Eating these foods won’t magically improve your thyroid health overnight, but their nutrient profile will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to help your thyroid function optimally.
Millions of women and men report feeling sluggish, experience weight loss resistance, hair loss and chronic brain fog. These symptoms are your bodies way of communicating to you that there’s something deeper going on and can be a sign that your thyroid needs support.
Shifting the diet, improving sleep patterns, lowering stress and addressing mineral deficiencies all help to support the root causes of thyroid imbalance. Keep reading to learn all about the different types of thyroid disorders, the top foods to avoid to help your thyroid function optimally, and the top five foods for thyroid health.
Thyroid health 101.
Let’s break down why the thyroid is important and what it does in your body.
The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system, located at the front of the neck. The thyroid’s job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. The main responsibilities for the thyroid are centered around producing the hormones that maintain the body’s metabolic function, body temperature regulation, influence digestive function and brain function.
While there is absolutely a genetic predisposition to thyroid disease, there is always an environmental and lifestyle component or trigger.
Types of thyroid disorders.
Thyroid disorders can be difficult to diagnose, and everyone differs in the type of symptoms they experience when the thyroid is not functioning normally. Below are some of the most common types of thyroid disorders and the types of symptoms you may notice.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is not making enough thyroid hormone to remain active. It is important to note that it is common to oscillate between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism so some of the symptoms listed may blend together.
The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
- Weight gain
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Muscle aches
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Irregular or heavy menses
Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. The thyroid speeds up and then influences every function in the body. The most common form of hyperthyroidism is known as Graves Disease which is easiest to identify because the eyes appear enlarged and a swelling of the neck, near the goiter.
The most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:
- Rapid weight loss
- Heart racing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loose bowel movements
The term “goiter” simply refers to the abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. Most goiters are caused when the thyroid enlarges in an effort to pull more iodine in out of the bloodstream because of chronic iodine deficiency. For most people with goiters, a diet high in iodine and possibly supplementation are the most common treatment. Goiters are most commonly present with those who are hypothyroid or experiencing hyperthyroidism swings.
According to the American Thyroid Association, over 64,000 Americans had some form of thyroid cancer in 2016. Surgery and medications are the most common forms of treatment for thyroid cancer but there are many powerful dietary and lifestyle modifications that support the immune system before, during and after treatment.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It is estimated that 90% of all hypothyroidism is actually Hashimoto’s.
In this specific condition, antibodies are being directed towards the thyroid gland which leads to chronic inflammation and the inability for the thyroid to produce the necessary hormones for the body.
Hashimoto’s most commonly impacts middle-aged women and also has a genetic component. In order to diagnose Hashimoto’s a physician will look at presenting symptoms and also the presence of thyroid antibodies, Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) and Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TGA).
Testing for a thyroid disorder.
Traditionally, doctors look at the TSH when running labs, and unfortunately this doesn’t provide the complete picture of your thyroid health.
At Parsley Health we don’t just test your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. We routinely test your Free T4, Total T4, Free T3, Total T3, Reverse T3, Anti-thyroglobulin and anti-TPO antibodies, inflammatory markers, Vitamin D and other nutrient deficiencies. Collecting this amount of data and connecting it to the symptoms present is one of the most comprehensive ways to address the root causes of thyroid imbalance.
Once our doctors have a comprehensive look at the health of your thyroid, they are can effectively create a treatment plan that brings it back into balance. Working in this comprehensive approach also helps ensure other subclinical issues are being addressed and overall quality of life improves.
Other nutrient deficiencies tested for are: Iodine, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin D and Iron. 90% of the patients we treat are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D plays an integral role in modulating the immune system which is critical for those with Hashimoto’s. Vitamin D and other main nutrient deficiencies can be remedied with the help of a Health Coach to upgrade and fine tune the diet.
5 foods that support thyroid health.
Here are some of the top foods to eat (and why) to improve your thyroid function.
Brazil nuts are not only delicious but one of the most potent sources of selenium. Just 2-4 brazil nuts a day provide all the selenium your thyroid needs to function. A study has found that finding selenium via food, and in particular, from brazil nuts, is more effective than supplementation for this micronutrient .
Oysters are high in zinc which helps to regulate the immune system and thyroid. Zinc is essential for the production of white blood cells which help protect against pathogens. Oysters are also rich in zinc and copper, both important for thyroid function and collagen synthesis.
Dulse flakes contain Iodine which your thyroid needs in order to make thyroid stimulating hormone. Adequate iodine consumption also prevents and in some cases, helps reduce the presence of a goiter.
This phytonutrient-rich fruit contains twice the amount of potassium that bananas do and also contain monounsaturated fats which help regulate blood sugar and provide the thyroid with a steady supply of energy to function.
Dark Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are not only neuroprotective but they also help downregulate inflammation in the body. Greens contain powerful antioxidants and carotenoids that help lower free radical damage.
Many people are concerned about the natural occurring goitrogens found in dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables however no human study has ever shown that consuming cruciferous vegetables can induce hypothyroidism. Goitrogens do block iodine uptake in the body but cooking vegetables and continuing to eat sea vegetables allow for the thyroid to have all the iodine it needs to thrive.
Foods to avoid for optimal thyroid health.
Here are four food groups to limit or avoid as you manage the health of your thyroid.
Sugar is an anti-nutrient which means is impairs nutrient absorption and also wreaks havoc on the gut microbiome, a key piece in regulating immune and endocrine function. If you want something sweet, choose berries and use natural sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup in moderation. Need help with limiting sugar in your diet? Check out our free 5 Day Clear Mind and Body Reset to get started.
Dairy products are usually loaded with lactose and also added sugars which muck up intestinal health and weaken the immune system. Over 80% of the antibiotics produced end up going to livestock which most commonly impacts dairy, chicken and red meat. These antibiotics contribute to intestinal permeability and contribute to a compromised microbiome, which ultimately impacts thyroid health.
Dairy also induces a surge insulin which impacts thyroid function and inflammatory markers. We recommend embracing dairy-free products like unsweetened coconut milk and nut cheeses.
Gluten and wheat destroy thyroid function and impair intestinal permeability. Several studies have shown a link between gluten intolerance and thyroid disorders like Graves Disease and Hashimoto’s.
Gluten and wheat are also found in highly refined carbohydrate-laden foods that spike glucose levels and raise inflammation in the body. Eating a variety of mineral dense root vegetables, green plantains, sweet potatoes and soaked rice and lentils will provide all the healthy complex carbohydrates needed for satiety and energy. If you are still craving baked goods, try this gluten-free zucchini tomato bread.
Although soy is a complete protein and does contain fiber, the drawbacks are many. Soy contains Isoflavones which are estrogen-like compounds that have been shown to reduce ovulation and stimulate the growth of cancer cells.
Soy attacks the thyroid gland causing inflammation which has been shown to worsen hypothyroidism.
Per usual, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, don’t panic and self-diagnose. Chat with your doctor to do the correct testing to determine the health of your thyroid and any changes you need to make to help you address the root cause of the symptoms you are experiencing.
If you want to learn more about thyroid health, download our free guide 7 Steps to Healing Your Thyroid for a collection of advice from the medical team at Parsley Health.