The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. When it’s working properly, it regulates everything from your heartbeat to your metabolism. But when it’s not (as is the case for about 200 million people worldwide, most of them women), it can wreak havoc on your energy levels and your waistline. The good news? It’s easier than you think to keep your thyroid working happily in the fat-burning zone.
1. Quit being a cardio junkie
Conventional wisdom says exercise is good for your hormone levels because it helps clear the body of cortisol , the stress hormone, and releases serotonin and endorphins, your happy hormones. But when it comes to the thyroid, not all exercise is created equal. Too much cardio can actually be trouble for your thyroid. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that lengthy bouts of strenuous exercise can cause the body unnecessary stress — and lead to higher cortisol levels and lower levels of thyroid hormones 24 hours after exercise. But that doesn’t mean you should ditch your gym membership. Instead, opt for 30 minutes of strength training two to three times a week, and one to two short cardio workouts on alternate days.
2. Amp up those omega-3s
Decreasing inflammation in your body is a great pick-me-up for your thyroid — and one way to do this is by increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Find them in cold-water fish (salmon, halibut, tuna or mackerel), as well as plant and nut oils like canola, flaxseed or walnut. If you don’t eat a lot of fish, consider a daily supplement.
3. Avoid foods that impede thyroid function
What you eat may cause your thyroid to temporarily slow down. That includes peanuts, soy and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli — so enjoy them sparingly. Eat foods that are high in iron (eggs and meat) and thyroid-boosting B vitamins, such as whole grains and spinach. Antioxidant-rich choices like berries and squash are good too.
Bottom line: If you have reason to suspect your thyroid isn’t working at full capacity (maybe you feel sluggish for no reason or recently experienced abrupt weight loss or gain), a simple blood test can say for sure. If your doctor dismisses the test request, seek a second opinion or consider an appointment with a naturopathic doctor.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.