Imagine one Saturday morning you get up; you yawn, you stretch and take a deep breath. You look out of the window; the sun is shining, you think to yourself, “wow what a beautiful day!” You stand up and look down at your pillow, and suddenly, your heart sinks to the bottom of your chest. Unbelievably your eyes focus to see that your pillow is covered with your hair. In horror, you reach back and run your fingers through your mane and come out with a fist full of locks. You run to the mirror and see that you don’t look any different, your hairline is intact, so you jump into the shower. When you finish your shower, you notice that the drain is clogged with hair! Wtf is going on?
This scenario happened to my friend Jenn (well, not exactly, I added the drama for interesting reading). Jenn’s mom (God rest her soul) began to lose her hair in her 40’s. In the “olden” days, women did not discuss or get treated for ailments that were related to getting older. Jenn’s mom, like almost all women in those days, had no choice but to accept the loss of her beautiful self-identifying hair.
When you think about yourself and the way you look, what features come to mind first? Personally, I think about my height (I am 5’ 10,” and no one lets me forget it for a second), my face, and of course, my hair. A women’s self-actualization is sometimes dependent on their hair, a symbol of youth, beauty, and femininity. Look at the amount of money and time we spend on our hair! According to an article in dailymail.com, women in the US spend approximately $55,000 on their hair during their lifetime. I have definitely spent more, and my life is not nearly over.
For a woman the loss of her hair is devastating. One of the primary symptoms of a thyroid disorders is hair loss.
According to the American Thyroid Association, 1 out of 8 women will experience thyroid dysfunction in their lifetime. I’m sorry, but that is not OK! Thyroid dysfunction can be devastating to a women’s entire life. It is not about the vanity of hair loss or weight gain; it is about the loss of quality of life.
Let’s get familiar with the thyroid, so we understand why the normal function is essential. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits around the trachea (the breathing tube), right by the voice box, in the front of the neck. When your doctor feels the front of your neck during an exam, this is what he/she is feeling. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate as well as heart function, digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood, and bone maintenance (1). The thyroid is part of our endocrine system. Here is a great website that explains the thyroids function in more detail https://www.yourhormones.info/glands/thyroid-gland/
The list of functions the thyroid is responsible for is extensive. The last thing we women need is for this gland to go rogue. Unfortunately, this is happening to so many women over the age of 40 that I feel it has reached epidemic proportions.
Women are much more prone to thyroid dysfunction because of our other hormonal levels being out of whack. I hate to sound like a broken record, but estrogen dominance can cause thyroid issues, but I digress.
Thyroid dysfunction symptoms:
- Hair loss
- Chronic fatigue
- Heart palpitations
- Infertility issues
- Did I say fatigue? I need to say it again.
- Weight gain/loss
- Feeling cold all the time
- Feeling hot all the time
- Brittle hair and nails
- Hoarseness when you speak (a sign of cancer, please do not ignore)
- Decreased/Increased heart rate
- Fuzzy thinking
- Low sex drive
- Heavy menstrual cycles (if you still get your period)
- Very symptomatic menopause
- Dry skin
- Low blood pressure (dizziness upon standing)
- High blood pressure
I know that other ailments can cause a lot of these symptoms; however, if you experience more than two or three symptoms on this list, wouldn’t it make sense to get checked? Even if your values fall within normal limits, they may be just low enough for you to be experiencing symptoms.
Here is a basic list of thyroid hormone values the doctor is looking for with a simple blood test:
- Thyroxine (T4)– the major hormone secreted by the thyroid. The amount of T4 produced by the thyroid gland is controlled by another hormone, which is made in the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain), called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). (2)
- TSH – this hormone is secreted in amounts dependent upon the amount of T4.
- Triiodothyronine – (T3) – T4 is converted into T3 in the liver when it lets go of one of it’s iodine molecules.
- Here is a great article that goes more into depth regarding thyroid hormones https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-function-tests/
These are three essential and universal values that are evaluated when looking at thyroid hormone levels. All of these hormones are dependent on each other and help to regulate vital functions such as:
- Heart rate
- Hair growth
- Cholesterol levels
- Body temperature
- Menstrual cycles
- The list goes on….
Now we can understand why it is crucial that the thyroid is functioning properly for our well-being.
If your thyroid levels are really out of whack, your doctor may put you on thyroid medication. Synthroid is one of the more popular medications for hypothyroidism (hypo means slow). Anti-thyroid drugs like Tapazole are used to treat hyperthyroidism (hyper means overactive). When it comes down to it, the medications are aiming to regulate the hormone production of the thyroid. These medications do come with a grocery list of side effects, but sometimes a woman may not have a choice but to take a drug like Synthroid. However, there are natural remedies you can try before going on thyroid medication (or after).
