Ways to Naturally Support Your Thyroid Function
Your thyroid produces hormones that are important for various systems in your body. You have thyroid disease when it produces too little or too many vital hormones.
Many factors have the power to unbalance your thyroid function and cause you displeasing symptoms. However, your diet and lifestyle can mitigate many of these risk factors. This blog will give you practical tips to support your thyroid health naturally.
What Is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small organ in the neck's frontal part, wrapped around the trachea. It has the shape of a butterfly since it is smaller in the center and has two broad wings that expand over the side of your throat.
The human body has many glands, and your thyroid is one of them. Their role is to produce and release substances that support your body doing a particular thing. In this case, the thyroid creates hormones that help regulate numerous crucial body functions.
If your thyroid is not working correctly, it negatively affects your whole body.
What are the thyroid functions?
The thyroid has an essential function in your body. It releases and regulates thyroid hormones that are responsible for controlling your metabolism. Metabolism is the process where the food you eat is converted into energy. Your body uses this energy to maintain several of your body's systems functioning properly.
There are some particular hormones by which the thyroid regulates your metabolism:
- T4 (thyroxine, encompasses four iodide atoms).
- T3 (triiodothyronine, contains three iodide atoms).
The thyroid generates T4 and T3. They communicate to your body's cells the amount of energy that must be used. When your thyroid functions correctly, it will maintain the proper amount of hormones to keep your metabolism at the correct rate.
The pituitary gland monitors this whole process. This gland is situated in the center of the skull, underneath the brain. It supervises and controls the number of thyroid hormones in your blood flow. When it detects a lack or an excess of thyroid hormones in your body, it will adjust the quantities with its own hormone. This is the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH will be dispatched to the thyroid, showing it what it needs to do to regulate the body.
Common Thyroid Diseases, Their Causes, and Symptoms
What is Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid disease is a universal term for a medical condition that does not allow your thyroid to produce and release the appropriate quantity of hormones.
Your thyroid maintains your body's normal functioning by making the correct number of hormones. When this does not happen, you have thyroid disease.
There are two primary thyroid diseases:
Hyperthyroidism: This happens when the thyroid produces thyroid hormones excessively, which leads to your body using energy too fast.
Hypothyroidism: It happens when the thyroid generates thyroid hormones at insufficient levels.
Both diseases are serious and should be handled by a healthcare professional.
What Causes Thyroid Disease?
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism may be inherited genetically. Many conditions can also cause them. These conditions affect how the thyroid gland functions.
Conditions that can cause hypothyroidism include:
- Thyroiditis: An inflammation and swelling of the thyroid gland. It can reduce the number of hormones generated by your thyroid.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: An autoimmune, inherited, and painless condition. It leads to the body's cells attacking and harming the thyroid.
- Postpartum thyroiditis is typically a temporary condition, which happens in 5% to 9% of women after giving birth.
- Iodine deficiency: Iodine deficiency impacts millions of people worldwide. Iodine is a mineral utilized by the thyroid to produce hormones.
- A non-functioning thyroid gland occurs when the thyroid gland does not function correctly from birth. It affects approximately 1 in 4.000 newborns. Not treating it properly can lead to future physical and psychological problems. The hospitals run screening blood tests on all newborns to check their thyroid function.
Conditions that can trigger hyperthyroidism include:
- Graves’ disease: It is also named diffuse toxic goiter. In this condition, the thyroid gland can be overactive and create hormones in excess.
Nodules: Overactive nodules within the thyroid can lead to hyperthyroidism. The name of this condition is:
- Toxic autonomously functioning thyroid nodule when dealing with a single nodule.
- Toxic multi-nodular goiter when it comes to a gland with many nodules.
- Thyroiditis: Thyroiditis can be painful or silent. It leads to the thyroid releasing hormones that were deposited there. This can go on for some weeks or months.
- Excessive iodine: Your thyroid produces more thyroid hormones than necessary when you have too much iodine. You can find excessive iodine in certain medications and cough syrups.
Are You at Risk of Developing Thyroid Disease?
Anyone can develop thyroid disease. It can arise at birth or as you age. Thyroid disease is prevalent and more likely to affect women than men.
You might be at a superior risk of acquiring a thyroid disorder if you:
- Are older than 60, mainly if you are a woman.
- Have a family record of thyroid disorder.
- Have a medical condition (including diabetes, pernicious anemia, lupus, primary adrenal insufficiency, rheumatoid arthritis, and Turner syndrome).
