Thyroid dysfunction (sub-clinical thyroid condition) affects 5-8 times more women than men, with 1 in 8 women struggling with thyroid dysfunction over their lifetime. After age 60 it is more likely.
Symptoms are fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, cold hands and feet, sluggish bowels, decreased mood, cognitive dysfunction and low vitality. Blood tests often show as low normal, which is not enough to warrant medication.
The thyroid sets metabolism, controls body temperature and ensures smooth running of these systems. Two key hormones are released from the thyroid – T4 and T3. T4 must be converted into T3 to get inside the cells and give positive benefits.
Main causes of thyroid dysfunction can be summarised as stress, hormone imbalance and nutrient deficiency.
Causes broken down :
High blood sugar
The effects of a high consumption of refined carbohydrates and processed sugars on blood sugar, insulin and thyroid function are profound. Over indulgence in high carb foods leads to compromised insulin function, then insulin resistance and finally diabetes. In the U.K. more than 1 in 16 people has diabetes or pre-diabetes. Thyroid dysfunction is high in this group, probably caused by blood sugar highs and lows resulting in release of cortisol (stress hormone), which eventually impacts on the brain and release of thyroid stimulating hormone.
solution : balancing blood sugar and insulin by decreasing intake of processed carbohydrates.
Obesity is increasing by 1% every year across the globe, with diabetes increasing at 4% a year. Insulin dysfunction does not necessarily cause obesity. Leptin is a satiety hormone produced by fat cells to signal to the brain “I am full”. Western diet, poor food choices and stress, as well as insulin dysfunction all scramble the leptin signals and lead to constant cravings for unhealthy food.
Solution : lose body fat, especially pro-inflammatory visceral fat around the internal organs to bring thyroid back into balance.
Research clearly shows that a person with overweight can have chronic inflammation that takes root as white adipose tissue around the organs (visceral fat). Inflammation reduces thyroid hormones in the short term and negatively influences thyroid receptors in the long term. It impairs the body’s ability to convert T4 into T3.
Solution : take a holistic approach to improve all areas of health to mitigate inflammation. Seek medical advice to deal with digestive problems like constipation, bloating, irritable bowel. The gut is the body’s engine and home to more than 70% of the immune system which triggers the inflammatory response. Try anti inflammatory foods such as turmeric, green vegetables, cinnamon, tomatoes, nuts, fatty fish, coconut oil, chia seeds, flaxseeds, ginger.
Stress is a major underlying cause of thyroid dysfunction. 24 hour connectivity takes its toll on the brain and the thyroid. The stress response begins in the brain and then acts on the pituitary gland. If we ‘wear out’ the thyroid with long, busy work days, and a never ending assault of emails, texts, and social media, thyroid function will be impaired leading to fatigue and low mood. The chain begins with chronic stress = blood sugar highs and lows = increased cortisol output = heavy burden on the pituitary = decreased thyroid stimulating hormone.
Solution : decrease stress, limit phone use, spend more time in nature, try eliminating stimulants like coffee and alcohol.
I will cover more about the causes of thyroid dysfunction next week.