If you eat healthily, get plenty of exercise, sleep enough and drink your fill of water, it reasons that you’d expect to feel pretty good, and you’d also expect to be relatively comfortable in your body.
The thing is, there are many misunderstood underlying causes that mean many of us have trouble feeling our best. One of these is an underactive thyroid.
Hypothyroidism is a diagnosed condition whereby the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones to support the body’s needs.
While cases of an underactive thyroid are more common in women than men, and the likelihood of experiencing this increases with age, there are a number of potential causes, such as exposure to certain chemicals and pesticides (which is shockingly common), autoimmune issues where the immune system attacks the thyroid, previous thyroid treatment or surgery, radiation therapy, and medications such as lithium. Low amounts of iodine in the body can also contribute towards the likelihood of developing an underactive thyroid, and that’s where seaweed comes in, as it contains high amounts of the nutrient.
The following list shows the symptoms of an underactive thyroid, however, PLEASE don’t assume you have hypothyroidism if you experience some of these. We’re not doctors, nor do we pretend to be, so any concern over your health should be referred to a doctor or medical professional!:
◦Difficulties with memory/concentration
◦Hair loss (from head, body and/or face)
◦Muscle aches and pains
◦Unexplained weight gain
◦Numbness/tingling in hands/arms
◦Menstrual problems/infertility/loss of libido/impotency
◦A low waking temperature i.e. The Basal temperature
◦Slow or irregular pulse
◦Loss of the outer third of eyebrow
◦Puffy face or fluid retention
◦Slow or absent Achilles reflex
Some foods to avoid if you have an underactive thyroid include soy products, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower), gluten, processed fatty or sugary foods, alcohol, coffee and excessive fiber. Fish, nuts, whole grains (although there’s a big debate around grains and health right now), fresh fruits and vegetables, and seaweed can be very helpful for supporting someone experiencing an underactive thyroid.
Granted, seaweed isn’t the most widely available food product – it’s not found in the corner shop down the road, and it isn’t an ingredient used in many British dishes. Nori, wakame, and kombu seaweeds are commonly found in Japanese dishes and have high amounts of iodine (kombu contains the most iodine), while here in the UK, knot rag seaweed also has good amounts of the vitamin. All types can be found in the UK now, mostly in health food shops or reputable online stores.
Boiling seaweed can reduce its iodine content by 40-99%, while using seaweed to flavour a soup – removing the seaweed after boiling it, leaving the nutrients behind – means the dish will retain a high amount of iodine. Some seaweeds can be soaked, and some like dulse can be dried and eaten straight away. Purchasing seaweed in granule form can be an easy way to add a pinch to your dinner plate a few times a week. It’ll add a subtle salty flavour, and can also be used in baking to preserve bread. The iodine found in seaweed is very helpful for regulating proper thyroid function, which in turn is responsible for growth, metabolism, energy production, regulation of body temperature and muscle function. Other sources of iodine include dairy, eggs and red meat, nuts, seeds, fish and baked potatoes!
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition, and it’s very important to listen to your medical practitioner and take the medication you need. Consuming seaweed won’t ‘fix’ your condition, and too much iodine can encourage a dysfunctional thyroid too, so as with everything else, moderation is key!