have felt like you’ve been crawling through mud. You’re pretty sure you used to have heaps of energy, but now it doesn’t matter how you look after yourself with nutrition and movement, you just can’t get your mojo back! You and your doctor both say:
It must be ageing
But at the very depths of you, you know you should be able to feel better, you just can’t put your finger on what is pulling you down.
Once upon a time you enjoyed a fun love-life, but now you couldn’t care less for anything than a cuddle.
More than once you’ve been online and checked off 70% of the low thyroid symptoms – the doctor tested you, yet it came back normal! The doctor assured you that you’re fine, nothing to worry about, your ten minutes are up! You felt demoralised and lost when you were left to your own devices, forced to accept this new slow-paced you, with your ambitions slipping through your fingers.
It’s been so long now since you felt this extra pep that you’ve just about come to accept this is how it is now. You are the under-functioning version of you. Perhaps this is what they meant when they said “you slow down as you get older”. Yet in the back of your mind, you just know things should be better than this!
How many of these low thyroid hormone symptoms and risk factors do you say YES to?
- Cold hands and feet? HELLO HUMAN ICE BLOCK. Your partner shudders when you snuggle close!
- An intolerance of heat and/or cold environments.
- Orange palms and soles, perhaps elbows, knees and the folds around your mouth too
- Low to zero libido – your Jiggy went AWOL some time ago!
- You have brain fog – there are no thoughts In there… but It’s not because of meditation!
- You have menstrual irregularities
- Painful, sore joints
- Heavy limbs – like a ton of lead is hanging off each of your cells
- Your eyebrows only make it 2/3 of the way to your ears…they seem to stop short?
- Drying skin and nails – are you flaky and brittle?
- Thinning, dry, brittle hair that doesn’t grow long any-more – it’s feels like straw (you assumed the hair dye did it!)?
- Perhaps your throat is visibly enlarged around the Adam’s apple area, with/without trouble swallowing?
- Sore throats and swollen glands
- You’re scratching your head as to why you feel so tired all the time
- You have some stubborn weight that just won’t shift (plus you’re too zapped to exercise it off anyway!)
- There’s no way you’re playing ball/team sports – you don’t have any reactions!
- You force yourself to be more active and it only depletes you more?
- You are always wondering why a pleasant walk, yoga or the gym seems like a slog these days
- Constipation? Pooping nuggets, straining, or going less than once a day – despite hydration, fibre and exercise
- It’s hard to wake up in the mornings or get going at all without caffeine
- You crave carby or sugary foods in an attempt to give yourself a boost
- Even the normal day-to-day tasks like caring for kids and home tire you out
- You notice occasional palpitations from your heart, or have a very slow heart rate
- You have recently, or always, had low blood pressure – adding to fatigue and dizziness
- You noticed you have an intolerance to gluten and feel heaps better when you avoid it?
- You have been diagnosed with celiac disease
- Your doctor tested you for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which came back in the normal levels of 0.35-3.5 – but you still feel like you’re dragging yourself through syrup?
- You have high cholesterol or high blood pressure?
- Your voice is a bit horse, deeper or slower than the norm?
- You don’t perspire as much as you used to
- You don’t think you’re depressed, but can’t drag yourself out of this slump
- You do feel dissatisfied with the pace/progression of life?
- Now you come to think of it, you’ve abandoned some major life dreams (work or social projects) because you just don’t have the energy to pursue them anymore
- The doctor has offered you an antidepressant for your symptoms
- There’s a history of diagnosed thyroid issues with your family (or you can see these symptoms in your Mum too)?
PHEW! What a list! That’s because thyroid hormone is needed by every cell in your body to do it’s job! How did you go? If you said “yes” to several symptoms, then you may need to take a closer look at this. What is happening?!!
Its worth noting at this point that thyroid hormone symptoms overlap with other common female hormonal imbalances and nutritional deficiencies/intolerance such as adrenal fatigue, impaired liver function, IBS and low iron levels. That’s why it’s important that you:
- Get professional help for testing of hormones, nutrients and interpretation of results (more about this later) so you know what you are treating
- If you don’t want to get the tests then follow lifestyle recommendations (bottom of page) and monitor your symptoms.
- Never delay going to a doctor if you are in doubt, or if your gut tells you to.
The Two Problems with Regular Thyroid testing
If you’re not into the Sciencey-bits then page down to “This is Me! What should I do next?”
The standard test your doctor will run is for TSH – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. This is released by the pituitary in your brain and travels to the thyroid (in your front neck). However, this is only an indication that the pituitary is doing it’s job. If you tested normal but have symptoms, then you could have a myriad of other thyroid challenges that require further testing. These include:
- your thyroid is not making enough of the T4 hormone that circulates to your cells. CLICK THIS LINK TO SEE MORE ABOUT THYROID HORMONE PRODUCTION.
- your cells are not able to receive T3 hormone that activate the cell’s functions (hence everything brain, body, digestion, mood, weight loss, hair growth, slow down).
- You have an autoimmune disease (e.g., Grave’s or Hashimoto’s)
These challenges can be due to a mineral deficiency, high stress, an environmental toxin, or an auto-immune disease.
The Other Problem With TSH Testing
- TSH levels. Your doctor looks for a mainstream level between 0.3-3.5 mlU/L (varies in each area/country). However, a FUNCTIONAL LEVEL of 0.3-2.0 mlIU/L is more sensible. Dig out your test results, or ask for a print out. In future ALWAYS get the results emailed or printed out – that way you can always get a Functional or Health Professional to check them over for you.
