Your thyroid is a vital gland responsible for regulating your metabolism, energy levels, and other bodily functions. When it’s not functioning properly, it can lead to a myriad of problems, such as fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, depression, and more. Fortunately, there are many thyroid-healing foods that can help nourish and support your thyroid health.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the top thyroid-healing foods you should incorporate into your diet for better overall health. From sea vegetables to cruciferous vegetables and beyond, read on to learn more about what you can do to boost your thyroid health naturally.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It is one of the endocrine glands which make hormones. The thyroid gland makes two main hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T4 is the inactive thyroid hormone and is converted to T3, the active form. These hormones help to regulate metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. The thyroid also stores iodine, which is an important mineral for making thyroid hormones.
The thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is located in the brain. The pituitary gland makes a hormone called thyrotropin, also known as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH tells the thyroid how much hormone to make. When the thyroid doesn’t make enough hormone, TSH levels go up. This is called hypothyroidism. When the thyroid makes too much hormone, TSH levels go down. This is called hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, and cold intolerance. Hyperthyroidism can cause weight loss, anxiety, tremors, and heat intolerance. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor to get tested for thyroid disease.
Treatment for thyroid disease usually involves taking medication or getting radioactive iodine. Surgery may be needed in some cases.
What Causes Thyroid Issues?
Thyroid problems are relatively common, affecting an estimated 20 million Americans. There are several possible causes of thyroid problems, including:
1. Iodine deficiency
Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of thyroid problems.
The thyroid gland needs iodine to produce hormones, and when there isn’t enough in the diet, thyroid hormone levels can drop.
This can lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), goiter (an enlargement of the thyroid gland), and other problems.
The best way to ensure adequate iodine levels is to consume a balanced diet that includes foods rich in iodine, such as seaweed, iodized salt, and certain types of fruits and vegetables.
2. Autoimmune diseases
There are a variety of autoimmune diseases that can cause thyroid issues. Hashimoto’s, Graves disease, and autoimmune thyroiditis are all examples of autoimmune diseases that can lead to thyroid problems.
In Hashimoto’s disease, the body produces antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. This can cause the gland to become inflamed and unable to produce enough hormones.
Graves’ disease is another autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. In this disease, the body produces antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to produce too much hormone.
This can lead to hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Autoimmune thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the thyroid gland. This can lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
3. Pituitary tumors
These are tumors affecting the pituitary gland in the brain. They can secrete hormones that stimulate the thyroid gland, leading to an overproduction of thyroid hormones. This can cause symptoms such as weight loss, anxiety, and heart palpitations. Treatment for pituitary tumors typically involves surgery to remove the tumor.
There are various medications that can cause thyroid issues. Some of these include:
Lithium: This is a medication used to treat bipolar disorder. It has been shown to reduce iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. This can lead to iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism.
Amiodarone: This is a medication used to treat heart rhythm disorders. It can cause the thyroid gland to become overactive, leading to hyperthyroidism. It also has a direct toxic effect on the thyroid, which may result in an underactive thyroid leading to hypothyroidism.
Interferon: This is a medication used to treat certain viral infections like hepatitis C virus (HCV). It can cause the thyroid gland to become underactive, leading to hypothyroidism.
Thyroid healing foods to eat
1. Iodine rich foods
The body needs iodine to make thyroid hormones. So if you don’t have enough iodine, you can’t make enough thyroid hormone. This can lead to goiter, hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid.
Iodine supplements are not necessary if you have a balanced diet that includes iodine-rich foods. Too much iodine can be just as harmful as too little. If you take iodine supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor first.
Best iodine sources include:
- Edible seaweed
- Iodized salt
- Lima beans
- Fortified foods
2. Healthy fats
There are many different types of fats, but not all of them are created equal. Some fats, like trans fats and saturated fats, can actually be harmful to your health. But there are also healthy fats that can help improve your thyroid function.
Omega 3 fatty acids
These are some of the most beneficial for thyroid health. They can be found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and nuts.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory effects. This means that they can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including in the thyroid gland. This can be helpful, especially if you have an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Also, the thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones, and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for producing these hormones.
Studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids can improve thyroid hormone production and may even improve thyroid function in people with hypothyroidism.
Another healthy fat is monounsaturated fat. This type of fat is found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts.
Monounsaturated fat can help improve insulin sensitivity and decrease inflammation.
Evidence suggests that consuming monounsaturated fats can help support the thyroid gland and its function. One study showed that people with hypothyroidism who consumed a diet rich in monounsaturated fats had improved thyroid function compared to those who didn’t consume these healthy fats.
Additionally, monounsaturated fats can help improve blood sugar control, which is important for people with hypothyroidism as they are at risk for developing diabetes. Therefore, including these healthy fats in your diet may help to support overall thyroid health.
