Hypothyroidism is underdiagnosed

Is your thyroid underactive?

Do you have some or all of the following symptoms:  fatigue, allergies, depression, cold hands and feet, weight gain/inability to lose weight, thinning eyebrows, constipation, dry skin, forgetfulness, foggy thinking, irritability, joint pain, blood pressure problems, and/or headaches/ migraines, and yet all blood tests come back normal?  You may have what is called subclinical hypothyroid, a condition where you have the symptoms of a low functioning thyroid, but it does not show up on blood tests.

What does the thyroid gland do?
The thyroid gland is part of the hormonal system and is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body.  Its function is to produce thyroid hormones which are responsible for making energy, regulating body temperature, and metabolism.
Hypothyroidism is the most common condition affecting the thyroid. Although the majority of hypothyroid patients are female (90%), it can also affect males. However, because most people rely on blood tests to determine if they are hypothyroid, it is often undiagnosed.  It is estimated that half of all people who have low grade hypothyroidism go undiagnosed.

How do you know if you have hypothyroidism?
If a blood test shows that your thyroid is normal, but you are experiencing some or all of the above symptoms, there is another way you can check to see if you may have subclinical hypothyroid.  You can take your basal body temperature, which is your temperature first thing in the morning when you wake up, before you physically get up and move around.  If your oral temperature is consistently below 97.8 to 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit, your thyroid may be underfunctioning.  This test is most accurate when you have had at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep before you take your temperature.

How can you improve thyroid function?
If you discover that you do have an underactive thyroid, there are some things that you can do to help support thyroid function.

One of the main ways to improve thyroid function is to exercise regularly.  Exercise will stimulate your metabolism and reduce insulin levels which which will also help you to lose weight.  Exercise at least 40 minutes three times/week.  You can walk, jog, dance, bike for 20 minutes and do weights, lunges, etc. for another 20 minutes.

Ensure you do not skip meals, especially breakfast, as this will slow down your metabolism.  Eat nutrient-dense foods which are whole, fresh and organic whenever possible.  Avoid pesticides and herbicides as these will disrupt hormonal function. Avoid processed and refined foods, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.

Kelp/seaweed contain higher amounts of iodine, which the thyroid requires for proper functioning.  Other minerals which are essential for optimal thyroid health include  zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, magnesium, and calcium.  These can usually be found in a good multivitamin-mineral if our diets are lacking in these nutrients.  Ensure adequate intake of essential fatty acids (e.g. fish oil, cod liver oil) which all glands require.

Check for food sensitivities, especially gluten, which can worsen thyroid problems.

Avoid foods which can suppress thyroid function (goitregens), unless they are cooked.  These foods include:  broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and mustard greens (Brassica family).  Other foods that can suppress thyroid function include: soy, kale, spinach, turnips, apples, peaches, pears, peanuts, pine nuts, cassava, millet, tomatoes, and walnuts.  Cooking seems to inactivate the goitregenic effect of these foods.

Avoid fluoride and chlorine as they both compete with iodine which is essential for making the thyroid hormone.  Fluoride mostly found in tap water (therefore, filter your water) and most brands of toothpaste (look for a natural, fluoride-free toothpaste).

Final consideration – Do not neglect the adrenal glands
Lastly, ensure your adrenal glands are functioning optimally and are not exhausted (especially if you are under chronic stress), as this can prevent your thyroid gland from healing.  Some patients focus only on treating their thyroid gland to no avail and neglect to check if their adrenal glands (glands which respond to stress) are underfunctioning.  These patients often do not respond to treatment until the imbalance in their adrenal glands is addressed.  Once the adrenal glands are treated, hypothyroid patients finally start their road to recovery and begin to feel much better.

It is important to be monitored by a qualified healthcare practitioner when undergoing any treatment for the thyroid so that your progress can be properly assessed.

Note:  This article is intended for educational purposes only.  It is not intended to replace proper diagnosis and treatment by a qualified healthcare professional.

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