Are you constantly struggling to lose weight even though you eat right, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep? If so, the reason could be your thyroid.
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the neck. It is a major gland of the endocrine system and affects nearly every organ in the body.
Your thyroid helps to regulate the following:
- Metabolism (How the body burns and stores carbs, fats, and proteins)
- Body temperature
- Calcium Balance
- Heart rate and cellular oxygenation
- Hormone balance including depression and anxiety
One of the most common types of thyroid disorder is an underactive thyroid. This is known as hypothyroidism. According to the American Thyroid Association:
“Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. People are hypothyroid if they have too little thyroid hormone in the blood. Common causes are autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, surgical removal of the thyroid, and radiation treatment.”
Since your thyroid helps to regulate your metabolism, an underactive thyroid can cause a slower metabolism and in some cases make it to come to a complete standstill. Individuals with hypothyroidism may find it extremely difficult to lose weight, no matter how healthy they eat and how often they exercise.
In addition to weight gain and difficulty losing weight, other signs of hypothyroidism include:
- Anxiety / depression
- Intolerance to cold
- Elevated cholesterol (LDL)
- Food sensitivities
- Thinning hair
- Dry brittle nails
- Low libido
- Brain fog/memory loss
- Thinning outer eyebrow
- Micronutrient deficiencies
- Impaired methylation
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness in the fingers or hands
- Menstrual irregularities
Knowing Your Numbers:
Have you had your thyroid tested and been told it’s “normal” even though you are still feeling lousy? How frustrating! While your numbers may be in the normal range according to a lab company, they may not be optimal. Optimal means you are feeling well. Or, more commonly, not all of your thyroid numbers may have even been tested.
One of the most comprehensive ways to determine if your thyroid is functioning at its best, is a have your doctor run a full thyroid panel. A full thyroid panel will look a variety of thyroid numbers, not just your TSH. It will give you a lot more information about your thyroid, including a test for thyroid autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s or Grave’s.
A full thyroid panel should include:
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb)
- Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb)
If you have only had your TSH or T4 tested, and are still experiencing symptoms, it may be time to talk to your doctor or endocrinologist about further testing.
Foods To Include:
To support a healthy thyroid, I recommend a whole foods diet with plenty of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Consider organic fruits and vegetables (use the Clean 15/Dirty Dozen list as a guide) meats without antibiotics, dairy without hormones, and non-GMO fermented soy in limited amounts only. Drink plenty of water. Set a goal to drink half of your body weight in ounces each day (For example, a person who weighs 150lbs would drink 75oz in water per day). For weight management, stick to your appropriate calorie range, keep carbs low, and balance with plenty of protein. Aim for 25g of fiber per day minimum.
In addition, be sure to include thyroid supportive foods that are rich in Vitamin D, iron, selenium, iodine, zinc, Omega 3 fatty acids, B12, and anti-inflammatories such as:
- Sea salt / Kelp /iodized salt
- Brazil Nuts – about 2 per day
- Beans (if tolerated)
- Dark chocolate (in moderation)
- Olive oil
- Sweet potatoes
- Grass fed beef
- Flax seed
- Pumpkin seed
- Sesame seed
It is also important to include fermented foods to heal the gut such as kefir, sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, fermented vegetables, and Kombucha
Foods to modify:
- Cruciferous vegetables – Foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Bok Choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, watercress, radishes, arugula, and mustard greens contain goitrogens. In a person with hypothyroid disease, goitrogens can attack the thyroid and produce what is known as a goiter. Let me be clear, you do not need to avoid these foods! You just need to cook them first. Cooking will break down the goitrogenic properties and make them safer for your thyroid.
Foods to limit/avoid:
- Soy (in some cases)
- Coffee – Limit, consume 1-2 hrs after taking medication
- Added sugars
- Trans fats
- Fast food
- Common food sensitivities should be ruled out
- Halogens including chlorine and fluoride (can inhibit iodine update)
- Environmental toxins (Plastics, synthetics, pesticides, xenoestrogens)
*It is important to note that celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and dairy intolerance should all be ruled out. There is evidence that supports a correlation to thyroid disease and celiac disease. If autoimmune disease is present, there is evidence to support a GFDF diet can help.
Supplements to consider (Not all of these supplements may be needed. Certain supplements should only be considered if you are deficient. I recommend micronutrient testing to determine your needs)
- Daily Multivitamin
- Vitamin D3
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Certain Antioxidants
Supplements that may interfere with thyroid medication:
- Calcium, fiber – If taking, space apart from your thyroid medication
- Biotin – Can interfere with thyroid tests
Finally, be sure to get plenty of exercise and manage stress. Here are some additional treatment therapies to consider:
Gaby, Alan R., MD. Nutritional Medicine. Alan R. Gaby, M.D., 01/2011. VitalBook file.
Murray, M. T., & Pizzorno, J. (2012). The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 3rd Edition. New York, New York: Atria paperback.