Hormone expert and chef Magdalena Wszelaki uses everyday food to help women with hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, menopause, adrenal fatigue, PCOS and estrogen dominance (fibroids, endometriosis, fibrocystic breasts) find their hormonal balance, naturally. I gave Magdalena a tough request.
“Give me 4 of your favorite recipes that support the immune system and improve thyroid health, but they MUST taste great.”
And she delivered.
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Written by Magdalena Wszelaki
These wise, ancient idioms were my guiding principals for developing a thyroid diet when all else (i.e.: western medicine) failed to help my thyroid drama (first Graves’ disease and later Hashimoto’s Disease) – “let food be your medicine” and “all diseases start in the gut”.
Let me talk about the 2 pillars of my approach.
#1 What should I REMOVE from my current diet that is sabotaging my immune system and thyroid?
#2 What should I ADD to my diet to support my immune system and help my thyroid?
Pillar 1: Remove What is Detrimental & Toxic to Your Thyroid
a. Sugar Fluctuations
The first essential step in a thyroid diet plan is to normalize sugar cravings, hypoglycemia and/or insulin resistance. Without fixing your sugar issues, your thyroid will never improve. This is because the pancreas is responsible for sugar metabolism and because, like the thyroid, the pancreas is part of the endocrine system. As you can imagine, these glands are all intricately interconnected. A few tips for you here on how to adjust your diet for thyroid health:
- Start reading product labels to see how much sugar is in your food; 4g = 1 teaspoon. For example, a Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks has 64g of sugar = 16 spoons of sugar. Activia’s yogurt proclaimed as a “healthy food” has 7 spoons of sugar. Try not to consume more than 5 spoons of sugar per day if you have a sugar problem.
- Start the day with a high-protein, high-fat breakfast; this is a big secret in the weight-loss industry as well. It will help you stabilize your sugar levels for the day. You won’t crash at 11am and won’t crave sugar and snacks during the day.
- Reduce processed carbs: we are a carbs-obsessed and carb-addicted nation with carbs constituting 50-60% of most people’s diets, much of which is coming from grains. Grains contain starch that feeds the pathogenic bacteria (read below about your digestive system) in your gut and worsen the problem.
- Reduce starch; again, this is sugar too, especially from potatoes, sweet potatoes, and processed food.
b. Food Intolerances & Sensitivities
Do you see “gluten-free”, “dairy-free” etc. popping up at the health stores today? This is because many people get off the “big five” (gluten, dairy, corn, eggs and soy) and experience significant changes. To find the culprits, I always start off with an Elimination Diet and this produces clear, unbiased results. You can also get a food intolerance test (not allergy; it’s different) done but they are far from accurate. Gluten is an infamous food for contributing to thyroid conditions, and eliminating it is key. However, often times, you would need to cut out more than just gluten if you wish to shape your diet for thyroid fitness.
c. Fix Your Gut
Most thyroid conditions are autoimmune diseases. There are tons of lymphocytes and other immune cells in the gut, which protect the body from viruses, bacteria, and other invaders. This is why most people with thyroid conditions also experience frequent bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea. A diet change will help your gut tremendously. “All disease begins in the gut“, said Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. I’m not sure why this is not taught in schools today, but it’s an important part of the thyroid diet plan.
d. Reduce Toxicity
You need to reduce the toxins you ingest from additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners (!), excessive sodium, and trans-fats and try to eliminate toxins hiding around your house. Water toxicity is a HUGE problem in thyroid conditions. Most public water systems in the US have fluoride added, which is now linked to slowing down the thyroid; fluoride is believed to be leaching on to the thyroid cells inhibiting the uptake of iodine, hence the altered production of the thyroid hormone (T4).
e. Reduce ONLY Raw Goitrous Food (Crucifers) – But Don’t Cut Them Out
If you suffer from hypothyroidism, you should not eat them raw. Goiter is a substance that inhibits iodine uptake to create the T4 hormone. The family of crucifers are: bok choy, broccoli, Brussels’ sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, radishes, soy, soy milk, soy lecithin (often used as a filler in vegetarian food) and tofu. Cooking them reduces their goitrous properties, however, so they can still be an important part of a diet for thyroid health.
Like many progressive thyroid practitioners, I believe there is no need to cut these wonderful vegetables 100% out of our diets. The reason is: all crucifers are high in DIM (di-indolyl-methane) which is a substance that supports the liver detoxification pathways. This detoxification process helps us eliminate metabolized (or “used up”) hormones like estrogen as well as thyroid hormones to make space for new ones.
Soy is the only exception – we should not consume it at all, unless it’s in the fermented form (like miso or tempeh) and then only in small amounts.
I do not believe that we need to cut these wonderful vegetables out. Just don’t juice them and don’t eat them excessively in a raw form. Their nutritional profile is so high that we are doing ourselves a dis-service by cutting them out, only to load up on supplements instead. Most people who suffer from hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s disease – you need to take care of your gastrointestinal health as your #1 priority, followed by stable sugar levels (see above) and lastly, by supporting your liver function.
