The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located at the base of your neck that stores and releases hormones that are responsible for regulating your body’s growth and metabolism, including bodily functions such as temperature control, heart rate, weight, mood to name a few.
It is reported that around 1 in 20 people in the UK are affected with some sort of thyroid disorder and it affects men and women, although women seem to be affected more. Thyroid UK believes that many more people are affected due to undiagnosed hypothyroidism. This is because frequently people experience common hypothyroid symptoms, but their lab results are reported as “normal”. It is also estimated that many people have an autoimmune thyroid condition, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, but they are unaware as the GP would not treat the condition any differently to an under functioning thyroid.
It is also important to mention that during major hormonal shifts such as pregnancy and the menopause, this can cause problems with your thyroid, so if you suffer from symptoms it is best to get your thyroid checked.
Common symptoms of an under functioning thyroid include:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold, in particular, cold hands and feet
- Sleep issues
- Joint pain
- Muscle weakness
- Brittle nails
- Dry hair
- And more….
So is there anything that you can do from a nutritional viewpoint to support your thyroid? The answer is absolutely.
Key nutrients to support thyroid health
Producing thyroid hormones is a complex process that involves producing the hormone, converting the hormones from the inactive form to the active, distributing the hormones round the body and regulating the amount. For that reason, your body needs lots of nutrients to ensure that all of these processes run smoothly.
- Tyrosine (amino acid) is required to produce thyroid hormones. It is found in poultry, fish, nuts and seeds, eggs.
- Iodine combines with tyrosine to produce thyroid hormones and can be found in sea vegetables, white fish, iodised salt, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, yoghurt and cows milk.
- Vitamin A is required for the cell receptor sites so that the thyroid hormones can bind effectively and do its job. Sources include green, red, yellow and orange veg and fruit such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, mangoes, squashes. Animal sources include liver, eggs, butter, whole milk.
- Vitamin C helps to protect the thyroid hormone receptor sites from free radical damage to ensure that they function normally. Sources include citrus fruits, kiwi, peppers, berries, kale, rocket, watercress, spinach.
- Vitamin E again to protect the receptor sites from damage. Sources include olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados
- B vitamins are required to make thyroid hormones and good food sources include, meat, fish, eggs, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and vegetables
- Zinc is needed to convert T4 (the non active hormone) to T3 (the active hormone). Good sources include oysters, seafood, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grains, beef, lamb and liver.
- Copper again required for the conversion of T4 to T3
- Iron again is needed for thyroid hormone production. Good sources are meat (particularly red meat), fish, poultry, and plant sources such as dark green leafy veg, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and apricots.
- Selenium is needed for the activation of the thyroid hormones as well as production and metabolism. Good source are Brazil nuts, seafood, organ meats such as liver, meat and poultry.
Diet and Lifestyle considerations
- Balanced Diet – Eating an organic, varied and low glycaemic wholefood diet, rich in high quality protein, good fats, with a wide variety of coloured fruits and vegetables is essential for good thyroid health. If you have an under functioning thyroid ensure you cook the brassica vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, turnips well to reduce their goitrogen content, as goitrogens can block the thyroid receptors.
- Reduce Alcohol – Alcohol has been found to negatively affect thyroid function so it is important to keep consumption to a minimum. Alcohol can also rapidly deplete essential vitamins and minerals for example B vitamins which are essential for a healthy functioning thyroid.
- Minimise Stress – It’s important that we reduce chronic stress as the stress hormone cortisol can negatively affect your thyroid. Ensure you engage in regular exercise, relax and ensure good quality sleep to keep your stress levels in check.
- Reduce your toxic load – Toxins can have a negative effect on your thyroid function. Taking steps to reduce your overall toxic load such as eating organic, reducing alcohol intake to support your liver, using natural personal and home care products and using non fluoride toothpaste (fluoride has been shown to bind to the thyroid receptors blocking access for the thyroid hormones) will go a long way to helping your thyroid function optimally.
For nutritional help, contact Lymm Osteopathic Practice to make an appointment with Fiona Hutchison