A small, but extremely important gland in the body that is part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland controls many systems in the body that relate to health.
The thyroid can control weight, or how quickly the body uses energy otherwise known as metabolism. The 2 most thyroid hormones responsible are known as T3, T4. TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone controls how much T3 and T4 the thyroid manufactures.
Many a client who has weight issues frequently thinks it is due to a thyroid issue. Although thyroid may be responsible for some weight issues, the problem is way over indulged leading to countless prescriptions for unnecessary thyroid medication.
What if you do have issues with your thyroid? Should you change the way you eat?
A few important nutrients have been identified in thyroid health:
- Iodine: a vital nutrient in thyroid health since thyroid hormones are made of iodine. Iodine intake has dropped in the US due to more Americans getting their salt intake from processed foods, which don’t contain iodine, rather than iodine-containing salt. Foods that contain iodine are seaweed, fish, dairy and grains. Deficiency and supplementation have risks, especially for those with autoimmune disorders so proceed with caution if you are considering a supplement. Using iodized salt in your recipes is the safest way to get your iodine along with a few of the foods that contain it. However, increased salt intake can be problematic for other health issues, so balance is the key – i.e., cooking with some salt but not salting at the table.
- Selenium: an essential trace mineral found in fish, shellfish, red meat, eggs, chicken and brazil nuts, selenium is essential component of enzymes important to the health of the thyroid. Having too little or excessive amounts is not recommended. Regular intake of foods containing selenium is important rather than taking a supplement.
Are there foods to avoid? Yes and No.
If someone has low iodine stores, soy, some grains and vegetables can release compounds, which interfere with thyroid hormones.
Therefore, if you have thyroid issues or take medication, eating soy in moderation (once a week at most) is recommended. Millet, a gluten-free grain may also suppress thyroid function, but only if you have low iodine stores. Finally, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage should be cooked rather than eaten raw with thyroid imbalances.
If you have a healthy thyroid you do not need to take the above precautions. If you question your thyroid health, have your physician check your T3, T4 and TSH on your next physical or visit. Otherwise, make sure you are getting enough iodine and selenium as well as a well-balanced eating plan for optimal health and well-being.