From Christine in Elizabethton: Hi Dr. Kim, lately I have experienced low energy and weight gain. I went to have my thyroid tested and it came back “borderline” low functioning. Is there anything I can do besides medication to keep my thyroid working?

To Christine: Thanks for your question. The thyroid gland is very important in maintaining long-term health, because it controls metabolism and influences calcium levels. There are many ways to nurture the thyroid and keep it working, many of them food-related. In this article I’ll share the most effective ways to help your thyroid.

Some reasons for a low-functioning thyroid include: iodine deficiency, autoimmune disorders, nodules, exposure to radiation, genetics, stress, nutritional deficiency, overworked immune system (in people who have had Epstein Barr Virus or catch many virulent colds), and toxicity, which can include exposure to toxins from smoking, artificial sweeteners, chemical exposure to pesticides, excessive exposure to allergens, and workplace chemicals.

Step 1 to protect the thyroid is to reduce exposure to toxins. Quit smoking, cut out sweeteners, especially the fake ones that contain aspartame. Wash your vegetables before cooking them, and avoid anything that is a known allergy trigger for you.

Step 2 is to clean up exposure to stress if you can. Avoid toxic people and situations. Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day to regulate the endocrine system. Take dinner early so as to avoid eating late at night. Reduce screen time, especially on the cell phone late at night.

Step 3 Be mindful of food. There are food that can boost the thyroid and foods that harm it. Beneficial foods are: seaweeds, sea food, eggs, grass-fed beef, nuts and seeds, organic yogurt, spinach, lettuce, and arugula. Pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, and garlic are also good. 

Avoid the cruciferous vegetables or only eat them in moderation, since they are known to slow thyroid function. These are: broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. Avoiding soy and limiting gluten is a good idea for people trying to boost thyroid health. Absolutely avoid all sodas, especially the ones labeled “diet” because they contain the most artificial sweeteners which are toxic to the thyroid.

Step 4 Keep your metabolism going. Low-impact exercises like walking, hiking, yoga, tai chi, and even gardening will help to wake up the thyroid and regulate the metabolism.

Step 5 Guard your immunity. Always wash your hands after visiting the toilet. Wipe the hand rails of shopping carts, and in flu seasons, consider wearing a mask. An immune system that is always fighting something off will take energy away from an already low-functioning thyroid. The goal is to avoid catching viruses. We all do our best, inevitably “bugs” will go around, but maintaining hygiene awareness will do wonders for prevention. Step 6 Continue to get your thyroid checked regularly. If the function becomes lower, medication to support the thyroid might be something to consider. The D Vitamins D2 and D3 support a healthy thyroid. Ask for your vitamin D levels to be checked and if needed see if you can get a prescription for Vitamin D.