The importance of nutrition for the thyroid

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck that produces hormones responsible for regulating various bodily functions.

When the thyroid gland is not working properly, it can lead to various symptoms and health problems.

There are two main types of thyroid dysfunction: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include: fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, depression, and memory problems.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is producing too many hormones.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include weight loss, rapid or irregular heartbeat, anxiety, sweating, tremors, and difficulty sleeping.
Thyroid dysfunction can also lead to a condition known as goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid gland. Goiter can cause difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and a visible swelling in the neck.

There are many causes of thyroid dysfunction, including autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease, as well as iodine deficiency, certain medications, radiation therapy, and pituitary gland disorders.

Furthermore a review has found that endocrine disruptors, such as phthalates, heavy metals, particulate matter, and pesticides, can negatively affect thyroid health, with the thyroid being the endocrine organ that presents the highest cancer risk after EDC exposure.

In addition, stress and chronic inflammation also impact thyroid hormone balance, with psychological stress being associated with higher levels of free T3 in patients with PTSD.

Experts continue to debate whether or not to treat subclinical hypothyroidism, a condition where TSH levels are elevated while circulating thyroid hormone levels are normal.

In Subclinical hypothyroidism, TSH levels are elevated, while circulating thyroid hormone levels are normal. Some reports indicate that 90% of patients with subclinical hypothyroidism have TSH levels between 4 and 10 mIU/L15 while other reports define the thyroid condition based on a TSH screening level over 4.5 mIU/L.

Ideally for optimal health, TSH blood test should be between 0.5 to 2.0 mlU/L

Functional medicine recognizes the liver’s important role in the conversion and elimination of thyroid hormones, particularly in the context of hyperthyroidism. L-carnitine, choline, vitamin A, selenium, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins are all believed to support liver function and aid in the detoxification of excess thyroid hormones.

On the other hand, elevated TSH levels are indicative of hypothyroidism, and functional medicine considers iodine deficiency or issues with iodine transport to be primary causes.

Testing for iodine deficiency can be done through a 24-hour urinary iodine loading test, while a plasma amino acid profile can show low levels of phenylalanine and tyrosine, indicating a lack of tyrosine.

In addition, Copper can aid in the manufacture of diiodotyrosine and may be useful in treating hypothyroidism and elevated TSH levels. Additionally, cacao has been shown to regulate mood, increase thyroid function, and decrease TSH levels.

Functional medicine strategies, such as addressing toxicant exposures, systemic inflammation, and chronic stress, and personalized interventions that focus on biotransformation, anti-inflammatory diets, specific nutrients, and optimizing gut and liver health can help restore thyroid hormone balance.

Adequate intake and availability of micronutrients such as iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc are crucial for thyroid hormone synthesis and conversion.

Additionally, ashwagandha has been used to help address thyroid dysfunctions, with a pilot study showing improved serum TSH and T4 at the end of treatment compared to placebo, with few mild and temporary adverse effects.

Dysbiosis and intestinal autoimmune disorders may also impact thyroid health – getting a stool test can help identify and treat root cause.

Moreover, In Chinese Medicine when TSH levels are low, it typically indicates an excess of thyroid hormone, which can lead to the depletion of Qi, Yang, and Fluids due to Heat generation. This excess Heat can cause symptoms such as Heart Fire and Empty Heat, which are often seen in hyperthyroidism.

Additionally, the Heart can be negatively impacted, leading to heart palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia. Hyperthyroid patients often experience heat intolerance, which can be caused by Internal Heat or due to a disruption in the Heart’s ability to regulate temperature.

Graves’ ophthalmopathy is a common manifestation of Internal Heat in hyperthyroidism, and low TSH levels are also associated with weakened bones, indicating damage to the Kidney Yin.

On the other hand, high TSH levels are associated with deficiencies in Spleen Yang, Heart Yang, Blood, and Qi.

Hypothyroidism often results in heart palpitations and arrhythmias, with myxedema causing widespread edema due to problems with the Heart’s ability to control Fluids and the Spleen’s ability to manage Dampness formation.

Food that can help with Thyroid problems are :

Gluten Free
Cooked vegetables – butternut squash, sweet potatoes, turnip, kale and spinach
Stews and soups every day
Quinoa, leek, radish
Gooji Berries
Cacao
Fruit: cherry, peach, raspberry, strawberry
Meat a few times per week (not a requirement)
Seeds, nuts and eggs daily
Seaweed sprinkled on the food daily
Bone broth a few times per week (not a requirement)
Add spices : cinnamon, nutmeg, tyme, ginger, basil, turmeric, garlic, fennel, dill , rosemary
Tea: Jasmine tea

Foods to Avoid
dairy
fried foods
refined grains
sugar

Supplements to take
Selenium – 200 mcg per day
Zinc – 30mg per day
Iron – 18 mg per day
Ashwagandha 600mg day
Resihi – 3g a day

If you take medication, take it 4 hrs before or after taking the medication.
A good website with good quality supplements can be found here
https://pureandnatural.ie?practitionerid=19082

References:

The Institute for Functional Medicine. Restoring Tyroide Hormone Balance, 2023, doi: Restoring Thyroid Hormone Balance | The Institute for Functional Medicine (ifm.org)
Integrative TCM Guide Pathology Interpreting Blood Tests into a Chinese Medicine Framework. Dr Clare Pyres.
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