Thyroid Health: Not Just a Women’s Issue

Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism) are often thought of as a women’s health issue, but we cannot forget that males can suffer, too. In fact, Hashimoto’s is on the rise for men.

No matter your gender, Hashimoto’s can have several contributing factors, including intestinal permeability, stress, environmental toxin exposure, and infection, such as Epstein-Barr and H. pylori. It can also cause several gender-neutral symptoms, including weight gain and constipation.

Common symptoms for men in particular include:

  • Low testosterone
  • Low libido
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Slowed cognition
  • Slowed metabolism
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Muscle pain
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss (While “male pattern baldness” isn’t uncommon, slow-growing facial hair and loss of outer third of the eyebrows is a tip-off to a thyroid condition.)

 

Don’t guess, test

Given that thyroid issues are so frequently overlooked in women, it can be even more challenging to get a doctor to test their male patients’ thyroids. We often need to act as our own best advocate and ask specifically for a full thyroid panel. Go here to get the full panel, with an explanation of each value.

Let’s talk testosterone

The testosterone/thyroid relationship is of specific concern to men, given that they produce so much more of this hormone than women.

And many of the symptoms of low testosterone (“low T”) mimic those of low thyroid function: decreased muscle mass, depression, low libido, weight gain, hair loss, and irritability, to name a few.

For some, it’s a chicken/egg scenario, because low T can be a contributor to low thyroid function and vice versa. As such, right-sizing thyroid hormones (sometimes thyroid drugs are warranted) can help to raise testosterone, and prescription testosterone shouldn’t be ruled out.

Highlight: zinc

Not only does zinc help support thyroid health significantly, as outlined in detail in my Essential Thyroid Cookbook, but it also helps to modulate testosterone levels in men. Zinc deficiency is closely associated with low testosterone and low libido. See below for a delicious, zinc-rich recipe!

Other interventions

  • Get plenty of minerals from your diet or targeted supplementation. Including zinc, other common deficiencies associated with Hashimoto’s are magnesium, iodine, and selenium. (Note: there’s conflicting information on the association between prostate health and selenium. Speak with your doctor before supplementing, especially if you’re at risk for prostate cancer.)
  • Make sure that your ferritin (iron storage protein), B12, and vitamin D levels are adequate.
  • Talk with your doctor about testing for infections.
  • Sleuth out food sensitivities, as 70-80 percent of our immune system resides in the gut. Many see a significant decrease in thyroid antibodies — and alleviation of symptoms — simply by doing an elimination/provocation diet.
  • Remove as many toxins from your environment as possible, including eating organic as often as you can, filtering water, using clean and green body care products, steering clear of plastics, and using safe cleaning supplies in your home.

 

RECIPE:
This amazing pesto combines protein-rich pumpkin seeds and liver-detoxifying cilantro into a delicious pesto that can be used as a dip for vegetables or a sauce for spaghetti squash.  Pumpkin seeds provide a unique source of anti-inflammatory fats, immune-supportive zinc, and plant-based protein.

Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto
 
Makes approximately 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup packed fresh cilantro (approximately 1 bunch)
  • ¾ cup baby spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons chickpea miso paste (optional)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. To toast pumpkin seeds, heat a dry skillet over medium and spread pumpkin seeds evenly in the pan. Heat seeds for 2-3 minutes until they become fragrant and begin to pop.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine pumpkin seeds, cilantro, spinach, garlic, lime juice, miso, oil, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. Thin with additional oil, if desired.

Recipe from Essential Thyroid Cookbook

Cook’s notes: Try parsley in place of cilantro, if desired. Sunflower seeds make a delicious substitution for pumpkin seeds. Chickpea miso adds the savory umami flavor usually created by Parmesan cheese traditionally found in most pesto recipes. To freeze, scoop into a freezable container leaving 1 inch of space at the top to allow pesto to expand as it freezes.  

Jill Grunewald, HNC, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, and founder of Healthful Elements, is a thyroid health, Hashimoto's, and alopecia (autoimmune hair loss) specialist and co-author of the #1 best-selling Essential Thyroid Cookbook. She has successfully guided her clients and students with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s to health and vitality and has helped many with alopecia reverse their devastating hair loss with her unique Reversing Alopecia program, available as private instruction or an online class series.Jill's Hashimoto's has been successfully managed since late 2008 without the use of thyroid drugs. She has suffered from alopecia, off and on, since the age of 13 and after becoming 1/3 bald (late 2015 to early 2017), has a full head of hair. In her coaching practice, she not only specializes in Hashimoto's and alopecia, but also Graves', adrenal dysfunction, and perimenopause/menopause.