Medically reviewed by Dr. George Kosco, DO on February 18, 2020
If you are having trouble losing weight and noticing things such as thinning hair, brittle nails, and cold feet/hands, it might indicate a thyroid issue.
These symptoms tend to point toward hypothyroidism. It’s a good idea to get your thyroid hormone levels checked by your doctor, and you might need to take supplemental thyroid medication, but you can also take action on your own.
In this article, you will learn how to boost your thyroid’s performance, and therefore your metabolism, through my 4-A Strategy.
Could it be my thyroid?
It’s a thought that’s crossed your mind, right?
After all, you have the classic symptom of hypothyroidism, namely…
Your weight loss is slow or non-existent, even though you’re eating the same, or better than you ever have.
You’ve heard that your thyroid runs your metabolism, but how does that work?
How do you know if your thyroid is underperforming?
And, most importantly, what can you start doing today to help your thyroid fire up your metabolism so that you can get faster weight loss results.
I address all of these questions starting now and share my 4-A Strategy for Charging Your Thyroid (& Metabolism), Naturally.
Foods That Boost Thyroid Function [Download]
DOWNLOAD 10 FOODS YOU SHOULD BE EATING FOR THYROID FUNCTION BY ENTERING YOUR INFORMATION BELOW:
How Does Your Thyroid Run Your Metabolism
Did you know that every cell in your body needs thyroid hormone to make energy?
Inside your cells are little energy factories called mitochondria. These tiny powerhouses turn sugar (glucose) and oxygen into energy (ATP).
Thyroid hormones (T3) regulate this process and tell the mitochondria when to work.
It’s as if T3 is the plug that supplies the power that runs the mitochondria. The mitochondria just sit there until T3 plugs in charges them up.
When one mitochondrion makes a molecule of ATP, it’s only a speck of energy.
But here’s the thing…
You have trillions of cells.
And, each cell has multiple mitochondria.
When your thyroid is supplying the perfect amount of power (i.e. thyroid hormone), you get the cumulative effect of trillions of ATP molecules flooding your body, which leaves you feeling energized, vital, and alive!
But what if that’s not what’s happening? What if there is too little thyroid hormone?
The low thyroid hormone level tells the mitochondria not to work so hard and your energy level drops across the board. Every cell in your body feels the effects, and you experience the symptoms of low thyroid or hypothyroidism.
How Do You Know If Your Thyroid Is The Problem?
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism include unexplained weight gain or slow weight loss, fatigue, depression, anxiety, hair loss, brain fog, constipation and poor quality of sleep.
You see that having an underactive thyroid is not only about slow weight loss, but that is a particularly frustrating aspect of hypothyroidism.
When you are hypothyroid, there is less sugar (glucose) being converted to energy and you cannot catch a break when you step on the scale. You might even be gaining weight even though you’ve been trying to lose.
Diagnosing hypothyroidism is done using a symptom profile and a blood test.
Diagnosing Hypothyroidism: Do You Have It? [Quiz]
Occasionally, I open up private consultations for women who have trouble losing weight.
As part of the process, the women fill out a lengthy questionnaire specifically designed to detect hormonal imbalances.
Below are the questions from the low thyroid hormone portion of the questionnaire.
Place a mental checkmark beside each question you answer with a YES, or better yet, keep a tally on a notepad. The number of yeses you end up with will reveal your symptom profile.
_____Do you experience muscle and joint aches?
_____Have you noticed that you are losing your hair?
_____Have you noticed that your hair is straw-like or dry?
_____Is your skin dry?
_____Do you have brittle fingernails?
_____Are your hands and feet unusually cold?
_____Do you experience tingling in your hands or feet?
_____Do you feel bloated?
_____Do you have trouble losing weight despite what you eat?
_____Do you feel tired often throughout the day? i.e. you could take a nap at any time during the day, even the mornings.
_____Is your sex drive lower than before for no apparent reason?
_____Do you feel depressed or lack enthusiasm for life?
_____Do you experience frequent headaches?
_____Do you have trouble concentrating or experience brain fog?
_____Have your bowels been sluggish? i.e. You move your bowels less than once a day or do not fully move your bowels.
_____Do you notice a decrease in the amount you sweat?
_____Do you have a family history of thyroid problems?
_____If you are still of childbearing years, do you experience heavy bleeding with your period or other problems related to your period?
If you said YES to nine or more of the questions, there is a fair probability that your thyroid gland is underperforming, and you should have a thyroid blood test.
