Are your hands and feet always cold? Are you putting on weight despite relentless exercise and willpower with dieting? Do you suffer from low energy and need a nap every day? Maybe you have brain fog, depression, clumsiness, and the inability to focus. Or unexplained bloating, inflammation, and digestive issues.
Before you dismiss these symptoms as "normal" or part of "aging," you consider getting your thyroid checked. The thyroid is the master gland of your body. It controls everything from sex hormone regulation and adrenal function to body temperature, fat-burning, brain function, and much more.
An estimated 20 million (and counting) Americans have some form of thyroid disease, up to 60 percent are unaware of their condition, and women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. Thyroid problems are often misdiagnosed—and without treatment, you can develop chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, hormonal disorders, heart issues, inflammation, cancers, and more.
Twice in 10 years I struggled with hypothyroidism. Oftentimes I felt so alone, severely depressed, and frightened about my future. But I rejected a premature demise. I pushed myself to seek answers about my condition and how I could heal myself, and I prevailed. If you are suffering from thyroid problems, here are a few ways to regain control of your health based on how I was able to successfully navigate my own journey.
1. You don't "have to deal with it."
Where there's a will there's a way. People out there have walked your journey; find them. The internet can be a beautiful tool for that. Have faith that you will get through this; thyroid issues are treatable, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise—sometimes even a doctor will try. Don't hesitate to get another medical opinion if you're not satisfied with the one you have now.
2. Ask for these blood tests.
Doctors failed to diagnose me because they all ordered the same, incorrect blood tests based on decades-old, outdated medical wisdom. Instead, ask for these thyroid blood tests. (Note: Always arrange for your blood to be drawn between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. If you're taking thyroid hormone replacement, don't take your dose beforehand; take it with you to the labs and pop it in your mouth afterward.)
STANDARD THYROID BLOOD PANEL
- Free T3
- Free T4
- Reverse T3
- TPO ab (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody test: Hashimoto's)
- Tg ab (Thyroglobulin Antibody test: Hashimoto's)
RELATED BLOOD TESTS
- DHEA Sulfate
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin D 25-hydroxy
3. Can't burn fat? Try this even more nuanced test.
If your thyroid symptoms are eliminated, and you feel great but still have trouble burning fat, test your HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin).
This test reflects your average blood glucose level for the past two to three months to determine if you are insulin resistant or have type 2 diabetes (if your Hemoglobin A1c levels are between 5.7 percent and 6.7 percent).
While mainstream medicine suggests that a result of 5.7 percent is normal, integrative physician Gary E. Foresman, M.D., warns that an HbA1c result over 5.2 percent is a major red flag; anyone with a result over 5.2 percent should take a serious look at his or her carbohydrate/sugar consumption. In this case, you may benefit from a low-carb or ketogenic lifestyle, with supplements like alpha-lipoic acid.
4. Support your body's systems with natural remedies.
Many people taking thyroid hormone replacement still don't feel energetic, happy, and as amazing as they could. Here are some natural ways to optimize your thyroid function and metabolism—even if you're not taking thyroid hormones:
- Take 200 to 400 mcg of selenium1 per day in the form of Se-Methyl L-Selenocysteine.
- Assist adrenal function with sea salt, vitamin B complex, and vitamin C.
- Eliminate all grains, dairy, sugar, and other inflammatory-promoting or Hashimoto's-triggering foods.
- Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
- Reduce stress as much as possible. This could be asking a family member to help you with household chores for a few months while you recover. Or carve out time every day to silence your cellphone and lie down quietly to meditate and visualize. Or take a 10- to 15-minute daydream "timeout," preferably in nature.
Elle Russ is the author of the bestselling book, The Paleo Thyroid Solution and is becoming the leading voice of thyroid health in the burgeoning Evolutionary Health Movement (also referred to as Paleo, Primal, or Ancestral Health). Elle is also a life coach and the host of the top-ranked Primal Blueprint Podcast. Originally from downtown Chicago, Elle lives and plays in Malibu, California.