What You Can Do to Nourish Your Thyroid
A number of nutrients and foods have been shown to contribute to healthy thyroid function. As you incorporate these into your diet, you should notice an improvement in your thyroid health.
Eat Only Healthy Fats and Oils
A number of health professionals now recommend that we eat only coconut oil, virgin olive oil, and butter. It is best to eat olive oil and butter sparingly. Coconut oil can be used in place of butter on toast, for example. Coconut oil is one of the most stable oils because of its medium-chain triglycerides. It will not easily turn to trans fatty acids when heated, making it one of the best oils for cooking. Avoid all other cooking oils. Never eat margarine. And read every label on packaged foods. If vegetable oil or soybean oil is listed, don’t buy it.
Be aware that most commercial salad dressings contain soybean oil or another polyunsaturated oil. You could benefit from preparing your own salad dressings and taking them with you when you travel or eat out. If that is not possible, ask for lemon slices and olive oil and prepare your own on the spot. Restaurant fried foods are particularly worrisome because the oils used are heated to very high temperatures and often used over and over for deep-frying. They are loaded with trans fatty acids. Whenever you can, prepare your own healthy foods at home and control the ingredients.
Many people have improved their thyroid health, have lost weight, and increased their energy by including two to three tablespoons of virgin coconut oil in their diet. There are a number of ways to do this. Cooking with the oil is the obvious method and it tastes great with every food from sautéed onions or vegetables to eggs to baked dishes.
You may also want to add one or two extra tablespoons of the oil to your diet daily. Smoothies are one way to accomplish this. You could try my Low-Carb Coconut Smoothie. I have also developed 101 smoothie recipes available in The Ultimate Smoothie Book. You may also wish to try my Coconut Treats recipe.4
Consume Plenty of Iodine-Rich Foods
Iodine is most abundant in sea vegetables, fish, seafood, and eggs. You can find a variety of dried sea vegetables at most health food stores, Asian markets, and some grocery stores. Add a strip of kombu to soups or bean dishes; sprinkle black seaweed on salads or add to soup. Season foods with dulse or kelp powder in place of salt. Eat more fish, especially the smaller coldwater fish, such as salmon (avoid farm-raised), mackerel, halibut, sole, and snapper. Avoid the larger fish such as tuna and swordfish; they tend to be higher in mercury. Choose cage-free, hormone and antibiotic-free eggs; they’re healthier.
Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
A number of nutrients have been shown to contribute to thyroid health; they include zinc, selenium, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Margaret Ames, Ph.D. says in her paper “Thyroid Health: Do You Have Hypothyroidism?” that individuals with hypothyroidism have been shown to have an impaired ability to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A, so care should be taken to include supplementation of vitamin A in addition to beta carotene.” She also adds that selenium is involved in conversion of T4 to T3 and low selenium levels could lead to low T3 levels. Because mercury will displace selenium, I would suggest a heavy metal detoxification program especially if you have had mercury amalgam fillings, have eaten a lot of tuna, or have been exposed to mercury in any other manner.
Juicing Can Help
Vegetable juicing can be particularly helpful in restoring health to the thyroid as well as the entire body. Radishes and radish juice can be quite beneficial. A sulphur compound found in the radish is a regulator of thyroixine and calcitonin (a peptide hormone). When enough of this sulphur compound is circulating in the bloodstream, the thyroid is less apt to over- or under-produce these hormones. A steady diet of radishes and radish juice can be quite beneficial. Try my Thyroid Tonic, which is the juice of carrots or cucumber, celery, radishes, and lemon. To that you can add a dash of powdered kelp or dulse for a boost of iodine.
- 1 carrot
- 1/2 cucumber
- 2 stalks of celery
- 1 whole bunch of radishes
- 1 whole lemon peeled
- dash of kelp powder
Cranberry is another helpful juice. Because the bogs of Massachusetts where cranberries are grown are near the sea, cranberries contain iodine—35 parts per billion according to The Journal of Biochemistry (79:409-11; 1928). You can juice cranberries with a low-sugar apple such as pippin or Granny Smith and add a squeeze of lemon for an absolutely delicious cranberry juice cocktail and, unlike the store-bought cranberry juice (except for cranberry concentrate), it will not have added sugar. For other juice recipes, see my book The Juice Lady’s Guide to Juicing for Health (Avery, 1999).
