by Dr. Ariel Policano
One of the best things you can do for your thyroid is to give it the nutrition it needs. The most important nutrients for good thyroid health are iodine, vitamin A, zinc, tyrosine, and healthy doses of antioxidants. There are a couple of “supporting nutrients” which include iron and b- complex vitamins. Based on these nutrients, here are some top superfoods you can use to help achieve excellent thyroid health!
After I tell you about my top superfood picks we’ll be discussing information to better understand your thyroid, how to have it properly evaluated, and several other things you can do to keep it healthy.
Maca root is a good choice for maintaining thyroid health for several reasons. Maca helps to balance the pituitary gland, which sends hormonal signals to the thyroid. It is a sort of top-down regulation.
This traditional Peruvian root also contains nutrients that the thyroid needs. Maca root contains zinc, B-complex vitamins, iron and copper. All of these are likely to help improve thyroid functionality. One thing to note is that maca is not high in iodine. Sea vegetables are a much better source for this mineral.
Try 1-3 teaspoons of maca powder in a smoothie each morning. I personally like to use maca in a salad dressing recipe because of its savory taste. I use the dressing on salads or as a sauce over kelp noodles.
Main players: B-complex vitamins, iron and zinc.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with sea vegetables when taking them for your thyroid health. Of course, they are the highest natural source of iodine by weight. They are also rich in many other trace minerals, like zinc and copper. These are also important minerals for good thyroid health. Sea vegetables are also high in iron, which I consider a supportive nutrient in thyroid health. Kelp has 4 times the iron of beef and 600 times more iodine than shellfish.
These minerals are crucial for an overall healthy metabolism. In other words, if weight loss is your goal, eat sea vegetables in abundance!
Include dulse, hijiki, nori/laver, sea lettuce and wakame.
Main players: iodine, iron, broad spectrum of amino acids and minerals.
Spirulina is high in many minerals including iodine, which supports overall health and metabolism. Specifically high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, spirulina supplies some crucial Vitamin A for the thyroid. Spirulina is one of the best green foods for liver detoxification. Optimal function of the liver is crucial for good thyroid health because the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to active thyroid (T3) mainly takes place in the liver, although it does occur throughout the body.
In addition to these excellent thyroid nutrients, spirulina is a good source of tyrosine. Tyrosine is the most important amino acid for healthy thyroid function.
Main players: beta-carotene, tyrosine and iodine.
This incredibly nutrient-dense food, which is smaller than a red blood vessel is rich in several key thyroid nutrients. Phytoplankton is amazing because of its broad-spectrum of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein and many others. The beta-carotene becomes vitamin-A as needed in the body.
Marine phytoplankton is an excellent source of phytochemicals that will help to protect the thyroid from oxidative damage. It also contains iodine. Main players: beta-carotene, iodine
Goji berries are an important source of flavonoids and are very high in antioxidants. The endocrine system in general, which includes the thyroid health is very susceptible to oxidative damage. Oxidative damage happens as a result of exposure to toxins in the environment, radiation exposure, pesticides in our fruits and vegetables, harmful chemicals in plastics and more. Foods that are true free radical quenchers are more important than ever. The goji berry is a real winner in this arena.
The antioxidants help to reduce oxidative stress, which may be a key contributor to thyroid problems, including low thyroid function.
Understanding Thyroid Health
Is your thyroid working properly? For 70-80% of people in the U.S. (and very likely true in other western countries!), the answer may be a resounding “NO!” There are likely thousands of people with a thyroid gland that is not functioning optimally. Many others may have a thyroid illness that has never been diagnosed.
This means that many people are having difficulty losing weight, are not able to concentrate properly, feel bloated, are chilly much of the time, and may be even experiencing depression or mood swings but have no idea as to what is the root cause of these issues. There are several reasons that thyroid problems are often missed, which I will discuss here. Before we get started, I want to mention some basics about the thyroid. It is an absolutely key part of your body’s endocrine system. It has a butterfly shape. It is located just below the Adam’s Apple. In fact if you drop below the Adam’s Apple, you can feel a cartilage-like structure on each side. There it is! (For women, where you feel the muscle that moves when you swallow, move just below that and you will feel the thyroid gland.)
The thyroid gland secretes thyroid hormone. This hormone affects cells virtually throughout the body and is particularly involved in regulating metabolism. This will have implications for how well you are able to maintain a good body temperature, have steady energy, and produce lean muscle mass and burn fat.
Your thyroid is a metabolic activator of your DNA in each one of your trillion cells! Think about that. This makes the most sense when we consider that there are SO MANY symptoms and imbalances that can come about from a poorly functioning thyroid.
