How Diet Can Optimise Thyroid Health

Your thyroid health is the central hub of your metabolism and if this starts to misfire then you may start to slow right down and eventually it may become clinically under-active. Diet and stress management are two ways that you can help to support your thyroid health. Read more about how you can take positive action to keep your thyroid working at its best.

Hypothyroidism (also known as under-active thyroid) is a common endocrine disorder where the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient thyroid hormone. Symptoms may include fatigue, intolerance to the cold, depression, constipation, dry skin and a swelling at the front of the neck known as a goiter. Thyroid function is typically tested by your GP by measuring TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). The most common form of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune condition, known as Hashimoto’s. This occurs when the body mistakenly attacks its own thyroid gland. We at NatureDoc are able to offer in depth functional testing to assess TSH, T4, T3 as well as thyroid autoantibodies (to determine if there is an autoimmune component to the condition).

Hypothyroidism in pregnancy may lead to problems with physical and mental development of the foetus so it is really important this is well managed during pregnancy.

A diagnosis of an Underactive Thyroid is typically treated with prescription Levothyroxine (synthetic thyroid hormone). It is also very important to ensure you support your body nutritionally as there are a number of key nutrients required for optimal thyroid function, as well as lifestyle factors.

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Key Thyroid Nutrients

The key nutrients for thyroid function are iodine, selenium, zinc, copper and iron. These are important for both the production and conversion of thyroid hormone.

Iodine is a crucial trace-element needed for your thyroid to function. If you are iodine deficient, a higher iodine intake could make all the difference. Care needs to be taken however if you suffer from Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition as iodine may prove to be toxic. Iodine rich foods include sea vegetables (kelp, dulse, hijiki, nori, arame, wakame, kombu) – think Sushi! Seafood (clams, shrimp, haddock, oysters, salmon, sardines), as well as iodized sea salt, eggs, asparagus, butter beans, mushrooms, spinach, sesame seeds, squash, Swiss chard and garlic also contain lots of iodine.

Selenium is another element that is indispensable to healthy thyroid function. Selenium rich foods include Brazil nuts, mushrooms, tuna, liver, kidney, halibut, beef, soya beans and sunflower seeds.

Zinc is one of trace metals that play vital roles in healthy thyroid. Zinc rich foods include fresh oysters, sardines, beef, lamb, turkey, soya beans, split peas, whole grains, walnuts, ginger root, sunflower seeds, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds and maple syrup.

Copper is another of the trace metals that play vital roles in healthy thyroid. Copper is needed in trace amounts to produce thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and for oxidizing iodine to form T4. Copper rich foods include beef, oysters, dark chocolate, shiitake mushrooms, lobster, sunflower seeds, crab-meat, tomato paste, pearled barley, nuts and beans (soya beans, white beans, chickpeas).

Iron is another of these trace metals that plays a vital role in a healthy thyroid. Research is indicating that there is a link between iron deficiency and decreased thyroid efficiency. Iron rich foods include clams, oysters, white beans, blackstrap molasses, liver, kidneys, soya beans, pumpkin seeds, lentils, spinach. Always find a natural food-based iron supplement and take with some vitamin C rich foods such as fruit.

Thyroid Problems & Gluten Sensitivity

If you suffer from an autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s), we would strongly advise removing gluten from your diet. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin ruptures the protective barrier of the gut  and it enters the bloodstream (this happens in cases of “leaky-gut”, which is very common in auto-immune conditions), the immune system can identify that the gliadin needs to be destroyed. These antibodies to gliadin can also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue at the same time, therefore worsening your symptoms.

Although a gluten free diet is sometimes perceived as ‘faddy’, the evidence is strongly backed by science here therefore a gluten free diet is certainly a good idea if you have a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s (autoimmune) Thyroiditis. If you would like to have confirmation that gluten/gliadin is one of your triggers or that you have “leaky-gut”, then we can organise blood testing through Cyrex Laboratories.

Thyroid & Stress

Stress can impact negatively on the thyroid by affecting the conversion of thyroid hormone, T4, to its more active form in the body, T3.

Making some lifestyle changes to reduce the impact of stress and putting changes in place to reduce your stress ‘load’ will have a significant impact on your thyroid health. Introducing some relaxation methods can also help to reduce the impact of stress. Also try yoga, meditation and practicing mindfulness.

So if you want to have a thyroid that is working at its best then do try to incorporate some of these ideas into your daily routine to see if it makes a difference to you. If you need more help to support your thyroid or need testing, then do please get in touch.

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  1. Hi Lucinda
    I’ve had an under active thyroid for years for which I take levothyroxinr 100 mcg daily. I consume many of the listed foods that you mention and avoid gluten and I don’t consider myself as stressed. I would be very interested in getting my thyroid function assessed by you. How do I arrange a consultation? I am an ardent follower of your Face Book page and have been to your talks on the value of nutrition for children. Please let me know how I can arrange to meet you
    Thank you
    Jenny Rose

    1. Hi Jenny. Great to hear from you and thank you for being such a fantastic supporter of the work we do at NatureDoc! Jo Saunders is our thyroid expert and she offers consultations at her clinic in Berkshire or via Skype/Facetime. Please call reception on 020 3397 1824 to book in a consultation with Jo. Best wishes Lucinda

  2. Hi Lucinda,

    I was wondering if Jo did any consultations for children? My 16m old daughter has congenital hypothyroidism and I’m seeking alternative solutions to levothyroxine.

    1. Hi Mel. I am sure Jo can help as she does have a great deal of experience with children. It is possible to help support the thyroid so less levothyroxine is needed. It does take time and regular testing is needed.

  3. Hi Lucinda,
    I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s about 8 years ago. I now take 125mg of Levothyroxine a day (I started out on 50 but have gradually had to move up). I avoid gluten (I was diagnosed as intolerant 8 years ago) and dairy (same thing). I drink gallons of soya milk and I’m vegetarian – wondering what else I can do to my diet to support the thyroid. Any advice appreciated!

    1. Hi Caroline.Thanks very much for your message.It sounds like you may need some detailed advice from Jo Saunders and may need some further testing. Jo is probably the best practitioner for you to see at NatureDoc,so please book in for a consultation on 020 3397 1824.Many best wishes,Lucinda