Now that you have a bit more understanding of the thyroid and how it works, I hope you have managed to get the correct testing done and are on the way to getting an accurate diagnosis. If you already ‘had’ a diagnosis though….you will hopefully understand now how it came to be and whats going on in your thyroid. But you know what, even if you have not got a diagnosis, it really is in everyone’s best interests to understand their thyroid and what steps to take to support it. Especially, as we live in a world now that doesn’t always stack conditions in our favor and there is a whole LOTA stuff out their that could potentially cause our body and health harm.
With this all in mind – we move onto module 2 and learn how to stack conditions in your favor. Most of the below is easily integrated into your life and even if you can’t implement all recommendations, adding a few into your daily lifestyle will still make a big difference. This is a big module but it is yours forever and ever to refer to, print off and or take notes.
Supporting the thyroid with nutrition!
Similar to the tiny substances that are found in medications, tiny substances in foods can also exert massive effects on the body, and their chemical properties can interact with our internal systems. This is whats called “orthomolecular nutrition”. Using nutrition in this way helps the body heal and is a part of nutritional therapy (I am a certified nutritional therapist in case you didn’t know). I’m a big fan of using foods as medicine, and we can do so by acknowledging the ability that diet has to change our lives and our body, right down to our DNA!
There are of course a lot of food sensitivities we should be aware of like gluten, dairy and night shade intolerance’s. And then those foods that really do us no favors at all like simple sugars, hydrogenated and trans fats, and pesticide laden foods. At this stage you should know which foods your are sensitive to, but if your not you can get a food sensitivities test done and or work with a functional health practitioner, that can help you narrow down what foods cause you issues. *Not everyone has issues with dairy but it generally is a good idea to avoid it for most people, especially if there are issues with inflammation and the gut.
Here are additional symptoms caused by food sensitivities:
- Sinus symptoms: Post nasal drip, congestion, cough, asthma
- Gastrointestinal symptoms: Constipation, diarrhea, cramping, bloating, nausea, gas, acid reflux, burning, burping *a part in malnutrition or nutrient deficiencies – see below.
- Cardiac symptoms: Increased pulse, palpitations
- Skin-related symptoms: Acne, eczema, itchiness
- Inflammatory symptoms: Joint aches, pain, swelling, tingling, numbness
- Brain-related symptoms: Headache, dizziness, brain fog, anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia
What’s the silver lining? When you eliminate your reactive foods, you eliminate your symptoms (and often reduce the attack on your thyroid).
Each person with hypothyroidism has a unique root cause, but I’ve found that there are protocols that help most people feel better, regardless of what triggered their condition. Nutrition is a crucial first step! Following a nutrient dense diet will always help a person with thyroid dysfunction, but you may need to modify the diet according to your food sensitivities.
I’ve spent the last couple of years researching the best diets for people with thyroid issues, testing them with clients and on myself, and I’ve discovered that the gluten free diet, low sugar diet, the Paleo diet, and the Autoimmune Paleo Diet can all help eliminate thyroid symptoms, and in some cases, even thyroid antibodies! For some people, the gluten free diet is all that’s needed. Others need to dig slightly deeper but again, a nutrient dense food diet, helps the majority feel better.
If you are not getting adequate nutrition, neither is your thyroid!
Common Nutrient Deficiencies
Vitamins and minerals are some of the most important supplements you can take on
your thyroid journey, as they can often lead to a rapid resolution of many thyroid symptoms. Most people with hypothyroidism, intestinal permeability, toxins, and adrenal stress have numerous nutrient depletion’s because the body takes what it needs to survive but not to thrive. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg/vicious cycle thing; for example, toxins may displace certain nutrients from the body and are also more likely to lodge in the body when nutrients are depleted. Also, lets say you have a lot of gut issues, diarrhea and issues digesting certain foods…..well if your constantly having to run to the bathroom after eating, then you will not be absorbing nutrients from your food, it will basically be just running through you. This can be due to a bacteria issues, inflammation of the gut, Celiac disease, food intolerance’s or even just stress. But regardless, oftentimes, one of the first steps to feeling better and overcoming thyroid issues is to become properly nourished with nutrients.
