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Chronic Pain is Debilitating Both Physically and Mentally

Chronic pain is debilitating both physically and mentally. When you're told that you can only "treat" it forever — essentially, when the doctor says you can't really do anything about it except manage the pain, or tells you that the pain is just in your head — it can leave you frustrated and depressed. Since most doctors focus on treating the pain symptom without trying to find the root cause, many people live years not knowing why.

I have written to you many times that before you treat any illness, you must first suspect the thyroid. In this case, it's because there is a disorder that causes whole-body musculoskeletal pain, which can even worsen and lengthen the pain you experience from other causes. It's hypothyroidism. Research shows that chronic pain and thyroid problems are intertwined.

Thyroid dysfunction can lead to:

  • Pain in your back, joint and hips
  • Tenderness of your muscles
  • Extreme fatigue and exhaustion
  • Fluctuations of your weight up or down depending on the type of thyroid problem

Your thyroid gland is part of your HPA (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal) axis. This axis plays a big role in how you respond to stress, your energy level, digestion, emotional well-being and immune system. Do we still wonder why such a chronically pain-plagued world would suffer a resurgence of communicable diseases?

It was only 2010 when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that chronic disease had moved past infectious disease as the #1 killer in the world for the first time in human history. A short decade later our so-called "modern" society — which encourages people to stay out of the sun, eat grains and other insulin-producing foods and work and exercise to exhaustion — has conspired to wreck our immune systems.

Indeed, it makes sense that multiple scientific trials have demonstrated without a doubt that the HPA axis is linked to the development of both fibromyalgia (a pain syndrome) and chronic fatigue. Research has also shown that most fibromyalgia patients have a thyroid condition that is not being adequately treated or one that has gone undiagnosed. Sadly, a lack of diagnosis is all too common in thyroid patients for a number of reasons.

First, many doctors order medical tests galore, surely enough, yet they are the wrong tests if one wants to get a full picture of someone's thyroid health. Sticking to TSH alone instead of ordering a full panel including free T3 (which is what your body can actually lose) and thyroid antibodies (to find out if your thyroid is under attack from your immune system) is foolish in today's world.

Second, the level of thyroid hormones in your blood may not always reflect the levels in your tissues thanks to problems with transportation of them into your tissue and tissue receptivity.

Third, you could be living with thyroid resistance (commonly found in patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue) — where your blood levels may appear normal but you're unable to actually use the thyroid hormones your body produces.

All of this means that if you've been living with chronic pain or fatigue or been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your thyroid could be to blame.

To find out, ask your doctor for a thyroid panel including:

  • TSH
  • T3
  • T4
  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • Reverse T3
  • Ratio of Free T3 and Reverse T3
  • Sex Hormone Binding Globulin
  • Thyroid Antibodies

Even a slightly underactive thyroid can be a causative factor leading to a multitude of pain problems and symptoms... yet this root cause of pain can be easily overcome with simple steps such as:

1) Avoid thyroid disruptors and inflammatory foods

To keep your thyroid functioning optimally, eliminate foods that disrupt its function or raise inflammation levels in your body including:

  • High mercury fish like tuna, mackerel and swordfish
  • Dairy
  • Corn
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Grains
  • Sugar

Sugar increases the risk of thyroid tumors. Fasting, especially abstaining from sugar, eliminates sugar cravings as your body adapts to burning fat instead of sugar. Replace these foods with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, organic and grass-fed meat and eggs, wild-caught salmon, nuts (especially Brazil nuts) and drink plenty of water.

2) Exercise regularly — with intensity, not duration

Yes, any physical activity can help you feel better when you're suffering from a thyroid condition. But exercising harder with periods of rest in between gives your vascular and adrenal system greater strength (as opposed to mere endurance). Understand that moderately intense and harder exercise means accelerating your heart rate. Activities like using a stationary bike at home can help you accomplish this.

If you normally don't exercise or your symptoms are severe, start slowly and work toward more intensity, not longer time periods of exhausting workouts. Good activities to try first include fast walking with periods of rest in between, water aerobics and light weightlifting with high repetitions.

3) Take thyroid-optimizing supplements

There are also nutrients that are known to boost thyroid health to help improve its function.

  • Iodine— This is your thyroid's main nutrient! Iodine provides your thyroid the fuel it needs to create the critical T3 and T4 hormones. The best source for iodine is kelp which also boasts powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • L-Tyrosine— This powerful amino acid partners with iodine to create the T3 and T4 hormones your body needs to help efficiently metabolize the calories you eat each day and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Selenium— A naturally-occurring trace mineral, selenium helps convert the relatively inactive T4s to the active thyroid hormone T3. Brazil nuts are the easiest source. One nut a day keeps the doctor away!
  • Ashwagandha root— A strong antioxidant, ashwagandha helps protect your thyroid, allowing it to function better and produce more T4. Plus, it works as an immune modulator to help regulate autoimmune inflammation (like what occurs in Hashimoto's) that can cause an underactive thyroid.