Hypothyroidism – all you need to know
The thyroid is an endocrine gland that produces hormones which regulate the functioning of virtually all cells in your body. How well your thyroid is functioning is inter-related with every system in your body and if your thyroid is not running optimally then neither are you.
There are several factors that can alter thyroid hormone levels. These include an autoimmune response, prolonged stress, certain drugs and pollutants. Symptoms can include weight gain, low libido, infertility, PMS, dry skin and nails, cold hand and feet, aversion to cold, fatigue, hair loss, exhaustion, constipation, depression or mental fog. Diagnosis can involve blood test and a temperature test.
Low thyroid function can lead to an inflamed and leaky gut and poor gut health can suppress thyroid function and trigger Hashimoto’s disease. Thyroid hormones strongly influence the tight junctions in the stomach and small intestine and have been shown to protect the mucosal lining from stress induced ulcer formation. When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable (i.e. “leaky gut syndrome”), large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them. Studies show that these attacks play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s.
There are some specific nutrients that your thyroid depends on and it’s important to include them in your diet:
Iodine is a mineral which has an essential part of the thyroid hormones, and is therefore essential for normal thyroid function. Food sources: seaweeds (hijiki, wakame, kelp, dulse, nori, kombu), fish, turkey, eggs.
Selenium is a mineral necessary for making thyroid hormone and for converting the hormone to its active form. Selenium also protects the thyroid gland from damage from excessive iodine exposure. Food sources: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, mushrooms, whole grains, onions.
Tyrosine is an amino acid used to produce hormones in the thyroid gland. Food sources: seaweed, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, avocado, banana.
Zinc and Copper are metals needed in trace amounts for healthy thyroid function. Low levels of zinc have been linked to low levels of TSH, which is another hormone that tells the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone. Copper works with zinc in the production of thyroid hormone. Food sources: Zinc – Nuts, seeds, legumes, meat, fish; Copper – nuts, seeds, legumes, mushrooms (shiitake).
Iron deficiency has been linked to decreased thyroid efficiency. Food sources: Organ meats, meat, legumes, leafy greens, eggs, dried fruit.
Vitamins A, E and C are antioxidants which help neutralise damage done by free radicals that may damage the thyroid. They are also essential to tyrosine and selenium metabolism. Food sources: Leafy greens, strong coloured fruit and vegetables, fish, herbs.
B Vitamins are other nutrients needed in the manufacture of thyroid hormone and is commonly found to be deficient in those with hypothyroidism. Food sources: Leafy greens, other vegetables and fruit, eggs, whole grains, fish, organ meats.
Omega-3 Fats are essential fats, play an important role in thyroid function, reduce inflammation and may help your cells become sensitive to thyroid hormone. Food sources: Flax and chia seeds and their oils plus oily fish and their oils – salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines.
Vitamin D deficiency is also specifically associated with autoimmune thyroid disease, therefore it is important to have levels checked as supplementation is needed in the majority of cases in Ireland.
Herbs are often used for treating hypothyroidism, such as gotu kola, coleus, guggul and ashwagandha
What should be avoided for thyroid health;
Soy is high in isoflavones, which are goitrogens, or foods that interfere with the function of your thyroid gland and may decrease thyroid function especially if you are iodine deficient. Food sources:soybean oil, soy milk, soy burgers, tofu and other processed soy foods
Fermented soy is safe to eat, as the fermentation process reduces the goitrogenic activity of the isoflavones. Food sources: miso, natto, tempeh and traditionally brewed soy sauce
Gluten is a potential goitrogen and can also trigger autoimmune responses (including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) in people who are sensitive. Food sources: wheat, rye and barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, semolina, bulgur, and is hidden in most processed foods.
Goitrogens is a term for substances that interfere with thyroid function. Foods that contain goitrogens include soybean-related foods, millet, peaches, peanuts, radishes, spinach, strawberries, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, kale, cabbage, rutabaga, and mustard. Cooking inactivates the goitrogenic effect in these foods accept for millet, where cooking can actually increase the goitrogenic property; therefore, if eaten raw these vegetables could interfere with thyroid function. However, lightly steaming them is safe and will give us the myriad of health benefits that these vegetables can offer. Use the fruits only very occasionally.
Full list of goitrogenic foods: Caffeine, Soybeans, Pine nuts, Peanuts, Millet, Strawberries, Pears, Peaches, Spinach, Bamboo shoots, Sweet Potatoes, Bok choy, Broccoli,Broccolini, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Canola, Cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, Choy sum, Collard greens, Horseradish, Kai-lan (Chinese broccoli), Kale, Mustard greens, Radishes, Rapeseed, Turnips & Maca.
Pollutants: PCBs, BPAs and Bromine from plastics, pesticides, fire retardants; plus chlorine and fluorine found in our water & toothpaste can compete with iodine and interfere with thyroid hormone manufacture.
Exercise directly stimulates your thyroid gland to secrete more thyroid hormone. Exercise also increases the sensitivity of all your tissues to thyroid hormone. It is even thought that many of the health benefits of exercise stem directly from improved thyroid function.