What You Should Eat To Improve Thyroid Health
You knew you had a thyroid issue. It just took your labs a couple of years to catch up. If you were lucky, you were prescribed magic pills and you shed your excess weight, your energy bounced back, your bowel movements became regular, and your bouncy shining hair landed you in a Pantene commercial.
If you weren't so lucky, the pills didn't work. You felt like a frumpy, fatigued and constipated version of yourself. Caffeine and sugar became your energy crutch.
Then some glowing beauty arrived. She handed you a green juice with kale, spinach, cucumber, ginger and lime. You sucked up this godlike elixir feeling it re-energize every cell in your body. Green juices became a daily practice. You felt invigorated.
You started reading blogs about food and your thyroid. Then you saw it: don't eat raw cruciferous vegetables if you have a hypothyroidism. WHAT? I mean, what was in your green juice? Raw cruciferous vegetables. How could these babies be bad for your thyroid? They were making you feel so good.
But as you continue reading, you see contradictions. Eat broccoli, kale and spinach to help boost glutathione levels to restore thyroid function. You're confused. You push the green juice away in disgust! You eat a gluten-filled sandwich because you feel sorry for yourself and the blogs told you not to eat gluten, but you just don't know anymore!
As a nutritionist and a woman who reversed her own sub-clinical thyroid condition in three months, I'd like you to have a broader picture of food and your thyroid.
Here's what to eat (and why) to improve your thyroid function:
1. Cruciferous vegetables.
Eat them raw, cooked or juiced. I know you've been advised not to eat them raw, but doesn't it strike you as strange that plant foods with the richest source of cancer-preventing phytonutrients would inhibit thyroid function? It did to me. If this was true, what was the mechanism behind it and where was the research on humans?
Back in the 1950's, scientists questioned if certain foods had goitrogenic properties, which is the ability to produce a goiter because they suppressed thyroid function. Cruciferous vegetables were implicated because their raw glucosinolates (the precise phytonutrients that are cancer protective) might inhibit the intake of iodine. Might inhibit the intake of iodine? If that's the reason, you're missing out on a whole host of benefits from eating cruciferous vegetables on the possibility that they might knock out iodine. The far more sensible approach is to ensure sufficient iodine levels (see point 3).
In terms of human research, studies suggesting a strong link between cruciferous vegetables and thyroid disease are limited. Type "raw cruciferous vegetables" and "thyroid" into the ncbi database and you'll find one incident from 1945 when a Chinese woman who ate 3.3 pounds of raw bok choy daily for several months and suffered myxedema. The vast majority of the research supports the consumption of cruciferous vegetables to prevent thyroid cancer.
Ask questions any time plant-based food is implicated in a negative health condition. Ask how it works and where the research on humans is, then make your decision.
2. Brazil nuts.
These are the richest dietary source of selenium, which is essential in converting thyroxine to its active form, T3. Sometimes people with Hashimoto's are advised to avoid selenium. You need selenium for glutathione production to help decrease thyroid antibodies. Snack on three Brazil nuts per day.
3. Sea vegetables.
Sea vegetables are rich in iodine. Iodine attaches to tyrosine (an amino acid) to form thyroxine. If you have insufficient levels of iodine, it becomes a rate-limiting step in the production of thyroid hormones and you'll inhibit your thyroid function. Snack on nori dusted with sea salt, make nori wraps filled with avocado, wild salmon, sweet potato, sprouts and mache, add hijiki to a kale and pumpkin seed salad, eat wakame in a miso soup or add dulse to a butternut squash soup.
Drink a shot of chlorophyll upon waking to help boost energy levels and remove heavy metals that may be inhibiting thyroid function.
Helps to balance the hypothalamus and pituitary, which release TRH (thyroid-releasing hormone) and TSH respectively. These hormones regulate thyroxine levels. Maca also contains zinc, B vitamins and iron, which are all required for optimal thyroid production.
6. No gluten.
If you have Hashimoto's, you must avoid gluten, because it can initiate thyroid antibody production. I've seen TPO levels drop from the 1000s to less than 30 just from removing gluten.
7. No soy protein isolate.
While the research on fermented soy and thyroid function is mixed, soy protein isolate should be avoided. This means no junky soy foods like soy cheese, soy yogurt, energy bars with soy protein isolate, soy burgers and soy-based "meats."
Eat clean and smart, take the right supplements, manage your stress levels and avoid environmental toxins, and you'll have the ability to potentially reverse your thyroid condition.
To understand more about your thyroid, I recommend reading Dr. Amy Myers' post on Ten Signs You Have A Thyroid Problem.
Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.