Soy for thyroid health is controversial: There's some research that suggests soy might negatively affect your thyroid gland under certain circumstances, like if you have an iodine deficiency. (Something to keep in mind: A 2011 study of vegetarians and vegans in the Boston area found that some vegans did have a mild iodine deficiency, most likely because they don't eat animal and dairy products). But other research presented at the 2014 Endocrine Society's annual meeting found that unless you have thyroid problems already, soy probably won't have any effect on it. Again, says Ilic, as long as you're eating normal amounts of soy, there's no reason to worry it'll hurt your thyroid.
Soy? If you have hypothyroidism, yes. Eating too much soy causes problems only for those with hypothyroidism, which occurs when your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones, Dr. Nasr says. The main problem is that soy hinders absorption of the hormones such patients are taking. “Some studies show that if you eat a lot of soy, or drink a big glass of soy milk, within one hour of taking a thyroid hormone, it might affect absorption,” he says. “A lot of people depend on those hormones to achieve a steady state.
When a patient is suspected to have a thyroid disorder a comprehensive thyroid profile is ordered, in the form of a blood test. The test results will give precise measurements of Free T3 and T4 and their ratios to each other. If the results indicate that for example, the patient’s T3 level is too low then the patient will be checked for deficiencies in essential nutrients which are required for hormone production. Many times this will correct the thyroid without the need for prescription hormones.
A neck lump or nodule is the most common symptom of thyroid cancer. You may feel a lump, notice one side of your neck appears to be different, or your doctor may find it during a routine examination. If the tumor is large, it may cause neck or facial pain, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, cough unrelated to a cold, hoarseness or voice change.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States is an inherited condition called Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This condition is named after Dr. Hakaru Hashimoto who first described it in 1912. In this condition, the thyroid gland is usually enlarged (goiter) and has a decreased ability to make thyroid hormones. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system inappropriately attacks the thyroid tissue. In part, this condition is believed to have a genetic basis. This means that the tendency toward developing Hashimoto's thyroiditis can run in families. Hashimoto's is 5 to 10 times more common in women than in men.
When it comes to thyroid medications, it’s important for RDs to know the medications can interact with common nutritional supplements. Calcium supplements have the potential to interfere with proper absorption of thyroid medications, so patients must consider the timing when taking both. Studies recommend spacing calcium supplements and thyroid medications by at least four hours.21 Coffee and fiber supplements lower the absorption of thyroid medication, so patients should take them one hour apart.22 Dietitians should confirm whether clients have received and are adhering to these guidelines for optimal health.
Over my several decades working as a Functional Medicine doctor, I can assure you that even in the toughest cases, you can heal your thyroid. With some patients, I can do this through the dietary, nutrient, and lifestyle factors I’ve discussed here. For others, that healing requires trial and error using several medications and working closely with a physician.
Coconut Oil – Provides medium-chain fatty acids in the form of caprylic acid, lauric acid and capric acid that support a healthy metabolism, increase energy and fight fatigue. A staple of the hypothyroidism diet, coconut oil is easy to digest, nourishes the digestive system and has antimicrobial, antioxidant and antibacterial properties that suppress inflammation. Coconut oil helps improve immunity and can increase brain function, endurance and your mood while stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: Extra virgin coconut oil is known to support and stimulate the functioning of the thyroid gland. Coconut oil consists of lauric acid, which possesses thyroid stimulating properties. Extra virgin coconut oil is more effective, as compared to regular coconut oil and is very stable. The oil can be either added to the food while cooking or a spoonful can be ingested as a supplement.
An underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, occurs when the thyroid gland produces less than the normal amount of thyroid hormone. The result is the “slowing down” of many bodily functions. Although hypothyroidism may be temporary, it usually is a permanent condition. Of the nearly 30 million people estimated to be suffering from thyroid dysfunction, most have hypothyroidism.
The thyroid uses iodine to convert T4 into freeT3. If you have hypothyroidism, you may not have an iodine deficiency per se, but your thyroid is almost certainly struggling in some way to get ahold of the iodine available to it and do what it needs to do with it. If the root cause is left unaddressed, simply increasing iodine is not always useful and at worst can be dangerous depending on how high you’re increasing your supplementation thinking if a little is good, then more will “solve” your problem.
