Natural Solutions for a Healthy Thyroid
More than one female friend has complained about feeling tired all the time, and they can’t figure out why. So I asked some of my go-to health experts and pitched a story about it to Health magazine. Turns out, for many women, the little thyroid gland is the culprit.
Here are four savvy ways to boost thyroid health, including one surprising food source. Plus, I’ve added 7 Stategies for Healthy Eating, tips for anyone, but especially helpful if you’re dealing with thyroid issues.
The Energy + Thyroid Connection
A common thyroid-gland disorder can pile on pounds, sap your energy, and leave you achy, bloated, and moody-all at once. The problem: hypothyroidism, or when you’re low on thyroid hormones.
Experts now think lifestyle changes-even a little sushi-may prevent or delay it. “Anyone who has warning signs should act now,” says Richard Shames, MD, author of Thyroid Power and Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled?
Here are four smart steps:
1. Order the Dynamite roll
A healthy thyroid needs iodine, selenium, and magnesium. Iodine is a building block of thyroid hormone, and many people with hypothyroidism don’t get enough. What you eat can help keep levels healthy: sushi, seafood, or sea vegetables like kelp, for instance, contain iodine.
Multivitamins also usually have sensible amounts of the stuff, plus selenium and magnesium, which help make and metabolize thyroid hormone. (Just be careful: Too much iodine can also trigger abnormal thyroid function, Shames says.)
2. Cook your broccoli
Raw cruciferous vegetables-think broccoli and cabbage-are packed with healthy nutrients, but they also have compounds that interfere with the body’s ability to use iodine for thyroid hormone production.
Cooking them inactivates most of the bad compounds, says Sherrill Sellman, a naturopathic doctor and author of Reverse Thyroid Disease Naturally: Alternative Treatments for Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s Disease, Graves’ Disease, Thyroid Cancer, … and More.
3. Rinse-and repeat
Fluoride is one thing you don’t want to consume more of, so rinse well after brushing to avoid swallowing fluoride toothpaste, and don’t drink too much fluoridated tap water.
Studies suggest that fluoride may decrease your body’s production of thyroid hormone and interfere with how the hormone moves through your blood, says Kathleen Thiessen, PhD, a panelist for the National Research Council’s recent scientific review of fluoride standards for drinking water.
4. Say no to stress
Manage it however you can-keep to your workout schedule and get more sleep, for instance. Here’s why: Exercise boosts circulation and enhances relaxation.
And that helps keep your body’s production of the hormone cortisol under control, which, in turn, improves thyroid function, Sellman says. Meanwhile, if you don’t feel like working out, a good night’s sleep can fight that low-energy feeling. Sweet dreams.
7 Stategies for Healthy Eating
Eating right every day is challenging, whether you want to maintain your healthy weight or lose and keep off holiday pounds. “You can go on any diet to lose weight, but keeping it off takes permanent lifestyle changes and a completely new way of thinking,” says registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator Susan Burke March, author of “Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally.”
No matter what your nutrition goals, to succeed you’ll need an eating plan you can stick to over time. Here are several strategies for making healthier food choices.
Keep a food journal
Write down everything you eat during the day — even the unintentional snacks or the bites of food you taste while preparing meals. You’ll find plenty of online calorie-counting programs to help you spot the pitfalls in your usual eating habits so you can make smarter, healthier choices, says March.
Set small, realistic weight-loss goals
“When you set a goal that will take a long time to achieve, it’s easy to lose motivation along the way,” says Erin Palinski, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer at Vernon Nutrition Center in Ramsey, New Jersey. Try breaking a big goal into smaller, more manageable goals.
Reward yourself often
Plan to reward yourself each time you reach a small goal. But rather than using food as the reward, try pampering yourself with a manicure for losing 10 pounds, or buy yourself that outfit you want for staying on your exercise program, says Palinski.
Reinforce your goals
Little reminders can help you stick to your goals. A photo on the refrigerator door that shows you at your ideal weight, for example, or a favorite “skinny” outfit hanging on the door waiting for you to lose two more pounds, says Palinski.
Carrying a list of reasons why losing weight is important to you in your purse or wallet can also help you get through tough times or cravings when you’re away from home.
Don’t sweat it if you blow your diet from time to time. Instead of focusing on the negative, look for a positive. “Even if you overindulged at a meal, maybe you still kept up with your food records or stuck to your exercise routine — focus on what you did right,” says Palinski. Use a slipup as a learning experience.
Stop thinking of any one food as “bad” or “good.” Food is fuel, whether it’s healthy, fatty, high in fiber, or high in calories. “It doesn’t possess human qualities and it isn’t your enemy,” says March. “This gives you the power to appropriately categorize food items and say yes or no based on your goals.”
Plan to connect with a friend, professional or group that can relate to your struggles, says March, and keep that connection for at least the first six months to a year. Support works, and it can make all the difference in maintaining your resolve and motivation.
Note: I wrote this article originally on assignment for Health magazine.