Your thyroid is the body’s metabolic engine and one of the most important glands in your body. The Thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped gland that wraps around your windpipe. It is located in the front of the neck just behind the Adam’s apple area. The role of the Thyroid gland is basically that of a metabolic gatekeeper. The hormones secreted, regulate the rate of function of almost all tissues in the body. It controls the way you metabolize food, the way you use energy, lose and gain weight, how well or poorly you sleep, the condition of your hair and nails, and much, much more. We know that women are more prone to thyroid conditions than men.
One of the best ways to support your thyroid gland as you journey through life is by eating healthy, exercising and reducing your exposure to harmful foods and toxins. As we grow older our thyroid faces more challenges. Women face these during pregnancy and menopause. Men also face hormonal challenges as we age. As we get older, our ability to create energy is reduced. Once we hit 30 years old our body will lose 300 calories of energy potential every decade. So, at age 40 your body requires 300 calories less than you did at 30 to support the same weight and at age 50 you lose another 300 calories of energy making potential. Exercise along with healthy foods is one way to counter the aging metabolism. Part of this energy loss may be due to the natural aging of our body, in particular the thyroid and partly due to our dietary and lifestyle habits.
Our thyroid, like other organs in our body requires specific nutrients to work properly. If you have any of the following conditions, you may have a thyroid issue; fatigue, feeling exhausted much of the time, sleepiness weight gain or weight loss, bulging eyes, swollen face and eyes, cold hands and feet, eczema, psoriasis, anxiety, dizziness, low blood pressure, heart palpitations, high cholesterol (even with medication), altered menstrual cycles, constipation, bloating, hair loss, thinning eye brows, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, feeling “spaced out”, feeling clumsy, a lack of coordination, ridges in your nails or brittle nails, and thinning hair (or outright loss of hair), depression and mood swings. The thyroid plays a major role throughout many of the body’s systems. Thyroid test do not always tell the story about your thyroid health. I have seen many people with normal thyroid test that had thyroid dysfunction. If you think you are having thyroid issues, consult with a doctor.
You can also do a thyroid exam yourself . Check out this website for instructions on how to do the self-examination. If your neck is swollen you may a goiter which is an sign that the thyroid is having health issues. It can be caused by too much or too little iodine, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and other thyroid health conditions.
The function of the thyroid is highly dependent on the following nutrients. A deficiency in any of them may interfere with its ability to work optimally. There are other nutrients the thyroid needs however those listed below seem to be the ones most people are lacking.
Iron ( although important, too much iron can aggravate thyroid issues )
Vitamin A ( all orange foods such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato and salmon have the antioxidant beta carotene which the body can converts to Vitamin A)
The best foods for these nutrients
Iodine: Primary sources: sea vegetables (kelp, dulse, hijiki, nori, arame, wakame, kombu) and seafood (salmon, sardines), as well as iodized sea salt.
Secondary sources: egg yolk, asparagus, lima beans, mushrooms, spinach, summer squash, Swiss chard, garlic
Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna, mushrooms, halibut, soybeans, sunflower seeds (Note: selenium content of land-based foods is contingent on soil substrate selenium levels.)
Zinc: Fresh sardines, turkey, , split peas, whole grains, sunflower seeds, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, ginger root, maple syrup
Copper: Beef, shiitake mushrooms, dark chocolate, tomato paste, pearled barley, nuts, beans (white beans, chickpeas), sunflower seeds
Iron: Clams, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, white beans, blackstrap molasses, lentils, spinach
Vitamin A: (beta-carotene form) Kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash/pumpkin, spinach, cantaloupe, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce
Vitamin B2: (riboflavin) Brewer’s yeast, almonds, wheat germ, wild rice, mushrooms, egg yolks
Vitamin B3: (niacin) Brewer’s yeast, rice bran, wheat bran, peanuts (with skin), poultry white meat
Vitamin B6: (pyroxidine) Brewer’s yeast, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, fish (tuna, salmon, trout), beans ( lentils, lima beans, navy beans, garbanzos, pinto beans), walnuts, brown rice, bananas
Vitamin C: Guava, peppers (chili, Bell, sweet), kiwifruit, citrus, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, papaya, parsley, greens (kale, turnip, collard, mustard )
Vitamin E: Whole grains, almonds, beans, sunflower seeds, peanuts, liver, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, rice bran and wheat bran
Other foods and nutrients that help our thyroid
Algae: algae contain most vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, many enzymes and other phytonutrients that aid in immune function and detoxification of the body’s many organs. They are also rich in antioxidants and chlorophyll which are powerful at protecting and detoxing the body’s many organs. Chlorophyll has shown an ability to make the thyroid healthier. The algae, haematococcus pluvialis, is the richest source of astaxanthin, which is the most powerful food antioxidant on the planet. Algae are one of natures truly amazing super foods.
