Personal Health Intiative Training

The Butterfly Effect

I think we all remember when Oprah Winfrey revealed that she had thyroid disease and that it has caused her weight problems throughout the years. There are two types of thyroid issues…hyperthyroidism (excessive) and hypothyroidism (underactive).  Here is a more detailed explanation from

“The thyroid is the butterfly shaped gland that impacts metabolism in adults. It responds to and is regulated by feedback loops and plays a vital role in maintaining body temperature and homeostasis.”


      Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when T4 levels drop and the body begins a metabolic slow down. Hypothyroidism was first diagnosed in the late nineteenth century when physicians observed swelling of the hands, face, feet, and tissues around the eyes after surgically removing the thyroid gland from patients. The syndrome was called myxedema and corresponds with the absence of thyroid hormones.

The term myxedema is still used today and is often associated with a severe lack of thyroid hormone that often leads to coma. Other common terms used in discussing hypothyroidism are autoimmune disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Both of these ailments result in a less than fully functioning thyroid gland.

Hypothyroidism is usually progressive and irreversible, but today’s treatment schedules are very successful and allow for full, normal living. Combined with the symptoms listed below in the table, a rising TSH level is a good indicator of a hypothyroid condition.

There are some unique risk factors associated with hypothyroidism. There are indications that individuals with ovarian failure, sleep apnea, premature gray hair and left-handedness are more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism.

Subclinical hypothyroidism is a more recent term used to identify increasing TSH levels and declining T4 levels.

Blood tests for T4 levels can still be normal and early symptoms of hypothyroidism may be exhibited.

Research is finding that subclinical hypothyroidism is very common (affecting about 10 million Americans). Fortunately, subclinical hypothyroidism does not often progress to the full-blown disorder in most people. However, some evidence suggests that even modest abnormal thyroid hormone levels may do some damage.

Hypothyroidism Signs & Symptoms
Early Symptoms Late Symptoms
Weakness Slow speech
Fatigue Dry flaky skin
Cold intolerance Thickening of the skin
Constipation Puffy face, hands and feet
Weight gain (unintentional) Decreased taste and smell
Depression Thinning of eyebrows
Joint or muscle pain Hoarseness
Thin, brittle fingernails and hair Abnormal menstrual periods


      Hyperthyroidism, also known as thyrotoxicosis, is a clinical condition caused by excess quantities of thyroid hormone in the body. The condition may be caused by over production by the thyroid gland or the pituitary gland releasing excessive TSH.

The excess of hormones can cause heat intolerance, increased energy, difficulty sleeping, diarrhea and anxiety and other symptoms as listed in the table.

Graves’ disease is the most common condition associated with hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease is a basic defect in the immune system that causes production of antibodies that stimulate and attack the thyroid gland. This attack on the thyroid causes growth of the gland and overproduction of thyroid hormone

Factitious hyperthyroidism is another hyperthyroid condition. It is associated with ingestion of excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone preparations have been available for over a century and taking excess prescription or glandular mixtures can also cause hyperthyroid conditions.

How Do You Get Graves’ Disease?
Graves’ Disease is a type of autoimmune disease in which the immune system over stimulates the thyroid gland, causing hyperthyroidism. Over-activity of the thyroid gland is also sometimes called “diffuse toxic goiter.”The thyroid gland helps set the rate of metabolism (the rate at which the body uses energy), and when it is over-stimulated, it produces more thyroid hormones than the body needs. High levels of thyroid hormones can cause difficult side effects.This is an extremely rare disease that tends to affect women over the age of 20. The incidence is about 5 in 10,000 people.

This is a condition that bodybuilders can fall into when taking thyroid hormones.

