The PCOS-Thyroid Connection & 4 Plant-Powered Support Strategies

Thyroid Thursday Week 1 – Facebook Live Replay Jan 7 2021

Summary notes:

Welcome to the first week of Thyroid Thursdays!

As we get started on this first broadcast of the New Year, if you’re watching live, or even later on the replay, please feel free to comment and let me know if increasing your energy, reducing stress, or balancing your hormones are among your January health goals! (You can just put energy, stress, or hormones real quick).

So for those who are new to my world, I’m Sara Galipeau, nutritionist and owner of Love Plants for Life, with a focus on plant-powered strategies for hormone health – especially conditions affecting and affected by the menstrual cycle, including PCOS.

And since January is Thyroid Awareness Month, I wanted to kick it off by talking about the connection between PCOS and the thyroid.

So first of all, the thyroid is basically the master gland, controlling most of your metabolism through thyroid hormones – mainly TSH, T3, and T4. And there are disorders of the thyroid that can also contribute to metabolic disorders (and vice versa). I don’t want to get super technical on these talks for brevity, but in a nutshell:

PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome – is actually more of a metabolic disorder, affecting insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, and overall endocrine balance, which includes the thyroid.

Thyroid hormones and testosterone have a kind of feedback on each other and the ovaries, both affecting ovarian function and follicle stimulating hormone, which in turn contributes to how the follicles, or cysts, form on the ovaries prior to ovulation. When thyroid function is low or testosterone is high or both, multiple follicles may form (thus the name polycystic ovary), but without enough of the right hormones, they may not be released properly and this is why ovulation and periods may be irregular or may not even occur.

And the symptoms of PCOS and hypothyroid can overlap, so it can be easy to misdiagnose as one without the other. Symptoms like anxiety, depression, insulin resistance, problem skin, hair loss, excess visceral fat, and so on. It’s also part of why it can take a long time to get a confirmed PCOS diagnosis, since regular blood tests don’t always measure hormones outside of, like, TSH unless specifically ordered or referred out.

Anyway, because of this overlap I like to support and nourish the thyroid as part of my approach to PCOS.

As you likely know, I take a whole-food plant-based approach to this, so let me tell you about 4 plant-powered ways to support them at the same time that you can get started with right now.

  • Include raw nuts and seeds, even better if soaked or sprouted. These provide omega fatty acids, which are building blocks of various hormones and are anti-inflammatory. Nuts and seeds like Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds, particularly, are quite rich in the mineral selenium, which acts as a counterpart to iodine, the main thyroid-supportive mineral. Brazil nuts in particular are extremely rich in selenium, to the point where just 1 a day (or 2 or 3 once every 2 or 3 days) provides your full day’s amount. Walnuts are also great for omega 3s, and some research indicates including them regularly may reduce testosterone by raising sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). As a bonus practice you can also get into seed cycling, which involves eating 1 Tbsp. of each flax seeds and pumpkin seeds daily during your follicular phase, and 1 Tbsp. of each sunflower and sesame seeds daily during your luteal phase. You can find a post about seed cycling on my blog.
  • Include sea vegetables, like nori, wakame, dulse, and kelp. These are rich in iodine, which helps give your thyroid the resources it needs to convert T4 to T3. So if you love sushi and miso soup, you’re in luck! And if you don’t, seaweed flakes are also easy to sneak into your cooking and can give a bit of a salty taste. I also like sprinkling some into smoothies!
  • Include lots of sources of B vitamins, like whole grains, dark leafy greens, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Your endocrine system, including thyroid, uses a lot of B vitamins to keep running smoothly, so keeping your intake up is very important. There is a caveat to be aware of when it comes to plant foods, the absorption of nutrients, and thyroid function, and I’ll cover that more in next week’s broadcast. For now, just focusing on getting more of those B-rich foods is a great place to start.
  • And one more strategy you can try right now (or rather, tomorrow morning) is a macronutrient-balanced breakfast. As I mentioned earlier, insulin resistance can be both a symptom and contributor of thyroid disorder. Making sure to short-circuit the morning cortisol cascade that feeds into imbalances of other hormones like insulin is another key tactic for supporting thyroid and overall endocrine balance. If you’re stuck for thyroid and PCOS-friendly breakfast ideas to get started on that, I have a free PCOS Breakfast Bundle up for download.

This will wrap us up for now!

