Should you get your thyroid tested?

woman checking her thyroid

How Healthy is Your Thyroid and Why Does it Matter?

Did you know that a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland nestled in your neck is responsible for producing some of the most important hormones in your body? This small but mighty gland is called the thyroid.  While it’s relatively small in size, it plays a huge role in our endocrine (hormone) system.

This gland produces hormones that interact with many other hormones (like insulin, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone).  Looking at how intimately all hormones communicate with each other, it’s no wonder so many symptoms are connected to a poorly performing thyroid!

How does this gland work?

Most of what the thyroid produces is an inactive hormone called thyroxine, or T4. Most of the active thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (or T3), comes from the conversion of T4 to T3 in different areas of your body, including your liver, gut, brain and muscles.

This “active” T3 is then able to regulate many functions in your body including energy production and regulation of your metabolism. Think of the thyroid as the “gas pedal” for your body.  Constantly regulating the speed that everything else runs.  When all of the systems in your body are working well, the right amounts of T4 and T3 are produced. But if something is negatively affecting the thyroid or other organ systems in the body, this hormone balance gets disrupted and we start to experience various symptoms.

Some of the factors that impact a healthy functioning thyroid are nutritional imbalances, toxins, allergens, infections, and stress. All of these can all be problematic, leading to dysfunction of the gland, and potentially to wider spread systemic disease.

What happens when the thyroid can’t function normally?

When the thyroid is compromised, the body is unable to produce or convert the right amounts of thyroid hormone. Consequently, we experience disorders such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer. In fact, these diseases are highly prevalent in North America.  An estimated 20 million Americans and 1 in every 10 Canadians have some form of thyroid disease.  Over 12% of all Americans will develop such a condition during their lifetime. Because thyroid conditions are tied to so many varying symptoms, up to 60% of people with disease are unaware of their condition.   Women are 5-8x more likely to be affected than men. It is estimated that one in eight women will suffer from such a disorder during her lifetime.

Thyroid disease is tied to many less obvious disorders including acne, autoimmune diseases, eczema, fibromyalgia, gum disease, constipation or irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and infertility. Because the thyroid is like your gas pedal for all of your cells, it can be linked to almost every bodily function.  Symptoms of an underlying thyroid problem are wide and varied which can make diagnosis difficult.  As a result, many people are misdiagnosed and treated for other conditions before looking at their thyroid.

Hypothyroidism

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid

  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Foggy thinking
  • Depression
  • Weight gain even if you’ve been exercising and eating well consistently
  • Persistently rough/scaly skin
  • Dry/tangled hair
  • Hair loss (particularly in women)
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • An inability to warm up in a sauna or to sweat during exercise
  • Consistently low basal (resting, first morning) body temperature

Hyperthyroidism

Symptoms of an overactive thyroid

  • Feeling restless, nervous, or emotional
  • Poor sleep quality or insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • The disappearance of or irregular menstruation
  • Weight loss
  • Rapid, forceful, or irregular heartbeat
  • Eye problems (associated with Graves’ disease)
  • Swelling in your neck or having a goitre

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition where your immune system is creating antibodies that are attacking your thyroid.  Over time, this autoimmune attack can damage the gland and cause it to cease working properly.  Autoimmune disorders are complicated, but they can be improved through natural medicine.  Factors like food sensitivities, latent infections, and adrenal fatigue all need to be considered to reverse Hashimoto’s.

Euthyroid Sick Syndrome

This is a condition where blood tests for the thyroid may show normal levels of TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone.  Yet, levels of T3 are low.  When T3 drops, your pituitary ought to respond by producing more TSH to stimulate more production of T4 and then conversion to T3.  Euthyroid refers to the fact that thyroid itself appears to be in working order as TSH is normal.  Treatment of Euthyroid Sick Syndrome often entails looking at the person as a whole and supporting the entire endocrine system as well as resolving stressors.

Thyroid Tests

Simple blood tests can identify a potential problem.  We prefer to do comprehensive thyroid blood work that includes TSH, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO (or anti-thyroperoxidase) and anti-thyroglobulin.  It’s a common misconception that if TSH is normal, then all of the remaining tests will also be normal.  This is not true.  I have reviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of thyroid test results and found that patients can have a normal level of TSH, and even normal levels of free T3 and free T4, but thyroid antibody levels are not normal.  If you suspect a problem, I would highly recommend having complete testing done.