- Take medication that’s high in iodine (such as amiodarone).
- Have had treatment for a past thyroid illness or cancer.
What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Disease?
The symptoms of thyroid disease are usually separated into two groups:
- The ones linked to having excessive thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism).
- And those associated with low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism).
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) symptoms may include:
- Anxiety, irritability, and nervousness.
- Having trouble sleeping.
- Losing weight.
- An inflamed thyroid gland or goiter.
- Muscle weakness and tremors.
- Irregular or non-existent menstrual periods.
- Sensitivity to heat.
- Vision problems or eye irritation.
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) symptoms often include:
- Fatigue and tiredness.
- Weight gain.
- Frequent and heavy menstrual periods.
- Dry and rough hair.
- Having a hoarse voice.
- Intolerance to cold temperatures.
- Hair loss.
Are You Experiencing These Symptoms?
As you must have already noticed, many of these symptoms are similar to those of other disorders and stages of life (e.g., when you are pregnant or aging).
This makes thyroid disease hard to diagnose because symptoms might be related to something completely different. While almost 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid illnesses, only around 40 percent are aware of their condition.
Fortunately, there are medical tests that determine if your symptoms are caused by thyroid disease. If you feel any of the mentioned signs, consult a healthcare professional and stick to the following tips to enhance your thyroid's health.
How Can You Support Your Thyroid Function Naturally?
Whether you have a thyroid condition or want to improve your thyroid health and prevent thyroid disease, these tips are for you.
Find the perfect ways to support your thyroid function naturally:
1. Eat a Balanced Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
Eating poor-quality food will stress your body's cells and affect your thyroid function.
Processed foods and sugar, such as sodas, refined carbs, or processed meats, will contribute to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress, in turn, may harm thyroid function. At the same time, hypothyroidism can exacerbate oxidative stress, forming a vicious cycle.
Do you want to break this cycle? Fuel up with anti-inflammatory foods. Mainly ingest whole and minimally processed foods, including:
- Fruits (especially tomatoes)
- Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna
- Olive oil
Additionally, consuming too much processed, high-carb foods (e.g., pasta, crackers, desserts) causes insulin resistance, which is associated with thyroid malfunction.
At every meal, ensure you eat complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats in a balanced way to stabilize your blood sugar.
2. Add Thyroid Superfoods to Your Diet.
Following the previous point, add thyroid superfoods to your diet. Superfoods are incredibly nutritious, bioactive foods. They can help prevent disease and enhance health. These foods are usually rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber.
The following are 11 superfoods that can support thyroid function. Make sure to include them in your diet!
- Seaweed. Seaweed, like kelp, nori, and wakame, is high in iodine. Iodine is a mineral necessary for healthy thyroid function. You can either eat seaweed with sushi or add it to your salads.
- Nuts. Nuts are excellent sources of selenium, which helps maintain your thyroid health. Some good options are hazelnuts and macadamia nuts, especially Brazil nuts, as they have the highest amount of selenium.
- Salt. As understood, your thyroid needs iodine to function correctly. Be sure to use iodized table salt at home.
- Leafy Greens. Leafy greens, such as spinach or lettuce, are excellent sources of magnesium. Magnesium is essential for your body systems and may help keep your thyroid healthy.
- Fish contains fatty acids, selenium, and Omega-3. All these compounds help decrease inflammation. Good fish choices are salmon, cod, or perch. Fish is also a vitamin D-rich food. Low vitamin D levels are linked to underactive thyroid and autoimmune thyroid disorders.
- Dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese, are excellent sources of iodine and vitamin D.
- Eggs are an incredibly nourishing food. They contain selenium, omega-3, fatty acids, vitamin D, iodine, and antioxidants. Make sure to eat the whole egg for the most benefits since the yolk is the most nutritious part.
- Blueberries are super rich in powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants can help lower the level of free radicals in your body. They may also give you energy and a metabolic boost.
- Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc. Zinc is an essential mineral for thyroid hormone production.
- Apples are another thyroid superfood because they are full of pectin. This fiber helps eliminate toxins from the body, which can impair thyroid function. Keep in mind that apple peel contains large amounts of pectin.
- Dark chocolate. Chocolate with no less than 70 percent cacao is the perfect choice for a tasty dessert. Cacao holds numerous antioxidants, magnesium, fiber, and other healthy compounds.
3. Exercise to Maintain a Healthy Weight.
Exercise has several positive effects on mental and psychological health. One of them is weight loss. This is important because being overweight is associated with inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which can harm the thyroid.
