Holistic Guide to Healing the Endocrine System and Balancing Our Hormones
Is your endocrine system healthy? If you suffer from regular insomnia and other sleep issues, dull skin, depression, low energy, alopecia, a low sex drive, weight gain, puffy skin, excessive fear, anger, or ADHD, the answer is no. These are just some of the many symptoms that pretty much guarantee a sluggish endocrine system. Basically, if you’re not healthy, your endocrine system is not healthy. An unhealthy endocrine system means congested and otherwise degenerated glands are causing imbalanced hormone levels.
The holistic approach to ridding the body of disease is all about achieving homeostasis of the body through proper diet, elimination of toxins, and targeting specific,underlying issues through supplementation to reduce the most prevalent symptoms and aid healing. In other words, the goal is to rebuild the body’s cells. This is always the goal with achieving or retaining good health. As Raymond Francis taught us, there is only one disease, and that’s cell malfunction, which has two causes: nutrient deficiencies and toxicity. How sickness manifests itself depends on which cells are failing. If you rebuild the cells, the body works properly. For most people this can be done with diet alone.
On the other hand, sometimes a specific gland, organ, or an entire system (and it’s often a combination) within the body becomes so depleted, infected, and toxic, the body needs targeted assistance.
When the body is overwhelmed with toxins, parts of the body will become so dysfunctional that simply functioning produces more toxins than the body can properly evacuate. Picture a car engine with a blown head gasket (or the wrong gas, or whatever makes sense to you). For many people, their endocrine system, or one or more of the glands within, are so dysfunctional that autoimmune disease is just around the corner. The head gasket is about to blow.
How do you know if your endocrine system needs help? As mentioned earlier, if you’re not feeling well, your endocrine system is taxed. Even if the problem is originating within an organ or another part of the body, if you don’t feel well, your endocrine system doesn’t feel well. A look at the endocrine system will explain why.
Endocrine Anatomy 101
The endocrine system is the collection of glands and glandular organs that produce hormones to regulate metabolism, tissue function, growth and development (which includes repair), sexual function, reproduction, sleep, mood, the immune system, and more.
The glands of the endocrine secrete hormones directly into the spaces surrounding their cells where the bloodstream picks them up and circulates them throughout the body, ultimately reaching the organ or cells designed to respond to the particular hormone. Hormones, much like the nervous system, tell the body what to do, and when. The endocrine system does this through chemicals, while the nervous system does this through electrical nerve impulses.
Nerve impulses execute their effect immediately, but those effects are generally short-lived. The endocrine system takes longer. Hormones have to make their way from the gland that produces them into the bloodstream and eventually into the organ or cells where the hormones will take effect. A common way to look at the difference between the two is that the nervous system causes short-term responses, and the endocrine system is responsible for the body’s longer-term responses. The two systems are mutually interconnected.
Endocrine glands are glands of the endocrine system that secrete their hormones into the bloodstream. The major glands of the endocrine system include the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid, parathyroid, hypothalamus, and the adrenals. When most people consider detoxifying the endocrine system to balance their hormones, these are the body parts that come to mind.
The endocrine system includes a few organs that are not exclusively endocrine in function, meaning, they don’t just release hormones. The hypothalamus, ovaries, and testes are included in this list, but the liver, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, kidneys, and the placenta are all also part of the endocrine system.
- The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and pineal gland are located in the brain.
- The thyroid gland is located in the anterior neck, spanning between the C5 and T1 vertebrae, with the four parathyroid glands situated behind it.
- The adrenal (AKA the suprarenal) glands lie on top of the kidneys.
- The pancreas, stomach, ovaries, and testes are located in and beneath the abdominal cavity.
- The thymus is a gland in the chest. It contains glandular tissue and produces several hormones. But the thymus is much more closely associated with the immune system than the endocrine system.
