If you’ve been visiting the Save Our Bones blog for awhile, you’ve doubtless begun to see how complex the process of bone formation is, and how many different variables come into play to keep your bones healthy and strong.
Today we’re going to continue piecing together the puzzle of bone formation by looking at a very important gland responsible for the regulation of metabolism and many essential body systems: the thyroid. What you won’t find listed in most descriptions of the thyroid’s influence, is the process of bone remodeling.
By examining the impact on your bones of an over and underactive thyroid (hyper and hypothyroidism, respectively) you will learn just how important this gland is to keeping you healthy and avoiding fractures.
The Thyroid In A Nutshell
The thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck and is roughly the shape of a butterfly about two inches in length. By releasing hormones, it controls the way your body uses energy, a process called metabolism.
As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid utilizes iodine to produce Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4). The balance of these two hormones is very important for bone health for reasons that we will explore today.
The critical importance of the functioning of the thyroid is well demonstrated by this list of only a few of the body systems it regulates:
- Heart rate
- Body temperature
- Cholesterol levels
- Muscle strength
- Central and peripheral nervous systems
- Body weight
What Tells The Thyroid When To Work?
The production of T3 and T4 is monitored and regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland through a conversation of hormones. When the hypothalamus senses an imbalance of T3 or T4 it releases TSH Releasing Hormone which in turn tells the pituitary to produce more or less TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). More TSH stimulates more T3 and T4 production in the thyroid, and less TSH slows production down.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how this system works, let’s take a look at what happens to our bones when the thyroid doesn’t function as it should.
A study published in the scientific journal Thyroid Research states that overt hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland) leads to an acceleration of bone turnover and a loss of mineral density as high as 20%. The entire cycle of bone remodeling is shortened by about half, from 200 days to 113, and the all-important ratio of bone formation to bone resorption is thrown off.1
The portion of the cycle where new bone is formed is reduced by a third, which creates a loss of 10% of mineralized bone in a single cycle. As you might deduce, when you remove more bone than you rebuild, your bone strength is reduced and the risk of fractures increases.1
Postmenopausal women with subclinical hyperthyroidism were found to have reduced bone mineral density in the femoral neck, which lead to an increased fracture risk.1
Here are common symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
- Decrease or increase of appetite
- Excessive fatigue
- Increased sweating
- Nervousness and irritability
- Muscle weakness
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent bowel movements
- Shortness of breath and dizziness
The other end of the spectrum is just as harmful and a true epidemic, unfortunately. An underactive thyroid gland results in hypothyroidism, which causes general hypometabolism (an abnormally low metabolic rate). Bone formation processes are slowed by 50% and bone resorption processes by 40%. The condition is linked, unsurprisingly, to bone fracture.1
These are common symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold all the time
- Puffy face
- Dry skin
- Weak muscles
- Hoarse or “gravely” voice
- Difficulty remembering things
- Hair loss
- Joint pain and/or stiffness
There is an entire post dedicated to the effects, and more significantly, the causes of hypothyroidism. Follow this link to read that post about how to avoid this life-altering condition. It’s also important to remember that the toxic water additive, fluoride, has been linked to a greater incidence of hypothyroidism, as well as to bone fractures. You can read more about fluoride here.
What About Goitrogenic Foods?
For anyone already dealing with hypothyroidism, or the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s that often has a similar result, you might have seen some false information being passed around about goitrogenic foods.
These are foods that contain “goitrogenic” compounds. You might have been told that these compounds can exacerbate an underactive thyroid because they inhibit the uptake of iodine. However, this assertion is only relevant if you suffer from hypothyroidism, have an iodine deficiency, and plan to eat far more goitrogenic foods than any person reasonably would.
The foods containing the highest volume of goitrogenic compounds are some of the healthiest foods you can eat, including cruciferous vegetables. The value of these vegetables would outweigh the supposed detriment, if that detriment were actually evident. As it stands, there is no evidence that humans experience negative impact to their thyroid from eating these foods when adequate amounts of iodine are present.2
Here’s a list of some of the valuable and delicious foods that contain goitrogenic compounds:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts*
- Collard greens*
- Mustard greens*
- Pine nuts
- Sweet potatoes*
All of the foods with asterisks are Foundation Foods, so you can see how indispensable gointrogenic foods are to keeping your bones strong and your whole body healthy.
How Do I Keep My Thyroid Working At The Right Pace?
