Hypothyroidism is frighteningly common but rarely diagnosed. In this guide I give you my Alkaline Hypothyroidism Diet Plan, a simple, step-by-step approach to begin healing, regenerating, and replenishing the thyroid, to get it back in balance and thriving again.
If you’re struggling with weight (and weight that just won’t shift), fatigue, foggy thinking, aches, regular colds & flu, digestive pain, reflux, dry skin or weak muscles, and an inability to recover – your thyroid could be the cause…
…and whether it’s weight, fatigue, or otherwise, the problem is not going to go away unless you heal your thyroid. In fact, it’s only going to get worse.
So in today’s guide I am going to show you not only what the thyroid and hypothyroidism is – so you can learn more about the nature of the beast – but I will also give you the plan to heal, nourish and repair this absolutely essential organ.
In this guide you will learn:
- The big picture info you need to know right now about what your thyroid is & what it does
- What you need to look out for to understand whether you have a thyroid issue
- Exactly what to do to re-balance and heal your thyroid
- The root cause of thyroid imbalance (there will be some surprises here
- The (evidence-based) TRUTH about oxalate, nightshades, goitrogens and anti-nutrients and your thyroid
- The exact plan to have your thyroid at it’s wonderful best – to give you incredible levels of health, energy and vitality…and back to your best body
The actions I will give you are simple, yet powerful.
They are rooted in the scientific data (as with everything on my site, it is all evidence-based), and I focus on the 80/20 that will give you the biggest results as quickly as possible with the least amount of effort required.
The 80/20 in action here isn’t the ‘eat well 80% of the time’ style. What I am talking about with 80/20 is in line with Pareto’s Principle, further expanded by Richard Koch and others (including Tim Ferriss, Perry Marshall, and more) that:
…in almost all areas of life and nature, and especially with your health, 80% of the desired result will come from 20% of your inputs and actions.
Therefore, I’ll focus on giving you that 20%. Rather than tell you every tiny thing you can do, and get you all bogged down in the detail, we’ll stick to the big picture stuff that will get you the biggest impact as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
So let’s get into it!
What Is Your Thyroid?
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, that forms an important part of your endocrine system (the system of organs and glands that regulates hormone production).
It is especially important in that it produces the master metabolism hormones that sit above and play a part in controlling practically every other hormone in your body.
In other words, an imbalance here can have far-reaching consequences.
And rather frighteningly, it has been estimated that up to 40% of people living within the USA have ineffective thyroid function (that’s 130 million people in the US alone – the statistics would be similar elsewhere).
But I want you to know right now we can take control of this and rapidly heal the thyroid. And we absolutely need to.
The thyroid predominantly produces three hormones:
- T2: Diiodothyronine
- T3: Triiodothyronine
- T4: Thyroxine
These ‘master hormones’ help control and regulate the glands and organs elsewhere in your endocrine system, and the other hormones they produce including insulin, oestrogen, cortisol, testosterone and more.
(We’ll get onto just how important this is in just a minute when we talk about insulin and cortisol – but you’ll quickly see how and why a thyroid imbalance can have such detrimental effects throughout practically every area of your body).
In my interview with Dr Sara Gottfried (exclusive lesson for my Alkaline Base Camp members) she explained how the endocrine system/hormones work in a brilliant analogy:
Think about your thyroid as one of the Chief Executives of your endocrine system. When it’s out of balance, it has a flow on effect to everywhere else in your body.
And your thyroid can be out of balance in one of two ways – so let’s get into that and clear up one of the most common confusions when it comes to your thyroid health.
HYPOthyroidism vs HYPERthyoidism
HYPOthyroidism and HYPERthyroidism are the two conditions that explain how an out-of-balance thyroid might cause symptoms throughout the body.
The simple way to remember them are HYPER meaning overactive (fast metabolism, excessive weight loss) and HYPO meaning underactive (slow, sluggish metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, depression)
What is HYPERthyroidism?
Let’s start with hyperthyroidism. This is when the thyroid gland is overactive producing too much thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4).
Typically, you may have heard of this as Grave’s Disease, having thyroid nodules or an inflamed thyroid gland (often called thyroiditis).
Are You Genetically Predisposed?
It’s more common in women, and it does tend to run in families. If your parents or grandparents had any of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism listed below, it is worth you investigating your thyroid function, as this could have been passed on to you as a genetic predisposition.
Symptoms of HYPERthyroidism
- A super-fast metabolism and an inability to gain weight
- Sudden unexplained weight loss
- Brittle bones
- Eye problems
- Atrial fibrillation
- Thin, brittle hair
- Excessive anxiety
- Red, itchy skin
- Excessive, unexplained bowel movements
While today isn’t about going deep into hyperthyroidism (we’re focusing on hypo- today), it’s worth noting that there are several natural approaches to hyperthyroidism that have been proven to offer significant support and improvement to your thyroid function.