How Hormones Work
Hormones are chemical messengers created by the body to transfer information from one set of cells to another in order to regulate the functions of different parts of the body. This includes hormones that are created only for the purpose of telling another gland to produce another hormone. (In this case, this would be only to tell a glandular organ to produce a hormone.)
The endocrine system is regulated by feedback. Take the pituitary gland for instance. A signal is sent from the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland to secrete a hormone, which signals the target gland to secrete its hormone, which we will say is T4 in this case, a hormone produced by the thyroid.
When hormones enter the bloodstream they come in contact with many cells, but our hormones can affect only a few very specific cells called target cells. These target cells contain highly specific receptors, surface glycoproteins. The geometry of the glycoprotein molecules allows only for very specific hormones to attach to the receptor in the target cell surface.
Target cells have up to 100,000 receptors for any one specific hormone. If the desired hormone molecules are lacking, the receptor sites of the individual cells will multiply to raise the level of sensitivity. When there is an excess of a hormone, the receptors for that hormone decrease, reducing the target cell’s sensitivity. Back to our pituitary example, the levels of the T5 hormone should eventually rise in the bloodstream, and this tells the pituitary gland to reduce or stop producing the hormone responsible telling the thyroid to produce T4, and that’s a feedback loop.
Of course, this is a very simplistic explanation of only one of a few ways the body reduces hormonal response. There are many different kinds of hormones, and different hormones perform very different tasks. For a better understanding of these hormones, it’s on to the hormone creators.
The hypothalamus is a part of the brain about the size of an almond, located below the thalamus, at the center for many critical bodily functions. The hypothalamus monitors the amount of salt and water in the body (by sensing the concentration of electrolytes in the blood), hormone concentrations in the blood, and the body’s temperature. It is associated with rage, aggression, hunger, and thirst. The hypothalamus creates “releasing hormones” that stimulate or inhibit the secretion of pituitary hormones. The pituitary gland used to be considered the master gland, but now we know that the pituitary is receiving its orders from the hypothalamus’s hormones.
The hypothalamus is an intermediary between the endocrine system, the nervous system, and the immune system. Its responsibility includes certain activities of the autonomic nervous system like growth, metabolism, childbirth, milk production, circadian cycles, and more. If you feel fatigued, sleepy, emotional, hungry, or thirsty, your hypothalamus is communicating with you.
Conventional doctors and holistic health practitioners agree that the hypothalamus functions pretty much problem free for most people, but, anorexia, bulimia, malnutrition, infections, inflammation, chronic insomnia, an excess of iron, excessive bleeding, head traumas, genetic disorders, tumors, radiation, and surgery can cause problems for the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are tightly integrated. Together they regulate all processes having to do with our primitive reactions like fight or flight, body temperature, thirst, hunger, sexual activity, and survival in general.
Hypothalamus Nutrition and Herbal Support
Healthy fats, B vitamins, vitamin E, and glandular support (desiccated animal glands) are typically used to support the hypothalamus, but eliminating inflammation is key. This gland usually responds quickly to a balanced diet.
When the brain becomes inflamed, hypothalamic cells are disrupted, which leads to disease. Research recently elucidated the effects of hypothalamic inflammation and how it can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
If the hypothalamus is failing, there are a lot of other problems within the body that need to be addressed, including the entire endocrine system as a whole, but reducing inflammation with healthy fat supplementation, the right diet, and B vitamins should be a good first step. Grounding and sunlight are also extremely beneficial and sometimes imperative for its optimal function.
The pituitary is about the size of a pea. This gland lies in the sella turcica, known as the “Turkish saddle” at the base of the brain, behind the optic chiasm. The pituitary gland contains two functionally different body parts known as the anterior pituitary and the posterior pituitary. As far as we know, these two, while right next to each other, do not really work together.
