Spring is here and as our part of the world starts to warm up, many of us begin to think about dropping a few pounds or improving our energy. And there’s no better time!
In spring, the Earth awakens and everything seems to come alive with it. The buzzing energy of the season (and better weather) makes this a great time to get back on track with health goals and activities.
For some of us, however, shedding the weight or getting our energy back is not as simple as changing our diets or staying regular with an exercise plan. The trouble lies in the complicated web of our hormone balance, metabolism, thyroid health.
Whether you realize it or not, the thyroid is one of the most important glands in our body. The delicate balance of thyroid hormones in the body keeps our temperature regulated, our moods and energy up, and our metabolism at a healthy pace.
Thyroid troubles, however, are very common in the United States. Over 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid imbalances that can later turn to more serious autoimmune conditions or health concerns. In fact, many chronic illnesses actually have a root in the thyroid, but most people are unaware that their thyroid is involved at all.
If you have struggled with thyroid health or a slow, stubborn metabolism, now is the time to get your body back in balance. Let’s see how the thyroid affects our overall health and how herbal medicine can help us keep our thyroids healthy and active!
How the Thyroid Affects Our Overall Health & How Herbal Medicine Can Help
What is the Thyroid
The thyroid gland lies in the neck and manages our homeostasis. It keeps our temperature regulated, metabolism functioning, and energy levels balanced. Stress, genetics, or related illnesses can cause trouble for this butterfly-shaped gland, which in turn can cause a host of issues for the body.
One of the most common issues people notice is difficult-to-manage weight gain. This is typically implied in the case of hypothyroidism where the thyroid fails to do its job properly. This leads to increased fat storage, slow metabolism, sluggishness, fatigue, depression, anxiety, menstrual or fertility issues, and feeling cold or weak.
Weight gain might be the most noticeable issue to start with, but hypothyroidism can lead to a variety of long-term health conditions.
How to Spot a Thyroid Imbalance
In our busy society, it is has become quite normal to feel “off.” Long work hours or frustrating daily lives can often cause us to feel tired, down, depressed, or moody. Weight gain and appetite control is a major concern for many people, and often correlates with our stress levels.
Although these symptoms are common and part of our modern lifestyle, they could be signaling problems deeper than a hectic schedule. A thyroid hormone imbalance may be the underlying issue, causing fatigue, depression, and weight gain despite efforts to exercise, eat healthy, and stay on top of mental health.
One of the best ways to determine if you have a thyroid issue is to get a full thyroid blood work. Many people will have Thyroid Stimulating Hormone checked but fail to get information on other important levels like T3, T4, and others which can point to different solutions.
Lifestyle Fixes to Improve Thyroid Health
The thyroid controls so much of our health that it is important to make sure our lifestyles are supporting a healthy thyroid. Here are some ways to encourage a healthy thyroid and boosted metabolism:
- Maintain a healthy gut: Not only is digestion incredibly important to improve metabolism, but the gut is a major player when it comes to the health of all our organs. The gut houses our microbiome – a population of healthy bacteria that influence our immune system and nervous system. A proper microbiome in the gut will support our thyroids and improve digestion, while an unhealthy gut will inhibit hormones like TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). This leads to a slower thyroid and eventually weight gain. Improve your gut health by increasing foods with natural probiotics like yogurt, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
- Reduce or eliminate gluten: While it is uncertain if gluten is a specific trigger for thyroid issues, there have been some studies that point to gluten as a potential factor in the reduction of thyroid stimulating hormone (leading to low thyroid function). It is also speculated that gluten may be involved in Leaky Gut Syndrome. This occurs when proteins leave the digestive tract through the semi-permeable membrane of the gut. These proteins are then attacked by the body’s immune system, causing increased inflammation and hormone imbalance. Over time, this increased immune response can lead to a variety of health issues including hypothyroidism. Consider eliminating or reducing the gluten in your diet to prevent this autoimmune response.
