Foods + Thyroid: The Good, The Bad + The Ayurvedic Perspective (+ Recipes!)

Try these iodine-rich foods, supplements, and recipes for healthy thyroid hormone balance.

In This Article

Why do our thyroids need our support? 

The thyroid is perhaps the most sensitive organ in the body, especially when it comes to the environment. To make matters worse, in America, we are dumping some four billion environmental pollutants into the environment each year.1 

Today, an estimated 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid conditions. A shocking 60% of Americans who have a thyroid condition are not even aware of it. 

Children may be the most vulnerable to a toxic environment. In one report, 25% of neurobehavioral issues in children were linked to environmental toxin exposure, and between 400,000 and 600,000 of the four million children born each year are negatively affected by such toxins.2 

Why is Iodine So Important? 

While most of us are aware that iodine is a precursor to making thyroid hormones (T4 into T3), the role of iodine only begins with the thyroid. Iodine receptors exist in each of the many trillions of cells in the body and regulate cellular function, like the movement of nutrition into the cell and the lymph drainage of toxins out of each cell. 

Iodine was thought to be an antibiotic in the 1800s. Even today, before surgery, doctors rub the area to be operated on with iodine to support immunity.14 

We recommend "10 Reasons to Consider an Iodine Supplement": https://lifespa.com/10-reasons-consider-an-iodine-supplement/

The Far-Reaching Benefits of Iodine 

  • Supports the body’s antioxidant activity 
  • Supports natural detoxification 
  • Supports healthy thyroid function 
  • Supports optimal hormonal function 
  • Supports memory, energy, mood, and weight 

Iodine Deficiency 

While great strides have been made in fighting this epidemic, there is still ample work to be done. Here are some statistics: 

  • From 1971-1994, iodine intake levels in the United States decreased by 50%, according to the National Health Nutritional Examination Survey.1 
  • Since then, iodine intake levels have stabilized, but at levels considered by experts to be on the low end of sufficient. Many groups are still considered to be at-risk, including women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and those on a voluntarily restrictive diets.2-4 
  • According to the World Health Organization, 40-72% of the world’s population live in areas considered at-risk for iodine deficiency.8,15,16 

Sea vegetables have been a primary dietary source of iodine for many, but heavy metal and radiation exposure has had a devastating impact on certain oceanic environments.6,7 Heavy metals and halogens like fluoride, bromide, and chloride all compete with the body’s iodine receptors. While there are iodine receptors throughout the body, the thyroid and breast tissue carry the most receptors, making them the most vulnerable.3-5 

Many studies have now linked iodine supplementation to protection of breast tissue from uptake of toxic environmental estrogens.3 The studies suggest a dose of 1-3 mg of iodine per day to adequately protect the breast from unhealthy estrogen exposure.4 Since the body uptakes both iodine and potassium iodide, be sure to source a supplement with both forms of iodine.5 

If you were using LifeSpa’s Iodine HP (12.5mg iodine/iodide) supplement, just 1 capsule every two weeks would be enough to protect your breasts and ensue that you are getting optimal iodine supplementation. 

In numerous studies, iodine/iodide supplementation has also been found to significantly increase the urinary detoxification of toxic halogens like fluoride, chloride and bromide5,9 thus taking a significant toxic load off the thyroid. In one study, only one day after supplementing with 50mg of iodine, urinary excretion of bromide increased by nearly 50% and fluoride by 78%.10,11 

We recommend "Methylation-Balancing Foods to Support Healthy Aging": https://lifespa.com/methylation-nutrients-aging/

Getting Thyroid Nutrients from Our Food 

Iodine may be the primary food for the thyroid, but there are many others that play supportive roles. Perhaps more important than what we do eat is what we should not eat. 

Processed and refined foods are incredibly difficult and sometimes impossible for us to completely digest. They are also extremely deficient in the nutrients the thyroid needs to stay healthy in a toxic world. 

In their new book, The Essential Thyroid Cookbook, authors Lisa Markley and Jill Grunewald do a fantastic job explaining the nutrients that a healthy thyroid requires. They also identify foods high in these nutrients. 

8 Food Sources of Iodine: Iodine-Rich Foods12 

  1. Seaweed 
  2. Cod, sardines, salmon, shrimp 
  3. Yogurt, plain 
  4. Salt (iodized), not exposed to air for more than 4 weeks 
  5. Milk (cow’s) 
  6. Fish sticks 
  7. Bread 
  8. Eggs, boiled 

Diets at risk for iodine deficiency include those void of ocean fish and sea vegetables, reduced salt diets (or consuming sea salt replacements instead), and vegetarian or vegan diets. 