Factors you can change right now to improve your thyroid function:
Please keep in mind I am not a doctor. All of the following recommendations are just recommendations. It is always a good idea to chat with your doc before trying something new.
Increase your selenium intake
My friend Jenn was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune means that the body mistakenly attacks healthy organs thinking that they are an enemy. Hashimoto’s attacks the thyroid, which decreases hormone production and creates hypothyroidism. Selenium is a trace mineral that plays a role in thyroid hormone metabolism (3). Hashimoto’s creates an environment that decreased levels of selenium; therefore, interrupts hormone production. I supplement with selenium every day because several years ago, my hair was coming out by the handful. Here is a link to the selenium I take https://www.swansonvitamins.com/now-foods-selenium-200-mcg-180-vcaps As with all trace minerals, please only take as directed. Too much selenium can cause other issues.
You can try supplementing selenium, as I do. I hate taking pills, so I open the capsules and put the selenium into my fiber shakes. Eat Brazilian nuts! One handful can supply all the selenium you would need for a whole day. They are so yummy and contain the highest amount of selenium (as well as other minerals and vitamins). Yellow-fin tuna is a great source as well (6 oz supplies 183 micro milligrams, almost as much as the supplement). Only eat tuna once a week, tuna has a high mercury content which is toxic to our bodies. Oysters are a great source of selenium and zinc (and other essential minerals). You can get smoked oysters in a can and throw them into your salad. Pork chops, lean beef and chicken all contain selenium. Please try to find the highest quality grass-fed meat you can afford and always look for meats raised without antibiotics.
Increase your Iodine intake
Did you know that a high percentage of women with hypothyroidism simply have an iodine deficiency? The thyroid requires iodine to produce proper amounts of essential hormones. Sea veggies are the best source of iodine, like seaweed salad, kelp, and nori. Not everyone enjoys eating seaweed (I love it) but you can also get iodine from raw milk, Cape Cod cranberries (because they grow close to the ocean), eggs, potato’s, and ladies you can get iodine from chocolate (the darker the better). However, if nothing on this list really rocks your boat you can try a supplement. I take kelp tablets with my selenium. This is the brand I use https://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-premium-kelp-iodine-source-225-mcg-500-tabs?otherSize=SW1745 You can also supplement with Lugol’s Iodine https://www.swansonvitamins.com/j-crow-company-lugols-iodine-2-2-fl-oz-liquid#product-details. I put a couple of drops into a glass of water. The taste is metallic, but not too offensive.
Cut down on the sugar
Sugar and refined flours (white bread, pasta, pizza crust) create inflammation in our body’s which interrupts the production of T4, a critical thyroid hormone. I am not suggesting that you never have ice cream or a slice of pie, but it has to be a once in a while, a treat. Soda too, please do not drink soda, diet or not, it is incredibly toxic to your beautiful body. If you love soda, make your own! Try mixing seltzer with a splash of unsweetened cherry juice and a sprinkle of stevia. I do this all the time and my son and husband love it. You can also experiment with natural extracts like vanilla, and almond.
Try whole grain pastas, Ezekeil bread ( a power packed sprouted grain bread), and make your own chocolate (it is SO EASY) with this 4 ingredient recipe (link to recipe). Don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners (like Splenda) because they come with a plethora of other issues that cause inflammation. Instead of artificial sweeteners, try natural ones like Stevia and Monk Fruit. The best tasting stevia I have found is Trader Joe’s. Costco now carries Monk Fruit as a sweetener alternative. Monk Fruit is one of the word’s sweetest fruits, and a little goes a long way. The brand Costco carries, Lakanto, contains Erythritol (a very safe sugar alcohol that does not raise blood sugar) combined with monk fruit. The Lakanto Monk Fruit is AMAZING, and I have completely replaced all sugar in my baking with it. I even made chocolate with it! If you would like to try the Monk Fruit without the Erythritol, try this brand https://www.netrition.com/lc_foods_luo_han_guo.html.
Who let the Bee’s out, who who who?!
B vitamins are essential for all body functions; however, B1 (Thiamine) takes a big hit when there is thyroid dysfunction. Thiamine plays a major role in the function of the heart, metabolism, nerve impulses and so much more. Try to get the full range of B vitamins into your diet daily. I supplement with a multi B that I purchase on Amazon. Click on the picture to check out the B vitamins I take daily. I advise that you take B vitamins with food. Personally, I am very sensitive to B vitamins and get nauseous if I take them on an empty stomach.
You can supplement with multi B or just Thiamine, but you can also get your B’s by eating beef, eggs (the yolk), pork, peas, legumes, and nuts. Make sure your sources of meat do not contain antibiotics or growth hormones. If you can afford it, buy grass-fed beef and pork.
Probiotics and Fermented Foods Can Help
According to the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism there is a link between bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine and hypothyroidism. Our gut truly is the captain of our ship. The more I study about women’s health, the more I learn this to be true. Gut health is essential for our well-being.
