When recently surveying you, our tribe, we found that almost 50,000 of you commented about struggling with brittle or weak nails and hair loss or thinning.
This number jumps out because it can be common to brush this off as a natural part of aging or genetics when really this is a huge issue and there is often an underlying cause—your thyroid.
Between the ages 35 and 65, 13% of us will experience hypothyroidism and this number rises to 20% among those over 65.
The link between the disease and symptoms is not always visible, so it can often go undiagnosed and untreated for years.
Untreated hypothyroidism can increase your risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease not to mention take away so much of your quality of life.
It can be common to notice dry, brittle hair, or even hair loss after having children or experiencing significant stress in your life.
You may also see the outside of your eyebrows thinning or your nails breaking easily.
These are all signs of a low functioning thyroid. Midlife hormonal changes for both men and women can bring subtle changes in our skin, hair, energy, weight, and mental health.
Before adding new beauty products, cutting your hair shorter or writing it off as natural aging, it may be a good idea to take a look at your thyroid—even if your lab results come back within range.
The thyroid is the furnace and also the thermostat of the human body; if the thyroid is off, our entire body can be off balance.
This tiny butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck influences every organ in the body, including regulating metabolism and body temperature. If we are not converting food into fuel efficiently, we can not feed our thyroid appropriately. We have 37.2 trillion cells in the body, and they all need thyroid hormone to function properly.
The tell-tale signs of an underactive thyroid go way beyond thyroid markers on a lab test coming back low. While we always do recommend getting your full thyroid panel done at least once a year (or every 3-6 months for those with known Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism), there are signs and symptoms you can notice before low lab markers show up.
Fatigue – Persistent tiredness and fatigue throughout the day, even with a good night's rest, is often a sign of your adrenals and thyroid being depleted. It can be common to mask this with coffee or glandular supplements, only to crash mid-morning and again at 4 pm. This creates an endless cycle of having to use caffeine and energy drinks as a crutch followed by sleeping supplements or medications.
Constipation – Slowed motility or constipation (less than 1 bowel movement a day) is a huge issue for those with a low functioning thyroid.
Anxiety or Depression – It can be common for those with hyperthyroidism (over-active) to be anxious, while those with hypothyroidism tend to have a low mood or depression. Research confirms this, showing that those with low TSH and T4 levels indicating hypothyroidism, are more likely to be depressed than those with normal levels.
Weight Gain – Water weight, a puffy face or eyes, or overall weight-gain can be a sign of low thyroid hormone production. This is common in women who have chronically dieted for years and still cannot seem to shake the last 10 or 15 pounds.
Proper Testing – Completing a full thyroid panel once a year is an excellent idea for anyone struggling with the above symptoms. A full thyroid panel (which is what we recommend) will include free T3, free T4, T3, T4, TSH, and TPO and I also like to run reverse T3. Reverse T3 is a good marker to see if stress coming from overworked adrenals is at the root of a thyroid issue. It is crucial to find a good practitioner who can review the results with you. Unfortunately, it is common to find that while your lab work is normal, you still have symptoms. We truly must be our own detectives and advocate for our health.
Check Ferritin – Ferritin is the stored form of iron. Low ferritin is one of the most common causes of hair loss in women. Given that low ferritin is also a common problem for those with hypothyroidism, it is important to have your iron levels tested, including ferritin—especially if you are experiencing hair loss. It is not enough to be told by your doctor that your iron levels are ‘normal’. The range is wide (14-170), but you should at least be between 65-80. Liver Capsules are great for low ferritin, and I also love Gaia Herbs Liquid Iron. This type of iron, as opposed to many other forms and brands, tends not to constipate.
Nutrient Deficiencies – If we have digestive trouble or high-stress and are not absorbing our vitamins and minerals, or if we are just low in the vital nutrients our bodies need, our thyroid will take a hit. The best way to ensure that we have the nutrients we need is to supplement with a high-quality multivitamin. Remember, not all supplements are made equally if you want to support your thyroid—having the correct forms and dosages of the vitamins and minerals in a multivitamin is essential. We love our Whole Daily+ Multivitamin because it’s much higher in the vitamins and minerals needed to nourish and restore thyroid function. Pair this with Vitamin D3 and Gaia Herbs Liquid Iron and you are well on your way to feeling better and having the hair and nail issues dissolve.
Low Stomach Acid– I have seen it in my clinical practice, but also research has shown the correlation between low stomach acid and thyroid issues, specifically Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Stomach acid is essential to sterilize and utilize the foods we ingest. Most importantly, stomach acid is necessary to break down protein. When we have adequate stomach acid, our body does not need to expend so much energy for digestion and is able to use the amino acids and peptides to support liver detoxification, neurotransmitter production, and mitochondrial health. Proper protein digestion also contributes to hair and nail health. We love our Digestive Enzymes, but also use apple cider vinegar and ginger to help the body produce adequate stomach acid. You can try our ginger pickle before meals.
Adequate Carbohydrate Intake – It is essential that we consume enough carbohydrates to support our thyroid. We have talked about this in-depth in our carbohydrates and stress blog; this entire blog is dedicated to how to use carbohydrates strategically to support the thyroid.
Collagen or Bone Broth with Your Protein Intake – Make sure that you consume collagen or bone broth when you have muscle meat so as to be able to use the protein better. Or better yet, focus on power proteins – white fish, shellfish, eggs, and organ meats which are the most natural proteins for your thyroid to use as medicine. We recommend Vital Proteins collagen.
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If you want to find out more about how to heal your thyroid using food and how to heal your metabolism and restore energy, be sure to take our free thyroid mini-course.
The strategies you will learn there are the most holistic way to support your thyroid using food alone and your body’s own meal-to-meal feedback system. We have helped thousands of people with both diagnosed and undiagnosed thyroid conditions and feel so much joy when we see that they achieve a renewed sense of energy and vitality; feeling better both emotionally and physically.