Like every evidence-backed solution I write about, the answer to this question is completely natural, easy to access, and simple to achieve. You can keep your thyroid healthy and producing the appropriate balance of hormones by providing it the nutrients it needs to thrive. And if you’re following the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you’ll recognize that many of the micronutrients mentioned below are Foundation Supplements, and most of the foods are Foundation Foods.
Here are nine foods that are key to thyroid health:
1. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables*
This is a large category of vegetables, big enough and versatile enough to eat regularly while rarely repeating a dish. Collards, swiss chard, turnip and mustard greens, spinach, and kale are all great sources of vitamins that are essential to hormone creation and bone formation alike, including foundation supplements like magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamins C and D.
Nuts are excellent non-animal sources of protein, making them an essential part of a bone-healthy diet, and almonds in particular provide many nutrients needed by the thyroid gland. They possess the often-ignored Foundation Supplement zinc, as well as B vitamins. Zinc plays an essential role in thyroid function, as it is necessary for the production of T4 and its conversion to T3, the active form of thyroid hormone.3
3. Eggs and Yogurt*
These foods are excellent sources of iodine, which your thyroid needs to produce hormones. Plain unsweetened yogurt is an alkalizing food and a source of bone healthy probiotics.
4. Sea Veggies
Sea vegetables are easy to forget about, but dulse seaweed for example is a consistent and high concentration source of iodine. If you’re intrigued by this food type, also look into arame, nori, sea palm and kombu.
You probably know about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for your heart. Fish is also a valuable source not just of iodine for your thyroid, but of CoQ10 which is essential for many important body functions including bone formation.
Beans offer a multitude of useful nutrients, from Foundation Supplements like zinc, vitamin C and B vitamins, to other essentials like protein and iron. Beans like pinto and lima beans are excellent sources of selenium, a mineral that supports thyroid hormone synthesis.4
7. Coconut Oil
This bone healthy and alkalizing oil is useful for an incredible variety of purposes. It also supports the thyroid by providing essential fatty acids that are easily absorbed by the body and contribute to the functioning of your thyroid, the production of hormones, and the regulation of metabolism.
8. Organ Meats
Savers know that animal protein must be eaten in careful moderation. But it is worth noting here that these organ meats, especially beef liver, provide nutrients like iron, protein, selenium and the Foundation Supplement zinc. They also contain calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and vitamins A, D and C. So when you decide to incorporate a small portion of animal protein in your diet, consider liver and kidney meats.
Just like the proteins listed above, even a meat as lean as turkey should be consumed only in moderation. But turkey is an excellent source of selenium, iron and essential amino acids, making it healthful for your thyroid.
A Simple Way To Eat Right
I know it can feel as though every holistic health article comes with a list of foods you should eat, and it can get overwhelming. Don’t think that you have to eat a meal that includes every possible nutrient every time you eat. After all, you get three meals a day plus healthy snack opportunities to consume a moderate amount of a wide variety of foods!
That feeling of being overwhelmed by good options, and concerned about making sure you achieve the balance you hope for, inspired me to create Bone Appétit the companion cookbook to the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. Bone Appétit provides more than 200 dishes that are specially designed to support optimal bone and whole body health.
And that includes your thyroid! You’ll find scrumptious, bone-building dishes that include the thyroid-supporting foods listed above, such as “Surf N’ Perf” with crispy baked fish and almonds, or “Turkey Divan” featuring a base of broccoli florets.
Those and many more delicious meals await, ready to satisfy your culinary desires, while supporting the health of your thyroid, and in turn, the strengthening of your bones. Dig in!
Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!
Discover over 200 mouth-watering bone healthy recipes for breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads, vegetarian dishes, fish, and plenty of main courses and even desserts!
Until next time,
1 Dominika Tuchendler, Marek Bolanowski. “The influence of thyroid dysfunction on bone metabolism.” Thyroid Research 2014 7:12. 20 December 2014. Web: https://thyroidresearchjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13044-014-0012-0
2 Dasgupta, P., et al. “Iodine nutrition: Iodine content of iodized salt in the United States.” Environ. Sci. Technol. 2008 Feb. 15;42(4):1315-23. s
3 Ghulam A K et. al. “Effect of zinc supplementation on the zinc level in serum and urine and their relation to thyroid hormone profile in male and female goitrous patients.” Clinical Nutrition. April 2009. Volume 28, Issue 2, Pages 162–168. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2009.01.015
4 Zimmermann MB, Kohrle J. “The impact of iron and selenium deficiencies on iodine and thyroid metabolism: biochemistry and relevance to public health.” Thyroid. 2002 Oct;12(10):867-78. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12487769