It has been estimated that between 30-50% of Americans suffer from hypothyroidism, and this number might even be greater, as thyroid conditions often go undiagnosed. The thyroid gland is absolutely critical for health and well-being, and the bottom line is: if you are living with a thyroid condition, you do not feel good.
In this day and age, autoimmune conditions are rapidly on the rise, and thyroid-related conditions top the list. While there are varying types of thyroid diseases, the two autoimmune forms are Graves Disease (overactive thyroid) and Hashimoto’s (under-active thyroid). Thyroid specialist Dr. Datis Kharrazian in his best selling book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Results are Normal, states that 90% of hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimotos.
In general, the foods you will eat to support the thyroid gland are similar across the board, and the key is eating for hormonal balance, cooling systemic inflammation, and knowing which foods to include, and which to avoid.
Before listing these foods, let’s give a quick thyroid gland 101. The thyroid is responsible for releasing hormones that affect many bodily functions, such as fertility, body temperature, and metabolism (among others). Remember, when it comes to the endocrine (hormonal) system, we are talking about an intricately connected web, and no one gland or hormone works independently.
This means that if there is thyroid dysfunction, we are often facing other types of hormonal imbalances, as well. And with thyroid problems, studies show that people, on average, gain weight.
Thyroid dysfunction can occur in the two primary ways mentioned above: over and under-activity. It is not necessarily always autoimmune in nature, although often, it is. Whether autoimmune or not (but even more so if autoimmunity is present), the foods we eat are critical.
Let’s take a look at some of the common symptoms associated with both over and under-active thyroid:
Symptoms Of An Under-Active Thyroid:
- unexplained weight gain
- thinning hair
- feeling cold (particularly hands and feet)
- thinning hair/hair loss
- dry skin
- feeling of brain fog and/or depression
Symptoms Of An Over-Active Thyroid
- goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
- trouble sleeping
- heart palpitations
- excessive/increased sweating
- unexplained weight loss
- frequent bowel movements
- muscle weakness
- light/less frequent periods
6 Foods To Include For Thyroid Support:
Coconut comes in many forms, and coconut oil can be particularly therapeutic for thyroid health. Coconut is a medium chain fatty acid, and is actually shown to help boost metabolism, increase energy, and is used effectively by the body. Furthermore, it is a potent anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral agent.
Sea vegetables, and especially kelp, are high in important trace minerals and iodine, a key mineral for thyroid function. Kelp also functions as a blood purifier, and supports adrenal function (the glands that release our stress hormones, which work in conjunction with thyroid hormones). Seaweed and sea vegetables contain iodine, which is key for thyroid support. Inadequate iodine levels is often a contributor to hypothyroidism.
There is a major connection between gut health and thyroid health, and including naturally, vegetable-based fermented foods in the diet is essential. Fermented foods have been used in cultures across the globe for centuries, as they are known for their many health benefits. These foods naturally contain probiotics, which are good gut bacteria needed for appropriate and healthy balance of gut flora. The best sources are raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass and kombucha tea.
Wild caught salmon should be on everyone’s list of superfoods, and it is especially important for thyroid support. Salmon (preferably Alaskan, wild caught) is quite high in selenium, B vitamins (particularly B12), vitamin D (essential for immune support), and is an exceptional protein source. Salmon is full of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids that are crucial for thyroid health.
You’re hard pressed to find a food healthier than bone broth. Bone broth is simply a broth that can easily be prepared at home, with bones from quality meat sources such as chicken, beef, lamb, and others. Cook the broth along with your veggies of choice and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for a minimum of 12 hours. Broth is a digestible protein source for those with compromised gut health (and remember, if you have an autoimmune thyroid condition, you likely suffer from compromised gut health), and provides endless minerals, as well. Making this a part of your daily diet can hugely support your thyroid and overall health.
Oysters in their raw form provide an impressively high dose of the key mineral, zinc, which is essential for thyroid function. Without zinc, the thyroid gland cannot convert the inactive T4 hormone into the active T3 version. Serve raw oysters with a bit of lemon juice and hot sauce, and enjoy! Added bonus: oysters are a serious aphrodisiac food, as well.
Turmeric is a root that is traditionally used in Indian cooking, and can be purchased in its root form (looks almost identical to ginger root, except slightly red), or in powdered form in the spice section of your grocery store. Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and is excellent for liver detoxification, both of which are essential for healthy thyroid function. Use turmeric when cooking, this can be as simple as sprinkling some on your stir-fry, or making a coconut-based curry.
Two Important Tips:
COOK GOITROGENIC FOODS
Avoid goitrogenic foods in their uncooked form, as these can aggravate the thyroid gland. However, cooking these foods will largely work to deactivate the goitrogenic properties. These foods include cabbage, kale, broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, rutabaga, millet and watercress.
GO GLUTEN FREE
As with any autoimmune condition, a gluten free diet is essential. Gluten is the number one common denominator in autoimmune conditions, and can cause major flare-ups. If you experience thyroid dysfunction (autoimmune or not), cutting out gluten is a very important first step. Some individuals might need to take this a step further by avoiding all grains.
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18362250. Retrieved March 9th, 2016.
-  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0090122997944123. Retrieved March 9th, 2016.