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Do You Need to Feed Your Thyroid?

CC Photo Courtesy of Homini;) via Flickr
CC Photo Courtesy of Homini;) via Flickr

Over 30 and seeing some changes in your body you don’t like? You may need to feed your thyroid.

The thyroid plays a critical role in your metabolism. Along with insulin and cortisol, your thyroid hormone is one of the big three hormones that control your metabolism and weight. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, 20 percent of all women have a sluggish thyroid, which slows their metabolism, and about half of these go undiagnosed. Thyroid hormones interact with all other hormones in your body.

The production and release of thyroid hormones in the thyroid gland are regulated by a feedback system in your brain. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands make the thyroid-releasing hormone (TRH) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), respectively. If everything works as designed, you will make T4 and T4 will be converted to T3.

What does T3 do for us?

  • Lowers your cholesterol.
  • Improves your memory.
  • Keeps you thin.
  • Promotes hair growth.
  • Relieves muscle aches.
  • Helps with constipation.
  • Helps with infertility.

Have you hit the metabolic shift? 

Maintaining your desired body weight becomes more difficult as you become older. Do you need to take a second look at nourishing your thyroid? How many of these questions can you answer “yes” to?

  1. Have you gained more than 10 pounds, or has your waist increased by 2 inches or more over the past 10 years?
  2. Are you over 28, and your body seems less muscular than it once was?
  3. Do you tend to gain weight much easier than when you were young, even though you have the same diet and exercise habits?

Thyroid basics: What is it and what does it do?

  • It resembles a shield … a butterfly-shaped organ on top of your trachea.
  • It is the largest of all your endocrine glands!
  • It produces hormones vital for metabolism (it is your thermostat).
  • It is the storehouse for the mineral iodine.
  • The thyroid controls everything above the neck and below!

Thyroid disease impacts 27 million Americans, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. This disease can cause your thyroid to use energy more quickly (hyperthyroidism) or more slowly (hypothyroidism) than it should. The most common cause of thyroid issues is hypo or low thyroid.

How many of these common symptoms of a weak thyroid do you have?

  1. Fatigue or lethargy.
  2. Very sensitive to cold weather.
  3. Low body temperature, i.e., cold hands and feet.
  4. Hair loss.
  5. Weight gain.
  6. Coarse, dry skin.
  7. Brittle fingernails.
  8. Depression.
  9. Sluggish thinking or memory problems.
  10. Can’t get to sleep at night, or can’t get up in the morning.
  11. Recurring thoughts at bedtime
  12. Irregular periods
  13. Hormone imbalance.
  14. Decreased libido or infertility.
  15. Constipation or digestive problems.
  16. Headaches.
  17. Heart problems.
  18. High blood pressure
  19. Cysts in breast.
  20. Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
  21. Muscle weakness.
  22. Joint swelling.
  23. Puffy face.
  24. Hoarse voice.

How do foods impact my thyroid?

Naturally occurring substances, known as goitrogens, exist in certain foods and are known to interfere with thyroid function.

Foods that contain goitrogens include:

  • Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, etc.).
  • Soybeans and soy extracts.
  • Millet.
  • Peaches.
  • Strawberries.
  • Radishes.
  • Spinach.
  • Peanuts.

Gluten can be the biggest culprit.

I often suggest my clients eliminate gluten for 3 weeks to see how their bodies respond.

Other things that may influence poor thyroid function:

  • Fluoride and chlorinated water.
  • Mercury.
  • Pesticides.

If you’re healthy, there’s no need to limit goitrogen-containing foods; however, if you have hypothyroidism, some healthcare practitioners recommend avoiding excessive consumption of these foods. A small amount of broccoli or other cruciferous veggies is unlikely to cause much thyroid trouble, especially if it’s cooked. However, excess quantities could be problematic. That said, because research studies that show a link between goitrogenic foods and thyroid hormone deficiency have yet to be conducted, you probably don’t need to eliminate these foods entirely. Just eat them in reasonable quantities.

Generally speaking, the food that could be most problematic is soy. This is because soy exists in many forms in most processed foods and is often a genetically modified (GMO) food. So if you eat a lot of processed foods, you could be inadvertently consuming a lot of soy.

Therefore, people with hypothyroidism may want to limit their intake of processed foods. Cooking is also known to help inactivate goitrogenic compounds in foods, so if you enjoy cruciferous veggies but are concerned about your thyroid, eating them cooked may be preferable, but never microwave them.

As for foods that may help your thyroid function, those rich in selenium, iodine and animal-based omega-3 fats may all be beneficial.

Try snacking on:

  1. Brazil nuts (one nut contains 120 mcg, about twice the FDA recommended daily allowance).
  2. Tuna, cod and flounder.
  3. Oysters and shrimp.
  4. Chicken and turkey.
  5. Beef.
  6. Oats.
  7. Brown rice.

What to remember

  • The production of thyroid hormones requires iodine and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Converting the inactive T4 to the active T3 requires selenium. Two Brazil nuts contain the amount of selenium you need each day.
  • The binding of T3 to the receptors requires vitamins A and D, and zinc.
  • Lack of iodine is one cause of the thyroid not functioning correctly.
  • Adding foods high in iodine can help feed the thyroid.
  • Sea vegetables like dulse, kelp, black walnut, Irish moss plant and bladderwrack are all high in iodine.
  • Lack of iodine is not the only cause of low thyroid. Halogens like fluoride, chlorine and bromine, which are added to our water supply, also disrupt iodine in the body. Drinking pure water (reverse osmosis, or RO water) can help the thyroid by keeping these disrupters out of your body.
  • Deficiencies in copper, zinc, manganese and L-tyrosine can result in low thyroid.
  • Exercise stimulates thyroid gland secretion and increases tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormones throughout the body.
  • Other foods to feed the thyroid include:
    • Fish – especially sardines and salmon, and they must be from the ocean.
    • Dandelion greens, mustard and other dark leafy greens that contain vitamin A.
    • Herring, scallops and Brazil nuts all contain selenium.

This information is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and treat diseases. If you have any health problems, consult a health practitioner before embarking on any course of treatment. To set an appointment with the author, contact Tonja Wells at (817) 485-7239.

About Tonja Wells, CNHP, NHC

Tonja Wells is a Certified Natural Health Professional through Trinity School of Natural Health and a Certified Herbal Health Consultant through Tree of Light Institute. Tonja has also travels throughout the United States, teaching Schools of Natural Health for the nation’s largest herb company. She has been working as an herbalist since 1994 years and offices in North Richland Hills. She began working with herbs to overcome the major health issue of Fibromyalgia. After regaining her own health she began her educational journey in herbal health and nutrition and now works full time as an herbalist designing herbal health and nutritional programs for her clients.
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