Hyperthyroidism Signs & Symptoms
Weight loss Weakness
Protruding eyes Sleeping difficulty
Increased appetite Clammy skin
Nervousness Skin blushing or flushing
Restlessness Bounding pulse
Heat intolerance Nausea and vomiting
Increased sweating Lack of menstruation
Fatigue Itching – overall
Frequent bowel movements Heartbeat sensations
Menstrual irregularities Hand tremor
Goiter (visibly enlarged thyroid) may be present Diarrhea
High Blood Pressure Hair loss

If there is a concern that you might have a underactive or overactive thyroid, you should get tested by your doctor…do no self diagnose. These conditions are not a life sentence to be overweight. With medication and a change in diet, you can be just as healthy and fit as the next person. Did you know that Jilliam Michaels was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when she was 30 years old? She attributes the onset to her unhealthy eating habits and certain hormonal medications she was taking. Ladies, anytime we put hormones in our bodies that are not natural, we can expect some type of side effect. It might not appear quickly but after years, it make take its toll. This includes birth control pills or any alteration to our menstrual cycle…our bodies were meant to shed each month…just something for you to keep in mind. Hormones are as equally important in weight loss as are diet changes and exercise. I highly recommend the Jillian Michaels book “Master Your Metabolism.” She really breaks it down and all of the information is reasearch based and scientifically proven.

Certain foods can help or hurt your thyroid levels. Check out this information below. With a little change and persistence you can live a normal and healthy life! 

Foods that May Speed Up a Slow Thyroid

1. Sea Weed

Naturally rich in iodine as well as trace minerals, sea weed has long been considered a food that supports thyroid function.   Indeed, native peoples subsisting on their traditional diets often went to very great lengths to obtain sea vegetables in effort to avoid goiter.   Iodine is critical to thyroid health and function.   Without adequate dietary iodine, your body is unable to manufacture the thyroid hormones.   Of course, excess intake of iodine-rich foods is also implicated in thyroid disease.   Remember: moderation is the key, not excess.   (Want to up your sea vegetable intake?   Try my coconut milk kanten with wild plums or my cucumber and daikon radish salad with hijiki.)

2. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil also supports proper thyroid function as it slightly stimulates thyroid hormone production and the metabolism.   In this way, wise incorporation of coconut oil into the diet is thought to support thyroid health and help sufferers of hypothyroidism to lose weight.   Coconut oil may also help to reduce cholesterol in hypothyroid patients as thyroid suppression in and of itself raises blood cholesterol levels.   Coconut oil is largely comprised of saturated fat and saturated fat promotes thyroid function.

3. Shellfish

Shellfish, like sea vegetables, are naturally rich in iodine – the nutrient that is critically important to thyroid function as iodine molecules are used in the production of thyroid hormones.

Foods that May Slow Down a Speedy Thyroid

1. Fermented Soy Foods

Soy is very goitrogenic. A strong suppressor of thyroid hormones, some research indicates that soy may even be more effective in thyroid suppression than anti-thyroid drugs.   Don’t forget that soy is a potent food, and that while sufferers of hyperthyroidism might welcome soy’s thyroid-suppressing effects, take care to eat soy in its fermented state in foods like tempeh and miso as soy also contains antinutrients like phytic acid which impair the body’s overall ability to absorb many nutrients.

2. Raw Cruciferous Vegetables

Raw cruciferous vegetables also suppress thyroid function.   Cruciferous vegetables like kohlrabi, cabbage, cauliflour, rapini, turnips and brussels sprouts contain goitrogens that interfere with iodine uptake and, in that way, also interfere with production of thyroid hormones.   (Want to get more raw cruciferous veggies into your diet?   Try my Simple Slaw with Flaxseed Oil & Honey.)

3. Millet

Millet, like cruciferous vegetables, contains goitrogens and interferes with iodine uptake. Cooking millet, as well as goitrogen-rich cruciferous vegetables, may mitigate its antithyroid effects to some degree.

Foods that Aren’t Doing Anyone’s Thyroid a Favor

1. Gluten-containing Grains

Recent research into autoimmune diseases and autoimmune thyroid disease in particular indicates that there’s a strong connection between celiac disease and thyroid disease.     Indeed, study published in Digestive Diseases & Science indicates that sufferers of autoimmune thyroid disease have roughly a 400% greater chance of also suffering from celiac disease than control groups.   Moreover, some research indicates that after 3-6 months on a gluten-free diet, those pesky anti-thyroid antibodies virtually disappear.   That’s a powerful case to remove wheat, barley and other gluten-containing grains from your diet if you suffer from any form of autoimmune thyroid disease.

