Why Thyroid Patients Need to Detox
Whether you realize it or not, your thyroid is under attack on a daily basis.
And I’m not talking about your own immune system (which is the hallmark of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).
What I’m talking about is the onslaught of chemicals and toxins that your body comes into contact with day in and day out.
To give you an idea, here are the compounds that you come into contact with that can potentially harm your thyroid:
- Dioxins (1)
- PCBs (2)
- Pesticides (3)
- Phthalates (4)
- Heavy metals
Many of these chemicals act as what are referred to as endocrine disruptors.
As the name implies, they disrupt your endocrine (hormone) system.
Some of these chemicals can sit on your thyroid receptors and block your own thyroid hormone from doing its job!
It sounds terrible, and it is, but for healthy people, this really isn’t an issue.
Your body was created (either through evolution or from a divine creator) to handle these toxins and chemicals and to eliminate them.
There are pathways in your body designed for this very purpose!
More important than the existence of these pathways is how efficiently they are running, especially in thyroid patients.
Let me give you a few examples:
- Fatigue – Low energy, a common symptom in thyroid patients, may prevent you from regular exercise which helps to augment and move your lymphatic channels.
- Inability to sweat – Low thyroid reduces your ability to sweat which may impair you from eliminating toxins and chemicals via your sweat.
- And constipation – Constipation, another symptom of low thyroid function, impairs your ability to remove toxins and chemicals from your stool.
What does this mean for you as a thyroid patient?
It means that even though you have these systems in your body meant to eliminate harmful endocrine disruptors, these systems are probably not working as well as they should.
This can result in a build-up of these chemicals and a need for detoxification.
The good news is that you don’t have to go crazy with detox to help these pathways do their job.
Today we are going to talk about some simple things that you can do to help these systems work more efficiently to help you feel better and improve thyroid function in the process.
Let’s jump in:
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5 Gentle Ways to Detox For your Thyroid
Let me expand a bit on the systems that I mentioned in the previous paragraph.
There are several systems in your body that exist to help your body eliminate potentially harmful things that you come into contact with day in and day out.
These could come from toxins, chemicals, plastics, medications, supplements, or pretty much anything else that gets absorbed through your skin or ingested in your mouth.
Just think for a second of all of the things that you touch each day including lotions, powders, creams, cleaning materials, dust, dirt, and so on.
Now think of all of the things that you eat!
Chances are high that you are consuming that came in a plastic container or an aluminum wrap or wax paper or some other carrying device.
You better believe that some fraction of the things that touch your skin and the things that carry your food will enter into your body.
The job of these systems is to eliminate those fractions so they don’t cause harm to your organs, hormones, or tissues.
You can (and should) do things to prevent these chemicals from getting into your body just like you can (and should) do things to help your own body eliminate them.
You can help with the elimination process by augmenting the existing detoxification systems that come pre-equipped in your body including:
- The sweat mechanism
- Lymphatic drainage
- Liver health
- Kidney health
- Gut health
Let’s talk about each one and some simple things you can do to improve each system.
Sweating is a simple and effective way for your body to eliminate toxins.
In fact, we know from some studies that sweating may be the preferred way (5) that your body eliminates toxins.
Meaning, all other things being equal, if given the chance your body will prefer to use the sweat pathway to eliminate a toxin over the other pathways that we will soon discuss.
But here’s the problem:
As I mentioned earlier, thyroid patients have a hard time sweating and, therefore, taking advantage of this pathway.
Low thyroid states can often lead to the symptom of fatigue and one of the best ways to access the sweating pathway is through the use of exercise.
But how are you going to get up and exercise when you are experiencing thyroid fatigue?
It’s going to be difficult, to say the least.
The good news is that you don’t have to rely solely on exercise to augment this pathway.
You can take advantage of therapies, such as sauna use, which will essentially force your body to sweat without the need to exert energy on your own.
And sauna therapy is a GREAT way to enhance the sweating detoxification pathway while also providing additional benefits to thyroid patients.
Some additional benefits of sauna include improved sleep, reduced stress, better stress resiliency, improved mood, and even weight loss.
When it comes to using a sauna you have two main options:
- The traditional Finnish steam sauna – Steam saunas work by dramatically increasing the temperature in the air which heats up the body. Finnish saunas are typically much hotter than FAR IR saunas but usually don’t result in as much sweat.
- The newer FAR infrared sauna – FAR IR saunas use a combination of dry heat and FAR IR wavelengths to heat the body from the inside. The result is a deeper sweat compared to Finnish saunas. The FAR IR wavelength may also provide additional benefit by itself.
