A special thanks to Jem Roberts, Certified Nutritional Therapist, for contributing this article to Living Fit Now. You can read her impressive bio below the article.
Thyroid function requires many nutrients to function properly. If nutrients are missing for any given time, the body responds in several ways often with an autoimmune response that leads to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. When you go to the doctor and your thyroid hormones are off, it’s often due to an underlying issue that is heavily associated with nutrient imbalance-although not always through consumption of foods. Hormones and genetics also play a crucial role in how the thyroid functions and some individuals may already be predisposed to having these problems. It may be that the individual wasn’t provided adequate nutrients during fetal and child development or diet was interfering with absorption of thyroid-supporting nutrients. Many factors are at play with thyroid health and not a single reason can truly identify the main cause. However, an individual who is already suffering from thyroid or adrenal stress where the diet doesn’t support their endocrine system the results often do lead to an autoimmune response. I explain the typical causes of thyroid disorder in my website article, “Piecing Together Thyroid Health and Autoimmune Conditions”. In this article, I describe how the thyroid functions with specific nutrients and why autoimmune diseases often cause thyroid problems. Included are in depth explanations of how these nutrients rely on one another to support metabolism, blood pressure, weight, hormonal balance, nervous system, and immune system functions. Typical autoimmune responses that cause hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are generally Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.
Selenium-Iodine Connection to Thyroid Health
Selenium is ultra-important for thyroid health because it functions to protect the thyroid gland from harmful free radicals and control thyroid hormones responsible for metabolic functions-which is pretty much required for every cellular activity in your body. However, here’s the most important thing you need to know about selenium, you need it for thyroid function. If you don’t have enough of it, you’ll have oxidative damage to your tissues, glands, and organs. That’s pretty important because free radicals really do cause quite a bit of damage that result in many kinds of ‘symptoms’. These symptoms can be anything from slight annoyances to severe problems and are associated with metabolism, weight, heart, menstrual cycles, blood pressure, bowel movements, temperature, energy, hormones, and many others.
So, where do you get selenium?
In most vegetables, the content of selenium is pretty low except in grains, nuts and seeds with the main source of selenium in the selenomethionine form. Selenium intake from plant sources are necessary because they provide dietary macro/micro nutrients necessary for metabolic processes. It is also important obtain selenium in the protein form (as selenoprotein) for cellular processes that promote antioxidant and selenium transport functions. However, in the article, I explain how you can maximize the amount of selenium found in plants and how you can direct sources of selenium towards activating the antioxidant properties. This would be especially valuable information for those, typically vegans, who do not consume animal forms of selenium.
*Depending on the type of autoimmune response that you may be suffering from some of these nutrients may need to be closely monitored from a qualified health care professional.
Role of Selenium (quick overview)
- Supports thyroid hormone function by activating T4 to T3
- Acts as an antioxidant to free radicals that damage thyroid glands
- Supports metabolic functions
- Regulates hormones
Another nutrient that is essential for thyroid function is of course, Iodine. A lot of people would argue that iodine may be the single most important nutrient for the thyroid and though it’s not the only important nutrient for the thyroid, it definitely plays a vital role in how the thyroid functions. Naturally, we evolved from the sea so it only makes sense that our body utilizes many of the nutrients that come from the sea, iodine and selenium included. However, due to massive changes in how our civilization evolved we’ve strayed away from whole food sources (foods packed with nutrients) towards processed food sources (foods devoid of nutrients). Currently, a lot of these processed foods that are consumed in the standard American diet (SAD) have many of their nutrients stripped from them during processing, not intentionally, but by way of processing; high cooking temperatures, cleaning agents, chemical extractions, etc. Some of the nutrients that were removed from foods during processing included both iodine and selenium. Because of these nutrient deficiencies in the diet, thyroid problems began to spread across the United States.
Scientists identified the cause to be a deficiency in iodine and thus iodized salt was born. From there iodized salt became a staple at nearly every dinner table and a main salt substitute in most processed foods. Unfortunately, this type of salt also started to cause other health problems (like heart disease) and iodized salt was eventually phased out for the most part. Nowadays, most people do not get their intake of iodine from salt because most forms of table salt have been replaced with other types of salt and nearly all processed foods replaced iodized salt with other salts. Oddly enough, though iodized salt decreased, heart disease continues to rise and thyroid problems are at an all-time high. So it seems, the more we process foods; the more we take out the complex network of nutrients; the more we have nutrient deficiencies; the more health problems arise.
How Much Iodine is Safe?