In many cases, nutrients can be obtained from diet. Again, I prefer nutrient dense, organic
food-based diets like Paleo or autoimmune Paleo diet for most people with thyroid issues. These eating styles can be a step in the right direction for addressing nutrient deficiencies — but in many cases, supplements may be needed. This could be because some nutrients may be difficult to obtain from foods due to digestive issues, intestinal permeability or low presence in foods due to growing, processing etc. The following nutrients are often going to be deficient even with a nutrient dense diet: selenium, vitamin D, the B vitamins (especially thiamine and B12), ferritin (iron), zinc, and magnesium.
The thyroid needs certain nutrients and minerals to function properly, without these you will start noticing some of the symptoms we looked at earlier. Because the body acts in a state of ‘triage’ – meanings that when food or nutrition comes in, the body will take what it can to survive, to support your main organ functions first like your heart, brain and lungs, and whatever is left over gets sent to the rest of the body. So if you are not getting the proper nutrients and minerals its need, other bodily functions and systems will suffer. With that in mind, lets look at what helps make good thyroid function and what are the essential nutrients you should be getting.
Thyroid raw material nutrient base
So Essential thyroid nutrients are;
- Vitamin A — orange and yellow fruits and vegetables including sweet potato and pumpkin, dark leafy green vegetables, cod liver oil, cheese, veal, beef, liver and turkey
- Vitamin C — green veg, citrus fruits, berries. A vitamin C supplement is always wise for women
- Vitamin D — THE SUN! Fish, fish oil and mushrooms. A vitamin D3 supplement is advisable as, sufficient intake from food alone can be tough
- Vitamin E — Olives and olive oil, Kiwi, almonds, peanuts, hazel nuts, Brazil nuts, most seeds, avocado, eggs, tuna, sardines, anchovies and green vegetables
- Zinc — pumpkin seeds are top, oysters, beef, mutton and insects
- Selenium — Brazil nuts are top, sea food, eggs, kidneys, nuts and seeds
- B vitamins — bone broth, organic, pasture raised,wild animal products and organ meats (including sardines, salmon and eggs), methyl cobalamin and methy lfolate supplements
- Protein — collagen, organic, pasture raised and wild animal products. Nuts, seeds and dairy contain small amounts of protein too
- Iodine — sea food, sea vegetables including kelp, kombu and nori, cranberries, prunes, eggs, dairy, iodine supplement (my preference is a Lugols solution applied topically). This PDF contains a more comprehensive list of iodine containing foods.
- Tyrosine — spirulina, fish, chicken, turkey, egg whites, yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese, peanuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds
- Iron — red meats, blood, bovine liver, oysters, sardines, mussels, dark green vegetables. *remember vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron
- Omega’s — wild caught seafood including sardines and anchovies, sea vegetables, pomegranate, krill oil supplements or algae oil supplement
The above are nutrients that are essential for thyroid health, each has their role. For example; Iron is essential for binding iodine to tyrosine to make T4 and iron is essential then for converting T4 to T3. Remember them and be conscious of avoiding deficiencies in them! On top of these essential nutrients, there are also ‘whole foods’ that are SUPER beneficial to the thyroid also! Before we look at them a bit closer I want you to remember…..
For some people, just removing gluten can improve a lot of symptoms!
Foods to add in and what to avoid.
We will look at stuff to avoid further down, but lets look at the foods that you should be adding into your diet daily, this is known as “food pharmacology” and it refers to the use of food as medicine to restore health to the body. I recommend including these foods in your diet on a regular basis to help your thyroid heal and promote whole-body healing and health. You can also refer to the PDFs in The Thyroid guide group on Facebook, called “Autoimmune food list” and “Chemaine’s Model Health eating plan”….these are great resources and will give you specifics on food combinations, especially the meal map. So…..