At one time, the pituitary gland, also called the hypophysis, was thought to be the “master gland” that controlled all of the other endocrine glands. Now we know that the hypothalamus takes messages from the brain and tells the pituitary which hormones to excrete. For instance, the hypothalamus will secrete growth-hormone-releasing hormone or growth-hormone-inhibiting hormone to tell the anterios pituitary to release or stop releasing growth hormones. The hypothalamus and the pituitary are tightly integrated. Together, they regulate all processes having to do with primitive reactions, such as stress, rage, flight, body temperature, thirst, hunger, sexual activity, and survival in general.
Anterior Pituitary – Adenohypophysis
The anterior pituitary gland is controlled by negative feedback mechanisms that make up three-quarters of the pituitary gland. Once triggered by the hypothalamus, hormones are released by the anterior pituitary into the bloodstream.
For example, the hypothalamus releases hormones that tell the pituitary to release hormones that stimulate the thyroid to release hormones. These hormones enter the bloodstream to boost metabolism within the body where required. The negative feedback loop we spoke of above is how hormones in the blood communicate to the brain. When the metabolism has been successfully increased to the desired state, hormones in the blood tell the hypothalamus to tell the pituitary to stop stimulating the thyroid gland.
Principal Anterior Pituitary Hormones
- Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone
TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones.
- Follicle-Stimulating Hormone
FSH & LH (luteinizing hormone) are known as gonadotropins because they stimulate the gonads (testicles and ovaries). They are not necessary to sustain life, but these hormones are essential for reproduction.
PL stimulates milk production.
ACTH stimulates the release of adrenal cortical hormones by the adrenal glands.
- Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormone
MSH is a collective name for a group of peptide hormones produced by the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus, and the skin. This hormone is an anti-inflammatory hormone that gets its name because of its effect on melanocytes, skin cells that contain the black pigment, melanin. Melanocytes are responsible for moles, freckles, and suntans. Melanin helps protect our cells from DNA damage from sunlight.
Studies have recently shown that MSH can also suppress appetite. In all likelihood, MSH is also responsible for a range of other processes in the body.
- Human Growth Hormone
HGH (somatotropin) stimulates growth of the body and helps regulate metabolic processes. People feel younger and the body heals much faster when there is enough (or excess) growth hormone. The most important function of HGH is to tell the liver to produce IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor 1. IGF-1 is considered by many to be the key anti-aging hormone. Together these two hormones influence every system in your body.
Increase Your Growth Hormones Naturally
If you get a prescription, injections given twice a day by a doctor can increase your IGF-1 hormone production by 20 to 40 percent. Professional athletes and movie stars swear by growth hormone injections. They may be the untold secret to many people’s success, but there are health problems with injecting hormones into the body. One of the many problems is that the pituitary can lose its ability to produce its own GH.
Some take pills and supplements that contain growth hormones, which are available over the counter like other supplements. Users should do their due diligence before taking any product containing human growth hormones.
There are also many supplements designed to increase the body’s growth hormone production (Growth Hormone Production Nutrition). When someone is matched with the right supplements, the right formula can increase IGF-1 levels by 20 percent or more. A good alternative to HGH injections, these supplements are amino acid-based precursor formulas that contain ingredients such as glutamine, tyrosine, GABA, arginine, and lysine.
Working out can dramatically increase growth hormone prevalence. A thirty-minute aerobic session can increase IGF-1 levels by more than 100%, and a serious weight training session can increase levels by 400 to 800%. On that note, everyone should be doing squats for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to growth hormone production!
Squats have a myriad of health benefits including an increase in growth hormone production. It’s one of the most important movements we can do for our health. Try with just a few bodyweight squats if you’re out of shape, and work your way up to being able to do 100 squats at one time without getting sore. If you can’t do squats, try lying on the floor and then standing up, then lying back down to repeat, alternating legs each time. If you’re really serious about kicking up your growth hormone production, try sprints with high-intensity-interval training and low rep Olympic barbell squats with deadlifts, rows, pull-ups, and bench presses. The more muscles involved in the action and the heavier the load, the more HGH is released.
