The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, can have a dramatic impact on a huge variety of bodily functions as well as your weight and overall health. Here are just a few of the symptoms of low thyroid function (hypothyroidism): exhaustion, feeling down, anxiety, brain fog, high blood pressure, always cold, can’t sleep, weight gain, high cholesterol. Today’s blog explores the way in which you can help re-balance your thyroid function naturally through your diet.
Nutrients that support our thyroid
Iodine (I): This is the most important trace element found in thyroid functioning. Without iodine, our thyroid does not have the basic building blocks it needs to make the necessary hormones to support all of the tissues in the body. Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3) are the most essential, active, iodine-containing hormones we have
Selenium (Se): This element is indispensable to our thyroid in several ways. Selenium-containing enzymes protect the thyroid gland when we are under stress, working like a “detox,” to help flush oxidative and chemical stress, and even social stress – which can cause reactions in our body. Selenium-based proteins help regulate hormone synthesis, converting T4 into the more accessible T3. These proteins and enzymes help regulate metabolism and also help maintain the right amount of thyroid hormones in the tissues and blood, as well as organs such as the liver, kidneys, and even the brain. Selenium also helps regulate and recycle our iodine stores.
- Brazil nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Fish (halibut, sardines, flounder, salmon)
- Shellfish (oysters, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops)
- Meat (Beef, liver, lamb, pork)
- Poultry (chicken, turkey)
- Mushrooms (button, crimini, shiitake)
Zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), and copper (CU): These three trace metals are vital to thyroid function. Low levels of zinc can cause T4, T3, and the thyroid stimulating hormone(TSH) to also become low. Research shows that both hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroids) and hypothyroidism (under active thyroids), can sometimes create a zinc deficiency leading to lowered thyroid hormones.
Foods that block Thyroid function:
Here are nine foods to limit or avoid as you manage hypothyroidism:
Soy: The hormone estrogen can interfere with your body's ability to use thyroid hormone. Soy is loaded with plant-based phytoestrogen, and some researchers believe too much soy may increase a person's risk for hypothyroidism. People with hypothyroidism should moderate their intake of soy. However, because soy hasn't been definitively linked to hypothyroidism, there are no specific dietary guidelines.
Cruciferous Vegetables: such as broccoli and cabbage, can interfere with the production of thyroid hormone, particularly people who have an iodine deficiency. Digesting these vegetables can block the thyroid's ability to absorb iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function. People with hypothyroidism may want to limit their intake of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and bok choy. Cooking the vegetables can reduce the effect that cruciferous vegetables have on the thyroid gland. Limiting your intake to 5 ounces a day appears to have no adverse effect on thyroid function.
Peanuts and peanut butter: This common legume is very acidic and contains goitrogens.
High-mercury fish: Mercury is a known thyroid disruptor. The worst offenders are swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, shark and most tuna
Sugary Foods: Hypothyroidism can cause the body's metabolism to slow down - that means it's easy to put on pounds if you aren't careful. You want to avoid the foods with excess amounts of sugar because it's a lot of calories with no nutrients…and can quickly lead to weight gain. Complete elimination of added sugars in your diet is best…but at the very least, making smarter (lower sugar) choices will also go a long way.
Processed Foods: Processed foods tend to have a lot of sugar and sodium, and people with hypothyroidism should avoid both! Having an underactive thyroid increases a person's risk for high blood pressure, and too much sugar/sodium further increases this risk.
If you are on thyroid hormone replacement medication, you should also avoid:
Gluten (wheat, barley, rye, and other grains). Gluten can irritate the small intestine and may hamper absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medication.
Fatty Foods have been found to disrupt the body's ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement medicines, Fats may also interfere with the thyroid's ability to produce hormone as well. Some health care professionals recommend that you cut out all fried foods and reduce your intake of fats from sources such as butter, mayonnaise, margarine, and fatty cuts of meat.
Also, avoid taking your thyroid hormone at the same time as:
- Soybean flour
- Cottonseed meal
- Iron supplements or multivitamins containing iron
- Calcium supplements
- Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium
- Some ulcer medications, such as sucralfate (Carafate)
- Some cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as those containing cholestyramine (Questran) and colestipol (Colestid)
To avoid potential interactions, eat these foods or use these products several hours before or after you take your thyroid medication.
Use herbs. There are many herbs that can support thyroid function, such as sage, ashwaganda, bacopa monnieri, and coleus forskohlii. Combined with iodine and selenium, these herbs can help boost energy and support healthy metabolism. A functional medicine practitioner can help with the formula based on individual need.