Now that you know all about your Thyroid you may be wondering how you can keep that gorgeous organ healthy. Does it matter if you have an illness that causes hyper or hypothyroidism? What if you don’t have a thyroid disease at all? Is there a Thyroid Diet that you should consider?
Is there such a thing as a Thyroid Diet?
Your thyroid is a pretty interesting organ that ultimately affects every cell in your body. If that doesn’t make something a big deal, I don’t know what does. And there are definitely foods that play a role in thyroid health. It takes tons of nutrients to do such an important job. But there is no such things as a generic “Thyroid Diet”. And there are a couple of reasons for this:
1. If you are a healthy individual, your diet should have a whole body focus (which certainly includes feeding your thyroid).
2. If you do have a Thyroid Disease, your needs will differ depending on how your thyroid is affected (it does matter if you’re hyper or hypothyroid and if it’s caused by an autoimmune disease).
However, no matter your situation, there are definitely foods that will affect your thyroid. And since this amazing little organ affects the health of your entire body, it’s definitely in your best interest to know how to keep it happy. Remember to discuss your concerns with your doctor or healthcare provider.
What Affects Thyroid Health
What It Does
Iodine is a key component in thyroid hormone production, a pretty important part of your thyroid’s job. Those hormones are responsible for dictating the speed of every cell in your body. But don’t go gobbling down foods high in iodine like they’re going out of style. Balance is key, as too much or too little iodine can affect thyroid function.
For those Without a Thyroid Disease and those with Non-Autoimmune Hypothyroidism
Too little iodine and you may find yourself with a sluggish thyroid and goiter. This used to be a huge problem in North America, which is why we iodized our salt. The hypothyroid issue dissipated greatly after we made this change to increase iodine intake (source). With that in mind, it’s important to make certain that you are getting some iodine in your diet.
While iodine deficiency can play a role in hypothyroidism, those with Hashimotos may want to think twice before increasing their iodine intake. Autoimmune thyroid diseases are more common in areas with excess iodine intake (source). Some studies have shown that iodine could affect thyroid auto-antibody production and thyroid hormone production. Even small amounts (100 micrograms over the daily recommended intake) had a negative impact on Hashimotos patients in this study. While you may not have to swear off iodine completely, it may not be in your best interest to go overboard.
For Hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease
Much like those with Hashimotos, anyone with Hyperthyroidism should go easy on the iodine. Excess iodine intake can reduce the effectiveness of your anti-thyroid medication (source). And those in remission may be more likely to experience a relapse if iodine is consumed in excess (source).
Foods with Iodine:
- Beans (Pinto, Navy, Black-Eyed, Lima, Kidney)
- Green Peas
- Meat (Turkey, Beef, Chicken, Pork)
- Fish (Cod, Haddock, Tuna)
- Seafood (especially seaweed)*
*A note on seaweed and spirulina. The recommended daily intake of iodine for the average adult is around 150 micrograms per day (source). Seaweed and algae’s like spirulina can have 2984 micrograms or more of iodine per serving. Talk about an iodine overload! It’s best to avoid if you have thyroid issues and should otherwise be consumed in low amounts (preferably with goitrogens).
What They Do
In short, goitrogens dampen iodine metabolism. They have an inhibiting affect, slowing down the hormone production process and reducing the amount of thyroid hormone produced.
For those Without a Thyroid Disease
For the average, healthy individual, the effects are minimal (you’d have to really try and stuff yourself full of them to cause any thyroid concerns). My apologies if you were looking for an excuse not to eat your broccoli. 😉
For Hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease
Goitrogens shouldn’t be a concern for us hyperthyroid warriors. The main goal of our treatment is to reduce thyroid hormone production. Plus, these babies are pretty packed with nutrients, something we can totally benefit from.
For Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos
Sure, thyroid inhibiting effects don’t really sound like something you would want. But don’t cut goitrogens out completely! They’re pretty damn good for you. And, super awesome news, the enzymes that have a goitrogenic effect are heat sensitive. Destroy those suckers by steaming, boiling, frying, etc. and you have nothing to be concerned about. But don’t be afraid to enjoy them raw, in moderation, as well.
- Brussel Sprouts
- Sweet Potatoes
This little baby, public enemy number one in the food world right now, is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. And it’s only a concern here for those with Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases (did I just hear a collective sigh of relief from everyone else?) Autoimmune Diseases tend to cluster… those with Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases are more likely to develop Celiac Disease, and vice versa (source). If you have Graves Disease or Hashimotos, it’s definitely worth it to see if this plays a role in your health. Talk to your doctor about getting tested. And if you test positive, go gluten free baby (all of my recipes will cater to you <3).
This mineral works with iodine, transforming the thyroid hormone T4 into the more active T3.
For those with Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases (Graves and Hashimotos)
Studies have shown that selenium supplementation (and dietary sources) is beneficial! Reducing inflammation and auto-antibody levels (source). More research is needed to better define treatment doses and duration. It is possible to overdo it with selenium, so please discuss this with your Endocrinologist before taking a supplement.
For Everyone Else
While you shouldn’t have the need to supplement, getting some selenium in your diet is awesome for your thyroid function. This study showed that selenium status is probably a key factor in normal thyroid function and those who consumed the right levels were less likely to develop issues.
Foods with Selenium:
- Brazil Nuts
- Fish (Tuna, Halibut, Sardines)
- Meat (Chicken, Turkey, Beef)
- Chia Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Swiss Chard
This baby is a goitrogen… but a unique one that also mimics estrogen. The Endocrine Society’s found that soy probably won’t have a negative effect on your thyroid if you don’t already have an issue (source). But if you’re iodine deficient or have an autoimmune thyroid disease, it’s possible that soy may be a concern (source). More research is needed.
One important thing to note, babies fed exclusively soy baby formula are far more likely to develop an autoimmune thyroid disease. Regardless of how you choose to feed and raise your little one, please avoid soy based baby formulas. (source 1, source 2)
Antioxidants inhibit oxidation and fight back against free radicals, protecting our cells from damage. Everyone should be certain to get a good dose of these babies in their diet. And, unfortunately, those with thyroid diseases (autoimmune included) may have higher levels of free radicals than those who don’t (source). So load up on antioxidants baby, these bad boys have your back!
Good news! Selenium is a powerful antioxidant! There are many different types of antioxidants, which I won’t go into here. But, luckily, that gives us a ton of options! Here are more antioxidant foodie options to help in the fight to keep that gorgeous body healthy…
Foods with Antioxidants:
- Selenium: See Above
- Shallots, Leeks, Onions, Garlic
- Green tea
- Herbs like Thyme, Oregano
- Copper: Kale, Mustard Greens, Nuts, Legumes
- Manganese: Seafood, Nuts, Squash
- Beta Carotene: Pumpkin, Carrots, Spinach, Mangoes
- Vitamin C: Citrus Fruits, Berries, Kiwis, Broccoli, Spinach
- Vitamin E: Olive oil, Nuts, Avocados, Seeds
- Zinc: Chickpeas, Lean Meat, Nuts
Keep in mind that processed foods, fast foods and junk food in general do not support our health in any way (something we all already know). Limit or avoid these icky food-like substances; they aren’t helping any of you, especially if you’re already dealing with an illness.
There you have it fellow Health-Esteemie! While there may not be a perfect Thyroid Diet, there are certainly many ways you can use nutrition to help keep that thyroid happy!
Now it’s your turn – What would you add to the list? Did anything surprise you? Tell me about your experiences with Thyroid Disease and diet in the comments below.
Here’s to happy, healthy thyroids!
Health and love,
Thought of the day: My health is my wealth – it’s in my best interest to make my wellness a priority.
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