by Dr. Lisa Marie Chambers
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located at the base of the neck. This tiny gland is imperative for normal body function, including controlling energy, metabolism, heart rate, mental development, physical growth and many more. Up to 27 million Americans suffer from thyroid disorders, with low thyroid function being the majority of these cases. The most common complaints of hypothyroidism include fatigue, low energy, depression, weight gain or weight loss resistance, and memory fog. Aren’t these reasons why most people visit their physician? Could low thyroid be be the hidden culprit in most illnesses and why are we seeing so many people with low thyroid function? These questions are easily answered if you merely take a glance at the toxic environment in which we live today.
Many substances affect the functionality of the thyroid gland. Some environmental toxins include, perchlorate – found in contaminated drinking water and in milk; thiocyanate – found in cigarettes and the brassica vegetables such as broccoli; phthalates – found in plastics, toys, cosmetics, perfumes, detergents and solvents; Bisphenol A – found in plastics, liners in cans, baby bottles, dental fillings, electronics and sealants; Mercury – found in vaccinations, amalgams, medications and agriculture; bromide – found in flame retardant material, bromated flour and contaminated drinking water; fluoride – found in water, toothpaste, and beverages, and chlorine – found in water, swimming pools and household chemicals. Accumulation of these chemicals over the years cause numerous health problems including endocrine and hormone disruption. These environmental factors are not the only causative agents in thyroid dysfunction. Stress, adrenal dysfunction, poor diet, aging, cigarette smoking, insulin resistance, extreme dieting and/or starvation, iodine deficiency or excess and poor digestion and/or dysbiosis all play a role in thyroid health. Uncovering the underlying cause of thyroid dysfunction is key to determining and utilizing effective treatment.
Detoxification, as well as proper diet and nutrition, plays an extremely important role in all thyroid cases. Eating a diet rich in organic, whole foods can help decrease total toxic load and aid the body in its natural detoxification process. Certain foods, especially wheat and gluten, interfere with thyroid function and should be eliminated from the diet. Goitrogenic foods, such as broccoli and cauliflower should be cooked and not eaten raw in those suffering from hypothyroidism. Soy should be avoided in hypothyroidism, as it has been found to impede thyroid function. Vitamin D status should be evaluated in those with thyroid dysfunction due to its role in helping T3 bind to nuclear receptors. Other nutrients such as selenium, zinc, vitamin A and iodine are also very important for proper thyroid function.
Other nutrients that play an important role in thyroid hormone production include the amino acid L-tyrosine. Along with iodine, L-tyrosine is used to activate the T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. Increasing lean meats in the diet, such as turkey, is one way to increase the amount of L-tyrosine. Adding seaweed to the diet can help increase the total iodine level in the body, thus increasing thyroid function.
Here are 10 steps to begin optimizing your thyroid function:
Drink and bathe in filtered water only and do not use plastic bottles, opt for a stainless steel bottle instead.
Avoid fluoride toothpaste
Avoid bromated flours and flame retardants
Avoid herbicides and pesticides. Eat organic and use toxic free cleaners around the home.
Avoid gluten and wheat
Optimize nutrition, eat a whole foods diet with lots of fresh vegetables.
Detoxify the body
Identify and remove food intolerance/allergies from the diet
Ask your doctor to do a comprehensive thyroid panel, including TSH, free T4 and free T3, and auto antibodies to determine overall thyroid function.
Evaluate adrenal gland function, vitamin D status and blood sugar levels.
3/4 oz dried wakame seaweed (whole or cut)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 small tart apple (1/4 lb) such as Granny Smith
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon sesame seeds toasted
Soak seaweed in warm water to cover, 5 minutes. Drain, then squeeze out excess water. If wakame is uncut, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Stir together vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, ginger, and garlic in a bowl until sugar is dissolved. Cut apple into 1/4-inch dice and add to dressing with seaweed, scallions, and cilantro, tossing to combine well. Sprinkle salad with sesame seeds.