You likely already know that underactive thyroid symptoms can wreak havoc on your weight. But dips in thyroid hormones can also cause fluctuations in brain metabolism, leading to forgetfulness, anxiety, and more. “At least half of women with a slow thyroid experience psychological symptoms, say Richard Shames, MD.
The good news? If thyroid problems are well-controlled, these symptoms will likely disappear, says Dr. Shames. Here, the pro-thyroid natural remedies that can work in tandem with any meds your doctor prescribes to alleviate the unexpected — but common — problems caused by a sluggish thyroid.
Sneaky Symptom: Depression
Up to 50 percent of depression is caused by an undiagnosed thyroid condition, according to the American Thyroid Association. “Your thyroid helps serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine function,” explains Dr. Shames, “so when your thyroid slows, so does production of these feel-good brain chemicals.”
Easy Rx: To ward off blue moods, he suggests taking 100 to 300 milligrams of rosemary extract daily (Buy on Amazon, $17.20). Rosemary’s carnosic acid is an essential factor in thyroid metabolism. Plus, the herb’s rosmarinic acid improves the brain’s ability to produce mood-lifting dopamine and serotonin.
Fresh rosemary isn’t as concentrated as the extract, so taking as supplement is the best way to get the benefits, says Dr. Shames. And since carnosic acid works synergistically with vitamin D, he also suggests taking 1,000 IU to 2,000 IU of D a day for best results.
Sneaky Symptom: Sugar Cravings
“A sluggish thyroid impairs blood-sugar metabolism, leading to fatigue — and that leads many people to crave energy by way of sugar,” explains Dr. Shames.
Easy Rx: To help rev your thyroid and curb your cravings, try ashwagandha. Indian researchers discovered that taking this herb boosts the body’s levels of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. “Improved thyroid function helps normalize metabolism, reducing sugar cravings in just three weeks,” says Dr. Shames. Ashwagandha also stabilizes glucocorticoids — adrenal hormones that protect against blood-sugar swings. Dr. Shames advises taking 100 to 300 milligrams of the herb daily. One to try: Jarrow Formulas Ashwagandha (Buy on Amazon, $10.39).
Sneaky Symptom: Anxiety
When your thyroid is underactive, your body may compensate by releasing excess adrenaline, which triggers anxiety, notes Dr. Shames.
Easy Rx: A relaxing five-minute facial massage. Research published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science suggests that facial massages are so calming, they cut the release of the stress hormone cortisol in half, increasing thyroid function and energy by 55 percent if you do them twice daily! The simple how-to: Using your fingers and slow, circular motions, firmly massage along your forehead, cheekbones, and jawline.
Sneaky Symptom: Forgetfulness
More than 80 percent of people with low-grade hypothyroidism have impaired memory function. “Think of your brain as a computer and the thyroid as electricity,” explains Dr. Shames. “Memory’s job is to read files in our brain. If your thyroid is underactive, you’ll be slower and less accurate when ‘accessing’ those files.”
Easy Rx: Regular workouts can help stimulate thyroid function, and research shows they can also build up the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center. A gentle workout that can help: yoga. In a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, 61 older adults did Hatha yoga (a common form of yoga that includes stress-relieving stretches, mindful breathing, and “stilling” the mind) three times a week for eight weeks. What happened: Subjects improved their recall by 15 percent and had 7.4 percent faster reaction times. According to the study authors, yoga requires concentration, which “trains” the brain to improve focus on everyday tasks. To learn easy yoga routines for free, search “Hatha yoga” on YouTube.
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This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.