2. Unfermented Soy

Unfermented soy foods – particularly those rich in concentrated isoflavones and genistien – contribute to autoimmune thyroid disease.   Reasearch into soy formula and its effects on babies indicates that babies fed soy formula are more likely to develope autoimmune thyroid disease and large concentrations of unfermented soy may adversely thyroid function in adults.   If you eat soy, keep to small amounts and always choose fermented forms.   (Learn more about the nastiness of too much soy consumption in my post about the Soy and Illinois Prisoner Case.)

3. Coffee

Coffee is simultaneously stimulating and goitrogenic which spell trouble for both hypo- and hyperthyroid sufferers.   As a   strong stimulant, it can wreak havoc on those suffering from hyperthyroidism as that added stimulation is the very last thing they need.   Moreover, for those suffering from hyperthyroidism, coffee also interferes with iodine uptake and thus may inhibit the formation of thyroid hormones.   Bad news for everyone.

A Note on Balance and Moderation

As with everything, if you suffer from thyroid disease or suspect you do, consult first with a physician and have that physician run the full panel of thyroid tests.   If your thyroid disease is found to be severe, work with an endocrinologist and a complementary physician of naturopathy or integrative medicine.   Remember, just because you suffer from hypothyroidism that’s not adequate cause to overeat iodine-rich foods; likewise, if you suffer from hyperthyroidism, that’s not adequate cause to overeat soy-rich foods as overeating any food can actually worsen the issue.

Lastly, take solace in the natural, wholesome beauty of well-composed dishes.   Consider how miso (goitrogenic) is paired with seaweed and dashi (iodine-rich).   Or take a look at the way fresh seafood (iodine rich) is paired with pickled daikon (goitrogenic).   Once you’ve achieved euthyroid status, eat complementary foods.

More foods for Hypothyroid Condition since it is the most common…

Hypothyroid Diet – Nutrition
A diet for hypothyroidism should include whole foods rich in iodine, niacin, riboflavin, zinc, as well as vitamins B6, C, and E. These nutrients naturally support proper thyroid functions as well as overall good health and vitality.

Iodine(Is a major component of thyroid hormone balance and is antimicrobial)

  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Seaweed
  • Strawberries
  • Tuna
  • Yogurt

High Polyphenols (Acts as an anti-fungal)

  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli (Goitrogenic Food – Limit consumption
    to 1 or 2 servings a week)
  • Cabbage (Goitrogenic Food – Limit consumption to 1 or 2 servings a week)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Eggplant
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Grapes
  • Green tea
  • Legumes
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Niacin (Is required for normal manufacture of thyroid hormone)

  • Brown rice
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Pomegranates
  • Tuna
  • Turkey

Riboflavin (Vitamin b2) (Is essential for normal manufacture of thyroid hormone)

  • Avocados
  • Clams
  • Duck
  • Fresh pork
  • Lamb
  • Milk
  • Mushrooms
  • Yogurt
Selenium(Helps to convert T-4 to T-3)

  • Brazil nuts
  • Cod
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Eggs
  • Garlic
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Snapper
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tuna
  • Turkey

Vitamin B6 (Is required for normal manufacture of thyroid hormone)

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Barley
  • Bok Choy
  • Brown rice
  • Chicken
  • Chickpeas
  • Fresh pork
  • Mangoes
  • Potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tuna
  • Turkey

Vitamin C (Boosts thyroid gland function)

  • Cabbage, red (Goitrogenic Food – Limit consumption to 1 or 2 servings a week)
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Oranges
  • Peppers, bell, red
  • Pineapples
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Tangerines and other mandarins

Vitamin E (Works with zinc and vitamin A to produce thyroid hormone)

  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Brazil nuts
  • Broccoli (Goitrogenic Food – Limit consumption to 1 or 2 servings a week)
  • Mangoes
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds

Zinc (Boosts thyroid function)

  • Barley
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Crab
  • Lamb
  • Oysters
  • Turkey
  • Wheat

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