The thyroid is a small endocrine (hormone-producing) gland that has profound effects on the physiology of your whole body.
This gland sits below your Adam's apple in your neck and plays a crucial role in controlling the metabolism of your cells, or the rate at which your cells perform their duties. This organ interacts with cells in the body through the hormones it produces and if it's not producing enough, you will feel weak, cold, and not very good.
Thyroid hormone affects many things in the body like protein synthesis, fat breakdown, heart function, neurotransmitter synthesis and other things.
When the thyroid is not producing enough hormones, this dysfunction is referred to as hypothyroidism. Many people experience this condition and much of the time it is caused by the following:
The easiest risk factor of hypothyroidism to correct is nutrient deficiency. Zinc, selenium, and iodine are crucial nutrients for the proper function of the thyroid and being conscious about getting adequate amounts of these nutrients can satisfy your thyroid's needs and greatly improve your health.
Autoimmune disease is thought to being influenced by genetics but other factors can certainly influence it as well. It has been evidenced by research that man-made environmental pollutants not only reduce levels of thyroid hormones, but also might increase the risk and severity of autoimmune diseases . It is thought that pollutants in the tissues of your body trick the immune system into attacking your own cells because these pollutants are recognized as pathogens and they are in and around your cells.
Eating food that has less environmental pollutants on it or in it should reduce your absorption of pollutants. In the US, eating certified organic food is your best chance at reducing pollutant exposure. Getting clean sources of meat and/or reducing meat consumption can also lower your ingestion of toxicants because animal flesh absorbs pollutants just like we do.
So to fight against autoimmune thyroid disease, you should consider lessening your pollutant load and cutting inflammation in your body. Sweat therapy, like saunas, is a clinically-validated way of eliminating pollutants from your body .
Dietary and supplemental steps can also be taken to reduce autoimmunity-causing inflammation. Inflammation signals for your immune system to attack (in this case, your own tissue) so minimizing these signals will reduce your immune system's self-attacking. Eating plenty of colorful antioxidant-rich whole plant foods like fruits and veggies and some whole grains helps to limit inflammation and some herbs like turmeric and boswellia are powerful inhibitors of inflammation.
T3 (triiodothyronine) is the primary active hormone that your thyroid produces. Your thyroid also produces T4 (thyroxine) but T3 is about four times as strong as T4 in its ability to interact with cells. So T3 plays the most important part in dictating signals to your cells - the signals that all the cells of your body need to control their metabolism.
Metabolism refers to all of the activities of your cells like maintaining, cleansing, repairing and primarily the conversion of oxygen and calories into energy (a coenzyme called ATP). Thusly, thyroid is extremely important for the proper functioning of your cells.
The thyroid produces T4 and T3 by combining the mineral iodine with the amino acid tyrosine. These components for thyroid hormone come from the diet, but as we will see later, many people are at risk for iodine deficiency.
When the thyroid is not producing enough T3 and T4, the body will sense this and usually send signals for the generation of more thyroid hormone. This signal for more T3 and T4 generation is a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland, which is about the size of a peanut and sits at the base of your brain.
Essentially, the pituitary gland oversees the thyroid gland. And when a person's blood is being tested for thyroid dysfunction, TSH is usually tested along with T3 and T4. If TSH is high, that is a sign that your thyroid is not producing enough hormones.
The thyroid controls how fast your body turns the food you consume and the oxygen you breathe into energy. Underactive thyroid function (hypothyroidism) is a common problem and can make people feel:
You won't feel good if your thyroid isn't functioning up to speed. In fact, it is thought that the symptoms of low thyroid are often misdiagnosed, in older people, as simply the signs of aging. But no! Someone can feel much better if his or her thyroid hormones are replenished.
Luckily, diet can be used to address thyroid functioning. Due to the nutritional composition of certain foods, they can be used to nourish, protect, and invigorate the thyroid. Here's a list and explanations of foods that boost thyroid function.
Not very many people think of eating pumpkin seeds but this food is gaining some notoriety. They are usually eaten after being sprouted or made into a seed butter - either way, they are delicious!
Pumpkin seeds are rich in two nutrients that support thyroid health: zinc and magnesium. Zinc is needed for thyroid hormone synthesis, has been correlated with hypothyroidism, and when zinc levels are low, levels of thyroid hormones are also low .
Magnesium can prevent thyroid hormone reduction caused by intense exercise and magnesium deficiency interrupts the synthesis of T4 .
Seaweeds are perhaps the most obvious thyroid-supporting food. This is because they are the richest edible sources of iodine in nature. So if you want to give your thyroid the most important tool it needs to make hormones, add seaweeds to your diet. And a little bit of seaweed goes a long way since it is so packed with iodine.
Many grocery stores sell seaweed and it can be added to any savory food. It is sometimes added to sauerkraut. Sushi is an easy and tasty way to eat your sea vegetables - the rice in sushi is wrapped with seaweed.
There are few substantial dietary sources of iodine and iodine deficiency was widespread before it started being added to table salt in the early 20th century. And many people are cutting back on salt because too much triggers inflammation and its negative effect on cardiovascular health as well as other conditions. Even in recent times, it is estimated that about 2 billion people or 30% of the world's population might still be deficient in iodine .
