This week, October 20-27, 2013, is the Real Food Con presentation from Underground Wellness. Sean Croxton put together a fabulous online summit event last summer, and this year’s effort is just as stellar. I always learn so much from the great panel of experts he has engaged for these seminars. The very first day I listened to Christa Orecchio explain all about the thyroid gland. She had some great information so I want to share a recap with all of you here.
The thyroid gland, located at the base of the front of your neck, is a major player in the body. It acts as both furnace and thermostat in that it encourages the production of heat and it regulates how hot or cold you run. The thyroid is integral in both metabolism (the production and use of energy) and in digestion (the breaking down of food). The thyroid regulates your sleep cycles, weight, mood, and energy levels. It produces the hormone T4 which signals your cells to make energy.
Sometimes our thyroid gets out of balance. It can either rev up too high, hyperthyroidism, or become too sluggish, hypothyroidism. A sluggish thyroid (hypothyroidism) symptoms include depression, exhaustion, constipation, cold hands and feet, fine hair and nails, puffy eyes, memory loss and poor concentration. Over active thyroid (hyperthyroidism) symptoms include diarrhea, rapid weight loss, anxiety, elevated heart, high blood pressure and eye sensitivities. But just as with every other part of your body, the thyroid does not act alone. Your adrenal glands work in a symbiotic relationship with your thyroid. What affects one gland also affects the other. When one wears out the other has to work harder to take up the slack. So it is important to support both your thyroid and your adrenals since they support each other. It makes sense that your liver health is also part of this symbiotic relationship. A healthy liver helps support a healthy thyroid and adrenals.
An easy, at-home way to check out your thyroid health is to take your temperature and monitor your pulse rate. Take your temperature five times at day at these intervals: first thing upon awakening; 20 minutes after breakfast, lunch and dinner; and just before bed. Take your pulse at these same intervals, too. Your pulse should be somewhere around 75 or 80. Your body temperature should be very close to 98.6. If your temperature is 97.4 or below this could signify underactive thyroid. Meals should raise your body temperature. If they don’t this means you didn’t make good choices for your body’s fuel. Keep track of what you eat and how it affects your temperature to better understand the kind of fuel your body best uses.
If you think you have thyroid problems it is important to see your doctor or holistic practitioner. They can run a 4-point blood test to check TSH, T3, T4, and TPO levels. TSH is made in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in your brain and balancing these glands will balance your hormones. High levels of T4 can indicate overactive thyroid. T3 is used to signal your body to make ATP, the energy for our cells. TPO levels can indicate whether your thyroid is actually attacking itself and breaking down. Doctors can also test for pathogens by doing an 8-day stool test, and also testing for active viruses such as Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, Herpes 1&2, and also do a saliva test to check your adrenal health. These tests will give a clearer picture of your thyroid health and whether you need to make any changes in diet or take medications to restore your thyroid function. For example if you have high levels of TPO you will need to avoid certain foods high in goitrogens. These foods include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, and peanuts. You must eat these foods cooked not raw in order to avoid the goitrogens.
Other foods that negatively impact the thyroid, and probably should be avoided by everyone, include GMOs, gluten, and soy. Remove all GMOs from your diet right away. Gluten sensitivities can adversely impact hormonal health and affect thyroid health. Soy foods actively block the uptake of iodine, a crucial mineral for thyroid health and function. 60% of iodine in the body is found in the thyroid.
Of course there are many foods that help the thyroid. Iodine-rich foods will directly support thyroid health. Seaweed and kelp are the highest in iodine. Kelp flakes are an easy way to get this food. Shake kelp flakes over savory foods such as eggs. Try to eat 1 teaspoon per day. Other iodine-rich foods are onions, artichokes and pineapple.
Other important nutrients are selenium, omega-3s, copper, iron and gelatin. Selenium-rich foods help maintain our hormones. You find selenium in eggs from hens that are raised on pasture as well as wild shellfish, sunflower seeds, cremini mushrooms, garlic and Brazil nuts. Omega-3 fats are found in fermented fish oil, wild caught fish, leafy greens chia seeds and raw butter from grassfed cows. Cooper and iron can be found in grassfed meats and organ meats, cashews, clams and oysters. Of course bone broth is rich in natural gelatin and other minerals. Raw milk is also a good source of thyroid-supporting minerals and vitamins.
Christa Orecchio recommends her “Thyroid Power Drink” which is a big cup of homemade bone broth to which she adds extra grassfed gelatin powder, celtic sea salt and coconut oil. She also recommends some lifestyle changes to help support the thyroid. These include taking steps to raise your core body temperature before you go to bed. Start 20 minutes before bedtime and take a hot bath with magnesium oil, or a foot bath with sea salt or magnesium oil, or slather up your feet with coconut or sesame oil and wear socks to bed. This improves your quality of sleep. If you can tolerate milk she recommends a glass of raw milk before bed as well.
Other lifestyle recommendations include eating regularly to keep your blood sugar levels from dropping. She is an advocate of the several-small-meals eating plan of breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, supper, snack. She encourages eating plenty of root vegetables, healthy fats and pasture raised animals. She says we need to respect our energy levels and rest when we feel tired, don’t push yourself to exercise harder when you don’t feel good. Get out in nature. Nurture good relationships. Crowd out the bad stuff in your life by adding in more good stuff. Focus on what works for you. Upgrade your habits one at a time. Add in one thing that makes you feel better until you have changed from bad habits to good ones. Find healthy replacements for the foods you love.