Whether you have an obvious problem or not, it’s important to understand how the thyroid works so that you can keep your body functioning optimally.

Tips to Improve Thyroid Function

When it comes to managing the optimal function of your glands, the building blocks are almost always found in nutrition first and foremost.

6 Tips to maintain a healthy thyroid through diet

  1. Go gluten and dairy free: Most people go gluten and dairy free only when there is an obvious sensitivity like a gut problem to either type of food. Sensitivity to gluten and dairy can be much more subtle when it comes to the thyroid. These foods trigger inflammation, disordered immune system function and are associated with autoimmune thyroid issues.
  2. Focus on your iodine level: Iodine is present in almost every organ and tissue and has a direct effect on the thyroid. Iodine is just one of the most important nutrients for this gland.  Chemical agents in commercial food ingredients have the side effect of decreasing your iodine level. Daily exposure to chemicals found in water such as bromine, fluorine, and chlorine all negatively impact iodine levels by competing with iodine for absorption. You do not need to take iodine supplements, however, and too much iodine can also damage your thyroid.  Using a little bit of good iodized sea salt each day will meet your iodine needs.
  3. Look for “no bromine” or “bromine-free” labels on organic whole-grain bread and flours if you eat grains
  4. Increase your dietary intake of wild-caught seafood and ocean fish
  5. Seek out foods containing zinc and selenium: Zinc and selenium are two micronutrients that play critical roles in thyroid health. Because they can be toxic in very high doses, it’s best to achieve healthy levels through diet. Zinc-rich foods include oysters, beef, pork, egg yolks, shellfish and chicken while selenium-rich foods include Brazil nuts, fish, and liver.
  6. Manage stress: Stress and overall health are inextricably linked. Make sure you’re taking time to meditate, relieve stress, and get your mindset on track so that you can enjoy the benefits of overall health.

You can gain control over your health by learning how to manage and maintain your thyroid through nutrition, lifestyle, and naturopathic medicine support. If you’re dealing with, or suspect you have this or other health issues, please take time to book an appointment to visit us at our clinic. We want to help you take control of your health! Comprehensive testing and hormone assessments are available.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Info@ForcesofNature.ca

To your best health!

The team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

References:
https://articles.mercola.com/thyroid.aspx
https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Aug 25:jc20152222. Epub 2015 Aug 25. PMID: 26305620

Want a Fast Metabolism?

words tips to kickstart your metabolism for a fast metabolism

Want a Fast Metabolism? 10 Easy Tips to Kick Start Your Metabolism

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc (Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

Now that we’re through December and heavy, holiday foods have left us feeling bloated and sluggish, it’s time to figure out how to get back into the swing of things. If you’ve set New Year’s Intentions that include healthier eating and activity, then enabling a fast metabolism can help make the difference to living your intentions well.

Fast Metabolism Tips

These are some of our favourite ways to get your metabolism back into gear:

Stay Satiated

Even if you’re trying to lose a few extra pounds that appeared over the holidays, staying fairly full is key to your success in managing your metabolism and your weight. Eat slowly, until you’re about 90% full, and then stop. This will allow you to determine if you really do need more sustenance or if you’re just eating out of habit. Even if you’re aiming to reduce your caloric intake, starving will only make your metabolism slower.  Your body will try to store the limited energy it’s being provided – and that’s the opposite of our goal.

Commit to Breakfast

It’s not surprising that those who don’t eat breakfast actually tend to gain more weight over time. That’s because those who skip this meal tend to make up for it (and more) by overeating at lunch, snack times, and dinner. After a good night’s rest, your body is primed to accept the fuel it needs to move through the day. In fact, it needs more fuel because it has spent hours with your metabolism in resting mode! Try a breakfast that’s high in protein, and has some complex carbohydrates and a bit of fat to jumpstart your metabolism and keep you satisfied until lunchtime.

Up The H20

Whether via glasses of water, herbal teas or broth-based soups, giving your body quality fluids is essential to having a well-hydrated metabolism. Water helps keep nutrients flowing into your cells, carries toxins out of your body, and is key to a happy digestive system. It also keeps you feeling full, and can help you burn more calories by supporting a fast metabolism! Moreover, the extra nutrients found in broth-based soups are ‘soup-er’ ways of digesting much-needed vitamins and minerals with minimal taxing of your digestive system. And, after a season of indulgence, that’s something from which we can all benefit!

