Many people – particularly women in their 30s and into menopausal years – have an underactive thyroid without realising it. An underactive thyroid (or hypothyroidism) can be associated with lifestyle (such as high stress and poor diet) and genetic markers that may predispose people to it.
The thyroid gland is responsible for our metabolic rate and therefore impacts virtually every organ and system in our body! Some symptoms of a low functioning thyroid include:
- weight gain
- difficulty losing weight
- dry skin
- hair loss
- inability to cope with stress – due to the thyroid’s close connection with the adrenals
- sore and dry throat (often just from speaking, and separate to a symptom of the flu)
- cold hands and feet
There is much that can be done nutritionally, environmentally and emotionally to support the thyroid gland. Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Eat iodine-rich foods
Iodine is the main nutrient that feeds the thyroid. In fact, goiter is associated with a lack of dietary iodine, and is common in areas of the world that lack iodine-rich soil. Iodine is found abundantly in sea vegetables and salt. An easy way of incorporating iodine-rich food is by using an unrefined sea salt in your daily diet (such as pink Himalayan sea salt) as it contains the right proportion of iodine and other supporting minerals. Iodized table salt, on the other hand, has been stripped of the other minerals and contains a high amount of iodine – which may be too high for the thyroid gland. Another way of incorporating iodine-rich foods is by cooking with sea vegetables like kelp, dulse and nori – which add a great flavour to salad dressing or soup stock!
2. Eat selenium-rich foods
Selenium is another essential nutrient for the health of the thyroid, but isn’t super easy to come by. Eating one to three raw brazil nuts a day supplies the body with the recommended daily amount of selenium. But just like iodine, be sure not to consume too much selenium – as too much can negatively impact the thyroid gland as well.
3. Avoid raw, cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens which inhibit the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland. Cruciferous vegetables include kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, bok choy – basically, your brassica family of veggies. (Goitrogens can also be found in strawberries, peanuts and soy – so best to eat these sparingly as well.) The good news is that cooking these foods kills the majority of goitrogens! So continue eating your dark greens – just cook them first.
Apart from diet, some important environmental and lifestyle recommendations include avoiding fluoride and chlorine, and, above all, practicing stress management. Stress causes the body to favour the production of cortisol over active thyroid hormones – which makes stress management the number one way to support your thyroid gland. Many people find that by practicing meditation, positive thinking or yoga regularly, they can better manage stress. In fact, there are specific yoga postures that support the thyroid gland!*
Finally, the thyroid gland is located at your throat – and from an emotional point of you, giving your throat exercise can positively impact the thyroid gland as well. Try de-stressing by humming a tune, or voicing your opinion where you think it matters.
If you’re struggling with weight management, skin and hair issues, sleep and bowel difficulties, etc. I highly recommend addressing the thyroid gland to ensure it’s functioning optimally. Also, too much of a good thing can be detrimental to the thyroid gland as well (and can lead to hyperthyroidism which can be dangerous) so please include a natural, food-based and healthy dose of the above recommendations – not more – and consult with your health practitioner to find out what’s right for you.**
*If you’d like to know what these postures are, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the file!
**Important note: If you’re on any thyroid medication, it is crucial to consult with your health practitioner prior to trying out these recommendations, as they can impact the dose of your medicine.
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