The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid produces two main hormones called T3 and T4 which are transported in the blood to all parts of the body. These hormones control the rate of many activities in your body including how fast calories are burned and how fast or slow a person’s heart rate is. Combined, these activities are often referred to as the metabolism. When thyroid disease occurs and the thyroid gland is compromised it may produce too few hormones and this can result in the metabolism slowing down. This condition is often referred to as an underactive thyroid function or hypothyroidism.
Before you read on, it’s key to know that 90% of hypo- and hyper-thyroidism results from an autoimmune disorder. (Most people do not realize this, as doctors often don’t take time to explain things.) Most hypothyroid conditions are Hashimoto’s and most hyperthyroid conditions are Graves’ Disease, which means that your immune system is attacking your thyroid. Since the immune system resides in the gut or our intestine (Did you know that?!) a lot of what you will read here is about rebuilding the digestive system.
Iodine: Iodine is critical for thyroid hormone production in the body. A true iodine deficiency will cause hypothyroidism (43). In western culture we often see subclinical iodine deficiencies which contribute to hypothyroidism (44). I typically don’t recommend high doses of iodine as it could be problematic with individuals with Hashimoto’s – especially with TPO anti-bodies.
A diet low in nutrient-rich foods, especially in iodine and selenium (which are trace minerals crucial for thyroid function), increases the risk for thyroid disorders. The thyroid gland needs both selenium and iodine to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormones. And these nutrients also have other protective roles in the body; for example, severe selenium deficiency increases the incidence of thyroiditis because it stops activity of a very powerful antioxidant known as glutathione which normally controls inflammation and fights oxidative stress.
18) Use Essential Oils: The anti-oxidant content and aromatherapy benefits of essential oils help to improve oxygenation and reduce the harmful effects of oxidative stress throughout the body. Some of my favorites for thyroid function include lavendar, frankincense and peppermint among others. Put a drop on your hands and mix together and then cover your nose and inhale the healing vapors. This will stimulate your brain and increase blood flow to your cranium. You can also rub them on the skin around your neck and thyroid region to reduce inflammation.
Clara Schneider, MS, RD, RN, CDE, LDN, of Outer Banks Nutrition and author of numerous books, including The Everything Thyroid Diet Book, says, “The No. 1 priority is to get the thyroid disease under control. Clients need to have labs and medications addressed first. Weight changes are just not going to happen before all of that is under control.” She notes that Hashimoto’s typically occurs around menopause, which compounds the weight gain issue that many women experience during that time.
Dr. George Springer has practiced alternative medicine for 31 years with an emphasis on treating chronic disease conditions. He received his undergraduate BA from the University of Missouri in St. Louis and his Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) from Logan University where he graduated magna cum laude. He went on to receive his Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (N.M.D.) from the American Naturopathic Medical Institute a division of Breyer State University in Los Angeles, California.
Iodine intake often isn’t readily apparent on a dietary recall since the amount in foods is largely dependent on levels in the soil and added salt. However, Schneider says, “Clients taking iodine tablets are a red flag. Frequent intake of foods such as seaweed or an avoidance of all iodized salt may serve as signs that further exploration is needed.”
“The biggest factors that help with weight loss are calorie- and carbohydrate-controlled meal plans,” says Sheila Dean, DSc, RD, LD, CCN, CDE, of the Palm Harbor Center for Health & Healing in Florida. “Naturally I try to ensure [clients are] eating a whole foods-based, minimally processed diet with at least 2 L of water daily.” Schneider agrees that a heart-healthy eating plan is fundamental. “The diet should emphasize more vegetables, leaner meats, more beans, fiber, and fluids. We need to look at intake of sugars, added fats, fast food, and meals out.”
Wild-caught fish — These provide the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, essential for hormone balance and thyroid function. Balancing the level of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in your hypothyroidism diet can reduce inflammation and support healthy neurological function. Fish such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, Atlantic mackerel and Pacific sardines are some of the best sources of omega-3s to increase neurotransmitter activity and support a healthy mood and immune system. Just be aware of the fish you should never eat and choose the best varieties available.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage naturally release a compound called goitrin when they’re hydrolyzed, or broken down. Goitrin can interfere with the synthesis of thyroid hormones. However, this is usually a concern only when coupled with an iodine deficiency.17 Heating cruciferous vegetables denatures much or all of this potential goitrogenic effect.18
The early symptoms of hypothyroidism are very subtle and can often be confused with symptoms of other health conditions. If you have a mild case of hypothyroidism you may not even exhibit any symptoms or signs of the condition, making it almost impossible to diagnose until the condition worsens over time. As the metabolic functioning of the body slows down, various symptoms start becoming more evident and a diagnosis is possible.