Add Tea or Coffee

The antioxidants and small amounts of caffeine found in black, green, and white tea, as well as coffee, support a fast metabolism and keeping it chugging along healthily. One cup per day can provide beneficial amounts without going overboard. And, even better, adding herbal teas such as fennel, mint, or ginger tea after a meal can assist your digestion processes, helping meals to settle better and digest more easily – without added caffeine.

Spice Is Extra Nice

Studies show that adding spicy hot peppers or hot pepper sauces can help to increase your metabolism! Studies are showing that the thermogenic properties of peppers and capsaicin, a compound in chiles, can temporarily increase your body temperature, helping it to burn more calories in short bursts of time. So, try adding some extra spice to those soups or other foods, and see what benefit you might derive!

Include Intervals

Any form of exercise can be bolstered by the addition of the short bursts of cardiovascular activity also known as ‘Interval Training’. Adding in 2-5 minute bursts of jumping jacks, skipping, vigorous dancing or burpees seem like they’re ‘in the moment’ kick starts but they’re all great ways of building long-lasting metabolism increases.  Personally, I have made a commitment to crank up my favourite song every hour and just dance!  It’s a great stress reliever and ups your heart rate and metabolism.

Dial Down Stress

It’s been long understood that high levels of stress hormones like cortisol can result in a slowed metabolism and eventual weight gain. The opposite is also true: by turning down the stress in our lives we can help our brains, hormones, and bodies relax, a natural reboot for our metabolism.

Stimulate Your Stomach

If you consistently experience symptoms like heaviness after a meal, acid reflux, or bloating, food allergies, undigested food in stool, flatulence, or even nausea after taking supplements you might be suffering from low stomach acid which, in turn, can result in lowered metabolism. Stomach acid, or HCL (hydrochloric acid) is a core requirement to digest effectively.  Good digestion is one of the essential building blocks of a fast metabolism. Try stimulating your stomach acid with beneficial celery juice and see how much better you feel.

Excel With Enzymes

Sometimes there are particular foods that make us feel sluggish, heavy, bloated, or uncomfortable. In that case, it might be time to consider digestive enzymes to help break down food to make it more digestible and the nutrients within it more absorbable. Try adding enzyme rich foods like fermented foods, papaya (which contains papain), pineapple (which contains bromelain), mango (which contains amylase), and honey (multiple enzymes). Interested in supplements instead? Look for the ones that help with your food difficulties: protease for proteins, amylase for help with carbohydrates, lipase for help digesting fats, cellulase for breaking down fibre, and maltase to help convert complex sugars from grains into glucose.

Sleep Soundly

The quality of your sleep doesn’t just affect your moods and alertness, it also has a profound effect on your metabolic state because deep REM sleep, is the body’s time for rest and repair – and that includes how the body manages stress hormones, blood sugar levels, and growth hormones – all of which play critical roles in a fast metabolism. We’re still learning much more about how important consistent sleep and rest are for our health, but what we do know for sure is that a sleep deprived body is slower and more lethargic which means weight management is harder. So if you choose just one of these tips to follow, make it to get more sleep, more often, first!

Looking for personalized assistance in maintaining a fast metabolism? Our naturopathic doctors can help you navigate this and provide you with a fully customized plan for your metabolism. To book your appointment call us at 416-481-0222 or email us at Info@ForcesofNature.ca.  Also you can book your own appointment online anytime at https://forcesofnature.janeapp.com/.

 

To your good health,

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Research:

Sahin K, Orhan C, Tuzcu M, Sahin N, Ozdemir O, Juturu V. Ingested capsaicinoids can prevent low-fat-high-carbohydrate diet and high-fat diet-induced obesity by regulating the NADPH oxidase and Nrf2 pathways. J Inflamm Res. 2017 Nov 13;10:161-168. doi: 10.2147/JIR.S149087. eCollection 2017.