But let me ask you another question?
Did you already have your thyroid tested?
If so, did the results come back normal, even though you have all of the classic symptoms?
Or, maybe you’re taking thyroid medication, but you still have the symptoms?
Many times, I’ve heard, “but my thyroid test came back normal” from women who are frustrated with their inability to lose weight.
I’ve also interviewed many women who are currently taking thyroid medication, yet their hair is falling out, they are constantly cold, and they feel tired and blah – all classic signs of hypothyroidism.
An article in the Huffington Post explains why routine blood tests often fail to detect low thyroid levels.
As it turns out, there is a lot of debate and confusion as to what constitutes “normal” when it comes to your thyroid, and the standard thyroid blood test does not look deep enough to reveal hidden problems.
Doctors test your blood to check the levels of different thyroid-related hormones. A cursory test typically looks at the level of TSH, Free T4, and maybe Free T3
- Problem with Thyroid Testing #1 – Confusion: Some doctors are using outdated standards to define “normal.”
In 2003, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommended that the ranges for determining normal become more narrow, yet some doctors still use the old values.
- Problem with Thyroid Testing #2 – Incomplete Testing: Testing is usually not comprehensive enough to catch hypothyroidism.
If you’ve been told that your thyroid is fine, but you still have symptoms, ask your doctor to run a complete thyroid panel and compare the results to the optimal ranges put forth by Dr. Amy Myers, best-selling author of The Thyroid Connection: Why You Feel Tired, Brain-Fogged, and Overweight.
Complete Thyroid Panel
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb)
- Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb)
The Optimal Thyroid Lab Ranges
TSH 1-2 UIU/ML or lower (Armour or compounded T3 can artificially suppress TSH)
FT4 >1.1 NG/DL
FT3 > 3.2 PG/ML
RT3 less than a 10:1 ratio RT3:FT3
TPO – TgAb – < 4 IU/ML or negative
Reference: Myers, A. (2016). What Your Thyroid Lab Results Really Mean – Amy Myers MD.
THE TAKEAWAY: If your thyroid test comes back showing that your numbers are “within the normal range,” you could still have an underperforming thyroid that’s compromising your metabolism.
Talk with your doctor, and ask if your numbers are within the optimal range.
How to Charge Your Thyroid (& Metabolism), Naturally
You have the symptoms of thyroid problems; now what?
While you may need to talk with your doctor about supplemental medication, there are many diet and lifestyle changes you can start doing right now to boost your thyroid gland’s performance.
Here’s my 4-A STRATEGY
- ADD Thyroid Supporting Foods
- AVOID Inflammatory Foods
- ADDRESS Existing Issues
- ASSIST Your Thyroid Health
1. Add Thyroid Supporting Food
One of the repeating mantras I use in my programs is Adding before Subtracting, meaning that to change your diet successfully, you have to add healthy foods to your diet before you remove the junky foods.
If you try to start a diet by first cutting out all of your favorite foods, you’ll be so badgered by hunger and cravings that you’ll quit.
By first feeding your body the nutrients it needs, you not only avoid many of the debilitating sugar withdrawal symptoms that come with a change of diet, but you also provide an optimal environment for your thyroid gland to function.
With the right nutrition, your metabolism will thrive because your thyroid has what it needs to make thyroid hormones, convert inactive T4 to active form T3, and move T3 into your cells where it’s used.
Would you like a downloadable list of 10 foods that feed your thyroid?
Nutrients That Feed Your Thyroid (& Metabolism)
Iodine is one of the two principal nutrients that make thyroid hormones.
Your thyroid gland pulls in iodine from your blood when it needs to make more thyroid hormones.
In fact, T3 gets its name because it has three iodine atoms attached to it; likewise, T4 (the inactive form of thyroid hormone) has four atoms of iodine attached.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that, like iodine, is an essential nutrient for making thyroid hormones.
TAKEAWAY: If you’re not getting enough tyrosine or iodine in your diet, your thyroid does not have the raw ingredients it needs to make your thyroid hormones.
Selenium is a mineral that helps to turn the inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) into the active form (T3).
Specifically, selenium supports the enzyme that removes an iodine atom from T4. With that atom of iodine gone, inactive T4 becomes active T3. T3 can now pass into your cells and “plug into” your mitochondria (i.e. energy factories).
Iron works alongside selenium helping to convert T4 to T3.