3. Cruciferous vegetables
It’s true that some online resources state that cruciferous vegetables may affect the thyroid, but this is not actually the case. Cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens, which are substances that can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones.
However, goitrogens are only harmful in large quantities, and it’s perfectly safe to eat cruciferous vegetables in moderation. In fact, these vegetables are actually very good for you and offer numerous health benefits, including that of your thyroid.
They are packed with nutrients that support the thyroid gland, including iodine, selenium, and zinc. They also contain compounds that help to detoxify the body and protect against cell damage.
Some of the best cruciferous vegetables to include in your diet are broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens. Aim to eat at least one serving of these veggies every day. You can add them to salads, soups, stir-fries, or simply steam them as a side dish.
That being said, different cruciferous vegetables may differently affect the thyroid. For instance, a study found that consuming a normal serving size of raw Chinese cabbage, broccoli rabe, broccoli, and bok choy did not impair the thyroid. However, too much intake of about 1 kg or more of raw Siberian kale, brussels sprouts, and some collards can affect thyroid hormone production by reducing iodine uptake into the thyroid.
Seaweeds are a type of algae that grow in the ocean. They are a rich source of iodine, which is essential for thyroid health. Seaweeds can be eaten fresh, dried, or in supplement form.
While all seaweeds contain iodine, some varieties are richer in this mineral than others. Kelp and dulse are two of the most iodine-rich seaweeds. Nori, kombu, and wakame are also good sources of iodine.
In addition to iodine, seaweeds contain other nutrients that are important for thyroid health, including selenium, magnesium, and zinc. They also contain compounds that can help to detoxify the body and protect against radiation damage.
Eating seaweed is a great way to support thyroid health and prevent problems such as hypothyroidism and goiters. Including a variety of seaweeds in your diet is the best way to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
5. Selenium rich foods
Selenium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including thyroid health. The thyroid gland needs selenium to produce the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) and boost their functions.
Selenium also acts as an antioxidant, protecting the gland from oxidative stress that may worsen a thyroid condition.
Some of the best plant-based sources of selenium-rich foods include:
- Brazil nuts
- Brown rice
- Pumpkin seeds
- Shiitake mushroom
- Lima and pinto beans
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Including just a few of these foods in your diet each week can help improve your thyroid function and overall health.
6. Magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium is an essential mineral for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. It helps regulate the production of thyroid hormone and is necessary for converting thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3), the active form of thyroid hormone.
In addition to its role in thyroid function, magnesium is also important for heart health, bone health, and blood sugar control. It can help to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. Magnesium-rich foods are a great way to get all of the benefits of this essential mineral.
- Green leafy veggies
- Whole grains
7. Iron rich foods
Iron is a mineral that is found in many foods. It is important for many body processes, including the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.
Iron is also essential for the synthesis and metabolism of thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland needs iron to produce the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are involved in regulating metabolism.
Without enough iron, the thyroid gland cannot make enough of these hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism-like symptoms.
Iron is also necessary for the conversion of T4 to T3, the active form of thyroid hormone.
Best sources of iron include:
- Leafy greens
- Pumpkin seeds
- Navy beans
- Kidney beans
8. Vitamin D rich foods
There is a growing body of evidence linking low vitamin D levels with autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s. This relationship is likely due to the fact that vitamin D plays an important role in the regulation of the immune system.
A number of studies have shown that people with Hashimoto’s are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than those without the condition. One study found that nearly 60% of people with Hashimoto’s were deficient in vitamin D, compared to just 5% of controls.
Low vitamin D levels have also been linked to low levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). At the same time, vitamin D supplementation has been shown to boost these levels and restore thyroid functions.
Best sources of vitamin D include:
- Exposure to sunlight
- Vitamin D supplement
- Fortified foods
Lifestyle Practices That Support Healthy Thyroid Function
Besides thyroid healing foods, There are many lifestyle practices that can support healthy thyroid function. Here are some of the most important ones:
- Manage stress: chronic stress can increase the stress hormone cortisol, which can interfere with thyroid function.
- Getting enough exercise: Exercise is important for overall health, but it can especially be beneficial for the thyroid. Moderate exercise can help improve circulation and reduce stress levels, both of which are important for proper thyroid function.
- Getting enough sleep: Sleep is crucial for overall health and wellbeing. It’s also important for the thyroid as it gives the gland time to rest and repair itself. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Avoiding environmental toxins: Many common household chemicals and other environmental toxins can be harmful to the thyroid gland. Be sure to avoid exposure to these substances as much as possible.
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A healthy thyroid is essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism and keeping your energy levels up. If you’re struggling with thyroid health, there are certain foods that can help improve your condition.
Consuming iodine-rich foods such as seaweed can help to keep your thyroid functioning properly. Selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts can also help to improve thyroid health.
Other foods that are beneficial for the thyroid include those containing vitamin D, iron, and magnesium. Cruciferous vegetables are also great but always eat them in moderation.
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