Healthy Weight Loss

woman celebrating easy weight loss

Weight Loss: 5 Healthy Ways to Lose Weight

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Swimsuit season will soon be upon us!  This is the time of year where it is relatively easy to shed your winter weight. If trying on your spring and summer wardrobe has been a depressing experience, here are some weight loss tips and tricks to help you lose weight and get into summer shape more quickly and easily:

  1. Reality check – use a program like MyFitnessPal or the Fitbit app to track your caloric intake and exercise for a day or two.  You don’t need to get obsessive about it, but people tend to underestimate how many calories they consume and overestimate how much exercise they get.
  2. Reduce your stress.  Stress is bad for weight in so many ways: Increased cortisol, emotional eating, lower T3 (active thyroid hormone), higher reverse T3 (inactive thyroid hormone).
  3. Get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep lowers your willpower, promotes sugar cravings to supply energy and even one night of less than 4 hours sleep makes you more insulin resistant the next day and higher insulin means more fat gain
  4. Don’t snack.  The old 3 meals two snacks advice was bad advice.  Research has shown that people who snack between meals consume more calories in a day than those who don’t.
  5. Exercise. If you want everything you need to do to lose weight, my amazing colleague, Dr Jade Teta, has created an exercise program for weight loss, with bonus materials that include a healthy menu and recipes.  His workout will challenge what you thought you knew about exercise, it won’t take you long (only 15-20 minutes 3 times per week), there is no gym membership required, you can do it in your own living room, with or without weights or bands, it’s science based and it is cheap. The purpose of the program is to reset your metabolism to it’s prime.  I’m in my second round of the 12 week program and I can attest to the fact that it is hard, but I feel fitter than I have in years and I have lost weight and I’m exercising less. (despite my best efforts, my weight has only been doing a slow steady climb since I hit 45). Best of all, the program creator is a naturopathic doctor as well as a personal trainer and a heck of a nice guy. Check it out here. 

Boost Metabolism

woman exercising to boost metabolism

Rev Up Your Engines! 3 Effective Ways to Boost Metabolism

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Your metabolism dictates how quickly and efficiently you burn calories to use for fuel and maintaining your body temperature.  The higher your metabolism, the more calories you can consume in a day without gaining weight.  Many of the patients that I see, complain of a sluggish metabolism – they don’t feel like they overeat, they consume healthy food, exercise regularly and yet they gain weight easily.  Let’s take a look at three ways you can boost metabolism to help with weight loss.

Nourish Your Thyroid

Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck that regulates your metabolism.  Think of it like the gas pedal for your body.  A sluggish thyroid means a slow metabolism  In order to do it’s job, your thyroid needs iodine, zinc, selenium, copper and tyrosine to build thyroid hormones.

Our main food source of iodine is iodized salt.  As a public health measure, iodine was added to table salt as a means of gently supplementing everyone with a little extra iodine, to stave off underactive thyroids.  However, excessive salt intake is considered unhealthy, so people have either stopped using salt in food preparation or shifted to using sea salt instead.  Those of you strictly avoiding salt or using sea salt may not be getting the benefit of the iodine added to regular table salt. I recommend switching to iodized sea salt, which is readily available at most health food stores.

Selenium is a trace mineral that is vital to healthy thyroid function.  Brazil nuts are a rich food source and consuming as little as 3 Brazil nuts per day supplies plenty of selenium for your thyroid.

Zinc is found naturally in beef, pumpkin seeds, egg yolks and shellfish.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so protein rich foods like beans, eggs, nuts, seeds, beef, fish and chicken will supply the amino acid, tyrosine, that is also crucial to healthy thyroid function.

Restore Your Adrenals

The adrenal glands are your stress glands; they help your body cope in times of stress. They assist the thyroid hormone to function properly by enabling transfer of the hormone into the tissues where it works to increase metabolism. The adrenal glands need substantial amounts of vitamins B5, B6, C, potassium, magnesium and zinc especially while under
stress.

To nurture healthy adrenals:

  1. Eat lots of leafy green veggies like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and spring mix salad greens.  These are chock full of B vitamins, C, zinc, potassium, magnesium and zinc, everything that the adrenals need, all in one food.
  2. Get adequate rest and sleep.  Stop working by 8 p.m. and relax.  Aim to be in bed by 10 p.m..  The adrenals operate on a daily schedule that is regulated by daylight.  They peak in the morning and taper off to their lowest between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m..  Try to work with their schedule, not against it.
  3. Reduce your stress.  Easier said than done, but whatever you can do in this regard will help your adrenals and help to maintain a healthy cortisol level.  Excessive cortisol contributes to weight gain around your waist.  Stress reduction through psychotherapy, exercise, yoga, tai chi and massage therapy can all help if stress is the problem.

