Are pervasive tiredness and foggy mindedness hijacking your life? Do aching muscles and stress make you feel like life is draining away? If so, you may be suffering from a persistent, frustrating misery shared with about 27 million other Americans: thyroid problems. Mounting research shows that 10 to 40 percent of people have poor thyroid function, and 60 percent of them are unaware of it.
Meet Your Thyroid
Your thyroid is the master gland of the body, responsible for metabolism and energy. It produces two key hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid function is interrelated with every system of the body, so a glitch in hormone secretion can cause multiple health problems.
For example, insufficient hormone production by the thyroid gland leads to hypothyroidism, a condition in which your body works too slowly, causing muscle weakness, fatigue, depression and weight gain. Excessive thyroid hormone production leads to a condition called hyperthyroidism, which is where your body idles too fast, causing possible heart and bone problems, irritability, weight loss, vision and sleep problems. Of the two conditions, the most common is hypothyroidism.
Causes of Thyroid Imbalance
The thyroid gland needs iodine-rich foods to create thyroid hormones. But data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that millions of people suffer from low iodine levels, with a 50 percent decrease in iodine intake over the past 35 years. This makes sense, as many are reducing their iodized salt intake because of the supposed health benefits. People are also consuming more processed foods, which have far less iodine than their more natural counterparts.
Iodine deficiency is also linked to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease characterized by antibodies attacking healthy body tissue and impacting proper thyroid function. A preventative remedy is to consume whole-food iodine sources to supply the body’s normal iodine needs, including fish, seaweed (kelp, nori, kombu and wakame), cranberries, plain yogurt, navy beans, strawberries, eggs, cheese, potatoes, some grains and unrefined sea salt.
Unfortunately, those with autoimmune thyroid disorders (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease) or low thyroid function are often advised to avoid certain foods deemed injurious to thyroid function. Cruciferous vegetables, spinach, radishes, peaches and strawberries are said to interfere with iodine uptake. But avoidance of these foods is not well justified because: 1) Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables help the body produce the antioxidant glutathione, which helps fight Hashimoto’s; and 2) cruciferous vegetables reduce the risk of cancer (even thyroid cancer).
Another concern is that eating processed foods exposes you to genetically modified organisms, unhealthy sugars and fats, antibiotics and toxic chemicals, putting your digestive tract under daily attack. An estimated 80 percent of the immune system is located in the gut, and just about every known disease, including thyroid dysfunction, links back to imbalanced gut bacteria.
The Root Cause of Dysfunction
Because the thyroid is such an important organ, the medical use of synthetic hormones can seem like an appealing course of action. These apparently instant solutions seem to yield some short-term positive results, but they lack long-term effectiveness.
The best that medical science can do is deal with the effect and ignore the cause. The use of synthetic hormones is simply trying to remove the penalty of breaking physical laws without removing the cause.
While medicines do not necessarily cause our problems, they cannot solve them, and they often exacerbate them. They do not deserve our faith.
A more prudent course of action is centered on understanding and practicing healthful principles. Just as there are foods that can cause great harm to the body, there are many that will nourish, sustain and strengthen. Two basic factors to remember in selecting foods are to avoid those foods which have been corrupted or perverted in man-made ‘food’ factories, and to maintain a balanced diet containing all the elements the body requires to sustain and build health.
This statement is key to maintaining long-term health. Stop thyroid problems before they start. These days, it takes some effort to eat a balanced diet of natural foods. With continued exposure to toxins, many do suffer from thyroid issues. It can become easy to get lost in complex details and anxiety about this serious health problem. While there is a lot of research centered on supposed cures, it is best to strive for balance and avoid extremes.
To have a truly healthy life, it is important to stress consistent whole-food nutrition and other laws, such as “sufficient sleep, exercise, plenty of fresh air, cleanliness and proper elimination, right thinking [and] clean living,” to allow the body to recover. In the end, your thyroid will thank you. ▪