Specific nutrition is known to increase growth hormone production under the right circumstances; these supplements are much more powerful when combined with the right exercise program.
- L-arginine is an essential amino acid that can increase the release of HGH, but do not take with sugars. L-arginine should be taken only with low glycemic nutrition.
- Glutamine is your body’s most abundant amino acid. Studies have shown that even modest amounts can significantly increase HGH levels.
- Glycine plays a critical role in initiating normal patterns of REM sleep and has shown some promise in increasing HGH. We’re not sure if the high-quality sleep is what’s improving the hormone levels, or if there are also other factors when supplementing, but proper sleep is a critical factor in the body’s ability to regulate the circadian release of HGH.
Adequate sleep is a must! The highest concentration of HGH activity occurs when we are sleeping.
Growth hormone and testosterone production peak during sleep. You can actually get people to test pathologically low for growth hormone by waking them repeatedly during the night. I always tell people that if you want to maximize your growth hormone, get a good night’s sleep.” – University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas
Avoid high glycemic load foods, which is good advice for most anyone who’s not healthy or wants to stay healthy. Insulin inhibits HGH secretion. High glycemic foods (which are generally processed foods with refined sugars) wreak havoc with our insulin levels.
Hawthorn berries, horny goat weed, and maca are also known to aid the body with HGH production.
Anterior Pituitary Nutrition
Conditions such as acromegaly, Cushing’s syndrome, and prolactinoma occur when the pituitary gland produces too much of one or more of its hormones.
Adult growth hormone deficiency, diabetes insipidus, hypopituitarism, hypothyroidism, and hypogonadism may result from the pituitary gland producing too little of one or more of its hormones. There are many more diseases that stem from a dysfunctional pituitary gland, like acromegaly, which gave André the Giant his stature and early death.
As previously mentioned, high glycemic foods and refined foods should be avoided for healthy pituitary function, but this is true for all glandular function, and for the entire body, for that matter. It should be noted that fruits with high glycemic loads have other benefits that make moderate consumption healthful, provided the person does not have an illness that requires limited natural sugars. Adaptogens like ashwagandha, eleuthero, holy basil, maca, Panax ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, and schisandra, as well as glandulars (desiccated glands), are generally used for naturopathic healing of the pituitary. Check out Shillington’s Brain Tonic and Desiccated Pituitary.
Considerable recent research has shown that the pituitary is extremely sensitive to diet. (Someday science will recognize that this is true for every cell in the body.) If you don’t assimilate enough protein, your pituitary can’t produce enough pituitary hormones (which are made up of amino acids). The pituitary is also known to need manganese, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D, and B vitamins for proper healthy function.
Posterior Pituitary Gland – Neurohypophysis
The posterior pituitary gland is slightly smaller and lighter in color than the other half of the pituitary, and it is not technically a gland, though it is a vital part of the endocrine system (and everyone still calls it a gland). This “gland” does not synthesize hormones. Instead the posterior pituitary stores and secretes two hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, which are actually produced in the hypothalamus (master gland) and transported to the pituitary.
Diabetes insipidus is the only clinical disorder that is generally conceded by the medical community to be of neurohypophyseal origin, but more and more evidence suggests that the posterior pituitary may have functions now scarcely appreciated. Treatment for the posterior pituitary gland is lumped in with treatment for the entire endocrine system, and the nutrition recommended is the same as mentioned above for the anterior pituitary gland.
OXT is a powerful hormone with a lot of responsibilities. During childbirth this hormone increases the strength of uterine contractions and stimulates the ejection of milk after delivery. Incidentally, pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin, used to induce labor.
Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone,” or the “bonding hormone,” because it’s said to foster maternal instincts and sexual pleasure during and after intercourse. It’s not just a sex hormone, oxytocin levels in the body increase when we hug or kiss a loved one like a spouse, parent, or child.
