‘We are what we eat’
Everyone has heard this. Only few actually understand and follow it. Our food habits are largely responsible for our well-being. A healthy diet along with active and routine lifestyle is the mantra to a fit body. Many of us suffer from diseases. While we rely on medications completely to cure us, we rule out the importance of a strict and disciplined diet. Thyroid is one such disease where diet is immensely important.
What is Thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower part of our neck. It plays a vital role in the various metabolic processes of our body. It is responsible for releasing two key hormones: 1. Triiodothyronine (T3) and 2. Thyroxine (T4). Together, these control the body’s metabolism.
Importance And Function Of Thyroid Glands
When our thyroid works the way it ideally should, the two hormones, T3 and T4, are released into our bloodstream. These make their way throughout our body and assist different cells to make energy from the food we consume. T3 and T4 regulate our blood calcium levels and basal body temperature too. This in turn, facilitates overall growth and development and helps brain development in infants.
What is Thyroid Disease?
Unfortunately, millions of people across the world have either under-active or over-active thyroid glands. Their thyroid glands either produce too little or too much thyroid hormones. This results in a string of health problems and symptoms. Some of these issues can be quite severe too.
If you already have been detected with thyroid disease, make sure you consider a diet for thyroid. Such diet will help heal your condition and help your body function well.
Who All Are At The Risk of Thyroid Disease?
Gender seems to play a role in upping the risk of developing thyroid disease. Women are more susceptible to thyroid-related problems than men. People with advancing age or thyroid disease in the family also run the risk of getting the disease. Other risk factors include:
- Autoimmune diseases
- A close family member with autoimmune disease
- If you’ve undergone thyroid surgery
- If you’ve been exposed to radiation
- If you’ve recently delivered a baby
- Women with or around menopause
- If you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid cancer
Whether you run the risk of getting this disease or you’ve already been diagnosed with it, you must pay sincere and serious attention to your diet. Food habits can surprisingly make you feel better and alleviate many of the thyroid symptoms.
Diet for Thyroid
Food Items to include:
There are some nutrients that the thyroid needs for its well-being and optimal functioning.
Thyroid absorbs iodine from the food we eat to produce thyroid hormones. Inadequate iodine levels often make the hormones go haywire – adversely effecting the body. Women in their childbearing age are often found to be iodine-deficient. This deficiency can be met by adding seaweed-rich foods like nori, kombu, wakame and hijiki into the diet. These are the natural sources of iodine. But be careful with the quantity. Overconsumption of iodine causes thyroid problems, making the symptoms worse.
This mineral is essential for producing and regulating the levels of T3. Include naturally selenium-rich food choices like snapper, tuna, calf liver, shitake mushrooms, shrimp, cod and Brazil nuts to your diet.
3. Zinc, Copper and Iron:
These trace nutrients are needed for optimal thyroid functioning. Low levels of zinc cause low levels of TSH. Copper is required for producing thyroid hormones. Iron deficiency leads to reduced efficiency of thyroid. So make sure you include calf liver, mushrooms, Swiss chard, turnip greens and spinach as a part of your daily diet.
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
These fatty acids help in sensitizing our cells to thyroid hormones. One can get Omega-3 fatty acids by consuming fish oil, sardines, salmon, flaxseed, grass-fed beef, halibut, soybeans and shrimp.
5. Coconut Oil:
Cooking food in coconut oil increases metabolism rate and helps lose weight. The medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil is responsible for it. Usually, coconut oil is recommended for people with hypothyroidism.
6. Antioxidants Vitamins and B Vitamins:
Vitamins A, C and E are potent antioxidants that help eliminate oxidative stress that can damage thyroid. Include foods rich in B vitamins. Look to include beef, eggs, chicken, fish, seafood, apples, oranges, apricot, watermelon, carrots, spinach, peas, tomatoes, turnips, dates, potatoes, pulses, nuts, strawberries, citrus fruits and whole grains to get vitamins A, C and E. Pork, green leafy veggies, chicken, eggs, legumes, shellfish, liver, wheat germ, almonds, peas, pecan and whole grain cereals are rich in B vitamins and should be incorporated into your diet for thyroid.
Food Items to Avoid:
There are some food items harmful for thyroid. Hence, you should be looking to avoid these foods altogether.
Using Aspartame as an artificial sweetener has been linked with Graves’ disease and many other autoimmune disorders. The chemical present in aspartame can cause an immune reaction in the body, resulting in production of thyroid antibodies and thyroid inflammation.