I am not a huge fan of probiotic pills because there’s a possibility that the bacteria your gut needs is not the one you are taking. There is a company called Viome https://www.viome.com/ that will test your poop and give you a break down of what your gut really needs. The test price came down significantly since I first heard about them three years ago. The price of the test now is about $149. However, if you don’t want to send a sample of your poop through the mail, you can always add certain foods to your diet that will assist in equalizing your gut bacteria.
Try eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, raw cheeses, and yogurt. Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics. Prebiotics (Pre means before) are essential as well. Prebiotics are a fiber or starch that our stomach does not digest but nourishes the probiotic bacteria. Sources of prebiotics are psyllium husk, resistant starches, white beans, lentils, rice/pasta (that is cooked, then cooled), and Benefiber. Prebiotics and probiotics work together to balance the natural flora in our gut. When our bacteria are in balance, all of our biologic systems work more harmoniously.
Try Going Gluten-Free for 30 Days
The gluten free trend went a little over board, but that’s what trends tend to do. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley that acts like an elastic glue, giving dough it’s shape. Some folks have an allergy to the gluten protein and can suffer extreme reactions to it. In a condition called Celiac disease, the gluten protein triggers an autoimmune response causing the body to attack the small intestine. Celiac disease can be dangerous if a strict diet is not followed. However, most of us are not sensitive to gluten but there has been a small connection between hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease and a gluten sensitivity. If you have any thyroid dysfunction try a gluten-free diet for 30 days. If you do not feel any better in 30 days than come off of it. You can also get tested for gluten sensitivity by your doc.
You can try eliminating gluten from your diet by avoiding foods that are processed, wheat, baked, or white (white bread, English muffins, pizza crust, saltines). Luckily, the gluten-free trend is still in full swing, and you can purchase gluten-free everything from your local supermarket. As a biohacker, I tried going gluten-free for 30 days (it didn’t do anything for my tummy issues), and it was pretty simple. You can replace all of your “white” food with gluten-free versions. BUT (and it is a huge but) most gluten-free baked products contain rice flour. Rice and rice flour contain arsenic, a chemical that can interrupt cellular function. In large amounts, it is used to kill rats. Arsenic is naturally occurring in the soil, and the rice soaks it up as it grows. Having said that, limit your intake of processed foods and eat more nuts, veggies, fruits, beans, legumes, and grass-fed meats. Look for products made with almond flour or other flours that do not contain gluten. Oh, and only consume oats that say gluten-free on the label.
Herbs That Support Thyroid Function
I love herbs and herbalism. I have taken many courses on herbalism and essential oil use, and I incorporate them into my daily health care. Most of the pharmaceuticals we consume come from natural sources. By the time big pharma is done putting all the chemicals in the natural elements are gone. Here is a list of herbs that can support the thyroid and adrenal glands. Try Ashwagandha, an ancient and all-around fantastic herb that was used to treat glandular disorders. Gotu Kola, Siberian ginseng, and licorice root are herbs that support the endocrine system (which includes the thyroid). Here is a very detailed list of dosing and in-depth information about Herbal Treatments for Hypothyroidism.
Ditch the fluoride
Fluoride is everywhere, it is in our drinking water, our toothpaste, and pediatric vitamins. Fluoride is known for protecting teeth from cavities, but studies have shown that it’s protection is negligible for adult teeth. Then why is it in our drinking water, you ask? Like day light savings, I have no idea why our country does a lot of things. Fluoridating public drinking water began in the the 1940’s and has been questioned ever since. What has been proven is that fluoride is very toxic to the thyroid and has been linked to ADHD, cancer, and thyroid dysfunction. Fluoride can also cause a condition that can cosmetically destroys teeth, called fluorosis. My advice, get the fluoride out of your life.
Stop using fluoridated toothpaste today. I love Burt’s Bee’s Purely White Fluoride-Free toothpaste. It has a short ingredient list, and it makes my teeth feel really clean. I follow up by brushing with activated charcoal. I use one charcoal capsules and put it into a small dish with a drop of coconut oil, dip the toothbrush in and brush. I keep this in the medicine cabinet. Try this combination for an incredibly clean mouth; no fluoride needed! Try a FLUORIDE removal filtering system. I found a hopeful one on the Safe Health Home website called Santevia. I am ordering the countertop filtered water system. I do not have it yet, so I cannot give a review. However, I will review it when I have it for a month or so. Do not drink bottled water that says that fluoride is added on the label. Try not to consume water straight from the tap.
Do a little research and seek out support groups to cope with the symptoms of your dysfunctional thyroid. The way you feel is NOT in your head, and you must take care of your body, heart, and spirit. We are not segmented and cannot separate our organs from each other, body from our soul, or emotions from our well-being. You are worth the work it takes to get better, feel better, and live your best life.