This is something I see overlooked time and time again in conventional medicine.
It’s something I see in probably 85-90% of my clients and needs to be addressed.
It’s your thyroid.
Your thyroid gland is a cute little butterfly shaped gland just below your Adam's apple that controls all sorts of things in your body, from your metabolic rate and body temperature, to digestion, bone maintenance, and brain development.
So liiiike … it’s very important.
But the problem is that 40-60% of women go about life with an under active (and undiagnosed) thyroid wondering why they’re always cold, can’t seem to lose weight, and struggling with anxiety.
If you have anxiety PLUS any of the following 👇 there’s a really good chance your thyroid may be involved:
Stiff muscles in the morning
Tired, lethargic & low energy until afternoon
Low body temperature, cold hands & feet
Hair that is dry, brittle or dull
Skin that is flaky, dry or rough
Sleep issues, restlessness
Weight gain or inability to lose weight
Recurring colds and infections
Irregular periods or heavy periods
I know what you’re probably thinking, “Isn’t there blood tests to diagnose this kind of stuff?”
Yes, there is. But there’s a huge problem with them.
They don’t actually pick up what they need to in order to diagnose low thyroid function.
Your thyroid gland produces two versions of your thyroid hormone: T4 & T3
T4 is the inactive version of T3 that is converted to an active state in various tissues in the body. T3 is the active hormone that is actually utilized by the body.
The problem here is that standard thyroid panels don’t pick up on circulating amounts of T3. They generally measure levels of TSH and T4, which don’t really give a clear picture on what’s happening with your thyroid.
And for a lot of women, there is an under-conversion of T4 to T3, meaning your thyroid doesn’t have enough of the active hormone.
This lack of conversion has a number of underlying causes, including inflammation, high cortisol, nutrient deficiencies, and intestinal dysbiosis … four imbalances that CREATE anxiety.
If you’re hoping a lab test will pick up on this, you need to make sure you’re getting a comprehensive thyroid panel, which usually isn’t available through your GP and generalized testing.
It needs to include: TSH, Free T3, Free T4, RT3, Anti TPO and Anti TG.
Besides blood testing, one of the most accurate ways to assess thyroid function is taking your basal body temperature upon waking up in the morning. This is the method I use with my clients.
But regardless of how you assess it, getting to the root of whether your thyroid is under functioning or not, is key to actually doing something about your anxiety.
Here's three things you can put into practice today that will not only drastically improve your thyroid function, but also how much anxiety you experience AND how severe it is.
Unfortunately, because of diet culture, most women think that:
A - they’re eating more than they actually are
B - restricting calories is going to help them lose weight.
When in reality, restricting calories is actually creating anxiety.
Your body needs food (calories) to function. Period.
Studies have found that restricting calories increases your body’s output of cortisol, your stress hormone.
The chronic stress your body experiences from under eating wreaks all sorts of havoc.
In a previous blog post I talked about HPA axis dysfunction and its relationship to anxiety.
Well, that’s what happens.
You should be aiming to eat anywhere from 1800-2200 calories a day, which doesn’t even account for exercise.
When you’re not eating what your body needs in terms of calories, you’re also decreasing your T3 levels. One specific study found that participants following a very low-calorie diet of 400 calories per day saw a drastic decrease in T3 levels by up to 66%!
Now I would hope you're not eating 400 calories a day - but so many women are eating 1200-1300 calories a day. Which is way too low. This impacts thyroid function & increases anxiety.
If you fall into the group that needs to bump if their calories, I suggest downloading an app like MyFitnessPal or other calorie tracking apps so you can pinpoint where you need work and get a rough idea of how much you need to be eating to support your thyroid.
From there, you can work towards slowly increasing your calories until you reach your goal.
T3 is an energy hormone.
If you’ve got a sluggish thyroid and it’s not producing the hormones it needs, your body needs to compensate with another energy hormone.
Where’s this compensation coming from? Your adrenals.
They kick into high gear to lend a helping hand by shooting out other energy hormones - aka our old friends cortisol and adrenaline.
Now your adrenals are doing two jobs, when they're only equipped to do one.
Research shows that an excess of cortisol produced from the adrenal glands suppresses the central thyroid axis. Meaning, whenever the adrenals glands are overworked, the thyroid slows down, going into conservation mode.
When both thyroid and adrenals are low - which is what I often see with my clients - sometimes providing nutritional support for the adrenals alone is enough to restore thyroid function, without having to specifically target the thyroid.
The best way to support your adrenals is through lifestyle + diet + adaptogens.
Start with increasing calories. Food is the best way to not only get the nutrients you need to support adrenal health, but also take the pressure off of them when they start to overcompensate for other organs.
For more information on how to support your adrenals click HERE!
Ok maybe you don't have to say "bye-bye to gluten" forever but here’s the thing with gluten:
There’s a protein in gluten called gliadin. And gliadin has a freakishly similar molecular structure to an enzyme that’s particularly abundant in the thyroid called transglutaminase.
And what gliadin does is it irritates the lining of your small intestine. This lining is naturally very thin, so when something is constantly poking and prodding at it, it’s eventually going to make its way through. When that happens, gliadin is now swimming in a place where it shouldn’t be (your blood).
When that happens, your immune system sounds the alarm to signify to the body that there’s an invader (even though it’s not really thaaaaat bad of an invader) and it mounts an immune response by producing antibodies to gliadin.
Your body is like a guard dog. When gliadin starts to come near, it goes a bit crazy because it doesn’t want to let it close. But remember how we said the gliadin molecules look a bit too similar to transglutaminase?
So, every time gluten (gliadin) is in your system, your body starts to attack both gliadin AND your thyroid.
For a lot of people, they may not feel an immediate response to gluten. It may manifest in a headache a few days later, or a low mood the next day, or maybe your anxiety flares up. But because it’s not an IMMEDIATE reaction, we don't associate it with inflammation caused by consuming gluten.
And what might be more devastating is that when this happens, damage can ensue for UP TO 6 MONTHS after gluten intake... 6 months. That's wild.
When it comes to mental heath, this misdiagnosis of low thyroid function can be very expensive.
You wind up paying for years of medication and therapy that won't actually do anything if the underlying physical issue creating the anxiety has to do with your thyroid gland.
This is extremely frustrating to be as a holistic practitioner. Millions of people are experiencing mental health challenges due to their hormones.
And like in the case of an underactive thyroid - an SSRI or a benzo isn't going to do anything. If we don't work on resolving the root cause, we cannot eliminate the anxiety.
If you have any questions or think you may be experiencing anxiety due to low thyroid function click HERE to book a complimentary call to see if my programs can help you 💜