I looked down to see clumps of hair fall down the shower drain. But this was nothing new as I had been diagnosed 12 years prior with alopecia areata (a condition resulting in hair loss). I felt utterly exhausted, again, nothing new as I was getting over a bad case of mono. I was freezing all of the time, but I figured that was just me. But my mom was concerned about my recent lackluster attempts at getting out of bed and off to the doctor I went. Low iron resulting in anemia could account for low energy, which was no surprise considering I was vegetarian and was constantly fighting with the doctor about not eating any red meat (had I known about black beans and chickpeas I think things would have been different…), but he was also concerned about low T3 & T4 levels and recommended an endocrinologist.
The specialist said there was nothing to be concerned about at that point in time, but that in the future, there would most likely be a need for me to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune thyroid disease (an under-active thyroid). And so the struggle began as no one ever really explained to be what having hypothyroidism meant or what to do about it. I would go through bouts of lethargy and exhaustion. My hair would fall out in piles, I had dry hair and skin and brittle nails. And weight gain. Oh weight, gain my fun friend. In high school I thought it was just plain luck that one night I went to bed as “the wall” and woke up the next morning with double D cup breasts. At the age of 17. Ha!
I eventually did have to go on HRT, which is a sucky thing to have to take, but sometimes completely necessary. But that is another story for another time. =)
So why did this happen?
The most likely culprit for me personally is actually the area I grew up in, as Southwestern Ontario is also known as a Goiter Belt as the soil is so iodine depleted that such low levels can cause thyroid imbalances. Other factors can include exposure to radiation also contributes to hypothyroidism, as well as a previous history of auto-immune disorders.
How do we know when we have an under-active thyroid? Besides the symptoms I mentioned above:
- Loss of energy/fatigue
- Sensitivity to cold
- Unexplained weight gain
- Thinning hair/hair loss
- Brittle nails
- Dry skin & nails
your Naturopath or Medical Doctor can do a simple blood test to determine your hormone levels. If your T3 (triiodothyronine) or T4 (thyroxine) are low, this causes a sluggish metabolism and in turn a sluggish thyroid.
Recommendations for Thyroid Hormone Deficiency
- Try an iodine supplement, or even better, eat iodine rich foods like sea salt (fresh ground is best), and sea vegetables (dulse, spirulina, nori and kelp to name just a few)
- Selenium is helpful in the formation of thyroid hormones and a supplement can help
- Regular exercise (this helps with healthy thyroid production, boosts your mood and helps you keep warm!)
- Stress Management (a relaxed you = a happy thyroid)
- Avoid stimulants (especially caffeine & cigarette smoke) & eliminate refined sugar
- Avoiding eating raw Brassica family veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok coy, kale, turnips etc) as they have goitrogenic properties, which suppresses thyroid function and cooking them eliminates this
- Limit or avoid excess soy intake as it can affect HRT
- Avoid gluten (for those with no thyroid or auto-immune deficiencies) as it contains gliaden (the protein found in gluten) and this is similar to our thyroid gland prompting our body to try and attack our thyroid gland