Thyroid Health & Nutrition

By Amber Charles, MSPH, RDN

January 18, 2021


January is thyroid awareness month! Read more to learn about the relationship between your thyroid gland, metabolism and key nutrients for thyroid health.


In this article:

  • Thyroid 101

  • Types of thyroid disorders

  • Nutrients to get more of

  • Foods to be mindful of

  • My thyroid journey

Thyroid 101

The thyroid gland, also known as the "butterfly" gland, is a gland located at the front of the neck that controls your metabolic rate.


As a part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland produces hormones that influence the functioning of many vital organs, including the heart, liver and the kidneys.


If the thyroid is not functioning optimally, your metabolism can either speed up or slow down, creating undesirable symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain/unintentional weight loss or even heart palpitations.


Types of thyroid disorders

Thyroid disorders may lead to the production of too much or too little thyroid hormone, while the presence of thyroid nodules or goiters may only create aesthetic challenges.


Common disorders include:

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Goiters

  • Thyroid nodules

  • Thyroid cancer

Read more about each condition from the American Thyroid Association.


Nutrients to get more of

There isn't a special thyroid diet, but with the appropriate nutritional interventions, symptom management can be improved.


Consume a balanced diet that provides a variety of nutrient-dense foods which supply essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, B-vitamins, vitamins A, C, E and calcium.


Here are key nutrients and their food sources to support thyroid health:

  • Vitamin D: fatty fish, exposure to sunlight, milk, dairy, eggs, mushrooms

  • Selenium: seafood (tuna, shell food), brazil nuts

  • Vitamin B-12: (animal sources) mollusks, sardines, salmon, organ meats such as liver, muscle meat, and dairy or (plant sources) fortified cereals and nutritional yeast

  • Dietary fiber: whole grains, fruits and vegetables (with skin and seeds), legumes

Foods to be *mindful* of

1. Goitrogens found in cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cabbage, bok choy) may interfere with thyroid function.


These foods should be well-cooked to deactivate the goitrogens, which enables you to gain both the nutritional benefits of the vegetable and have a positive impact on your thyroid health.


2. Although the thyroid hormones need iodine to function, increased intake from supplements may be harmful by further disrupting thyroid function (too much of a good thing is good for nothing #trinitalk).


Always consult with your primary care doctor and Registered Dietitian to determine what is best for you.


My thyroid journey

Two thyroid nodules, a cancer scare and numerous tests later, my personal thyroid journey has been nothing short of worrisome.


Despite occasional symptoms of hypothyroidism, my thyroid labs are functional and both nodules are benign (*praises*).


Stay tuned for my upcoming vlog about my thyroid journey over the past 3 years.

Sources:

Thyroid Disease and Diet — Nutrition Plays a Part in Maintaining Thyroid Health (todaysdietitian.com)


Healthy eating for a healthy thyroid - Harvard Health


Thyroid Patient Information | American Thyroid Association

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