By Mandy Froelich / Life in Bloom
Hello, beautiful people.
The sun is shining, we are making it through, and most importantly, these challenging times are propelling all of us toward the change(s) we wish to see in the world. If you are struggling, please know that I and many others are praying for your wellbeing, health, and self-realization. Hang in there.
Let’s Chat About the Thyroid…
Today, I think it is pertinent we discuss the thyroid gland. Especially in the Midwest, where soils lack sufficient levels of iodine, knowing about the gland and how to nourish it naturally is so important.
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that rests near the base of your neck. The gland makes and stores thyroid hormones that affect nearly every cell in your body. When the body sends the thyroid gland a signal called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), it releases thyroid hormones into the blood stream. When thyroid levels are low, the signal is then sent to the pituitary gland (located at the base of your brain).
A healthy and functioning thyroid is necessary for growth, cell repair, and metabolism – the process by which your body converts what you eat into energy. Because the metabolism affects your body’s temperature and the rate at which you burn calories, people with low hypothyroidism often feel cold and/or may gain weight easily.
What causes thyroid issues?
Sometimes, the thyroid doesn’t release enough TSH. This is called primary Hypothyroidism – and it’s one of the most common types of hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is when the body produces too much TSH, and this can cause its own list of problems.
Primary hypothyroidism is believed to result from an iodine deficiency, a genetic disorder, taking certain medications, and surgery that removes part of the thyroid. Emerging research also suggests that a compromised gut may impact the endocrine system.
Symptoms of an Under-active Thyroid:
- nervousness, anxiety and irritability
- hyperactivity – you may find it hard to stay still and have a lot of nervous energy
- mood swings
- difficulty sleeping
- feeling tired all the time
- sensitivity to heat
- muscle weakness
- needing to pee more often than usual
- persistent thirst
- loss of interest in sex
Symptoms of a Hyperactive Thyroid:
- weight loss despite an increased appetite,
- rapid heart rate,
- intolerance to heat, and
- frequent bowel movements.
It is at this point I will remind readers that although I am a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), plant-based chef, Reiki master therapist, ACE-certified personal trainer, reflexologist, and ISD-certified detoxification specialist, I am not a doctor. If you or someone you know suffers from thyroidal concerns, you should consult with a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner before making any major lifestyle changes. All information shared is based on research. Please make informed decisions.
7 Ways to Nourish Your Thyroid
As Hippocrates, the father of modern-day medicine, said over 2,000 years ago, food can be our medicine. While certain glandular supplements and protocols may work best for detoxing the thyroid and rebuilding the gut, the following tips will also support your endocrine system. For a personalized nutritional plan, click here.
1. Avoid Iodine deficiency
Iodine is a key determinant of thyroid disorders. Because the mineral helps to convert and release thyroid hormones, a deficiency can result in hyper- or hypothyroidism. Iodine-rich foods include sea vegetables, organic yogurt, raw milk, eggs, and wild-caught cod. Note: High levels of iodine can aggravate thyroid conditions.
2. Avoid inflammatory foods
A possible cause of thyroid nodules and other related problems to the thyroid gland is inflammation. Inflammation in the body can slow down the conversion and production of your thyroid hormones. As a result, it is essential to avoid inflammatory-causing foods.
This means stay away from processed foods with added sugars, artificial flavors and sweeteners, packaged foods with preservatives, and possible trigger foods like gluten and dairy.
3. Reduce your stress levels
Research shows that physical and mental stress can cause changes to your thyroid hormone levels. Overloaded glands may suppress the immune system, altering the function of the adrenal and thyroid glands. To stress less, exercise, meditate, eat healthily, devote time doing things you love, spend time with your family, and journal. Also, make sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
4. Supplement with Ashwagandha & Maca
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb and traditional medicine in Ayurveda. It is often used for thyroid dysfunctions. In a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the effectiveness of ashwagandha was studied. When patients took 600 mg of ashwagandha extract daily for eight weeks, their T4 levels improved significantly compared to placebo.
