Although there is no magic diet that will be able to cure your thyroid problems, consuming certain nutrients such as iodine, selenium, and zinc can reduce your symptoms and help maintain a healthier thyroid.
Understanding why these nutrients are helpful, how to consume these nutrients, and having practical recipes can be extremely daunting which is why we have created a comprehensive guide to clarify everything for you! Our medical team led by a medical doctor has looked into each of these topics to ensure that you are getting the most informative and relevant information.
Vitamin D And Thyroid Health
The idea of vitamin D supplementation has been promoted for a long time as a possible fix for bone and immune system health, depression, diabetes, and many other conditions. This trend has led to the rapid development of the supplement market. According to a recent CDC report, approximately 45% of middle-aged women and 38% of middle-aged men report taking a vitamin D supplement, and hundreds of thousands of Americans get tested for vitamin D deficiency each year. In this article, we will discuss the connection between vitamin D levels and thyroid diseases.
Researchers have generally accepted the association between low serum vitamin D and autoimmune thyroid disorders. The latest review concludes that although there is some inconsistency in the studies’ results, most of the data confirms the association between lower vitamin D levels and increased risk of developing autoimmune thyroid disease. The authors suggest that vitamin D plays a small yet significant role in the disease’s pathogenesis, which may only be apparent when other factors that contribute to its expression are present. Another important conclusion of this study is that there is a lack of data establishing the exemption from harm and the presence of benefit of obtaining high levels of 25(OH)D. Therefore, it is recommended to aim for a 25(OH)D level within the reference ranges without aiming to go above them.
Another review has addressed the possible connections between vitamin D deficiency and thyroid cancer. Both in vitro models and in vivo animal models have demonstrated that vitamin D has anti-proliferative, pro-differentiative, pro-apoptotic, and anti-inflammatory actions within the tumor microenvironment. However, according to the British Thyroid Foundation, it remains unclear whether low vitamin D level is a cause, a consequence, or an innocent bystander in developing common thyroid conditions such as thyroid cancer. It is possible that vitamin D deficiency may cause an under-performing immune system to facilitate thyroid disease progression. Alternatively, it is also possible that people with thyroid diseases may have altered health or lifestyle, leading to a low vitamin D state. For example, patients with an underactive thyroid may spend less time outdoors due to tiredness and thus have reduced sun exposure. Therefore, more research is needed to determine the role of vitamin D in the treatment and prevention of thyroid diseases.
Despite such an unsolid ground in thyroid disease treatment, the National Institutes of Health recommends all adults (19–70 years) to obtain 15 mcg (600 IU) of vitamin D daily. Keep in mind that it should not come from the supplement only – time outdoors, certain products such as fatty fish, liver, egg yolks, and a variety of artificially fortified products can also be your primary source of vitamin D. Even though vitamin D supplement is available in various concentrations, it is not recommended to take doses higher than 100 mcg (4,000 IU) per day without doctor’s prescription. The signs of vitamin D overdose include nausea and vomiting, weakness, stomach pain, constipation, and frequent urination. Vitamin D toxicity might progress to bone pain and kidney problems, such as the formation of calcium stones and even renal failure. Vitamin D toxicity almost always occurs from the overuse of supplements. Interestingly, excessive sun exposure doesn’t cause vitamin D toxicity because the body limits the amount of the vitamin it produces.
You can track your vitamin D levels with the help of ThyForLife, as well as hundreds of other bloodwork parameters. You may also set up reminders not to forget about your daily supplement or annual check-up.
Benefits Of Selenium In Thyroid Diseases
Micronutrients are essential for our well-being, and even though they are needed just in trace amounts, micronutrient deficiencies reportedly affect 3 billion people worldwide. In our further blog posts, we would like to review the main micronutrients that influence thyroid health and define how to ensure you have enough of them in your diet.
Selenium is a nutritionally essential trace mineral, which means that the human body needs a very small amount of it to come with food or supplements regularly. If the soil has enough selenium in it, the plants which grow on it are selenium-rich, and, thus, the animals and fish, which consume such plants, also serve as a source of selenium. Selenium deficiency is a relatively rare condition in the U.S. as the soil throughout North America is generally rich in selenium. Some regions of China, Europe, and Russia have selenium-deficient soil, which explains why it is important to know where your food comes from.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adult men and women 19+ years of age is 55 micrograms of selenium daily. Pregnant and lactating women require about 60 and 70 micrograms per day, respectively. Most selenium in the body is stored in the muscle tissue. That is why eating meat and fish helps to meet the recommended amount of selenium faster, though vegetarian and vegan diets may also meet the needs if planned properly.
Why is selenium important for our health?
