Holistic Approach to Wellness
The thyroid gland needs specific vitamins and minerals to properly do its job. Since we are all unique, the best way to get a handle on what our body specifically needs is to have a full thyroid panel done to help pinpoint where you might be off balance. This is one key thing we look at with weight loss protocols as the thyroid plays a big part. Here are some nutrients to incorporate in your diet to help support the thyroid.
Iodine: This is the most important trace element found in thyroid functioning. Without iodine, our thyroid does not have the basic building blocks it needs to make the necessary hormones to support all of the tissues in the body. Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3) are the most essential, active, iodine-containing hormones we have. In 2012, a CDC report showed that women of childbearing years in the United States, ages 20-39, had the lowest iodine levels of any other age group. This is something we can easily improve by eating more iodine-rich foods.
Selenium: This element is indispensable to our thyroid in several ways. Selenium-containing enzymes protect the thyroid gland when we are under stress, working like a “detox,” to help flush oxidative and chemical stress, and even social stress – which can cause reactions in our body. Selenium-based proteins help regulate hormone synthesis, converting T4 into the more accessible T3. These proteins and enzymes help regulate metabolism and also help maintain the right amount of thyroid hormones in the tissues and blood, as well as organs such as the liver, kidneys, and even the brain. Selenium also helps regulate and recycle our iodine stores. These are all very important functions!
Zinc, iron, and copper: These three trace metals are vital to thyroid function. Low levels of zinc can cause T4, T3, and the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to also become low. Research shows that both hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroids) and hypothyroidism (under active thyroids), can sometimes create a zinc deficiency leading to lowered thyroid hormones.
Decreased levels of iron can result in decreased thyroid function as well. When combined with an iodine deficiency, iron must be replaced to repair the thyroid imbalance. Copper is needed to help produce TSH, and maintain T4 production. T4 helps cholesterol regulation, and some research even indicates copper deficiency may contribute to higher cholesterol and heart issues for people with hypothyroidism.
Antioxidants and B vitamins: Most people have heard that antioxidants are important to help temper oxidative stress, and thus combat degenerative diseases as well as improve the aging process. Vitamin A (commonly known as beta-carotene), C, and E, along with iodine and selenium, help the thyroid gland mitigate oxidative stress in an ongoing, daily process.
Oxidative stress tends to be higher with Graves’ disease, the most common form of hyperthyroidism. With this condition, the overactive thyroid uses more oxygen, which can result in an accumulation of oxygenated compounds that can damage cells. Antioxidants are recommended to help stop the oxidative stress before it dominoes. In addition, the B vitamins, including B2, B3, and B6, help with the manufacturing of T4. As you can see, these mechanisms are all connected, which is why the proper micronutrients are important!
Foods that support our thyroid
The following list offers whole food sources containing the necessary vitamins and minerals needed to help our thyroid stay healthy and work properly.
Sea vegetables: Kelp, nori, kombu, dulse, arame, wakame, hijiki
Seafood: Haddock, clams, salmon, shrimp, oysters, sardines
Iodized sea salt
Eggs, spinach, garlic, asparagus, Swiss chard, mushrooms, summer squash, sesame seeds, lima beans
Tuna, mushrooms, beef, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, organ meats, halibut, soybeans
Beef, turkey, lamb, fresh oysters, sardines, soybeans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, pecans, almonds, split peas, ginger root, whole grains, maple syrup
Crabmeat, oysters, lobster, beef, nuts, sunflower seeds, beans (white beans, chickpeas, soybeans), shitake mushrooms, pearled barley, tomato paste, dark chocolate
Organ meats, oysters, clams, spinach, lentils, soybeans, white beans, pumpkin seeds, blackstrap molasses
Vitamin A (beta-carotene)
Broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, kale, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, liver, winter squash/pumpkin, cantaloupe
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, greens (mustard, collard, kale, turnip), parsley, peppers (chili, Bell, sweet), strawberries, guava, papaya, citrus, kiwifruit
Peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, beans and soybeans, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, liver
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Egg yolks, organ meats, wild rice, wheat germ, Brewer’s yeast, mushrooms, almonds
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Poultry (white meat), peanuts (with skin), wheat bran, rice bran, liver, Brewer’s yeast
Vitamin B6 (pyroxidine)
Fish (tuna, trout, salmon), liver, bananas, brown rice, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, walnuts, beans (navy beans, garbanzos, pinto beans, soybeans, lima beans), Brewer’s yeast
Foods that may disrupt our thyroid function
Soy: There are some studies showing that the isoflavones in soybeans can inhibit the enzyme which adds iodine to the thyroid hormone known as thyroid peroxidase (TPO). These studies indicate that soy isoflavone might bond with the iodine we do have, diminishing the reserve for thyroid production. The issue lies with the levels of iodine we have. If levels are sufficient, eating natural soy should not be a problem. Natural soy (organic) is a tremendous help to many women in regulating menopause symptoms, so this is an important nutrient to consider.
Cruciferous vegetables: This group of vegetables includes brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, which studies show can reduce the thyroid hormone in a similar way to soy. Goiter, an enlarged thyroid, is linked to iodine deficiency. The compounds categorized as goitrogens can be found in small amounts in many other foods as well, including spinach, peanuts, and strawberries. It’s ok to eat them, but by pairing them with iodine-rich foods, we can counteract the metabolization reducing iodine.
Gluten: There is a distinct connection between gluten intolerance, celiac disease, and autoimmune thyroid issues. This is the one food to avoid 100% if you have a thyroid condition. Gluten is found in many foods, and can trigger a whole series of digestive issues and hormonal imbalances.
Find the right balance
When we support our thyroid naturally, we can improve the way we feel on many levels. It may seem complicated, but once we learn which foods help and how to support our thyroid with the micronutrients we need, it will become second-nature. Don’t forget to exercise and control stress.