Looking towards an anti-inflammatory diet, rich in alkaline-forming foods can make a huge difference.
And So, What Is HYPOthyroidism
Hypothyroidism is characterized by sluggishness: weight gain, fatigue, slow metabolism, mental fatigue, depression and low mood. It’s the opposite of hyperthyroidism.
It occurs when your thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone.
Recognizing you have hypothyroidism can be difficult because the symptoms are so often seen as a ‘thing’ in and of themselves – people see weight gain or lethargy as the problem in isolation, they don’t think about what could be causing it. They start consuming less calories, thinking this will help them lose weight (for example) when really it will do absolutely nothing, except perhaps make their thyroid imbalance worse (see my guide to calorie counting and weight loss here).
Hypothyroidism is often misdiagnosed or missed because the tests that most physicians use can be limited in their data (see below for a more thorough list of tests to request on top of just TSH).
It’s best to tune in to your body – if you are experiencing one or more of the following, you should dig a little deeper or simply start my alkaline hypothyroidism diet plan (below):
- Weight gain (and difficulty losing weight):
- Fatigue (physical & mental)
- Lethargy & depression
- Rough & cracked skin
- Hair loss
- Digestive issues, especially constipation
- Frequent colds & flu and generally lowered immunity
- Sudden, unexplained menstrual cycle changes
- …and more
These are the main, most common, and direct symptoms of hypothyroidism – the most frequently experienced being weight gain and fatigue. If you have either of these PLUS one other symptom, I would strongly urge you to read on.
What Causes Hypothyroidism
If you read the breakout box above, you’ll see that the symptoms of hypothyroidism can cause more hypothyroidism, but where does it start?
There is an obsession with iodine in the ‘thyroid circles’. If you do a google search for hypothyroidism now, I would bet iodine is the most frequently appearing word. But this does not explain even close to every case.
While it can be a reasonably frequent influence, it’s not the total picture, and the over-exaggeration of the impact of the so-called ‘high goitrogenic foods’ causes most people to miss the big picture (we’ll clear up the mess about these foods shortly).
I have listed the most common causes of hypothyroidism below. You’ll see that some are interlinked, and you’ll discover in my Alkaline Hypothyroidism Diet Plan below, a lot of the recommendations I make overlap too, so we can heal quickly, naturally, and with a smaller number of simple actions that you might be expecting.
1. Inflammation-Based Autoimmune Conditions:
Easily the most frequent cause of hypothyroidism is inflammation, which results in a condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroiditis. It is a result of excessive inflammation in the body, which causes massive disruption to your immune system, triggering an autoimmune endocrine disorder.
Generally speaking, when you have an ‘autoimmune disorder’ this means that your body begins to attack itself by over-producing antibodies, when they’re not required, producing antibodies to attack cells it thinks are invaders, but are actually meant to be there. In the case of Hashimoto’s your body produces antibodies that attempt to destroy your thyroid gland. (8)
Your immune system believes that thyroid cells are not meant to be there and attempt to destroy and eliminate them.
And while abnormal inflammatory response is a cause of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s, Hashimoto’s actually creates more inflammation, creating a vicious cycle.
We need to cut the cycle, and your diet is by far the most powerful tool you have available to do this (Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet!). We’ll get onto the exact steps on how you can reverse Hashimoto’s with diet in just a minute.
2. An Acidic Diet:
And with that being said, while your diet can prevent and reverse hypothyroidism, it can also be the biggest cause. A diet that is high in acid-forming foods creates the perfect environment for thyroid imbalance, both with hypo- and hyperthyroidism. When we consume too many acid-forming foods (you can download my Acid/Alkaline Food Charts here and learn about the Seven Most Acidic Foods here) we put our body under a state of constant stress, forcing the body to constantly have to fight to neutralise the acidity and bring our pH (most tellingly of our blood) to an alkaline pH of around 7.365.
[Note: you can learn more about the alkaline diet, and how acid/alkaline balance works in the body here.]
From the moment these acid-forming foods enter our mouths, it puts the digestive system under stress. They create huge imbalance with the volumes of hydrochloric acid-to-sodium bicarbonate produced through digestion, creating the perfect environment for reflex, candida overgrowth, gut dysbiosis, and leaky gut (which we’ll get onto next).
And this is just the first wave of damage an excessively acidic diet creates, and each of these can negatively impact thyroid performance.
On top of this (and we’re scratching the surface here of the negative impact of an acidic diet on the thyroid), one of the most directly damaging outcomes of this diet-induced acidosis (or net-dietary acid load) is that chronic low-grade acidosis, as caused by an acidic diet, increases cortisol production.
