How to Keep Your Thyroid Happy
As a naturopathic physician, I love helping sick people get healthy. But you know what I love even more? Helping healthy people stay healthy! That’s why I want to talk today about protecting one of the most important glands in your body: your thyroid gland. Your thyroid plays a crucial role in the function of virtually every organ in your body—so when it’s sick, every cell in your body feels the pain. To paraphrase an old saying, “When your thyroid ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Your head-to-toe misery can include weight gain, fatigue, depression, hair loss, dry skin, puffiness, muscle aches, anxiety, constipation, hoarseness, heavy periods, and memory problems. Fortunately, there are ways to treat an underactive or overactive thyroid. Today, however, I want to focus on a different topic: how to lower your risk for developing thyroid problems in the first place. This is especially important if you’re a woman over 30, because you’re entering the high-risk years for thyroid disease (which strikes women much more often than men).
Here’s my advice for nurturing this all-important little gland: Drink bone broth every day.
Bone broth is the #1 health food for your thyroid. Here’s why.
- The gelatin in bone broth helps to heal a “leaky gut,” which is one of the biggest causes of thyroid problems. When you have a leaky gut, toxins escape from your intestinal tract into the bloodstream, where they cause systemic inflammation that damages your thyroid as well as every other organ in your body. Gelatin soothes and heals your gut wall, putting out this body-wide fire.
- Bone broth is also loaded with anti-inflammatory nutrients. For instance, the glycine, proline, glucosamine, and chondroitin in bone broth all fight systemic inflammation.
- Fish bone broth contains iodine, which is vital for thyroid health.
Eat other foods that make your thyroid happy.
To function at its best, your thyroid needs a steady supply of nutrients. Here are some of the most critical ones:
- Iodine. Low levels of iodine can send your thyroid into a swoon, so load up on fish and sea vegetables. If you don’t get plenty of these foods, be sure to take a supplement that contains iodine. (I don’t recommend iodized salt, which typically contains additives you should avoid.)
- Selenium. Research shows that a deficiency of selenium is associated with thyroid disease. Foods that are high in selenium include Brazil nuts, tuna, eggs, and turkey.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is a big, big factor in autoimmune disorders—so eat vitamin D-rich foods like eggs and oily fish, and aim for at least 10 or 15 minutes of sun exposure each day. A vitamin D supplement is a good idea, too.
- Prebiotics and probiotics. These foster a healthy intestinal ecosystem, protecting against a leaky gut and systemic inflammation.
Avoid foods that damage the thyroid.
Eating the right foods is a must if you want to keep your thyroid happy, but it’s just as important to avoid the wrong foods. Here are the top three super-villains:
- Gluten. Gluten is one of the key culprits in leaky gut syndrome—and again, a leaky gut leads to a sick thyroid.
- Soy. Soy suppresses thyroid function and is linked to autoimmune thyroid problems.
- An overload of carbs. A diet high in carbohydrates leads to constant insulin surges, which damage your thyroid.
- One note: If you’re already diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you’ll also want to go easy on cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. While these foods are healthy, they contain compounds that can make it harder for an underactive thyroid to do its job.
Get your sex hormones checked.
One big problem for many women heading into perimenopause—which can happen in your thirties, by the way—is estrogen dominance, which can lead to low thyroid function. Taking bioidentical progesterone can fix this problem. (For more on bioidentical hormones, see my post here.)
Lower your stress.
A stressed thyroid is an unhealthy thyroid, so take control over your stress. Mindful meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga can help—and so can cutting down on your personal obligations. You know my mantra: Strategize your yesses! — These five simple strategies will help you keep your thyroid happy—and that will make you happy, because a healthy thyroid translates into a young, energetic body that burns fat like crazy. So start pampering that little gland today!