Basic lifestyle steps to optimise thyroid health
One woman in eight will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. (1)
Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. (2)
These are outstanding statistics for a disorder that is preventable. My intention is to share with you tips that can help you not be a statistic.
Let’s begin by understanding what the thyroid is and its function.
The thyroid is a small organ shaped like a butterfly found in the lower part of your neck. It is a large gland, is a crucial part of your endocrine system. The Endocrine system is a collection of glands in your body that has the ability to secrete chemicals called hormones directly into your blood system. The Endocrine system works in partnership with your nervous system and brain, controlling your body functions such as immunity, digestion, reproduction, metabolic rate, blood pressure, and even your happiness.
Important functions of the thyroid gland:
1. Produces a hormone that is responsible for your metabolism which controls your body weight.
2. Controls how effectively you will produce energy from it or “burn your calories“ as it produces the glucose from the food you eat.
3. Regulates vital body functions such as: menstrual cycles, breathing, body temperature, heart rate, influences the body growth and development, and it is important for healthy pregnancies.
Common symptoms of an insufficient function of the thyroid include:
● Menstrual irregularities or infertilities
● Extreme weight loss or weight gain
● Poor pregnancy outcomes
● Muscles aches and joint pains
● Dry hair and skin
● Feeling cold
● Hair loss
Thyroid and Nutrition
Production of your hormones, especially the thyroid hormone, is dependent on nutrition. Which means, you are what you eat and absorb? Therefore eating a rainbow of whole and natural foods provides nutrients like Zinc, Selenium, Iron, Iodine, vitamin C, B6, B2, vitamin D, and E that are needed for the healthy thyroid hormone production and conversion of the hormone from not active to active.
Does your breakfast normally consist of a croissant and coffee?
Do you feel tired around 10am?
For lunch, do you normally eat on the run or purchase lunch every day?
Do you feel like crashing in the afternoon and pick yourself up with candy or more coffee?
Are you feeling full of energy in the morning?
Do you experience digestive issues such as constipation, gases, bloating or diarrhea?
If you answered is yes to one or more of these questions then you might be at threat for thyroid issues. My intention for you is to incorporate more healthy options into your lifestyle which will then crowd out unhealthy options. For example, instead of another cup of coffee at 10am try a handful of almonds or a green apple which will give you fiber and energy. In the afternoon, munch on some berries a piece of dark chocolate instead a small pack of crisps.
Eating whole food is a joyful and nourishing experience. Always start with the idea to nourish rather than deprivation. There are so many colorful fresh food choices and I encourage you to use the colors of the rainbow as a nutritional guideline. There are direct personalised approaches to support your optimised thyroid functions and it is always important to find out which food could be adding extra stress and loading your body with inflammation through observation. It is encouraged to eat organic or at least free range as much as possible.(3)
Think of eating as a way you actually want to express yourself. Practice eating in full awareness. Give yourself time to eat a meal rather than rush through your lunch or dinner.
Nutrient rich foods
" Vitamins are organic compounds , which are essential for keeping us alive. The body cannot produce most of the vitamins. They cannot be metabolised directly for energy production, but can act in preparation of , or as coenzymes for, millions of metabolic functions, some of which are necessary for energy productions. (4)
There are two categories of vitamins:
Water -soluble : all vitamins B , vitamin C
Fat - soluble :vitamin A, D, E ,K
One of the reason you must eat good fat, it is because fat soluble vitamins need fat for their absorption.
Vitamin A - works together with your thyroid hormone to remove the agricultural pesticides from the body. Has it function in vision, bone development, reproduction, required for detoxification, maintain the healthy gut lining so important for the nutrients absorption, glowing skin, boost immune functions
Antacids, alcohol, Mineral oil laxatives, Zinc deficiency and certain medical prescription will lower the absorption.
Do not self- prescribe vitamin A while you want to get pregnant and the best to consult me or your GP.
Available in sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, winter squashes, lettuce, dried apricots, cantaloupe, bell peppers, milk,egg yolk, butter, fish, liver, and tropical fruits.
Vitamin C - Do you feel stressed and fatigue? You midnight need vitamin C. Vitamin C is also important in the collage production, wound healing, improve sperm motility (tell your husband if you think to start for a baby), detoxify toxic metabolites and protect your body through from free radical - from damage, vital immunity functions and protection of your adrenal glands that working very hard when you under stress.
Available in whole fruits and vegetables such as cherries, pomegranate, raspberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, parsley, and raw cabbage, guava, cauliflower, watercress, papaya, asparagus, red chili pepper, citrus.
Vitamin D - think about the sun exposure, this is how your vitamin D is manufacture, from the sun to your skin to your body. Vitamin D is important for your gene expression, increase gut absorption of calcium and your bone repair, support the creation of your thyroid hormone and so important for the immunity and insulin secretion.
