Thyroid Awareness Month

January is Thyroid Awareness Month and with millions of Americans suffering from either an underactive or an overactive thyroid, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to discuss the foods you should incorporate into your diet to sustain a healthy thyroid.

But first, some background information on the thyroid. As one of the largest glands that produce hormones in the body, the thyroid is critical to your metabolism as well as regulating other functions in the body, including energy and heat production, tissue repair, regulating protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and muscle and nerve action.

Your diet can create a sluggish thyroid that will lower your metabolism and cause weight gain. For example, low-fat diets cause high insulin and leptin levels. You can make a great impact on the function of your thyroid by focusing on toxin exposures, diet and stress levels, which would improve metabolism and allow for weight loss. A diet low in sugars and refined carbohydrates and high in vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats will give you the nutrients you need to support your thyroid.

There are some studies that show a connection between gluten sensitivity and thyroid antibody production. You don’t have to have Celiac Disease to have sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Many people are sensitive to gluten and may experience bloating, cramps, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, skin rashes when they eat foods containing wheat, rye or barley. Those with sensitivities may make antibodies that cross-react with the thyroid and reduce thyroid function. Consider a gluten-free diet for eight weeks and see if you feel a difference.

Tips for improving thyroid function through what you eat:

  • Incorporate foods high in selenium such as seafood, shellfish, eggs, beef liver and beef kidneys. Sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, mushrooms, garlic and onions are other good sources.
  • Zinc can improve thyroid function as well. This mineral is especially important for middle-aged to elderly people since thyroid concerns and zinc deficiencies become more frequent with age. Good food sources of zinc include beans, nuts, crab, lobster and whole grain.
  • Thiamine is a mineral important to maintain optimum thyroid function. It is found in fortified cereals, milk, enriched whole grains and vegetables.
  • Avoid eating cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts in raw form as they can negatively impact an unhealthy thyroid. However, cooking these vegetables reduces the effects of the ingredients that harm the thyroid.
  • If you’re taking thyroid medications avoid eating any dairy products, soy products, walnuts or high-fiber foods within four hours of taking the medication as they can interfere with the medicine absorption. Studies have shown that there is no difference in the effectiveness of thyroid medication if it is taken at night instead of in the morning. Taking thyroid medication two hours after eating at night might be easier than trying to wait an hour to eat breakfast if you’re taking it in the morning. Either way works – it just depends on what works best for you.

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