Oxytocin plays a role in healing as well:
As mice age, the amount of oxytocin in their blood decreases. But what does that mean for their health? Researchers injected oxytocin under the skin of elderly mice with damaged muscles and discovered the muscles healed much faster than those of mice left untreated.” – Mental Floss
We’re just beginning to find out that oxytocin radically affects many aspects of our lives. This hormone inhibits the brain’s fear center, has been shown to influence how men remember their mother’s affection toward them as children (likely true for women, too), makes it easier for us to lie, makes it easier for us to trust, has been shown to make men more loyal to their spouses, is released when we feel safe and unobserved (causing shyness and a desire for privacy), increases the pain threshold, relieves stress, helps us relax, alleviates depression, increases generosity, and generally makes us feel good.
While oxytocin is partly responsible for a man’s courage to ask a woman out, this dynamic also helps give men the loyalty to stay with their loved ones. Dads who got a dose of an oxytocin nasal spray were shown to play more closely with their infants than dads who did not get the hormone spray. Another study found that men in relationships, when given a burst of oxytocin, stay farther away from an attractive woman.
It stands to reason that oxytocin plays a key role (though certainly not the only one) in women being able to handle the strain and pain of childbirth.
ADH: (aka vasopressin, argipressin) is responsible for water concentration and blood vessel constriction. While precise control of the body’s water concentration is a function of several hormones acting on both the kidneys and vascular system, ADH is a key player in this process. Blood vessels increase re-absorption of fluids by the kidneys, which decrease urine production to improve hydration. The effect raises blood volume and blood pressure.
Not-so-fun fact: alcohol inhibits this hormone, producing the profuse urination we experience from a drinking binge, which can lead to severe dehydration.
Pineal – Conarium or Epiphysis Cerebri
The pineal gland, also known as the pineal body, epiphysis cerebri, or conarium, is an endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain about the size of a grain of rice. It is shaped like a tiny pine cone (hence its name), and it’s located in the center of the brain behind and above the pituitary gland. Mystics consider this gland to be the third eye and the connecting link between the physical and spiritual worlds, but until recently the medical community considered it vestigial (an organ that has become functionless through evolution). Now the medical community knows the pineal gland is our major source of melatonin production.
Since its discovery in 1958, melatonin has been studied extensively and shown to be widely beneficial to the body. The pineal gland releases melatonin with a clear circadian (daily) rhythm. The trigger for the production and release of melatonin from the pineal gland is darkness. The darker it is, the more melatonin is released. Streetlights, nightlights, and ambient lights from cell phones, TVs, computers, and other electronics disrupt melatonin output. If you’re thinking that covering the eyes will solve this, think again. It turns out that light falling on any part of the body will inhibit the hormone. While the physiological function of the pineal gland remained unknown until recently, considering this gland seems to be able to see, the “third eye” concept once again gives credence to thousands of years of ancient wisdom.
It seems most health professionals agree that melatonin levels decline as we age, but this isn’t completely accurate. A Harvard study back in 1999 proved that melatonin levels do not necessarily decline with age. Previous studies had not excluded those on medications that suppress melatonin, nor did they control for factors such as sunlight and fluoridation.
On the other hand, our own melatonin may lose some of its potency as we age. Our receptors for melatonin don’t create the same power from the dose of the hormone they receive. In other words, as we age, the effect of melatonin in our body may diminish some. We don’t know much more than that yet, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone within the natural health community that this too is much more heavily influenced by lifestyle factors than age.
Melatonin offers many other benefits other than sleep. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants produced in the body. It is both water and fat-soluble which allows this neurotransmitter to reach almost every cell in the body, and some studies suggest this hormone may improve the immune system’s health.
Nighttime melatonin levels are low in people with mood swings, depression, panic disorders, seasonal affective disorder, and many other mental health issues.
