Thursday, February 13, 2014

Importance of Our Thyroid and Foods to Boost Thyroid Health

Definition and Functions of Thyroid

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland that is located low on our neck. It is a powerful organ that regulates hormones throughout the body. The thyroid is crucial for the body's metabolism and cell growth. When your thyroid dysfunctions, your health weakens and the side effects are very unpleasant. When your body produces too much thyroid hormone, your body's system speeds up and a condition known as hyperthyroidism develops. When there is too little thyroid hormone being produced, the body's system slows down and it is called hypothyroidism. If your thyroid gland is not functioning properly, neither will you. 

Some signs that signal that your thyroid is dysfunctioning include enlarged thyroid (goiter), trouble with losing or gaining weight (since the thyroid regulates metabolism), extreme tiredness, anxiety, depression, high cholesterol, brittle hair and nails, stiff and swollen joints, sluggishness, and more. These don't come all together at once, but slowly you will feel more and more miserable by the day to a point where you become so miserable you don't know why. If you are experiencing many of these symptoms, it may be worth consulting with a doctor.

Foods That Promote Thyroid Health

There are ways we can do to keep or improve our thyroid health through our diet:

- Iodine-rich foods. Iodine is the fuel for our thyroid and is important for keeping our thyroid healthy. Iodine-rich food includes seaweed (also a natural MSG!), cod fish, fish oilseggs, shrimp, turkey, and cow's milk

- Selenium-rich foods. Selenium is vital for immune system function. Lack of it can contribute to autoimmune problems, such as thyroid disease and psoriasis (skin disease). Selenium-rich food includes fish, meat and poultry, grains (wheat germ, oats, barley, brown rice), mushrooms, garlic, onions, brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds.

- Foods rich in essential fatty acids. Essential omega-3 and -6 fatty acids help the thyroid in maintaining metabolism and is important for cellular health, which includes the cells of the thyroid gland. Good sources of essential fatty acids are fermented cod liver oil, fish (salmon, tuna, herring, sardines), pasture-raised foods (meats, milk, yogurt, cheese), flaxseeds, leafy vegetables, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

- Coconut OilCoconut oil is nature's richest source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFA's are not stored in our body as fat, but quickly converted to energy, which boosts metabolism and helps to regulate thyroid function. Coconut oil works synergistically with essential fatty acids. Your body needs saturated fats to most effectively retain and use essential fatty acids. The combination of the two is ideal combination for providing the fats our thyroid needs to function properly.

- Copper- & iron-rich foods. These two micro nutrients are vital for optimal thyroid function. Copper deficiency is the most important factor in the development of hyperthyroidism. Copper rich foods include oysters, organ meats, clams, cashews, crab, sunflower seeds, cocoa products, whole grains and cereals containing wheat bran. Good sources of iron include red meat, poultry, beans, leafy greens and shellfish. You can increase your absorption of iron by combining it with vitamin C rich foods such as citrus, potatoes, red berries, tomatoes and bell peppers.

Diets That Depress the Thyroids

- Nutrient-poor diets. The habit of eating fast food and processed foods will lead to problems with the thyroid gland later in life. Dieting, especially starvation diets which severely restrict caloric intake, is another common cause of underactive thyroid. Starvation slows the body's metabolism as the thyroid gland learns to expend energy more efficiently to conserve calories for the next "famine." After a starvation diet we have a tendency to gain even more weight than we took off, and we may find it even harder to lose weight the next time we try. A low-calorie diet can suppress the thyroid function in less than 24 hours. After one to three months of such dieting, there is a danger of permanently inhibiting the thyroid function. 

- Caffeine. Our body produces adrenaline when we drink caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, etc.), a hormone produced during times of stress. Excessive consumption of caffeine over a prolonged period of time will wear out the adrenal glands and has a suppressing effect on the thyroid gland. 

- Soy Isoflavones. Soy has goitrogenic (thyroid-suppressing) effect and anti-nutrients that blocks mineral absorption (including iodine), thus slowing down thyroid metabolism. Cooking does not destroy the goitrogenic effect of soy isoflavones. Infants who take soy formula are at higher risk for thyroid problems later in life. Fermented soy such as tempeh and miso is a better choice as the goitrogenic effect is reduced through fermentation. Click here to see a list of other goitrogenic foods that are best avoided if you have thyroid problems.

Do you have any experience with thyroid issues and how do you deal with it?

Disclaimer: Although I am passionate about healthy and natural living, I am not a certified or a licensed medical practitioner who can counsel anyone in medical issues and cannot be held responsible for any decision you make regarding your health. What I am sharing are what I have learned and applied to my family but may not necessarily work for yours. My only hope is that this blog may encourage you to learn more about healthy and natural living which will hopefully help you as you make decisions for your own family.


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  2. A very informative post. Thank you so much for sharing.