As we nourish our thyroid, we also want to avoid the foods and substances that can tax this important gland or interfere with nutrient absorption. Following are a few suggestions that can make an important difference in thyroid health. Additionally, there are some lifestyle interventions that can be very beneficial for the thyroid.
Excessive ingestion of certain foods can block iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland; these include: turnips, cabbage, mustard, cassava root, pine nuts, millet, peanuts, and soybeans. Until your thyroid health is restored, you may want to avoid these foods completely. When your thyroid is healthy again and you no longer have symptoms, you could include them occasionally, but I recommend that you never eat them daily. The foods to watch out for most are soybean oil in salad dressing, textured vegetable protein used as a filler, and peanut butter. These products are included in many commercially packaged foods. It is interesting to note that in Asian cultures soy is only eaten in small quantities and in forms that have been fermented.
Omit All Refined Grains, Sugar, and Substances That Tax the Thyroid
Foods that are the most taxing on the thyroid are foods many Americans eat every day such as refined grains, sugar and sweets, caffeine (coffee, black tea, sodas, and chocolate), hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, and alcohol. Avoid all refined grains such as white and wheat bread, rolls, biscuits, pancakes, pizza dough, pasta, and buns. The peanut butter sandwich is a perfect example of a really bad choice for the thyroid—refined grain bread and peanut butter—a goitrogen.
Avoid sugar in all forms such as white granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, molasses, fructose, and brown rice syrup. Use stevia, an herbal sweetener, instead that can be found at most health food stores. Avoid desserts. In addition, emotional stress (anger, grief, guilt, anxiety, and fear) can be very taxing on the thyroid. Other things that are taxing include: giving birth, environmental stress such as industrial pollutants, pesticides (a clear case for buying organic foods!), heavy metals, Candida albicans (yeast overgrowth), and medical stress (radiation, X-rays, and drugs).
Limit Exposure to Fluoride and Mercury
It is beneficial to avoid fluoride and mercury as much as possible. To that end, a water filtration system that removes fluoride and other chemicals is worth the purchase. Buy toothpaste from a health food store that is fluoride free. Get mercury amalgam fillings removed from your mouth. And choose smaller coldwater fish such as salmon and halibut that usually have less mercury.
Many people have benefited greatly from various cleansing programs such as colon cleansing, the liver cleanse, gallbladder cleanse, kidney cleanse, and the heavy metal detox. My 7-Day Liver Cleanse may be particularly helpful because a well-functioning liver can really benefit your thyroid since much of the T4 is converted to T3 in the liver. A congested liver will not perform functions such as this efficiently.
Exercise is particularly important in the healing of hypothyroidism. Exercise stimulates thyroid gland secretion and increases tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormones. Choose exercises that fit your energy level. You may start by walking and perhaps taking a stretch class. Weight-bearing exercise is particularly important to prevent osteoporosis. Work up to exercises such as step aerobics or fast walking that get your heart rate up—excellent for the cardiovascular system. Exercise has been shown to increase metabolic rate, an important aspect in weight loss. Jumping on a rebounder (mini trampoline) is very beneficial for the organs and lymphatic system. Whatever you do, get up and move. Your energy will improve as you do more exercising, even if it’s just for 15 minutes to begin.
How Long Will It Take to Restore Thyroid Health?
“The beneficial effects of a comprehensive treatment of hypothyroidism are usually evident within two to three weeks after starting therapy,” says Margaret Ames, Ph.D. “However, it is important to emphasize that, while symptoms may be alleviated and people with hypothyroidism may experience a greater sense of well-being, in most cases, treatment for this condition requires a life-long commitment.” It’s worth it. You can look forward to a life of vibrant health and lowered risks of degenerative disease.
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