Hot Lemon Water
Because the structure of lemon juice is similar to that of gastric juices, it can help support stomach and liver detoxification pathways. It’s also packed full of antioxidants, and, thanks to its acidity, hot lemon water aids in the absorption of certain medications, including thyroid hormone medications. I encourage drinking hot lemon water in the morning on an empty stomach to boost energy and aid the body in healing, this can be taken in place of apple cider vinegar.
Greens Juices and Chlorophyll
Green juices are full of healing nutrients that are easily digestible in liquid form but do try to add the pulp back in. They are also a wonderful source of chlorophyll, which is a green pigment found in plants, that has numerous health benefits. Chlorophyll has been shown to help support the process of detoxification in the liver, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, raise iron levels, and even work as a natural deodorant by neutralizing odors. It is also a very good chelator — binding to toxins, including “xenoestrogens”, which are a big stress on the thyroid, and removing them from the body.
Berries are a plentiful source of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants in the body. Since they are high in fiber, they don’t cause a spike in your blood sugar as other fruits tend to do. I recommend eating a variety of berries, including blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, as well as more exotic types such as boysenberries, saskatoon berries, and gooseberries. Blueberries, in particular, are a rich source of ‘myo-inositol’, a nutrient that has been shown to improve thyroid function and blood sugar.
Collagen is derived from the bones and fibrous tissues of animals, and consists mostly of the amino acids glycine and proline. These amino acids are crucial not only for healthy skin, hair and nail growth, but for optimal immune function as well. Collagen has been shown to promote joint health, deepen sleep, and improve digestion by binding with water to help move food through the digestive tract. The benefits of consuming collagen have been seen in many studies with improvements in skin, hair, energy and even pain.
Bone broth, a follow up to collagen…..provides collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine, as well as several important minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sulphur, that are readily absorbed by the body in this digestible form. These healing substances act to strengthen joints, soothe and heal the gut lining, boost the immune system, and make the skin glow — to name a few key benefits. It truly is a superfood! One study saw seventy percent of people with Hashimoto’s found bone broth to be beneficial to their healing process. Specifically, 62 percent saw an increase in energy, 57 percent an improvement in mood, and 32 percent an improvement in skin.
Smoothies are a really great way to increase our intake of nutritious food without the digestive stress. As smoothies are chopped up, the food becomes easier to digest and the nutrients are easier to absorb. Green smoothies and green juices are like a shot of energy. Dense, leafy greens, such as kale, spinach and chard, are loaded with antioxidants, as well as fiber, which promote intestinal health by sweeping the intestines clean and boosting the detoxification process. Add a good protein and fat source like collagen and coconut yogurt and you are on to a winner. Be sure to add some organic lemon juice too – to help slow down oxidation. *I have added my yummy smoothies PDF to the files section of The Thyroid guide Facebook group, check it out!
The glucosinolates found in crucifers like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and turnips are what cause cruciferous vegetables to help increase detoxification in the liver, which is beneficial for individuals with autoimmune thyroid disease. However, if you are concerned about the goitrogenic potential of crucifers, you can lightly steam or cook or ferment them, since they truly only affect the thyroid’s absorption of iodine in a raw state.
Fresh cilantro…some love it and some hate it but it is a natural chelator, which means it will bind to certain toxins and help excrete them from the body. You can add cilantro to salads, avocados, green juices, smoothies, and salsas. You can also use cilantro as a fresh condiment topper on chili and certain soups, depending on the flavor. Tacos Mmm!
Fiber acts like a sponge as it moves through the digestive process and helps sop up toxins and excess hormones, ultimately supporting their path to excretion. It’s best to get fiber from fruits and vegetables instead of supplemental forms, as supplements have been known to aggravate gut permeability and SIBO. And be sure to drink lots of clean water!
