The thyroid is a small gland that sits in the middle of the neck and produces a hormone that affects each cell’s metabolism and use of energy, thereby regulating our overall metabolism and energy. In addition, the thyroid hormone is responsible for several other vital functions that affect our daily living: growth/development, respiration rate, body temperature, heart rate, and digestive activity.
The most common thyroid disorder is Hypothyroidism, a.k.a. an under-active thyroid and underproduction of the thyroid hormone. The other common thyroid disorder is Hyperthyroidism, in which there is an overproduction of the thyroid hormone. Even though both disorders are caused pathologically by different things, the symptoms are similar: lack of energy, slow or rapid heart rate, sluggish or overstimulated metabolism, being easily excitable/nervous/anxious, slow bowel movements/constipation, muscle weakness, dizziness or vision problems, memory problems, and unexplainable sudden weight gain or loss. These similarities make it easy to mistake the symptoms of hypothyroidism with hyperthyroidism, and vice versa.
Because the thyroid plays such an important role, it’s essential that we do our best to take care of it. Here are some tips to help rebalance your thyroid or help you to heal your thyroid condition alongside a treatment plan from a practitioner.
To keep thyroid hormone levels balanced in the body, the thyroid regulates many body functions including the central and peripheral nervous systems, heart rate, menstrual cycles, body weight, and body temperature, to name just a few. If the thyroid is not in balance, it can have a domino effect and cause other body functions to go out of balance as well. Make a conscious effort to include at least one or two of the following foods in your diet every day:
Brazil nuts - these tasty nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium, a vital mineral that’s essential in converting the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) into its active form of T3. A few Brazil nuts go a long way - consume just 4 per day to get adequate amounts of selenium.
Sea vegetables - these are very dense in trace minerals and also contain calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Sodium and iodine are the most predominant minerals found in sea vegetables and have long been used to treat thyroid imbalances such as goiters. Enjoy seaweed, kombu, dulse, kelp, hiziki, and other sea vegetables in order to increase your iodine levels. Here are some examples of how to incorporate them into your daily menu and diet:
Add a piece of kombu to a pot of beans or soup during cooking
Instead of salt, sprinkle kelp or dulse granules over your salads or hot dishes
Make nori wraps as a delicious and portable snack
Blueberries - these low-GI berries can help to reduce inflammation that is common in hypothyroidism as well as with adrenal issues (which, you’ll see discussed below, is commonly connected with an under-active thyroid).
Avocados - some call the avocado a “perfect food” due to its incredibly macro- and micro-nutrient profile. Avocados are a good source of potassium as well as vitamins A and C, all of which are crucial for good thyroid (and adrenal) health.
Pasture-Raised Eggs - like other proteins, eggs are a great source of B-vitamins, especially riboflavin (vitamin B2) and the yolks are high in vitamins A and D.
Chlorophyll - these green pigments that are found in algae and plants help to gently detox heavy metals from the body. Excess heavy metals in the blood like mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic are known to inhibit thyroid function. Chlorophyll is easily available at most health food stores.
Cook your greens If you have thyroid issues, then raw cruciferous vegetables may not be the best choice for you, especially in large amounts. Skip the kale smoothies and salads, and eat your greens cooked instead. Cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens, which can disrupt the thyroid if consumed in large quantities. Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, kale, and cauliflower.
Reduce/minimize Grains that contain gluten should be limited or avoided as they’ve been implicated in autoimmune thyroid conditions. Limit wheat, spelt, kamut, durum, barley, rye, and oats, and instead enhance your diet with starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, and peas. Or try grains like brown rice, quinoa, and millet.
Avoid soy - Soy is a goitrogen which blocks iodine uptake in the body. Fermented versions of soy, such as tempeh and natto, have a lesser effect and can be consumed in moderation.
Eliminate gluten Gluten is the most common food sensitivity that’s linked and associated with thyroid disturbances. Gluten is also the number one cause of leaky gut, which creates inflammation throughout the body and switches the thyroid into overdrive, burning it out. Try to follow a gluten-free diet for a few months to see if symptoms lessen.
Address food sensitivities Food sensitivities and allergies cause systemic inflammation throughout the body, which places a burden on the thyroid. If you have a diagnosed thyroid problem, get a food sensitivity test so you know what foods to eliminate to reduce stress on the thyroid.
Decrease your carbohydrate intake Consuming high amounts of carbohydrates imbalances hormones like estrogen, which has a direct impact on thyroid hormone. Replace excessive carbs with more healthy fats and proteins. Add things like coconut milk/oil, salmon, hemp seed, flax seed, nuts (except walnuts, which can interfere with thyroid function), avocado, grass-fed meats, and grass-fed butter to support hormonal health and to promote satiety. Also, try eating your carbohydrates as root vegetables and squash instead of bread, pastas, and grains.
Check your iodine levels The thyroid and iodine go together like bones and calcium. Because we typically eat diets that are lacking in minerals, if you’re experiencing any type of thyroid issue then it’s important to have your iodine levels checked. If you’re low, add sea vegetables to your diet (such as dulse, wakame, and nori) or take iodine in supplemental form. Supplementing with iodine can be tricky though, so only do this if it is recommended to you by a professional.