Unlike sleep medications, supplementing with melatonin does not affect rapid eye movement, REM sleep, or dreaming, but many experts suggest limiting supplementing to no more than three months straight unless recommended by a professional, as melatonin supplementation may have long-term effects on the pineal gland’s production. (Like with other glands, you use it or lose it.)
How to Decalcify and Detoxify the Pineal Gland
Calcification is the biggest problem for the pineal gland, and the main cause is suspected to be fluoride, which accumulates in the pineal gland more than any other organ, leading to the formation of phosphate crystals. There are foods and supplements that can help decalcify the pineal gland, as well as other steps you can take to help rejuvenate and restore health to the third eye.
Don’t wear sunglasses. Light reflected by the retina stimulates the pineal gland. We’re supposed to get sunlight daily, on our skin and with our eyes. Just don’t stare directly at the sun of course.
Fluoride, chlorine, lead, pesticides, synthetic calcium, artificial sweeteners, synthetic fragrances, and mercury, are well-known endocrine disruptors that can lead to pineal calcification. Eat organic produce (from small, responsible farms), and drink only clean, healthy drinking water. When drinking or cooking with tap water, use a filter that removes fluoride and chlorine. A whole house filter, or at least one for the bathtub/shower, would be advisable since we breathe a lot of fluoride and chlorine and other chemicals into our lungs when we shower with tap water, and chemicals are absorbed through the skin.
Antioxidants are a big help to the pineal gland and the endocrine system as a whole. Oregano oil is a powerful antioxidant with a host of other healthful properties that can aid a detox. Oregano oil and neem oil are said to be able to remove existing calcification within the pineal gland. Spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass and blue-green algae are chlorophyll-rich foods that can also assist in the decalcification of the pineal gland due to strong detoxification properties and massive nutritional benefits. Raw apple cider vinegar is another natural detoxifier that can assist with decalcification of the pineal. Iodine is also imperative for strong pineal function, but supplementing with too much can cause problems as well.
Vitamin K2 is imperative for the body’s ability to properly assimilate calcium. K2 also helps remove calcification and puts that calcium to work elsewhere. Vitamin K2 deficiency is common in modern society and has been connected with a wide array of health ailments. K2 is the new D.
Boron, naturally present in beets, can also be taken in supplemental form and can help decalcify and remove fluoride from the gland. Most importantly, avoid refined, processed foods. Eat a diet with lots of organic, fresh raw produce, which will alkalinize the body and alleviate almost every other symptom of poor health.
The thyroid gland is located in the lower front part of the neck. Thyroid hormones are best known for regulating the body’s metabolism, which is your body’s ability to break down food and convert it to energy. It also plays a role in breathing, heart rate, central and peripheral nervous systems, muscle tone, muscle control, menstrual cycles, body temperature, cholesterol levels, bone growth, body growth rate, nervous system development, brain, reproductive functions, and more.
Thyroid hormone receptor sites are found in every cell of the body. Every single cell of our body depends on thyroid hormones. If your thyroid doesn’t operate optimally, neither will the rest of your body.
Three Thyroid Hormones
Thyroglobulin is a protein (not a hormone) that’s produced by the thyroid, synthesized from amino acids and an iodide, and stored in the follicular lumen as colloid. This protein is used only within the thyroid gland for production of thyroid hormones. T3 and T4 are the two most well-known hormones the thyroid produces, and there’s also calcitonin.
- Triiodothyronine or T3
T3 affects almost every physiological process in the body. The thyroid produces about 20% of the T3 in our body. The rest is converted to T3 from T4 in our cells throughout the body.
- Thyroxin or T4
T4 (AKA tetraiodothyronine) is a prohormone (a committed precursor of a hormone, usually having minimal hormonal effect by itself) that the body converts to T3, a much more active and viable hormone. T4 is synthesized from residues of the amino acid tyrosine. A normal thyroid gland produces about 80% of the body’sT4 and about 20%of the body’s T3.
