Eating to support your thyroid — simple ways to naturally preserve
by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Lately I’ve noticed there’s a lot of misinformation out there about thyroid
health. One recent favorite of mine was the Newsweek article discussing
“harmful” medical advice dispensed on Oprah Winfrey’s show. The section
about thyroid health warns that taking iodine supplements and drinking soy
milk are “just what [women] shouldn’t do.” The problem with these sound
bites is that real information and solid science are lost. The fact is, there are
many foods and nutrients that support our thyroid health naturally, including
iodine-rich foods. And as the women of our generation discover imbalances in
their bodies, they want useful facts so they can make choices to correct them
— before they become more serious and irreversible.
Your thyroid is one of the most important glands in your body. It controls the
way you metabolize food, the way you use energy, lose and gain weight, how
well or poorly you sleep, and much, much more. We know that women are
more prone to thyroid conditions than men, and that many of these problems
first manifest during times of hormonal flux, such as perimenopause and
One of the best ways to support the thyroid gland through all of life's
important changes is by eating more carefully. As we approach these
transitions, perhaps it’s time for everyone to take a look at how the foods we
eat can help — or hurt — our thyroid function. You may have heard
conflicting information about iodine, soy, or even broccoli. Let’s get the facts
straight by looking at how specific foods and supplements influence this
master gland, and learn what you can do to support your thyroid health.
The case for thyroid nutrition
Like every cell and organ in our bodies, the thyroid requires specific vitamins
and minerals to carry out everyday functions. Though there are several
nutrients the thyroid uses, I’ll highlight those that research shows to be most
crucial. We’ve evolved to extract these micronutrients from the foods we eat
(see the chart below for foods you can eat to obtain these nutrients). You
may also choose to supplement, but before starting any supplements for
thyroid function, I encourage you to learn more about your individual needs.
If you think you may have a thyroid imbalance, it’s a good idea to see a
healthcare practitioner to request a full thyroid hormone panel, as well as to
have your iodine, selenium, and vitamin D levels tested. Most functional
medicine practitioners are familiar with this style of testing.
What does active thyroid hormone (T3) do?
Like sex hormones, thyroid hormone alters the way our genes are expressed
at the cellular level, and also signals non-gene-related actions.