Our thyroid gland is critical to many functions in our bodies – it produces hormones that regulate our metabolism, balance other hormones (e.g. sex hormones), and maintain a balanced calcium level, which is critical for bone health.
Low thyroid hormone level – known as hypothyroidism – can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, hoarse voice, elevated blood cholesterol level, unexplained weight gain, muscle aches and weakness, stiffness, heavy menstrual period, brittle hair and nail, as well as depression. Low thyroid level in pregnant women is linked to a developmental delay in their children after birth. (reference: http://www.medicinenet.com/hypothyroidism_during_pregnancy/page2.htm#what_are_the_consequences_of_hypothyroidism_during_pregnancy)
Hyperthyroidism – too much thyroid hormone – can result in appetite change, insomnia, frequent bowel movement, increased sweating, irritability, light or missed menstrual period, nervousness, dizziness, tremor, shortness of breath, thinning of hair, even itching and hives.
To maintain healthy thyroid function, make sure you get enough of these nutrients: iodine, selenium, zinc and the amino acid tyrosine. Iodine deficiency is one of the main causes of hypothyroidism.
Foods that support healthy thyroid function:
- Sea vegetables, such as kelp.
- Chlorella and algae
- Good fats such as avocado and coconut oil (especially helpful for hypothyroidism)
- Omega-3 fats, such as salmon and sardine.
- Foods rich in antioxidants (fresh fruits and vegetables) to help neutralize oxidative stress.
Foods and other substances to avoid:
- Foods with goitrogenic properties [link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goitrogen] in moderation if you are diagnosed with thyroid issues. Some examples are cruciferous vegetables, soy products, peaches, strawberries, radishes, spinach, and peanuts.
- Non-fermented soy foods (especially processed soy food) are high in isoflavones, which can interfere with the function of the thyroid gland. Choose fermented soy products, such as miso, natto, tempeh and traditionally brewed soy sauce because the fermentation process reduces the goitrogenic activity of the isoflavones.
Soy exists in many forms in processed foods. If you eat a lot of processed and packaged foods, you may be consuming a lot of soy without knowing it.
- Gluten can trigger autoimmune responses (including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) in people who are sensitive.
- Foods high in refined added sugar.
- Isothiocyanates found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are goitrogens as well. While it’s true that large amounts could interfere with thyroid function, especially if eaten raw, these veggies offer a myriad of other health benefits that make the benefits outweigh the risks for most people. If you know you have thyroid disease and want to be particularly cautious, steaming these vegetables will negate the goitrogenic effect.
- High-fat animal and dairy products, which often contain higher levels of hormones and hormone-disrupting chemicals.
- BPA and other hormone-disrupting chemicals (e.g. in plastic packaging) – avoid using plastic wraps, particularly on hot, high-fat foods, or using plastic containers as much as possible, especially for hot and acidic foods.
- Artificial sweetener aspartame (brand name Equal) is suspected to trigger an immune reaction that causes thyroid inflammation and thyroid autoantibody production.
- Fluoride, which is found in tap water, toothpaste and mouthwash (look for fluoride-free toothpaste) and bromide (found in brominated flour), which compete with iodine for absorption.
Green tea has an effect on metabolism and negative impact on patients with hyperthyroidism. Its effect on patients with hypothyroidism is inconclusive. If you have thyroid issues, it’s best to use green tea in moderation.
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