In the Chemical Quadrant, we are considering how our chemistry affects how our body functions. In the analogy of our body as a tree, we know that a tree needs more water if it is hot outside. Our bodies work the same way. Just like we start to see symptoms from a tree if it is not getting the water it needs — the leaves will wilt, and eventually change color and fall off — we also experience symptoms if we don’t get the right nutrients for our body.

One of the body systems that is strongly impacted by the food we are eating is the thyroid.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a gland in your throat, just behind your Adam’s apple. It has been described as the body’s thermostat because it regulates things like the body’s temperature and energy expenditure.

Its job is a lot bigger than just regulating temperature; the thyroid controls our body’s metabolism, and it regulates the production of hormones, including estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol.

What happens when the thyroid is not working?

When the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, it’s usually because it’s either overactive or underactive, both of which can cause a range of symptoms. If the thyroid is under functioning, it can cause fatigue and lethargy, moodiness and anxiety, feeling chilly, as well as dry skin and hair, along with other symptoms. If it is over functioning, it can cause anxiety, insomnia, a racing heart, excessive perspiration, weight loss, and other symptoms.

What impacts the thyroid?

Dr. Amy Myers, a guest on the Small Changes Big Shifts podcast and author of The Thyroid Connection, explained that there are five factors that impact the thyroid:

  • Food
  • Leaky Gut
  • Toxins in the environment
  • Infections
  • Stress

As she works with her patients, Dr. Myers says that each patient has a different reaction and response to these factors. For one patient, food might be the biggest contributor to their thyroid issues, but for another patient, stress might be the biggest contributor. The word for this is bio-individual. We need to remember that we are all unique and if we tune into our wellbeing, we can begin to understand what is happening in our body.

What can we eat to support the thyroid?

Dr. Myers boldly says that “many of my patients can restore healthy thyroid function simply through diet and lifestyle changes alone.”

First, there are some general guidelines for two changes we can make to our food to support our thyroid. Dr. Myers says that we need to eliminate gluten and dairy. These two food groups cause a lot of inflammation in the body, and can contribute to all of the symptoms and malfunctioning of our thyroid. Even if a person doesn’t feel symptoms, many of us are having adverse reactions to gluten and dairy, and will begin feeling better after cutting them out for a few weeks.

Then there are some specific nutrients that we need more of:

  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Omega-3 fats
  • Vitamin A
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin D

The list of nutrients is good information to be armed with, but we can’t go to a restaurant and order Omega 3 fats with a side of Vitamin A. And it doesn’t sound very appetizing to try! But there are some simple foods that we can add in that will provide these nutrients and support our thyroid:

  • Fruits and vegetables are a source of fiber and a variety of antioxidants and nutrients. Try to choose a variety of types and colors instead of eating broccoli every day. You will get nutrients from one vegetable that aren’t present in another.  
  • Wild-caught fish are a good source of Omega-3 fats.
  • Seeds like flax, hemp, and chia also provide Omega-3 fats. They can be added to smoothies, sprinkled on salads, or used in cooking.
  • Coconut oil is also a good source of medium-chain fatty acids. It is an easy substitute for other oils in a recipe, or you can add it to a smoothie.
  • Seaweed is a good source of iodine, which we need to combine with protein to form the building blocks for our body. Different forms of seaweed are available at health stores and some grocery stores, and can be sprinkled on a salad, added to a smoothie, or prepared in more traditional ways.
  • Bone broth contains important minerals and amino acids that the body needs. You could drink just the broth or use it to create soup.

This knowledge is good, but how can we apply it? You can start by choosing one or two foods on the list above and adding them into your diet. If we add in good things, we won’t feel deprived, and we’ll eliminate the not-so-good things because there just won’t be room for them.

If you are interested in making bigger changes to your diet, Lisa Markley is a great reference for you. She is the co-author of a new cookbook, The Essential Thyroid Cookbook. She created over 100 recipes designed to aid and support your thyroid. Lisa and her co-author, Jill, provide a lot of support and guidance, and delicious recipes to guide you as you make changes to your food.

With small changes, we can make big shifts in our health, support our thyroid, and put the odds in our favor.

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