It’s hard to read any health news without running into research and latest tips about the health of the thyroid gland. In fact, disease or malfunctioning of the thyroid is increasing by an alarming rate. Both men and women are dealing with hyperthyroid and hypothyroid and parathyroidism, Hashimoto’s Disease, Graves, primary, secondary, and tertiary hyper and hypothyroidism, enocrine neoplasma, etc. However, the ratio of men and women who get these issues or are starting to have symptoms of these diseases happen to be about 80% women and 20% men.
Let’s look at some things to incorporate in your lifestyle that can help protect and prevent thyroid and parathyroid gland problems.
When it comes to specific thyroid diets, one person’s miracle can be another person’s poison. That is why it is so hard for doctors to find, diagnose, and treat thyroid issues. On one end, the thyroid could be running too fast, hyperthyroidism or even Grave’s disease, and on the other end it could be functioning too slow, which is hypothyroidism or in 90% of those cases it is Hashimoto’s disease.
And sometimes, as is the case with many Hashimoto’s patients, the thyroid can go from too fast to too slow within a couple weeks! Therefore, it is important to understand and listen to what your body is telling you and how it is functioning. Doing this with an experienced practitioner is best; that way symptoms, blood work and other labs can be considered as well. See the lab tests we use to measure thyroid hormone levels by clicking here.
There are some “neutral” things that can help to nourish your thyroid. Whether you have a diagnosis or not, you can still work these things into your lifestyle without feeling apprehensive.
Eat your veggies… and that means all of them! There is no reason to avoid “goitrogens” like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussel’s sprouts, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. This is an old myth that was developed before iodine was added to table salt. Iodine deficiency was a concern and the goitrogens have a substance that blocks absorption of iodine. If you are iodine deficient, you can still eat these veggies as long as you cook or ferment them; it neutralizes that iodine blocking substance. These veggies have a ton of nutrients that help with cell function and repair so be sure to include these in your daily food choices unless you have a food sensitivity to any of those vegetables.
Iodine is needed for the thyroid health… The amount is dependent upon if you have a thyroid issue already. However, eating foods that contain some iodine can be much easier and healthier than using supplementation. Seafood like clams, oysters, sardines, shrimp, salmon and haddock all contain iodine. Seaweeds like kelp, nori and kombu are very rich in iodine… sushi rolls anyone? If those choices aren’t your top picks then foods like Swiss chard, asparagus, mushrooms, eggs, and sesame seeds all contain iodine as well. And of course, there is always iodized salt, however studies have shown that if other minerals are lacking in the body and diet, then iodine in the salt is not utilized by the body correctly; as with everything in health, it is all about balance.
Eat a variety of nutrient dense foods… Let’s be honest, you can look up thyroid health and see a whole list of nutrients that nourish and help the thyroid: selenium, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin A, D, E… I am not going to keep going. And yes, these nutrients are needed. But the truth is, it isn’t just the thyroid gland that needs these nutrients- your whole body needs these nutrients for a healthy well being. Choosing your foods, meals, and what you nourish your body with, should come from a place of wanting whole body health; not what specific nutrients are lacking for specific symptoms.
Eating a nutrient dense diet means eating whole foods that are living or recently living. Vegetables should consist of at least 60% of your meal. Leafy greens, squashes, sweet potatoes, cruciferous and cultured or fermented vegetables all have a place on the plate. Healthy fats like olives, coconut, avocados, some nuts and seeds, and some fattier cuts of organic raised meats and wild caught fish should also be included. Proteins, some from beans and legumes (unless you have trouble digesting them) and from animal sources that are organic and fed a species appropriate diet or are wild caught are perfect choices. Fruits, seeds, and some smaller portions of nuts are perfect for snacks or desserts. And some grains can even be enjoyed throughout the week if they digest and absorb well for you.
Packaged items, processed meats and foods, sugary and syrup filled drinks and items high in sugar- even natural sugars- should really be left out or only eaten occasionally (not even once a week). If you do have an actual thyroid condition, some individual nutrients may be part of your healing plan and you should work with a skilled practitioner who can guide and educate you. However, by making meals around the listed recommendations, you will be eating foods that contain more nutrients which gives your body a better chance at functioning it’s best.
Reduce Stress… If you can’t limit your stress load, find an outlet. Stress is everywhere and in many forms: emotional, physical (did you know that even the process of digestion is a stressor on the body), mental stress, relationship stress, job/career stress, parenting stress, school stress, financial stress… you may not have every form, but almost every American has at least one. Stress makes you feel drained, tired, depleted… because that is exactly what that energy is doing to you!
There may be adjustments that you can make in your life to limit the stress you have, but most of us are not in the position at this time to change, solve, or eliminate our stressors right away. Therefore, finding an outlet is a very crucial part of nourishing your thyroid gland because it is very affected by stress. It helps in managing your homeostasis functions in your body- like the fight or flight response, cell metabolism, body temperature, mood, and even plays a role in sleep patterns and hormone balance. Added stress will affect these functions. In fact, if you ask those people already dealing with diagnosed thyroid issues, they will report that stress plays a huge role in managing their symptoms.
Outlets are needed! Stress outlets can be things like reading, yoga, meditation or other spiritual practices, walking outside, exercise (if you are feeling really drained then pick something that isn’t rigorous), taking a bath one night a week, drawing, painting and other creative hobbies.
Have acupuncture done regularly. Whether it is once a week or once a month, acupuncture and herbs can have a major nourishing impact on your thyroid gland. Chinese Medicine is all about the balance of energy… and so is the thyroid!
Traditional Chinese Medicine regards thyroid issues, whether hypo or hyper, as an imbalance of Yin and Yang. Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and sound nurition can rebalance Yin and Yang. The World Health Organization states that acupuncture is effective in treating thyroid conditions, and many research studies convey that TCM (acupuncture and Chinese heral medicine) can be effective in treating hyperthyoridism and hypothyroidism.
A clinical trial at Shanghai Medical University found that hypothyroidism and its associated symptoms significantly improved when incorporating Chinese herbs with acupuncture to strengthen the kidney meridian, verifying the link between an under-active thyroid and a weakness in the energy of the kidney. Acupuncture is renowned to be one of the most effective forms of complementary medicine, and it may be a suitable treatment option in concomitance with more traditional therapies, such as thyroid medications.
Use these recommendations in your lifestyle to nourish your thyroid, to nourish your body, and to nourish your well being. Interested in working to heal your thyroid with acupuncture, Chinese herbs and nutritional therapy? Consultations are always free at Care Wellness Center. Call and schedule one with our acupuncturist, Robert Herbst, today!
Amy Carlson is a Holistic Nutritionist who practices a whole-foods based approach in helping the body to heal and thrive. She has a strong interest in sharing what she has learned so that everyone has the opportunity to live in a healthy body. “Each body has the ability to heal if it is given what it needs and the understanding of why it is hurting is discovered and nurtured as well.” Learn more about her approach to wellness by visiting her website.