Maca: Maca root has nutrients that help balance the pituitary gland which gives instruction to the thyroid gland. This traditional South American root also has nutrients that the thyroid needs. Maca root has zinc, B-complex vitamins, iron and copper.
Omega 3 fatty acids;( salmon, sardines, ground flax seed, walnuts and fish oil ) omega 6; most grains and vegetable oils
Gamma-Linolenic Acid: helps balance hormones, create energy, protect nerves
Black and red radish have been used by some doctors in the old Soviet Union as accepted medical treatment for hypothyroidism. Raphanin, the main sulphur part in radishes, is chiefly responsible for keeping the production of thyroxine and calcitonin (a peptide hormone) in normal balance.
Holy Basil helps modulate insulin levels and helps increase thyroid hormone production.
Gugulipid has been used to boost thyroid output ( seek the advice of a health professional before using herbs for any health issue )
Ashawaganda, and ancient herb is considered to be very effective at helping improve thyroid function. ( seek the advice of a health professional before using herbs for any health issue )
Biotin is a B Vitamin that has important metabolic functions for the thyroid.
Magnesium: magnesium is used in over 300 metabolic actions in our bodies.
Foods should you avoid if you have thyroid issues.
Goitrogenic foods interfere with the thyroids ability to make certain hormons. In a health person that eats goitrogenic foods the thyroid compensates by making more of the hormone. A person with an unhealthy thyroid the thyroid just can’t make up the difference. Goitrogenic foods include; broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, brussel sprouts, collard greens, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, soy and turnips. A chemical in soybeans mixes with iodine, blocking the absorption of iodine, which is crucial for the production of thyroxin.
Gluten: Like goitrogenic foods, gluten interferes with the thyroids ability to make certain hormones. Gluten is in wheat species in all their various forms — durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, triticale, einkorn, emmer, graham, malt, couscous, seitan, bulgur, and faro — plus wheat’s first cousins, rye and barley. Oats are a second cousin to wheat, and they may also contain gluten proteins, but generally in much lower amounts and more often as a result of cross-contamination in growing, storage or processing.
Refined and processed foods such as hydrogenated oils ( trans fats ), white breads, pastries, candies, and sugary drinks. These can create resistance to insulin and an imbalance in hormone levels.
Polyunsaturated oils: vegetables oils are a combination of corn, soy and other vegetable oils. They are harmful to your thyroid and are also found in mayonnaise and salad dressings. Use coconut oil or olive oil.
Caffeine: caffeine causes disruption of the thyroid and other glands.
Fried foods; are usually fried in vegetable oils and have a flour based breading that turns to blood sugar quickly. So this is doubly bad.
High glycemic foods: white sugar, white potatoes, white breads, white rice, pastries, candies, cookies, sugary drinks etc…they cause insulin resistance and have negative effect on several hormones. Aim to eat foods with a GI of 55 or a GL of 10 or less the majority of the time. Use this glycemic list as a tool.
If your thyroid is healthy, keep it that way by eating healthy and avoiding toxins. If you have thyroid issues certainly avoid those foods that are harmful to the thyroid and make sure your diet is rich in a variety of nutrients with adequate protein and low in simple sugars. The thyroid may be small but it performs an incredibly complex and important job. Always discuss health issues with your doctor.
Wally Bishop C.N.C.
The contents of this blog is not and should not be considered medical advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. Never quit taking prescription medications unless advised to do so by your doctor.