Guest post from local Nutritional Therapist Sarah Gale
Are you exhausted all the time, plagued by brain fog or having trouble losing weight? Are your moods up and down, hormones all over the place or digestion far from normal? It could be your thyroid!
Around 1 in 20 people in the UK have a thyroid problem, however it is thought that the statistic is likely to be much higher as many individuals are not aware they have a problem.
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits at the front of the neck and plays a vital role in metabolism. Whilst we often connect metabolism with weight or an inability to control our weight, it also has many other important functions in the body. The thyroid gland controls the rate or speed the body performs at and controls functions such as heart rate, breathing, menstrual cycles, digestion, muscle strength, body temperature, and cholesterol levels, amongst other things.
The thyroid gland does this by producing two main hormones called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 and T3 work together to reach almost every cell in the body and regulate how quickly or slowly each cell functions.
Hypothyroidism or low thyroid function is the most common thyroid condition seen across the population, which is when the function of the thyroid gland slows down and lower levels of thyroid hormones are produced. This will subsequently affect how quickly each cell functions which can slow down all the processes in the body.
Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Hypothyroidism is diagnosed via a blood test (alongside symptoms) and it is important to get thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), T4 and T3 tested to understand the full picture of how well the thyroid is functioning, not just TSH which is routinely tested for.
If you have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, or you suspect it isn’t working quite as well as it should be, here are 10 ways to support your thyroid naturally.
Protein is broken down into smaller units called amino acids, one of which is tyrosine which is needed to make thyroid hormones. Protein is also important to support good blood sugar balance and to transport hormones around the body. Good sources of protein include grass-fed organic meat, wild-caught fish, organic eggs, nuts, seeds and organic dairy.
Consuming a lot of sugar increases the release of the hormone insulin, which when released in large amounts can suppress thyroid hormone production. That goes for refined carbohydrates too, so watch your consumption of ‘white’ carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, rice etc. Eating more fibrous sources of carbohydrates, think wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, and always pairing with protein can help to lower the insulin spike.
Whilst fasting or time restricted eating is en vogue, it is not a good idea for anyone with a thyroid condition as it can cause a drop in thyroid hormone levels. Eating three meals a day helps to fuel your metabolism and provide ample nutrients to nourish the body and thyroid gland.
Goitrogens are naturally occurring substances that can interfere with thyroid function. They are mainly found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage and collard greens. Whilst it isn’t necessary to completely avoid these foods if you have a thyroid condition, instead cook them! Cooking lowers the goitrogenic activity in these foods, so rather than adding raw kale to your morning smoothie, steam some broccoli with your dinner instead.
An imbalanced gut flora can impact thyroid function by reducing how ‘active’ or ‘available’ T4 and T3 are to the body, as well as altering how the immune system responds to food and thyroid tissue. Including probiotic foods can help to maintain a healthy gut flora. Think of the 4 K’s when it comes to probiotic foods, kombucha, kefir, kraut and kimchi!
Bone broth is packed full of nutrients and is rich in amino acids, especially glycine which is excellent for gut health. Bone broth can help to heal and soothe the gut lining which helps reduce the chances of food intolerances and support the overall gut environment.
Gluten can be a common trigger for autoimmune thyroid conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The molecular structure of gluten looks almost identical to the molecular structure of thyroid tissue, so if the immune system sees gluten as a threat, it can get ‘confused’ and start attacking the thyroid gland too. The best way to see if gluten is an issue for you is to remove it completely from your diet for 4 weeks, then reintroduce it and see what symptoms pop up.
Just like any process in the body, the thyroid gland requires a good level of nutrients to function optimally. Vitamin A, iodine, iron, selenium and zinc are all essential for good thyroid function.
Nutrient food sources
Vitamin D is another nutrient that is vital for optimal thyroid function and the best source of vitamin D is the sun! Oily fish, egg yolks and organic liver can provide some vitamin D, but natural sun exposure really is the best way to up your levels. Expose your skin to the sun without sunscreen, however it is recommended to avoid the hottest times of the day and limit your exposure to short periods of time depending on your skin type.
Organic produce, when compared with non-organic produce, is shown to be more nutrient dense and also has a lower chemical exposure. Pesticides and herbicides can damage the functioning of the thyroid gland and lower the amount of thyroid hormones produced. Prioritise buying organic meat and fish as much as your budget and availability allows, and use the dirty dozen list as a resource to prioritise your fruit and vegetables.
Sarah Gale is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Clinical Nutritionist DipION mBANT and hormone expert and helps women who just can’t lose weight break free of the diet cycle, rebalance their hormones and feel confident in their own skin again.
After a lifetime a hating her body and chronic yo-yo dieting, Sarah realised that yo-yo diets didn’t have the answers and by balancing her hormones, fixing her metabolism and working on her mindset she could finally lose the weight and get her self-confidence back.
Get in touch with Sarah if you would like to discuss your thyroid function in more detail.