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The Body

What Is Your Thyroid Telling You?

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Vibrant introduces readers to practical steps to improve everything from brain health and energy to immunity and weight. This excerpt explains the vital role your thyroid plays in your whole-person health.

An underactive thyroid gland is a common reason for thinning hair, as well as thinning eyebrows (especially the outer third of each eyebrow) and eyelashes. Other signs of a thyroid that isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone are pale skin, puffiness, aggressive weight gain, cold sensitivity, depression, and fatigue. Thyroid problems have become too common, especially in women, but fixing your thyroid isn’t as simple as getting a prescription for synthetic thyroid hormone, as a conventional doctor might have you believe.

The thyroid is in many ways the master hormone, with ripple effects throughout the entire endocrine system and all through the body. It is a reactive gland, and a primary indicator of toxicity. The thyroid needs nutritional support and protection against toxicity. Are you taking care of your thyroid?

One necessary mineral for the thyroid is iodine. Before salt was iodized, goiters were a common but serious health problem. A goiter is a lump in the neck caused by an inflamed and swollen thyroid, due to iodine deficiency. Iodizing salt in the 1920s was one of modern medicine’s most brilliant global public health successes, drastically reducing the incidence of goiter. Now, with the more frequent use of gourmet salts that aren’t iodized, we may be seeing more iodine deficiencies again, so making sure to get enough iodine is one way to support your thyroid. If you love your gourmet salt, include more iodine-rich foods in your diet. The best sources are seaweed, eggs, shrimp, and tuna.

I recommend eating sea vegetables whenever you can get them. Try a seaweed salad when you go out for sushi, or experiment with different culinary seaweeds and kelp granules in your home cooking. However, more iodine alone isn’t the solution to hypothyroidism. Restoring thyroid function is a complex collaborative treatment of lifestyle factors, with or without medication, but definitely with dietary improvements and nutritional supplementation.

Remember that healing is never about just one thing because all parts of you are connected. All the health-restoring habits in this book will have an effect on your thyroid because your thyroid is integral to all your systems. When your thyroid function does come back up to normal, it will definitely show on the outside, and you’ll also feel it with increased energy and less fatigue.

One thing I like to do for my thyroid is use a seaweed mask, or even an iodine paste, on my neck, over the area where my thyroid is (iodine can be absorbed through the skin). To make your own seaweed mask for your neck and/or face, not just for iodine replenishment but for an infusion of nutrients into your skin, try this DIY recipe. It’s like a fancy spa treatment, for a fraction of the time and cost.

DIY SEAWEED MASK

  • 1 cup of plain green tea, cooled to room temperature
  • 4 sheets of nori (the seaweed sheets used to make sushi rolls, widely available in grocery stores)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil, at room temperature (you could also use almond oil)
  • Optional: 2 thick cucumber slices, chilled
  1. Put the green tea in a shallow bowl. Tear or cut the nori into strips, about 1 inch wide.
  2. Dip a soft cloth or cotton balls in the green tea and moisten your face and neck. Use just enough to dampen your face.
  3. Dip the nori strips into the green tea, then apply them to your face—leaving space for your eyes, nose, and mouth—and/or on your neck, from chin to collarbone.
  4. Using your fingers, smooth the coconut oil over the nori strips.
  5. Lie back in a comfortable position (or in the bathtub). If using the cucumber slices, put one slice over each eye. Relax for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the cucumber slices and discard or compost them. Peel the nori strips from your face and neck, and discard or compost them.
  7. Wipe any remaining seaweed and oil from your face. Optionally, you can wash your face with a gentle cleanser, or take a shower.

Excerpt from Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Own Your Health, and Glow by Dr. Stacie Stephenson (BenBella Books, 2021)