Maca is an adaptogen cruciferous root vegetable that has been utilized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Maca does not change hormone levels but stimulates the endocrine system to maintain balance in a variety of ways. As a result, it has been found to benefit the thyroid and…
- Improve energy
- Improve libido (sex drive) and sexual function in both men and women
- Improve fertility and reproductive function in both men and women
- Increase sperm count and sperm motility
- Increase the number of receptors for neurotransmitter hormones that regulate mood, sleep, and cognitive function
- Support collagen production, used for bone, muscle, hair, skin, and nail health
Learn more here.
5. Take probiotics
Research has linked hypothyroidism to disorders of the small intestine. An overgrowth of certain bacteria has also been found to increase the risk of thyroid dysfunction. In one case, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) was reported to be present in more than half of patients with hypothyroidism. To boost healthy bacteria, either eat fermented foods (read on below) or supplement with a probiotic.
6. Eat foods rich in Selenium, Zinc, and B Vitamins
These nutrients are vital for a healthy, functioning thyroid. Selenium, for instance, is needed for the conversion of T4 to T3. Foods rich in selenium include brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pinto beans, halibut, grass-fed beef, organic oats, and wild-caught salmon. Foods rich in zinc and B vitamins also support the thyroid. Lamb, grass-feed beef, cashews, spinach, chicken, eggs, mushrooms, chickpeas, and asparagus are abundant in these nutrients.
7. Reduce toxic exposures
You are the result of what you think, eat, breathe, put on your skin, and surround yourself with (including people). Be mindful of your body’s exposure to chemical toxins which can cause inflammatory reactions that hinder thyroid function. Certain medications, birth control pills, and cleaning products should be avoided when possible. It is also worth mentioning that heavy metals, like mercury and amalgam fillings, can disrupt hormone balance. You may benefit from seeing a holistic dentist and removing silver fillings.
Top 5 Foods to Heal the Thyroid
For the entire process to occur (TRH -> TSH -> thyroid -> T4 -> conversion to T3 -> nuclear receptor -> increased cellular metabolism), 10 key nutrients are required.
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
The top five foods that contain these nutrients follow:
- Sea Vegetables
Without enough iodine, the thyroid gland swells (known as a goiter) in an attempt to increase iodine uptake from the blood. You can get enough iodine by regularly eating sea vegetables, such as wakame and nori sheets.
- Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are one of the highest sources of selenium. According to Dr. Axe, “The thyroid gland has more selenium content per gram of tissue than any other organ in your body. Selenium is a key component of the molecules that are necessary for your body to be able to create and use thyroid hormones. The selenium in Brazil nuts can help to keep your thyroid in proper working order and in overall good health.”
- Healthy Fats
As Traditional Cooking School points out, a sick thyroid is an inflamed thyroid. Fats area critical to reduce inflammation in the entire body, including the gut, skin, and thyroid. Just be careful of what types of fats you purchase and consume. The healthiest sources to nourish your thyroid are ghee, coconut oil, avocado, cod liver oil, beef tallow, chia, and hemp seeds.
- Clean Protein
Protein is required to transport thyroid hormones throughout the body. Protein also stabilizes blood sugar, and unstable blood sugar is common with thyroid disease. Glutamine, in particular, is an amino acid required to rebuild and strengthen the lining of the gut. Optimal protein sources include free-range and grass-fed meats, turkey, and seafood (if not vegan), chia seed, hemp protein powder, hemp seed, legumes, and leafy green vegetables (such as broccoli).
- Fermented Foods
Because most thyroid conditions are autoimmune diseases, address the gut is imperative. The immune system stems from the gut, so when the body begins attacking itself, improving the microbiome should be a primary focus.
Fermented foods (like sauerkraut, kombucha, kim chi, and coconut yogurt) support healthy gut bacteria, which are required for the production and conversion of active thyroid hormones. Bacterial gut infections reduce thyroid hormone levels that increases the amount of inactive T3, thereby promoting autoimmune thyroid disorders.
I love adding fermented foods to my salads and soups – just a suggestion.
There is so much more than can be shared on the thyroid. Hopefully, the information shared is of benefit. If you have feedback, please comment below. Finally, if you found this article to be useful, please consider buying me a coffee. 😉