The thyroid gland is crucial to your daily well being as it helps to control your metabolism, body temperature, fat burning processes and weight gain. Thyroid hormones are required for hundreds of other physiological processes in the body and as the thyroid hormones interact with cortisol, our stress hormone, as well as our sex hormones, when your thyroid levels are out of balance then so are you!
So how can we support this butterfly shaped gland that sits just below our throat and exactly how does it function?
The thyroid gland secretes the thyroid hormone T4 which needs o be converted to active thyroid hormone T3 for it to exert a hormonal response on the body.
There are three main ways that this process can be compromised to give us what we call a slow or sluggish thyroid gland.
- To ensure that the thyroid gland secretes enough of the hormone T4 you need to ensure that it receives an adequate supply of the element Iodine.
Iodine can often be lacking from the diet especially if you live far away from the sea where there is a natural supply in the soil, in local seafoods and locally grown vegetables. Iodine is also in competition to enter the body with it’s sister elements Chlorine, Bromide and Flouride.
Fluoride can appear in our drinking water and regular tooth paste.
Chlorine is often used to clean our drinking water and you sometimes smell it as chlorine as water flows from the tap.
Bromide is used in pesticides, plastics and medication and is part of the toxic landscape that surrounds our bodies.
You can help your thyroid gland by filtering your water, buying organic produce and reducing the toxic load of your home. Eliminate all sodas which often contains bromalated vegetable oils or BVO’s (This includes ‘healthy’ sports drinks such as gatorade) and use glass containers rather than plastic for storing food.
You can eat to boost your thyroid function by avoiding gluten, and including sea fish, shellfish, seaweed and sea salt in the diet. When I found out that my thyroid gland needed support I began to include a dish of Moules Mariner into my rotation every Friday night. I steamed the mussels in butter, garlic and the juice of a lemon. I would carry the pan to the table and the whole family would then dig into the mussels as an impromptue appetizer each Friday. It became quite the ritual for our family! I also included a large piece of seaweed in the pan whenever I cooked rice, quinoa or another grain, so that more of my meals contained iodine. I enjoyed snacking on seaweed snacks.
It can also be helpful to avoid raw greens from the brassica family (kale, collards, Brussels sprouts etc.) strawberries, peaches, chickpeas and millet. These foods are considered to contain goitrogens which slow down the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake. Cooking neutralizes goitrogens making all of these foods suitable to eat.
I take the stance that I am never going to deter anyone from eating fresh greens and other foods that do so much good to the body. I would always suggest adding in more foods to support the thyroid gland and avoiding gluten, before you start eliminating these other health promoting options.
This is an example of a time when it is an excellent idea to keep a food journal. If you know that your thyroid is sluggish and you FEEL as is you are hitting a wall after drinking a large green juice or smoothie, record this in a food and feelings journal. By reviewing your journal you will deduce whether raw greens or strawberries are a food that you might need to break-up with for a period of time!
Here is the recipe for a super-quick little seaweed salad that you can include in your diet to support the thyroid gland.
- For the salad
- 1 large cucumber sliced, grated or spirallized
- 2 large carrots thinly sliced, grated or spirallized
- 1/2 ounce Wakame seaweed. (I just soaked as many pieces as I felt I wanted to eat)
- 1 large handful cilantro roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds to garnish
- For the dressing
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
- 3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- Take the Wakame seaweed and put it to soak for 10 minutes in a bowl of filtered water.
- Meanwhile measure the dressing ingredients into a recycled jam jar and shake to combine.
- Grate, thinly slice or spirallize the cucumber and carrot and place in a shallow bowl.
- Combine with the roughly chopped cilantro.
- Squeeze as much water as possible out of the seaweed and pat dry in a tea towel.
- Using scissors snip the seaweed into slithers over the top of the salad.
- Pour on the dressing and combine using bare hands or salad servers.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy!
- Adapted form The Vegetarian Times
This is for you if you have had the experience of being prescribed a thyroid hormone by a medical doctor, feeling fabulous at first and then feel as if your medication is not working for you the way it should. You may be a poor converter of T4 to T3!
20% of the conversion of T4 to active T3 occurs in the liver so it is important that you reduce your consumption of sugar and alcohol and eat lots of fresh raw vegetables, healthy oils and drink lots of water to help support your liver to do it’s work.
You body needs adequate supplies of the minerals selenium and zinc in order that the conversion of T4 to T3 can take place. (These minerals are co-factors to the metabolic reaction) The highest source of selenium can be found in Brazil nuts and zinc can be found in pumpkin seeds. Include these nuts and seeds in your granola or breakfast oatmeal. Cook them into muffins or melt a bar of good dark chocolate and pour it onto parchment paper on a baking tray, scattering Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and Gogi berries to make a nutritional and delicious chocolate bark.
Poor digestion can result in the poor absorption of minerals including selenium and zinc, so digestive health support can support your thyroid hormone conversion ability also. Drink lemon water each morning to acidify the stomach and aid the absorption of minerals into the body. Take a good quality pro-biotic. Avoid excess sugar, processed food, gluten and alcohol. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet in order to combat Leaky Gut Syndrome.
3. Adopt an Auto-Immune Diet to combat Hashimotos Disease
Hashimoto’s Disease occurs when the anti-bodies of your body turns upon the thyroid gland itself and damage it’s function.
The first step in this case would be to remove gluten, soy, dairy and often other common allergy forming foods from the diet. Gluten especially can be destructive if you have damage to he gut lining and large molecules of gluten can enter the blood stream. In their rush to defend the body, antibodies may also attack the thyroid gland as it contains a protein similar to that of gluten in it’s structure. You may be concerned about your digestion if you get very gassy and windy after certain foods and also if you have ever increasing food sensitivities. A Certified Holistic Nutritionist will be able to provide you with a good gut healing protocol.
Hashimotos disease can be difficult to manage and will require a more detailed nutritional plan. It can be very personalized as a disease and so again a food and feelings journal may be an excellent tool in managing the condition. I know of Hashimotos sufferers who can become pushed back from wellness whenever they take a long flight. Another client of mine with Hashimotos disease has restricted her wine consumption, eliminated gluten and swears by her sleep routine. Healthy fats packed with omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, flax oil and hemp hearts and the anti-inflammatory spice turmeric can also be extremely helpful for Hashimotos disease.
Try this recipe for Salmon Laksa Noodles to hit many of these nutritional bases!
Peri-menopase is often when we notice the function/failings of our thyroid gland, especially if it is letting us down and we feel sluggish, exhausted and tired all the time. Our hormones begin a dance that often throws us out of balance and if other hormones become dominate the activity of the thyroid gland can suffer.
This is the time to consider a visit to a Holistic Nutritionist who will support you with great recipes and science based advice so that you can support your thyroid and indeed you whole body back into balance.
Legal Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to replace medical advice or diagnosis from your family practitioner, specialist or medical doctor. The recipes advice and articles consist of nutritional and lifestyle advice as the sharing of information to support a healthier body.