Increase nutrient intake with supplements Both macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are important in the overall functioning of a healthy immune system, hormones, and the body as a whole. In thyroid disorders, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting as many nutrients as possible that can help to balance and produce hormones. Nutrients that help with hormone production include vitamin D, omega-3s, zinc, copper, selenium, vitamin A, and B vitamins. Glutathione, an antioxidant produced mostly by the body, has also been proven to be helpful in cases of thyroid disturbances. It can be taken as a supplement or you can eat foods that increase glutathione production within the body, such as asparagus, avocados, garlic, spinach, soft poached/boiled eggs, and grapefruit.
Take probiotics to support healthy gut microbiome How our gut is functioning plays a role in how our thyroid is functioning. About 20% of our thyroid hormone is actually produced within the gut! A healthy gut and balanced microbiome are essential to the proper production of the thyroid hormone. You can increase your intake of probiotic-rich foods with kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, and other fermented vegetables, or take a daily probiotic supplement.
Selenium protects the thyroid from the inflammation and oxidative stress that is suppressing its function and damaging thyroid tissue. It is also critical in the conversion of the hormone T4 to its active T3 form. Take: Up to 200mcg/day
Iron A deficiency in iron often accompanies hypothyroidism, since when the body is deficient, the thyroid compensates by conserving energy and dialing back its function. Take: 30-60mg iron amino chelate/day
Iodine - This mineral is required for thyroid hormone synthesis - without adequate amounts, our thyroid cannot make enough of its hormones and thus dials back its activity (hypothyroid). Take: The Suggested range can be anywhere from 12.5-50mg per day, depending on your individual needs. A high potency Iodine/Potassium Iodide blend is optimal for proper thyroid function.
Vitamin C - Needed for both optimal thyroid and adrenal function. Is also a powerful antioxidant and makes iron more absorbable. Take 3-6g/day or more (up to bowel tolerance)
Vitamin D - Many people with hypothyroid find themselves with low levels of vitamin D - which may explain why so many with low thyroid function experience bone problems. Vitamin D also contributes to immune function. Take: Dosage can range from 2,000-10,000 IUs per day, depending on your stores.
*It’s best to work with a holistic practitioner before taking or combining supplements
Ashwagandha -Helpful for deep exhaustion. Has gentle, soothing and calming effects, improving sleep, relieving anxiety and alleviating nervous system exhaustion while improving memory and learning. Relaxing for muscles and reduces inflammation. Also has a stimulating effect on the thyroid and supports thyroid hormone synthesis.
Take: In tincture form, 1 dropper full up to 3x/day
Guggul - Has been shown to improve thyroid function, increasing the conversion of T4 to the active T3 form.
Take: 750mg/day *Do not take during pregnancy (safe during breastfeeding, but discontinue if baby gets an upset tummy)
Rhodiola- Helps to alleviate depression, as well as help promote better energy and cognition. It’s also thought to help the adrenals spread cortisol production better throughout the day and counter stress.
Take: In tincture form, 5mL 3x/day. *Can be stimulating for some-so take earlier in the day.
Holy Basil- Along with being a fantastic adaptogen, holy basil also helps to enhance cerebral circulation, therefore improving cognitive function (memory, brain fog, etc.) which is often associated with hypothyroid.
Take: As a tea or infusion, 1 tsp in 1 cup of boiling water, up to 3x/day
Maca helps to balance the endocrine system for both men and women. It aids in regulating thyroxine levels (T4) and also contains zinc, iron, and vitamins B2, B3, and B6, all of which help to support optimal thyroid production. NOTE: some people may find maca overly stimulating. If this is the case for you, reduce the dose by ½ or even ¾.
Take: Try up to 1 tsp/day of dried root.
Address inflammation Because your thyroid helps with cell metabolism, if cells need more energy/fuel due to internal inflammation, then the thyroid will have to do even more work. If your thyroid is already having difficulty in any way, this will put an even further burden upon it. It’s important to keep inflammation as low as possible during thyroid healing. Try cutting out all inflammatory foods and following an anti-inflammatory diet. If you have any inflammatory conditions, speak with a health practitioner about how best to control them or to decrease the inflammation during this time.
Reduce your toxic load Exposure to chemical toxins can add to inflammatory reactions and it is best if exposure is reduced and avoided. Reassess the products you use in daily life, including cosmetics, personal care products (perfumes, lotions, shampoo, soap, etc) and cleaning products, while opting for natural options. Use the EWG website to find eco-friendly options.
Support your adrenals If your adrenals are imbalanced, chances are your thyroid will be as well. Your adrenal glands produce a hormone that stimulates the thyroid to make its own hormones, and both directly affect each other. By balancing the adrenals, we can begin to help support the natural production of thyroid hormone.
Try adding adaptogens into your daily routines, such as ashwagandha, tulsi (holy basil), or chaga, to help balance cortisol levels and support the adrenals. Practicing relaxation techniques will also support the adrenals. Always take the time to fully invest in your rest and de-stressing. Try to physically get rid of stress by looking at what’s giving you stress and removing it from your life - maybe you need a change of jobs, friends, or living arrangements. Also, try to learn, and practice relaxation & visualization techniques so that when stress does arise, you can use one of these to help calm you. Some great stress reduction techniques include deep breathing, using essential oils, meditation, inversion yoga poses, hot showers/baths, and mantras.
These tips will set you on a holistic path to supporting your overall health and, specifically, the optimal functioning of your thyroid gland. Our bodies are intricately connected systems, and the particulars are only supported by supporting the whole.