Vegetarians, who get their nutrition from iodine-depleted soils, generally have significantly low levels of iodine. In one study, iodine deficiency was noted in 25% of vegetarians and a whopping 80% of vegans.13 

Thyroid Vital Nutrients, from The Essential Thyroid Cookbook 

Minerals

Vitamins and Other Nutrients

Ayurvedic Herbs to Support Thyroid Health

Guggul for Thyroid 

In one study, guggul (Commiphora mukul) was shown to increase uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland. This is perhaps due to enhanced activities of thyroid peroxidase and protease, as well as oxygen consumption, all of which were found with guggul supplementation.17 

Another study on guggul supplementation suggests that its constituent factors have the ability to counteract thyroid dampening agents in otherwise healthy subjects.18 

In a final study, after 30 days, certain constituents in guggul were found to boost activity of enzymes—like super-oxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and lipid peroxides (LPO)—all of which support healthy thyroid function. This increased antioxidant activity is thought to be responsible for the increase in T3 and T4 thyroid hormone levels also noted in this study.19 

Ashwagandha for Thyroid 

According to Ayurveda, guggul is best used in conjunction with ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Studies suggest there are constituents in ashwagandha that also support healthy lipid peroxide levels (LPO) in the liver, where thyroid hormones are manufactured.20 

SOD and CAT levels were found to be significantly increased after supplementation with ashwagandha. Certain constituents in ashwagandha are thought to support natural production of these enzymes, which counteract thyroid-depressing agents in otherwise healthy individuals, resulting in higher levels of T4, the precursor hormone to T3, considered the active thyroid hormone.21,22 Other studies have measured a boost in both T3 and T4 levels in correlation with ashwagandha supplementation.22 

Ashwagandha is one of the world’s most potent adaptogens, which means it supports a healthy response to stress. In one study, 64 chronically stressed subjects were given 300mg of ashwagandha twice a day for two months. The group that ingested ashwagandha saw a significant reduction in scores on all stress-assessment scales compared to placebo.6 

In The Essential Thyroid CookbookLisa created delicious recipes using all of these nutrient-dense, thyroid-healthy foods. Jill guides us through the basics of thyroid function and why these nutrients are so essential to balancing thyroid function. Below, find four of these carefully-crafted recipes!!! 

Watch my podcast with Jill and Lisa, and learn how to eat to support a healthy thyroid. Truly put into action what Hippocrates so eloquently said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” 

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Download

Coconut Banana Matcha Smoothie

Download

Flourless Triple Chocolate Walnut Brownies

Download

Golden Cauliflower “Rice

Download

References

  1. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/children/areas-of-care/childrens-environmental-health-center/childrens-disease-and-the-environment/children-and-toxic-chemicals 
  2. http://www.mountsinai.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/mount-sinai-childrens-environmental-health-center-publishes-a-list-of-the-top-ten-toxic-chemicals-suspected-to-cause-autism-and-learning-disabilities 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2452979/ 
  4. https://lifespa.com/iodine-support-for-healthy-breasts/ 
  5. Brownstein, Iodine. 2009. Med. Alt Press. p.58 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3487052/ 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4371089/ 
  8. http://apps.who.int/gb/archive/pdf_files/EB103/ee27.pdf 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3204293/ 
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11275672/ 
  11. Brownstein, D. Overcoming Thyroid Disorders (2nd edition). Medical Alternatives Press. 2008 
  12. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/ 
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12748410 
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2809986/ 
  15. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrendo.2012.43 
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23472655 
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17340256 
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22557386 
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15798994 
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10619390 
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9811169 
  22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/ 

21 thoughts on “Foods + Thyroid: The Good, The Bad + The Ayurvedic Perspective (+ Recipes!)”

  1. I have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and have been on synthroid for years. My rheumatologist says that natural thyroid boosting supplements, i.e. kelp, will increase my thyroid production, but also will cause it too completely burn out faster. Thoughts?

    Reply
  2. I can’t seem to find the 4 free recipes that we advertised in the email about this article. I tried to follow all the links and liked through the article, can you direct me where to find them?

    Reply
    • Hi Pax,

      Dr. John has not written about thyroid needs/function changing as we age. Please consider scheduling a consultation with Dr. John to get individualized advice. I will let him know you inquired about this and hopefully he chooses to write about it in the future.

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
  3. Some sources advocate avoiding gluten for thyroid issues. Has Dr. John addresses this, and if not, I’d appreciate his thoughts on it.Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa,

      I asked Dr. John for you:
      “Yes, until digestion is strengthened, in certain thyroid issues, gluten should be avoided.”

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
  4. Thank you for the informative article. I appreciate your mission and believe in it whole heartedly. I am a 55 yo female and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s 7 years ago. I’ve tried many diets with limited and temporary success. I have been able to discontinue take synthyroid under the care of my endocrinologist and Ayurvedic practitioner. I have been following an Ayurvedic lifestyle for the past year and half, and have found it to be the most helpful in relieving my symptoms. Another helpful resource, a book, Healing The Thyroid with Ayurveda by Marianne Teitelbaum, D.C..
    Has Dr. Douillard read this book? What are his thoughts on this resource?
    Thank you for all that you do !

    Reply
    • Hi Noel,

      Dr. John has not read it but says “Marianne is a very accomplished Ayurveda partitioner who I have know for decades”

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
  5. These recipes look so good. Are they all from the same cookbook? Would love to have that cookbook if you have the name. Thank you!!

    Reply
  6. Hi Dr. John: I have a thyroid question. At age 23, 2/3 of my thyroid was surgically removed due to hyperthyroidism. I was fine until age 40. I went on synthroid and have been taking synthetic since then. I am now 77 with good energy and great health. Thankfully. Question: can a thyroid diet and thyroid supplements be of any help at this point? I was under the impression that my remaining thyroid had atrophied. I currently have a small cyst on the thyroid gland. It appears to be stable.

    Reply
  7. I tried the flourless brownie recipe and it was easy, quick, and delicious. I’m a health coach and I’m always looking for easy, delicious recipes that won’t overwhelm the average person.

    Reply

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