Calcitonin lowers blood calcium and phosphorus levels by decreasing the rate of re-absorption of these minerals to bone.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid makes too much T3 or T4 (or both). This leads to elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, hand tremors, and many other symptoms. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease causes antibodies to stimulate the thyroid to produce and secrete too much.
Other causes of hyperthyroidism can include:
- Excess iodine
- Thyroiditis – inflammation of the thyroid gland (causes T4 and T3 to leak out of the gland)
- Benign tumors of the thyroid or pituitary gland (causes pressure, hormones leak out)
- Large amounts of tetraiodothyronine taken through dietary supplements or medication
- A tumor of the ovaries or testes
Hyperthyroidism can’t last forever; it’s sure to wear out a thyroid eventually, leading to hypothyroidism.
Around 20 million Americans and about 250 million people worldwide have low thyroid function. Up to 90% of all thyroid problems are autoimmune in nature. Hashimoto’s is the most common thyroid disorder. In people with Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid.
List Of Hypothyroidism Symptoms
- Allergic rhinitis
- Angina pectoris
- Conditions related to the cardiovascular system
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Carotenodermia (slight orange tinge to the skin, usually on the palms of the hands and soles of feet)
- Cold extremities, intolerance to the cold
- Coarse, dry, or thinning hair
- Decreased libido
- Dry, rough, and/or itchy skin
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fallen arches
- Fibrocystic breast changes
- Fibromyalgia symptoms
- Itchy and/or flaky scalp
- Memory loss
- Mood swings, irritability
- Muscle aches
- Menstrual irregularities (amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, menorrhagia)
- Neck pain, stiffness, aches (especially in the back of the neck)
- Knee pain (due to fallen arches)
- Pallor (an unhealthy pale appearance)
- Pain in the trapezoid and/or neck area
- Poor mental concentration
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Postpartum depression
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Reactive hypoglycemia
- Recurrent infections
- Sluggishness, tiredness
- Shoulder pain
- Vasomotor rhinitis
- Weight gain
How to Heal the Thyroid
Learning about the endocrine system is one the best ways to understand how incredibly connected each and every part of the body is and how imperative a holistic approach to healing is to repair the body. You can’t really heal the thyroid gland without taking care of the adrenals, the pituitary – the whole endocrine system.
Fresh, raw, organic produce heals. Produce heals everything. Other than that, foods high in iodine and foods that are high in selenium are known to aid in thyroid function.
The thyroid gland requires iodine to function. Iodine taken by itself or ingested through fortified salt can be problematic. Good food sources include the usual: meat, seafood, yogurt, milk, and eggs, but there are vegan sources as well:
- Blackstrap molasses
- Himalayan sea salt
- Navy beans
Selenium is required for the body to convert T3 into T4. Without enough selenium in the diet, the thyroid suffers. Seafood and meat are high in selenium, but there are also some vegan choices:
Vegan Food Sources of Selenium
- Brazil nuts
- Shiitake/white button mushrooms
- Lima/pinto beans
- Chia seeds
- Brown rice
- Seeds (sunflower, sesame, and flax)
Supplements For Hypothyroidism
A number of vitamins and minerals are critical to thyroid health, and many herbs can help boost thyroid function as well.
- B Vitamins
Vitamin B12 is found in every cell of the body. It is required for cellular metabolism and energy production, so obviously, without B12, the thyroid can’t function optimally. B12 deficiencies are very common with hypothyroidism. A lack of B12 can cause and worsen hypothyroidism. Even though most people actually consume enough vitamin B12 in their diets, a deficiency occurs in many due to an inability to absorb the nutrient in the blood. This goes back to gut health. The body cannot absorb and assimilate nutrients properly with a poorly functioning digestive system.
In addition, a poorly functioning liver radically inhibits the body’s ability to utilize B12. Unless a knowledgeable naturopath recommends it for a limited amount of time, do not take vitamin B12, or anyone B vitamin, without the entire B complex.
