Proper hormone function is central to every aspect of our health, and thyroid vitality contributes significantly to the body's intricate and symbiotic hormonal ecosystem. Here at Konscious Keto, we follow our own protocol for protecting the thyroid function that we think will help you.
Maintaining thyroid health, in addition to that of all the body's other hormonal systems is essential because it is primarily responsible for regulating metabolism, energy, sex hormone health, and even fertility.
When well rested, fed quality nutrition, and in the absence of stress, thyroid health may remain good.
However, in the inverse—eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), pushing your body to the limits to keep up with life's demands and feeling the pressure of it all in diminished well-being—we can find our thyroid thrown out of balance by both the foods we consume and the effects we incur from our environmental stressors and toxins.
Why do Thyroids Become Unwell?
The thyroid is a master gland responsible for many functions in the body. Referred to by some as the body's thermostat or metabolic engine, this vital gland helps to regulate our body temperature and even affects our energy levels.
When chugging along, the thyroid may go unnoticed. But the types and quality of food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, along with other environmental factors, all contribute to the level of our thyroid health.
Thyroid health matters because when out-of-whack, either in the form of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), the body can demonstrate the imbalance in the form of unpleasant and seemingly unrelated symptoms in the body.
Some are even misdiagnosed with other conditions before specialists identify the side effects as a thyroid disorder, because of the motley crew of symptoms the disorder can produce.
The idea of avoiding all the mentioned elements and toxins that may trigger thyroid dysfunction may lead to feelings of panic as it's virtually impossible to avoid everything unless you live in a bubble.
But save ditching the grid, scoring a killer tiny mobile home and parking in a rural location away from smog and city living just yet; our diet is our most powerful tool to affect our thyroid health—more on the therapeutic power of eating nutrient-dense food for thyroid health below.
What Role Does Nutrition Play on the Thyroid?
Eating a diet rich in omega-3-rich fish, dark leafy greens, and low-glycemic fruits and vegetables is excellent to fuel the body with thyroid-stabilizing nutrition while promoting the metabolic state of ketosis—an added boost of leverage on the side of improving your thyroid health.
As we mentioned, nutrition plays an essential role in thyroid health, so we want to share more on how diet plays a role in thyroid integrity. This should better position you to use food as your ally in the effort to improve hormonal health.
It may be lesser known causation, but poor nutrition has a significant impact on thyroid disease.
Traditional medical practitioners in the west often bee-line to prescribing medications to moderate thyroid imbalance, but our dietary choices are incredibly impactful on the body's endocrine gland.
Also, it may be a little-known fact, but our thyroid glands are very nutrient-dependent, which is why quality food plays such a central role in thyroid health.
Sadly, most people eating a western diet are consuming a diet full of trans fats, processed sugars, refined carbs, and probably lacking in organic, nutrient-dense whole foods—creating a welcome and ripe environment for thyroid dysfunction.
Also, a western diet often leads to vitamin deficiencies and likely includes foods known to trigger sensitivities like gluten and dairy—fueling inflammation which in turn, further compromises thyroid health.
In addition to the allergic reactions some experience with casein (dairy protein) or gluten (wheat-based protein), the inflammation caused by their consumption can lead to increased permeability of the gut lining.
This is a direct result of disorders like "leaky gut syndrome", where the body cannot adequately absorb nutrients from the foods eaten, leading to malnourishment, despite adequate nutrition.
Some foods are especially beneficial to thyroid health, and many of them fit well within a ketogenic dietary protocol. Here are some of our favorite foods to boost thyroid health and function:
- Fatty Fish: Mackerel, salmon, and sardines are fatty fish options that are excellent on keto and also known to help support cellular membrane integrity, thanks to the abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have a neuroprotective effect that helps promote cellular health and prevent accelerated degeneration, which disrupts cells' ability to communicate well with each other.
- Dark Leafy Greens: Nutrient-dense vegetables like kale and spinach are rich in many photoprotective elements which contribute to a well-functioning thyroid.
Also, plant-based foods provide a rich nutrient profile which promotes the body's natural ability to detoxify itself gently.
This self-cleaning process is especially vital concerning our endocrine health as it allows the body to effectively eliminate harmful components that can damage the thyroid like BPA, herbicides, and pesticides, often found in conventional foods and plastic food storage units.
