The butterfly-shaped gland that sits inside of your neck, known as your thyroid, controls your metabolism. Thyroid health affects your menstrual cycle, fertility, body temperature, heart rate, energy, digestion, brain health, and more.
When I was 22, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's (an autoimmune disease of the thyroid) and hypothyroidism, which really sparked my interest in hormonal health.
Even though I had been working out 6 days a week and “eating clean,” I became 1 in 8 women to develop this disease. The brain fog, spontaneous weight gain, inflammation, skin changes, and fatigue were unbearable.
Since then, I’ve met countless other women dealing with thyroid disease or who are interested in thyroid health. I’ve also been in remission for almost 2 years with the help of proper monitoring, medication when I needed it, as well as lifestyle practices that specifically support thyroid health.
Loving your thyroid means living in a way that supports it’s important functions for your health. I want to share accessible, holistic ways you can support your thyroid hormones & live a happier, healthier life!
Here are 5 ways that every woman (regardless of if you have thyroid disease or just want to live your healthiest, hormone balanced life) can love her thyroid: 1) Natural, Healthy Cycles
During the luteal phase of our cycle, we produce a hormone called progesterone. Progesterone is a calming, relaxing, pro-thyroid sex hormone!
Progesterone supports the conversion of T4 (inactive hormone) to T3, which is the active thyroid hormone, by reducing Thyroid Binding Globulins in the blood that would otherwise slow the conversion down. Think of this like someone stepping in to direct traffic & help a car line go by smoothly!
Hormonal birth control can increase Thyroid Binding Globulin and can also cause nutritional deficiencies, such as with selenium, magnesium, & zinc, which can harm thyroid hormones. There is no research to suggest that hormonal birth control or oral contraceptives directly cause thyroid disease, but we do know that natural progesterone (not progestin) is beneficial.
Luteal phase is a time when women who cycle synch really lean into self-care, pull their energy back, and simplify their life to support progesterone’s ability to work it’s magic. You have a built in thyroid-boosting mechanism that God has already given you!
2) Love Your Liver
The liver is a key player in detoxification, which is how your body processes excess hormones and toxins from the body. Your liver is also where most of the T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 (active thyroid hormone) conversion process happens.
Alcohol, emotional stress, dehydration, environmental toxins, and poor nutrition can all put stress on the liver and keep it from doing its job as optimally as possible.
Reduce your alcohol intake by enjoying a kombucha or mocktail. The other day, I had a Topo Chico with lime and a Tajin rim. So refreshing!
Use the EWG Skin Deep Database to find non-toxic skincare and makeup products.
Increase your hydration with water & electrolytes.
Eat liver supporting vegetables, fruits, and herbs, like broccoli, brussel sprouts, beets, lemon, lime, pomegranate, dandelion root, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, and milk thistle.
These are a few small, but intentional & powerful ways you can support an incredibly important organ for your hormonal health!
(Note: It is a popular myth that people with thyroid disease cannot eat goitrogenic vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and kale. The evidence on this is not very strong and many people with thyroid disease don’t have sensitivities to these! To make them easier to digest, you can always cook them, which also reduces potential goitrogenic effects. As always, this is not intended as medical advice, so consult your doctor to discuss what may be right for you.)
3) Ditch Dieting
Many women start dieting or doing cardio a lot because they want to “tone up,” lose weight, or think this will help their metabolism. The truth is that calorie deficit, whether it’s from calorie restriction (eating less) or burning calories through exercise, actually slows down your metabolism. Metabolism is your body’s ability to use calories as energy, so when there are less available, your body slows down your metabolism to conserve energy.
Women with thyroid disease often suffer from low energy, so further lowering their energy availability isn’t helpful. It also reduces active T3 hormone.
To fuel your metabolism and support your thyroid, eat a variety of macronutrients and whole foods without restriction (aside from what’s medically necessary).
Incorporate strength training into your routine to build muscle, which is calorically expensive, meaning it's the tissue in your body that “costs” the most for your body to maintain. This means that just by having muscle in your body, you burn more calories. By maintaining muscle and eating more, that fires up your metabolism and isn’t as damaging to your thyroid.
If you have thyroid disease or are currently dealing with fatigue, then ditching HIIT workouts (at least for now) and opting for low intensity strength can make a huge difference for your body!
4) Vitamin D
Vitamin D isn’t a vitamin. It’s a hormone!
When we absorb Vitamin D through our skin from the sunlight, it’s synthesized. Our kidneys and liver activate it with the help of parathyroid hormone, then it’s used to control calcium metabolism.
You have Vitamin D receptors all over your body & Vitamin D deficiency is associated with thyroid disease, unhealthy or absent menstrual cycles, loss of bone density, and more.
Increasing Vitamin D levels through sun exposure, supplementation, & foods like salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and mushrooms can benefit women with thyroid disease (who are more prone to Vitamin D deficiency), as well as all women looking to have a healthy thyroid.
5) Reduce Blue Light Exposure
Blue light from cell phones, laptops, & TVs are known to interfere with sleep by tricking the brain into thinking that it’s still daytime, even into hours of the late night. They can also cause headaches, hyperpigmentation in your skin, & interfere with your thyroid levels.
Research has shown that high exposure to blue light leads to higher than normal TSH levels, which can indicate that you aren’t making enough thyroid hormone.
Using blue light glasses & getting a bluelight cover for your phone can help, but it’s also important to spend time without any screens before bed & to make sure that the first light you see in the morning is natural sunlight.
References: https://www.palomahealth.com/learn/hypothyroidism-birth-control-pills Khundmiri SJ, Murray RD, Lederer E. PTH and Vitamin D. Compr Physiol. 2016 Mar 15;6(2):561-601. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c140071. PMID: 27065162. Mackawy AM, Al-Ayed BM, Al-Rashidi BM. Vitamin d deficiency and its association with thyroid disease. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2013 Nov;7(3):267-75. doi: 10.12816/0006054. PMID: 24533019; PMCID: PMC3921055. Mortavazi S, Habib A, Ganj-Karami A, Samimi-Doost R, Pour-Abedi A, Babaie A. Alterations in TSH and Thyroid Hormones following Mobile Phone Use. Oman Med J. 2009 Oct;24(4):274-8. doi: 10.5001/omj.2009.56. PMID: 22216380; PMCID: PMC3243874. Torre F, Calogero AE, Condorelli RA, Cannarella R, Aversa A, La Vignera S. Effects of oral contraceptives on thyroid function and vice versa. J Endocrinol Invest. 2020 Sep;43(9):1181-1188. doi: 10.1007/s40618-020-01230-8. Epub 2020 Mar 26. PMID: 32219692.