The thyroid is a large endocrine gland located at the front lower part of your neck. It is butterfly shaped and releases crucial hormones that travel throughout the circulatory system to reach their destination points all around the body. With such a critical function, we can see how a malfunctioning thyroid can come with a myriad of health problems.
Around 40% of the general population suffers with some form of low thyroid function. When the thyroid starts to malfunction, so do your energy levels, metabolism, heart function, digestion, appetite, sleep, mood, as well as hair, skin and nail growth.
Causes of Thyroid Disorders
Most thyroid disorders are caused by a variety of different factors. The most common is inflammation as a result of the foods we eat, stress, nutrient deficiencies, and overuse of medications.
When the thyroid becomes inflamed, it is considered to be an autoimmune disorder – aka. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In this case, the immune system starts to attack thyroid cells, because it mistakenly recognizes them as foreign. This causes widespread inflammation, which is the main cause of hypothyroidism. However, it isn’t the only cause.
A poor diet, one that is based largely on the Standard American Diet (SAD), is low in nutrient-rich foods, which are needed for proper thyroid function. When diets lack essential vitamins and minerals like iodine and selenium, the risk for thyroid disorders increases.
Leaky gut syndrome is another cause of thyroid disorders, as an unhealthy gut often means more nutrient deficiencies and higher autoimmune activity in the body. Inflammation of the gut can be caused by food sensitivities (aka. gluten, GMO’s, refined sugar, dairy), high stress levels, toxin overload, and bacterial imbalances.
Medication overuse can also cause hypothyroidism, especially meds used in those recovering from cancer, surgery, or individuals taking medications for mental health issues.
Lack of exercise can also reduce the ability of the body to regulate hormones properly. When we exercise, our stress response gets lowered throughout the day, which allows us to deal with stress better, and therefore, helps take a load off the thyroid.
Symptoms of A Malfunctioning Thyroid
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism have two very different symptom profiles, with one causing the complete mirror symptom of the other.
Some of the most common warning signs of hypothyroidism include:
– depression and anxiety
– weight gain
– feeling cold all the time
– hair loss
– stiffness and swelling in the joints
– muscle aches
– rough, cracked skin
– changes in the menstrual cycle
– low immune system function (more susceptible to frequent colds)
The main symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism and Graves disease include:
– trouble sleeping
– weight loss
– increased sense of smell
– thinning hair
– irregular heartbeat
– irritable bowel syndrome
What You Can Do
There are many natural ways to treat thyroid disorders, you just need to have a little lifestyle change. The effects will be rewarding, as you will not only be helping your thyroid, but healing your entire body.
In general, foods you should avoid for both disorders are anything containing gluten, refined sugar, packaged foods, GMO foods, dairy and artificial flavourings or dyes.
Foods you should be consuming include healthy fats like avocado, chia seeds, help seeds, flaxseeds, coconut, etc., seaweeds, probiotic-rich foods like kombucha and sauerkraut, clean water (not tap water), leafy greens and fresh, ripe fruit, green juices, anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and turmeric, and if you’re going to eat nuts and seeds, make sure you soak and sprout before eating to maximize nutrient availability.
As for supplements you should be focusing on for each disorder until fixed, please use the guide below:
– Ashwagandha (500mg daily)
– Nascent Iodine (150-300 micrograms daily)
– Selenium (200 micrograms daily – that is about 1-2 brazil nuts a day)
– L-tyrosine (500 milligrams twice a day)
– Vitamin B12 and B-Complex
– Flaxseed oil or hemp oil
– Probiotic supplement
– Plant sterols
– B-complex and Vitamin B12
– Lemon balm (2 millilitres, 3 times a day)
– L-carnitine (1000 mg, 2-4x a day)
– Bugleweed (2 millilitres, 3 times a day)
Essential Oils & The Thyroid
To improve thyroid function, and heal symptoms of autoimmune disease, you can try some of these essential oils on top of the advice listed above. These oils work interchangeably for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, but the general rule of thumb is that you should use stimulating oils for hypothyroidism, and calming/sedative/grounding oils for hyperthyroidism.
• Frankincense: a potent natural sedative, frankincense is high in monoterpenes, which help reprogram miswritten information in the DNA of our cells. It helps support the thyroid and also calms inflammation in and around the thyroid gland.
• Lemongrass: can help to combat muscle or joint pain associated with thyroid issues, when used in a bath. Is highly anti-inflammatory, and calms anxiety, so is great to use over the area of the thyroid as well.
• Myrrh: a natural remedy for a malfunctioning thyroid, as it helps reduce stress and can help decrease stress on an overtaxed thyroid when rubbed directly onto the thyroid area.
• Clove: one of the highest antioxidant scoring herbs in the world, clove oil is definitely something you should be using on your thyroid. It is also incredibly high in phenols, which according to Dr. David Stewart, helps clean the receptor sites of cells so that cells can communicate properly.
• Sandalwood: a very calming, grounding oil. Sandalwood helps to balance testosterone levels in both men and women. Elevated testosterone, whether in men or women, can cause symptoms of hypothyroidism.
• Peppermint: a stimulating herb that reduces fatigue, depression, brain fog, headaches and digestive issues often associated with hypothyroidism. Rub just over the thyroid area to experience the stimulating effects!
• Myrtle: an adaptogenic herb, meaning it brings balance to the body however needed (similar to maca and ashwagandha). According to Dr. David Stewart, it can help increase or decrease thyroid function.
• Rosemary: a great herb for reducing inflammation of the thyroid, as well as reducing stress. Can help with hair regrowth when rubbed onto the scalp for a period of seven months (as reported by a study done at the University of Maryland). Most people with hypothyroidism suffer from hair loss, so it can be useful in this regard.
• Basil: helps support the adrenal glands. People with thyroid issues often have weak adrenal glands, as the two glands work together to supply essential hormones and deliver them throughout the body where they are needed.
How To Use Essential Oils For Thyroid Health
You can use essential oils in a variety of different ways. Here are some suggestions:
1. Rub a drop of any of the above essential oils on your thyroid area each day (this area is located around the base of your neck in the centre).
2. Rub a few drops of basil essential oil on your adrenals each morning. The adrenal glands are located on either side of your back, just below each rib cage.
3. Make a roller ball blend with any carrier oil like jojoba oil or grapeseed oil. You can combine frankincense with sandalwood, lemongrass and myrrh, or any combination you please.
4. Try rubbing 2-4 drops of lemongrass and myrrh directly to the thyroid area with the reflexology points on the feet (big toes) and on the wrists multiple times per day.
What Brand of Essential Oils Should You Buy?
My favourite brands of essential oils are those by DoTerra, Young Living, and Aroma Foundry. I’ve found to be satisfied with all three companies, and have no complaints!