Ladies – how many of you have asked your doctor to check your thyroid because your waistline is expanding and your energy is waning? You’re definitely not wrong to jump to this conclusion!
Hypothyroidism (the medical term for low thyroid function) seems to be on the rise. Why is this? Well, one of the main reasons for increased incidents of hypothyroidism is our chronically stressed society – we are always on the go, worrying about meeting a deadline or missing an appointment, or faced with financial problems.
Another reason is our soil here in the Prairies lacks sufficient iodine. A slightly less likely cause is the constant reminder to eat less sodium – iodine from salt is not going to help your thyroid as much as iodine from naturally occurring sources, like seaweed or seafood.
Women seem to be more affected by low thyroid function and a lot of women are put on medication for this once they reach menopause. High estrogen levels are often correlated with low thyroid but a sluggish, overworked liver can also negatively affect how well your thyroid works.
Your thyroid doesn’t just secrete hormone on its own – there’s a very intricate balance between the hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid gland; if one of these glands and/or the chemicals transferred between them is out of balance, you can experience thyroid issues.
Malnutrition, exposure to low-quality soy (aka, that found primarily in processed, North American soy products), a low protein diet, and overconsumption of raw goitrogen foods, like kale, spinach, broccoli, radishes, peanuts, peaches, cauliflower and millet, can also cause hypothyroidism.
But perhaps one of the biggest contributors to low thyroid function is something that we’ve been using for almost a century. In fact, low thyroid health issues started to rise when this product was introduced to the world. What is it? Polyunsaturated oils!
How many of you use vegetable oil to cook? Vegetable oils like canola, grapeseed, sunflower, safflower and soybean oils oxidize at high temperatures, which causes free radical damage in the body. Free radicals directly affect the liver, which is where your T4 is converted to the usable form, T3. Monounsaturated oils like olive, avocado and flaxseed should NEVER be heated above a medium temperature because they will also oxidize; otherwise, these three oils are very healthy to eat unheated, like on salads.
Just a note – polyunsaturated fats from salmon, mackerel, walnuts and sunflower seeds are still great for you; it’s just the plant-based oils above that cause damage when heated.
But there is one type of oil that has raised a lot of controversy lately – saturated oil. And one saturated oil in particular is really good for your thyroid!
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, lauric acid and medium chain fatty acids, which makes it highly usable as a source of energy and nourishment to the thyroid. Lauric acid is converted to monolaurin that is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal to help destroy viruses and bacteria in the body. Coconut oil also helps suppress inflammation throughout the body and repairs tissue. Coconut oil is great for brain function too!
Coconut oil is not a cure for hypothyroidism, however, so don’t quit any medications without talking to your doctor. There is little scientific evidence yet that coconut oil directly affects the thyroid, but it has been shown to give you more energy and help with weight loss, especially when consumed regularly. Coconut oil is a much healthier oil for cooking and eating than most vegetable oils because it doesn’t cause oxidative stress.
In addition to a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil daily, you should focus on maintaining a relaxed attitude every day, especially at mealtime, and consume lots of fruits, vegetables and leafy greens to promote liver health. Avoid polyunsaturated fats for cooking and look for them hidden in processed, packaged foods. And, take a high-quality multivitamin/mineral complex daily to ensure you are giving your thyroid the nutrients it needs to remain healthy.