We’ve touched on this already, but it’s worth repeating, given the importance of adrenal and pituitary gland function on thyroid function, and the fact that chronically elevated cortisol effectively shreds your adrenals and pituitary.
And on top of this, and we’ve just gone into the problems caused by inflammation, but acidic is a leading, direct cause of inflammation int he body too!
I could (and probably will) create an entire guide showing how an acidic diet damages the thyroid, but for now we will keep it simple: it’s bad news. Now, it’s not the odd acid-forming food. We’re not stressing about every little thing you eat, and a treat, a glass of wine, a dinner with friends won’t be the end of the world. It is the constant, all-day, every-day bombardment that keeps the body in a state of emergency 24/7 that causes the damage.
IF you’re living an acidic diet, your thyroid will be in trouble.
3. Iodine & Selenium Deficiency:
Iodine deficiency is the poster-child for hypothyroidism. It’s assumed to be the only reason why someone’s thyroid would be sluggish. If you google hypothyroidism or speak to anyone who has been in touch with their doctor about it, the vast majority will mention iodine supplements…and avoiding cruciferous vegetables (more on this myth shortly).
Now, I am absolutely not saying iodine deficiency is not important, it really very much is.. I am saying it is not the only influence. If you are severely deficient in iodine this would severely impact the function of your thyroid (as well as your skin, pancreas, salivary glands, brain, stomach and more).
It is important to note that the issue here is not consuming enough iodine, it’s incredibly easy to get enough each day without even thinking about it (about 140mcg).
The issue is with the modern diet causing iodine to be unavailable in the body. Gluten-containing grains, fluoridated tap water, food stored in plastics, pesticides, bromine, phenylalanine, food additives, artificial sweeteners, toxins in cleaning and beauty products – all of these impair the body’s ability to use and store iodine.
If you have any concern, even if you’re consuming a varied diet (even vegan, not a problem, there is plenty of iodine in fruits, veggies and beans, and of course sea vegetables and nut milk), you can supplement with iodine, or just occasionally use some seaweed, nori flakes/sheets, kelp, etc in cooking, or sprinkled over meals, in soups, salads, etc.
Selenium, is in fact just as important as iodine and often overlooked. The thyroid is the organ with the highest amount of selenium per gram of tissue – it needs it more than anywhere else in your body! Your thyroid uses selenium for the metabolism of thyroid hormones. Without it, you’re stuffed. (9)
Selenium deficiency is most commonly attributed to Graves’ (a manifestation of hyperthyroidism) but it can also play a significant role in hypothyroidism too (10).
There are plenty of alkaline-forming sources of selenium including spinach, lentils, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, oatmeal, and more.
4. Leaky Gut:
This is where the axis of inflammation and autoimmune strikes again! Inflammation caused by poor dietary choices (especially gluten*, processed foods, sugar, excessive animal protein, and dairy) causes incredibly imbalance and damage in the gut. When there is excessive gut inflammation, the gut lining is susceptible to tiny tears, creating little openings that allow small particles of undigested food to re-enter the bloodstream, repeatedly triggering an immune response and rapidly causing the onset of autoimmune conditions (such as Hashimoto’s but also rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Grave’s, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and more).
*gluten gets a special mention because it’s probably as damaging to the gut lining as all of the other acidic foods combined. Gluten (in particular the gliadin part of gluten) stimulates the release of an only-recently-discovered molecule called ‘zonulin’ in the body.
Zonulin is a molecule that opens up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal lining. In a normal gut environment, this is a great, necessary function – it allows nutrients to get in and out of the intestine. However, when zonulin is repeatedly triggered (primarily by the consumption of gluten) the spaces between the cells open up too much allowing larger protein molecules to get into the bloodstream where an immunologic reaction can take place (11).
You’ve got to get off the gluten!
Most people still think of stress solely as an emotion, and an emotion they have no control over. But nothing could be further from the truth on both counts.
Firstly, stress is not just an emotion, it’s a physical reaction in your body. It’s your ‘fight or flight’ response, and you need to recognize it as one of the most important variables in your health journey. You need to understand and accept just how influential it is on your wellbeing. If you’re fatigued, have digestive issues, have trouble sleeping, easily gain weight and can’t shift it, or are underweight, if you don’t recover from exercise well if you have frequent coughs and colds and indeed – if you have sluggish thyroid function…stress is a major influence here.
Secondly, you have to accept that stress is something you do have control over. You need to separate stressful situations (which you can’t control) and a stressful reaction (which you can control). You cannot control everything happening in your life, but you can influence how you react to it. It is in your reaction that your fight or flight is triggered a.k.a. cortisol levels rapidly and dramatically shoot up.