A clinical trial investigating symptoms found that patients receiving l-thyroxine monotherapy, even with a normal TSH, displayed substantial impairment in psychological well-being compared with controls of similar age and sex (3). Because some hypothesized that this phenomenon came about only after adoption of l-thyroxine monotherapy, a study assessed combination therapy with l-thyroxine and l-triiodothyronine. Remarkably, the latter study showed that psychological measures improve in patients receiving combination therapy until serum TSH level is normal (6). In another study comparing l-thyroxine monotherapy versus desiccated thyroid, in which both groups had a normal TSH, many patients preferred desiccated thyroid and lost weight (60). Unfortunately, the solution to this complex problem is not as simple as reverting to combination therapy; the more than a dozen clinical trials on the subject have not shown benefit of superiority and preference for combination therapy, as previously reviewed (1, 3, 70).
Mild hypothyroidism is usually the early stage. It can progress to hypothyroidism if a hypothyroidism diet isn’t adopted and lifestyle changes aren’t made. When the condition isn’t corrected, more severe autoimmune reactions can occur — this can cause worsened problems like impaired brain function, infertility, unhealthy pregnancy, obesity, heart complications and joint pain.
9) Improve Your Mitochondria: The mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of every cell. When someone has a thyroid disorder and especially Hashimoto’s it is a clinical sign that they have dysfunctional activity going on in the mitochondria. Support your mitochondria with clinical doses of CoQ10, L-carnitine, N-acetyl cysteine and Lipoic acid. The supplement I use with my autoimmune clients is Brain Supercharge which has the clinically effective dosages of each of these key nutrients and more.
Despite these successes, authors have questioned the efficacy of l-thyroxine monotherapy because about 10% to 15% of patients are dissatisfied as a result of residual symptoms of hypothyroidism (1, 2), including neurocognitive impairment (3), and about 15% of patients do not achieve normal serum triiodothyronine (T3) levels (4). Studies of several animal models indicate that maintaining normal serum T3 levels is a biological priority (5). Although the clinical significance of relatively low serum T3 in humans is not well-defined (1), evidence shows that elevating serum T3 through the administration of both l-thyroxine and l-triiodothyronine has benefited some patients (6, 7). However, this has not been consistently demonstrated across trials (1). Novel findings highlight the molecular mechanisms underlying the inability of l-thyroxine monotherapy to universally normalize measures of thyroid hormone signaling (8, 9), and new evidence may lay the foundation for a role of personalized medicine (10). Understanding the historical rationale for the trend toward l-thyroxine monotherapy allows us to identify scientific and clinical targets for future trials.
Although it’s not a very common cause, sometimes newborns are born with a dysfunction of the thyroid gland, a genetic condition called congenital hypothyroidism. Some evidence shows that people are more likely to develop hypothyroidism if they have a close family member with an autoimmune disease. But according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the likelihood of genetic hypothyroidism is very low and only about one out of every 4,000 newborns is born with a thyroid disorder.
l-Thyroxine monotherapy, the novel and physiologically savvy method for treatment of hypothyroidism, contrasted with the traditional approach of natural thyroid preparations that was marred by potency concerns. In less than a decade, there was a major shift in treatment of hypothyroidism such that normalization of TSH with l-thyroxine monotherapy became the new standard of care (Appendix Table) (52). Many clinicians advocated for this to be first-line therapy and for patients previously treated with desiccated thyroid to be transitioned to l-thyroxine monotherapy (50).
*In the years prior to the discovery of peripheral T4-to-T3 conversion, most groups recommended treatment with natural thyroid preparations, such as desiccated thyroid, thyroid extract, or thyroglobulin, which contain both T4 and T3. However with the discovery of T4-to-T3 conversion and the development of the radioimmunoassay for TSH in the early 1 970s, not only was there a trend toward l-thyroxine monotherapy, but the recommended daily maintenance doses decreased significantly. These trends led to the adoption of the contemporary standard of care: l-thyroxine monotherapy administered at doses to maintain a normal serum TSH level.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, are full of fiber and other nutrients, but they may interfere with the production of thyroid hormone if you have an iodine deficiency. So if you do, it’s a good idea to limit your intake of Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and bok choy, because research suggests digesting these vegetables may block the thyroid's ability to utilize iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function.
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