The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland sits at the base of the throat, tucked behind the Adam’s apple. It may seem small and unimportant, but the thyroid controls some key hormonal processes, including temperature, hunger, and energy. Unfortunately, though, when the thyroid malfunctions, it can cause some frustrating symptoms.
Thyroid problems are actually pretty common, and it’s estimated that roughly 20 million Americans suffer from some type of thyroid disorder. In fact, one in eight women in the United States will be impacted by a thyroid disorder at some point during her lifetime.
There are two main types of thyroid problems: hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Of the two types, hypothyroidism is most common, particularly among middle-aged women. If you’re struggling with hypothyroidism, you may feel tired all the time and find yourself putting on weight for no clear reason.
Signs of Hypothyroidism
Other signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:
- Ongoing fatigue and lethargy
- Intolerance to cold
- Dry hair and skin
- Brain fog
- Hoarse voice
- Unexplainable weight gain
- Constipation, bloating, and other digestive problems
- Muscle weakness, aches, and pains
In contrast to hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism can cause bodily functions including weight loss and temperature control to accelerate. For example, you may feel hot all the time and may lose a lot of weight without trying.
Signs of Hyperthyoridism
Other signs and symptoms you may experience if you suffer from hyperthyroidism include:
- Nervousness or symptoms of anxiety
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping
- Racing heart
- Eyes that appear large and bulge
- Unexplained weight loss
- Intolerance to heat and excessive perspiration
- Muscle weakness
- Multiple bowel movements
- Thin, brittle hair
There are several things that can cause the thyroid gland to malfunction, but some of the most common include:
- Deficiencies in iodine, selenium and zinc
- Poor diet high in processed foods
- Emotional stress, including depression, anxiety and fatigue
- Leaky gut
- Reaction to immunodepressive drugs for autoimmune diseases or cancer
- Pregnancy or hormonal problems
- Inactivity, lack of exercise/sedentary lifestyle
- Toxicity due to chemical exposure or environmental pollutants
Nutrients You Need for a Healthy Thyroid
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Even though thyroid conditions affect an so many Americans (up to 60% of whom aren’t event aware of their condition), thyroid health can be fairly easily restored with diet and nutrition.
Foods rich in zinc, vitamin B, selenium and iodine are important, as is the need to stay away from conventional dairy, sugar, and gluten. In general, eating healthy animal proteins, green veggies, sea vegetables, raw dairy, wild-caught fish, and certain seeds and nuts will do wonders to improve your thyroid function.
Try regularly including the following foods in your diet for better thyroid health:
Foods high in zinc and vitamin B:
- Animal proteins
- Green peas
- Brussels sprouts
- Sesame seeds and nuts like pistachios
Foods high in selenium:
- Brazil nuts
- Yellowfin tuna
- Canned sardines
- Grass-fed beef
- Beef liver
Foods high in iodine:
- Raw dairy
- Certain wild-caught fish, like tuna
- Fermented grains
The Healthy Thyroid Meal Plan
Looking for a super-easy way to add these better-for-you foods into your diet to ensure your thyroid gets the nutrients it needs? Here are some sample meals to get you started. Remember, healthy proteins, green vegetables or sea vegetables and nuts can serve as a basic foundation when planning meals. And, again, eating foods rich in iodine, selenium, vitamin B, and zinc should help you start to see improvements in your health and energy levels.
Try the following protein power smoothie with Brazil nuts and spinach (a great source of selenium). Super pressed for time? A hard-boiled egg—everyone’s simple breakfast go-to—is an energy-packed food that’s high in zinc and other nutrients.
Pea protein power smoothie:
Blend the following ingredients together for a delicious and nutritious breakfast smoothie.
- One scoop pea protein powder
- ¼ cup Brazil nuts
- Fresh fruit (blueberries and cherries are great options)
- Handful of spinach
- Water or non-dairy milk, such as hemp or almond milk
Salmon patties and seaweed salad:
Wild-caught fish is one of my favorite thyroid-boosting foods, and these Salmon patties are a tasty way to incorporate this food into your diet and give you a break from the standard grilled filet.
To prepare an easy, iodine-rich side, whip up a seaweed salad by mixing kelp with shredded carrot and ginger. Top with a light dressing of oil and vinegar, sea salt, and pepper. You can also find prepared seaweed salads at some health food and grocery stores.
Crustless spinach quiche
With a combination of high-zinc eggs and selenium-rich spinach, a crustless spinach quiche is a quick and healthy dinner you can whip up easily after a busy day at work. Enjoy some fresh fruit for dessert.
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