The body is a beautiful symphony; when one part, especially the thyroid (the conductor of the symphony) is dysfunctional, the entire body seems “out of tune.” However, when the body is in balance there is this orchestral harmony that comes together to make sure the metabolism is high, the stress/adrenal reactions are balanced, detox pathways are clear which means hormonal levels are balanced, our hair and nails grow, our periods (or sperm count) are normal which makes fertility a greater likelihood, the birds are singing and the sky looks a little bluer.
In all seriousness, there is no way to selectively heal the body. If you treat one function you must make sure all of the functions are in balance. If there are only slight dysfunctions, nourishing one system will, generally, bring the others back into line, but, luckily, if you nourish one system you are more than likely nourishing them all.
Yesterday we looked at How to Destroy Your Thyroid, meaning many of the common foods and imbalances that can cause the thyroid to stop working properly. (And we were met with quite strong objections, I might add.) I understand when one chooses a side in the “partisan nutritics” battle, it can be hard to hear conflicting evidence, especially if you are taught eating muscle meat until you “moo” with little carbohydrates is the bomb diggity in getting your body into tip top shape, or raw veganism is the only way to nourish your body and that the body cannot metabolize cooked foods, you are taught to avoid sugar at all costs, to eat no fat, lots of whole grains, I mean really, it’s a lot to take in and understand, especially when you are battling a lot of these issues yourself. I know, I’ve been there.
One of the main reasons I got into clinical nutrition and onto holistic and functional nutrition is the fact that I got sick. Really sick. I won’t bore you with the details of just how sick I was but about 12 years ago half of my thyroid fell apart. Seriously, my thyroid function was “normal” however, it was also enlarged. When they went in to remove it, it literally disintegrated in the surgeon’s hands. I am not kidding in the slightest. The little piece they biopsied, thank God above was not cancerous but my body, with pretty much every system in my body, adrenals, immune, thyroid, liver, gut, had attacked my thyroid to the point where it literally fell apart. They removed the half of the thyroid affected but I still had a long way to go to heal myself. I tried absolutely everything; green juicing until I turned green, strict vegan, vegetarian and even Paleo eliminating fruits and ANY kind of sugar from my diet. I was pretty diligent in every new thing I tried. I did yoga religiously (still love that), experimented with raw in the dead of one winter (wow, that was a mistake and a half for my Vata constitution), you name it, in the name of healing, I did it. Intuitive eating went out the window. I realized that despite all my training as an Ayurvedic consultant , many many hours of research on thyroid health, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalance and cancer treatments, I had no idea how to heal my body. What was worse than that? I forgot my body, when given the right tools, knew how to heal itself.
Fast forward 12 years, my half of a thyroid is functioning perfectly normally (albeit a little low being pregnant with triplets) without medication, my adrenals are balanced, and my hormones…..well, I am pregnant with triplets so I wouldn’t call those balanced but I did get pregnant quickly and easily so they were balanced 5 and a half months ago. I am rarely ever ill and if I do feel unwell, it lasts a day, maybe two and my immune system works to kick out the invader. I also, thanks to becoming a Integrative and Functional Medicine practitioner, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and Holistic Health Coach, (along with countless biochemistry, functional endocrinology courses, and orthomolecular nutrition courses) understand the inner workings and interconnected nature of not only the endocrine system (to which the thyroid belongs) but how the endocrine system works with the circulatory, digestive, immune, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, urinary and even skeletel systems to create a balanced healthy human being. It took me a very long time (and a LOT of studying) to “get” that we are not the sum of individual “parts”. If the thyroid function is “down” you can bet your bottom dollar many functions like the immune system and adrenal glands are also “out of whack”. (I know. All that schooling and “out of whack” was the best I could come up with.?)
Here’s the good news. Though when I work with a client we often employ many different panels of tests to pinpoint the problem/s, and we very often suggest supplements of key nutrients and compounds to support, stimulate or calm the particular system of the body, we also have amazing luck with using nutrition to nourish the thyroid, adrenals, and immune system into working in perfect concert again.
I forgot my body, when given the right tools, knew how to heal itself.
So what can you do at home to nourish your thyroid?
Bone broth and high quality hydrolyzed bovine collagen or gelatin is a Godsend for thyroid function as it is incredibly nourishing and healing to the mucous membranes of the intestinal lining, incredibly good for “leaky gut” or IBS. Both bone broth and gelatin are nourishing for those with Celiac’s Disease or a gluten intolerance due to their rich proline and glycine amino acid profile as years of “microtearing” from whole grains due to gliadins, lectins, and gluten take their toll on the villi of the intestines.
Glycine is the simple amino acid imperative to the manufacturing process of other amino acids. It is vital in the body for the production of heme, the part of the blood that carries oxygen. It is also involved in glucogenesis (the manufacturing of glucose), supports digestion by boosting HCL (hydrochloric acid) and other gastric secretions. It is also essential for wound healing. It is a precursor amino acid for the manufacturing of glutathione and large amounts are needed for the liver to detoxify after chemical exposure or, in the case of estrogen dominance. Glutathione is one of the supplements I recommend for immune system modulations in treatment of both Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease so the benefits of glycine becomes important to many functions of the body that encourage the thyroid to function properly.
Proline is the amino acid essential to the structure of collagen and is imperative for healthy bones, skin, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. It is found in small amounts in many foods (even soy), however vitamin C is necessary to metabolize proline into its active form. It can be manufactured by the body, but evidence shows that adequate dietary protein is necessary to maintain an optimal level of proline in the body. Proline has also been shown to have a beneficial effect on memory and integral in the prevention of depression. Since depression can suppress thyroid function, preventing it is a positive step to improving thyroid function.