- Iodine and Tyrosine: Low carb, keto-friendly foods like eggs, shrimp, cheese and yogurt are fantastic sources of iodine, where beef, lamb, and cheese offer healthy amounts of tyrosine. Both act as the building blocks of our thyroid hormones.
- Selenium: Pork, grass-fed beef, turkey and chicken are all low-carb-friendly foods and rich in selenium. This mineral is a powerful antioxidant and tool to fight inflammation and subsequent disease.
In addition to significantly contributing to proper thyroid function, selenium is known to boost the immune system and reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Furthermore, foods rich in iron, selenium, and zinc all help to balance out the body's two primary thyroid hormones, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (tetraiodothyronine or thyroxine)—something essential to thyroid function.
Adding foods rich in these components to create a proper T3 and T4 supply is vital to thyroid health because a deficiency can lead to a slowed metabolism, heart rate irregularities, body temperature fluctuations, and our body's inability to efficiently use energy.
How to Help Heal Your Thyroid
There are many approaches to remediate thyroid dysfunction. While western medicine would swiftly point to allopathic medicine as a solution to the imbalances, changes in diet can be incredibly powerful in improving thyroid health—and without the side effects inevitable in any human-made medication.
Eat with the intention of promoting thyroid health, and you may be able to avoid taking harsh medications to remediate symptoms. We've compiled a list of foods to eat regularly to improve thyroid vitality below:
- Salt: Table salt has ironically been absent from the kitchen counters of foodies, with folks opting to use Celtic, Himalayan, or Kosher salt as opposed to the common iodized variety in recent years.
The quality salts mentioned are beneficial, especially if eating a ketogenic diet where it's essential to replenish sodium, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes more regularly because of the fluid and nutrient loss triggered in ketosis.
Ironically though, iodine is an important element needed for the production of the thyroid hormone, so iodized salt is a helpful addition to your pantry to support thyroid health.
- Leafy Greens: Again, piling bowls high with vibrant green lettuce or sautéed greens is an excellent food-based salve for the thyroid—providing much-needed phytonutrients to facilitate optimal thyroid function.
Dark leafy greens are especially healthful because of their magnesium content, needed to aid in the proper functioning of all our body processes.
Furthermore, magnesium deficiency can lead to issues like muscle cramps and excessive feelings of fatigue, which we can wane with a few extra sides of stewed greens.
- Nuts: As we mentioned, selenium and iron are minerals essential to thyroid health and nuts are an excellent source of both. Low-glycemic nuts like almonds or brazil nuts, pack a powerful nutritious punch, and you only need a handful to get the health benefits.
- Seafood and Fish: Seafood is a fantastic food option on a ketogenic diet in general, but it is especially useful to promote thyroid health because of the abundant iodine found in most seafood and fish.
Add a savory shrimp stir-fry to your meal plan a few times a week and experiment with making cold salads out of fatty, boneless fish like mackerel—it's great in place of tuna in a salad, thanks to its delicate texture and mild flavor.
When to See a Doctor
Dense nutrition can prove the perfect solution for thyroid dysfunction, but sometimes it requires further intervention from a specialist, an endocrinologist.
Some cases of thyroid disorder are manageable enough to require just an initial visit with a specialist and periodic follow-up visits with your primary physician. More profound cases of thyroid disease may need more frequent visits with specialists to monitor progress and adjust treatments.
In addition to the necessary orientation visit to cover the diagnosis of hypo or hyperthyroidism, the following are instances when it's advisable to see a doctor concerning your thyroid health:
- Symptoms of disorders don’t improve, despite treatment
- You notice a thyroid nodule or lump around the neck area
- You have a goiter or enlarged thyroid gland
Thyroid disease is dynamic and can manifest on different polar ends of the spectrum—being grossly overactive or underactive—resulting in many adverse side effects.
Work with your primary physician to create a healthcare plan that's inclusive of using dietary choices as a means to improve and maintain proper thyroid function.
Fortunately, food may be a remediating option to use in place of harsh medicines to boost thyroid integrity and performance, while triggering the healthful state of metabolic ketosis to boot.
Choose your meals wisely and let thy medicine be thy food. Lastly, be sure to check in with your doctor regularly to monitor your progress and determine what is and isn't helping to heal your thyroid issues.