Your Thyroid Explained

By Kara Carper, MA, CNS, LN
January 19, 2022

thyroid-explained.jpgDo you ever feel tired when you wake (even after sleeping well), depressed, or maybe you have trouble losing weight? If so, you may be one of the estimated 20 million Americans with a thyroid problem. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the center of your neck and is considered the master gland of metabolism.

Long story short, if your thyroid is not running optimally, then neither are you. Since January is Thyroid Awareness Month, let’s take a moment to learn more about this important gland.

Despite the thyroid being small, it has a mighty function. It produces a hormone that affects every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. With a well-functioning thyroid, the body uses energy efficiently, it regulates temperature accurately, and there’s optimal functioning in the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs.

Hyperthyroidism vs Hypothyroidism

According to the American Thyroid Association up to 60% of folks with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. Hyperthyroidism is where the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, which causes irritability, nervousness, muscle weakness, unexplained weight loss, sleep disturbances, vision problems, and eye irritation.

The most common disease related to thyroid function is hypothyroidism, which means the thyroid is underactive and doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. 90% of thyroid imbalances are due to hypothyroidism and the most common symptoms are, like we mentioned above, extreme fatigue, depression, brain fog, and unexplained weight gain. Unfortunately, many have been prescribed antidepressants, sleeping pills, and told to work harder to lose weight … these recommendations don’t address the underlying issue of hypothyroidism and are a frustrating roadblock to say the least.

Why Thyroid Issues Are Difficult To Diagnosis?

More than half of Americans are not diagnosed properly for thyroid issues. Here are some common reasons why:

  • Symptoms of thyroid imbalance (fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, “brain fog”, constipation, dry skin, hair thinning/loss, muscle or joint pain, cold hands and feet, and even infertility) are not always obvious and can look like many unrelated issues.
  • The most common tests done to screen for thyroid problems are one or two tests (TSH and T4) which don’t tell us the whole picture. A full thyroid panel is necessary to diagnose thyroid imbalance: TSH, T4, FT3 (Free T3), and thyroid antibodies.
  • Even if someone has the full thyroid panel, the “normal” lab reference range is too broad. Many patients have thyroid lab results that appear in the “normal” range, but yet all of their symptoms indicate thyroid imbalance. For you to feel your best, you might need to have your levels in a tighter range.

Do You Suspect A Thyroid Issue?

Here are some tips to move forward and take charge of your health:

  • Find a doctor who is willing to run a full thyroid panel including antibodies.
  • Trust your instincts. If your lab results fall within normal ranges and you have several symptoms of thyroid imbalance, you may still have a thyroid issue and want to consider getting a second opinion or have a conversation with your doctor.

Set up a nutrition counseling appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist to help look over lab results and make a real food health plan.

Nutrition To Improve Your Thyroid Function

Regardless of your diagnosis, everyone should be interested in having better thyroid function since energy, moods and metabolism depend on it. The good news is that proper nutrition can help.

Eat This

  • Include healthy fats at each meal and snack (coconut oil, olive oil, butter, avocadoes, almond butter, nuts, seeds and olives) and avoid low-calorie/low-fat diets. Our bodies need good fats to produce thyroid hormones, absorb vitamins and minerals, maintain energy, and prevent blood sugars from crashing.
  • Eat adequate high-quality proteins for energy and metabolism (grass-fed meat, chicken, turkey, eggs, and fish). Not only does protein increase metabolism up to 30% after consumption, but also it provides the amino-acid L-Tyrosine which is necessary to produce thyroid hormones.
  • Add vegetables at every meal and avoid a low-carbohydrate diet. Vegetables are the best form of carbohydrates due to their high content of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, so load up on veggies. Also consider adding ½ cup of starch such as sweet potatoes, wild rice (which is actually a grass and not a grain), or brown rice with meals. Research including the landmark Vermont Study, has found that if your carb and calorie intake are too low, your Free T3 levels will drop. 

Not That

  • Eliminate gluten grains, especially if you have tested positive for thyroid antibodies. A sensitivity to gluten grains such as wheat, barley, oats and rye, is linked to Hashimoto’s, the most common form of hypothyroidism.

Learn how to cut out gluten grains the healthy way in this online class: Going Gluten Free the Healthy Way.

Supplements To Support Hypothyroidism  

The most important tools you have to support thyroid hormones are found at the end of your fork! However, in many cases, it can also be beneficial to add in specific supplements. It’s important to work with a nutritionist or doctor who is knowledgeable about thyroid supplements to determine individual needs.

Here are a few common deficiencies found in those with hypothyroidism:

  • Iodine – Your body needs iodine to make thyroid hormones T4 and T3.
  • Selenium – Needed to convert T4 to active T3 thyroid hormone; selenium can also decrease thyroid antibodies.
  • Zinc – Helps to convert T4 to active T3 thyroid hormone.
  • Omega-3 and GLA – These essential fatty acids help regulate thyroid hormones and reduce inflammation, especially with autoimmune thyroid disease.
  • Thyrotain – Helps to support the thyroid gland, the production of T4 and T3, and the conversion of T4 into T3.

Your go-to spot for high-quality thyroid support supplements!

Give Your Thyroid Some Love

To recap, if you suspect you or someone you love is experiencing thyroid issues, find a doctor to help you get a full thyroid panel in order to see the data of what’s going on in the body. Make sure you are fueling yourself with plenty of nutrient dense healthy fats, quality protein, and veggie carbohydrates, including some starches. Skip the gluten grains and work with a healthcare professional like a nutritionist or dietitian to incorporate some thyroid-supporting supplements that work specifically for you.

If you’d like to learn more about supporting your thyroid, check out these resources:


About the author

Kara knows the power of real food to heal almost any health concern—from anxiety to weight loss. She discovered the power of food for herself when she used nutrition to heal her insomnia. Kara received her M.A. in holistic health studies at the University of St. Catherine with an emphasis in herbology. She is nationally recognized as a certified nutrition specialist through the American College of Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist through the Minnesota Board of Dietetics and Nutrition.

View all posts by Kara Carper, MA, CNS, LN


Sandra Smith
I would liked to be well informed
January 24, 2022 at 8:53 pm


Any of our nutritionists would be great resources on thyroid health!

Coastal Ear, Nose and Throat
I have gone through the blog post and I must admit it is very informative. I liked the writing style too. Keep up the good work and share more contents. Cheers!

February 11, 2022 at 8:05 am


So glad you found it informative!

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