Aim to get into a sauna at least 3 times per week for up to 20 minutes.
If possible, try to find a FAR IR sauna but if that isn’t available then any other sauna that helps you sweat will do.
Both types of sauna are effective at activating heat shock proteins which enhance the detoxification process and improve cellular health through protein folding.
In addition, sauna therapy also activates cytokines which can reduce inflammation in your entire body.
Just remember to go low and slow when you start sauna therapy.
Many patients with low thyroid and Hashimoto’s may experience symptoms as their body eliminates toxins that should have been eliminated long ago.
This reaction is referred to as a Herxheimer Reaction (6) which may cause you to feel temporarily worse after detox.
If you don’t have access to a sauna then exercising to sweat is also a great option.
Your goal should be to get a good deep sweat at least three times per week.
#2. Lymphatic Drainage
Your lymphatic channels don’t get the attention they deserve, especially when it comes to detox!
Lymphatic channels exist, much like your arteries and veins, as a channel to move fluid, protein, bacteria, and other cellular byproducts through your body.
These channels function as a sort of clean-up network to bring things back into venous circulation so they can be eliminated by your kidneys and liver.
The lymphatic channels in your body start from the periphery and move in toward your heart where they enter into circulation via the left subclavian vein.
The thoracic duct is responsible for bringing back lymph fluid from almost the entire body (minus a few areas).
Your lymphatic system is different from your arteries and veins in that it is not under pressure.
Meaning, your body won’t automatically push your lymph fluid back to your heart without some help!
And this is where we step in.
We can help augment the return of this lymph fluid to help bring back toxins, proteins, bacteria, and chemicals, to circulation for elimination.
Practically, you can do this in a couple of ways:
- Exercise and muscle contraction – Contracting your muscles will help bring lymph fluid back into circulation. You don’t have to go crazy here either. Simple movements such as walking can help.
- Massage therapy – Massage therapists are trained to start at the periphery and move toward the heart to help assist in lymphatic drainage. You can use this as an excuse to get a massage if you want!
- Dry brushing – Another technique that you can use to help augment lymphatic drainage is dry brushing. Dry brushing is basically a form of body massage with a stiff dry brush that helps exfoliate the skin and bring back lymphatic fluid. It’s a simple exercise that can be done in the bathroom every day.
- Stretching – If you are having trouble with regular exercise then stretching will also help as long as you do it daily.
- Yoga – Yoga is another way to help improve lymphatic flow and has additional benefits of blood flow and mobility.
Regardless of which method you choose, just make sure you are doing it regularly!
#3. Liver Health and Liver Function
Your liver is considered to be the master detoxifier for your entire body.
It’s filled with enzymes and proteins which break down pretty much everything from pharmaceutical drugs to foods to macromolecules and more.
Not only does it help chew through chemicals and toxins for elimination, it also provides a direct route to the gastrointestinal route via the bile ducts.
We can also take it one step further by mentioning that your liver is a major site of T3 thyroid hormone production which is the most powerful thyroid hormone in your body.
So ensuring that your liver is functioning at an optimal level is a no-brainer for thyroid patients.
The question becomes:
How can you ensure that your liver is functioning optimally?
Traditionally, doctors will look at your liver enzyme tests.
These tests, including AST and ALT, provide insight into the health of your liver cells.
Elevations in AST and ALT (part of a comprehensive metabolic blood panel) can be an early sign that your liver is under stress.
The most common reason for liver stress and damage is insulin resistance secondary to excessive sugar consumption.
In fact, the emerging #1 cause of liver damage (7) is from fatty liver!
If you have access to your AST and ALT levels then you’ll want to look for levels that are below 20 U/L.
Levels higher than 20 U/L of AST and ALT may indicate early liver impairment and a reduced ability to detox.
While AST and ALT are helpful, they only give you insight into the health of your liver cells.
These tests may miss other causes of liver impairment so they can’t be relied upon 100% as a measure of liver health.
This is because we have a hard time measuring the activity of enzyme function inside of liver cells, there just isn’t a really good way to widely assess for this.
The good news is that there are several ways that you can improve or optimize how well your liver is functioning:
- Consume foods that enhance liver function – Foods high in sulfur help your body eliminate free radicals (8) and can enhance liver detoxification pathways. Consuming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower will provide your body with glucosinolates which are sulfur-containing compounds. Try to have at least 1 serving of cruciferous vegetables each day! Other foods that can improve liver function include artichokes and chlorella.