Beets are a good source of phytonutrients, which perform anti-inflammatory and antioxidant duties in the body. For those with the MTHFR gene mutation, beets are especially beneficial, as they are rich in betaine, a substance that can help break down homocysteine (which, when elevated, can lead to heart disease, difficult pregnancies, birth defects, and an impaired ability to detoxify). I recommend eating 1-2 servings of beets a week. However, because beets are naturally high in sugar, you should consider them a carb!
Curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric, is what’s responsible for this spice’s natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Turmeric is also antibacterial and antiviral, effective at helping detoxify various metals and toxins, and linked to improved mood and memory. Typically, the effects of curcumin only last about an hour in the body (this is in the gut where we want it sometimes), but I’ve found that combining curcumin with piperine (found in ground organic black pepper) will keep it in the body longer by increasing the bioavailabilty and allowing it to travel outside the gut.
I recommend turmeric for clients with thyroid issues because it helps support the gut, microbiome, liver, and inflammatory pathways. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect, it can be especially helpful if you are experiencing pain.
Avoiding stuff that is bad for our health can be easy and hard, there are many variables to take into account including will power, mindset and external exposure. Many of my clients have experienced noticeable benefits from removing some or all of the following foods:
- simple and poor quality sugar
- grains – especially wheat, barely and rye
- *an autoimmune paleo diet helped most feel the best
But apart from foods there are other things that cause havoc on your health and thyroid. These can be ‘triggers’ or can be just making things worse on a daily basis. Some of my top recommendations to be aware of and avoid, if possible, for most people , not just those with thyroid issues are;
- Too much or too little iodine
- Too much or too little iron
- Heavy metals including mercury, nickle and aluminium
- Silver or mercury fillings
- Excess fat – especially trans fats
- Low grade non organic teas and coffees
- Digestive issues
- Gallbladder issues including gallbladder removal
- Sleep issues
- Chronic inflammation from any of the following;
- Skin care ingredients including parabens, fragrance, oxybenzone and triclosan
- Breast implants
- Folic acid
- Low grade supplements and multivitamins
- Unfiltered or toxic chemical laden water
- Pollution or toxic smoke in the air (poor air quality)
- High sugar, dirty alcohol — stick to organic and or bio-dynamic low sugar/carbs alcohol where possible
- Toxic overload withing the body
- Excessive chronic stress
- Sedentary lifestyle or lack of regular exercise
So that’s a LOT on nutrition – the good and the bad for addressing thyroid health, and some foe’s that deserve recognition too! Take a break if you need to but we are not quiet done yet. We need to look at supplements and exercise too.
Supplements to heal the thyroid
Food will always be our go to first for healing and supporting the body but realistically, even if you eat super clean and organic, avoid sugars, oxidized fat and alcohol….there is still a likelihood that you will have some nutrient deficiencies or holes in your diet. Especially with the quality of our soil being degraded over decades and centuries, toxins falling from the sky, our water being compromised with chemicals and of course stress (which is part of most of our lives) robs our body of nutrients. So to combat all this and any associated deficiencies – we use supplements, high grade of course. Not everyone will need to supplement so I recommend getting tested for deficiencies to determine your need for a supplement if you can.
Let’s look at supplements to subdue thyroid symptoms. Some of these supplements may also help
with rebalancing the immune system. A lot of the essential nutrients I mentioned above can be purchased in supplements, actually all of them can but most people don’t want to be taking lot’s of pill’s each day. So your functional health practitioner can advise which are best for you and which are not as important. You can also get some as topical supplements that you can apply directly to the skin and some sublingual too, that you just pop under your tongue and let dissolve.
The most helpful supplements that I have seen are;
- Selenium 200-400 mcg daily
- Thiamine or Benfothiamine or B1 at 600 mg a day for females with Thyroid issues is where the studies show most benefit
- B12 in the form of methylcobalamin specifically, 1000 mcg a day in sublingual form
- Pure Krill oil 2000 – 4000 mg a day
- Vitamin D3 4000-6000IU a day has been shown to support the immune system and bring down chronic inflammation combined with at least 15 minues of daily exposure to sunshine
- Naltrexone or LDN 1.5 mg a day and increasing to 4.5 mg as needed (technically a medication, but it has an off-label use known to treat autoimmune diseases).