Recap:

  • Nuts and seeds – such as Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and walnuts for omega-3s and selenium; for supporting thyroid and testosterone balance
  • Sea vegetables – such as nori, wakame, dulse, and kelp for iodine to help provide the resources that serve conversion of T4 to T3
  • B vitamin-rich foods – such as whole grains, legumes, dark leafy veggies, and nuts and seeds, to help nourish the thyroid, nervous/adrenal system, and provide cofactors for hormone metabolism
  • Macronutrient balanced breakfasts, to help short-circuit the cortisol cascade that can affect thyroid, sex hormones, and blood sugar balance

How can you integrate these strategies starting today?

Remember, this isn’t to replace your doctor’s advice; if you suspect you may have thyroid disorder or PCOS symptoms or both, be sure to check in with your primary care practitioner.

Next week, since it’s also Veganuary, we’ll be talking about special considerations for the thyroid and vegan nutrition. Hope to see you then!

Resolutions Suck – Yeah, I Said It

In my line of work, it’s a pretty bold claim: resolutions suck. It’s kind of an open secret that “New Year New Me” mentality is like the bread-and-butter of the health and wellness industry.

And, without mincing words, a lot of us went into 2020 with Big Resolutions that were shit-canned by mid-March, for obvious reasons. It’s really easy to feel, then, despite acquiring some skills like learning to bake perfect banana bread and dalgona coffee, like this year was a total write-off when it comes to resolution fulfillment.

But year after year, it’s true that more often than not, resolutions suck.

Why, though?

Continue reading “Resolutions Suck – Yeah, I Said It”

[LoveBites] Client-Fave Cookie Recipe for the Holidays

The holidays are basically synonymous with baking. At least, in my mind it is.

One particular combo that I love at this time of year is oatmeal and cranberries, perhaps with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate. I don’t quite know why – okay, maybe it was the cakes and cookies and loaves laden with these components that my mother and grandmother would bake every year – but that just says “winter holidays are here” to me!

Continue reading “[LoveBites] Client-Fave Cookie Recipe for the Holidays”

Do You Have These Symptoms? (Why You Should Check Your Magnesium Intake)

This week I’m all about how stress affects our hormones, and how that can be linked to gut health and immune function.

One nutrient that just about always tops my list for combatting stress is magnesium.

That’s because Continue reading “Do You Have These Symptoms? (Why You Should Check Your Magnesium Intake)”

Check Your Pulses [Recipe Post]

Okay, by “pulses” I mean legumes: beans, peas, and lentils. And by “check” I mean check to make sure

  1. that you’re eating them (I’ve sharing a recipe below to help with that!) and
  2. that you’re getting good quality with minimal contaminants!

Why do you want to eat pulses? Continue reading “Check Your Pulses [Recipe Post]”

Why Chocolate is Encouraged in My Programs (and a Recipe!)

You read that right. Chocolate is encouraged in my programs.

Okay, that might not be a surprising reveal. But since it’s World Chocolate Day (yay!), why do I include chocolate when pulling together recipes for my clients and followers?

One major reason I’m into chocolate for health: Continue reading “Why Chocolate is Encouraged in My Programs (and a Recipe!)”

[Recipe Post] Comfort Foods and Deprivation vs Modification

Do you deprive yourself of foods you love in the name of health goals?

What about modifying them?

I’m not a particular fan of complete deprivation. While I do know that it may be necessary to reduce or yes, even eliminate certain foods for the sake of specific health/lifestyle goals – Continue reading “[Recipe Post] Comfort Foods and Deprivation vs Modification”

How to Reframe Self-Talk to Make Space for Pleasure Foods

I’m tired. The heat, the stress, the burnout… I know so many of you also feel this way right now and it’s hard to know how to deal with it all on top of trying to make good food choices.

So let’s let go of the idea that all your choices need to be perfect. That’s too much pressure. Continue reading “How to Reframe Self-Talk to Make Space for Pleasure Foods”

LoveBites: Spell-Casting & Activist Burnout

I don’t talk about activism much in this space. I try to reserve this space for mostly talking about delicious food and practical lifestyle hacks, their benefits, and how to get those benefits for your health goals, mostly around hormonal conditions. During the pandemic I’ve also talked a lot about managing stress and preventing burnout, but what about activist burnout?

Like so many I’ve been angry and heartbroken with the state of the world Continue reading “LoveBites: Spell-Casting & Activist Burnout”