I am certainly not perfect in this area (very much a work in progress), but I have found that mindfulness meditation, even just ten minutes a day creates a dramatic difference. I personally use the headpiece app (at time of writing they still have a free ten-day trial here), but have heard wonderful things about Kevin Rose’s Oak Meditation (free, at the time of writing) and plan to try this too.
Again – you can’t influence the things that occur in your day, but you very much can control how you respond. This can be a complete game-changer.
Like hydration, we generally just leave sleep to chance, where sleep quality and quantity are due to circumstances. You get as much as you can and just deal with fatigue if you can’t. That needs to change. You must make adequate, good rest a priority. It’s an absolute necessity for your thyroid health.
Circadian rhythms and sleep quality influences your pituitary gland to release of thyrotropin (TSH), the hormone that regulates the release and volume of your thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4), and triiodothyronine (T3). Poor sleep leads to poor thyroid function, it’s as simple as that. (12)
You need to take this seriously. Studies have even shown that poor sleep (particularly in women) leads to a much greater risk of thyroid cancer. (13)
Poor sleep can also lead to poor immune response, poor digestion and sleep is imperative in clearing out brain-degenerating toxins too.
It’s a vicious cycle, as hypothyroidism can lead to poor sleep…and poor sleep can lead to hypothyroidism, but it’s something you need to put energy and focus into in order to break the cycle and help your body to repair.
The Alkaline Hypothyroidism Diet Plan: How to Naturally Treat Hyperthyroidism
Alkaline Hypothyroidism Diet Plan: What to Avoid
Gluten and declining health go hand-in-hand. It’s at the core of dozens of symptoms, sicknesses, and diseases and is probably the principle dietary reason for the inflammation, autoimmune and endocrine imbalance…and therefore hypothyroidism.
I strongly recommend everyone removes gluten from their diet as soon as possible, and especially if you’re experiencing hypothyroidism, or any other autoimmune, inflammation, or digestive disorder.
It’s important to recognize that in most people’s diets, wheat is making up 90% of the gluten consumption, with foods like bread, pasta, pastries, cereals, and so on. We have to change this, and thankfully it is a lot easier than most people think.
Gluten spikes your blood sugar like nothing else, causing huge volumes of inflammation, stressing the pancreas to regulate massively fluctuating insulin requirements, increases cortisol production and thus stresses the adrenals, instigates the production of excess visceral fat cells (which then triggers more inflammation), fuels the overgrowth of candida, increases zonulin production leading to leaky gut (see above) and so much more.
It’s just got to go.
There are a few misunderstandings regarding gluten and wheat, so let’s cover those off here:
- It’s not just wheat, it’s all gluten-containing grains: spelt, rye, barley and so on…
- And it’s not ALL grains, just those that contain gluten, so not buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, chia etc.
- And not oats! Oats are often considered to contain gluten primarily because you can buy ‘gluten-free oats’…I understand the confusion! The reason there are gluten-free oats, is because oats are often milled in factories and facilities that also mill wheat and spelt etc. so they cannot be classified as gluten-free for those who have specific diagnosed gluten sensitivity. A product cannot be classed as ‘gluten-free’ unless it’s in a completely clean environment, and some oats are, and some are not. But the important point here is that oats do not contain gluten.
- Sprouted Breads…some are good, some are not. Be careful with these! Sprouted grains do not contain gluten naturally, but some companies add gluten back in to their sprouted grain breads to increase the ‘doughy-ness’ of the bread. This basically makes them just as bad as regular bread
If you can find swaps for your bread-based snacks and meals, use gluten-free cereals and oats, and use gluten-free pasta instead of regular pasta (or better still, zoodles), you’ve already eliminated 80% of the gluten in your diet. And the results are SO worth it.
Sugar fuels inflammation, acidity, digestive imabalance, autoimmune, weight gain, hormonal disruption and so much more like no other food on Earth. For decades we’ve been led to believe that fat was the devil in our diet. Turns out, that’s not true! It’s been sugar all along!
I’m not going to get bogged down in the politics of this, but the research is clear, sugar is at the root cause of practically every health condition we know – either as a root cause, or as a heavy influence, exacerbating any problem that arises.
It’s important to point out here that as with a lot of these foods I’m telling you to avoid – 90% of their existence in our diet is in packaged, processed foods. If you eliminate processed foods you’ll be largely eliminating both gluten and sugar.
It’s also important to point out that fructose is the most damaging of all of the sugars, and is responsible for more inflammation in our body than almost anything else. Now, I’m not saying fruit is bad, I’m saying fructose is.