- Eat more spices – Turmeric and ginger are spices that have anti-inflammatory effects as well as detoxification effects. Add these to recipes, to milk (for golden milk), smoothies, etc.
- Use liver detoxifying supplements – Supplements can also help improve liver function in different ways. One of the most popular liver health supplements is milk thistle but others include NAC and calcium d-glucarate.
#4. Gut Health and Regular Bowel Movements
Because your thyroid helps to control the kinetic movement of your bowels, thyroid patients often suffer from constipation.
Normally, your bowels are constantly moving in a rhythmic way throughout the day known as peristalsis.
This movement helps keep your bowels regular.
In low thyroid states, this kinetic movement isn’t as efficient which results in slower bowel movement and even constipation.
Why do you care about constipation?
Because your stool is another big method for removal of toxicants from your body!
In fact, your body tends to send fat-soluble toxins out through your stool and water-soluble toxins out through your kidneys (more on that below).
When you are constipated your stool will stay in your body longer which means that these harmful ingredients will also stay in your body longer.
Constipation can also cause changes to your gut microbiome which can impact hormone health, lead to immune problems, and even damage to your intestinal lining.
As a thyroid patient, it is important that you have at least 1 bowel movement each day.
How can you achieve this goal if you are currently constipated?
It’s actually not as hard as you may think:
- Make sure you are taking enough thyroid hormone – Taking more thyroid hormone may improve your thyroid to the point that your bowels become regular. This may require changes to your thyroid medication and dose.
- Use Vitamin C and Magnesium citrate – The combination of Vitamin C and magnesium citrate can help solve constipation in the short term but they do not treat the underlying problem.
- Take supplements that have a prokinetic effect on your bowels – Natural supplements such as Triphala may help encourage your gut to move more on its own.
- Take supplements to improve general gut health – You can improve your gut health more generally by taking supplements such as probiotics, prebiotics, and l-glutamine.
- Balance out bacterial concentrations in the gut by treating overgrowth syndromes if present – Thyroid patients are prone to experience overgrowth syndromes such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and small intestinal fungal overgrowth. You may need to use antibiotics or antifungals to help balance your gut if you have these problems.
You can tweak these therapies to the point that you are having at least one bowel movement each day.
Be careful when using them, though, as you want to avoid giving yourself loose stools!
Using the Bristol Stool Chart as your guide (9), try to get your stool in the type 4 range.
#5. Kidney Function & Urine
Last but not least are your kidneys!
You can think about your kidneys as the filtration system for your blood.
All of your blood ultimately passes through your kidneys where they filter out pretty much anything that is not native to your body.
Save a few people with chronic kidney disease, most people have kidneys that are functioning well and don’t have any obvious kidney problem or damage.
The problem with optimizing your kidney doesn’t come from damage directly to the organ itself but from the pressure that we put on it ourselves.
Nowadays, it’s common for people to put excessive pressure on their kidneys through the consumption of beverages such as caffeine, soda, teas, energy drinks, diuretics, medications, and even supplements.
All of these things put extra pressure on the kidneys as it attempts to filter everything out!
In addition, it’s fairly common for people to be in a state of mild dehydration because they aren’t consuming enough water.
So what can you do?
Drink more water! And in the process, avoid beverages such as coffee, tea, and soda.
How much water you should consume is hotly debated by many people.
My recommendation for thyroid patients is to consume enough water each day so that their urine runs clear (at least once).
For most people, this will be about half a gallon of water each day but it’s not an exact science so you’ll need to pay attention to the color of your urine as you do this.
If you feel that your kidneys are not functioning optimally then you can look at your labs to assess their function.
You’ll want to order the GFR which stands for glomerular filtration rate or your creatinine level.
Abnormalities in these lab tests are not typically missed by doctors but it never hurts to ask your doctor to check them.
These are 5 easy ways that you can gently detox your body for improved thyroid function.
The entire goal here is to help your thyroid work more efficiently in your body!
By doing this you can help manage those pesky symptoms of low thyroid like weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, and so on.
But these therapies don’t work unless YOU take action!
Each of these therapies requires something for you to do so make sure that you pick one and make a commitment to take action.
Now I want to hear from you:
Did you know that thyroid patients are more likely to need detox?
Were you aware of these methods of detoxification?
Which treatment or therapy are you planning on implementing?
Have you already tried them? Have they helped you feel better?
Leave your questions or comments below!