Can Certain Foods Boost Thyroid Function? Hypothyroidism and Nutrition

Can Certain Foods Boost Thyroid Function? Hypothyroidism and Nutrition

About 4.6 percent of Americans over the age of 12 have hypothyroidism, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. That means nearly five out of every 100 people have an underactive thyroid. And many more may have the condition but haven’t received an official diagnosis. 

Hypothyroidism has a variety of causes, including autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as well as congenital disease and certain medications. Another, less obvious factor that can contribute to the development of hypothyroidism is nutrient deficiency. Your thyroid gland needs adequate amounts of certain nutrients to work properly, and a lack of nutrition can lead to a sluggish, underperforming thyroid.

At My Pure MD, we specialize in a holistic approach to diagnosing and treating thyroid issues, and we understand the critical role diet plays in thyroid health. Let’s take a closer look at hypothyroidism and the nutrients that can help balance thyroid function.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is characterized by too little thyroid hormone in the blood. If your thyroid is underactive, it can’t produce the amount of thyroid hormone the body needs to work properly, and bodily functions start slowing down. This causes you to experience symptoms of hypothyroidism. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Feeling cold
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning hair
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty concentrating/remembering things (brain fog)
  • Puffy face
  • Muscle pain and/or weakness
  • Stiff, swollen joints
  • Depression
  • Heavy and/or irregular periods
  • Anxiety

Because the symptoms of hypothyroidism are often subtle and mimic other health problems, it can be a difficult condition to diagnose. Your thyroid may be underactive for many years without you even realizing it.

Which nutrients does the thyroid need to function?

When dealing with hypothyroidism, knowing which nutrients the thyroid needs, most can be extremely helpful for putting together a healing plan. Here are some of those nutrients, along with dietary sources.

Iodine

Because it is one of two building blocks your thyroid uses to produce thyroid hormone, adequate intake of this mineral is essential for thyroid health. But iodine deficiency is a global health problem that affects approximately 2 billion people worldwide.

In the United States, the invention of iodized salt in 1924 helped curtail this problem domestically. But as more of us turn away from table salt in favor of sea salt and other choices, iodine deficiency is again becoming a problem. 

Aside from iodized salt, dietary sources of iodine include seaweed and shrimp, along with fortified cereal and bread. People with hypothyroidism may want to consider supplemental iodine as well. 

Tyrosine

This amino acid is a thyroid hormone’s other building block. Protein consumption is key to ensuring that you’re getting enough tyrosine to produce thyroid hormone. Protein-rich foods like beef, poultry, fish, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, eggs, and tofu are all high in tyrosine.

Selenium

Also, a mineral, selenium, is right behind iodine in order of importance for thyroid health. It helps the thyroid gland with the production of usable thyroid hormone.

Selenium can be found in red meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Good vegetarian sources of selenium include spinach and Brazil nuts.8

Iron

Iron is necessary for the conversion of iodine from the food you eat into the thyroid hormone. Since many women, particularly those with heavy periods and vegans/vegetarians, are at risk of iron deficiency, it’s a good idea to prioritize dietary iron intake (or consider a food-based supplement).

Red meat is an excellent source of iron for non-vegetarians, but there are many plant-based iron sources as well. Some of these are beans, lentils, tofu, cashews, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin D

Not only does vitamin D play an important role in transporting thyroid hormone to cells, but it’s also vital for immune health. This may explain the association between low levels of vitamin D and autoimmune thyroid diseases like Hashimoto’s.

Fatty cold-water fish like tuna and salmon are good dietary sources of vitamin D. You can also up your D intake by spending a few minutes in the sun (without sunscreen) or taking a D3 supplement.

While I’ve touched on some of the nutrients the thyroid needs most to function well, there are others I didn’t go into detail about. These include B vitamins (especially B12), omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin A.

Are you experiencing symptoms that you think may be the result of hypothyroidism? Have you struggled to find a practitioner who will take your concerns seriously? Get in touch with us here at My Pure MD. With our expertise in thyroid health, my colleagues and I are here to listen — and to help. Together, we can create a nutrition plan to bring your hypothyroidism into balance. 

February 1, 2020