- Detox: Detoxing your home environment and personal products will prevent further damage to the thyroid. The pesticides and chemicals we consume and expose ourselves to everyday are stored in our fat. Over time, they can prevent the thyroid from functioning properly. Start with simple fixes like organic soaps and makeup. Move on to environment-friendly fabrics, bedding, and everyday items.
- Minimize your exposure to stress: Cortisol, the stress hormone, can make quite a mess of our hormone balance. The thyroid can be a particularly vulnerable gland to stress and cortisol disruption. If you suffer from excessive daily stress, consider taking action to reduce these stressors; schedule time for meditation, walking, laughter, art, music, anything that helps you let loose. Not only will your adrenals thank you, but your thyroid as well!
Chinese Medicine and Thyroid Health
Chinese medicine sees thyroid health and metabolism issues much the same as it does other health concerns: an imbalance between yin and yang.
An underactive thyroid will fall into the category of yang deficiency. This means that there is not enough power, action, and strength in the body to manage the appropriate thyroid levels, metabolism, energy, and activity. In many cases, this is paired with an excess of yin (the substance of the body) and seen with weight gain, fluid retention, bloating, and a feeling of heaviness.
Managing these two important aspects of the body’s balance is necessary to return the thyroid to health and stimulate a healthy metabolism. Fortunately, we can do this with the magic of Chinese herbs!
Herbal Supplements for Thyroid Health and Metabolism
While most cases of hypothyroidism are linked to a yang-deficiency, there are a few different ways that Chinese herbal medicine can be used to boost the thyroid and metabolism. Let’s take a look at a few of the different formulas that can help improve thyroid health and how they might best work for you.
This formula is a fantastic way to boost your overall energy and metabolism. “Raise” is the key word for this one! Bu Zhong Yi Qi Wan helps to bring Qi and blood up to the head, throat (thyroid!), and increases the digestive function. This is the formula for you if you feel heavy, weighed down, fatigued, and generally lack-luster. It can be particularly helpful if you also suffer from diarrhea or unformed bowel movements. This formula is a great general qi and yang tonic, so is best for mild cases of hypothyroidism or stubborn weight gain.
Hai Zao Tang: Swelling-Stopper
Hai Zao Tang is particularly focused on the health of the thyroid. The formula is made from seaweed extracts (long known to improve thyroid health) and targets the thyroid gland and helps to reduce any lumps, masses, or goiters. It can be used alone or in conjunction with another Chinese herbal formula.
If your main focus is improving metabolism and losing weight, Jiang Zhi Jian Fei helps you lose weight and excess water while maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Herbs like Codonopsis, Ginseng, and Astragalus are known to help increase fat metabolism and lose weight. As the body loses excess fat, the body’s hormones will naturally balance back to a state of health.
For those who are severely lacking in that active yang energy, this formula helps to reset the happy balance of yin and yang. Cong Rong Bu Shen Wan is a tonifying formula that works to substantially increase the body’s yang– therefore stimulating the thyroid, improving the body’s metabolism, and encouraging higher energy, more restful sleep, and better moods. This is the best formula for you if you are struggling with very low metabolism, low thyroid, edema, impotence, very low energy, excessive vaginal discharge, and depression.
For a daily refresher, consider taking this tea from Bravo Teas. The Dieter’s Slimming blend promotes a healthy digestion and increased metabolism. The added benefit of this product is that the warmth of the tea also improves digestion and relaxes the mind.
Cordyceps mushroom is one of the best energy-boosting power mushrooms around. This powdered version from Real Mushroom makes it easy to add cordyceps to your smoothies and meals. Cordyceps stimulates the thyroid gland and encourages a healthy output of hormones. As a qi and yang tonic, cordyceps will also super-charge your metabolism and help you feel more energized and emotionally stable.
Achieve Thyroid Health With Chinese Herbal Medicine
The thyroid can be a tricky gland to manage. But with many important functions for our bodies’ systems, it is a gland worth looking after! The first step is to get a clear picture of your thyroid health. Request a full thyroid panel and determine if your thyroid is underperforming. Adapt to a few lifestyle and diet changes that will allow your thyroid to thrive and take on an herbal supplement that supports you in your health goals.