High or low intake of iodine may cause injury to the thyroid gland resulting in hypothyroidism. If selenium daily intake is between 200-400mcg the thyroid gland should remain healthy on a wide range of iodine intake. Iodine intake should gradually increase to decrease incident to thyroid damage and allow the thyroid to adapt as the thyroid may not be able to adapt to high iodine doses. Regular consumption of seafood and supplementation of 225mcg of potassium iodide on days where seafood is not consumed should maintain daily iodine averages. Unfortunately, kelp may also contain high concentrations of toxins such as naturally occurring bromine compounds, arsenic, mercury, and potentially radioactive contaminants. Safe sources of iodine from sea vegetables include wakame, dulse, nori and laver. It is important to make sure that selenium intake is above 200mcg per day should support iodine functions and prevent negative effects from high intake (up to 50mg) of iodine*.
*Always consult a physician before starting any therapeutic doses of iodine which can be problematic if not implemented properly and adjusted effective to condition.
Getting Nutrients from Whole Food Sources
Food Sources of Selenium
- Fish (Tuna, sardines, salmon, cod)
- Shellfish (oysters, clams, scallops)
- Shrimp (may contain toxins, like mercury)
- Meat (Turkey, Chicken, Lamb, Beef)
- Liver and Kidney (Grass-fed, organic only)
Plant Sources (Vegan)
- Mushrooms (shiitake, white button)
- Barley (contains gluten, may interfere with nutrient absorption)
- Soy (estrogenic properties, may interfere with thyroid function)
- Brown rice*
- Sunflower seeds*
- Sesame seeds*
- Swiss Chard
*Additional preparation is required to reduce phytic acid content
Supportive Nutrients for Selenium
- Methionine, sulfur containing, increases the antioxidant power of plants! (read more here.)
- Vitamin B6, supports activation of antioxidants. · Zinc, typically thyroid problems are often associated with zinc deficiencies. (read more here.)
Food Sources of Iodine
- Yogurt (grass-fed)
- Shrimp (may contain elevated levels of mercury)
- Cow’s milk (grass-fed)
- Eggs (pasture-raised, organic)
- Raw Cheese (grass-fed)
- Sea Vegetables (kombu/kelp, wakame, arame, laver, dulse)
- Potatoes (organic only)
- Navy beans
Poor Sources of Iodine
- Iodized salt (contains sodium and chloride content; do to the standard American diet (SAD) containing more sodium than needed from a majority of processed and refined foods where iodized salt is no longer used, getting iodine from salt would require an additional 1,500mg of sodium to the already high salt diet. It’s best to get iodine from natural sources such as seafood to decrease sodium intake for iodine supplementation.)
Supplements for Iodine (inorganic form)
Getting sufficient amounts of iodine can be problematic for those not consuming seafood regularly. Because seafood contains significant amounts of iodine over other foods, it’s best to supplement for iodine on days that iodine intake from seafood is low.
- Potassium Iodide- liquid
- Potassium Iodide-tablets How much iodine to supplement? Check out my website article for more information.
Foods that may interfere with Iodine levels
- Bromine and Bromides (found in plastics, soft drinks, pesticides, and processed foods)
- Chlorine (bleaching agents used in food and chlorine added to water supply)
- Fluoride (toothpaste, dental visits)
- Soy (commonly consumed in its GMO form and often contain herbicides and pesticides that are toxic to the thyroid gland as well as other organ systems)
- Phytic Acid (Phytate)
*Lentils, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds contain phytic acid (phosphate-rich inositol) which binds to important minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Phytic acid also inhibits enzymes needed for digestion (breakdown of starches and proteins) and can make digestive problems like “leaky gut” worse. Consumption of foods containing considerable amounts of phytic acid (without breaking down phytic acid content) may result in iron and zinc deficiencies and may interfere with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
I hope this article has found you inspired to incorporate new foods into your healthy thyroid living. This is a lot of excellent detailed information in this article by our guest writer, Jem Roberts. She has broken it down and given some great food solutions for improving the thyroid function. For more information about Jem you can read about her below –
Several years ago I was diagnosed with PCOS, infertility, and onset diabetes. Frustrated and confused I was determined to change my fate by taking matters into my own hands. All my life I had struggled with weight and thyroid issues, but had no idea how any of that was connected to each other. Immersing myself into the world of holistic nutrition I obtained my certification in Nutritional Therapy (CNTP), healed all my ailments, and in 2015 gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. My love for health, nutrition, and cooking forged this path in my life to help others, especially children, in learning how to live more aligned with the way our bodies were designed to function. Now, my goal is to empower others to heal themselves by making healthy choices using REAL food and providing resources, insight, and tools to make that lifestyle possible. You can check out her website for more details at BestFood4Life.com
Think you may have thyroid issues?
Consult your doctor first, but you may also want to try 28 Day Jumpstart.
Try this 28 Day Jumpstart Program which gives you alternating workouts with nutritional nuggets to jumpstart that metabolism and get your body tight and strong. A variety of workouts are included as well as simple, yet very affective tricks to implement in your every day eating. For more details click here.
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