For the approximately 20 million Americans who endure thyroid diseases, maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging. However, more daunting is the slew of illnesses that they are at increased risk for, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. If you suffer from thyroid disease, you may wonder what you can do.
One of the increasingly effective methods for treating thyroid issues is nutrition therapy. This article will help you better understand functional nutrition and how it can help those who suffer from health problems.
What Is the Thyroid Gland?
It is vital to get a general idea of the thyroid’s role in metabolic function to understand how functional nutrition therapy works. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ, is only about two inches large and located in the neck’s front. Though small, it is a major gland in the endocrine system and impacts nearly every organ.
- fat and carbohydrate metabolism
- brain development
- cholesterol levels
- heart and nervous systems
- body temperature
- blood calcium levels
- menstrual cycles
- skin integrity
Most commonly, individuals suffer from an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), which can be caused by an autoimmune response known as autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease. This response occurs because the body mistakenly identifies its tissues as intruders and attacks them until the organ is damaged.
This autoimmune response inhibits the thyroid from releasing sufficient levels of hormones T3 and T4. These hormones are necessary to keep the body functioning correctly. A lack of them can slow down the metabolism, leading to weight gain, difficulty concentrating, hair loss, dry skin, and other frustrating symptoms.
Another common thyroid condition is an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), sometimes a result of Graves’ disease. It is is another autoimmune disease that causes the body to produce too much T3 and T4 hormones. Symptoms include weight loss, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and diarrhea.
Standard Treatment for Thyroid Disorders
Doctors usually treat hypothyroid patients with levothyroxine, a human-made version of T4. This medicine can help patients see some improvement when given the right dose. However, this approach only manages the symptoms and doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
Doctors rarely use nutrition to treat the source of thyroid problems. For example, patients with hypothyroidism that are overweight, have high blood pressure, and chronic fatigue may be prescribed a DASH diet and instructed to cut their calories. They might lose some weight, but this approach is not enough to resolve thyroid concerns like fatigue.
What Is Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition?
On the other hand, functional medicine is a very personal approach that works to get to the root of the illness by examining the patient’s history and triggers. Scientific evidence supports that the body has an immense ability to heal when given what it needs, which is the goal of functional medicine.
A registered dietician practices functional nutrition by treating the root cause of many autoimmune diseases. These are typically related to inflammation, leaky gut, or micronutrient deficiencies. By treating these, the healing process can begin, and thyroid function will improve naturally.
How Functional Nutritionists Help to Improve the Thyroid
When you meet with your functional nutrition provider, they will ask you about your symptoms and help you identify your triggers. They will also take specific nutrition blood work and tests to understand better what is happening in your body. These might include:
- micronutrient testing
- antibody testing
- gluten sensitivity testing
- sensitivity to other foods
- organic acids
- microbiome analysis
With the information acquired in the tests, your nutritionist will better understand what nutritional deficiencies you have. It is common to see patients with thyroid diseases with several nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin D, magnesium, iodine, iron, and more. For this reason, your nutritionist will carefully analyze which supplements you need to address these deficiencies.
They will also target and eliminate food sensitivities and triggers like dairy, soy, gluten, or corn to treat inflammation. They will then reduce the leaky gut, which is when antigens, pathogens, viruses, and bacteria pass through the stomach wall and into the bloodstream. When this happens, it can trigger the immune response, such as those in autoimmune disorders.
So, what causes leaky gut? An overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can cause imbalances in the microbiome. It occurs for the following reasons:
- chronic stress
- food intolerance
- nutrition-depleted diets
- medications like antibiotics, steroids, and birth control pills.
By treating leaky gut, inflammation, and micronutrient deficiencies, your body will be able to replace toxins with necessary antioxidants and nutrients, restore gut function, and reintroduce probiotics.
Foods Used in Nutrition Therapy
Since food plays such an essential role in improving thyroid function, it’s vital to rethink your diet. While seeing a nutritionist is necessary to know which foods you should be eating or avoiding, doctors recommend these foods to hypothyroidism patients.
- Minimally Processed Foods: To know if something is minimally processed, look at the packaging ingredients. If the food contains more than ten components or you can’t identify their source, it is best to avoid this food.
- Homemade Broth: To heal gut imbalances, many dieticians recommend making homemade broth as it is rich in nutrients.
- Seaweed: Since it is high in iodine, which is essential for thyroid hormone production, you should consider implementing it in your diet.
- Fermented Foods: Food like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi are good for gut health, as they are probiotics.
- Water: Drinking enough water is essential when dealing with thyroid issues. It will help you to counteract the side effects of an underactive thyroid and get rid of harmful toxins.
Functional Nutrition in Denver, CO
Are you looking for a functional medicine practitioner in the Denver area? We can help. At Dody Chiropractic Center for Wholeness, we offer nutrition therapy, so you can significantly improve your quality of life and get to the root of your thyroid disease.
Want to improve your thyroid function naturally? Get in touch with us now directly from the bottom of our website or by calling our office!