When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s back in 2012, and at first I didn’t really get it.
I mean, I knew that I was tired of being tired all the time…but I didn’t understand what my thyroid did, or why it mattered.
The truth is I didn’t realize that my thyroid malfunctioning was making me tired.
I didn’t know it could do that. Up until 6 years ago, I never gave my thyroid a second thought.
I mean, if your thyroid isn’t working, why would you think about it? I looked into healing your thyroid naturally with food, and I was amazed at all the information out there. It was a huge eye-opener.
What IS Your Thyroid?
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the base of your neck that releases hormones.
These hormones help regulate your body’s metabolism.
Not just part of your metabolism, all of it.
Having a healthy thyroid means having a healthy (normal) metabolism, which is pretty important for maintaining a healthy body weight and having the energy to live your life.
What is Thyroid Disease?
Having an overactive or underactive thyroid is a problem.
And some estimate that at least 3.7% of US adults have an underactive thyroid.
When you don’t produce enough thyroid hormone, it’s called hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism (which is what I have) causes your metabolism to slow down.
This usually manifests in difficulty losing weight or even weight gain.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:
- dry, brittle hair and skin,
- muscle cramping, and
- feeling cold all the time.
If you feel like these describe you, I highly recommend seeking a professional opinion.
How does your thyroid become underactive?
Surprisingly, there are a lot of different reasons that you can suddenly (or not so suddenly) end up with an underactive thyroid.
My thyroid issues are caused by an autoimmune reaction (which is actually the most common cause of issues), which means that my immune system is attacking my thyroid gland.
It’s about as fun as it sounds.
An underactive thyroid can also be the result of low levels of iodine and/or high levels of goitrogens (food substances that inhibit iodine from getting into thyroid).
Thankfully, iodine-deficiency is not very common, which means that supplements are likely not necessary.
In fact, supplementing when you don’t have an actual deficiency may actually exacerbate certain thyroid issues.
So be sure to check with your doctor or naturopath before you start supplementing.
Healing Your Thyroid Naturally With Food
One of the easiest ways you can ensure that your thyroid is healthy is to eat a variety of foods that are rich in the nutrients that your thyroid needs. See how I helped my hypothyroid with going paleo.
Obviously, this is an important one.
It’s also an easy one to get from food because iodine is naturally found in fish and seafood.
If you don’t eat fish, that’s okay. You can also find iodine in foods like navy beans, potatoes, and eggs.
PRO TIP: During pregnancy and breastfeeding iodine requirements increase by up to 60%, so pay attention to your consumption of this very important mineral.
Some people (including my naturopath) recommend selenium (which is another essential mineral) to support the thyroid.
I prefer to get my nutrition from food whenever possible, which means that I’ve been loading up on selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts (my fave!), mushrooms, meat, and fish.
Goitrogens are plant-estrogens.
They’re not something that you need to supplement, rather, they’re something that you should avoid.
Goitrogens prevent the iodine in your blood from getting into your thyroid (where it’s needed to make thyroid hormones).
They are found in cruciferous foods such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale, which is why you usually see me cooking these foods.
Goitrogens can be eliminated by cooking the foods they’re found in. My favorite methods are roasting my veggies or steaming them.
Ever since finding out I have thyroid issues, I’ve had trouble losing weight (which is great when you have a blog that’s all about getting fit).
Turns out that one of the most common symptoms of thyroid issues is difficulty losing weight.
One thing that has helped me is increasing my protein intake.
Protein has a thermogenic effect on your body, which means that your body has to spend energy metabolizing it.
Gluten is something that is easy to know to avoid, but in case you are unaware it isn’t great for your thyroid.
There is evidence of a link between underactive thyroid and gluten sensitivity.
We’re not talking allergies to gluten, but rather a sensitivity where your immune cells attack the thyroid cells by mistake, instead of attacking gluten.
If you find that you have a severe reaction when you eat foods with gluten, I highly recommend that you request a test for celiac disease.
Beyond food, knowing that having an underactive thyroid can lead to weight gain, and knowing you’ll have trouble losing that weight, it’s important to get moving on a regular basis.
Find something that you enjoy (ride your bike, go on a walk, or go to the gym or studio), and getting enough sleep will go a long way toward helping you feel human again.
If you have concerns about your thyroid, ask your doctor or naturopath to test you (it’s a simple blood test).
Make sure that you’re eating enough nutrient-rich, thyroid supporting foods (you can use a tracker like SparkPeople, MyFitnessPal, or FitBit’s database), and reduce the things that make things worse like raw cruciferous foods and gluten. Healing your thyroid naturally can be done, and with dedication, you can find relief.
Do you or someone you know have concerns about your thyroid? What have diet and lifestyle factors gotten the most benefit from? Let me know in the comments below.