By: Dr. Keith Kantor
I have been in the health field for many years and this industry has evolved with the fads and trends but one thing that I have seen become more difficult is weight loss. It is just plain more difficult to get people to lose weight these days. There are many theories out there such as too much screen time, the chemicals in the food, daily stress is at an all time high, etc. Learning long term strategies for overall health and nutrition is the key to unlock weight loss. Diets and weight loss programs that promote quick fixes can actually leave you in a worse stage of health after it is all over, resulting in more weight gain and poor overall health and metabolism.
An area that I think is extremely confusion to most people is our thyroid. Doctors provide very limited testing for it in the general practice and it can be an underlying cause of many issues, such as depression, high cholesterol, fatigue, low energy, poor strength, and even hair loss. It is estimated that 12% of people will have thyroid dysfunction in their lifetime and most of them will go undiagnosed because proper testing was not provided and they were given another prescription that “masks” the thyroid condition.
Thyroid disease is defined as a medical condition that affects the function of the thyroid gland (the endocrine organ found at the front of the neck that produces thyroid hormones). The symptoms of thyroid disease vary depending on the type.
There are four general types:
- Hypothyroidism low function) caused by not having enough thyroid hormones
- Hyperthyroidism (high function) caused by having too much thyroid hormones
- Structural abnormalities, most commonly an enlargement of the thyroid glandtumors, which can be benign or cancerous
- Hashimoto’s disease– an auto immune disease where the thyroid shows symptoms of both hypo and hyper thyroid.
Diagnosis can often be made through laboratory tests.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Thyroxine (T4)
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) Antibodies
It is best to ask for all of the tests to get a complete understanding of how your thyroid is functioning but most doctors only pull the TSH and TPO test, which can come back normal, and there still can be a problem.
Symptoms of a thyroid issue include:
Low Body Temperature
Reduced Muscle Strength
Inability to focus
Increased Heart Rate
Dietary Correlations to Thyroid Conditions
Gluten: Gluten sensitivities and allergies reduce the absorption of important micronutrients, causing a greater response from the immune system, and triggering the body to attack gluten proteins, which are very similar in structure to the proteins that make up the thyroid gland. As the body learns that gluten is a foreign substance that it should attack, it also attacks the thyroid gland. This is just one of many reasons to avoid gluten in your diet. I have personally had a client reverse her thyroid condition by removing gluten from her diet completely.
Iodine: Iodine deficiency causes goiter. While goiter isn’t common in the United States, it is very common throughout the world. A normal amount of iodine, often consumed as salt, is sufficient to eliminate goiter. However, an excessive amount of salt can also lead to thyroid problems. Those who are hypothyroid may benefit from some iodine, but not an unlimited amount. It is best to get a dietitian or doctor’s recommendations for iodine.
Goitrogens are compounds found in some grains, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables are great at detoxification of the body’s excess estrogen. It is best to consume them raw and in moderation, since an excessive amount can block the formation of thyroid hormones.
Vitamin D deficiency: Low vitamin D levels make you more susceptible to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Disease. Vitamin D acts like a hormone in our body, when amounts are low it can lead to depression, low immune system function, and thyroid dysfunction.
Calorie restriction: If you are a calorie counter stop now, it is not doing you any good. Long-term calorie restriction causes a reduction in metabolic rate. Loss of muscle causes some reduction in metabolic rate, but suppressed thyroid function causes the greatest decline.
Carbohydrate restriction: Even when total calorie levels are high enough, some people on a low-carb diet experience reduced T3. Obviously, this makes it more difficult to lose weight on a low-carb diet, and can also lead to a reduction in exercise performance, and even feelings of depression and fatigue. Choose your carbohydrates wisely and try to eat them in pure form like vegetables, fruits, and whole grain rice, steel cut oats, quinoa, etc.
Lifestyle and Nutrition Steps to a Healthy Thyroid
Go gluten free. Cut it out cold turkey and see how your body responds. Gluten is found in mainstream cookies, breads, pasta, crackers, etc. There are many gluten free options out there that make it convenient to remove gluten from your diet. The smallest amount of gluten can trigger an auto-immune response.
Consume cruciferous vegetables often to help the body naturally detoxify excess estrogen.
Eat enough quality protein, from all natural chicken, beef, pork and seafood. If protein needs are not met daily then it can affect thyroid function over time due to less lean muscle mass. Aim to consume at least 20-30% of your daily food consumption in some form of all natural protein.