What the Thyroid Does and How it Affects Your BodyJan 14, 2022
Coach Ashlyn, here!
Let's show our thyroid some love today. In this post, I discuss what the thyroid is, why it’s important, signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, and lifestyle management interventions you can apply to optimize your thyroid health.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that is the master of our metabolic function. It produces thyroid hormone, which increases our metabolic rate by increasing heat production in our body. This then causes an increase in the amount of oxygen our tissue cells utilize.
So when you hear people talking about metabolism or metabolic rate, your thyroid plays a MASSIVE role in these things.
Fun fact: Every single cell in your body has thyroid receptors on it.
The thyroid gland is responsible for many functions in your body, including:
- Body temperature
- Bone health
- Glucose metabolism
- Nutrient absorption
- Digestion and intestinal motility
- Liver function and detoxification
- Regulation of cholesterol levels
Even though the thyroid is the master energy regulator of our body, it often gets diminished and put down for its functions.
Social media and even western medicine have stigmatized the thyroid as the "end all be all" of stalled progress.
Can’t lose weight? GOTTA be your thyroid.
Not hitting PRs in the gym? GOTTA be your thyroid.
Crashing in the afternoon? GOTTA be your thyroid.
While all of these above examples can be CORRELATED with low thyroid function, they are not necessarily CAUSED by low thyroid function.
Lifestyle Factors That Impact Thyroid Health
The thyroid gland is very heavily influenced by stress and our PERCEPTION of that stress (this is where psychology comes in and why we focus so much on that in our coaching at KJO).
Dieting is a stressor on the body. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever diet, but know that it’s a stressor and can impact how your thyroid functions.
Training at high intensity and high volume is a stressor on the body because your muscles do a lot of work.
Not sleeping enough or getting enough recovery is also a stressor on the body.
A long day at work is a stressor on the body.
All of these stressors can impact your thyroid health and result in overall changes to your wellbeing. A certain amount of stress is okay, but you may start noticing thyroid dysfunction symptoms if there’s too much stress.
Don’t forget - stress can impact your health and fitness directly, but can also make it harder for you to exert self-control (which is typically pretty necessary if you’re looking to change your lifestyle and/or body composition).
And HOW you respond to stress (which impacts your thyroid) is largely determined by your mindset.
Thyroid Dysfunction Symptoms
Now, you'd think that if you had more thyroid hormone (hyperthyroid), you would have MORE energy, and things would just be FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. Too much of a good thing can be just as bad as too little of a good thing.
The body likes BALANCE. And it is going to do whatever it needs to do to get back to where it wants to be.
Have a Healthy Thyroid
You have a lot of control over your health, including the health of your hormones. To ensure you’re supporting the health of your thyroid, you can make sure you’re getting enough of these vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B complex
You can also support your thyroid health with lifestyle factors.
Sleep is essential for your overall health. You need it to heal and repair your muscles and cells, to concentrate better, and, of course, for optimal thyroid health. You can read about how to improve your sleep naturally here.
Exercise is another lifestyle factor that impacts your thyroid function. At KJO Coaching, we recommend strength training three to four times a week. Yoga, daily walking, and stretching can all positively impact your thyroid health and the way your body and muscles feel overall.
You can also improve your thyroid health through your nutrition. Eating healthy fats will support a healthy thyroid and lower your risk of heart disease or stroke. Many people are afraid to eat fats because they’re worried that they’ll gain fat by eating fats. That’s not the case! By incorporating some dietary fats such as avocado or olive oil into your diet, you’ll actually improve your health.
Gratitude journaling can also help you support a healthy thyroid. While it may be surprising to read that journaling can help with your thyroid function, it’s because practicing gratitude can alleviate stress. Remember how I said increased stress could lead to thyroid dysfunction? Here’s a way to alleviate that stress.
(Grab our FREE Gratitude for Growth Journal Prompts here!)
Some people also find that they sleep better if they practice gratitude journaling before bed because of the stress relief and because it makes them focus on positive aspects of their lives.
We could talk about the thyroid for hours, but this is a blog post, not a novel.
So, I will leave you with this:
The thyroid is a pretty amazing gland that does some pretty amazing things; it’s the master controller of our metabolism and more. What's even more amazing is that we can support this master gland through NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE.
The foods we eat, the type of movement we get in, how we recover, our sleep, and our coping strategies influence our thyroid health.
Have specific questions about the thyroid? Send us an email or message us on Instagram!
Disclaimer: Anything beyond basic lifestyle and nutrition support for your thyroid should be discussed with a coach or physician. Any supplementation should be monitored and supported through labs.
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