Minerals in bone broth are plentiful, being high in calcium and phosphorous and a decent source of magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfate and (naturally occurring non-toxic) fluoride.
Calcium is needed for healthy bones, muscle contraction and relaxation, proper blood clotting and tissue repair, normal nerve conduction, and endocrine balance (a biggie for both adrenal and thyroid function).
Phosphorus is the “fuel” for the generation of energy in the body being an important ingredient of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). It is also a super critical component of cell membranes and helps regulate intracellular pressure. A deficiency in phosphorus can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, muscle weakness, celiac disease, osteomalacia, and seizures. Incidentally calcium is needed to signal protein phosphatases (the breaking down of one phosphate bond to transform ATP to ADP which in turn transforms into cellular energy) showing you further how the presence minerals and vitamins lend themselves to the symphony of bodily functions. (It also shows you how calcium supplements without the proper support to help synthesize it into the body is like expecting your dog to perform brain surgery.)
Magnesium is the most common dietary deficiency in the U.S. (Zinc is the second most common.) The mineral is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body, is a cofactor for vitamins B1 and B6, and is needed in the synthesis of proteins, fatty acids, nucleic acids and prostaglandins. Proper nerve transmission, muscle contraction and relaxation, and parathyroid gland function are dependent on magnesium.
Tomorrow we will be looking at how to make bone broth.
In traditional diets (like the French) glycine rich meals are often consumed. Meat is cooked on the bone and liver patês are regularly consumed. In a Standard American Diet, even when high quality grass-fed or free range meats are consumed, often the “bits” are discarded in favor of “muscle meats” which lack the richness of glycine.
Rich in Vitamin C, which is necessary to metabolize proline, fresh orange juice (not the stuff in the box, and most certainly not the stuff in the tube!) also contains an ideal ratio of glucose to fructose as well as a hefty quantity of potassium and magnesium. Orange juice is pro-thyroid (the magnesium content works with the thyroid to moderate stress) and increases glucuronic acid which combines with other substances such as drugs, toxins, and hormones, and either carry them to other parts of the body or eliminates them through detoxification processes. (Remember, the ability to detox toxins and excess estrogen directly relates to how T4 converts to T3 in the liver.) This combining(conjugation) makes substances more water-soluble and easier to pass out of the body through the urine. The process also makes it easier for these substances, in this case, hormones, to be released wherever they are needed in the body.
Fresh orange juice is high in salicylates, (think salicylic acid in aspirin) which are powerfully anti-inflammatory. It can significantly reduce the stress hormones responsible for reduced insulin sensitivity or hypoglycemia. In conjunction with nutrient-dense foods such as wild shellfish, free-range eggs, raw dairy and liver on occasion) these sugars can help rehabilitate the metabolism and suppress degenerative stress hormones.
High quality complete protein which does not mean muscle meat at every meal. It should be noted that the best protein sources are those that are non-inflammatory which contain the right amino acid and mineral balance (less cysteine that suppresses the thyroid, and more glycine and less phosphorus, more calcium and selenium, which aids the liver in conversion of T4 to T3). These include free-range pastured eggs (from chickens who roam about eating bugs, grasses and seeds, not grain, and high quality unprocessed cheese (raw cheeses), raw whole milk (if tolerated) and wild fish and shellfish. With meat, look for wild when possible or grass fed and grass finished, cuts on the bone, slow roasted with a little acid like wine, vinegar, or tomatoes, to draw out it’s gelatinous collagen and glycine-rich juices (ie. osso-bucco or lamb shanks)– eating muscle meats alone are too inflammatory unless eaten with the naturally-occurring glycine from it’s cartilage and bone or, at the very least, with a tablespoon or two of gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen which will complete its amino acid profile.
Healthy saturated fats (not polyunsaturated), particularly organic butter(this should be YELLOW, not white!!) , grass-fed ghee and coconut oil. Coconut oil supports thyroid function, increases metabolic rate, is protective against the oxidation of PUFAs released from the tissue, and suppresses and prevents fungal overgrowth.
Eating well ripened fruit (especially tropical fruit like pineapple and mango)can refuel the liver with glycogen to resume it’s role in thyroid hormone synthesis (conversion of T4 to T3 requires glucose).
Getting plenty of sun and/or Vitamin D supplements (preferably the former) helps modulate the immune system, promotes endocrine balance by controlling absorption and storage of calcium and facilitates the absorbtion of other nutrients by the small intestines. Two nutrients most dependent on Vitamin D in the body are calcium and phosphorous. A deficiency of Vitamin D will not only cause problems throughout the body because of its many functions, but it can also lead to a deficiency of phosphorous and calcium as the body is unable to absorb those minerals in sufficient quantities.
Catching your ZZZZZs. Sleep is important for detoxification and restorative functions in the body. Make sure you get 8-10 hours at night when possible.
Of course, vegetables figure into this providing trace minerals and vitamins and I encourage you to eat lots of silicon, sulfur, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, and copper rich vegetables, but for the purpose of healing the thyroid which in turn will heal the adrenals, liver, and gut, dark green leafy vegetables should be cooked when eaten and either coated in butter, ghee, or coconut oil.
These are some of the best ways you can begin your healing journey at home. For a more in depth consultationto talk about supplementation and an individual treatment plan.