Consuming 1-2 pieces of fresh fruit per day is totally fine and healthy, but you need to be careful of your overall fructose intake (in the USA this is largely from high-fructose corn syrup, found in so many packaged goods). I explain a lot more about fruit here (and why you should never juice fruit), and I run you through the healthier sugar alternatives here.
But please bear in mind, 30-40g of sugar is the uppermost limit to consume each day, ideally under 25g, but over 50% of the USA are consuming over 200g per day. It’s incredible to think of this. EVERY DAY!
If you can keep your total sugar intake to under 25g per day you will be giving your body such a huge gift, and you’ll really start to notice the benefit straight away.
According to Dr Izabella Wentz, dairy is the 2nd biggest trigger of Hashimoto’s behind gluten. And when you really consider the logic of it, it’s easy to see why. Not only is dairy a strongly acidic food, but cow’s milk contains proteins that are different than the proteins found in human milk. A person with leaky gut, which as we’ve discussed it practically always present with autoimmune and hypothyroidism will recognize these proteins as a foreign invader and make antibodies to attack the cow’s milk proteins.
Wentz explains that:
“these antibodies are mediated by the IgG branch of the immune system (different branch than the one that makes food allergies)- this is known as a Type IV Delayed Hypersensitivity reaction. Guess what other kinds of antibodies are IgG mediated? Thyroid antibodies, more specifically, TPO and TG antibodies. Hashimoto’s is also considered Type IV Delayed Hypersensitivity.”
Other Acid-Forming Foods
This could be a large category of foods, but I am all about the 80/20 – whereby the 20% of actions will give you 80% of the results, so alongside gluten, dairy and sugar, these are the most acid-forming foods you should avoid in order to support your thyroid and help it to heal:
- Artificial Sweeteners/Diet Sodas
- Ice Cream
- Hydrogenated/Partially Hydrogenated Fats
- MSG & other Artificial Flavours/Additives/Colours and ‘Natural Flavours’
I know it might feel at this stage like there’s nothing left to eat! But please don’t worry, there are plenty of foods you can still focus on, and while I’m saying avoid all of these, you don’t need to be perfect (unless you want to be), and you can take it one step at a time.
The reality is that if you remove processed, packaged foods from your diet, you’re automatically removing the vast majority of these foods! As the saying goes, just JERF – Just Eat Real Foods!
Tap water is full of toxins that are known endocrine disruptors. In 2013, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a report on their analysis of nearly 20 million drinking water tests conducted by water suppliers nationwide between 2004 and 2009.
The study revealed hundreds of pollutants in U.S. tap water.
They detected 316 contaminants in water supplied to the public, including 204 chemicals, 97 agricultural pollutants, 86 contaminants linked to pollution and treatment plants and 42 pollutants that leached from pipes and storage tanks. It’s disgusting, but not too surprising.
According to the EWG, despite the potential health risks, there is no legal limit on these chemicals—no matter how high the concentrations—in drinking water. Among them, 168 have been linked to cancer, fifty-four to reproductive toxicity, sixty-seven to developmental toxicity and thirty-five to immune system damage.
- Bromochloroacetic acid is a tap water disinfection byproduct found in the water supplied to forty million consumers. It induces gene mutations and is associated with damage to DNA.
- Perchlorate is a rocket fuel ingredient, toxic to the thyroid gland, and found in water provided to twenty-six million people.
- Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is a gasoline additive and groundwater pollutant scheduled to be phased out nationwide, found in twelve million people’s supply. It is associated with liver and kidney damage and nervous system effects.
- Di-n-butylphthalate, a chemical from a group of industrial plasticizers called phthalates, was found in water used by five million people. Phthalates have been linked to birth defects and reproductive toxicity.
And what of the “regulated” toxins in tap water? The most damaging toxins are not being kept below safe standards. For example, trihalomethanes have been linked to a range of health problems including bladder cancer, colon and rectal cancer, birth defects, low birth weight and miscarriage and are still present in tap water in frightening levels.
And then there is fluoride…
According to a 500-page scientific review, fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that can affect your bones, brain, thyroid gland, pineal gland and blood sugar levels (15). Thirty-four human studies and over 100 animal studies link fluoride to brain damage. It can lower the IQ in children (16). It’s just terrible. I’m not sure how this can happen in our modern world, that countries as developed and smart as the UK, U.S. and Australia could continue a practice this imperils the health of the entire population.
This is one not many people will have heard of, but it’s a very important one – you will want to look for and eliminate bromine from your life. Bromines are one of the most dangerous and common endocrine (hormone) disruptors in our food supply. It is especially tricky for the thyroid because it competes with the natural processes in your body that are used in the thyroid gland to capture and utilise iodine. Again, as we discussed earlier, it’s not necessarily the volume of iodine in our diet that is the problem, it’s our diet and lifestyle choices leading to the iodine we are consuming not reaching the places it’s meant to go!