If you are a meat-eater or a woman past menopause, your body may have enough iron to support this conversion process, but if you’re a woman of childbearing years who doesn’t eat meat, you may need to boost your iron intake.
Zinc is needed to make T3 and it also offers support for your immune system, which is important since the most common form of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune form called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
TAKEAWAY: If your diet is deficient in selenium, iron or zinc, too many thyroid hormones will remain in the inactive form (T4), making them essentially useless.
Healthy Fats, like omega 3 fatty acids, help build healthy cell membranes.
Healthy cell membranes make it easy for thyroid hormones to pass into your cells where they do their work.
TAKEAWAY: Fats are good for your thyroid, but you want to feed your thyroid the right ones. Whole fats, from nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, contain the omega 3 fatty acids your body needs for optimal thyroid performance.
Vitamins A, B, and D3 support your thyroid.
Vitamin A helps bring thyroid hormones into cells.
The B Vitamins help make thyroid hormones and help you deal with stress
Vitamin D3 helps bring T3 into your cells and also supports your immune system and mood.
TAKEAWAY: Eating a high-nutrient diet is the best way to support your metabolism, enhance your immune system, handle stress, and brighten your mood.
2. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Avoiding inflammatory foods is every bit as important as adding thyroid supporting foods.
This fact is particularly true if you have the most common form of hypothyroidism called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Named after the doctor that first described the condition, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder in which your body mistakenly attacks your thyroid.
Why the attack?
It’s a case of mistaken identity.
Gluten and Dairy foods contain proteins that, to your body, look a lot like your thyroid cells.
If you have a sensitivity to these inflammatory foods or you have a condition like leaky gut, which we will cover later, your immune system will go into attack mode every time you eat these foods.
In the frenzy of the attack, your thyroid cells become victims of friendly fire.
How do you know if you have a sensitivity to gluten or dairy foods?
The symptoms can be subtle.
Do you get headaches, experience frequent nose stuffiness for unexplained reasons, snore, get odd skin rashes, have lingering fatigue, or feel plagued by frequent indigestion? These are clues pointing to gluten or dairy sensitivity.
TAKEAWAY: Gluten and dairy allergies and sensitivities are so common and have such a negative effect on the thyroid that everyone with thyroid symptoms should omit them from their diet for a minimum of 21 days.
Trans Fats and Hydrogenated Fats harm your cell membranes, making it hard for T3 to get into your cells.
TAKEAWAY: You need dietary fat to support your thyroid, but you must choose fats wisely. Avoid fast foods and packaged baked foods with vegetable oils and soybean oils listed on their ingredient’s lists.
Sugar is an inflammatory food.
Being in an inflammatory state is damaging to your thyroid and can lead to conditions like leaky gut, which increases your risk of thyroid problems. Sugar provides zero nutrients, so it provides nothing but calories.
Splenda (sucralose) is an artificial sweetener that blocks the absorption of zinc and iodine, which are two nutrients needed to make thyroid hormones.
What about other artificial sweeteners?
It’s best to do without, but you can use Stevia. However, buyer beware: many brands of Stevia contain hidden sugar to make them bulkier and better for baking. Read the label. If you see words like dextrose or maltodextrin on the ingredient’s list, your Stevia contains sugar!
TAKEAWAY: Sugar and Splenda create thyroid-compromising inflammation. If a food lists sugar as one of its top three ingredients, don’t eat it.
Above I’ve listed the main inflammatory foods to avoid. Some people have additional food sensitivities that could affect the thyroid.
3. Address Existing Issues
Conditions like leaky gut, chronic stress, and estrogen imbalance can throw off the thyroid hormones and negatively impact your metabolism.
The simplicity of the name, leaky gut, defies this disorders ravenous effect on the body.
In a person with leaky gut, the cell junctions that line the digestive tract walls spread apart, allowing small food particles to leak out of the tract and into the blood.
Gluten and dairy proteins are common irritants that damage the intestinal lining and cause the gut to leak.
The leaks allow food proteins and other digestive tract particles to pass into your bloodstream where your immune system identifies them as foreign invaders that must be attacked.
Because gluten and dairy molecules look a lot like thyroid cells (i.e. molecular mimicry), your thyroid cells get attacked in a case of mistaken identity.
After the attack, your damaged thyroid is no longer able to produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone, and you become hypothyroid.
I recommend that people with leaky gut use collagen hydrolysate on a daily basis to support the lining of the gut.
