Nutrition and thyroid disorders – 10 things to do to support thyroid function
Your body is a complex interconnected system, where organs, tissues and cells are in constant chatter with each other. It’s a well-oiled machine that keeps you healthy and happy. But what happens when there is a fault in your body’s communication system?
Extreme fatigue, depression, forgetfulness and weight gain might be some of the symptoms. Sounds familiar? In today’s article, we will discuss the endocrine system, and more specifically – the thyroid.
Thyroid hormones: a tightly regulated system
The thyroid gland is a small (yet mighty) butterfly-shaped organ that is located in the neck just in front of your voice box. The gland produces two thyroid hormones, Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4), and is said to be the most important endocrine organ. The gland releases hormones into the bloodstream, which act as chemical messengers travelling to cells and tissues across the body.
These messengers control the speed at which your body works (i.e., your body’s metabolism). Thus, T3 and T4 affect your heartbeat, energy levels, digestion, body temperature and even your thoughts and feelings. Since these thyroid hormones are so important in determining metabolism, their levels are tightly regulated with a system that involves two very important structures in the brain - the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. But what happens when there is a fault in thyroid hormone regulation?
Under- or over-active thyroid
Thyroid disease is a global health problem that can substantially impact well-being, particularly in pregnancy and childhood. That is because thyroid hormone regulation is important for controlling processes such as growth and development . According to the American Thyroid Association, women are 5-8 times more likely than men to experience thyroid problems and 1 in 8 women will develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetime . Having a baby may sometimes trigger thyroid disorders .
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are some of the more-known thyroid issues. They occur when thyroid does not produce enough hormone or when it produces too much hormone, respectively. Because of the plethora of potential symptoms, thyroid issues can be often missed and left undiagnosed. According to research, “up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition” . This poses a large risk because undiagnosed thyroid disease may increase the risk of serious conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility.
Some of the common symptoms are listed below .
- Feeling cold
- Weight gain
- Poor concentration
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Sore and gritty eyes
Nutrition and thyroid disorders
According to the American Thyroid Association, the causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown. Some causes of developing hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism include certain autoimmune conditions and family history. Interestingly, iodine nutrition (deficiency and excess) remains a key determinant of thyroid function worldwide (you need iodine to make T3 and T4), so clearly “nutritional factors play an important role in affecting the function of the thyroid gland” . Iron, and copper are also crucial for thyroid hormone synthesis whilst selenium and zinc are needed for converting T4 to T3” .
“The main dietary sources of iodine in the UK are seafood and dairy products (especially milk)” . Considering this, if you are following a plant-based diet, look for products that are fortified e.g., Oatly oat milk contains added iodine. Richest sources of selenium are fish, meat and poultry , so again, eat smart or consider supplementing if following a more restrictive diet.
Another important avenue to explore here is the Thyroid-Gut-Axis. Thyroid and gastrointestinal disorders frequently occur together— the most prevalent autoimmune thyroid illnesses are Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease, frequently co-occur with Celiac disease and non-celiac wheat sensitivity . This suggests a link between the two systems. We discussed the gut microbiota in detail in a previous article, but briefly, long-term and short-term eating patterns have a significant impact on our gut makeup. We now know that the Western diet causes dysbiosis (a change in the microbiota linked to disease) in both animal models and human research . In a recent literature review, dysbiosis was found in patients suffering with autoimmune thyroid illnesses and thyroid carcinoma, whilst the availability of important micronutrients for the thyroid gland, such as iodine and selenium, was positively influenced by a healthy gut .
In conclusion, thyroid disorders are not uncommon, especially in women, however are often missed. Therefore, it’s important to keep an eye on your hormone levels. “A balanced diet is an important component of maintaining a healthy thyroid gland function” , especially when it comes to iodine.
10 Things You Should Do To Support Thyroid Function
Get your thyroid hormones tested regularly, especially if you’re a woman.
Examine your diet, make sure it’s rich and balanced, and consult with a professional if you’re considering a plant-based diet to ensure nutritional completeness.
Consider supplementing with Rejuvenator to promote a healthy hypothalamic and pituitary function for thyroid hormone regulation.
Consider taking a full spectrum multivitamin to support healthy thyroid function and hormone metabolism.
Choose fortified plant alternatives, such as oat milk with added iodine.
Eat sugar and processed foods sparingly.
Take care of our gut with the Ultimate Gut Reset Stack.
Consider seeking support to stop smoking, as it increases the odds of autoimmune thyroid illnesses.
The HUM2N Approach To Thyroid HealthBy working with a HUM2N health coach, you can review the journey of food throughout your body, helping you to understand the many things that can contribute to an impaired thyroid function.
In addition, our testing approach is the first of its kind, and by using laboratory tests like food sensitivity testing, comprehensive stool analysis and hormone testing, we work to create a personalised and effective plan supporting a health thyroid function. 2022 is the year for you to reach the SUPERHUM2N status.
 Babiker, A., Alawi, A., Al Atawi, M., & Al Alwan, I. (2020). The role of micronutrients in thyroid dysfunction. Sudanese journal of paediatrics, 20(1), 13–19. https://doi.org/10.24911/SJP.106-1587138942
 Knezevic J, Starchl C, Tmava Berisha A and Amrein K 2020 Thyroid-Gut-Axis: How Does the Microbiota Influence Thyroid Function? Nutrients 12 1769 Online: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu12061769
 Redway, M., Bouga, M., & Combet, E. (2018). Impact of the food matrix on iodine bioavailability. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 77(OCE4), E138. doi:10.1017/S0029665118001441
 Mullan, K.R., McMullan, P., Hunter, A. et al. Selenium status in a Northern Irish pregnant cohort with iodine deficiency. Eur J Clin Nutr 75, 403–405 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-020-00721-4
 Tuohy, K.M., Fava, F. and Viola, R. 2014. ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his gut microbiota’ – dietary pro- and prebiotics for the management of cardiovascular risk. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 73(2), pp.172-185.