- Betaine hydrochloride with pepsin or fennugreek should be taken after a protein-rich meal, starting with one capsule per meal. The dose should be increased by one more capsule at each meal until
symptoms of too much acid are felt (burping, burning, warming in the stomach region etc). At that point, you will know that your dose is one capsule less than what resulted in
- Probiotics can be very helpful for many with thyroid issues due to the connection with leaky gut and bacterial imbalance.
- Saccharomyces boulardii is a beneficial yeast that helps eliminate pathogenic bacteria, Candida, other parasites (including Blastocystis hominis), H. pylori, and infections that have been implicated in ulcers and linked to Hashimoto’s and thyroid issues.
- Systemic enzymes aka proteolytic enzymes 120 000 sU on an empty stomach 1 hour before food or 2 hours after food. I like Serrapeptase or Bromlaine taken first thin in the morning.
- Magnesium citrate 150 – 300 mg before bed or 1 tablespoon of magnesium citrate powder mixed in water
- Ferritin (ferritin serum levels should be tested before supplementing) 30 – 60 mg may be enough to bring serum levels back to normal range, should be retested every 3-4 months
- Iodine is a molecule that is attached to tyrosine to make thyroid hormones. I like to use Lugols solution topically but you can also take it internally or in pill form – follow instructions on packaging or ask me about topical application
*To avoid supplement overload, the first thing we want to do is to clear out all the dietary and lifestyle sources of stress on the liver. This means cutting out aspartame, junk food loaded with additives, gluten, and anything else the liver has to work extra hard to detox. As we learned earlier, T4→T3 conversion happens in the liver. Because our liver is always giving detoxification support, we want to take off excess stress.
There are many excellent supplement companies; my favorite brand is the professional only line ATP Science. They have very tight quality control standards, so you know that the product you are getting isn’t free of fillers that may delay absorption and are free of gluten, dairy, and in most cases, soy. I also really like Thorne research and AOR (Advanced Orthomolecular Research).
And remember – you don’t have to take all of the above supplements. You discuss and assess what supplements are best for your individual needs with your functional health practitioner. 🙂
Exercise do’s and don’t for thyroid health
*As a general rule, you should first ensure that your condition is well-managed and under the care of a medical practitioner (i.e. endocrinologist) before participating in exercise. It is also wise to work under the guidance of another health practitioner that has an understanding of anatomy and physiology AND the impact exercise can have on hormones. Don’t just wing it yourself as you could make things worse.
When we think of exercise — most think we need to “go hard or go home”. So sweat, get out of breath, do high intensity and push through the pain. Well this is not the case unless your an athlete or extreme competitor in a sport, and certainly isn’t the case for someone with a chronic health issue.
We nee to understand the effect certain exercises have on not only our physic but also our hormones. This includes insulin, cortisol, inflammation markers and hormone steals (so what could be stealing from one hormone system to feed another e.g; the cortisol steal). So with that said, we understand that when the body is in a state of chronic stress or survival – which is usually the case with thyroid issues, we don’t want to make things worse by increasing stress, right?! So we don’t want to be pushing ourselves to extremes, hurting ourselves, causing excessive inflammation and stressing the adrenals which will rob from our thyroid requirements even more. We want to think “hey my body is clearly struggling and I need to be kind and supportive to it, not hurt it more”…….so we look at exercises that are gentle, restorative, low impact, low intensity, improve insulin resistance and help give a sense of homeostasis or calmness to the body. Exercises that make us feel good, upbeat and resilient.
Exercise has been shown to be very beneficial for thyroid health, which I believe works in a feedback loop of supporting many functions that keep us healthy but I particularly like this study that shows how regular exercise increases T3 and T4 production — while decreasing TSH. Which tells us that T3 is being converted into its active form and used correctly, which is exactly what we want!
