Jennifer Duran, RDN
Struggling with a thyroid condition, such as hypothyroidism is frustrating. And if you’ve been struggling with the condition for a while without diagnosis, you probably haven’t been feeling your best.
Luckily, there are strategies you can implement to support your thyroid through diet and lifestyle. As a Dietitian who works with clients 1:1, I suggest making small changes, focusing on strategies you can easily implement, and feel confident about getting started on.
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid hormone production drops. The thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid produces hormones that regulate your body’s energy use, along with many other essential functions. Too little thyroid hormone slows the body’s metabolism, which means it takes more time to burn calories at rest. Hypothyroidism affects an estimated 20 million Americans.
Here are five principles addressing diet, movement and stress to start including in your lifestyle that will help support thyroid, improve energy and support weight management.
1. Whole Foods Diet
There’s a lot of information out there on different types of diets, removing whole groups of food, and buying speciality products. It can be very overwhelming and not necessarily the best place to start. Focusing on eating a whole foods diet is a great way to begin, when looking to support your thyroid before diving in to too many specifics. A whole foods diet means eating a variety of foods that are close to their natural state, without additives. This includes a mix of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats/fish, legumes, eggs and starches. Take a day to look over common foods in your pantry and fridge to identify any overly processed, packaged foods that might have excess additives and/or colorants. These are foods you want to remove from your routine.
Meals don’t need to be complicated, build plates with a combination of whole foods that are fresh. Breakfast can look like 2 scrambled eggs with spinach and avocado, 1⁄2 cup of blackberries and a slice of sourdough or gluten free toast.
2. Identify Sensitivities & Remove
Each individual may have different food sensitivities. If you are aware of certain allergies or sensitivities that you have, eliminate these foods from your diet as regularly consuming these foods can further aggravate issues. If you suspect a sensitivity, dairy is a common one for many, doing a temporary elimination trial could be helpful. We typically recommend a 30 day trial, removing the food completely during the time period, and slowly reintroducing after the end of 30 days. During the trial, pay close attention to digestion, energy, and skin, all of which can be negatively impacted when overly exposed to a food you’re sensitive to.
Not everyone has food allergies or sensitivities, and if you don’t have one, there is no need to go out of your way to look for one. But if you haven’t been feeling your best or are struggling with low thyroid, you may benefit from paying close attention to what you are consuming and how you feel after meals. Symptoms like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, extreme sluggishness, stomach pain, etc could all be signs of a sensitivity.
3. Anti Inflammatory Foods
Eating foods that reduce inflammation is key for thyroid support and maintaining a healthy body. Pro inflammatory foods can include excess added sugar, processed meats (sausages for example), packaged foods with excess preservatives and food colors. Take time to review your daily intake and how regularly you are consuming foods that may lead to inflammation.
The good news is there are foods that have the opposite impact and can reduce inflammation. Foods like Omega 3 Rich Fish, Herbs and Spices (turmeric and cinnamon for example) and fiber rich fruits, vegetables and grains can all assist in quenching inflammation.
Easy ways to add these foods into your routine include adding cinnamon to fruit and tea. Add a spice rich meal to your weekly routine like a curry and enjoy a turmeric rich golden milk as a midday treat.
4 . Prioritize Quality Sleep
If you are struggling with a sluggish thyroid, you probably are feeling tired, with low energy pretty consistently but may be struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep in the night. Making sure you get plenty of sleep each night (aim for 7-9 hours / nightly) and sleep that is good quality can make a significant difference in how your thyroid functions and how you feel each day.
There are a variety of ways you can support your sleep quality, starting with the beginning of the day. Our body has a natural sleep cycle that starts in the morning. Waking up and exposing ourselves to natural sunlight is a good way to start the day. Throughout the day, watch caffeine intake, limiting caffeine after 12pm and pay close attention to any alcohol you consume as this can disrupt quality of sleep. Before bed, implementing a wind down routine can help alert the body it is time to rest and relax. A wind down routine can include a hot shower, which helps to lower body temperature, shutting off lights and electronics, and reading a book or journaling before sleep while in bed. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable and temperature is cool to support deep sleep.
5 . Practice Mindfulness
Chronic stress can have a significant impact on your thyroids ability to function normally. When stressed,
the adrenal glands are prioritized over thyroid regulation. Additionally, cortisol, our stress hormone, can interfere with the conversion of T4 to T3, making everything sluggish.
We experience stress on a daily basis and left uncontrolled or unmanaged, it can lead to chronic stress. Implementing a mindfulness practice can help decrease stress, bringing you into the present moment and being able to better manage your response.
Mindfulness is a practice and can take time to implement. You can start by spending a few minutes in the morning mindfully stretching, writing or quietly enjoying your coffee. A breathing exercise or midday walk can help break you away from the work day and bring you back into the present moment. With more practice, you might find yourself naturally seeking mindful moments allowing you to approach situations with calm.
Jennifer Duran, RDN Dietitian at We Are Well
Jennifer Duran is a Dietitian, Health Coach and Founder of We Are Well. Jennifer works 1:1 with women looking to feel confident and lose weight by balancing blood sugars. She follows an integrative and holistic approach, striving to understand her clients values and goals, providing an individualized experience.