- Mainstream test ranges are based on averages. That means that if I took 500 people and did a blood test for TSH levels, the ‘normal’ range would be based on the average of this. But what if 400 of those people had an under-functioning thyroid and didn’t know? Now the healthy range is based on an unhealthy population! I am pushing this to the extreme as an example.
- There’s more to consider – these mainstream ranges are an indication of when to medicate. E.g “you fall outside of the range, there is something very wrong with your thyroid function, life must be very hard, I will prescribe this pill, you have an answer now, and you can take this man-made chemical for life”
- Now take a look at the functional range. It’s smaller (0.3-2.0). Functional healthcare providers know that you need to fall within this range to feel well! You could have a TSH level of 3.0 and the doctor says you’re fine (read: “you’re not unwell enough to medicate yet”!) but you feel awful and have a ton of the symptoms. Of course you do! Your body is pumping out TSH but it isn’t making the actual thyroid hormones that your cells can use for function! The TSH TEST is an incomplete picture
This is Me! What should I do next?
1 – Go Back To Your Doctor For Testing
Ask you doctor for a fuller thyroid profile test. You may need to plead your case based on presenting clinical symptoms. A Functional Health Provider can help you decide which tests to request, based on all your symptoms. For instance, it may also be wise to ask additional tests such as cortisol and micro-nutrient levels, to help rule out other imbalances. If you have any problems obtaining tests from your doctor, then there is an option to pay privately (see point 2 below).
As a general guide, the minimal thyroid panel is:
- Free T3
- Free T4
- Reverse T3
- TPO – Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody indicates Grave’s/Hashimoto’s
- TgAb – Thyroglubulin Antibodies – Graves/Hasimoto’s
- Vitamin D (Optimal 25OHD levels in this post)
- Ferretin (optimal ferretin levels in this post)
Note that Reverse T3 can be more expensive, but is worth getting if available to you.
2 – Get the Support Of A Functional Health Professional and Private Testing
The challenge of getting the tests and interpreting them can put many women off pursuing. This is when you could engage the help of an expert to assist your journey. They come in the form of doctors, nurses, health coaches, naturopaths and nutritionists. If you are looking for a functional professional in your area, you can contact me for recommendations or even use Google to help you find one.
Some functional providers may be able to order tests on your behalf, or write a letter to your doctor requesting their support. You can also privately purchase testing locally and online, but in my experience, most women will need help interpreting the results and deciding how to proceed. Indeed, any person who is in a hypothyroid state can suffer immense brain fog, and this makes interpretation of results even more challenging. Be wise and ask an expert.
In the UK, Blue Horizons offer reasonably priced home testing. In New Zealand you can self order most tests at your local Medlab or equivalent.
If a health professional is out of your financial budget then consider making a start by getting the support of a patient support group such as this one, and/or using resources such as the thyroid.org.uk website and www.stopthethyroidmadness.com
3 – Make Your Own Nutritional/Lifestyle Changes and Monitor Symptoms
If your symptoms are manageable and/or you cannot source other help, then you may choose to see if some tweaks to your diet will help. For instance, ditching the gluten, learning to relax and taking supplements:
Balance blood sugars and manage stress – The pituitary gland which produces TSH, is also part of your stress response. Work, relationships, lack of sleep, too much sugar, too much/little exercise all contribute to stress. Try some deep breathing and yoga to balance out, practice saying ‘No!’ to requests, and eat smaller frequent meals while you come into balance.
Rest – If you are hypothyroid you will often feel fatigued and may have an imbalanced stress response as well. By forcing yourself to push on you could be pushing yourself further from balance. There is a fine line between carrying on, giving up and pushing through. Allow yourself plenty of rest, sleep and compassion.
- Cut the gluten – this is proven to help heal women with a thyroid auto-immune disease
- Cook your Brassicas (they contain goitrogens which interfere with thyroid function – Brussels, kale, broccoli, cauli, cabbage)
- Limit soy to once per week. It reduces T3 by 7%
- Many people with an autoimmune cause of hypothyroid benefit from avoiding foods they are intolerant to. You can find more information about common food intolerance’s here and here.
If possible, get tested to find out which nutrients you are deficient in before taking supplements: Consider a supplement (s) that contains:
- Methylated B Vitamins
- Copper, zinc and selenium
- Vitamin A
- Iron (especially if hair loss) – iron should not be taken unless deficient. Read more here.
- Vitamin D
There is much controversy whether thyroid patients should consume more iodine. It depends on why you have a hypothyroid in the first place. Proceed with caution.
Track your symptoms and never delay seeing a doctor if you suspect you need help.
A note on Pharmaceuticals for a Hypothyroid
There are several great holistic options for healing your thyroid – however, there is nothing wrong with conventional pharmaceutical treatments, if you decide it is the best option for you! Doctors usually prescribe levothyroxine for an under-functioning thyroid. Many patients do not respond well to levothyroxine and there are more natural prescribed medications available such as NDT – Natural Desiccated Thyroid.
Most GP’s and even endocrinologists may not support the use of NDT over the levothyroxine medication. For this reason, if this is the path you would like to go down, then you will need to engage the support of knowledgeable people. This can be an functional health professional, a patient support group and by doing a lot of research via books and the internet. If this is you, I will be happy to point you in the right direction if you make contact/leave a request in the comments.
Treatment for under-functioning and over-functioning thyroid glands are different. Be sure you know what you are treating, before taking action with natural or pharmaceutical medications.
DISCLAMER: this article cannot cover the full depth of thyroid challenges, and does not replace the medical advice of your chosen healthcare professional.
NEED MORE HELP? Thyroid and hormonal balance can be a confusing topic. The Sistahood offers group and private health coaching Contact Claire to get started.