So our preferred exercises for autoimmune and thyroid dysfunction (actually I feel for everyone) are;
- stair climbing
- Tai chi
- yoga — hot yoga is questionable an advised on an individual basis
- rebounding or trampolining
- water aerobics
- low impact aerobics
- weight lifting with machines or free weights — including resistance training, strength training and calisthenics (sit ups, push ups, club swinging)
- low to moderate intensity kettle bells
- gym/stretch band exercises
- mobility exercises
- flexibility exercises
If an exercise modality is not listed above like Cross-fit or running or High Intensity Interval training, then chances are it’s not the best idea for you and may end up putting your body in more of a stressed state, or worse, give you a physical injury to add to you health issues.
Working out at least 3 hours a week consistently in the beginning can put you in better physical and mental health, raise your quality of life and improve your thyroid markers. Ideally we would like to see you get in 1 hour of exercise or activity, 5-7 days a week but starting with 3 hours a week is a good start. 😉
There are many ways exercise can help:
- Boost your mood. “An under-active thyroid can cause feelings of depression and anxiety,” . Exercise lowers stress and helps your body make more endorphins. This lifts your mood and helps beat those sad and anxious feelings.
- Help you lose weight. A slow metabolism can cause weight gain and make it hard to shed pounds. Exercise burns calories and builds muscle, which can help you slim down. Through a feeddback loop this also takes a lot of pressure off the thyroid and adrenals.
- Increase your energy. Fighting fatigue or sluggishness? Low-intensity aerobic exercise can help. People who rode an exercise bike for 20 minutes, three times a week, had more energy and less fatigue.
- Improve your sleep. There are many studies that show exercising early in the day improves sleep quality and we know sleep is essential for the body to heal and build resilience. Regardless of when you exercise, the benefits are ten fold.
- In case you weren’t convinced, here’s another study showing exercises benefits for thyroid but recognises high intensity may not be best.
As with any new exercise routine, start slow. Take breaks if you need them, and stop if it hurts. Once you feel more comfortable, build up to longer, harder workouts.
Thyroid disorder exercise guidelines;
- Frequency: 3- 5 days per week to maximize energy expenditure (if obese) and/or improve cardio vascular health where weight control is not a primary concern.
- Intensity: 40 to 75% max heart rate.
- Time (Duration): 35 to 60 minutes per day. If you are unable to tolerate long, continuous activities, consider intermittent bouts of 10 minutes duration accumulated throughout the day.
- Type: Select aerobic exercises from above. Perform resistance-training and progress as tolerated (ACSM)
The guidelines for resistance training in people with diagnosed and/or medically-managed thyroid dysfunction may be similar to those of the apparently healthy population. However, you should be prepared to adjust exercises as necessary to address specific other health problems and/or physical limitations:
- Frequency: Resistance training for each major muscle group 2 to 3 days per week with at least 48 hours separating the training sessions for the same muscle group.
- Intensity (sets and repetitions): Train each muscle group for a total of 2 to 4 sets with a range of 8 to 12 repetitions per set with a rest interval of 2 to 3 minutes.
- Duration: Session duration will vary depending on the number of exercises performed.
- Type: Adults are recommended to perform multi-joint exercises affecting more than one muscle group and targeting opposing (agonist/antagonist) muscle groups. Single joint (isolation) movements may also be performed, but remember to consider the planes of movement and try to incorporate functional exercises that spill over into your daily life movements.
Now there is quiet a lot to go on in this module. Adjustments to diet may need to be made, supplements added in and then once you have a good system going with them, you can start your exercise plan. Become accustomed to the stuff you need to be aware of or avoid – you can print the list and stick it on your fridge or screenshot it and save to your phone for reference.
Remember there is no rush, optimizing our health is a lifetime journey which takes practice every day. Don’t forget to check out the files section in our Facebook group and try keep an eye on the posts, for your own benefit. Reach out to me if you have any questions. 😉