The thyroid gland is considered the master gland of metabolism. It plays a crucial role in producing hormones which affect energy production and metabolism, something many people are now looking for help with. The hormones the thyroid produces have many consequences for our bodies and our lives.
One of the unique characteristics about the thyroid is that is highly nutrient-dependent. It, along with the adrenal glands, often suffer heavily from the stress and lack of nutrients in our daily lives. People eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) can easily become deficient in key nutrients which contribute to a healthy thyroid.
Symptoms of an unhealthy thyroid include fatigue, weight gain, cold hands and feet, depression and hair loss, among other issues. Approximately more than 90% of people are estimated to have an autoimmune form of the hypothyroid condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This particular form creates an increase in systemic inflammation throughout the body.
As with so many other health-related issues, once one part of the body finds itself in decline, the other parts of the body follow. We are a whole, and no part is separate or isolated from the rest. A healthy thyroid produces a healthy body, and an unhealthy thyroid produces an unhealthy body.
With that, let’s look at nine vital nutrients to make sure your thyroid has a fighting chance of staying healthy for life.
The balance of iodine in the body is critical because both too much and too little iodine in the body is associated with thyroid dysfunction. Too little iodine is associated with nervous system issues and degradation of the thyroid itself.
The best source of iodine is marine products. In terms of concentration, kelp is the best followed by dulse and nori. Adding to the diet is as easy as soaking in some water and simply adding to your dishes!
Believe it or not, due to the depletion of nutrients in our soil, selenium, which is an immune modulator, is showing up as deficient in the majority of people. Selenium deficiency is associated with a weakened immune system, which affects the thyroid.
The best source of selenium in food is found in Brazil nuts. All you need is 2 nuts per day! Other good sources are sardines, pasture-raised poultry like turkey, chicken, and eggs.
If you have a seriously compromised thyroid gland, it is recommended to boost your selenium with a supplement, if just temporarily, while your thyroid is being restored.
Zinc, like selenium, is associated with immune system regulation. You will often find zinc paired with vitamin c for immune function.
The best food sources to obtain zinc from are eggs, salmon, beef, pumpkin and chia seeds, and almonds.
4. Fat Soluble Vitamins:
Vitamin A: The richest sources of vitamin A can be found in orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potato and winter squash. Other dietary sources include spinach, kale, and dark leafy greens.
Vitamin D: Low levels are associated with increased hyperthyroidism and bone density issues. For most people who don’t use the natural sunlight for vitamin d, supplements are the next best thing.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E has been shown to decrease oxidative stress and support a healthy immune system. Good sources are raw almonds, dark leafy greens like swiss chard, mustard greens, kale, and spinach as well as avocado and olives.
Vitamin K2: Vitamin K2 assists with Vitamin D absorption. Sources include fermented dairy, grass-fed beef, and natto.
Low iron has been associated with hypothyroidism and has been also shown to increase the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system. The result is an increase in stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Foods which are rich in iron include leafy greens, nuts, grass-fed beef and organ meat, quinoa and lentils.
B vitamins are directly related to thyroid function. Many practices today deplete B vitamins in the body, especially over-consumption of sugar and medications. Vitamin B6 in some studies has been shown to reverse hypothyroidism. One of the most important B vitamins, B12 has been linked to many thyroid conditions.
Supplementing B-complex vitamins into your diet can reduce symptoms associated with thyroid disease. Increasing intake of B12 (ideally sublingual) can improve health and energy in those that are deficient.
Low levels of tyrosine levels are linked to a reduction in thyroid hormones and also a decrease in neurotransmitters like dopamine, which is your feel-good hormone. Low tyrosine levels coupled with chronic stress also reduces enzymatic output in the body. This, in turn, influences the adrenal glands which affect the function of the thyroid gland.
8. Vitamin C:
Vitamin C directly supports the health of the adrenal glands. Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner, showed the importance of vitamin C in numerous studies and demonstrated that it is almost impossible to overdose on this water-soluble vitamin.
9. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids are responsible for reducing inflammation and supporting antioxidant pathways. These pathways protect against tissue damage to the thyroid. The key thing is the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Most Americans are the opposite of what is healthy, having much more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. This imbalance results in severe health consequences and reduces thyroid function.
Omega-3s are important for memory and cognition. The most important omega-3’s are the long-chain EPA and DHA, which are found in the highest concentrations in cold-water fish.
Wild caught salmon and high-quality fish oil supplements are excellent sources of these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. The goal with any regimen is to normalize the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Doing so often contributes to normalizing thyroid function.
A Recipe for Thyroid Health
Dark greens such as Swiss chard are extremely nutrient-dense. The recipe below will help you get more nutrients into your diet, which specifically support the thyroid.
Garlicky Swiss Chard with Sesame Seaweed Sprinkle
Serves 2 to 3
- 1 bunch or approximately 6 to 8 leaves of Swiss chard
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Sesame Seaweed Sprinkle (recipe below)
- Separate the stem of the chard from the leafy portion. Thinly slice the stems and set aside.
- Cut the chard leaves in half, stack and tightly roll together. Chop into 1-inch pieces.
- Heat oil or ghee in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat and sauté sliced stems with garlic for 2 minutes.
- Add chopped leaves and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until they become wilted and vibrant green.
- Turn off heat and season with tamari or coconut aminos and brown rice vinegar.
- Plate and garnish with Sesame Seaweed Sprinkle.