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Why do we have thyroid problems? | The importance of nutrition

Constantly tired, even after 10 hours of sleep? Feeling very sensitive to cold? Dry skin, gaining weight for no reason? Maybe even feeling depressed? If any of these sound familiar to you, it’s possible you and I have a thing in common – hypothyroidism.

8 pm, walking around the house covered in a blanket because I was so cold and ready to curl up and fall asleep. That’s how I would describe every evening for a couple of months before I got my blood tested for hypothyroidism. There are, of course, many other symptoms of this disorder but I think that’s how I would best describe it – not having the energy for everyday life.

Travelling to various places and talking with so many young girls along the way, I discovered how common thyroid problems are among them. It’s a growing epidemic. Over time, I learned more and more about hypothyroidism. I read books, medical articles and slowly began putting all of the pieces together.

The causes of hypothyroidism

The causes of hypothyroidism, it seems, are endless. That’s why I wanted to start a series on thyroid health to put it all in one place for you. Especially if it’s something you’re struggling with yourself. If you get anything worthwhile out of these upcoming blog posts, I’ve achieved my goal.

In today’s world, there could be so many factors contributing to this disease. Genetics, radiation, stress, air and water pollution, an unhealthy diet or sleep deprivation. Or a combination of the above.

A holistic approach to health

I want to show you how important food is and that it has a direct impact on your thyroid. And not only that – how your adrenal glands and gut are connected too. Everything is connected. Exploring this subject is something I’ve become passionate about.

I believe a holistic approach to health is the only way to really heal your body.

Obviously, I’m not an endocrinologist and this is not medical advice so by no means am I saying that you should stop taking your medication. I myself take thyroid pills every day and would never advise anyone to suddenly stop taking theirs.

But just take a moment to ask yourself:  what can I change or start doing to take better care of my health? Hypothyroidism is a sign your body isn’t functioning optimally. So it’s not just about the thyroid – it’s your whole organism that’s affected.

Nutrient deficiencies CAN be the cause of your hypothyroidism or could be worsening your symptoms.

The basics

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the subject: hypothyroidism is an underproduction of thyroid hormones. The two hormones produced by it are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). I will be referring to them by their simpler forms – T3 and T4. T4 is a prohormone, which means it has to be converted to T3 to become the active form. This is a subject I could go on about endlessly, but today I just want to focus on the following nutrients and their importance in thyroid health.

To make this list easier, I want to start by saying that deficiencies of these nutrients are found to be more common among hypothyroidism sufferers. I will be explaining shortly why they’re essential for proper thyroid function.

Getting enough of these will definitely help to boost your thyroid health.

Nutrient deficiencies and hypothyroidism – the connection

Selenium

This element has many important functions in the human body. When it comes to hormonal health, selenium is crucial for converting T4 ( the inactive thyroid hormone) into T3 ( the active form)

Selenium also protects the thyroid from damage caused by excess iodine.

Plant foods high in selenium: brazil nuts, tofu, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, oats

Iodine

This is the element that probably comes to mind most often when you think of thyroid disorders. The thyroid depends on iodine to synthesize its hormones – T3 and T4.

BUT we need to be careful with supplementing this mineral as both deficiency and excess can be harmful to the thyroid. Too much iodine can even be toxic so always check with your doctor before starting any sort of iodine supplementation.

I won’t be going into more detail because there are many different opinions and facts on iodine and thyroid health. I’ll leave it to the experts.

Zinc

Zinc is essential for:

  •  the conversion of T4 to T3 – similarly to Selenium
  • the production of TSH

You might be thinking that there’s no need to worry about not having enough TSH because .in hypothyroidism your TSH is too high anyway, right? Well. People who constantly produce large amounts of TSH are ‘using up’ their Zinc and that leads to a vicious cycle.

Plant foods high in zinc: hemp seeds, lentils, oats, pumpkin seeds, wild rice, black beans.
It’s difficult to get enough zinc from plant foods because it might not absorb as well as from animal foods. That’s why if you’re on a plant-based diet, try to get even more than the recommended daily amount.

This goes to show how important selenium and zinc are if you take thyroid medication. They both covert T4 into T3, the active form of the thyroid hormone… In many countries, synthetic Levothyroxine is prescribed for hypothyroidism – and that’s T4. If you’re deficient in Zn and Se, taking the pills might not actually work that well. Therefore, your symptoms may not improve and then what happens? We start taking a bigger dose.

Iron

Iron is a component of hemoglobin – a protein which transports oxygen in the blood. It is essential for energy metabolism, among many other processes. Iron deficiency leads to anemia – it basically means that your organs don’t receive the right amount of oxygen to function optimally.

Hypothyroidism is known to cause a few different types of anemia.  But it can also work the other way around – iron deficiency may be a sign that you have an underactive thyroid.

To give you a better idea, iron is a component of thyroid peroxidase (TPO), which is an enzyme that takes part in the production of thyroid hormones. And without enough iron, how can we have enough T3 and t4?

So how does it work vice-versa? People with hypothyroidism may suffer from low stomach acid production. As I explained in this post, without enough gastric acid, we won’t absorb iron and other nutrients well. This is very common in thyroid conditions.

Why is that?

Hypothyroidism means that your metabolism slows down and decreased acid secretion is one of the signs. In other words, thyroid hormones affect stomach acid and the absorption of iron.

Foods high in iron: beans, lentils, chickpeas, parsley, other dark green leafy vegetables, tahini

Remember about vitamin C to absorb the iron, too!

Vitamin D

There’s a strong link between a vitamin D deficiency and hypothyroidism, which can be a cause of having an underactive thyroid. The majority of hypothyroidism sufferers are deficient in this vitamin.

So, of course, sunlight is your natural source of vitamin D. Most of the time it’s not enough, so remember to supplement daily!

1000 – 2000 IU of vitamin D – that’s the optimal dose

Vitamin B12

Ok, so we now know that low stomach acid makes it difficult to absorb nutrients and digest food. Just as with iron, vitamin B12 requires gastric acid to be absorbed properly. There is a high prevalence of B12 deficiency in people with hypothyroidism. 

B12 can be found in animal products and supplements, but remember to take care of your gastric acid levels so you actually absorb this vitamin.

 

That’s all for now! So, there’s plenty of research to prove that thyroid disorders can be caused by nutrient deficiencies. Obviously, there are many other risk factors (way too many to include them in one blog post), but our diet is something we have a direct impact on. We choose what we eat – it’s that simple. It’s about making dietary changes step-by-step and including these eating habits that will affect your thyroid in a positive way. And your whole wellbeing, too.

I used to take 50 mcg of Levothyroxine and later went down to 25 mcg. Now I still take the medication but hopefully, I will be able to come off it in the near future. Despite all the travelling, I get a sufficient amount of sleep, take care of my everyday diet and try my best to manage my stress levels ( it can still be a big struggle sometimes). I’ll tell you more about my experience in the next posts.

 

Till next time,

Zuza xx

 

3 thoughts on “Why do we have thyroid problems? | The importance of nutrition

  1. Are we having an epidemic of thyroid problems and autoimmune disease? Do you KNOW someone who doesn’t think they have a thyroid issue?This is probably why Hypothyroidism is associated with numerous female problems including PCOS, Uterine Fibroids, and even BREAST CANCER.

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