Think about your usual day–do you feel refreshed, full of energy and glowing? Can you cope with day-to-day life demands? How is your skin, hair and memory?
Perhaps you are sleepy in the afternoon, a bit more tired, have skin outbreaks here and there but you keep thinking “It’s just me, I must be getting older,” or “I must be having a bad time.”
As a nutritionist and pharmacist, I hear this story very often. A lot of people coming to me for advice say that they function on 30% battery charge. They don’t sleep as well as before and don’t have that extra energy to go out and socialize after work. They ask me about a few extra pounds of stubborn weight they can’t shake off or “Why do I have these annoying spots on my chin again?“
This scenario is similar for many people suffering from thyroid problems–you just don’t feel your usual self. And it lasts too long! You might go to your doctor and complain a bit and if you’re lucky enough, your doctor will order a general blood test. Everything comes back OK and you are told to sleep more, reduce stress levels and drink more water. Over a time you feel worse and worse: hair falls out, fatigue gets worse, your skin is dry and pale, memory declines and you’re constantly tired.
Probably it’s all about thyroid!
It is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of your neck.
Although small, the thyroid plays an important role in many essential body functions, including breathing, heart rate, body temperature, menstrual cycle and weight control among others. It supervises your nervous system, controls cholesterol levels and supports bone strength.
Did you know that according to the American Thyroid Association approximately 60 percent of people living with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition? Women are 5 to 8 times more likely to suffer than men. Hypothyroidism (where your thyroid is underperforming) is the most common thyroid condition. National Institute of Health and Care Excellence in England recommends taking thyroid replacement therapy (usually levothyroxine) as a standard treatment for underactive thyroid.
I know what it looks like–not a very optimistic picture…
But fear not! I have a few solutions that will help and support your thyroid function and get you back on track! There is so much you can do to optimize your health and restore vitality.
Get rid of these bad guys:
Who doesn’t like a nice warm croissant with the morning coffee or piece of cake in the afternoon? Don’t be taken in–sugar disrupts hormonal balance, causes inflammation in your body leading to cell damage, and increases the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Good news is that there are plenty healthy alternatives that you can enjoy. I particularly like to have plenty of fruit, dried figs or dried apricots (also good for bowel movement!), good quality dark chocolate, maple syrup, and dates.
Probably the most popular milk replacement across all coffee chains. Commercially processed soy possibly interferes with thyroid hormones absorption and suppresses thyroid function (here’s more on that debate; if you have thyroid issues, it may be wise to avoid soy to play it safe!). However, I am all for properly and traditionally fermented soy products such as natto, miso and tempeh are perfectly fine when eaten in moderation. After all, these foods have been part of the traditional Japanese diet for ages and we all know Japanese are one of the longest living people! I challenge you to try other mylks such as almond, coconut, hazelnut or cashew. Yum!
This guy has got a lot of bad press recently…
According to gluten specialist Dr. Alessio Fassano, gluten can lead to ‘leaky gut’ and chronic inflammation.
I would recommend you go gluten-free if your thyroid is already struggling. Try to avoid gluten-free breads and rolls as they are full of artificial ingredients.
Instead go for buckwheat, rice, amaranth, sorghum and millet (yes! it is not only a bird food!).
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a common ingredient in plastic bottles and plastic containers. It is an endocrine disruptor and might affect your thyroid health. Plastic is not environmentally friendly, so why not treat yourself to a nice new glass or stainless steel bottle which can last forever and is friendly for our planet? I recommend using glass storage containers for your lunches or food staples.
Focus on getting plenty of:
This is one of the most important nutrients–essential for the production of thyroid hormones. Leading iodine researcher Dr. Mark Vanderpump suggests that the UK is now iodine deficient; therefore, it is important to make sure you include it in your diet.
Aim to add some seaweeds to your soups, stews, and casserole dishes–and enjoy a nice vegan sushi or crispy seaweed thins.
Selenium and Zinc
Both minerals support thyroid health and help conversion to active thyroid hormones. Some yummy sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, sunflower, and spinach. For zinc–look for pumpkin seeds, lentils, ginger, and almonds. I love sprinkling my morning porridge with some seeds and quite often have nuts as my snack on-the-go.
Sometimes called the “miracle vitamin” or even a hormone! Vitamin D reduces inflammation and modulates the immune system. My best advice? Go out and enjoy the sun as often as possible!
80% of our immune system resides in the gut. Probiotics–the “friendly bacteria”–help your immune and digestive systems. You will find them in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, plant yogurts or kombucha. I often advise to start from having one spoon a day and built it up slowly.
Last but not least–change your lifestyle!
Find a relaxing but absorbing activity you like and do it often! My favorites are: yoga, meditation or breathing exercises, but it can be something as basic as gardening, jogging, talking to a friend or going for a walk.
Lack of sleep prevents your body from regenerating and rejuvenating, promotes stress, tiredness and anxiety. For most people (including myself) optimum sleep is somewhere between 7-8 hours every day. I always remind the clients that our bodies like the routine. So get some downtime before going to bed, have a nice relaxing bath and avoid exposure to blue light sources such as computers, tablets or mobile phones.
We are always told: “exercise is good for you.” Well, it’s also good for your thyroid! Physical activity directly stimulates your gland to produce hormones, speeds up metabolism, and releases endorphins–“happy hormones”!
Have you dealt with any thyroid issues? How did you support a healthy thyroid?
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