If you’re like most, you’re probably thinking, “Jess, I don’t even know what a thyroid IS!”
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the area of your neck just below the Adam’s apple. It’s part of the endocrine system, and it secretes the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroxine (T3), which regulate the body’s metabolic rate.
Thyroid issues can present in a variety of ways, but we most typically hear about hypothyroidism (reduced effects of thyroid hormone on tissues) and hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone on tissues). The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is 4 to 10 times more common in women. The symptoms of an underactive thyroid can be subtle, but often include depression, weight gain and fatigue, as well as increased cholesterol.
If you want your body chemistry in synch – and trust me, you do – a healthy thyroid is essential. Iodine, selenium and iron (and some now say Vitamin D) are the main nutrients associated with the thyroid, and unfortunately, conventional diets are often deficient in these key nutrients. I’ve found that iodine deficiency is very common and leads to an increase in thyroid disorders. When I see symptoms of this with clients, I recommend they ask their doctor for a urine iodine test to confirm.
Some guidelines to regulate an underactive thyroid:
- Reduce consumption of common triggers, including caffeine, sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates (inflammatory!)– a positive move for so many reasons and will do wonders for your overall health!
- Eat protein with every meal. This helps get the thyroid hormone to your tissues, which we need consistently!
- Avoid all soy products including: soy sauce, tamari and miso (even fermented, organic and non-GMO types). It can impact cell receptors and disrupt feedback throughout your endocrine system.
- Be mindful of goitrogens – foods that can interfere with thyroid function. These include soybeans, peanuts, millet, strawberries, turnips, watercress and brassica vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts). You know I love my green veggies, so I’m certainly not saying you can never have these items – they just can’t be eaten raw. Cooking inactivates the goitrogenic compounds. Cook very well!
- Use dulse flakes in your cooking – they’re high in kelp/iodine.
- Use seaweeds in soups and salads – also high in iodine.
- Eat 3-4 Brazil nuts daily due to their high selenium content.
- Focus on Omega 3s, found most abundantly in oily fish, walnuts, flaxseed and chia. These are the building blocks for hormones that control immune system function and cell growth, and they’re vital for proper thyroid function.
- Increase your intake of iron, which is found in lamb and beef, oysters, legumes and beans, spinach and other dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds.
- Remove any known or unknown food intolerances that can trigger an autoimmune response on the thyroid. For clients with Hashimoto’s, I recommend going 100% gluten-free. The body sees offending or inflammatory foods like gluten as an invader and will go into attack mode.
- Take care of your adrenals by prioritizing rest and deep belly breathing daily. Incorporating true rest and solitude every single day is very important. Put those legs up against a wall and breathe deeply. High cortisol (which is pumped from the adrenals) is directly linked to lower thyroid function.
- Balance your vitamin D levels. For optimal health, levels should be around 80 ng/mL.
- Use a non-fluoride based toothpaste. Weleda has a great one – all-natural.
- Drink only filtered water.
- Consider supplementation of: iodine, selenium and iron (with the guidance of a nutritional practitioner).
- Check your gut health. Healthy thyroid function depends on healthy gut bacteria, so consider supplementing with probiotics.
- Next time you’re having dental x-rays, ask for a throat collar. The thyroid is sensitive to radiation, so you want to protect it.
- Incorporate exercise – Yoga, weight training and interval training is best for boosting metabolism and overall health.
Consider the emotional factor
Some believe thyroid disorders are associated with the inability to speak up. People have an overwhelming “when will it be my turn” mentality, but can’t quite say what they need to say. It makes sense – the thyroid is in your throat, and energetically the thyroid gland represents your throat chakra. If you’re feeling this stress and pressure, a good way to express yourself can be to write a letter to the person you need to get those feelings out to – it may also give you the empowerment you need to talk to them. Speaking your intentions out loud can improve not just the health of your thyroid – but the overall quality of your life.
I have time for everything / I can voice how I feel/ I can express myself freely