Selenium deficiency does not usually cause illness itself; it rather makes the body more susceptible to diseases caused by other nutritional,
biochemical, or infectious factors. There are only three specific diseases linked directly to selenium deficiency. Keshan disease is associated with an enlarged heart and cardiac failure, it occurs only in selenium-deficient children. Kashin-Beck disease is a disorder of the bones and joints of the extremities typically met in selenium-deficient children and adolescents. Lastly, myxedematous endemic cretinism, a condition that results in mental retardation, occurs in infants born to mothers deficient in both selenium and iodine.
Earlier, there was an opinion that selenium’s antioxidative properties have a protective effect against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Cochrane review conducted in 2018 found no evidence to suggest that increasing selenium intake through diet or supplementation prevents cancer in humans. Similarly, the studies demonstrate uneven results regarding the role of selenium in cardiovascular disease prevention.
Selenium and thyroid health
There are multiple selenium benefits for thyroid diseases:
- There is a high concentration of selenium in the thyroid gland, where several selenium-containing enzymes regulate the thyroid function. If the body does not have enough selenium, it can lead to thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease.
- The enzymes that convert the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3) are selenium-dependent.
- Even though more evidence is required, several studies demonstrated that selenium supplements reduce thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO), as well as the severity of hypothyroidism symptoms.
- Several studies shown that treating patients who have mild to moderate Graves’ orbitopathy with selenium supplements improved their quality of life and slowed the progression of symptoms. However, there is also a lack of randomized clinical trials conducted in this area.
Thus, there are crucial selenium benefits for thyroid diseases, though further research is required to understand it better. In our next post we will cover selenium-rich foods and methods to increase the amount of this micronutrient in your diet.
Top 10 Foods High In Selenium
As described in our previous article, selenium plays an important role in thyroid health. Let’s find out the top 10 foods high in selenium according to the National Institutes of Health.
1. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are one of the best foods high in selenium. One serving, or about six to eight nuts, contains about 544 mcg of this micronutrient. Besides, Brazil nuts are a great option for vegans and vegetarians.
2. Other nuts and seeds
Even though Brazil nuts contain the highest amount of selenium, most of the other nuts and seeds have decent quantities of it. For instance, one ounce of sunflower seeds contains 11.9 mcg of selenium.
3 ounces of yellowfin tuna contain about 25 grams of protein and 92 mcg of selenium, making it an excellent product for a healthy lifestyle.
4. Beef steak
Great news for the meat lovers – steak is not just delicious – it is also beneficial for your thyroid health. The bottom round beef steak will provide you with about 33 mcg of selenium per 3 ounces of meat, which covers nearly 60% of your daily need!
You can get 31 mcg of selenium from 3 oz of roasted turkey. Sounds like a legit reason to cook it not only on Thanksgiving!
6. Baked beans
Baked beans are an amazing low-budget source of selenium – just one cup brings about 13 mcg of selenium, which covers almost 25% of your daily need.
Tofu is another affordable product you should introduce into your diet! One cup of plain tofu covers 80% of daily selenium need (43.8 mcg).
One egg provides about 15 mcg of selenium. Thus, a two egg omelet will cover almost 60% of your daily selenium need.
9. Cottage cheese
Another reason to visit your local farmer – one cup of cottage cheese provides about 20 mcg of selenium!
10. Enriched pasta
Enriched products are those that lost nutrients during processing and, in order to compensate it, vitamins and minerals are added back at the end of the production. A cup of such macaroni contains about 37 mcg of selenium, thus covering 67% of daily need in it.
How To Choose The Best Selenium Supplement
As stated in the previous post, selenium plays an essential role in many processes in the human body, including thyroid metabolism. In another post, we explained which foods are the best sources of selenium that you should introduce into your diet. Today, we would like to discuss when, how, and the best selenium supplements you may need and how to select them.
Do you really need a selenium supplement?
If you are interested in thyroid treatment topic, you should have probably heard of selenium supplements hundreds of times. Despite such popularity, there is a lack of evidence behind its application in endocrinology. In other words, there are very few studies where a selenium supplement was more effective than a placebo in the management of thyroid diseases. Currently, the only condition where an indication of selenium supplement has reliable evidence is Graves’ orbitopathy. This recommendation, for instance, is reflected in the guidelines of the European Thyroid Association/European Group on Graves’ Orbitopathy (EUGOGO). For all other cases, the deficiency of selenium must be detected by the laboratory first in order to state that there is a need in additional natural or synthetic sources of it in your diet. If no clear indication for a supplement is detected, enriching your diet with natural sources of selenium is more beneficial than any pills or capsules. This rule applies to most of the supplements, as nature has balanced out various products so the micronutrients are absorbed and utilized to the maximum. Besides, any supplement is a substance that may bring not only benefits but also some toxicity to your liver, kidneys, and other organs. Thus, we strongly advise you to talk to your doctor before making any decisions, even though you do not need their prescription for selenium supplements.
