Close

What Does Your Thyroid Do And How Do You Know If It’s Functioning Properly?

So what does the thyroid actually do? Well, everything! When the gland isn’t functioning our metabolism decreases and this causes problems with temperature control, mood, low energy, weight gain, constipation, dry skin and hair, poor fertility and memory, to name a just a few.

What does your thyroid do and how do you know if it’s functioning properly?

It’s a gland that sits at the bottom of the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. It’s a butterfly shape as it has two side lobes, connected by a bridge (isthmus) in the middle.

An individual problem
Conventional medicine diagnoses an underactive thyroid based on blood tests which show raised levels of TSH (the hormone secreted by the brain to stimulate the thyroid to work) and low levels of T4 (the hormone produced by the thyroid gland). T4 has to be converted to T3 to work. Blood levels of T3 are often not checked in the routine screen for hypothyroidism as it is assumed that T4 is being adequately converted to T3, although I think we should be checking T3 as not everyone converts T4 to T3 as well as they should.

Diagnosis
Even then, diagnosis is not straightforward, because the range of thyroid tests that conventional medicine considers to be normal is very wide. In America, the range of normal TSH references has been reduced from 0.5-5 to 0.3-3. This unfortunately is not the case in the UK where a TSH of up to five is still considered normal. Then add to this that some people function best when their numbers are at the upper end of the population range anyway! This means that if you are told your results are normal but you still feel you are suffering from hypothyroidism, request the exact values and take them to a practitioner who pays close attention to your symptoms and uses a multi-factorial approach to treat them.

So let’s dig deeper and look at the top signs indicating something is wrong with your thyroid:

1. Weak bones

If you have weak bones, have your thyroid checked. Abnormal thyroid function can decrease bone mineral density. Serum calcium will typically be in the “normal” reference range with hypothyroidism, but outside of the functional, optimal range.

2. Gut problems

Low thyroid function can reduce the movement of your intestines, which is essential for healthy digestion. The ability of your body to absorb nutrients is also altered when your thyroid isn’t working well. Healthy thyroid function dampens gut inflammation, and low thyroid function is linked with gastric ulcers and leaky gut syndrome.

3. Low sex drive

Many people think their low sex drive is due to aging, when in fact it may be a symptom of a bigger hormonal problem that’s anything but normal. Thyroid function affects the metabolism of estrogen and testosterone in the body. Hypothyroidism in men is linked with erectile dysfunction and low libido in both men and women.

4. Weight gain

When your thyroid hormones are low, your body will be less able to break down fat, making you resistant to weight loss. Years of fad diets and grueling hours in the gym won’t fix the underlying problem. Weight gain isn’t the cause of your problems, but a symptom of something not being addressed. You have to get healthy to lose weight, not the other way around. When you deal with the underlying hormonal problem and heal, weight loss is the natural byproduct.

5. Low energy

In addition to slowing your ability to burn fat, hypothyroidism will also decrease your energy, causing debilitating fatigue.

6. Blood sugar problems

When your body is in a low thyroid state, it decreases your body’s ability to absorb glucose or blood sugar. You need glucose to get properly in the cell to create ATP, your cellular energy source. Despite sluggish glucose metabolism, many people struggling with low thyroid hormones can feel hypoglycemic, like they have low blood sugar. Because the cells are not getting the glucose they need, you can feel like you are hypoglycemic even with normal looking blood sugar labs. This vicious cycle of hormonal dysfunction can lead to metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.

7. High cholesterol and triglycerides

A sluggish thyroid hormone levels decreases the breakdown of cholesterol, leading to elevated total cholesterol and triglycerides. While high cholesterol alone is a poor predictor for heart attack and stroke risk, elevated triglycerides is an accurate marker for increased risk factor.

8. Adrenal fatigue

When you have hypothyroidism, it puts stress on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Because of the lack of glucose and energy getting to the cells, the brain-adrenal axis pumps more cortisol in attempts to get more energy to the cells. This further complicates your hormonal health, leading to HPA axis dysfunction or adrenal fatigue.

9. Toxin overload

Poor thyroid health will lead to your liver and gallbladder not working very well. This can significantly decrease your body’s ability to rid itself of toxins, and may also cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. I commonly see impaired detoxification pathways in patients dealing with thyroid problems.

10. Estrogen imbalances

Estrogen comes in the form of three metabolites: Estrone (E1, estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). Estrogen balance is essential for your health. When your thyroid isn’t working well it can unbalance your estrogen metabolite ratio.

11. Brain problems

Hypothyroidism is linked with poor neurotransmitter expression and an increased risk of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. This is due to the fact that a predominance of thyroid receptor sites are found in the brain. One 2014 study found that people with depression had higher rates of thyroid conversion impairments, or low T3 syndrome.

12. Hot flashes or being cold

When your thyroid hormone levels are low, it affects your body’s temperature control. This can cause you to feel cold all the time, or have night sweats and hot flashes.

