Your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, secretes two important hormones that regulate how quickly your body converts nutrients from oxygen and food into energy. Triiodothyronine (T3) and its prohormone, thyroxine (T4), affect your metabolism, vitality, mood, and so much more. An estimated 30-50 million Americans have hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. It occurs in women, especially those over 50, most often.
Studies show that 90 percent of hypothyroid patients have Hashimoto’s disease, which causes your immune system to attack your thyroid. The resulting inflammation and declining thyroid hormone levels impact most vital organs. Symptoms include weight gain, extreme fatigue, constipation, headaches, depression, menstrual irregularities, cold sensitivity, and dry or coarse hair.
Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to obesity, heart disease, and joint pain. Synthetic hormone replacement such as Levothyroxine (Synthroid) is the most common treatment. Research has found that diet modification also can help minimize this condition’s unwelcome effects.
According to Mary Vance, a certified nutrition consultant and holistic nutritionist, these healing foods provide nutrients that support your thyroid. Include as many as you can on a daily basis to boost your thyroid function and provide the raw materials your body needs to make thyroid hormones.
Coconut oil: First prize goes to this powerhouse superfood. Your body burns coconut oil, a medium chain fatty acid, quickly for energy, which boosts your metabolism. Studies confirm that it promotes weight loss. This plant-based saturated fat also is essential for hormone production.
Wild salmon and sardines: These fish pack a double punch. They’re good sources of the protein you need to transport thyroid hormones to all your cells. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, they also quell problematic inflammation. You’ll get these benefits from other deep-sea fatty fish — as longs as they’re wild.
Oysters: Raw oysters provide the richest form of zinc that’s necessary for immune health. Without this mineral, your thyroid gland can’t transform inactive T4 into active T3 hormones. Oysters also provide vitamin D, which is crucial for proper thyroid and immune performance.
Liver: This thyroid superfood functions as nature’s multi-vitamin. It’s high in vitamins A, B, D, iron, zinc, and protein, all of which are vital for a well-functioning thyroid. Research shows that liver’s selenium content reduces inflammation. If you don’t like the taste, soak liver in lemon juice before cooking.
Beets: These highly nutritious root vegetables offer great liver detoxifying properties. A well-functioning liver is important for thyroid hormone conversion. Beets are a rich source of betaine, which strengthens and protects liver cells and bile ducts.
Probiotic foods: Because 20 percent of thyroid function depends on a sufficient supply of healthy gut bacteria, you need a daily intake of probiotic foods. Raw cultured (fermented) veggies like sauerkraut are the best sources. You can make sauerkraut with liver-cleansing raw cabbage, beets, carrots, or turnips. Also consume fermented beverages like kvass, an ancient and beloved favorite from Slavic Europe that’s a good source of living bacteria.
Brazil nuts: Just five Brazil nuts provide the daily recommended amount of selenium. This important antioxidant is essential for your body to convert T4 into T3 hormones, the active form your body needs. Selenium also reduces destructive inflammation.
Some dietary choices can damage your thyroid gland as well as your body’s ability to use your thyroid hormones effectively. Avoid these foods and beverages when managing hypothyroidism.
Fatty meats: Be selective with your animal protein choices. Fatty meats can increase inflammation and worsen potential complications of underactive thyroid such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Raw cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and other cruciferous veggies block thyroid hormone production. Digesting these vegetables can hinder your thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function. Limit your raw intake and cook or steam these vegetables lightly to deactivate their hazardous effects.
Soy: Scientists have identified isoflavones in soy as potent anti-thyroid agents. They can suppress thyroid function, damage the gland, and cause or worsen hypothyroidism. Non-fermented soy may lead to a goiter, abnormal enlargement of the thyroid. The University of Maryland Medical Center found that soy products may interfere with the absorption of your thyroid medication.
Gluten: Wheat and white breads, most cold cereals, commercially prepared baked goods, and crackers contain gluten. The molecular structure of gliadin, gluten’s protein portion, and the thyroid gland are similar. When gliadin breaches your gut’s protective barrier and enters your bloodstream, your immune system instructs antibodies to destroy it. Unfortunately, they also attack your thyroid tissue.
Processed and junk foods: Avoid processed foods that include refined grains and sugars. A team of Yale University scientists reported recently that processed foods and junk food diets could be partly responsible for autoimmune diseases like hypothyroidism.
Coffee: Research has found that caffeine blocks absorption of thyroid hormone replacements. People who swallowed their thyroid drugs with their morning coffee had uncontrollable thyroid levels. Take your medication with water only. Then wait at least 30 minutes before drinking coffee.
Excess alcoholic drinks: Alcohol appears to have a toxic effect on the thyroid gland and suppresses your body’s ability to use your thyroid hormone. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, abstaining from alcohol can reduce troubling hypothyroidism symptoms.
Hypothyroidism lasts forever, so controlling it is imperative. By embracing healthy habits like taking your medication on schedule and adjusting your diet, you can live well with an underactive thyroid.