Following our discussion of the relationship between iodine and selenium, it is timely to introduce the #1 selenium containing food in nature: brazil nuts. These nuts are packed with selenium and it may only take one or two nuts to get more selenium than you need on a daily basis.
So since this nut is such a good source of selenium, it needs to be noted that you shouldn't to eat too much of them. If you're gorging on brazil nuts, you could run the risk of selenium toxicity with symptoms like fatigue, hair loss, and vomiting.
As referenced earlier, selenium is very important for thyroid function. It is essential for converting the less-active T4 into T3, as the enzyme that makes this conversion is selenium-dependent .
Selenium appears, in several studies, to play a role in protecting the thyroid gland from autoimmune attacks by the body's own immune system . Part of the reason for this is that selenium is needed for the thyroid to make the powerful glutathione antioxidant which protects the tissue. Blood tests have confirmed that thyroid autoantibodies (measures of autoimmune activity) decreased by 40% after selenium supplementation .
Good ol' chicken can even help your thyroid function. The main reason why is that chicken contains lots of tyrosine. And this amino acid is necessary for the production of T4 and T3. In fact, people who are deficient in this amino acid, produce less T3 and T4 and once they are supplemented with it, their thyroid levels rise, as verified by blood tests 
Chicken is also a good source of selenium.
Cashews are a rich source of copper. This mineral has been linked to thyroid function because copper deficiency has been evidenced to reduce T4 production in animal studies . In another animal study, in rats, copper deficiency impaired thyroid hormone metabolism and actually caused the rats to be in a mild hypothermic state . Thyroid hormone stimulates warmth and higher metabolism and this is why people who have lower metabolism from reduced thyroid hormone or calorie restriction are colder.
Salmon has numerous thyroid-supporting characteristics. Wild-caught salmon in Alaskan Pacific waters is probably still the safest form of salmon, in considering the pollutant levels of various types of salmon. Farm-raised salmon, for instance, has been evidenced to be very high in many environmental pollutants like plasticizers.
Three constituents of salmon are responsible for its thyroid-supporting action: vitamin D, iodine, and marine fats EPA and DHA. Salmon, like many kinds of seafood, has some iodine in it. Fish, after all, eat the iodine-rich weeds of the sea.
Vitamin D is a hormone that the body generates in response to sun exposure and it is also in a few foods. You've probably heard or read of some of the research that connects vitamin D to nearly every disease imaginable. Vitamin D performs many roles in the body but one crucial role is that it modulates inflammation. If a person's vitamin D status is too low, as it is with many people in the world, chances are he or she will have more inflammation in their body and this is why researchers think that vitamin D status affects thyroid function . Indeed, low vitamin D has been linked to hypothyroidism .
Vitamin D might help combat thyroid autoimmunity via its anti-inflammatory effects and research has shown that people who have Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroid disease have especially low levels of vitamin D . And vitamin D improves the condition of numerous other autoimmune diseases so it makes sense that it might be useful in fighting autoimmune thyroid disease .
Marinefats like EPAand DHA,which are primarilyfound in seafood includingalgae. Similarly to vitamin D, fish fats help keep inflammation at bay and researchers think that, according to preliminary data, fish fats might increase thyroid signalling .
Speaking of fish fats, sardines are an excellent source as, since they are very small fish, they accumulate very little pollutants. These fish are some of the cleanest type of seafood you can eat and should be very low in heavy metals.
Sardines are also a rich source of vitamin 812, the deficiency of which has been linked to hypothyroidism . Researchers think that 812 should be tested in all hypothyroid patients because 40% of those tested have been shown to be deficient . Additionally, hypothyroid patients seem to respond well to 812 treatment .
Sardines also have a nice dose of selenium in them.
Maca is a root vegetable native to Peru. It has a reputation as an adaptogen - a herb that balances hormone levels in the body. And indeed, research has shown it have some thyroid stimulating effects. One animal study showed that it increased thyroid stimulating hormone .
In postmenopausal women, T3 production increased during the first month of ingestion and researchers noted that the plant acted as a “toner” of hormonal processes .
Maca is often consumed in powder form and added to smoothies.
Eggs are good sources of many thyroid-supporting nutrients like iodine, selenium, vitamin D. They are one of the few non-seafood sources of precious iodine and also one ofthe few foods that contain a decent amount of vitamin D.
If the eggs come from pasture-raised chickens and freely graze in afield, instead of being raised in cramped cages, they will contain omega 3 fats and higher levels of vitamin D.
There are many reasons why beans are healthy and it’s important not to leave them out of our discussion on thyroid health. Kidney beans are a substantial source of magnesium and are one of the few plant foods that has a fair amount of iodine. Their zinc content also gives you another reason to consume them.
Clearly, not only prescribed thyroid replacement pills affect thyroid function. Because of the numerous thyroid-supporting nutritional components in food, what you eat is deeply tied to that very important endocrine gland, the thyroid.
In cultivating a healthy thyroid, the first and most foundational step is to feed the gland the tools it needs to function properly. Eating right sets the foundation. To further optimize thyroid function, exercising regularly and considering herbal supplementation are good options. Numerous herbs have been demonstrated to boost thyroid hormones (ashwagandha and ginseng are two examples).