Foods to Naturally Support Thyroid Health
By: Laurie Roth-Donnell
Master Herbalist and Holistic Health Practitioner
In hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), the typical signs include lack of energy, sensitivity to bright light, constipation, irregular periods, chills, hair loss, dry skin, forgetfulness, and weight gain. Many times the body suffers from an over stimulated endocrine system triggered by stress, ingesting stimulants, iodine deficiency, or estrogen dominance, which interfere with proper thyroid function.
The pituitary gland controls the thyroid and adrenal glands, therefore, the nutrients involved in hormone production and regulation of all three glands is particularly important. A combination of vitamins C and B complex, especially B3 and B5, Manganese, Zinc, Selenium and the amino acid Tyrosine (from which Thyroxine is made) all play a role in thyroid health. Caution is to be taken with the supplementation of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, as these are beneficial, but in excess can cause elevated pulse rate and trigger increased thyroid activity. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible recommends avoiding all stimulants, engaging in regular exercise and following supplement therapy: multivitamin, multi-mineral, vitamin C (1,000 mg), Manganese (10 mg), Kelp with Iodine and Tyrosine (2,000 mg- for hypothyroidism only).
The first natural line of defense for mild cases of hypothyroidism is increased exercise and adding iodine sources to your diet (assisting thyroid production of the metabolism-regulating hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3)). Dietary supplements containing animal sources of thyroid hormones and nutrients like selenium also support a healthy thyroid. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, one should avoid raw cruciferous plants as they contain phyto-chemicals known as goitrogens (compounds that induce goiter formation by interfering with the synthesis of the hormone produced by the thyroid). The cooking or fermentation process inactivates goitrogen, negating the dangers.
Author Ken Blanchard in What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Hypothyroidism details foods that may interfere with prescription thyroid medication absorption, as well as, foods that might inhibit T3 production, wherefore should be avoided. His list contains beverages such as caffeinated or decaffeinated drinks and soda pop. He also suggests avoiding fats such as butter, lard, vegetable shortening, peanuts, pine nuts, root or starchy vegetables such as carrots, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Cruciferous vegetables including arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, watercress, bok choy, turnip greens, rutabaga, Napa or Chinese cabbage, daikon, horseradish, radishes, kohlrabi, and kale are all goitrogen rich produce. Although these foods are extremely healthful and contain isothiocyanates that break carcinogens down in the body, when ingested uncooked by someone with compromised thyroid function, may further suppress thyroid activity. Blanchard also cautions against eating soy or soy related products including soybeans, soymilk, and protein powder, which have also been shown to suppress thyroid function.
Thyroid friendly foods include beans, water herb teas, olive oil, flaxseed oil, safflower oil, almonds, walnuts, low fat meat, rice, and vegetables (except cruciferous of course). Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which stimulates thyroid function, increasing metabolism and weight loss. I recommend using culinary grade coconut oil when baking and cooking. Dulse, a red algae, is rich in iron and loaded with essential minerals, B vitamins, C, A, and E vitamins and is particularly high in iodine, a metabolic mineral very important for the thyroid gland and brain function. In addition, dulse has the highest frequency of all essential minerals, acts as a controller for calcium metabolism, and protects the brain by destroying toxins in the blood before they pass through the blood-brain barrier. Dulse can be purchased in a powder form and added to your favorite smoothie. Natural sources of iodine include sea foods such as bass, cod, halibut, perch, pike, red snapper, shad, sole, sturgeon, swordfish, tilefish, rainbow trout, and yellowtail. All great sources of natural iodine.
The incident of mild hypothyroidism in the United States is estimated at thirty percent in women. Many women, later in life, commonly confuse the symptoms of thyroid malfunction with those of menopause, going years without a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. In order to monitor your thyroid health, testing after the age of 35 is recommended. Please visit your primary care physician regarding testing and treatment options if you are experiencing any symptoms of thyroid over or under activity.
Dr. Andrew Weil, (http://www.drweil.com)
The New Optimum Nutrition Bible, by Patrick Holford
What Your Doctor May not Tell You about Hypothyroidism, by Ken Blanchard