PART 2: FEED YOUR THYROID FOR OPTIMAL FUNCTION
Last time we talked about the factors needed for proper production and conversion of thyroid hormones, as well as some things that impair these processes. If you missed it, you can read it HERE. It’s a quick and informative read.
Now I’d like to dig a bit deeper into the things you can do to improve your thyroid function, not to mention your overall health.
Food is medicine, and it’s one of my favorite topics, as you may have noticed...I’m a Functional Foodie! This is the fun part, because it’s all about yummy foods you get to eat.
You’ll likely notice I highlight mostly [but not all] vegetarian sources. This is because a plant-based diet has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of chronic disease, and in general Americans don’t eat enough of these health-boosting foods. So that you can experience the tasty joy of eating healthy, I’ve included links [look for underscored words and phrases] to a few of my recipe creations using some of these ingredients.
Zinc, needed for thyroid hormone production, conversion, and uptake into the cells, can be obtained from nuts, such as walnuts, and seeds such as flax, chia, hemp, and pumpkin seeds. Other great sources are organic quinoa, beans, chickpeas, and fermented soybeans (such as tempeh and miso, which contain more bioavailable zinc than their unfermented counterparts).
Iron is a mineral necessary for production of the thyroid hormone T4. [2,3]
Most people are aware of the high iron content of red meat, but did you know there are many delicious vegetarian and vegan sources of iron? These include beans, lentils, tempeh [a fermented soybean cake], dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, pumpkin, squash, and salad greens.
Too much iron can actually be detrimental to your health, increasing free radical formation that accelerates aging and increases the risks of heart disease and cancer.  So unless you’re working with a functional medicine physician, avoid taking iron supplements. Also, while cooking in a cast iron skillet can be beneficial for those low in iron, remember you do not want too much of a good thing. 
Similar to zinc, selenium is also required for thyroid hormone production and conversion. This mineral has a narrow therapeutic window and can be toxic at levels greater than 400 micrograms daily , so obtain this from food as much as possible. Brazil nuts are an amazing source of selenium, but don’t overdo it. Each Brazil nut contains 96 micrograms of this mineral , so 2-3 at a time is plenty. Other healthy sources of selenium are pinto beans and wild caught salmon and sardines.
Iodine, one of the two building blocks of thyroid hormones [the other is tyrosine], also functions in free radical scavenging, DNA synthesis, and cancer prevention. This is another nutrient we can get too much of, especially in supplement form. The multivitamins I recommend have small amounts, but beyond that I recommend kelp and other sea vegetables for their iodine content as well as other vital nutrients. Sardines, eggs, bananas, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, onions, sweet potatoes, and nuts are some other great ways to get your dietary iodine.
Vitamins A, B2, B3, B6, and D
These are also needed for optimal thyroid health. I’ll skip the list of foods high in these for now, but just know you can get them all from a balanced diet high in foods similar to those listed above.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to getting the right amount of nutrients needed for your thyroid as well as all other body functions, I hope you’re seeing a pattern here:
Food is medicine, and a balanced diet rich in a variety of organic foods is the best starting point.
Sure, there are reasons why some may need supplemental nutrients, at least early in the healing process. It’s also true that our food supply isn’t as rich in nutrients as it used to be, and there are certainly conditions requiring extra nutrients, so a high quality basic multivitamin may be needed despite an excellent diet.
As a certified functional medicine physician, I partner with my patients to find and treat the root causes of illness.
This involves the right testing, another topic for another blog, and dietary and supplement recommendations specific to your particular needs.
Are you feeling your best and have the all energy you need? Or are you are tired all the time, not sleeping well, gaining weight, or losing hair? Have you been told you have a thyroid condition and that all you need to do is take your prescription thyroid hormone...but you still don't feel "normal"? If this describes you, call me at the office [615-606-2808] or click HERE. Let's work together to get to YOUR root cause and optimize your health.
 Moeljopawiro, S. & Fields, M.L. & Gordon, D. (2006). Bioavailability of Zinc in Fermented Soybeans. Journal of Food Science. 53. 460 - 463. 10.1111/j.1365-2621.1988.tb07730.x.
Yu X, et al. Iron deficiency, an independent risk factor for isolated hypothyroxinemia in pregnant and nonpregnant women of childbearing age in China, 2015
Luo J, et al. Association of Iodine and Iron with Thyroid Function, 2017
Bresgen N, Eckl PM. Oxidative stress and the homeodynamics of iron metabolism. Biomolecules. 2015;5(2):808‐847. Published 2015 May 11. doi:10.3390/biom5020808
Torti SV, Torti FM. Iron and cancer: more ore to be mined. Nat Rev Cancer. 2013;13(5):342‐355. doi:10.1038/nrc3495
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, 2012.