Lifestyle changes are the backbone of integrative and holistic medicine. If you’ve been struggling with fatigue, brain fog, memory issues, hair loss, or lack of concentration or focus, you might be in the hypothyroidism camp. Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland is not able to produce enough thyroid hormone, leading to all the symptoms we mentioned above (and possibly more).
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the more extreme auto-immune cause of hypothyroidism, when your body actually attacks your thyroid gland, making it unable to produce the necessary hormones you need to function. This is diagnosed with a thorough and complete thyroid panel, which will reveal whether your symptoms are hypothyroidism or if you’ve ventured into Hashimoto’s territory.
The good news? Both Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism can be managed and supported with nutrition and lifestyle changes. (As with any medical condition, we recommend seeing your doctor at MIMC or elsewhere to get a diagnosis, before starting any treatment.) We’ve compiled a few easy steps and daily takeaways for you to start to get your thyroid back online, helping to reduce and manage your hypothyroid symptoms.
Stabilize Your Blood Sugar
By maintaining more balanced blood sugar, your body is more likely to be able to maintain balance elsewhere, thyroid included. A few tips include:
- Limit your intake of simple and refined sugars (sweets, baked goods, soft drinks, fruit juices).
- Replace simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates, such as quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, legumes, and starchy vegetables.
- Pair carbohydrate sources with protein/fat at every meal and snack to reduce sugar cravings and balance blood sugar.
- Eat small, frequent meals or consider intermittent fasting.
Eat a Balanced Diet
This feels like a no-brainer, since we’d recommend to anyone, thyroid symptoms or not, a balanced diet. But with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s, your body is often deficient in key nutrients needed to maintain daily functions.
L-tyrosine, zinc, selenium, vitamin D, iron, and the B vitamins are essential for proper thyroid function. Eating a balanced diet, rich in whole foods, will ensure adequate intake of each nutrient. In some cases, a supplement with thyroid-specific nutrients may be recommended. Check in with your doctor (and possibly request nutrient lab testing) to see where you might need additional support.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the nutrients necessary for optimal thyroid function—and where you can get them from food sources.
- Zinc (necessary for conversion of T4 → T3 [active form])
- Pumpkin seeds, lamb, grass-fed beef, chickpeas, chicken, mushrooms, deep green veggies (spinach, kale, asparagus, swiss chard, green beans).
- Selenium (necessary for conversion of T4 → T3)
- Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, halibut, chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, spinach.
- L-Tyrosine (necessary for formation of T4 and conversion of T4 → T3)
- Peanuts, almonds, avocados, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chicken, turkey, seaweed, spinach.
- Iron (necessary for formation of T4 and conversion of T4 → T3)
- Grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken, oysters, spinach, lentils, cashews.
Reduce Your Inflammation
Inflammation can be connected to many thyroid issues. By reducing your body’s overall inflammation, you’re calming its immune response and helping support its ability to heal.
- Eat the rainbow: Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds that are high in antioxidants and other phytonutrients.
- Include healthy fats such as avocado, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, extra virgin olive oil, grass-fed butter and ghee, avocado oil, and coconut oil.
- Limit inflammatory fats such as canola oil and peanut oil.
- Include cold water fatty fish (salmon, sardines, cod, mackerel, skipjack tuna) in your meal plan two to three times per week.
- Cook with anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, and rosemary.
Explore Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities can be linked to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, so understanding and then avoiding your personal food sensitivities is crucial.
Gluten, dairy, and soy are among the most common food intolerances associated with hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Intestinal permeability, known as “leaky gut,” is often an underlying cause of the development of an autoimmune disease. Removing foods that either increase intestinal permeability and/or increase the inflammatory processes of Hashimoto’s can result in significant symptom reduction.
We suggest working with a functional medicine doctor or nutritionist to explore if/how food sensitivities may be impacting your thyroid.
Manage Stress and Other Lifestyle Changes
Cortisol, our main stress hormone, can block the conversion of T4 to active T3 and increase reverse T3, thus impairing thyroid function. Integrating stress management techniques into your daily routine will help your body naturally regulate cortisol levels and support healthy thyroid function. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Deep breathing
- Nature walking
- Coloring books
- Calming music
We know this can seem like A LOT. That’s why we’re here to support you on your health journey. Book a 15-minute consultation with us to learn more about how our membership can be supportive of your thyroid health, and get you back to a symptom-free life.
Dr. Cassie Wilder is a registered Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) and founder of MIMC. Her passion is empowering her patients through education, understanding, and support through their healing journey. After graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and Health, Dr. Wilder earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences, a fully accredited and nationally recognized institution in Phoenix, AZ. During her clinical training, she received extensive hands-on training with many leading experts in the field of functional medicine and developed a passion for treating hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular concerns, and adrenal fatigue.