In case you hadn't heard, your thyroid is a super-important factor in how you feel and look. And if your thyroid is not working well, it can throw off your mood, metabolism, sex drive, digestion, and immune system. It's also no secret that thyroid problems are often misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed and that many underlying thyroid problems won't show up on basic labs run by your conventional doctor.
That is why in functional medicine we dig deeper and we look at the full picture of how your thyroid works. One extremely important factor in this is possible nutrient deficiencies. If you are missing key nutrients that your body needs to make healthy hormones, you are missing the raw materials your body needs to thrive.
You can use food as medicine to support your thyroid function.
I recommend living in a way that presents every meal as an opportunity to build optimal thyroid hormone health. Here is my guide to the essential aspects of thyroid function and how to support each through nutrition.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone is released from your pituitary gland to communicate with your thyroid. If your TSH is high, your brain will signal for your thyroid to work more. For healthy, happy TSH, you need four things. Here's what they are and how to get them through the food you eat:
Great bioavailable sources of protein are wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, and blue and green algae.
2. Vitamin B12
A great food source of B12 is grass-fed red meat and organ meats like liver. It is also found naturally in fish, eggs and poultry, and is often added to breakfast cereals.
Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale as well as soaked nuts and seeds.
Grass-fed beef is the highest food source. Shellfish like lobster, mussels, and oysters also offer some zinc power. Nuts and seeds are good plant-based options.
T4 is typically inactive in the body and has to be converted to T3 to be usable, except in your brain, which needs T4 to work optimally.
The "4" of T4 represents four iodine molecules. The best iodine-rich foods are sea vegetables like dulse, kombu, nori, arame, and kelp.
2. Vitamin B2
The best sources for B2 are grass-fed liver and lamb. Mushrooms and greens are good decent plant sources.
3. Vitamin C
Your thyroid needs to draw iodine in to make T4 through what's called a symporter, which requires both vitamin B2 and vitamin C. The symporter won't work unless you have these two nutrients! Oranges and red peppers are the best foods to get your vitamin C.
This is the more active, usable form of thyroid hormone. You can think of T3 as your body's gasoline.
Without selenium we won't convert T4 to T3, and we make more of an unusable thyroid hormone that can actually block thyroid function. The best way to get your selenium? Brazil nuts! I suggest getting your selenium levels tested and eating two to four soaked Brazil nuts each day to get all the selenium you need.
Thyroid Receptor Site
It's not a hormone, but you need healthy receptor sites for your hormones to work. They work like a lock and key, and your receptor site has to be sensitive enough for your hormones to do their job.
1. Vitamin A
Low levels of vitamin A and vitamin D can stop T3 from activating. Grass-fed liver and tuna are the highest sources of true vitamin A, which is only found in animal meat. Sweet potatoes and carrots are good sources for the precursor beta-carotene.
2. Vitamin D
Responsible for over 200 genetic pathways, this sunshine vitamin is super important! The only considerable source of vitamin D is fatty fish like salmon and beef liver or egg yolks. Also, get out in the sun when you can!
Putting it all together
Now that we understand what your thyroid hormones need to thrive, let's put it into action! Here's a sample meal plan to get all those nutrients into your day:
Breakfast: Thyroid Booster Smoothie
Lunch: Wild-Caught Salmon with avocado sauce + Brussels sprouts
Dinner: Probiotic Superfood Burger with greens + asparagus