Thyroid function and fertility are interrelated. It is estimated that 40% of the population is thyroid deficient. Meanwhile, more women are experiencing fertility issues, particularly as many postpone marriage and childbearing and encounter the stresses of labor force participation.
General Diet Guidelines for both thyroid health and fertility…
- coconut oil, cod liver oil, fish oils…these work together in a synergistic fashion. Saturated fats help preserve omega 3 oils for vital body functions, so you can get by on less fish oil. Note, too, that regular fish oil does not include vitamin A, so it is not a substitute for cod liver oil (Note however, when you are pregnant, substitute regular fish oil for cod liver oil to avoid vitamin A toxicity: nature provides for the fetus to receive nutrients [and toxins] in greater amounts than what is carried in the mother’s own blood stream, a mechanism geared to the survival of the fetus, and something that can backfire in today’s world of modern food additives, etc.) ;
- Whole foods
- No trans fats, and limit refined vegetable oils
- Use Coconut oil. Coconut oil will go a long way to helping the thyroid. It improves energy and metabolism, while it stems hair loss, dry skin, and cold limbs. The body uses coconut oil, a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) more rapidly than any other fat and is not usually stored as fat by the body. (It is burned three-times faster than other fats.) Coconut oil can reduce or even eliminate the need for thyroid medication.1 Consume 4 tablespoons/day in cooking or in warm drinks before meals.
- Consume one capsule of cod liver oil at breakfast. Cod liver oil contains vitamin A, which is necessary for thyroid function. People with thyroid issues do not have enzymes to convert beta carotene in foods to vitamin A. Cod liver oil is the richest, and easiest to assimilate source of vitamin A.
- Eat whole, traditional foods. Whole grains and beans, organic meats, fruits and vegetables, and organic butter and eggs. Eggs have every nutrient the body need, except for vitamin C. Eggs help the body conserve EFAs.
- Use bone broths, especially fish that includes the heads and thyroid gland. Gelatin from bone broths allows for the ready absorption of important nutrients, especially minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The glycine in bone broths encourages the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Simmer organic chicken or especially fish (with the heads for adrenal/thyroid issues) bones with a bit of wine or apple cider vinegar to pull out the minerals. This is easy in a slow cooker, left for as long as 24 hours.
- Use seaweeds in cooking and side dishes. Seaweeds are rich in iodine and trace minerals. They also provide calcium, an important ingredient for weight loss.
- Use a high-quality sea salt (lima or Brittany sea salt), which is very rich in magnesium. (Magnesium is the number one deficiency of the American population) and for its 80+ trace minerals. Do not use iodized table salt. It is hard to absorb and has fillers.
- Avoid soy. Soy has goitrogens that depress thyroid function. Soy has phytic acid that blocks mineral absorption, as well as enzyme inhibitors that hamper protein digestion. Thus, soy is hard on the digestion and increases the need for a variety of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins D, E, K, and B12 and an important array of minerals2. [Watch for hidden sources of soy…protein bars and powders hidden in a variety of packaged foods.]
- Avoid juicing. Juicing raw green and cruciferous vegetables (with nutrient inhibitors) blocks mineral absorption and depresses thyroid.
- Avoid refined vegetable oils. Vegetable oils stay in the blood stream longer than saturated fats (SFs). SFs are short- and medium-chain fats that boost metabolism, body thermodynamics, and energy. The body uses SFs for immediate energy; they are not generally deposited in adipose tissue as fat (good for weight loss)3.
- Avoid trans fats. Tran fats depress insulin metabolism and hormone synthesis. They encourage weight gain. They “pollute” the healthy structure of cell membranes, since the body, confused by their structure, uses them as if they were healthy fats.
- Avoid polyunsaturated oils, when possible. Cell membranes are 50% saturated fat. Excess polys negatively affect cell membranes, making them “floppy” and requiring the body to produce extra cholesterol (from sugar and refined carbohydrates) to create enough rigidity. Polys are long-chain fatty acids that stay in the blood stream longer and are deposited in adipose tissue. They can slow metabolism and make you tired and hungry, and lead to weight gain.
Dietary Guidelines for Optimum Thyroid Function
The key idea is to avoid foods with goitrogens that depress thyroid and emphasize those foods that are high in iodine and B vitamins, as well as copper, zinc, and selenium.
Avoid goitrogen foods such as soybeans, foods from the Brassica family (turnips, cabbage, rutabagas, mustard greens, radishes, and horseradish), peanuts, pinenuts, and millet. Cooking these foods helps to neutralize their goitrogen components.
