Optimising Thyroid Function: Naturopathic Strategies for Hormonal Harmony

by Kim Patterson

Your thyroid is a small but powerful gland that resides at the base of your neck. This little gland works overtime controlling and influencing multiple body systems and biological functions, from your menstrual cycle to your mood, nervous system, metabolism, heart function and even your sex drive.

When your thyroid is not functioning optimally, it can wreak havoc, often leaving you with a wide range of symptoms. From cold hands and feet, hair loss, fatigue, unexplained weight loss or gain, constipation, aching joints, anxiety, depression, racing heart, low libido, brittle nails… It’s an extensive list of symptoms that can leave you feeling very confused.

An unhappy thyroid can over or under function. Under functioning is referred to as hypothyroidism. There are many different reasons as to why your thyroid may be underperforming and finding out the why is essential to improving its health and getting control of your symptoms.

When a thyroid is under functioning there is a problem with the production of, or the conversion of thyroid hormones. The two primary thyroid hormones are called Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) and they are controlled by the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which in turn is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is controlled by the hypothalamus! This TSH is largely what your doctor will test for when they’re screening the health of your thyroid. However, it isn’t necessarily the best marker to assess for thyroid health. It can give us a an idea of the health of the pituitary or hypothalamus, or it can show us severe thyroid problems which have been unmonitored for months or years. When a full thyroid blood test is preformed, it can detect issues with T3 and T4, before TSH has yet to be affected.

When looking at thyroid dysfunction, the most important question as a practitioner is;

“Where in the chain of command are things going wrong and why?”

Do you suspect you have some level of thyroid dysfunction? If so, you may not know the next steps to getting it properly screened, or what to do once your GP has diagnosed a potential problem.

These 3 simple steps are a great way to start helping your thyroid health today!

1) Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins

Swapping your conventional cleaning products for more thyroid friendly options can be a small but significant step in helping you to have a happy thyroid. Endocrine disrupting chemicals can interfere with thyroid functioning. These chemicals can be found everywhere! But let’s start with our skin care and cleaning products which can enter our bodies through transdermal absorption (through the skin) or through inhalation through our respiratory system.

It’s often easier to start staging out the swaps as each of your conventional product’s are used up, rather than trying to change everything at once. When your surface cleaner is finished, swap that, and the same with your laundry powder and your moisturiser when they runs out. This way it’s much less overwhelming and going to be lighter on your pocket. Our Naturopaths here love Kin Kin, Abode or Koala Eco for home cleaning products and for makeup Ere Perez, or Inika. For skincare Mukti, Dr. Bronner’s, Edible Beauty or OrganicaSpa

2) Manage your stress!

This is a big one and includes acute, chronic, emotional, mental or physical stress. So if you don’t think you’re mentally stressed, ask yourself if you’re physically stressed. So often we see people presenting with thyroid concerns, and when we ask what was happening just prior to them noticing the symptoms, we discover there was a major illness of a family member, a huge work demands or a long history of elevated stress levels. Stress not only has the power to trigger a thyroid problem but can drive diagnosed thyroid complaints no matter how well controlled they’ve been previously.

3) Eat for your thyroid health

Another top reason for low thyroid function is a lack of consuming the nutrients you need for optimal thyroid hormone function. To make adequate levels of T3 and T4 within the body, we must have the “ingredients”. This can look as simple as making sure you’re getting three meals a day (including breakfast!). Some primary nutrients required for the synthesis of thyroid hormones and for the conversion of T4 to T3 are;

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • B vitamins
  • Iodine
  • Zinc
  • Iron

But it is not as simple as just taking supplements to top up these nutrients, we strongly advise speaking with a naturopath who will assess and personalise your prescription of these and other important nutrients. The thyroid isn’t a simple gland and needs individualised treatment with a health care professional.

Three simple meals to support your thyroid health

  • Oily fish (Think SMASH: sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon and herring) with quinoa and lightly steamed greens
  • Chia seed puddings with fresh berries and a spoonful of ABC (almond, brazil and cashew) nut butter
  • Grass fed steak with fresh green salad or root vegetables (think carrots, parsnips, beetroots)

If you have diagnosed thyroid disease or would like to get a thorough thyroid screening, please call 03 5977 0117 to book in with Naturopath Kim Patterson

This article is intended to be informational only and represents the opinion of the author. It is not intended to be used as medical advice and does not take the place of advice from a qualified health care practitioner in a clinical setting. Please check with your healthcare practitioner before embarking upon any of the treatments discussed.