Available in fish oils, fatty fish, mushrooms, beef liver, egg yolks, butter,sardines, salmon, natural cheese
"you are a living cell”
"Minerals appear in the body and in food as inorganic and organic combinations ( i.e in particular chemical compositions which are specifically required for the reactions of living cells). Minerals operate together with enzymes, hormones, and vitamins and transport a variety of substances. They also act as a catalyst in many biological reactions and provide the body with the necessary building blocks" (5)
Mineral Iron - Iron deficiency impairs the thyroid hormone functions and I do see lots of women in my clinic presenting symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia. Iron will improve the efficacy of iodine supplementation.
1. Brings oxygen around your body to bring live to all your cells
2. Crucial for your immunity
3.Support the exchange of food you eat into energy
4. Important for the carbohydrates metabolism so for your weight loss as well
Never supplement iron without checking up before your iron level and your iron storage. If you suspect anaemia consult with your General Practitioner or contact me in this matter.
Available in spinach, leafy green vegetables, beans, liver , avocado, millet, parsley, lean beef, Jerusalem artichoke, beet greens, dandelion greens, pork, dates, sesame seeds, lamb, chicken, pecans, tofu.
Mineral Zinc- has a very important role in the thyroid hormone conversion for inactive T4 to active T4 and its absorbed in the upper part of your small intestine. Your body absorb 20-30% of Zinc from the mix diet and 10-15% from diet based on plants, whole grain and legumes due to the high level of phytate that will lower the Zinc absorption in your gut. Phytate is an phytic acid bind to the mineral.
Alcohol, sugar, infections, surgery can interfere with Zinc absorption
1. Important to maintain a lean muscles mass = means less fat
2. Activate insulin and support growth hormone. Again so vital if you are straggle with weight gain.
2.Vital part of 100 enzymes for example your natural anti-oxidant defence
3.Play a role in your DNA and the way you make the protein
4. Crucial for your immunity, wound healing, your skin, brain development
5. Strongly anti - viral properties
Available in oyster, beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, cashews, turkey, quinoa.
Mineral Iodine - is another vital nutrient for healthy thyroid functions and it is functions such as : growth and development, basal metabolic rate, respiratory rate, metabolism of carbohydrates, healthy reproduction, immunity."Diet both low and high in iodine are associated with hypothyroidism."
Do not self- prescribe on the iodine and iodine rich supplements.
Available in sea vegetables, scallops, cod, yogurt, shrimp, sardines, eggs and tuna.
Mineral Selenium- Selenium play an essential role in the thyroid hormone production. " Human thyroid gland contains one of the highest selenium concentrations of any tissues in the body" (3). 50-80% of selenium is absorb in your gut, mainly small intestine and generally better absorption of Selenium comes from plant based food.
1. Anti- oxidant
2. Anti- inflammatory
3.Lower metal toxicity
4.Improve sperm count ( yes great for your husband if you are planning a baby. Look for the specific formulas)
Available in seafood, brazil nuts, sunflower nuts, onion, eggs, liver, grass fed butter, scallops, oats, brown rice, turnip, garlic, mushrooms, radish, almonds, pecan and celery.
Amino Acid Tyrosine – "Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid the body makes from another amino acid called phenylalanine. It is an essential component for the production of several important brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Neurotransmitters help nerve cells communicate and influence mood. Tyrosine also helps produce melanin, the pigment responsible for hair and skin color. It helps in the function of organs responsible for making and regulating hormones, including the adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands. It is involved in the structure of almost every protein in the body.
It's rare to be deficient in tyrosine. Low levels have been associated with low blood pressure, low body temperature, and an underactive thyroid. This does not mean, however, that taking tyrosine supplements will help any of these conditions."(6)
Available in almonds, avocado, banana, beans, beef, chicken, eggs, fish, pumpkin, seeds, wild game and whey protein.
Omega 3 fats- Omega 3 fatty acids are very important maintaining your cells healthy as they enable nutrients to go inside each cell of your body. In my clinic I have seen huge improvement in skin conditions, fat loss results and they also lessen premenstrual symptoms when they are added to the nutrition plan.
You need good fats for the vitamin A, D, E, K absorption and steroid hormones production
Available in foods rich in omega 3 such as flax seeds, wild caught Salmon, mackerel and sardines.
2. Reduce or eliminate gluten
Gluten free delicatessen: quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, oat flour, nut flour, coconut flour, amaranth, and millet.
There is a body of research seeing connection between the gluten and thyroid health. There are two ways your body can react to gluten, you can be Celiac ,Non - Celiac gluten sensitive or intolerant. If you present any of those, maybe you even do not know about it, you are more prone to the absorption issues that are coming with those condition. They are affecting you gut but also could affect your brain and other organs such as thyroid.
What I am looking here is a connection between your gut, gluten and thyroid.
Your health begins in the gut so your thyroid health. Do you remember you are build of cells, that build tissues, that build organs, that build system, that build your whole body. All is connected
Remove gluten grains such as rye, barley, wheat for next 28 days and send me your feedback.
If you would like to know how to test the gluten sensitivity because you are suspecting this problem please connect with me to arrange nutrition therapy consultation .
