Thyroid dysfunctions such as Hashimoto, Graves and underactive thyroid are quite common. An estimated 30 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. In fact, thyroid dysfunction is near and dear to my heart especially since my underactive thyroid nearly caused me to drop out of medical school. Unfortunately, conventional medicine failed me in my own journey with thyroid disease. Therefore, it is my mission and passion to share the correct information with you to gain your thyroid health back naturally just as I did.
Studies show that 1 in 5 Americans have Hypothyroidism and more than half of them are not aware that their thyroid is not working. With that said, more than 90% of Hypothyroidism cases are caused by an auto-immune condition known as Hashimoto Thyroiditis, a disorder that starts in the gut. Hypothyroidism is eight to ten times more likely to affect women than men.
Let’s start by discussing what it means to have a weak, underactive, or not working thyroid, and then I will share with you the main superfoods backed by science to support thyroid health, reverse Hashimoto and enhance metabolism. Although, research shows that foods alone won’t fix your hypothyroidism, a combination of the right nutrients, supplementation, and sometimes medication is needed to restore thyroid function and minimize your symptoms.
Simply put, hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones. You may experience the following symptoms if your thyroid is not working effectively:
- low energy
- hair loss
- weight gain
- feeling cold
- disturbed sleep
- joint and muscle aches
So, what exactly is hypothyroidism?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits near the base of your neck. It makes and stores thyroid hormones that affect nearly every cell in your body. When the thyroid gland receives a signal called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), it releases thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. When thyroid hormone levels are low the signal is sent from the pituitary gland, a small gland found at the base of your brain.
Occasionally, the thyroid gland doesn’t release thyroid hormones, even when there is plenty of TSH. This is called primary hypothyroidism and the most common type of underactive thyroid. Over 90% of primary hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which your immune system from the gut mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland. Other causes of primary hypothyroidism are iodine deficiency, a genetic disorder, taking certain medications, and surgery that removes part of the thyroid. Other times, the thyroid gland does not receive enough TSH. This happens when the pituitary gland is not working effectively and is called secondary hypothyroidism.
Thyroid hormones are essential for your body systems to function properly. They help control growth, cell repair, and metabolism, the process by which your body converts what you eat into energy. Your metabolism affects your body temperature and the rate you burn calories. That’s why people with hypothyroidism often feel cold and fatigued and may gain weight easily.
How does hypothyroidism affect your metabolism?
If you find it difficult to maintain your weight with hypothyroidism, try to incorporate 10 to 15 minutes a day of moderate or high-intensity cardio. This includes exercises like fast-paced walking, running, hiking, and rowing. Research shows that moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise may help boost your thyroid hormone levels by increasing oxygen flow into your body systems. In turn, this may help speed up your metabolism.
People with hypothyroidism might also benefit from increasing their plant-based protein intake and healthy fats. Research shows that higher-protein and healthy fat diets help increase the rate of your metabolism. Omega 3-fatty acids are essential in providing the thyroid with the energy required to burn fat. Essential fatty acids are crucial for proper absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K, all-important for thyroid, adrenals, gut, brain, heart, muscles, bones, and joint health.
Other nutrients that are important for hypothyroidism
Selenium helps “activate” thyroid hormones so they can be used by the body.
This essential mineral also has antioxidant benefits, which means it may protect the thyroid gland from damage by molecules called free radicals.
Adding selenium rich-foods to your diet is a great way to boost your selenium levels.
Selenium rich foods:
- Brazil nuts
However, avoid taking a selenium supplement unless advised by your healthcare provider since large doses of selenium may be toxic.
Iodine is an essential mineral that’s needed to make thyroid hormones. Thus, people with iodine deficiency might be at risk for hypothyroidism.
Iodine deficiency is very common and affects nearly one-third of the world’s population. Although it’s less common in people from developed countries like the United States, where iodized salt and iodine-rich seafood is widely available. However, I find iodine deficiency to be quite common among my patients. Iodine deficiency is best evaluated via 24-hour urine collection during pre/post iodine intake.
If you have an iodine deficiency, consider adding a pinch of pink Himalayan salt to your meals.
Iodine rich-foods like dark:
- Green leafy vegetables
Do not take Iodine supplements without knowing that you need iodine especially since some studies have shown that getting too much of this mineral may damage the thyroid gland. Don’t forget to get plenty of rest, find ways to reduce stress and enjoy life, which are all essential for thyroid health.
CLICK HERE to watch my video where I discussed the best food sources to improve thyroid, increase energy, and boost metabolism.