Exercise

Exercise can boost metabolism for up to 48 hours afterward, so get off the couch and walk briskly, dance, go on the treadmill, do something active for 30 minutes 5-7 times per week.  Exercise, but not to the point that you feel exhausted after, you should feel energized after exercise.  It’s also the best stress reliever there is.  Weight training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) are particularly good for building muscle mass.  Muscles burn more calories than non-muscle tissue, so muscle can boost metabolism even while you are sleeping.

Lose Weight at Menopause

woman who wants to lose weight

Struggling to Lose Weight at Menopause?  Here’s Why.

What happens at menopause?

Aside from periods stopping, estrogen levels drop, ovulation stops and progesterone levels drop.

How do the hormone changes at menopause impact your weight?

There are a few ways that these hormonal changes can make it tougher to lose weight:

Lower estrogen levels mean that your body doesn’t respond to insulin as well as it used to before menopause. That means that if you eat carbs or sugar, your insulin levels will be higher post menopause than they were pre-menopause. Higher insulin means more fat production and also more inflammation. More inflammation means even more insulin resistance.

Progesterone helps to counter the effects of cortisol (your stress hormone). If you have less progesterone, and in menopause there is very little, then cortisol has a greater effect than it had pre-menopause. We know that higher cortisol increases belly fat.

So, how can we fix this?

I am not an advocate for hormone replacement therapy, bioidentical or otherwise. Menopause is a natural transition away from childbearing years and into golden years. The best approach in my opinion is to:

Adjust your carbohydrate intake accordingly. If you no longer tolerate the same level of carbs due to lower estrogen, it’s best to decrease your carb intake. Plug your daily food intake into an app like MyFitnessPal to get a sense of your total carb intake and where those carbs are coming from and adjust your diet to reduce your carb intake. What is the recommended carb intake? That’s somewhat individual, but you could go as low as 40-60 grams per day if you find that weight isn’t budging. Protein and fat will better serve your new post-menopause metabolism.

Reduce stress and stress inducing exercise. Anything that raises your cortisol level, will have a worse impact than it did prior to menopause.

Cortisol lowering tips:

Exercise: Exercise improves heart function, reduces the fight or flight response to stress, improves ability of tissues to use oxygen and other nutrients, improves self-esteem, and increases endurance and energy levels. The type of exercise is important though. Endurance exercise can become an additional stressor and requires more cortisol production. Short bursts of very high intensity exercise (HIIT training), with alternating days of low level relaxation type exercise like restorative yoga or tai chi is a great combination to maintain muscle mass for calorie burning, but also keep cortisol low.
Relaxation techniques: Gentle stretching, breathing exercises, yoga and visualization induce the relaxation response.
Humour: Laughter helps lower cortisol, even cracking a smile can help.
Social support: spend time with friends and family
Pets: one study showed that cortisol levels are lowest when you are with your pet and highest when you are with your spouse (I suppose it depends on the spouse)
Alone/quiet/down time: The hectic pace and never ending electronic stimulation is an additional stress to your body. Take time to be alone, out in nature, relax by 8 p.m..
Sleep: Don’t forgo sleep. Ensure that you get at least 7-7.5 hours of good quality sleep per night.
Support your Adrenal Glands: They need adequate intake of vitamins C, B5, B6, zinc and magnesium to help you deal with stress as easily as possible. Use of antidepressants, estrogen replacement therapy and birth control pills can all increase the need for vitamin B6 in the body.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

For help to lose weight at menopause, book a consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors.

Why is a Food Journal Important

woman writing in a food journal

Why Keep a Diet Diary?

One of the more “painful” things everyone does when they first come and see me is fill in a one week diet diary or food journal detailing everything they put in their mouth for that one week. They often return with comments like “I was on vacation this week” or “I had 3 parties to go to so this isn’t how I usually eat” or the classic “I forgot”.

It turns out that researchers have proved diet diaries to be an effective means to help people lose weight. The study looked at more than 1,500 people over six months and found that those who kept a food diary and updated it regularly lost about twice as much weight as those who did not.

The average weight loss for study participants was about 13 pounds. But those keeping food diaries six or seven days a week lost about 18 pounds, compared to just 9 pounds for those not regularly keeping a food diary.

As human beings, we have a tendency to underestimate how much we eat and over-estimate our physical activity.

There is a method to my madness!

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND.  Our naturopaths can help with healthy weight loss with food journals, but also healthy diet recommendations, lifestyle suggestions, exercise tips, and supplements that may help you stay on track.  Call us at 416-481-0222 or book online now.