Many of our clients lately have been mentioning thyroid issues. This seems to be a common issue among American adults. Hypothyroidism is the most common condition in the United States. The thyroid affects almost every organ and process in the body. Thyroid dysregulation can be linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It regulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism, respiration, body temperature, brain development, cholesterol levels, the heart and nervous system, blood calcium levels, menstrual cycles, and skin integrity. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are wide and seem to overlap other illnesses. Symptoms include: weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and hair, and difficulty concentrating.
While doctors prescribe medications to support thyroid regulation, the impact of nutrition, fitness and lifestyle is often overlooked. In some cases, depending on the individual's thyroid levels, lifestyle changes can manage the symptoms and regulate the levels. However, always consult with your doctor on your specific levels and the appropriate action for you. Implementing these supportive actions will be helpful regardless of your medication status. Do not stop taking any medications without your doctor's advice.
I am sure you have heard Coach Kayli and I speak about the importance of macronutrients in your diet, but if you are looking at overall health and wellness, your micronutrients are just as important. The thyroid is no different. The key nutrients to focus on for thyroid regulation are: iodine, vitamin D3, zinc, selenium, and vitamin b12.
Iodine is the key cause of thyroid disease worldwide. Iodine levels in the United States have not been an issue until lately. Americans used to get sufficient iodine supplementation from salt, but most of the salt intake today is from processed foods that lack iodine, resulting in falling iodine levels. Iodine supplementation is NOT advised as it can cause flare ups for people and can stimulate autoimmune antibodies.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to hypothyroidism, however it is still unclear whether it is causal or correlative. Vitamin D levels can be increased through increasing your sun exposure or eating foods rich in vitamin D such as: fatty fish, milk, dairy, eggs and mushrooms. Vitamin D can also be supplemented however it is a fat soluble vitamin so it should be taken after a meal containing fat has been consumed. Always check with your doctor before starting supplementation to ensure it will not affect any current medications or conditions. A typical supplement dose of vitamin D is 5,000 IU.
The highest levels of selenium are found in the thyroid. It has a large impact on cognitive function, fertility and mortality rates. Incorporating selenium rich foods in your diet can be helpful to support your body’s selenium levels and thyroid function. Selenium rich foods include: tuna, Brazil nuts, crab and lobster. It is not recommended to supplement with selenium without direction from a doctor.
Like selenium, zinc helps activate the thyroid hormones. If you have hypothyroidism try to focus more on foods like shellfish, beef, chicken, and oysters.
About 30% of people with thyroid issues have a vitamin B12 deficiency. A severe deficiency is irreversible so it’s important for sufferers of thyroid issues to have their levels checked. Foods that are supportive of vitamin B12 levels include: mollusks, sardines, salmon, organ meats, muscle meats and dairy. If you usually practice more of a vegan approach you can find vitamin B12 in fortified cereals and nutritional yeast.
Avoiding goitrogens is an important dietary practice for healthy thyroids. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are goitrogens. They release goitrin when they are broken down. Goitrin interferes with the synthesis of thyroid hormones. If you prefer cruciferous veggies in your diet, heating them will help eliminate the goitrogenic effect.
It is important to note that if you are taking thyroid medications, there are some foods and supplements to avoid or time appropriately so as to not disrupt the function of the medications. Calcium supplements can interfere with thyroid medications and should be separated by at least 4 hours. Coffee and fiber supplements lower the absorption of thyroid medication and should be separated by 1 hour. Chromium picolinate is often consumed for blood sugar control and weight loss, so often supplemented by thyroid patients, however this supplement needs to be kept away from your thyroid medication by 3-4 hours. Flavonoids in fruits, vegetables and tea may also suppress thyroid function and should be avoided in high doses.
This discussion would not be complete without discussing exercise. Exercise is very important for people suffering from thyroid dysregulation. It is important for hypothyroid individuals to help manage weight gain, fatigue and depression. Studies have shown that regular exercise has shown dramatic improvements in thyroid associated fatigue.
Thyroid dysregulation presents numerous challenges due to weight changes, cardiovascular risks, fatigue, mood changes and gastrointestinal upset which often prevents the formation of healthier habits. However, implementing a healthy diet that reduces processed foods, alcohol, caffeine would be helpful to supporting healthy thyroid levels. Focus should be placed on whole foods including: fruits, vegetables, dairy, lean meats, and gluten free grains. Try to limit dietary stress by reducing inflammatory foods such as high sugar foods, highly processed foods, high salt foods, caffeine, and alcohol. Try to incorporate more good fats like olive oil, avocado and healthy fats as these tend to be anti-inflammatory. Avoid eating a lot of food in one setting and try to give your body a break in digestion at night by stopping food intake at 8pm. If you can obtain more organic foods to eliminate toxins such as hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, this will help reduce stress in your immune and endocrine systems. It is also very important to keep your fiber intake at the recommended daily intake of 22-33 grams depending on your age and sex. Fiber is important for digestion, heart health, healthy bowels and helping you feel full, which helps with weight gain. Last, but definitely not least, make sure you are staying hydrated. Staying hydrated keeps your metabolism function efficiently and can reduce your appetite and bloating. Adequate water also improves digestion and combats constipation and fatigue. As a very general baseline, aim for your body weight divided by 2 for the number of ounces you should be consuming per day.
Overall, aiming for healthier nutrition and fitness practices can help with thyroid issues as well as general health and wellbeing. Oftentimes we see if you set your goals to be more healthy, you will find that your desired aesthetic changes will follow that. If you’re struggling with health or hormone issues and need some direction. Click on the link to sign up for a free coaching call with Coach Kayli and she can help you assess your goals and get you on track to a healthier, happier YOU!
Kayli is a certified personal trainer and online coach that specializes in fitness, wellness, nutrition, mindset, mobility and everything in between.