The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that releases hormones. Thyroid hormones help your body regulate a few things - not a big deal - just the metabolism of ALL cells. And this is critical for maintaining a healthy body weight and having the energy to live your life.
(Yes, your thyroid IS a big deal!)
It’s estimated that at least 3.7% of US adults have an underactive thyroid.
When you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, it’s called hypothyroidism. This can result in the slowing down of your metabolism and cause difficulty losing weight; and even weight gain. Some of the other symptoms can include fatigue, forgetfulness, dry hair and skin, constipation, muscle cramping, and feeling cold
An underactive thyroid can be diagnosed from a blood test from your health professional.
Sometimes though you may get tested, and the test come back that its fine, but still be experiencing symptoms of an underactive thyroid too. If this is the case, there is another way to find out if your thyroid is in balance or low.
Back over 5 years ago when all my hormones were working against me, I came across this Naturopathic Dr on the Dr.Oz show and she was talking about weight loss and how hormones play a role. Dr. Natasha Turner, ND had just come out with a book called “The Super Charged Hormone Diet.” I knew my weight gain problems and inability to lose weight even though I had been working out, were not just a calorie in and out problem, they were also due to hormone imbalance.
So I bought the book, and did the hormone assessment in the book that’s based off of my current symptoms, and to my surprise, my thyroid as actually low based off of the warning score. And I knew it too. Felt tired all the time. The weight was not coming off of me even though I was working out and eating right. And all the while I wondered, how did I let myself go or get to this point. How did I lose my superfast metabolism where I could literally eat anything, to now have this super slow metabolism that I’m not used to at all.
So How does the Thyroid Become Underactive?
There are many reasons why your thyroid may become underactive. The most common is autoimmunity, where the immune cells attack other cells in the body. In this case, the cells of the thyroid gland.
Thyroid can also become underactive when you eat food that throws your digestion off. For example, fried foods, gluten or wheat (if you have sensitivity), sugar (especially white sugar), too much caffeine, or alcohol. Anything that throws your digestion off, can throw your thyroid and other hormones out of whack too. This is especially true if you have any digestive issues like frequent bloating, G.E.R.D., heart burn, ulcers etc.
It can also be the result of low levels of iodine, which is an essential mineral. Combining that with high levels of goitrogens (food substances that inhibit iodine from getting into thyroid) and you can be at risk for an iodine deficiency.
PRO TIP: Iodine-deficiency is not very common in the developed world, so supplements are likely not necessary, and may exacerbate certain thyroid issues. Check with your healthcare professional before taking supplements, and always read the label.
Foods and Nutrients for your Thyroid
Enough iodine from food - Iodine is naturally found in fish and seafood. Other foods that contain iodine are navy beans, potatoes, and eggs. Sometimes levels of natural iodine depend on the amount of iodine in the soil. Iodine is also added (i.e., fortified) to some foods.
If you go to my instagram, there’s a recipe for Seaweed Sushi Bowl you can try.
PRO TIP: During pregnancy and breastfeeding iodine requirements increase by up to 60%, so pay attention to eat enough iodine-containing foods.
Enough selenium from food - Some people recommend selenium (another essential mineral) to support the thyroid. A recent review of several clinical studies showed that there is not enough evidence to recommend selenium supplements to people with certain thyroid conditions. Because of this, it’s best to stick with selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts, mushrooms, meat, and fish.
Reduce goitrogens - Goitrogens are plant-estrogens that prevent the iodine in your blood from getting into your thyroid where it's needed to make thyroid hormones. Goitrogens themselves are not that powerful, unless they're eaten excessively, or are combined with a diet already low in iodine. They are found in "cruciferous" foods such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Goitrogens can be deactivated by cooking the foods they're found in. Because these cruciferous vegetables are very nutritious, you may choose to cook them instead of eliminating them altogether.
Enough protein - One of the common symptoms of thyroid issues is the inability to lose weight. If this is the case, one thing you can eat more of is protein. Protein has a "thermogenic effect" because your body has to spend energy metabolizing protein; this means that calorie-for-calorie, carbs will promote weight gain more than protein will. For vegetarains, making sure you are getting enough protein is essential as well. Remember a grain + a bean=complete protein.
Gluten-free - Try going gluten-free. There is evidence of a link between underactive thyroid and gluten sensitivity. There may be a "cross-reactivity" where the immune cells that are sensitized to gluten can attack the thyroid cells by mistake; this is essentially how autoimmunity works and can affect more than just your thyroid. You might request getting tested for celiac disease if you are experiencing thyroid issues.
Or even try doing the detox diet in the “Super Charged Hormone Diet” Book by Dr. Natasha Turner, ND, as this natural food cleanse diet guides you through a detoxification and testing out which foods (ie: wheat, gluten, dairy, etc) you may have an intolerance or sensitivity to. That’s how I found out that I was Gluten intolerant. You cannot deny that when you eat food and feel sluggish, tired, brain foggy, or experience heart burn, bloating, indigestion, nausea, anxious, or constipation after eating something with gluten or wheat, that your body is having a reaction to it, which may indicate that you have a sensitivity or intolerance to it. The body doesn’t lie and its good to listen to your body if you want to lose weight and have an
Lifestyle upgrade - Weight gain and difficulty losing weight are very common when it comes to thyroid issues. In this case, it’s important to get enough regular exercise (especially working the bigger muscle groups), enough quality sleep (as in 7-8 hours sleep per night), and reducing stress-Yoga and Meditation are great for that!
If you have concerns about your thyroid, then ask to be tested. That along with testing for celiac disease can help to confirm your best plan to move forward in good health.
If you do get tested and are still having trouble losing weight, it might be a good idea to try a food cleanse to detox your organs and help you improve your digestion and metabolism. Remember one of the functions of the liver is it helps metabolize fats, so if the liver is sluggish, then it may have a harder time breaking down fats which means it may take longer for you to get to your toning, weight loss and fat burning goals. To accelerate your weight loss & fat burning goals and to boost your energy with a Food Cleanse, CLICK HERE
Foods to support your thyroid include iodine- and selenium-containing foods, cooked cruciferous foods, and gluten-free foods. Don't forget to eat enough protein to help boost your metabolism. Also, consider reducing the amount of raw cruciferous foods you eat.
Supplementing with iodine or selenium should be done with a health professional’s advice.
And regular exercise, quality sleep, and stress-reduction are all part of the holistic approach to supporting your thyroid.
Are you feeling all over the place with your workouts and not getting the results you had hoped for? Do you need some extra motivation and accountability? Let’s discuss your goals further by booking your complimentary assessment so we can come up with a plan that gets you started on reaching to your fitness goals this year. CLICK HERE to fill out a form.
Do you or someone you know have concerns about your thyroid? What diet and lifestyle factors have you gotten the most benefit from? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (thyroid-supporting): Shrimp and Veggie Stir-Fry
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb fresh Brussels sprouts, halved. Can use Broccoli if you don’t like brussels sprouts
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp salt
½ pound shrimp, fresh or defrosted
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp coconut aminos or tamari (gluten-free soy sauce alternative)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 dashes cayenne pepper, optional
Heat wok or large skillet with oil.
. Add Brussels sprouts and fry until they're golden (4-5 minutes).
In a bowl, make the sauce by combining the honey, aminos/tamari, garlic, and cayenne, if using.
Add mushrooms and salt and fry for 1-2 minutes.
Add shrimp and fry until they're cooked and turn pink. Add sauce to skillet. Toss and cook until heated through.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Serve on a bed of cooked rice or quinoa.