2. Non-fermented Soy:
Soy contains isoflavones, which are goitrogens. These compounds interfere in the thyroid gland’s ability to absorb iodine and work optimally. So avoid soy-based foods, including soy burgers, tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, tempeh, miso, and soybean oil. Do not consume processed foods containing soy either.
Gluten also is a goitrogen. In addition, it can trigger an autoimmune response in body if one is sensitive to it. Foods with gluten include wheat, barley, rye and most processed foods. So, keep them out of your daily diet at all costs.
4. Cruciferous Vegetables:
Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli contain isothiocyanates, which are goitrogens. These can adversely affect the health and working of our thyroid gland. Health experts reckon that consuming cooked cruciferous veggies can negate their goitrogenic effects and provide many health benefits. However, it is best advised to consult your physician before consuming these veggies. Make sure you steam them well before consumption.
Food Items to Heal Your Thyroid
Including the following foods can help your thyroid heal. These are over and above the diet for thyroid.
- Consume foods with both macronutrients and micronutrients.
- Add organic fruits and vegetables to your diet. These are free of toxins, chemicals and hormones and nutritious too.
- Add fermented foods items like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and homemade yogurt.
- Rich-probiotic foods heal thyroid. These are beneficial bacteria. They protect your digestive system against other harmful bacteria and help to eliminate toxins, undigested foods and parasites.
- Include healthy proteins and fats, required for hormones’ production and a healthy digestive tract. An unhealthy digestive tract can result in problematic thyroid and can interfere with its functioning.
- Look to include walnuts, coconut oil, avocados and coconut butter in your diet to enjoy healthy fats.
- Animal fats are the best to heal a troubled digestive system, so opt for beef and chicken fat.
- Look to gain protein through grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey, fish and pork.
- If you are a vegan, try to get your protein through lentils, beans and other vegetarian sources. But avoid soy and soy-based products, as they are not recommended for people with thyroid disease.
- Include mineral and vitamin-rich herbs in your diet. Consume them raw to ensure the minerals and vitamins are not denatured during cooking.
- People with hypothyroidism must consume turmeric, Bladderwrack and Ashwagandha - it aids in healing the thyroid and is highly recommended.
- Echinacea is extremely helpful in cases of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.
- Bugleweed is best for hyperthyroidism.
- Many people with thyroid disease also have adrenal fatigue and chronic low levels of cortisol. Such people should be looking to eat adrenal-healthy foods, such as garlic, onions, sprouts, green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, spinach, bananas, turnip greens and almonds. These foods will help to restore the proper functioning of the adrenals.
However, make sure you do not get into a fit of anger, jealousy or hostility, as your restored adrenals will release cortisol and this hormone has an adverse effect on the thyroid gland. Try to calm yourself down by taking up activities like dancing, yoga or painting. These will prevent adrenal fatigue and also help to keep cortisol levels normal.
Other Thyroid Diet Tips
- Many of the thyroid problems have been linked to autoimmune disorders. As a result, there are many immune cells and lymphocytes in our gut and these help to protect our body from bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. This would explain why some thyroid patients often complain of diarrhoea, bloating, constipation or gas. You should be looking to change your diet to keep your gut healthy. This will help your thyroid and your overall health too.
- Stay away from preservatives and additives. These prove toxic to thyroid.
- Get your water checked. If it contains fluoride, switch to consuming non-fluoride water. Fluoride is known to adhere to thyroid cells and this affects their ability to produce thyroid hormone. Hence slowing down the working of your thyroid.
- Detox your body before starting with any kind of thyroid diet. Our gut and liver is where the T4 hormone is produced by the thyroid and is converted into T3. To ensure that the liver and gut work optimally to convert T4 into T3, try detoxifying them by fasting for a couple of days. If you cannot fast, try juices to detox. Ideally, you should detox twice every year.
Other Things to Consider
While there are many diets for thyroid patients, one should remember that a single diet plan may not suit everyone. Every individual has a unique body which reacts and heals differently. The foods that suit your body may not suit another person.
So Before going on any diet, make sure you get a proper thyroid test done and visit your doctor. Let him understand your condition based on your reports and prescribe medication for you. In addition to this, consult a nutritionist to create a diet plan for yourself.
We hope this article served its purpose of giving basic information about the do’s and don’ts of thyroid diet. Have more tips? Please share with us by leaving your comments below.
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