The Metabolism Equation
Are you feeling a bit exhausted and overweight? It could be that you have been consuming too many calories and aren’t moving your body enough, or possibly your thyroid gland, which controls your metabolism, has taken a turn for the worse.
The thyroid gland controls nearly every aspect of your health, including how you age and your weight. This butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck is small but powerful and is responsible for over 200 functions in the human body, affecting every cell in your body.
It is estimated that 20 million Americans suffer from low thyroid production, known as hypothyroidism, yet 60% of people are completely unaware they have it. Women are dramatically more prone to low thyroid. Here is a quick symptom assessment of low thyroid:
- Thinning hair, dry hair, hair loss
- Eyebrows may curve straight down, hair loss on outer edges
- Cystic acne around the mouth or chin
- Darkness on the inside corner of the eyes
- Dry skin
- Unexplained weight gain that won’t come off
- Puffiness under eyes and around the Adam’s apple
- Dry, flaky skin or other skin issues
- Cracked heels and elbows
- Insomnia, fatigue, exhaustion
- Cold hands and feet
- Brain fog and loss of concentration/focus
- Joint and muscle pain
How the Thyroid Works
The pituitary gland, which is about the size of a pea in your brain, is the master gland that signals the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones by releasing TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). This then signals the thyroid gland to produce the storage thyroid, called T4. T4 is then transported to the cells and turned into the active thyroid, called T3. It is T3 that performs the magical functions of the thyroid and is the game changer in your body. This makes the difference in how you look, feel, and function. Additionally, there is also an evil twin to the active thyroid T3, which is called Reverse T3 (rT3). The function of rT3 is to clear out excessive T3, to keep from feeling too wound up and jittery, and to provide appropriate checks and balances with the thyroid. Although, if rT3 becomes too elevated, the symptoms of low thyroid will be present, causing more fatigue, depression, weight gain, and many other unwanted symptoms. For this reason, it is imperative that if you have symptoms of low thyroid, you should consider full thyroid testing including TSH, T4, and T3 and if needed, Reverse T3.
The Way Out
The good news is, much of how the thyroid functions is in our control. Your diet, lifestyle, vitamin and mineral intake, and stress management help keep your thyroid in balance and can have a tremendous ability to take low thyroid function to optimal levels. So even if you do not meet the clinical criteria on a blood test for low thyroid, you may want to consider aspects of your lifestyle that could be causing a lower metabolism and sluggish thyroid function.
- Diet high in sugar and refined grains
- Non-stop lifestyle and excessive hurriedness
- Lack of sleep or chronic sleep issues
- Exposure to environmental toxins (including excessive electronics)
- Deficiency in iodine, B-vitamins, and Vitamin D
- Lack of good bacteria in our gut for absorption
If you are having low thyroid symptoms, seek out testing and work with your medical provider to get to the root of the cause. Begin working on these top five thyroid supportive lifestyle changes to help reverse your symptoms more quickly!
Aim for eight hours of sleep at night—that is actual sleep hours! Keep your room pitch dark and cool. Start a wind down routine 30 minutes before bed, turning lights down or off and drinking herbal calming tea to ready your body and brain for bed.
Do something every day that is relaxing and find ways to de-stress your mind. Stress is a top killer of thyroid function and will work overtime to derail the system if it is not kept in check. Daily meditation, yoga, and exercising outside can all be great de-stressors and clear your mind.
Move your body every day. Consider interval training 20 seconds as fast as you can then 30-60 rest or slower movements. Start at a low intensity and do 10-15 minutes every day, then build up to 30 minutes every day.
Consider supplementing with Vitamin D, Selenium, and B-complex from OnePeak Medical. Ask your OnePeak medical provider to check your blood levels to ensure optimal ranges for Thyroid support.
Tweak your diet. Lower your inflammation by eating whole foods and changing to a more Mediterranean-style diet. Load up on vegetables, some fruit, lean proteins, and healthy fats, with high fiber carbohydrates sparingly. This diet will improve your energy and help you achieve a healthier weight.
Cheers to Optimal Metabolism and Thyroid Health!
Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of Southern Oregon Magazine.