How to choose the best selenium supplement?
In the case of a confirmed need for an additional selenium, you may face the problem of choosing the suitable form of it. Selenium exists in two forms: inorganic (selenate and selenite) and organic (selenomethionine and selenocysteine), and both of them may serve as a source of selenium. However, organic forms of selenium have been proven to have higher bioavailability levels, thus being better absorbed by the intestines. For instance, the human body absorbs more than 90% of selenomethionine but only about 50% of selenium from selenite. This means that organic selenium is often the best selenium supplement choice.
Even though the FDA recommends 55 mcg of selenium for adults and children aged 4+ years as a daily value (DV), we can’t estimate your need in supplement according to it, as this value is calculated for healthy people with no indications for additional selenium treatment. Also, the DV includes both food and supplements; thus, all dietary sources must be taken into account to avoid an overdose of selenium – selenosis.
However, there is no reason to worry and start the supplement with no indications – most Americans consume adequate amounts of selenium, according to an analysis of data from the 2009–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). According to an analysis of NHANES data from 2003–2004, the mean serum selenium concentration in U.S. adults aged 40 years or older is 13.67 mcg/dL. Thus, if no medical indications are discovered, there is no need for a selenium supplement “just in case”, as a great variety of products provides us with this important nutrient on a daily basis. Thus, the best selenium supplement is the one you actually need, and that was prescribed by the specialist accordingly to your condition.
3 Non-Obvious Recipes For Your Thyroid Health
We will be honest with you from the very beginning – the true state of things isn’t as exciting as the title of this article. There is no particular dish or product which would help you to treat your thyroid disorder. This is the current position of the scientific community, and professional organizations, such as the British Thyroid Foundation, rely on it in their recommendations. Moreover, despite the generally popular opinion that people with thyroid diseases should have plenty of iodine, selenium, and calcium in the food, each diet must have some medical rationale behind itself. Thus, we strongly advise you to discuss your thyroid condition’s specifics with your doctor before introducing any significant diet changes.
What can be considered good recipes for your thyroid health then? The answer is simple – it is anything that helps you to sustain a healthy weight and mental well-being minus the products which are not recommended in your particular situation if any. For instance, a recent study suggests the benefit of a gluten-free diet for patients with autoimmune thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto’s disease. The rationale behind it is that although more large-scale studies are needed, molecular mimicry may be the crucial reason for this phenomenon. During molecular mimicry, the body produces antibodies to a similar component in peptide structure, thus launching a cross-activation autoimmune response. Think of a key that is so close in shape to another key that it can unlock a door it wasn’t intended to open. The same may potentially happen to the thyroid cells, which the body may mistake for gluten and try to utilize as a foreign object. Thus, in some people, gluten can trigger a significant autoimmune response, leading to more severe symptoms.
Here is an excellent example of a gluten-free recipe, which will lighten up your rainiest autumn mornings. One pancake contains around 113 calories, so be careful with your portions!;)
Another interesting study from South Korea has evaluated the association between raw vegetables or fruit intake and the risk of thyroid cancer development among women. They discovered that high consumption of raw vegetables, persimmons, and tangerines may decrease thyroid cancer risk and help prevent early-stage thyroid cancer. Even though one case-control study isn’t enough to prove the point – why don’t you try introducing more not-so-boring salads into your menu?
Finally, there is a long-running debate over the potential negative effect that certain compounds in soy — called isoflavones — may have on the thyroid gland. Some researchers insist that a high amount of soy products in the diet may increase a person’s hypothyroidism risk. However, a study published in 2019 found that soy has no effect on thyroid hormones and very modestly raises thyroid-stimulating hormone levels.
Thus, there are no specific dietary guidelines, but some researchers suggest that soy consumption may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb thyroid medication. For that reason, you may want to wait for four hours before taking your regular treatment. Besides, you may always try cooking delicious non-soy tofu alternatives!
We hope that this post has inspired you to introduce some positive changes to your menu. What are your favorite recipes for your thyroid health? We will gladly share the most interesting of them on our media<3
7 Foods That Can Help Your Hypothyroidism Symptoms
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid glands don’t produce enough hormones. This can cause a variety of symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, constipation, and much more.
So, wondering what to eat to help an underactive thyroid? It turns out, nutritional deficiencies seriously contribute to these hypothyroidism symptoms. Iodine, selenium, vitamin D, and zinc are four key nutrients that help to maintain healthy thyroid function and regular hormone production. Taking charge of your hypothyroidism diet ensures you’ll get all the right nutrients for your body in order to manage your symptoms and boost the thyroid naturally.
While everyone’s hypothyroidism experience is unique to their own body, here are 7 simple foods that could help improve your thyroid symptoms.
