The Best and Worst Foods for Thyroid Health

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Announcer: You’re listening to RadioMD. What’s good and good for you? Why Family Food Kitchen of course. Here they are, Ellen Briggs and Carolina Jantac.

Interviewer: I remember when my mother had my older sister, they just trotted off to the doctor because they, she wanted their thyroids checked, and boy I just didn’t get it. I’d like, what’s the big deal about getting your thyroid checked? It’s just a little organ in your neck. I just didn’t get it. But here to explain why she was really on to something is our guest, Dr. Nikolas Hedberg. He’s the author of The Complete Thyroid Health and Diet Guide. Just write that down, The Complete Thyroid Health and Diet Guide, because by the time we’re finished talking with him, you’re gonna want to go get it. Thanks for being in our Family Food Kitchen today Dr. Nik. That’s what his patients call him, so I’m calling him Dr. Nik. Please explain why were you so compelled to write about your thyroid?

Dr. Hedberg: When I started practicing, I started seeing a lot of patients taking thyroid hormones and it really wasn’t helping. Then when I was out lecturing in the community on various health topics, one of the things I noticed is that every time I gave a thyroid lecture it was always standing room only. It was always a packed house. It was just such a big topic. So many people were suffering from thyroid problems, and the conventional treatment was failing them. So there was just a huge interest. And so, here’s the matter of seeing a lot of it, and just seeing the real interest in it in the public who just wasn’t getting answers.

Interviewer: Tell me how do you know that you have a thyroid problem? You said you had a roomful overflowing with people. How did they know they had thyroid problems?

Dr. Hedberg: Some of them were diagnosed with hypothyroidism already. They were taking medication, but it wasn’t helping. And then a lot of people identify with some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism, which are mainly fatigue, weight gain with an inability to lose weight, constipation, cold hands and feet, hair loss, depression, all kinds of metabolic problems where the body just can’t make energy, and those are really the main consequences of not being able to make energy.

Interviewer: That’s a really long list of symptoms that are attached to just that one organ, just the thyroid. So I guess it would be helpful if we explained, is the thyroid’s function directly related to all of those different functions you just mentioned as symptoms?

Dr. Hedberg: Right. Because basically what the thyroid does is it produces a hormone that controls metabolism. So if you’re wondering what happens to the food that you eat, where’s the energy made from, from the protein, carbohydrates, and fats? All of that is regulated by the thyroid hormone. So any symptoms that we would see related to a sluggish metabolism or an inability to burn and make energy from the food that you eat, we can tie those in with low thyroids. So fatigue, the weight gain, you can’t burn fat, constipation. The thyroid hormone really drives the movement of food through the intestine, so that would become sluggish. Skin, hair, and nails, those are all made from proteins and various vitamins and minerals. Depression, we can tie that in with serotonin metabolism etc. So yeah, a lot to tie in there and a lot of those symptoms can overlap with other health issues, but those are very, very common symptoms.

Interviewer: Boy, it sounds like everybody needs some help with their thyroid, but I want to ask this part of question. I have a very slow metabolism, but I don’t have a thyroid problem. My body functions well. I have lots of energy. I feed it right, but my metabolism does not burn a lot. Where, you’ve got the other people who just, their metabolisms are like furnaces that are in blaze all the time. So what is the distinction between having just a slow metabolism and having a thyroid problem?

Dr. Hedberg: The first thing is, how does one truly know if they don’t have a thyroid problem. So, according to conventional laboratory diagnosis, that’s actually going to miss quite a number of what we would call sub-clinical hypothyroidism, where it’s not very apparent on lab tests that the patient is hypothyroid but they might be sub-clinical. And that can actually create the issues that you’re talking about, even though it doesn’t show up. Now there are a number of factors that can cause sub-clinical hypothyroidism as well as a sluggish metabolism and that’s a huge list: Insulin resistance, various deficiencies in different vitamins and minerals. Some people are not really eating exactly the way they should for their particular somatotype. We also have to look at adrenal function etc. So there are other systems we have to look at that could be creating that sluggish metabolism, and then we also have to look at, is it a true sub-clinical hypothyroidism that’s just been missed.

Interviewer: So I seem to hear a lot about thyroid from people, maybe when they start reaching their 40’s, their late 40’s, and their early 50’s. Is that usually when we start seeing some thyroid dysfunction, or is that just when people start looking for problems in their thyroid?

Dr. Hedberg: Right. So the older people get, the more susceptible they are to hypothyroidism, and we can trace that back to a number of things. Just the TSH, the thyroid stimulating hormone, we know that that’s just going to be higher in the elderly by default as people age. And we can tie that into a loss of lean body mass as people get older. So the loss of lean muscle mass and the shift in the body composition will begin to effect metabolism. Also, people are more prone to different vitamin and mineral deficiencies as they get older, so those building blocks for thyroid hormone may not be there. The stress of marriage, kids, and things like that, that starts to catch up with people once they get into their 40’s and 50’s. Everyone’s gonna be different, but you just have to look at all those factors that can tie in with low thyroid function.

Interviewer: It’s very complicated, obviously. Again, I think, I just wanna remind listeners that the body does not work in isolation. The thyroid is not just doing its thing and not affecting everything else. It’s an intricate system that our body is engaged in, and the thyroid just seems to be the pinpoint one. Just a summary again because weight is such an issue, and often people respond to, maybe I better have my thyroid checked because it could help my weight. Could you summarize that relationship please?

Dr. Hedberg: The thyroid is sluggish, then the ability to burn fats, amino acids, and carbohydrates is going to be compromised. It will be more difficult to lose weight. As someone gains weight, they produce more estrogen, and the higher your estrogen levels get, the lower your thyroid function because estrogen inhibits thyroid hormone activity. And then as you gain weight you become more insulin resistant, and inflamed. And insulin resistance and inflammation will both have a negative effect on thyroid function. The other thing that we’ve learned a lot about recently is leptin, which is a hormone that can increase with insulin resistance and weight gain, and that’s also another clue and a factor in negatively effecting thyroid function. So those are a lot of the main factors that tie in with hypothyroidism and weight.

Interviewer: Very good information. I’m sure a lot of people that listening to us today have identified themselves in one way or another, or know . So I want to make sure I send them to the right place for more information, and that is to your website and look for his book, The Complete Thyroid Health and Diet Guide. Remember you can always listen to us on

"With no other options, I decided to contact Dr. Hedberg, which leads me to today – twenty pounds lighter, feeling good and better educated about my health and nutrition.”

by - A.C.