It’s undeniable: Our mental health and our physical health are deeply intertwined. Everything from vitamin deficiencies to lack of physical activity can send our brains down the path of depression, anxiety and mood swings, and it can keep us in a perpetual cycle of depression. When you don’t take care of your body, you become depressed, and when you become depressed, you’re less likely to focus on your health. But it helps if you understand the many reasons why you might be depressed so that you can pull yourself from the never-ending rotation for good.
Yes, Thyroid and Depression Go Hand-in-Hand
One of the most surprising causes of depression is thyroid disease, a condition where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. This disease, commonly known as hypothyroidism, causes a wide range of physical and mental side effects, including weight gain, fatigue, achiness, thinning hair, impaired memory, puffy face, dry skin, muscle weakness, increased sensitivity to cold, swelling of the joints and, yes, depression. People who suffer from this condition often feel blue, irritable and moody, but some never make the connection to the thyroid.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is underactive and doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones to balance chemical reactions in the body. The effects of the thyroid on the brain are complicated, but the gist is that the brain uses thyroid hormones as fuel to do important jobs like transmitting messages throughout the brain and body and preventing inflammation and disease in the brain. Often, people who lack thyroid function will also suffer from memory issues and mental fogginess, so there is a clear link between the hormone and our body’s thinking organ.
So, why do we develop this frustrating condition? According to the American Thyroid Association, the thyroid begins to slack for a variety of reasons, including iodine deficiency, autoimmune disease, surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland, radiation treatment, certain medications, inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis) and rare disorders that prevent the body from producing the essential hormone. Knowing what causes thyroid disease is useful in strategizing your plan of attack against depression!
Treating Thyroid-Related Depression
The first thing you need to do before you embark on the path to self-healing is to see your physician and have your thyroid checked. If you find that it is under producing thyroid hormones, then you can build a treatment plan for your body which can help improve overall functionality.
- Increase Iodine Intake—We know that iodine intake and thyroid performance are closely linked. This is because iodine is what the body uses to make the thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) along with the amino acid tyrosine. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t naturally produce iodine, so it must be added through food and supplements. Increasing your iodine intake with Nascent Iodine is one of the simplest ways to support healthy thyroid function.
- Increase Tyrosine Intake—Otherwise known as L-tyrosine, this nutrient blends with iodine to produce thyroid hormones, so if your body isn’t getting enough, the thyroid gland won’t have the fuel it needs to work properly. Eating foods rich in tyrosine—organic soybeans, seaweed, nuts, seeds and whole grains—is often advised in thyroid diets.
- Increase Selenium Intake—Another thyroid hormone promoter is selenium, an essential mineral that brings antioxidant benefits to your diet. Increasing your selenium intake—either through selenium-rich foods like soybeans, Brazil nuts and seeds or by taking selenium supplements—is said to activate the thyroid hormones for better function.
- Increase Zinc Intake—Another mineral that activates hormone production is zinc. You can increase your consumption of zinc by eating zinc-rich foods like beans, nuts, andwhole grains. Taking zinc supplements may help as long as you closely follow dosage information, as zinctoxicity is possible if taken in excess.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’re avoiding certain foods that could worsenhypothyroidism and depression. Some people notice that gluten, the protein found in foods processed from wheat and other grains, can exacerbate the condition, leading to heightened mood swings and depression. You may also want to steer clear of certain fatty foods—especially red meat and high-fat dairy products—because fats have been found to disturb hormone absorption. As hypothyroidism causes the metabolism to slow, avoiding sugary foods is also necessary to help manage weight gain.
Using Food to Support Depression
Many of us who have struggled with mental health issues have used food as a crutch during times of depression. We know that’s not healthy, but what if we can use food to our benefit when we’re feeling low? That’s a whole different story! If you’re suffering from depression caused by thyroid disease, this is a real possibility and a great way to take the first step towards long-term health and happiness.