13. Hair loss

Since the thyroid determines your metabolism and absorption of nutrients, when your thyroid hormones aren’t functioning optimally this can lead to hair loss. Making sure your levels are optimal is essential to regaining hair health.

What To Do Now

As you can see, thyroid health is essential for you to feel and be healthy. Many people instinctively know that they have a thyroid problem despite “normal” labs. If this is you, educate yourself on the thyroid problems that won’t show up on standard labs.

Rachel x

The Body Shop’s special-edition Banana collection

When you think of ethical beauty brands, it’s quite likely that The Body Shop is at the top of your list – they have been campaigning to end animal testing since the late 80’s.

So it will come as little surprise that the brand’s newest launch is tackling a whole new sustainability issue: food waste.

The Body Shop’s special-edition Banana collection is made using real banana puree from wonky bananas that supermarkets won’t buy. This way, the small-scale Community Trade farmers in Ecuador, don’t lose out on their less aesthetically pleasing produce, which helps them to compete with the bigger plantations and stay afloat in a notoriously exploitative industry.

The new products join the brands much loved Banana shampoo, conditioner and hair mask. New to the range are the super Nourishing Body Butter, Hyaluronic-acid infused Body Yogurt and an indulgent Shower Cream.

And if that’s not enough to tempt you, all of the new products are 100% vegan and have a creamy banana and coconut scent which is perfect for summer!

Banana Body Yogurt 200ml

The Body Shop Special-Edition Banana Body Yogurt, £8.50, The Body Shop.

Rachel x

Please note that I was not paid in any to endorse the brand or any of their products.

Infrared Sauna: Can You Really Sweat Out Toxins?

Image result for infrared sauna

 

For thousands of years, many cultures have used heat bathing, to cleanse and heal the body.  Today, saunas are still a popular way to increase health and vitality. Saunas can help you relax, and research is proving other long-term potential benefits for your health, including relief from pain due to injury or arthritis, positive effects on blood pressure, and faster wound healing. Some research even shows a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular events.

How Do Saunas Work?

Saunas use heat to cause you to sweat while also increasing your heart rate – as if you were exercising. Originally, saunas consisted of just a small fire built underneath an enclosed space. Today, traditional saunas use heaters to heat rocks, which warm the air in the room and ultimately warm your body.

Newer infrared saunas are now becoming popular as well. Most infrared saunas use far-infrared (FIR) light. The term “far” refers to where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum. Some saunas also use near infrared light (NIR) and mid infrared light (MIR). NIR light may promote skin renewal, improved cellular functioning, and wound healing.  MIR light can penetrate deeper into the body’s soft tissue where inflammation occurs, and may speed up the healing process. FIR light reaches deepest into the body, where toxins are stored. Some infrared saunas contain the full spectrum of light.

Unlike traditional saunas which heat the air, an infrared sauna uses light to heat your body in much the same way the sun does.  So, an infrared sauna can produce the same benefits as a traditional sauna, but at a lower temperature of between 120 and 140ºF compared to the temperature range of a traditional sauna, which is typically between 150 and 185º F.

Can You Really Sweat Out Toxins?

Many people believe that sweating is a great way to release toxins and other impurities from your body. One theory is that fever is the body’s way of ridding itself of toxins, and a sauna creates a self-induced fever.

The primary organs of detox in the body are your liver and kidneys. The reason your body sweats is to cool its internal temperature. When analyzed, sweat is comprised mostly of water and a tiny bit of salt. There is no exception when it comes to sweat caused by a traditional sauna — studies show sweat caused by a traditional sauna is 95-97% water and the rest is salt, with a tiny bit of protein and urea. In other words, it’s not made up of “toxins”.

The main reason you feel good after sweating — whether after exercise or a sauna — is that your body releases endorphins.  It does not necessarily mean that you are releasing toxins. But, there may be an exception when it comes to infrared saunas.

As humans, we are all bio-accumulators. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we all have dangerous toxins stored in our bodies, including pesticides and mycotoxins. We retain these toxins in our bodies’ fatty tissues, including breast milk, the liver, and blood plasma. Most of these environmental toxins are known to contribute to a whole host of diseases, including cancer, arthritis, autoimmune disease, autism, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s and more.

While most sweat is comprised of water and little salt, studies show that 15-20% of infrared sauna-induced sweat is composed of cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, heavy metals, sulfuric acid, and ammonia (as well as sodium and uric acid.) In other words, an infrared sauna may enable your body to eliminate environmental toxins through sweat.

10 Benefits of Infrared Sauna

Many doctors agree that the use of an infrared sauna is one of the most powerful healing therapies. There are many studies that document the effectiveness of sauna therapy for hypertension, congestive heart failure, and for post-myocardial infarction care. In addition, there are proven benefits of infrared sauna for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic fatigue, chronic pain, or addictions.