If you have been wondering if you have a thyroid issue, let’s go down the following list:
1. Do you have ongoing fatigue? Many of my patients have fatigue symptoms, and many of those symptoms have variations. So, let’s be specific. Fatigue with a thyroid root cause is pretty constant. You never seem to get past it. You are usually very tired in the morning, but a bit better as the day goes on. You crave coffee to overcome your fatigue. I can usually pick up on a person with a less than optimal thyroid pretty quickly because they have the most trouble with giving up coffee. They become upset at the very suggestion of elminating caffeine because they feel they cannot function without it. They also generally feel a lot better after exercise.
You could actually contrast this against people with adrenal issues. If you have adrenal fatigue, you generally crave salt or sweets and not stimulants like coffee. If you have adrenal fatigue, you will feel worse after exercise as opposed to the thyroid patient who feels better after exercise.
2. Do you have dry skin? This is not the type of skin that is going to get better with moisturizer! This skin can be very dry. In fact, sometimes so dry that it actually causes flaking when you scratch it. The root cause for this dry skin is the decreased metabolism, so nothing is going to make the difference as much as treating the thyroid.
3. Cold intolerance! Another giveaway in my office is the thyroid patient is ALWAYS the wearing a long-sleeved shirt in any season! Or it may be that they bring an extra layer everywhere they go! Cold intolerance is definitely a sign. Again, the metabolism has slowed and your body is trying to conserve heat! I want to mention that iron deficiency is another reason that people can get seriously cold intolerant. It is really important to check iron stores (ferritin) to rule the iron issue out.
4. Weight gain. Ahhh, weight gain and difficulty losing weight. This has to be one of the absolutely top things I hear from patients, especially women along with the reports of fatigue. This is a classic low-functioning thyroid sign that many people know about. It is still a very legitimate reason that 1 slight mis-step in your diet seems to lead to 5 extra pounds overnight.
Here are some other symptoms to consider. Remember, it is important to have a health practitioner take all these symptoms as well as lab tests into consideration as a whole.
Dizziness, low blood pressure, constipation, bloating, hair loss, difficulty concentrating, feeling “spaced out”, feeling klutzy (muscle incoordination), ridges in your nails or brittle nails, and thinning hair (or outright loss of hair), depression and mood swings. Yikes! Like I said, many symptoms. The thyroid plays a major role throughout the body’s systems.
But my doctor tested my thyroid and told me there is no problem.
It is very possible that your conventional health practitioners have told you “your thyroid is just fine.” Have your TSH done. We are looking for OPTIMAL TSH levels of about 1.5-2.5. If it is higher than 2.5 but below 5, your MD may give you a clean bill of health. That is because that is how they were trained. If you are not over the number indicated as out of range on the lab report, you simply are considered to have a normally functioning thyroid.
If you have many of the symptoms described above and a TSH above 2.5, a naturopathic physician will likely want to consider some supportive thyroid nutrition or natural medication.
You also want to consider T4 and T3. T4 and T3 represent the circulating thyroid hormones in your body. To be even more accurate, ask for your doctor to order free T4 and free T3, which represents the hormones that are currently active in the body.
These numbers will give you a much more complete understanding of how well your thyroid is actually functioning. An important part of proper thyroid hormone activity in the body is the conversion of T4 to T3. However, there are some pitfalls of “modern living” that cause a breakdown in the conversion of T4 to T3. This is where many thyroid issues actually stem from. Your TSH may come out rosy and perfectly in range. You are secreting adequate amounts of T4, but it is not being converted to T3.
There are several things to keep in mind that block that important conversion of T4 to T3 :
Stress blocks conversion to T3! Specifically, the presence of high amounts of cortisol will block the production of your active thyroid hormone. Stress management, meditation, caffeine-free herbal teas, warm epsom salt or lavender baths all can help.
Infections in the stomach or small intestine can block your production of active thyroid hormone. Working with a health practitioner to be sure you are free of candida, H. Pylori or parasitic infections could be helpful. Liver stagnation also blocks the conversion. Eliminate fatty foods, refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine to allow the liver to do its job of helping you to have healthy thyroid hormones!
There are reasons that many people have a less than optimally functioning thyroid. As always, finding the root cause and addressing it properly usually has excellent results!
About Dr. Ariel Policano
Ariel Policano is a naturopathic doctor specializing in creating optimal health with raw foods and superfoods. She has a private practice in La Jolla, California and is available for phone and Skype consultations, wellness retreats and company wellness programs.
Contact Dr. Policano:
• Email: email@example.com
• Phone: (858) 436-4438