In Part 1 of Thyroid Games, I zeroed in on the enemies of healthy thyroid function. In Part 2 we target the best ways to arm ourselves against the worst offenders (listed below) to boost and protect thyroid health.
Keep Estrogen dominance at bay– this imbalance of high estrogen/low progesterone can suppress the active thyroid hormones that drive metabolism. Your best defense: if testing reveals a problem, consider supplementing with natural progesterone to rebalance and keep estrogens in check. Also key is avoiding xenoestrogens, the environmental toxins found in everything from soup cans to shampoos (see below) that increase the body’s estrogen burden.
Boost low androgen levels (testosterone and DHEA) – deficiencies of the anabolic hormones that build bone and muscle can cause the metabolic rate to implode. Your best defense: Exercise, particularly strength training to increase lean muscle mass and boost natural androgen production. Also supplementing DHEA at physiologic levels (e.g. the amount naturally produced in the body) or androgen therapy (with physician guidance) can boost levels.
Normalize stress hormones – high cortisol levels run interference on active thyroid conversion leading to weight gain and other common symptoms of thyroid deficiency. Your best defense: Turn down the volume. Are you overworked, overbooked, over caffeinated? Obviously we can’t avoid all stress, but we can develop strategies to limit the damage. Deep rest is the opposite of the stress response so taking up meditation, yoga, T’ai Chi, deep breathing walking, and/or creative pursuits, can lower stress hormones on overdrive and free up thyroid. Cutting out the junk foods and caffeine that spike cortisol levels is another key to easing the stress response.
Correct Iodine deficiency – Enzyme conversion of thyroid hormone depends on adequate mineral levels, particularly of iodine and selenium. Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones, T3 and T4, and when levels drop, the thyroid gland is unable to make enough hormone to drive metabolic processes. Dietary shifts away from iodine-rich foods, and vegan diets, have resulted in lower iodine consumption over time. Your best defense: If testing shows a deficiency, consider thyroid hormone and/or iodine therapy. Good food sources are sea vegetables (e.g. kelp, kombu), yogurt, cranberries, strawberries, navy beans, potato (with skin), and Himalayan (gray) salt.
Maintain Selenium levels – though found in minute amounts in the body, a deficiency of this essential mineral (due to denatured soil, poor absorption, and heavy metal exposure), disrupts thyroid hormone synthesis and action. Your best defense: Test for arsenic and mercury exposure (www.zrtlab.com) that can reduce selenium’s bioavailability in the body. To minimize the bad effects of these heavy metals, consider supplementing adequate selenium (200-400mcg) for anti-oxidant defense and thyroid hormone conversion. Good food sources are found in organ meats, brewers yeast, fish, grains, cereals, and dairy products.
Essential vitamins – Deficiencies of C, D, A, E and B12 vitamins have been shown to be lower in individuals suffering from thyroid disorders. Your best defense: Take your vitamins. Correcting a deficiency through optimal nutrition and supplementing as needed, can go a long way to improving thyroid function.
Rule out heavy metal toxicity –the environmental pollutants arsenic and mercury, when present at high levels deplete iodine and selenium – key players in thyroid hormone activation. Your Best defense: Adequate dietary or supplemental selenium which binds tightly to mercury, will help prevent the harmful effects of prolonged mercury exposure. Consider the removal of dental amalgam surfaces strongly associated with mercury toxicity. If you drink well water, have it tested for contamination.
Avoid Xenoestrogens – environmental chemicals disrupt proper hormone metabolism, leading to an accumulation of estrogens that thwart thyroid action. Best defense: choose organic hormone-free meat, poultry, dairy; heat foods in glass or ceramic vs. plastic; switch to BPA-free water/baby bottles, and go “green” with household, gardening and personal care products. Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale) or their active ingredient DIM (when supplemented) help to promote proper estrogen metabolism. Note: moderate intake of crucifers (especially cooked, and judicious amounts of raw used in salads, etc.) is not known to compromise thyroid function.
Breathe deep. Get out in the fresh air. Walk. Run. Play. Paint. Cultivate stillness. Blow bubbles!
Balance is attainable.