Collagen hydrolysate is a tasteless supplement. It comes in a powder form that easily mixes with any hot or cold drink, so it’s easy to take.
It’s also a good source of protein, so it can be substituted for protein powder in a smoothie.
Additional benefits of collagen are that it supports the hair, skin, and nails, which are common problems associated with hypothyroidism.
TAKEAWAY: You can eat all the right foods, but if your gut health is subpar, you could be taking one step forward and one step back. To heal your gut, cut out gluten and dairy, and take collagen.
Stress is damaging to the thyroid because of cortisol’s impact on the thyroid.
Cortisol is your main stress hormone and it’s necessary for your survival. It’s the fight-or-flight hormone that speeds up your body when you find yourself in a stressful situation. Without cortisol, you’d keel over the next time you got spooked.
The problem today is that everything seems stressful.
- Your job is stressful.
- Keeping up with your kids is stressful.
- Traffic is stressful.
In other words, stress never stops, so cortisol continually pours out of your adrenal glands.
Continue on this path for too long, and your adrenals get worn out resulting in low levels of cortisol, a condition commonly referred to as adrenal fatigue.
Your thyroid can be thrown off if your cortisol level is too high or too low, so like Goldilocks, you want your level to be just right.
You could say that cortisol is like hot sauce.
If your food is lacking hot sauce, it lacks flavor.
If you add too much hot sauce to your food, you won’t be able to taste anything but the burning spice.
Cortisol is the same way.
If you have too little (adrenal fatigue), T3 has a hard time getting into your cells.
If you have too much (i.e. chronic stress), your body makes too much thyroid-binding globulin (TBG).
TBG is a protein that binds to thyroid hormones so they can easily move around your body. The problem is that as long as they are bound, they are inactive.
Think of TBG as a bus.
While T3 rides around on the TBG bus, it remains bound, and therefore inactive. To become active, it needs to get off the bus.
Too much cortisol = Too much TBG = Useless T3 riding around your body
Stress is hard to avoid, but you can balance your cortisol levels by balancing stress with relaxation.
Experiencing periods of complete relaxation during the day, allows your cortisol level to lower, giving your adrenals a rest.
Most clients I talk with have practiced relaxation techniques (i.e. prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.) in the past, but have gotten away from consistent practice.
If your stress is not under control, commit ten minutes a day to practicing your favorite stress reliever.
TAKEAWAY: Stress is a health destroyer, yet in this crazy world, it’s hard to avoid. Balance stress with relaxation. Find a stress management tool that works for you, and commit to employing it on a daily basis. It must be consistent to be effective.
High estrogen can become a thyroid issue for a woman, particularly if the woman is taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
Like high cortisol levels, higher than needed levels of estrogen can cause too much thyroid hormone to remain bound to thyroid-binding globulin (i.e. remain on the TBG bus).
Remember, bound T3 does nothing for your metabolism; it must be unbound to be effective.
TAKEAWAY: Estrogen dominance can result in too many bound thyroid hormones. You may need to work with your doctor if you are taking a supplemental estrogen supplement, but a healthy diet can go a long way in balancing hormones.
4. Assist Your Thyroid Health
There is no substitute for a healthy diet, but a good supplement can help to support your thyroid. However, to be effective, it must have the right mix of vitamins and minerals.
Here is the multivitamin I recommend: The Myer’s Way Multivitamin.
This multivitamin is so packed with thyroid-supporting nutrients, that anyone with a slow metabolism will benefit.
And, for those of you who’ve been told that your thyroid tests are normal, but you still have all of the symptoms, this multivitamin is a must.
This multivitamin contains selenium and zinc that your body needs to convert inactive T4 into active T3. You’ll also receive iodine, vitamins A, B & D, and other nutrients to support your thyroid and metabolism.
Conclusion – Could It Be My Thyroid?
Do you have trouble losing weight?
Is your hair thin, or your nails brittle?
Do you have cold hands and feet all of the time?
These symptoms point toward hypothyroidism. It’s a good idea to get your thyroid hormone levels checked by your doctor, and you might need to take supplemental thyroid medication, but you can also take action on your own.
Boost your thyroid’s performance, and therefore your metabolism, through my 4-A Strategy.
ADD thyroid supporting foods, AVOID inflammatory foods, ADDRESS existing issues, and ASSIST your overall health with a good multivitamin, and you’ll give your thyroid what it needs to thrive.
About the Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.