The thyroid is an endocrine gland in your neck. It makes two hormones that are secreted into the blood: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones regulate the body’s metabolism, the chemical processes that break down the food you eat to make energy. They affect how fast your heart beats, how deep you breathe, and whether you gain or lose weight. Specific levels are necessary for all cells in your body to function normally. When your thyroid makes either too much or too little of these critical hormones, problems arise.
Thyroid conditions, including hypothyroidism (underactive), hyperthyroidism (overactive), and thyroid cancer, are prevalent. For example, up to 7% of the U.S. population has hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism is associated with various symptoms, including weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, anemia, constipation, cold intolerance, joint pain, dry skin, mood changes, difficulty concentrating, and more. Depending on the type of disease, thyroid conditions are typically treated with thyroid hormone replacement and possibly surgery. In addition to conventional treatments for thyroid conditions, research shows that dietary interventions, including supplements, can help treat certain thyroid diseases. Unfortunately, however, some supplements can do more harm than good when it comes to thyroid health.
Healthy Thyroid Diet
Start with a 30-day Paleo reset:
- Eliminate vegetable oils, gluten, grains, sugar, and processed foods
- Emphasize whole foods like meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds
- If you have an autoimmune thyroid condition, do not reintroduce gluten
Include a variety of carbohydrate sources to match activity levels
- Very-low-carb diets can reduce thyroid function
- Aim for at least 30 percent of calories from starchy plants, fruits, and gluten-free grains
Micronutrients for thyroid health
The thyroid needs several key nutrients to function optimally in people without thyroid disease. A nutrient-dense diet comprised of whole foods is the best way to obtain these micronutrients, but it may be necessary to supplement to ensure adequate daily intake. Iodine is essential for thyroid function. The thyroid gland uses iodine from food to make thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). This is actually the only known function of iodine in the human body. Cells producing thyroid hormones specialize in extracting and absorbing iodine from the blood and incorporating it into the thyroid hormones. Selenium is a mineral required for thyroid hormone production that protects the thyroid from oxidative stress and free radicals. Zinc and iron are also needed for thyroid hormone production, and deficiencies can lead to thyroid dysfunction.
|Selenium||Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, beef/lamb kidney, red meat, mushrooms, poultry||Take 200 mcg per day 3-4 days per week|
Sea vegetables (kelp flakes, kelp, wakame, hijiki, arame, nori, etc.), dairy products, cod, iodized salt
|800–1,000 mcg per day is optimal for most people|
|Zinc||Oysters, liver, crab, lobster, beef||20 mg per day|
|Iron||Oysters, clams, liver, venison, beef||Take 250 mg of vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) and 200 to 1,200 mg of betaine hydrochloric acid (HCl) with meals. These substances increase iron absorption from food significantly.|
- Foods high in goitrogens include yuca/cassava, soy, millet, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, collard greens.
- Excess intake of goitrogenic foods can contribute to thyroid conditions. Therefore, limit your intake of raw goitrogenic foods to three to four servings a week (i.e., no green smoothie with raw kale every day).
- Cooking these foods and consuming more iodine-rich foods can help combat this effect. Cooked goitrogenic foods may be consumed daily, provided your iodine intake is adequate
- See the goitrogen checklist below for more detail
Eat one pound of fatty fish per week
- Omega-3 fats in fatty fish are anti-inflammatory
- Inflammation can impact thyroid function and worsen autoimmunity
- Fatty fish include: salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, whitefish, sturgeon
Include fermented foods
- Good gut health is strongly connected to thyroid health. Fermented foods contain live organisms as well as prebiotic fibers to help promote gut health. These foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, kombucha, kefir, and more.
- Aim for one to two tablespoons of fermented vegetables with each meal, plus a half-cup of kombucha or kvass and a half-cup of yogurt or kefir per day.
Supplement for Hashimoto’s disease
Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. It’s an autoimmune disease in which the immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid, causing inflammation, fibrosis, and scarring of the thyroid tissue. In addition to medication, diet and lifestyle modification can help reduce thyroid damage and improve symptoms. People with Hashimoto’s disease are more likely to be deficient in key nutrients; However, avoid taking iodine supplements if you suffer from Hashimoto’s. Iodine needs to be processed by the thyroid gland, and when the thyroid is inflamed, the processing of iodine will likely produce more inflammation.
|Selenium||Take 200 mcg per day|
|Zinc||30 mg per day|
|Iron + Vitamin C||Take 250 mg of vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) and 200 to 1,200 mg of betaine hydrochloric acid (HCl) with meals. These substances increase iron absorption from food significantly.|
|Vitamin B12||1,000 mcg (1 mg) of sublingual methylcobalamin|
|Magnesium||400 mg per day of magnesium glycinate|
|Vitamin D3||4,000 IU per day|
500mg per day
Goitrogens disrupt the production of thyroid hormones by interfering with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. For most people with thyroid problems, strict avoidance of these foods isn’t necessary. Steaming or boiling them significantly reduces their goitrogenic effect, and eating a moderate amount of them raw will probably not cause problems if your iodine intake is sufficient. Limit your consumption of these foods to 3-6 servings a week if you have thyroid problems.
|Cruciferous Vegetables||Other Foods|
|Collard greens||Bamboo shoots|