Eliminating bromine entirely can be tricky, but we can certainly reduce the amount we’re exposed to dramatically by removing the following from our life:
- Soft drinks
- Baked goods and flours
- Foods stored in plastics
- Pesticides as much as possible (see the EWG’s Clean Fifteen & Dirty Dozen)
- OTC Medications as much as possible particularly nasal sprays
- Non-organic/natural fibre mattresses, fabrics, carpets, upholstery etc
The more you can get these bromines out of your life, the more your body will be able to absorb and use iodine.
Alkaline Hypothyroidism Diet Plan: What to Eat
Eliminating sugar, gluten, processed foods, dairy and other acid-forming foods, as well as looking at the sources of toxins in your life – the fluoride, bromine as well as other toxins in household cleaning products, shampoos etc. will give your thyroid (and your whole body) a huge break. It will be an incredible relief not to have to keep fighting fire every day.
And your body is amazing. I want you to know and remember this: your body is amazing. It has the knowledge and power and ability to heal, regenerate and rebuild. It just needs to be nourished, it needs you to give it the tools to get this work done. And if you fuel it, your body will not only repair, but it will thrive.
Here’s where you need to focus your efforts, and I promise you, if you focus on eliminating (as much as possible) the above, and adding in these foods daily, you will feel like a brand-new person very quickly. Your energy will begin to grow, your sleep will improve, your skin will tighten and glow, your mental energy will be consistent and focused and most of all – your confidence in your body will return.
Let’s get into it:
Greens Greens Greens:
Goes without saying, but still so few people get enough greens on a daily basis. They say aim for ‘Five-a-Day’, but really it should be five serves of GREENS per day!
Spinach, kale, watercress, rocket/arugula, cabbage, bok choi, beet greens, silverbeet/chard, broccoli, coriander/cilantro, parsley, lettuce, celery, cucumber…
These should be in your diet in abundance if you want to help heal your thyroid. Rich in chlorophyll, omega 3, protein, fibre, a huge range of vitamins and minerals, free-radical scavenging antioxidants, alkalising and anti-inflammatory nutrients – greens (and especially the leafy ones) are without question the healthiest foods on Earth.
I would absolutely LOVE to see everyone consuming at least five serves of greens every day. If you can do this your life will change forever. And the easiest way to do this is with a green juice or smoothie.
If you can get a green juice or green smoothie (fruit-free, as mentioned earlier) every day your health will soar. Just doing this each day will make a wonderful difference to your life.
Here’s a couple of my recipes to get you started that are specifically targeted at getting thyroid-healing nutrients into your body:
[again, if you’re worried about some of the cruciferous vegetables & thyroid/goitrogen issue, see below, we’ll get to this.]
Turmeric & Ginger
These delicious spices contain some of the most anti-inflammatory compounds on Earth. The curcumin in the turmeric and the gingerols in the ginger will fight inflammation like nothing else. Proven to be as powerful as most, if not all anti-inflammatory OTC drugs (as well as proven to be more powerful than 14 other drugs http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/science-confirms-turmeric-effective-14-drugs) they will get to work healing and soothing your body, from top to bottom.
As we’ve discovered, inflammation is both a cause of hypothyroidism and a symptom, and we need to address it.
My suggestion is to get fresh whenever possible (if you don’t think you can buy it locally, check amazon) but it’s also great to have powdered as a back up. BUT as a warning, always buy organic powdered herbs and spices. The non-organic stuff has been through a process called irridation – which is basically the reason why it has a shelf life longer than your life! Irridation is bad news.
Food irradiation is the process of using radiation to kill bacteria and other contaminants. But while radiation is used to reduce bacteria in the spices we are consuming, the finished product has decreased levels of vitamins and natural enzymes. Irradiation changes the chemical composition of a spice, potentially creating toxic, carcinogenic by-products in the food and increasing our exposure to free radicals. Free radicals cause aging and disease – something we want to avoid at all costs!
Aim to get 1cm of turmeric and ginger (fresh) per day, or 1tsp of dried.
Omega 3 and the saturated fats from coconut are so essential for your endocrine system, to remove inflammation and acidity, to improve the function of your brain, to lower cholesterol and protect your heart and so much more. And yep, specifically for your thyroid you just have to have these essential fats.
Coconut oil is absolutely essential for your health and you should be getting it daily. Please don’t believe the recent industry-sponsored, research-poor, hype about coconut oil being unhealthy – it’s absolute nonsense. It gives you a rich source of the medium-chain fatty acids: caprylic acid, lauric acid and capric acid. These fatty acids are wonderfully beneficial for you metabolism, energy production, brain health, eye health, digestive balance and your thyroid.