Select foods high in iodine especially seaweeds like kelp, dulse, arame, hijiki, and kombu, as well as mushrooms; zinc such as seafoods (especially oysters), beef, chicken, liver, oatmeal, nuts, and seeds; copper: organ meats like liver, eggs, brewers’yeast, beans, nuts, and seeds; selenium: Brazil nuts and broccoli and onions; and B vitamins: brewers’ yeast, whole grains, and liver4.
- Consume cod liver oil capsule daily. Cod liver oil provides vitamin A and D necessary for proper hormone function and fertility. Many Americans are deficient in these two key vitamins (since many do not have the enzymes to convert beta carotene in foods to vitamin A). It is best to consume cod liver oil some months before conception, both for the perspective mother and father. The DHA and EPA is important for neurological health (the brain is 60% fat). Phospholipids, which are 50% SFs make up brain cells. (This is one reason that unsaturated cod liver and saturated coconut oils work synergistically, see below). Vitamin A not only nurtures the immune system, but it also aids in the absorption of calcium and other minerals, as well as in protein utilization. Vitamin A also aids the thyroid and adrenal hormones, which are tied to fertility. Vitamin D is also important. Infertility is associated with low levels of natural vitamin D (D3). Vitamin D3 is associated with strong bones, normal calcium absorption and utilization, and the ability to cope with stress. (Stress can be a major depressant of fertility). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is estimated to affect 10% of the female population, can be ameliorated with adequate levels of vitamin D and calcium. But it is important to make a clear distinction between vitamin D3 and D2, its synthetic “cousin.” Synthetic vitamins can work in the reverse of natural vitamins, having the opposite effect on the body.5 It was recently discovered that D2 weakens bones and hardens arteries. Avoid all processed foods, such as soy, rice, and almond milk with synthetic vitamin D2. Interestingly, D2 as a supplement was recently removed from milk.
- Use coconut oil in cooking and in warm teas. Coconut oil is a strong antimicrobial. It promotes the assimilation and utilization of essential fatty acids (EFAs) to prevent deficiency. It boosts thyroid function and metabolism, since it is burned three-times faster than other fats.
- Take fish oils. Fish oils provide a direct source of EPA and DPA. They are important for neurological development and function, as well as cellular communication.
- Consider a probiotic and/or fermented foods. Natren makes a spectrum of high-quality probiotics. Fermented foods act as “pre-biotics” that help feed probiotics and the good intestinal flora. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, and grains and fruits were used by all traditional cultures to aid digestion and enhance the absorption of nutrients. Fermenting also heightens nutrients…the levels of vitamin C in sauerkraut is much higher than in fresh cabbage.
- Consume whole, traditional foods. Whole grains and beans, organic meats, fruits and vegetables, and organic butter and eggs. Eggs have every nutrient the body need, except for vitamin C. Eggs help the body conserve EFAs.6
- Eat organic liver. Liver contains a myriad of vital nutrients. It was a mainstay of traditional cultures. It is very high in vitamin A, which protects against bone loss and birth defects. It is a terrific nutrient-dense food, providing stamina and energy. If you do not like the taste of liver, Solgar makes a high-quality disiccated liver tablet. (If you buy organic liver, you do not need to overly worry about toinxs, since the body ultimately stores toxins in the fatty tissues, not in the liver itself.)
- Brewers’ Yeast. This can be a good supplement for anyone craving sugar or alcohol. It is loaded with B vitamins and chromium, which stems appetite. It is also good for the diabetic.
- Avoid trans fats. They are associated with low birth weights and vision problems in new borns (trans fats negatively affect the vision development portion of the brain.)
- Avoid dairy. Dairy is a major allergen. Most adults have lost enzymes to break it down and cannot assimilate dairy. Pasturization and homogenization leave big question marks, as does the whole topic of growth hormones, cloning animals, etc. It is best to take dairy off your shopping list.
- Supplements that Can Be Added to the Diet: Maca, hemp seed powder, and goji berries. Maca provides nutritional support for the endocrine system, including the adrenals, thyroid, the ovaries, and the testes, promoting fertility in both women and men. It is also good for the immune system, for stamina and endurance, and for general vitality for all ages. Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritious seeds, with a perfect blend of omega-3 and -6 oils. Goji berries stimulate the pituitary gland and anti-aging hormones, are the richest source of beta carotene of any food, and are a powerful antioxidant.7
Source: Sally Fallon, Mary Enig, Joseph Pizzorno and Michael Murray, Natasha Zarrin, and Pathways4Health
Copyright 2010 Pathways4Health.org