3. Moisten your thyroid
Adding more soups, liquids, variety of herbal teas, 100% vegetable juice to your weekly meal plan and think of variety as a key to the health of your thyroid.
Speak to me about what are the best recommendations for you. Your supplementation program should fit your personal needs.
Thyroid and sleep
Lack of adequate sleep is the most overlooked reason to why we have so many health issues, including weight loss difficulties. Same applies with the health of your thyroid gland. Our bodies are negatively impacted by our hectic lifestyle, artificial light in most Western world households and the development of the technology.
The research has shown that over the last 50 years we have decreased our amount of sleep from 8-9 hours a night to 6-7 hours. From my clinical experience many of my clients sleep even less than that lowering the amount of sleep to 5-6 hours a night.
Lack of sleep creates lots of stress on your body and stress is a major suppressant of your thyroid gland functions. When you do not get enough sleep at night, you increase the amount of cortisol in your body which further suppresses the melatonin, the hormone that allows you to sleep. Common symptoms from lack of sleep are: constipation, inability to lose weight, hair falls out, premature aging, and depression. Too much stress within the body eventually wears down various organs, especially the thyroid gland.(7)
Thyroid and environment
The thyroid is very sensitive to our environment. Jeff Bland PhD, Institute Functional Medicine states that there are at least 150 industrial chemicals that have been shown to reduce your thyroid hormone optimal functions.
On the website of World Health Organisation it states that
"Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and potential EDCs are mostly man-made, found in various materials such as pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food, and personal care products. EDCs have been suspected to be associated with altered reproductive function in males and females; increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth patterns and neurodevelopmental delays in children, as well as changes in immune function.
Human exposure to EDCs occurs via ingestion of food, dust and water, via inhalation of gases and particles in the air, and through the skin. EDCs can also be transferred from the pregnant woman to the developing fetus or child through the placenta and breast milk. Pregnant mothers and children are the most vulnerable populations to be affected by developmental exposures, and the effect of exposures to EDCs may not become evident until later in life. Research also shows that it may increase the susceptibility to non-communicable diseases."(8)(9)
Other factors that may affect your thyroid functions:
2. Heavy metals
7. Medication, including birth control pills
8. Autoimmune diseases such as celiac
Thyroid and stress
Stress will negatively affect your hormonal health and can have a prolonged negative effect on your entire body and mind as well.
Begin by thinking what brings you stress in life and what takes your stress away. By reducing your stress levels and focusing on stress management you will assist your body in staying healthy and improving your immune system.
Tips to decrease the impact of stress on your life.
1. Focus on your breath.
"Walking - UP Meditation" from Thich Nhat Nanh:(10)
Step number one:
Breathe three in breaths and three out-breaths,
Step number two:
For every breath in, think of the one word that you would like to bring into your day, maybe what is missing in your life, maybe what will give you sense of grounding and let it go.
Repeat the following verse silently for each in breath and out- breath:
Breath in , I fill my new day with (choose one) joy, faith, love, gratitude/mindfulness/ease/harmony
Breath out I smile
Thyroid and exercise
You might know already, just by reading my story in the introduction that I am a huge advocate of exercise as an important modality of a healthy lifestyle.
There are enormous amounts of data that confirm how exercise is important for our whole body and now more research confirm the benefits for our mental health.
There is a direct link between exercise and hormonal health. For example exercise will improve the way you metabolise the carbohydrates. When you exercise your resting metabolic rate increases, which means you will burn more calories when you rest. Therefore, exercise is a one of the lifestyle practices to support your sustainable fat loss goals for sure but...
There is a but
Exercise is also known to put stress on the body. Many women I have worked with actually took a "too much" approach to exercise and this is one of the reasons they failed their fat loss goals. On top of it over exercising brought them fatigue and exhaustion. This affected their thyroid functions so now they have dysfunctions in the thyroid hormone production thus increasing the stress hormone cortisol production which has a destructive effect on the body.
"When a goal of exercise is to lose weight or improve energy, overtraining can clearly be a major barrier to achieving those goals" Chris Kresser
Finding the right balance of exercise, nutrition, sleep, and stress management is important in regards to what works best for you and your body. Ensure you are finding time to rest, properly nourishing your body with whole foods and sorting out your sleeping pattern.
I hope this blog about how to keep your thyroid healthy will bring you more awareness and help you with your self- care. My passion is about prevention and it is through a healthy lifestyle as a remedy for preventing many health conditions before they become a real issue.
All begins with empathy towards yourself. My purpose is to empower you to become an advocate of your own health and well- being.
With our fast paced society it is easier to eat out than to make homemade food, sleep less, be stagnant, and allow ourselves to work all day without drinking water and so on. However, easier does not mean better.
Health is a way you live your life. There is no one size fit all, there is not one diet for everyone. You are different than me, you have a different story and you must always ask yourself these questions: How will this serve me? How can this improve my health and my life? Is this what I want to do?
P.S. If you have any question please leave a comment below.