The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of the neck, but don’t let its size fool you, the hormones that the thyroid secretes regulate metabolism in every cell of the body and a deficiency (or excess) of thyroid hormones can affect virtually all body functions. Let’s look at some eating tips for a healthy thyroid.
Making Thyroid Hormone: The Raw Materials In Your Diet
Thyroid hormone is made up of a combination of the amino acid tyrosine and the trace mineral iodine so it’s important to include enough of each in your diet.
The best dietary sources of tyrosine include:
- Lean meats
- Cottage cheese
- Turkey, seaweed
The best dietary sources of iodine include:
- Sea vegetables – including seaweeds such as Kelp, Arame, Hiziki and Kombu
- Fish and Seafood caught from the sea (rather than fresh water)
- Navy Beans
- Organic unsweetened Yoghurt
Iodized Table Salt Or Sea Salt?
We can also get iodine from iodized table salt, but a better source is salt harvested naturally from the sea or Himalayan rock salt. While naturally harvested salt only contributes a small amount of iodine, it also contains a balance of trace minerals that contribute to overall healthy body function.
Too much or too little iodine can cause serious thyroid issues. Iodized table salt often contains problematic fillers and is over-processed, so you can overdose on iodine. With sea salt or Himalayan salt, this does not happen.
Another very important failing with iodized table salt is that unless it is processed under strict air-tight conditions and also stored in the same way, both by supermarkets and by you at home, the added iodine simply evaporates!
Iodized table salt often gives you little or no iodine because it has evaporated due to poor storage before you eat it!
Key Signs And Symptoms of Thyroid Disease:
|Underactive (Hypo) Thyroid||Overactive (Hyper) Thyroid|
|Fatigue, lethargy and low motivation||Weakness, fatigue|
|Feeling cold||Sweating, heat intolerance|
|Weight gain||Weight Loss|
|Dry skin and hair||Warm, moist, thin skin|
|Menstrual problems||Increased heart rate|
|Muscle weakness and joint pain||Osteopenia|
|Recurrent infections, reduced immunity||
Very often these days, thyroid problems are autoimmune in origin – that means your immune system cannot see that certain tissues belong to you and starts attacking them – in this case it’s the thyroid gland. Autoimmune Hypothyroidism is called “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis” and Hyperthyroidism is called “Graves Disease”
While both conditions manifest in different symptoms, sometimes individuals will swing between hypo and hyper thyroid, following these basic steps can help reduce symptoms overall.
Foods to Add to Improve Thyroid Health
Fresh vegetables and sea vegetables are packed with vital nutrients and are alkalizing and anti-inflammatory. They also provide fibre that helps regulate the elimination of excess hormones and wastes through the gut, detoxifies and feeds good gut bacteria, which in turn promotes a healthier immune system. (Please note: omit the sea vegetables if you have an over-active thyroid)
Fresh Fruit adds nutrients, antioxidants and fibre to the diet – not too many though. 1-3 pieces a day is beneficial, any more starts to add too much extra sugar.
Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which is important for the manufacture and conversion of thyroid hormone. Other nuts and seeds are also a rich source of nutrients and fibre.
Deep Sea, Fatty Fish provides high levels of omega-3 fats for boosting immunity, reducing inflammation and supporting thyroid, brain and circulatory health.
Moderate amounts of protein will provide nutrients and amino acids that provide the building blocks for thyroid hormone, neurotransmitters and tissue repair.
Probiotic rich foods such as kefir, organic goat milk yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha, natto, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables all help promote a healthy gut environment and a balanced gut flora, which increases immunity, helps repair the gut lining and reduces inflammation. Please note: Many people with autoimmune thyroid issues (Hashimoto’s) also have gut issues. Probiotic foods could produce some acute symptoms, so involve your practitioner before you add these.
Water helps with hydration and digestive function and helps prevent fatigue, constipation, low energy and sugar cravings, drink at least one glass every two hours.
Food to Avoid to Improve Thyroid Health
According to recent research, the incidence of autoimmune diseases is increasing worldwide along with the expansion of industrial food processing and food additive consumption. Consumption of nutrient-poor processed food adds to our toxic load, increases inflammation and insulin resistance, reduces immunity and contributes to disease states and autoimmune conditions. Because of this it’s best to avoid:
- Conventional A1 cow milk (A2 cow milk, goat and sheep milk are less allergenic)
- Processed foods
- Food additives
Goitrogens: The Need to Balance These Special Foods
If your thyroid condition tends to be more under-active than overactive, then you need to minimize or avoid a group of foods called goitrogens. These foods can disrupt the production of thyroid hormones by interfering with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. Unfortunately, some of these foods are beneficial vegetables so it’s more a matter of minimizing rather than avoiding these foods. Let’s take a look.
Gluten – AVOID: Gluten sensitivity contributes to a wide range of autoimmune responses and is top of the list of potential goitrogens.
Isothiocyanates: These compounds are primarily found in cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower, spinach, mustard greens, kale, turnips, and collards. As these foods have obvious benefits we don’t want to take them out completely: steam, cook, or ferment your vegetables to reduce the goitrogenic compounds, rotate your choices so that you’re not eating the same foods every day and these nutrient dense foods can remain in.
Soy – Minimise and Choose your source carefully: Cooking and fermenting soy at least partially “turns off” the goitrogenic activity of this food. Favor fermented, cultured, or otherwise “aged” soybean products such as tempeh, soy sauce, miso, and natto. If you do eat whole soybean foods such as edamame or tofu, eat them cooked or steamed.
Lifestyle Choices to Improve Thyroid Health
- Quit smoking – toxic chemicals and heavy metals in cigarettes such as Mercury and Cadmium exposure have been shown to significantly affect thyroid function.
- Exercise – Stimulates thyroid secretion, combats stress, improves bone health, immunity and circulation and improves sleep.
- Manage stress – Several studies have shown that stress can ignite autoimmune reactions and worsen inflammation. Include activities such as, exercise, hobbies, meditation, yoga, dancing, spending time in nature to minimize your stress levels
Top Three Supplements to Support Thyroid Health
60-70ug per day selenium is required for normal thyroid hormone synthesis, activation and metabolism and improved immune function. If you have Hashimoto’s, experts recommend between 200-400 ug per day.
1000-5000IU per day will support immunity and cellular health
20-30mg per day supports the conversion and uptake of thyroid hormone into the cells and optimizes immune function.
There’s also a lot that you can do by way of supporting your thyroid gland. Learn about your condition. Be aware of the symptoms of an under-functioning thyroid gland. And use the diet, lifestyle and dietary supplements to support fantastic thyroid health.