Research has proven it to reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, support brain function and memory, reduce cardiovascular risk and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Aim to get 1/2 – 1tbsp of coconut oil a day – straight from the spoon, in cooking (it’s safe to cook with), in your smoothies or oats or however else you can imagine it!
And the omega-3 fatty acids are perhaps even more essential for hormone balance and thyroid function – and so many people are chronically deficient! When it comes to your thyroid, the important extra factor is balancing your omega 3 to omega 6 intake. Most people are getting miles too much omega 6.
We should have a ratio of omega 3-6 of about 1:1 (i.e. the same of both), and therapeutically a ratio of 3:1 or more of omega 3 to omega 6.
But guess what the ratio is in most developed countries? Remember it should be 1:1, and it is actually……wait for it……1:16!
This imbalance is causing incredible stress to your body, and we need to switch this around.
Thankfully making a big impact on this can be quite quick and easy, and here’s what I suggest:
Step One: Swap vegetable (sunflower/canola etc) oils in your cooking for coconut oil
Step Two: After cooking, dress all of your foods (vegetables, salads etc.) in flax oil, olive oil and avocado oil (my preferred mix is 50% flax, 30% avocado and 20% olive – I find this gives the best flavour and a strong ratio of omega 3 to 6)
That alone will make a huge difference.
You should be aiming to get 2-3 tablespoons of omega 3 per day from a variety of sources, so include lots of avocados, nuts, seeds, leafy greens (yes, they’re a great source of omega 3!). And if you eat fish, include salmon or trout twice per week. Try to avoid tuna, swordfish and sea bass unless you can be certain that it is low-mercury (study here).
[Note: due to the importance of omega 3 and how many people are deficient, I also recommend supplementing with omega 3 – see my supplement recommendations here].
Filtered, Clean Water
Proper hydration, like greens, should go without saying, but sadly the vast majority of people are chronically dehydrated. Proper hydration will re-energize you mentally and physically like nothing else. It helps support your digestive function, removes cravings for sugar and carb-rich foods, boosts immunity, helps clear toxins from the body, supports the liver and kidney function, helps create new healthy red blood cells – in fact probably every function in the body is impacted by your hydration levels.
Specifically, when it comes to your thyroid, dehydration can be a huge issue affecting you in multiple ways:
- Dehydration causes histamine levels to rise – increasing and irritating many of the symptoms hypothyroidism creates such as high blood pressure, sleep issues, anxiety, stress, headaches and so on
- Dehydration alters blood cell and plasma concentrations which affects the circulation of T3 and T4.
- Dehydration can cause an increase in cortisol production stressing the adrenals and therefore the production of TSH, further impacting the thyroid
You should be aiming to consume between 2-4 litres of clean, filtered (no fluoride) water each day. You can include vegetable juices and smoothies, herbal teas and so on in this count. Don’t worry if you’re currently nowhere near that level, you can increase it a little bit every few days until you hit your target.
Most people with hypothyroidism also have digestive imbalance too, so you should aim to consume 40g of fibre per day, from a variety of sources. I’ve included psyllium husks in the supplements guide below, and this is a must-do! By including lots of greens you’ll also be getting a lot of fibre, but also aim to include a wide range of vegetables, low(er)-sugar fruits like berries, nuts and seeds, lentils, beans, pulses, sprouted breads (gluten-free) and so on.
And finally, as a little add at the end, getting a semi-regular dose of seaweed into your diet is a smart move to keep that iodine topped up. As we’ve talked about, if you’re eating well and avoiding those endocrine-disrupting foods and chemicals then your body will be able to utilise the iodine already in your diet and you’re more than likely getting more than enough. Fixing the issues that are preventing iodine use and absorption is a hundred-times more beneficial than simply just trying to overpower the issues by eating tons more iodine.
However, a little top up now and then absolutely does not hurt and could be a needle-mover for you. My recommendation is to have a little every week as part of your diet including kelp, nori, and wakame. The simplest way is often to simply buy some dried nori sheets and just shred or tear into salads. It adds a wonderful texture and flavor.
The Thyroid Supporting Nutrients
These micro nutrients are the ones to focus on. They are contained in abundance in the foods above, but if you are looking for specifics, and/or supplements, these are the ones to put your energies into:
- Iodine: This is perhaps the most important nutrient for thyroid health as it’s needed for the production of thyroid hormones. While the vast, vast majority of people in the developed world are not deficient, iodine deficiency can, as we’ve covered, lead to hypothyroidism. I was semi-reluctant to include it here, as people overly fixate on it…but you do need it.RDA is 150 mcg for adults. Seaweed, kelp, and other sea vegetables are very high in iodine. It’s also found in smaller amounts in other vegetables, depending on the iodine content of the soil.
