how to eat and destress for thyroid hormones

Alongside posts on menstrual cycles and mobility, the health pages on Instagram have begun to talk about a small but mighty part of the body: our thyroid. You may have also browsed through the videos, which detail thyroid health nutrition and tips for exercise in coils or carousels.

It might sound like a random part of the body that the wellness community can join, but they are taking action for a reason: Thyroid health isn’t talked about enough. And a better understanding of this is actually crucial for women; we are 10 times more likely to suffer from thyroid problems than men, and the way our high-stress world is set up is not conducive to its better performance.

Of course, we shouldn’t take everything we read on social media as a gospel. So, to understand what we really need to know about the gland, we turned to two hormone experts.

What exactly is your thyroid gland?

“The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, located right in front of the trachea,” explains Dr Marion Gluck, a hormone specialist and founder of the Marion Gluck Clinic. “The gland produces thyroid hormones called thyroxine and T3. These act on almost all cells in the body to regulate metabolism, energy levels and sensitivity to other hormones in the body, such as estrogen, testosterone and progesterone ”.

The thyroid can be seen as a thermostat for the body, says Nicki Williams, a nutritionist and expert on women’s health and hormones. “It can increase or decrease processes such as metabolism, energy, temperature and alertness, depending on what is needed and how well the gland is functioning,” she explains.

A malfunctioning thyroid can lead to thyroid dysfunction: if it is underactive it is known as hypothyroidism; if you are hyperactive it is known as hyperthyroidism.

A stressed out woman lying on the bed relaxing
Thyroid health can be affected by stress

What can cause thyroid problems?

You don’t just have to be aware of your thyroid if you have a problem diagnosed with it. We all need to support its function just like with every other element of our body, from our muscles to the health of our brains.

It is important to know that problems are often genetic, so an overactive or overactive thyroid does not necessarily depend on your lifestyle, and diagnosed thyroid disease cannot be resolved through food or exercise. But lifestyle habits can impact the gland for those who simply want to support its function and feel better, Williams says.

“Many different nutrients are needed for our thyroid hormones to be produced and function properly – a deficiency can affect thyroid function,” he explains. These include iodine, tyrosine, selenium, copper, zinc, iron, essential fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin D.

It is not even a lone worker in the body: just as thyroid hormones impact every cell, other hormones also impact the thyroid.

“The adrenal glands – which produce hormones like cortisol and estrogen – rely on the thyroid gland for support. Overburdened adrenal glands can also cause thyroid overload, “says Dr. Gluck. So living in constant stress with cortisol skyrocketing is a disaster for thyroid function, yet we all do it more often than we would like.

Dr Gluck adds that the relationship between estrogen and thyroxine is also important. “Estrogen dominance can stop the conversion of thyroxine into thyroid hormone T3. This means that although there is no direct problem with the thyroid gland, symptoms of hypothyroidism will occur. Too much estrogen can also block the absorption of thyroid hormones, again leading to symptoms of hypothyroidism. “

What are the signs of thyroid dysfunction?

“Because thyroid hormones travel to every cell in the body, an imbalance can have a wide range of symptoms,” says Williams.

An underactive thyroid is associated with a slowdown in bodily functions, such as lethargy or fatigue that does not improve with rest, brain fog, and unexplained weight gain. Other symptoms could include cold susceptibility, depression, dry skin, hair and nails, aching muscles and joints, constipation, and sensitivity to stress.

An overactive thyroid has more to do with increased processes. They could include anxiety, heart palpitations, unexplained weight loss, high blood pressure, sweating, panic attacks, and swollen glands.

Colorful foods in a Buddha bowl
A balanced diet is necessary to support thyroid health

“Symptoms can be confused with other common signs of aging or hormone imbalance, so it’s important to check your thyroid regularly,” says Williams. “Make sure you are tested the full path to thyroid health – TSH, freeT4, freeT3 and thyroid antibodies for a complete overview of thyroid health.”

Dr. Gluck also notes that these symptoms can often be confused. “In my experience, women with thyroid problems can often be misdiagnosed and take antidepressants if the symptoms are similar. And estrogen-dominated women are often unnecessarily taking thyroxine. With thorough testing, this misdiagnosis can be avoided, “he says.

How to support thyroid health

If you are concerned that you have thyroid dysfunction, be sure to consult your GP. Getting the correct diagnosis is critical, and hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism must also be managed through medication. If you are fine but just want to support your thyroid function, you can do so with simple tweaks:

Check your diet

  • Include lots of proteins: “Protein breaks down into amino acids, one of which is tyrosine, which is needed to make thyroid hormone,” says Williams.
  • It supports insulin levels by balancing carbohydrates with fats and proteins: “Excessive insulin is linked to suppressed thyroid function,” he adds.
  • Eat a wide variety of nutrients: most notably, iron (from red meat and green leafy vegetables), iodine (found in nori seaweed), and zinc (such as shellfish, whole grains, nuts and seeds).
  • Cut back on caffeine: “This can cause undue stress on the adrenal glands and affect thyroid function,” says Dr. Gluck.

Of stress

“For thyroid health, relaxation is important. Do something every day to reduce stress, even if it’s just deep breathing, “says Williams. That also means leveraging your workout routine for the best stress relief results.

“Physical activity can boost metabolism and help transport nutrients to cells and endocrine glands to support thyroid function. But if you think your thyroid needs extra support, I would try to avoid particularly strenuous exercises that put stress on the body. body and would instead focus on low intensity endurance work, walking, yoga or pilates, ”adds Williams.

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