There is quite a variety of thyroid diseases and conditions. In some cases, the gland produces too much thyroid hormone. In other cases, too little. Symptoms are all across the board, depending on the condition.
Aside from environmental, genetic, or stress-related factors, one factor that can significantly compromise thryoid function over time is an unbalanced, unhealthy eating pattern. Both nutritional deficiencies and nutritional excesses can influence thyroid function.
Believe it or not, proper function of the thyroid gland is highly dependent on a nutritious diet. Consider some of the main nutrients involved in optimal thyroid health:
- Iodine: This may be the most familiar one! Iodine is used to make thyroid hormones.
- Selenium, iron, and zinc are used to convert an inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) into an active form (T3)
- Speaking of selenium, did you know the thyroid gland has one of the highest concentrations of selenium? Selenium is also involved in producing enzymes that provide antioxidative protection of the thyroid gland from oxidative damage.
- Zinc also helps keep track of thyroid hormone levels so that your body knows when it needs more or less of it.
- Iron is essential for normal thyroid hormone metabolism. A deficiency in iron impairs the function of enzymes involved in thyroid hormone production.
This is not to say that simply supplementing these nutrients will automatically prevent or cure any thyroid-related conditions. While these nutrients aren't a magic bullet, they do have an important role in supporting or improving thyroid health.
How can you maintain healthy levels of these nutrients? A balanced diet can help.
A balanced diet can provide enough seleniumto support healthy thyroid hormone production. Selenium-rich foods include mushrooms, onions, garlic, eggs, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, shellfish, and beef liver.
Maintain healthy iodine levels with foods that have iodine naturally (fish, seaweed, shrimp and other seafood), cow's milk, yogurt, or iodized salt.
What foods provide zinc? This mineral is found in a wide variety of foods. Red meat, poultry, and seafood are good sources of zinc. The best source, though not as popular, is oysters. Finally, zinc can also be found in nuts, whole grains, dairy foods, and beans.
Finally, maintaining adequate iron levels can help support thyroid health. Aim for lean proteins, poultry, and seafood. Beans, lentils, spinach, peas, nuts, and some dried fruits also contain a non-heme type of iron. Since this type of iron isn't as easily absorbed, combining them with vitamin C-rich foods aids absorption. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, berries, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes, or broccoli.
Kumar, K. V., Sharma, R., & Bharti, S. (2014). Diet and thyroid - myths and facts. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, 3(2), 180. doi:10.4103/2278-019x.131954