After the constant stress of med school, I could barely function,” recalls Taz Bhatia, MD, author of Super Woman Rx. As a resident, she worked 30-hour shifts without sleep, all while worrying about her patients, work and paying off debt. By the time she launched her career in emergency medicine, she was facing her own health crisis, suffering from joint pain, insomnia, weight gain and hair falling out in clumps. Despite her medical training, it took her years to figure out that her symptoms were the result of an exhausted thyroid. At the time, the medication her doctor prescribed only made her feel more frazzled and weak, recalls Dr. Taz. “I knew there had to be another way.” And she set out to find it.
And when the butterfly-shaped gland in the neck is overworked, thanks to everything from chronic stress to nutrient shortfalls, it slows down, causing a cascade of fatigue, weight gain, anxiety and depression. “The thyroid is the only gland that has effects on every cell in the body,” says holistic chiropractor Marianne Teitelbaum, author of Healing the Thyroid with Ayurveda (Buy on Amazon, $14.34). “To treat the thyroid, you have to treat the whole body.”
Women experience thyroid problems — and the extra weight they bring — up to 10 times more than men. One reason? Chronic stress. According to a study in the journal Brain and Behavior, women are twice as likely to feel severe, prolonged stress. “When we’re highly stressed, our adrenal glands secrete too much of the stress hormone cortisol,” Dr. Taz says. “As cortisol levels go up, metabolism revving thyroid hormone in our body goes down.” That’s bad news for our waistline: As thyroid expert Izabella Wentz, PharmD, explains, women under stress experience all the draining symptoms of an underactive thyroid, plus the inf lammation, slowed metabolism, cravings and dangerous belly fat that come from cortisol overload. No wonder thyroid function is 70 percent lower in women with high stress level — a factor that increases our risk of obesity by 414 percent .
Healing the thyroid and losing stuck-on pounds begins with self-care, says Dr. Taz, who blended traditional and proven ancient remedies to heal her thyroid. And when she did, her joints stopped aching, her brain fog lifted and her hair stopped falling out. “My energy soared and I lost weight!” Since then, Dr. Taz has helped more than 10,000 patients do the same thing.
Dr. Taz’s three-week plan floods the body with inflammation calming foods and relies on herbs and relaxation techniques to revive a stress-scorched gland and burn stubborn fat. Research shows this soothing approach relieves thyroid-suppressing inflammation by up to 82 percent. Today at age 49, Dr. Taz says, “I feel like I can run circles around my younger self!”
“Changes can occur overnight and weight starts melting off,” Teitelbaum assures. Just ask Roxanne Gates, who shed 128 pounds in 16 months when she reached for healing, anti-inf lammatory foods. “All my health conditions cleared up, and I got off my thyroid medication!” Ready to heal your thyroid and watch the excess pounds melt away? Here’s the mind-body plan that melts off inches.
Start slimming today!
A mind-body approach that dials down mental and physical stress is key to healing a sluggish thyroid and reversing the weight gain and fatigue it causes for 80 percent of women over age 45, asserts Taz Bhatia, MD, author of The 21-Day Belly Fix (Buy on Amazon, $15.01). Her holistic three-week plan includes satisfying foods, healing herbs and easy habits proven to heal the gland and melt fat fast.
One woman FIRST spoke to dropped 12 pounds in seven days on the plan. “I want women to understand that their health is in their hands,” says Dr. Taz. “They don’t have to accept being in a sleepless, low-energy, gaining-weight state as a part of aging.”
Stress-induced, thyroid-slowing weight gain is only worsened by traditional advice to eat less and exercise more, asserts Dr. Taz. So on her plan, you’ll eat more: every three hours — up to 1,800 calories per day. This takes pressure off the adrenal glands, which release cortisol, the stress hormone known to block the thyroid’s metabolism-revving powers. When thyroid hormones are low, “the metabolism slows down as a protective mechanism, inadvertently telling the body we’re experiencing a famine and putting us into fat-storage mode,” explains thyroid expert Izabella Wentz, PharmD. “But eating frequent nutrient-dense meals sends ‘safety signals’ to the body that help boost the metabolism.”
On Dr. Taz’s plan, meals focus on fruits, veggies, legumes, fish, and poultry. You’ll trade refined carbs for smart carbs like nuts and seeds and temporarily avoid inflammation- spiking dairy, red meat, and gluten. “The one type of diet most systems of medicine — East and West — agree on is an anti-inflammatory diet,” she says. “Every Rx in my plan is designed to reduce inflammation.” Why that matters: “The inflammation triggered by long-term stress disrupts the thyroid most of all.”
Each day you’ll enjoy a fruit smoothie for breakfast, then a hearty lunch and dinner, plus two snacks, keeping total carbs under 100 grams and protein around 40 to 50 grams per day. For example, breakfast is a dairy-free blueberry and strawberry smoothie. Dr. Taz likes adding in two scoops of Garden of Life protein powder (Buy on Amazon, $33.59) since high-protein meals are linked to a healthier thyroid. Lunch might be black bean soup and fish tacos, then coconut chicken and veggies for dinner and nuts or spicy bone broth as snacks. Then, to speed slimming, work in these strategies:
Down an AM shot.
Stress doesn’t just stall thyroid function, it erodes the gut lining, slowing the thyroid even more, explains Dr. Taz. That’s why she suggests sipping a soothing “belly tonic” of one to two ounces of aloe vera juice like Nature’s Way Aloe Vera Leaf Juice (Buy at SwansonVitamins.com, $9.29) before breakfast to heal the gut lining and feed the “good” bacteria that support immunity and proper thyroid function.
Strike a pose.
Instead of strenuous exercises that can tax the body, Dr. Taz suggests 20 minutes of yoga daily. Gentle poses are proven to lower stress hormones while boosting calming brain chemicals. “Allowing your adrenals to rest and heal this way is a key step to restoring energy if you’re under chronic stress,” confirms James L. Wilson, ND, PhD, author of Adrenal Fatigue (Buy on Amazon, $13.39).
Sip this PM tea.
“Because the adrenal glands and the thyroid work in tandem, treating low thyroid with- out treating the adrenals is one of the biggest reasons people continue to feel exhausted,” contends Wentz. That’s why Dr. Taz advises supplementing with an Indian root called ashwagandha, which helps heal the adrenal glands and reduce stress, improving thyroid function. In one study, people taking ashwagandha lowered their stress by 33 percent and dropped more than twice as much body weight as the control group in eight weeks. In a Japanese study the herb cut stress-induced fatigue by 80 percent in five days. In another, people who took ashwagandha experienced improvements in thyroid function that were up to 350 percent higher than those in a control group.
But as Dr. Taz explains, “Timing is important since ashwagandha can be stimulating. I recommend using it midday to help with the energy drop-off many people have in the afternoon around 3 or 4 pm.” Try 500 mg. in capsule form, like Gaia Herbs Ashwagandha (Buy at iHerb.com, $19.99), or sip a tea, like Organic India Tulsi Ashwagandha Tea (Buy at iHerb.com, $4.69).
End the day with a salt soak.
Taking a hot bath with four cups of Epsom salts for 20 minutes before bedtime can relieve stress, and it delivers a boost of thyroid-supporting magnesium. Women’s health expert Sara Gottfried, MD, says, “Think of it as a hormone-balancing alternative to a cocktail — one that actually helps you relax while improving your sleep.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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