- Selenium: This mineral is essential for the conversion of T4 to T3, which is the active form of the thyroid hormone. It also protects the thyroid gland from oxidative damage.RDA is 55 mcg for adults. Selenium is found in brazil nuts, and lima beans.
- Zinc: Like selenium, zinc helps convert T4 to T3. Additionally, it also plays a role in the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, which manages the release of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).RDA is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Zinc is found in legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans, spinach, broccoli, kale, and garlic.
- Iron: Iron is involved in the production of thyroid hormone. Iron deficiency can impair thyroid hormone synthesis by reducing activity of heme-dependent thyroid peroxidase.RDA is 8 mg for men and 18 mg for women. Iron-rich vegetables include spinach, sweet potato, broccoli, lentils, tofu, and peas.
- Vitamin A: This vitamin also helps the body to utilize iodine, and deficiencies can contribute to hypothyroidism.RDA is 900 mcg for men and 700 mcg for women. It’s found in carrots, spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes.
- Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. It plays an important role in the immune system, and as such may be particularly relevant for people with autoimmune thyroid disorders.RDA is 15-20 mcg for adults, though several studies have made it clear we need much higher amounts. It’s difficult to get enough Vitamin D from food, but it can be synthesized by the body through exposure to sunlight.
- Copper: Copper is involved in the production and function of several enzymes, some of which are required for the production of thyroid hormones. Copper deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism.RDA is 900 mcg for adults. Copper is found in mushrooms, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens.
- Magnesium: This mineral is crucial for many bodily functions, including the production of thyroid hormone. Some research suggests that hypothyroidism may be linked with magnesium deficiency.RDA is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women. Magnesium-rich vegetables include spinach, swiss chard, and black beans.
- Vitamin E: Although its role in thyroid health is less direct than some other nutrients, Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help protect the thyroid from oxidative damage. This is important as the production of thyroid hormones generates a significant amount of reactive oxygen species, which can cause cellular damage if not properly managed.RDA is 15 mg for adults. It’s found in spinach, broccoli, and butternut squash
The Thyroid Supporting Secret Weapon…Snack On…..:
Nuts and seeds! There are so many hormone-balancing nutrients in nuts and seeds and many that can only really be found in nuts and seeds…but so few people are eating nuts and seeds!
If you can make a nice nut and seed mix a part of your regular snacking regimen, you’ll get huge benefits, not only for your thyroid, but for your health, and energy all over.
Here are just a few examples:
- Brazil nuts: These are perhaps the richest dietary source of selenium, which is critical for the production of thyroid hormones and for protecting the thyroid gland from oxidative stress.
- Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, another micronutrient that aids in the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 to its active form, T3.
- Sunflower seeds: These seeds are a great source of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that can help protect the thyroid gland from damage.
- Almonds: Almonds are a good source of magnesium, which is involved in many bodily functions, including the production of thyroid hormones.
- Chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds: These seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for overall health and can support thyroid function by reducing inflammation.
- Sesame seeds: They contain copper, which is involved in the production of thyroid hormones.
Add them to your smoothies, breakfasts and make that big nut & seed snack mix!
To Bring it All Together
The health of our thyroid, the small but mighty gland, is intimately tied with our overall well-being. A well-functioning thyroid is key for maintaining our metabolism, energy levels, brain function, and so much more. The balance of this important organ can be easily upset by modern lifestyle factors such as stress, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise. Therefore, it’s crucial that we nourish our bodies with the right foods and nutrients to support optimal thyroid health.
Incorporating a wide variety of nutrient-rich, alkaline foods into our diet can provide the essential vitamins and minerals that our thyroid needs to function properly, such as iodine, selenium, zinc, iron, and various vitamins. By the same token, avoiding foods and substances that may disrupt thyroid function is equally important. Regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and effective stress management techniques should also be part of our thyroid healing plan.
As ever, you don’t have to do everything all at once. Start small. Pick ONE food to add, and ONE to avoid. Focus on just these until they are a habit. Then add more. Go easy on yourself. You will get there faster than you could ever believe if you keep it simple, stay consistent and avoid the dreaded overwhelm.
Ultimately, our thyroid health does not exist in isolation. It’s deeply connected to our overall health, and caring for it means caring for our entire body and mind. Therefore, taking the time to nurture our thyroid is an investment in our holistic health and well-being. It’s a journey, not a destination, and every step towards a healthier thyroid is a step towards a healthier, happier you.
References and Studies
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- An overview of the NRC’s groundbreaking report on fluoride toxicity, including excerpts of its key findings and recommendations, statements from the panelists, and a discussion of its relevance to water fluoridation and sulfuryl fluoride.
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