Here are some of the more common benefits of infrared sauna:

Provides temporary relief from pain

The dry heat from an infrared sauna can relieve soreness due to over exertion by helping to loosen tight muscles. This helps with recovery time for athletes and the rest of us after a hard workout. One reason is because, during a sauna, beta endorphins and norepinephrine are released. This temporarily raises your body’s pain threshold. However, one study reported in Clinical Rheumatology found that the dry heat of infrared saunas may reverse chronic pain and stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis whose conditions are typically aggravated by humidity. The study also showed that infrared saunas were well tolerated and had no adverse effects.

Helps with weight loss

A sauna increases your heart rate just like when you exercise. Used regularly, saunas can help increase your metabolism. Some infrared sauna manufacturers claim that users can burn anywhere from 300-600 calories in one sauna session. In addition, some studies have shown that sauna therapy can release toxins stored in fat tissues that can otherwise prevent weight loss. These toxins include heavy metals, and fat-soluble chemicals.

Improves heart rate variability

One of the key indicators of a healthy heart is heart rate variability (HRV).  The more variability you have between heart beats, the better. If you are under chronic stress or have a condition where you cannot exercise, your heart rate can become less variable. Infrared saunas not only give your heart a workout, they help to relax your body and mind, reduce autonomic nervous stimulation and improve your HRV.

Increases circulation

Heat causes your blood vessels to dilate. As blood is drawn closer to the skin’s surface, your blood vessels expand to accommodate increased blood flow. This allows your blood vessels to become more elastic over time. This can improve circulation and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Maintains healthy looking skin

Many people swear the infrared sauna is their secret to glowing skin.  This could actually be true. Studies show that infrared sauna can improve psoriasis and other skin conditions. Far infrared saunas stimulate blood circulation in your skin, which in turn may help boost your skin’s ability to produce collagen.  And, sweating may accelerate your skin’s ability to detox traces of dirt, makeup, pollution, heavy metals, and alcohol.  Finally, the heat relaxes tense facial muscles.

Supports kidney function

Releasing toxins through sweating can help support kidney function by reducing the load put on your kidneys. Some doctors recommend infrared sauna use for their patients on dialysis.

Reduces blood pressure

Abnormal blood pressure can be a coronary risk factor.  Several studies have shown that infrared sauna therapy lowers blood pressure significantly with regular use. However, these same studies show that this benefit is true only when using infrared saunas.  People who used conventional saunas showed no improvement in blood pressure.

Lowers your risk of dementia

According to a 2016 Finnish study, regular sauna bathing is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. And, the more frequently you take a sauna the better. In the study, those who took a sauna between 4-7 times per week for 15 minutes had a 66 percent lower risk of dementia (all forms) and a 65 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those taking a sauna just once a week. One of the ways saunas may help protect your brain is by stimulating the production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) in much the same way aerobic exercise does, helping to bulk up grey matter through neurogenesis.

Improves your immunity

Some studies show that regular saunas can reduce your chance of getting a cold by 30 percent. In addition, infrared saunas have even been shown to help prevent a cold from getting worse. One of the reasons is that a sauna-induced fever may stimulate the immune system to increase production of white blood cells and antibodies.

Promotes a sense of well-being

Saunas have been traditionally used to produce a feeling of relaxation. The heat helps to relieve physical and emotional tension in your muscles, including your face and neck muscles, by triggering the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This relaxation effect is one of the biggest benefits to using a sauna. When you are relaxed, your energy levels increase, and you sleep better at night — thus, increasing your sense of well-being.

How To Use An Infrared Sauna

If you are healthy, infrared sauna can be a great way to enhance your health and well-being.

In addition, sauna use can benefit many health conditions.  However, be sure to check with your GP before using a sauna, especially if you have asthma or other breathing problems, heart disease, epilepsy, or blood pressure that is too high or too low,

Here’s what you should know before getting started:

  • Start slowly. Give your body time to adjust to the heat.  Start with short sessions of no more than 15 minutes and gradually work your way up to 30 minutes per session several times a week.
  • Remove accessories. Be sure to take off anything metallic, including jewelry, before using a sauna.  You will also want to remove glasses and contacts.
  • Listen to your body. If you begin to feel uncomfortable symptoms, such as dizziness, headache, nausea, or fatigue, get out of the sauna, cool off and hydrate. If you continue to feel ill whenever you use a sauna, discontinue use all together.
  • Take time to cool down. It’s best to towel the sweat off your body and wait for a few minutes while your body naturally cools down. Do not immediately get into a cool or cold shower.
  • Rinse off. Once you have cooled down, rinse off or shower.  Keep the temperature of the shower comfortable – the water should not be too hot or too cold.
  • Drink water. Water is the best way to hydrate. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your sauna.

Do not use a sauna if you are pregnant, take stimulants, tranquilizers or other mind-altering drugs, or if you are under the influence of alcohol.

Have you used an infrared sauna? I’d love to hear how you’ve benefited.

 

Rachel x

Back to top