Are you sluggish, stiff, have unexplained weight gain, and cold all the time? You may have an under-active thyroid. According to the Mayo clinic, these are some of the many signs that your thyroid is sluggish.
If you suspect you have thyroid issues, you should, of course, seek professional help. But what if you want to stave off future problems? Are there any foods or supplements that you can take to help give your body what it needs to have a healthy metabolic function?
Some experts say yes. According to Dr. John Dommisse, certain minerals and vitamins play a supportive role in thyroid function. Iodine, selenium, zinc, magnesium and vitamin A are all important nutrients the body uses to manufacture thyroid hormones. This means if you have serious thyroid issues, it could be helpful to have blood tests drawn to see what your nutritional status is. For the rest of us, eating specific, nourishing foods may help give our bodies the nutrition they need to have well-performing thyroids.
Let’s start with vitally important iodine. Iodine isn’t found in high amounts in many foods (which is why, if you are low, you may need to supplement with your health provider's supervision). Yet there is one food that is an excellent source if eaten on a regular basis: seaweed (check out this fact sheet for amounts of iodine in food).
However, unlike our Japanese friends, most Americans aren’t used to eating it on a regular basis. My family developed a taste for seaweed by enjoying sushi (we don’t eat a lot of raw fish, so we especially enjoy avocado sushi). We also like eating seaweed chips that are lightly fried in decent oil and salted or slightly sweetened (bought at the health food store). We buy dulse flakes and sprinkle it over rice, and you can also buy kelp salt replacers (add to soups and other dishes for a “salty taste”). Drop kumbu in homemade simmering broths, or in a pot of homemade beans during the beginning stages. It adds not only iodine, but other important minerals. It also seems to help make beans more digestible and less gas-causing.
For selenium, brazil nuts are one of the best sources. Eating 3-5 a days provides plenty. Other sources include crimini mushrooms, cod and mustard seeds. For a selenium feast, why not make a braised cod dish with a mustard sauce and garlicky sauteed mushrooms on the side?
For zinc, eating calf’s liver, venison and beef top the list. Eating that steak may not be so bad for you after all (though I highly recommend you buy grass-fed beef). Lamb, spelt, scallops and sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds are also good sources. One zinc-rich favorite snack around here is pumpkin seeds with raisins. Pumpkin seeds are also one of the best sources for another important, thyroid-building nutrient, magnesium. Other food sources of magnesium include spinach, Swiss chard, sesame seeds and cashews.
Finally, for vitamin A, I feel one of the very best natural sources is fermented cod liver oil. Plant based food sources include sweet potatoes and carrots.
However, it’s not just important to build up your nutrient intake — it’s also important to avoid or limit certain foods that actually have a goitrogen effect (that is, they suppress the thyroid). Soy is the biggest offender. Even cruciferous vegetables, when eaten often raw, can be an issue.
While a serious thyroid issue needs professional help, we all need these nutrients for good health. Adding in foods rich in the above nutrients can help make us well-nourished and give our body needed nutrients for making thyroid hormones.