Walking is a great option to start with.
4. Get Some Sunshine.
Vitamin D is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid. Sunbathing is a great way to improve your vitamin D levels. Try spending a few minutes outside in the sun without applying sunscreen. Be careful not to burn the skin. You can also try taking a vitamin D supplement.
5. Manage Your Stress Levels.
Feeling stressed constantly is challenging for your hormones. Chronic stress disturbs the pituitary gland, which regulates the thyroid gland. This can lead to lower levels of T3 and T4 hormones.
Having healthy sleep habits, meditating, trying out a new hobby, or avoiding social media can be some ways to manage stress. You can try them and figure out what works best for you.
6. Try an Ashwagandha Supplement.
This herb is known to support thyroid health. It regulates the body's response to stress, stimulates the thyroid gland, and helps stabilize the release of thyroid hormone.
7. Decrease Your Exposure to Toxins.
The environment, cleaning supplies, and personal care products expose you to toxins. These toxins can harm your thyroid function. Examples are fluoride, mercury, dioxins, chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, and cigarette smoke.
To be less exposed to toxins, quit smoking, purify the water you drink, and reduce the consumption of chlorine and fluoride. Also, choose organic and/or non-toxic home cleaning and personal care products as much as possible.
8. Ingest Antimicrobial Herbs and Spices.
Microbes can disrupt cell-to-cell communication and imbalance hormones, negatively impacting thyroid health.
Try consuming medicinal herbs to suppress microbes and protect your cells. Wholesome options are garlic, turmeric, reishi, cordyceps, Andrographis, and Japanese knotweed.
9. Avoid Eating Foods that Can Hurt Your Thyroid.
Foods can help or hurt your thyroid function. To enhance the health of your thyroid even more, make sure to avoid eating the following foods:
- Foods with Soy
Although not often, some of the chemicals in soy products (e.g., soy milk and edamame) can damage the thyroid's capacity to produce hormones. This only happens if you ingest large amounts and need more iodine levels in your body.
Kale can inhibit the thyroid from getting sufficient iodine. However, just like soy, it should be fine unless you have low levels of iodine and eat large quantities of kale.
This is also the case for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
- Organ Meats
Do you regularly eat kidneys, heart, or liver? Then, you are probably getting a great deal of lipoic acid. Lipoic acid is present in organ meats and other foods. You can also buy it as a supplement.
High amounts of this acid can affect your thyroid function. If you take thyroid medicines, these can impact their effectiveness too.
Gluten probably will only affect your thyroid if you have celiac disease.
If you have celiac disease, gluten can damage your small intestine. This allows toxins in the intestines to leak into the bloodstream, negatively affecting the thyroid. Additionally, this can reduce the intestine's ability to absorb nutrients, which is crucial for optimal thyroid health. Thus, we advise people with celiac disease to eat a gluten-free diet to help prevent thyroid disorders.
- Fatty Foods
Fats can influence the thyroid’s capability to generate hormones. The recommendation of some healthcare professionals is to cut the intake of all fried foods. They also recommend reducing the ingestion of fats from sources like butter, margarine, mayonnaise, or fatty cuts of meat.
- Processed Foods
Processed foods in packages and the frozen aisle usually contain lots of sodium. Individuals who suffer from hypothyroidism have an increased risk of high blood pressure. Therefore, they must avoid sodium since it raises this risk.
You should only avoid coffee if you are taking thyroid medication. Studies have shown that coffee blocks the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement.
Please take your medicines only with water and wait at least 30 minutes after taking your medication before you drink coffee.
Research has found that alcohol intake can damage your thyroid’s ability to create hormones. It can also impair your thyroid hormone levels.
People with hypothyroidism should either cut alcohol out of their diet entirely or drink it in cautious moderation.
A Note of Caution: Iodine-rich foods are generally recommended for thyroid health. However, iodine in excess can worsen hyperthyroidism by causing the thyroid to generate too much thyroid hormone. Also, if you take thyroid medication and are not deficient, large quantities of iodine can worsen the problem.
In any of these cases, avoid eating excessive amounts of iodine-rich foods.
The Bottom Line
Numerous things can influence your thyroid function. This also implies there are many ways to support your thyroid health.
If your goal is to enhance your thyroid function, regardless of whether or not you have already developed a disorder, the shared steps can help you! By following our tips, you will thrive in your journey to feel at your very best.