Thyroid health: A weight loss advantage

by Cherie Calbom, M.S.

This article was originally published in November 2005

(November 2005) — An under-active thyroid gland might be the reason you can’t lose weight.

There are a number of symptoms that can indicate you have a sluggish thyroid such as fatigue, depression, weight gain, cold hands and feet, low body temperature, sensitivity to cold, a feeling of always being chilled, joint pain, headaches, menstrual disorders, insomnia, dry skin, puffy eyes, hair loss, brittle nails, constipation, mental dullness, frequent infections, hoarse voice, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and low sex drive.

Because many of these symptoms are general or seemingly unrelated, many health care professionals do not think about sluggish thyroid as a potential cause, and the condition goes undiagnosed and untreated.

Determining low thyroid
To help determine your thyroid health, you can take your body temperature for four mornings in a row before you get out of bed. Shake down a glass thermometer to below 95 degrees and place it by your bed before you go to sleep.

Upon waking, place the thermometer in your armpit for a full ten minutes. It is important to move as little as possible during this time. Remain still with your eyes closed. Don’t get up for any reason. After ten minutes, record the temperature and date.

This should be done for four consecutive mornings. Individuals with normal functioning thyroids have a resting basal body temperature between 97.6 and 98.2. Basal body temperatures below this range may reflect hypothyroidism or an under-active thyroid.

What is causing a hypothyroid epidemic?
Diet plays a major role in thyroid health. Low iodine intake leads to low thyroid function and eventually to goiter. Iodized salt was intended to solve this problem, but sodium chloride does not seem to be a good delivery system.

Environmental stress such as chemical pollutants, pesticides, mercury and fluoride also are tough on the thyroid gland. Add to that a number of foods known as goitrogens (iodine blockers that are frequently eaten such as soy products and peanuts) and a picture develops as to why thyroid problems are on the rise.

Correcting thyroid problems
Rather than simply taking thyroid medication, it is very important to identify the underlying causes of poor thyroid health. You may need to take medication until you have sufficiently restored healthy thyroid function. But simply taking thyroid hormone replacement drugs for a lifetime does not feed the thyroid or correct its dysfunction.

Here’s what you can do to nourish your thyroid:

Eat only healthy fats and oils.
Virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil are the healthiest choices. Virgin coconut oil has helped many people restore healthy thyroid function. Be aware that most commercial salad dressings and mayonnaise contain soybean oil (a goitrogen) or other unhealthy polyunsaturated oils. Perhaps the single most important dietary change you can make is to replace soy-based vegetable oils with coconut and olive oils.

Consume plenty of iodine-rich foods.
Iodine is most abundant in sea vegetables, cranberries, fish and eggs. Season foods with dulse, a sea vegetable, or kelp powder in place of salt. Use Celtic sea salt whenever possible; it is loaded with minerals including iodine. Eat more fish, especially the smaller coldwater fish such as salmon (avoid farm raised), sardines, mackerel and snapper, as well as halibut and sole. Avoid the larger fish such as tuna and swordfish; they tend to be higher in mercury, which interferes with thyroid function.

Take vitamin and mineral supplements and cod liver oil.
A number of nutrients have been shown to contribute to thyroid health including zinc, selenium, manganese, chromium, and vitamins B, C, E and A. The thyroid gland requires very high levels of vitamin A.

Avoid goitrogens.
Foods known as goitrogens can block iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland; they include turnips, cabbage, mustard, pine nuts, millet, peanuts and soybeans. Until your thyroid health is restored, you may want to avoid these foods completely or eat them very sparingly.

Peanuts and soybeans are quite prevalent in the American diet. Soy shows up often in many commercially made salad dressings, mayonnaise and packaged foods containing textured vegetable protein (soy) such as veggie burgers, energy bars, snack foods and baked goods. Soy milk and soy ice cream commonly are used as an alternative to dairy. Choose only traditional fermented soy foods such as tempeh and soy sauce and eat them sparingly.

Achieving thyroid health
The best approach to maintaining a healthy thyroid and proper weight management is to eat whole foods that will nourish the thyroid, add the nutrients recommended, especially iodine, avoid foods and substances that tax the thyroid, and cleanse the body of toxins and heavy metals.

As you follow these guidelines, you can expect to see improvement in thyroid function in just a few weeks. If you need to lose weight, the pounds should melt away naturally as you follow the guidelines. As you improve your thyroid function, you can look forward to achieving your ideal weight and living a higher quality of life.

Cherie Calbom, M.S., is the author of 14 books including the best sellers The Coconut Diet (Warner), Juicing for Life (Avery), and The Ultimate Smoothie Book (Warner). She earned a masters degree in nutrition from Bastyr University, where she now serves on the Board of Regents.

Join her March 25 to April 1, 2006 for the Coconut Cruise, a cruise through the Caribbean, where you’ll learn how to prepare delicious weight-loss promoting recipes and get individualized plans for weight loss success. For more information, see

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