Remember the old saying that “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? That should be changed to “An apple a day keeps your thyroid symptoms at bay.” Apples help to detoxify your body of metals like mercury, which have been shown to negatively affect thyroid function. Along with that, apples are rich in iodine which is a building block to thyroid hormone production.
Eggs are full of selenium, iodine, and vitamin D which helps regulate thyroid hormones. While the egg white contains lots of protein, make sure you’re consuming the full egg because the egg yolk is where you’ll get all those hormone regulating nutrients. A cool breakfast idea to help improve hypothyroidism symptoms!
Brazil nuts are very selenium-rich! One or two nuts a day are enough to meet your daily requirement. Nuts are a source of iron and zinc, which are important for maintaining healthy thyroid function. Be mindful not to over-consume these nuts, especially if you’re eating lots of other selenium rich foods in your diet.
Yogurt contains iodine and is often fortified with vitamin D which can act as an anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting nutrient. Yogurt also has magnesium and potassium which is important for regulating your metabolism and blood-pressure. If you’re on thyroid medications, make sure to take it a few hours apart from any calcium intake as it interferes with the medication absorption! Next time you’re grocery shopping, grab a low-fat, vitamin D rich yogurt!
Salmon is a champion amongst fish when it comes to helping thyroid health. Salmon is full of healthy fats, like Omega-3 and iodine which help reduce thyroid inflammation. Additionally, salmon is a high-protein food, which has been cited to aid in weight loss by keeping your appetite in check.
Berries like strawberries and blueberries do a great job to detoxify the body. These small snacks are high in antioxidants which help to defend your body against free radicals which can harm your thyroid, cause fatigue, and trigger weight gain.
Chickpeas are high in zinc which is critical to adequate thyroid hormone production. Additionally, since chickpeas are high in fibre, consuming these can help reduce constipation as a hypothyroidism symptom!
Remember that a healthy diet is one that is well-balanced and consumed in moderation. Listen to your body and explore your options. It may take some time but it’s worth it because you will find what works best for you!
Gut Microbiota And L-Thyroxine Absorption
Trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other life forms collectively named microbiota accompany us through the entire lives. Learn how our microbiota influences the absorption of L-thyroxine and what you can do to make improve its’ function.
What do we know about the gut microbiota?
There are roughly 40 trillion bacterial cells in your body. The major part of these microbes exists inside of the intestines and on the skin.
Most gut microbes are found in a “pocket” of your large intestine called the cecum, and they are referred to as the gut microbiota. It contains at least 1000 different species of known bacteria, which may become more and less prevalent depending on various factors such as the geography of living, diet, use of antibiotics and other drugs, genetics, environment, and various diseases.
Some gut microbiota functions, such as vitamin synthesis and fiber digestion, are widely-known. Many other essential functions were discovered recently, such as the role in the development of depression, neurodegenerative diseases, obesity, diabetes, immunological disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases, and cancer.
Gastrointestinal microbiota influences Levothyroxine absorption
Gut microbiota is a self-balancing system, where each type of bacteria is limited in growth due to the presence of another one. If this balance is disturbed, the person develops a condition named dysbiosis. This condition changes the way our body absorbs various substances, leading to secondary complications.
The study published in Cell suggests that the efficacy of oral L-thyroxine supplementation absorption may depend on how the gut microbiota degrades thyroid hormones during the process called oxidation. It concludes that higher numbers of microbiota in cases of bacterial overgrowth might require higher doses of L-thyroxine.
In hypothyroidism, the pH of the stomach often increases, and gastric motility decreases. Thus, the reduced protein cleavage in the gastrointestinal tract and bacterial overgrowth may take place. Based on these facts, another group of researchers suggested that altered colonization of the gastrointestinal tract leads to the need for higher doses of L-thyroxine.
Simple things you can do to improve your gut microbiota
Many ongoing studies aim to define the influence of our lifestyles and diet on the gastrointestinal microbiota. However, some findings have already proved themselves in multiple studies.
- Increase your intake of dietary fibers by adding more whole-grain products and vegetables to your meals.
- Incorporate fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir, or miso, into your diet.
- Take the antibiotics only if prescribed by your medical provider. It is also vital to take the entire dosage prescribed, even if you started to feel better before the course was over.
- Decrease the number of processed foods in your menu or eliminate them if possible.
- Studies demonstrate that people with erratic sleeping patterns risk disrupting their microbiota. Try to make sure that you get 7-8 hours of sleep at night.
Thus, the performance of your gut microbiota may be responsible for the difficulties in thyroid disease management. We hope that our advice will help you to achieve better thyroid bloodwork results and decrease the unpleasant symptoms, which you will soon be able to track with our app.