If you have an under-active thyroid, or Hashimoto’s and or dealing with perimenopause or menopause, you are going to want to read this post. A large majority of women dealing with thyroid dis-ease also battle with stubborn weight, slower metabolism and high cholesterol, or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, just to add insult to injury! My post today is really not to scare you, but instead to bring some awareness around steps you can take to start improving your health outcomes.
Today I want to share a little about the miracle molecule of life, nitric oxide. A really important molecule for everyone, but especially for women transitioning into perimenopause and menopause.
Just like nitric oxide, oestrogen helps to keep blood vessels open. As a women’s body gradually starts to produce less oestrogen, it causes changes to the endothelial lining of the arteries. This can lead to a greater build-up of plaque and thus a narrowing of the arterial walls. So, with oestrogen gradually reducing, it is incredibly important to focus on increasing nitric oxide levels.
What is nitric oxide?
Nitric oxide (NO) is a gas, which is incredibly unstable and toxic in the atmosphere but is the miracle molecule of life inside our bodies. The endothelial cells of the arteries produce nitric oxide to protect the arteries from inflammation and blood clotting. This way you are protected from strokes and coronary heart disease.
Functions of Nitric Oxide
- Dilates blood vessels to help lower blood pressure and prevent strokes and coronary heart disease.
- Prevents clotting
- As a neurotransmitter, it works in the regions of the brain that promote learning and memory. In fact, the brain has ten times more nitric oxide than any other organ in the body!! Especially important to understand if you are dealing with brainfog!
- It also helps with erectile function in women and men (yes women also benefit sexually)
- It regulates enzymes to support healthy digestion, which again is important when you are dealing with a sluggish thyroid
- It also helps to protect your skin from the sun.
Not surprising therefore that the founder of nitric oxide in the body, Dr Ignarro, dubbed it the miracle molecule of life. It serves a myriad of functions, that can be especially important for women working on improving thyroid function, whilst trying to push the menopause boulder up a hill.
Most women dealing with thyroid dysfunction, struggle with excess weight and fatigue, which can cause difficulties in exercising. Living a sedentary lifestyle with excess weight can lead to less nitric oxide being produced by the arteries. This coupled with lower levels of oestrogen and thus greater risk of plaque build-up, means that we must become really vigilant with ways to boost nitric oxide production.
Here are a few ways in which you can increase your nitric oxide production:
All protein sources are rich in arginine, an amino acid needed to make nitric oxide. Good levels of oily fish are a good place to start, so is chicken, but avoid the skin as this is high in saturated fats. The higher your saturated fat intake, the lower your nitric oxide production!
You can also supplement with L-arginine, which has been shown to be beneficial for women in menopause especially.
It is therefore important to limit your intake of saturated fats and processed foods.
Include as many colourful fruit and vegetables into your diet a day, as these are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants help to destroy the free radicals that go after nitric oxide. So always think dark coloured fruit and vegetables and eat as many different varieties in a day as possible.
Good fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds are also important.
This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase NO. When you exercise, you increase the blood flow through the skeletal muscles and the increase in pressure against the lining of the arteries stimulates nitric oxide production.
Types of exercise include weight training, brisk walking, running or other aerobic exercises. Even if you can manage 30 minutes a day or 30 minutes 4-5 times a week, this means you are boosting your nitric oxide production! An important point to add here is you can increase this by ensuring you breathe through your nose.
Breathing through your nose instead of your mouth will increase nitric oxide production. When you inhale through your nose, large amounts of nitric oxide are produced in the nasal passage. This helps to relax the trachea and the bronchial smooth muscle in order to get more oxygen into your lungs. At the same time, the nitric oxide is then transported into the lungs where it dilates the pulmonary arteries. One of the beautiful benefits of nostril breathing is that it allows for the nitric oxide to protect you from any pathogens that you may be inhaling. Breathing through the mouth means that the nitric oxide will not make it into the lungs, so always aim to breathe through your nose to increase nitric oxide getting into your lungs.
Nitric oxide is a powerful molecule, and it turns out one we all really need. It’s incredible anti-inflammatory properties can offer significant benefits for women dealing with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s and menopause.
Many women with hashimotos or hypothyroidism really struggle to exercise due to their ongoing fatigue. I truly believe that there is so much more we can do to support the thyroid, than just taking levothyroxine. One of the first areas to focus on is the mind and understanding that each of your thoughts create your reality. This is why after years in clinical practice, I have created a 6-week online course to support women dealing with thyroid dysfunction. My course is there to teach you how your mind is shaping your reality, but also to provide you with tools and techniques to change your current reality in health and life and to create the life you desire. So if you are struggling with your ability to exercise or move or having ongoing symptoms associated with your thyroid dysfunction, this course is the perfect place to start. It covers material that is very seldom seen within the thyroid healing modalities.
If you are interested, you can always reach out to speak to me and book in for a free breakthrough call or you can sign up to start today.
It is therefore important to work on optimising your diet and lifestyle to ensure that you can benefit from this miracle molecule of life.
If you want to learn more you can watch Dr Mark Hyman’s interview with Dr Ignarro.