Restoring Balance: A Holistic Approach to Healing Post-Viral Thyroiditis

WORDS: Jessica Scott-Young | Clinical Nutritionist

As the seasons shift, I am seeing more and more clients grappling with unexpected thyroid issues following a viral infection. Viruses disrupt and dysregulate the immune system. Viruses can stay latent in the body and then be retriggered by a newer assault on the immune system.

Post-viral thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland triggered by a viral illness, can lead to a rollercoaster of symptoms that disrupt daily life. Understanding this condition and adopting a holistic approach to recovery is crucial for regaining balance and well-being.

Understanding Post-Viral Thyroiditis

Post-viral thyroiditis typically unfolds in three stages:

  1. Thyrotoxic Phase: Initially, the inflamed thyroid releases excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, leading to hyperthyroid symptoms.
  2. Hypothyroid Phase: As the thyroid hormone levels drop, the gland becomes underactive, causing hypothyroid symptoms.
  3. Recovery Phase: Eventually, thyroid function often returns to normal, although this process can take several months.

The Thyroid and Viral Infections

The thyroid works on a tightly regulated feedback loop, making it particularly sensitive to disruptions. Many viruses, including Coxsackieviruses, Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), adenovirus, influenza, herpes virus, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and notably, the COVID-19 virus, can impact the thyroid, potentially causing subacute thyroiditis. These viral infections act as an environmental trigger, leading to autoimmune thyroid diseases and thyroiditis through inflammation and damage to the thyroid gland.

People with hypothyroidism are more susceptible to viral infections due to compromised immune function. This susceptibility highlights the importance of maintaining thyroid health and immune resilience.

Recognizing the Symptoms

The symptoms of post-viral thyroiditis can vary depending on the phase of the condition:

Hyperthyroid Phase:
– Rapid heartbeat
– Anxiety and irritability
– Unexplained weight loss
– Heat intolerance
– Tremors

Hypothyroid Phase
– Fatigue and weakness
– Weight gain
– Cold intolerance
– Depression
– Dry skin and hair

Dietary Strategies for Healing

Nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods are key to supporting thyroid health and overall recovery. Here are some dietary considerations:

  1. Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Incorporate a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like wild caught salmon, sardines, anchovies and mackerel. These foods are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and modulate the immune system.
  2. Selenium-Rich Foods: Selenium is an antioxidant that supports thyroid hormone production, has anti-inflammatory properties and decreases TPO antibodies. Include Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and seafood in your diet.
  3. Iodine: Essential for thyroid function, iodine can be found in sea vegetables such as kelp, nori, and dulse. However, balance is key, as excessive iodine can exacerbate thyroid issues
  4. Vitamin D: Adequate vitamin D levels are crucial for immune function and thyroid health. Focus on consuming grass fed butter, organic ghee, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, herring), organic eggs, mushrooms. Ensure regular exposure to sunlight and consider supplementation if needed.
  5. Vitamin C: provides antioxidant support. Food sources include citrus, berries, capsicum, kiwi fruit, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, papaya, guava
  6. Zinc: Important for thyroid function and immune health, zinc can be found in foods like oysters, pumpkin seeds, beef, dark meat, pork, cashews, black beans, chickpeas.
  7. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): NAC is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and supports immune function. It also boosts glutathione levels, a critical antioxidant for thyroid health. Including NAC supplements can be beneficial during the recovery phase.
  8. Adaptogenic Mushrooms: Adaptogenic mushrooms like reishi, shiitake, turkey tail and maitake help modulate the immune system and reduce stress. These mushrooms can be incorporated into the diet or taken as supplements to support overall thyroid health and resilience.

Lifestyle Practices for Thyroid Support

In addition to a nourishing diet, several lifestyle practices can enhance thyroid recovery:

  1. Rest and practice the art of convalescence! This means maximising self-care, sleep, relaxation, sunshine, fresh air, and nutrition. It will take time!
  2. Stress Management: Stress weakens the immune system so ongoing stress management is a non-negotiable! Chronic stress can negatively impact thyroid function. Incorporate stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and gentle physical activity into your routine.
  3. Adequate Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night to support immune function and overall recovery. Establish a calming bedtime routine and create a restful sleep environment.
  4. Avoid Environmental Toxins: Minimize exposure to endocrine disruptors found in plastics, non-organic foods, and household cleaners. Choose natural and organic products whenever possible.
  5. Mindful Monitoring: Regular check-ups and blood tests are essential for monitoring thyroid function and making necessary adjustments to your dietary and lifestyle strategies.

Personalized support is key

Our goal is to restore homeostasis. Each individual’s experience with post-viral thyroiditis is unique, and personalized care is essential. Working with a healthcare professional can provide tailored advice and support, ensuring a holistic and effective approach to healing.

Recovering from post-viral thyroiditis involves a blend of mindful nutrition, stress management, and healthy lifestyle choices. By nurturing your body with the right foods and practices, you can support your thyroid’s return to balance and regain your vitality.

Stay resilient, stay nourished!

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