Low thyroid function (hypothyroid) is actually one of the most common conditions in North America. The jury is still out on a cure, but there are still things you can do to keep your thyroid healthy. Remember just because you have a slow or fast thyroid gland, you may not need medication. It’s also important to remember than even if your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels are out of balance, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem with the thyroid. Every part of our bodies are interwoven and connected, and the thyroid doesn’t work alone. Try natural fixes before starting any meds, because once you are on them, it’s much harder to get off. When it comes to thyroid function food is a major player, so what you eat has a big effect on your thyroid health.
There are foods that both slow and speed up thyroid function. Since hypothyroid is the most common (and the one I have myself) I’ll focus on that today.
- Gluten : Celiac disease has been linked to thyroid disease in many research studies. Wheat is the bigget culprit. It’s not the only problem, but there is a link between gluten and thyroid function
- Milk : One more reason not to drink milk. Cow’s milk has over 300% the amount of casein (it’s the major protein in milk) that we need. Our bodies actually make our own casein to help the thyroid work, but because the cow’s casein is so similar to ours, and in such high quantities in milk it messes up our internal balance.
- Soy : Has goitrogenic properties (think goiter), linked to thyroid disfunction. I was very surprised to find out how much soy is in most packaged food. It’s actually very difficult to cut it out unless you are eating 100% whole foods diet. At least make sure you aren’t drinking soy milk or eating tofu products
- Refined sugars and Coffee: Also slow down thyroid function. If you are a coffee fanatic, first switch to tea and eventually to herbal tea. Kicking caffeine is similar to kicking smoking or some similar habit. Once you get it out of your system for a week or two it gets easier and you’ll actually start feeling better than you did when you drank it.
- Heavy metals and halogens (except iodine). The halogens that we are most exposed to are in tap water, chlorine and fluorine. Drink distilled water if you can. Most filters, like Britta will get out some of the chlorine, but fluorine is much tougher to get out. Some cities put fluorine in their water and others don’t. Distilling your water (different than boiling it) will remove all the halogens, and also remove heavy metals, radioactive compounds etc.
- Cruciferous vegetables: This one is a little bit trickier, because even though they have goitrogens, vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach etc have major health benefits too. So it’s counter productive to cut them from your diet. Just minimize these foods if you have a sick thyroid gland. It’s also helpful to heat them up before you eat them. Try them steamed when you have a craving for cooked food.
- Any seaweeds or sea vegetables. Seafood is also generally high in iodine, but also has a higher level of heavy metals that can hinder your thyroid.
- Brazil nuts and other nuts. Brazil nuts especially have selenium which is crucial for thyroid function, a few a day can go a long way
- Sweet potatoes and carrots have vitamin A
- Kiwi and citrus fruits have vitamin C
- Mushrooms have a lot of trace minerals.
- Coconut oil because of it’s high percent of natural saturated fat stimulates metabolism (and thus thyroid function)
It can also help to include some Iodine rich foods with your meal when you eat food with goitrogens. Most iodine rich foods come from the sea. Raw & vegan ‘sushi’ can be fun to make and it’s delicious, the nori wraps are high in iodine. Try using kelp salt instead of normal sea salt (definitely do not ever use table salt). You can also find dulse in most health food stores or whole foods, it’s salty, so try crushing a bit on top of your salads or blend it in with your dressing.
Remember the above foods are not all you can eat, so you shouldn’t feel severely limited by your thyroid. You really can eat most vegetarian meals. If you haven’t already, try picking up a raw recipe book. I like Ani Phyo, because she has a lot of quick and simple recipes. You can even use her raw recipes and make a cooked or partially cooked version. Just remember if you are eating any of those goitrogenic vegetables to try pairing them up with something rich in iodine.