THE thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the throat and responsible for metabolism. It is regulated by the pituitary gland in our brain, where TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) is produced.
This sends a message to the thyroid to release thyroid hormones such as T4 and T3. These are the hormones your GP will test if they suspect your thyroid is out of balance.
When things go wrong with your thyroid, it can affect everything from energy levels and mood to weight and digestion.
Thyroid imbalance is very common and can affect the structure or function of this important little gland. The two main types of thyroid disease are:
1. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid): signs and symptoms include fatigue, difficulty losing weight, low mood, hoarseness, dry skin, feeling cold, dry skin, thinning hair, constipation, low libido, premenstrual syndrome and difficulty concentrating.
2. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid): signs and symptoms include weight loss, anxiety, irritability, anxiety, heat intolerance, diarrhea and loss of libido.
There are many reasons why our thyroid can be out of sync. Stress, viruses, immune conditions, certain medications, and trauma can be triggers.
If a blood test showed that your thyroid is out of balance, your GP has probably prescribed some medication for you, but have you stopped to think about what else you can do to help support your thyroid?
HOW CAN NUTRITION HELP MY THYROID?
- Lifestyle, stress management, and diet can all play a part in maintaining overall health, so if you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid imbalance, or think it might be a problem for you, here’s some things that can help you.
- Pack as many different colored fruits and vegetables as possible. These contain antioxidants that are important for thyroid health.
- Some people find that certain foods have adverse effects on their thyroid. These include grains containing gluten (such as wheat, oats, rye, and barley), peanuts, soy, and raw cruciferous vegetables, including raw broccoli and raw cabbage (cooking inactivates this inhibitory effect).
- Found in seaweed, fish and sea salt, iodine is a key nutrient for thyroid balance. Get it through your diet rather than as a supplement if you are taking thyroid medication.
- Forget low-fat diets. Your thyroid needs a balanced supply of essential fats, so don’t cut these healthy fats out of your diet. Omega 3s, found in oily fish, flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds are particularly important. These healthy fats won’t contribute to weight gain, so don’t skip them from your diet.
- Zinc and selenium are also important nutrients. Get them in nuts and seeds (especially Brazil nuts), seafood, and meat.
- The good bacteria in our gut play an important role in keeping our thyroid balanced, so help keep it happy and balanced by eating probiotic foods like natural yogurt or kombucha.
SOME OTHER ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS FOR YOUR THYROID INCLUDE:
Calcium – dairy products, nuts, seeds, tahini and green vegetables are good sources.
Magnesium – found in nuts, seeds, dark green vegetables and cocoa.
Vitamin A – get yours in green leafy vegetables, cheese, milk, eggs, oily fish and yogurt
Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin. A daily supplement may be beneficial
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
Stress wreaks havoc on thyroid function, so do what you can to incorporate rest and relaxation into your daily routine.
Quit the sugar habit. Sugar continues to cause weight gain and can have a detrimental effect on thyroid function. Start by eliminating the obvious sugars and finding low-sugar alternatives to help wean yourself off the sugar habit.
Daily exercise like walking, yoga, swimming, or cycling can help manage stress and balance your thyroid.
Avoid processed foods that lack a lot of nutrition. This includes low-fat foods, diet foods, and other junk foods.