The thyroid, that butterfly-shaped endocrine gland situated within your neck, keeps every cell in your body alive and well. Poor thyroid function can cause weight gain, ED, heightened menopause symptoms, hair loss, lethargy and more, and it can dramatically boost your quality of life to take great care of your thyroid. The best place to start is your diet.
This blog will discuss different foods that help your thyroid perform at a high level, caution against foods that may hinder your thyroid, and provide an overview of thyroid-related symptoms and illnesses.
Is Your Thyroid Telling You to Improve Your Diet?
According to Dr. Paula Lima’s comprehensive guide to thyroid problem warning signs, your body will often tell you if your thyroid needs help.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism, or a low-performing thyroid, include low sex drive, thinning of eyebrows from the outside, low metabolism (and accompanying weight gain), infertility, irregular menstrual cycles, intolerance to cooler temperatures, and even depression. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should consult with your medical doctor or a functional medicine clinic about your diet. You may not need expensive and addictive pharmaceutical products to improve your condition.
Food Can Hurt Your Thyroid Too
The rest of this article will cover foods that you should eat, but it’s worth mentioning that your nutrition choices can also hurt thyroid performance.
Gluten in particular can hurt your thyroid’s performance. Some researchers suggest that certain proteins in gluten resemble the proteins of the thyroid gland. In individuals with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, the immune response targeting gluten might also target the thyroid gland by mistake, a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. This is especially relevant for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
Gluten can increase the permeability of the gut in some sensitive individuals. A “leaky” gut allows larger molecules, including undigested food particles and toxins, to enter the bloodstream. This can trigger systemic inflammation and increase the risk of developing autoimmune conditions, including those that affect the thyroid. Dr. Radhika Kamat, a leading functional medicine doctor in Singapore, has written about the role of leaky gut in thyroid conditions on her blog.
Additionally, please note that the thyroid’s pre-hormone, T4, is processed into the usable version, T3, in the liver and kidney. So if your diet (or drinking habits) are causing illness in the liver or kidney, or if you are experiencing “fatty liver,” you will experience the symptoms of hypothyroidism, even if the thyroid is functioning properly.
Interestingly enough, too much of a good thing can also hurt your thyroid. An example of this is the excessive consumption of raw cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. These can impede thyroid function in certain individuals, especially if there’s an underlying iodine deficiency. Cooking these vegetables generally alleviates these adverse effects. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat broccoli! But you should mention your vegetable intake when speaking with a thyroid specialist.
What Should You Eat To Boost Thyroid Performance?
Optimal thyroid function hinges on a variety of factors, one of the most significant being adequate nutrient intake. Several specific nutrients are pivotal in the production and metabolism of thyroid hormones. Consuming foods that are abundant in these nutrients is essential for maintaining thyroid health.
You Need Iodine in Your System
For instance, the thyroid gland relies on iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Foods high in iodine include seafood like fish, shrimp, and seaweed, dairy products, and iodized salt. This is rarely an issue in the developed world though – Hashimoto’s is present in third-world countries for the most part.
Selenium Converts T4 to T3 in Your Body
Another vital mineral is selenium, which plays a crucial role in converting the thyroid hormone T4 to its active form, T3. Sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, seafood such as tuna and sardines, eggs, poultry like chicken and turkey, beef, and sunflower seeds. Some patients even take selenium supplements under the guidance of a doctor.
Zinc Also Helps With T4 Conversion
Similarly, zinc is instrumental in the conversion of T4 to T3 and can be found in foods like oysters, other shellfish, beef, lamb, legumes including chickpeas and lentils, and various nuts and seeds. Iron is another essential element, and a deficiency can impair thyroid metabolism. Rich sources of iron include red meat, poultry, fish, lentils, beans, dark leafy greens like spinach, and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin B12 – An Easy Supplement To Take
Vitamin B12 is crucial too, with a deficiency potentially leading to thyroid issues. Foods high in vitamin B12 include animal products such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, as well as fortified cereals and plant-based milk. In the realm of antioxidants, which are vital to counteract oxidative stress affecting the thyroid, berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, nuts, dark chocolate, and dark leafy greens are especially beneficial.
Eat Fish For Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring, as well as in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, can reduce inflammation and bolster thyroid health.
Probiotics For Gut Health
Gut health, which can be enhanced by probiotic-rich foods like yogurt with live cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha, is also significant. This is particularly true given that a healthy gut can influence autoimmune conditions, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
In summary, you need to eat foods with nutrients that support your thyroid, support the conversion of T4 to T3, encourage liver and kidney function, and don’t cause inflammation or gut permeability (gluten, for those who are intolerant). Furthermore, you should consult with a medical professional before making aggressive changes to your diet or supplement intake – the body is incredibly complex.
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