- Vitamin D
Over a billion people worldwide do not get enough vitamin D. A recent study showed that vitamin D levels were significantly lower in people suffering from hypothyroidism than the general population. While vitamin D deficiencies and hypothyroidism do tend to take place together, a lack of vitamin D and pretty much every other disease (including cancer) coincide as well. It’s unlikely anyone’s hypothyroidism is primarily caused by a lack of vitamin D, but it’s a certainty that the body will not fully heal without enough vitamin D.
- Vitamin A
We all know vitamin A is required for good vision. We also need vitamin A for the immune system, hormone synthesis, and the production of T3. Without enough vitamin A, thyroid hormone levels quickly drop.
Bromelain is the enzyme that makes pineapple the superfood that it is. Bromelain helps reduce inflammation.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has many benefits, including the ability to significantly improve liver function, and it can help stabilize cortisol levels. This helps stimulate T3 and T4 hormone synthesis.
- Licorice Root
Licorice root can benefit the thyroid and adrenal glands for people who have low cortisol (adrenal fatigue).
- Reishi Mushroom
Reishi mushroom is a good source of selenium, and it has a ton of other benefits including boosting the immune system.
- Schisandra Chinensis
This is another adaptogenic herb that helps the thyroid and has many other health benefits.
There are many varieties of ginseng, all with their different strengths, but Siberian ginseng root, Brazilian ginseng root, Korean or Asian ginseng, American ginseng, and Chinese ginseng all benefit the endocrine system, and therefore the thyroid.
Selenium is the major cofactor for the key thyroid enzyme 5’deiodinase. This enzyme converts T4 into T3 and can help normalize the thyroid hormone balance.
A zinc deficiency has been shown to inhibit T3 production. Zinc also contributes to immune modulation, which may reduce thyroid antibody levels. Additionally, like selenium, zinc contributes to 5’deiodinase activity.
A lack of iodine inhibits the body’s natural detoxification, leads to cancer cell growth, and causes hypothyroidism. The thyroid absorbs iodine and, in doing so, replaces other toxins it has accumulated.
It’s also important to avoid excessive iodine intake for anyone with Hashimoto’s or hyperthyroidism. As stated above, we highly recommend that any iodine consumed come from whole food sources unless otherwise recommended by a knowledgeable, competent professional.
Gluten, Hashimoto’s Disease, and Leaky Gut
When the thyroid is not functioning properly, there is a good chance the gut is hyper-permeable, or “leaky.” Many suspect leaky gut to be the main cause of Hashimoto’s. In this state where the gut is too permeable, undigested food proteins leak into the bloodstream. Human tissues have proteins and antigens very similar to those in foods, bacteria, parasites, and Candida. When the body senses these foreign molecules, it develops antibodies that attack the body, hence the name “autoimmune disease.” Gluten proteins are very similar to Candida proteins and proteins that make up the thyroid. This is probably why the immune response to gluten can last up to 6 months each time you eat it.
When healing the thyroid (or the body in any way), regardless of whether or not it’s due to Hashimoto’s, modern wheat is a bad idea for a multitude of reasons.
Important Notice About Gut Health!
If you restore gut health, in most cases, everything else will follow. Chances are you can ignore the rest of the article and just fix your gut to restore health to your entire endocrine system.
There are four parathyroid glands; they’re located two on each side of the thyroid. Although the parathyroids are attached to the thyroid gland anatomically, and the glands are connected to the thyroid, they have no related function. The parathyroid release parathormone, or PTH, or parathyroid hormone. PTH has the opposite job of calcitonin (the lessor known thyroid hormone); PTH increases levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. It accomplishes this by increasing the cells of the bone (osteoclasts), which reabsorb calcium. It also increases urinary re-absorption of calcium by the kidneys. In addition, it causes the kidneys to form calcitriol, a hormone made from vitamin D that increases absorption of calciu