A big key to weight loss and keeping the weight off is optimizing thyroid function. I recommend women get their thyroid checked yearly and men at least every few years. Hypothyroidism is a very common condition and a major culprit in weight gain and in difficulty losing weight.
Symptoms of hypothyroid include:
- weight gain
- puffy face
- trouble tolerating cold
- joint and muscle pain
- dry skin
- dry, thinning hair
- decreased sweating
- heavy or irregular menstrual periods
- fertility problems
- slowed heart rate
Reference ranges vary from lab to lab but generally 0.5 to 4.5 is considered a normal range. However subclinical hypothyroid with the presentation of many hypothyroid symptoms can occur for many people once TSH is above 2.0 and even more significantly as it reaches above 3.0. Optimal weight loss and body composition correlate with a TSH that is below 2.0. Making dietary adjustments and stress reduction can be helpful whether you have a long history of hypothyroid and are on medication but still having signs and symptoms of hypothyroid or your TSH is just a little above 2.0 and you want to get that thyroid edge back!
Top 5 essential food-related steps to start optimizing thyroid:
- No soy. None, zero, zilch! Soy suppresses thyroid function. Soy contains goitrogens which largely block iodine absorption. Iodine is the thyroid’s biggest ally. My at-home alternative to soy sauce is coconut aminos, a great alternative and coconut is neutral to supportive to the thyroid, depending on the form.
- The average American is not consuming enough iodine. Iodine is key to thyroid health, as well as breast health. Make sure you are consuming weekly sources of naturally-occurring iodine from seafood, saltwater fish, and seaweeds like arame, dulse, hijiki, kelp, nori, and wakame. Here are some easy ways to make seaweed happen in your diet…think toasted seaweed snacks, a seaweed salad with sushi, Nori avocado or veggie rolls, condiment forms of dulse and kelp that you can sprinkle on food. You can also take kelp or mixed seaweed supplements. Avoid taking iodine as potassium iodine, this is not a plant source of iodine and for many, it can make your symptoms and condition worse, especially if autoimmune thyroid/ Hashimoto’s is present.
- Take good care of your liver! Supporting your liver will help to support the thyroid by improving overall hormone metabolism and aid in the conversion of T4 to the more active T3 hormone! Support your liver and improve T4 to T3 conversion by eating bitter greens like arugula, endive, dandelion, mustard greens, radicchio, and watercress, as well as more common semi-bitter and sweet greens like chard, kale, collard, and spinach. Lots of leafy greens are also a good source of Tyrosine which also aids in the conversion of T4 to T3. Take alcohol, sugar, fried foods, and white flour out of your diet to further support your liver. The spice turmeric has been shown to aid in liver detoxification and liver tonic supplements like milk thistle, dandelion and guggul can aid in reversing weight gain related to an underactive thyroid.
- Three minerals your thyroid needs to function optimally are magnesium, zinc, and selenium, especially selenium, maybe the most essential nutrient in converting inactive T4 to active fat burning T3! The best sources of selenium are brazil nuts and sunflower seeds, fish, sardines, halibut salmon, pinto beans, and navy beans, additionally, selenium can be found in all meats and eggs. The best sources of magnesium are leafy greens, especially chard, as well as avocados, nuts, and fish like halibut. Zinc can be found abundantly in all meat, as well as in garbanzo beans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and mushrooms.
- Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D. Most people don’t get enough from the sun or from foods like fish, grass-fed butter, and pastured eggs. Consider supplementing with Vitamin D if your levels are below 30.
Also, ask your doctor to run a TPO and TgAb test to rule out autoimmune thyroid/Hashimoto’s. This is different than primary hypothyroidism and needs to be treated differently. This condition is on the rise and you want to know if you have it so you can be proactive! Paying more attention to immune modulation, gut health, vitamin D, and avoiding gluten is essential for reversing symptoms of Hashimoto’s and losing the weight for good!