Are you feeling exhausted, tired all the time, or maybe your jeans are feeling a little bit on the tight side, yet you haven’t changed your diet? We all have the odd day when we feel like binge-watching ‘Schitt’s Creek’ on Netflix (and believe me, I have), but if the symptoms of low energy levels are on-going, maybe, just maybe, it could be down to hormones. Or, more specifically, your thyroid. Now isn’t that an interesting thought?
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland situated in the neck, in front of the windpipe, and produces the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), both of which are important for digestion, heart and muscle function, brain development and maintenance of bones. More importantly, they control your metabolism, which is how much energy your body uses.
Every cell in your body depends upon thyroid hormones to regulate your metabolism. It will normally produce four times as much T4 as T3. This is because T3 is four times stronger than T4.
Situated at the base of your brain is another gland, the pituitary, which controls your thyroid. When the levels of thyroid hormones drop too low, your pituitary gets to work and produces Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). This activates your thyroid to produce more hormones. As more T3 and T4 are produced, their levels in your blood increase. Once optimum levels are reached, the pituitary stops producing TSH.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism is the technical name for all chemical changes that happen in your body necessary for life. In other words, the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy
There are two types of metabolism:
- Catabolism – which is where large molecules are broken down into smaller molecules, e.g., when glucose sugar is broken down into carbon dioxide gas and water releasing energy which keeps the body alive
- Anabolism – makes use of the energy released during catabolism to build, or synthesize, larger molecules from smaller ones, e.g., glucose molecules being used to make large starch molecules
How does the thyroid control metabolism and in turn energy levels?
The thyroid hormones stimulate metabolic activities in most tissues, which increases your basal metabolic rate (the rate at which your body uses energy to maintain vital functions while at rest).
A 2014 study, ‘Thyroid hormone regulation of metabolism, by Rashmi Mullur, Yan-Yun Liu, and Gregory A. Brent found that thyroid hormones “directly regulate metabolic rate, body weight, and cholesterol metabolism”.
But why could my lack of energy be thyroid related?
Fatigue is a big red flag that your thyroid levels are off, either too much or too little. However, this is more than just the lack of energy you feel after a late night out or when you’re experiencing large amounts of stress. It’s constant low energy levels.
Lack of energy due to thyroid problems can actually impact your daily life, leaving you constantly exhausted and brain-fogged.
Is my thyroid is over-or under-active?
As a general rule of thumb, an over-active thyroid is more common in the under-40s and an under-active thyroid in the over-40s. And yes, ladies, we are more likely to suffer than men!
While Doctor Google has its uses, if you think your exhaustion is due to a thyroid problem, you must arrange to see your doctor, who will arrange a blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels. At your appointment, they should also ask about your symptoms and possibly do a physical examination.
Can I improve my thyroid function naturally?
While nothing can beat getting checked out by your doctor. There do seem to be a few things you can do to keep your thyroid healthy and functioning at normal levels and increase your energy levels.
Exercise to improve energy levels
It’s not for nothing exercise seems to be included in every list on how to improve some aspect of your life. Keeping physically active keeps you healthy, and exercising at least three times every week will increase your metabolism and keep your thyroid working, which is especially useful for those bordering 40 and ‘at risk’.
Pay attention to Your Diet
Diet is another one that’s always on lists!
When it comes to thyroid function, certain foods can hamper, and other foods can help.
As with most things, when it comes to diet try and avoid refined sugars, caffeine and alcohol. You should also try and avoid all members of the cabbage family. This is because they contain a chemical that affects thyroid function when eaten raw. This includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, soybeans and watercress.
You need to increase your intake of foods that are rich in iodine, zinc and selenium. These foods include; dark green vegetables, oily fish, nuts, pulses and dairy (cheese, eggs and yoghurt).
Improve your energy levels with Yoga
Dust off the Yoga pants because certain poses can help regulate the thyroid. The best ones are supported shoulder stand, cat-and-cow, legs up against the wall and the boat pose.
Acupuncture for more energy
If you’re into alternative and complementary therapies, then you might fancy giving acupuncture a try.
Acupuncture works by stimulating blood and nutrients in the areas where you stick the pins. So, if you’re not fazed by the whole needle thing, good luck!
If you are struggling with fatigue and it doesn’t go away after a good night’s sleep, please get it checked out at your doctors.
Once diagnosed, you will be able to put a plan of action together and get back to living life at full throttle.
Until next time darlings.