Pillar 2: Add What Your Thyroid Needs to Start Healing
a. Nutritionally-Dense Food, Macro- and Micro-Nutrients in Good Ratio
Some tips here:
- always organic, they are more nutrition-packed and free of hormones that are known to interrupting our endocrine system
- meat must be at least organic but pasture-raised is best. We want to eliminate antibiotics and growth hormones from our diet
- food that is FERMENTED the traditional way, so things like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir (dairy if you can tolerate or water kefir) are all rich in a wide spectrum of probiotics
- introduce homemade bone broths from chicken and beef bones – they have an incredibly high nutritional profile – high in calcium, magnesium, phosphate, collagen and gelatin – the latter ones being instrumental in digestive lining recovery.
b. Proteins and Fats
They are the building blocks of your digestive tract and of our hormones. We are fat-phobic in America, and low-fat diets are one of the worst things we’ve ever invented. Europeans and Asians have fat-rich diets (traditionally) and enjoy much better health than we do. Good fat tips: avocados, walnuts, coconut oil, coconut butter. Animal fats are the best in restoring a troubled digestion; ghee (clarified butter), butter, chicken and beef fat are essential but need to be rendered and not in fried or processed form.
c. Probiotics – Essential for Restoring Your Digestive Tract
Everyone has bacteria in their digestive tract, or gut, that is essential to the function of the human body. A healthy adult has about 1.5 – 2 kg of bacteria in their gut, both good and bad. Normal levels of bacteria, or flora, in the gut protect against invaders, undigested food, toxins, and parasites. When the good and bad bacteria in the gut get out of whack (i.e. more bad than good), a whole host of negative reactions can occur in the body. Undigested foods can leak through into the bloodstream causing food allergies and intolerances, vitamins and minerals may not be absorbed, leading to deficiency, and the bad bacteria can produce a whole host of toxins, leading the immune system to not function properly. An effective thyroid diet includes probiotics that you can get from fermented foods.
Here are examples of traditionally fermented food you could incorporate to your diet:
- Sauerkraut (pick properly fermented, not in vinegar)
- Kim chee (Korean fermented veggies)
- Kvass (potent liver tonic)
- Kefir (has different bacteria than yogurt, also super beneficial)
- Kombucha tea – although many people have a reaction to it, so apply your own “investigative” feel
- Vegetable medley (fermented)
- Coconut water kefir
No one diet or plan works for everybody, including the thyroid diet that I’ve described here, as each person has a unique way of healing. There is a saying: “One person’s food is another’s poison.” It’s always worth remembering that just because one diet worked for one person it does not mean it will work for you too. One person could have healed their thyroid by just changing the water filters (by getting rid of fluoride) alone, while another needs to implement five major diet and lifestyle changes to start feeling just a little better. Let’s respect our differences.
Breakfasts That Rebalance Our Hormones
It can be hard to imagine that the right kind of breakfast can be instrumental in rebalancing our hormones. The biggest challenge many of us face is feeling confused about what to eat for breakfast. Many others think they are eating “healthily,” but in reality, they consumer breakfasts that are so full of sugar that they might as well be called “morning desserts”.
Many of us grew up with the belief that a good breakfast should contain large amounts of fruit, flavored yogurt, grains, cereals, bars, and oatmeal.
Here is the problem: they are full of carbohydrates and sugars.
When we consume too many carbohydrates and sugars for breakfast at, say 8am, we will then experience a sugar dip by 11am and feel hungry or shaky, moody and unfocused.
So what do we do? We reach out for something sweet again, like a bar, fruit or coffee to “rebalance our sugar level” and this way we end up only adding more sugar to our lives.
The second problem is that sugar addiction and sugar dips create STRESS to the body which calls for a release of cortisol by the adrenal glands to rebalance our sugar levels. One of the functions of your adrenals (other than helping us deal with stress) is to rebalance our sugar levels. As it is, many women suffer from compromised adrenals and these sugar dips weaken them even further. Compromised adrenals have been linked to premature aging, dry skin, fatigue, coffee addiction (another skin-aging factor), weight gain, moodiness, frequent sickness and feeling depleted and de-motivated.
Many women note that their carbohydrate-rich breakfasts and sugar dips are big contributors to their insomnia, poor sleep and waking in the middle of the night. That’s not surprising – we often experience compromised sleep due to sugar level dips and cortisol spikes which are what keeps us awake or wakes us up in the middle of the night.
Their sleep typically improves with a change of breakfast.
What is a good breakfast?
Tip #1: PFF Breakfast
PFF stands for “Protein, Fat, and Fiber.”
Yes, this means we will be loading up our breakfasts with protein, fat, and fiber. Why?
Because they will guarantee us no sugar dips, they will sustain our sugar levels so we don’t exhaust our adrenals and they will help us break our sugar habit (or addiction).
Proteins are also full of amino acids which are the building blocks of our hormones.
The sources of proteins in your breakfast could come from fish, beef, chicken, bison, lamb, and coconut butter, but also from moderate amounts of pre-soaked nuts and seeds, if tolerated.
I know, it might sound a bit unusual to be talking about dinner food for breakfast, right?
If you think about it, all global cuisines have savory breakfasts – like the Turks eat plenty of salami and cheese, Chinese dim sum is fat and protein-heavy, a traditional Japanese breakfast would have some miso soup and fish which are savory and rich in protein and fats.
Tip #2: Real food only
Many people think of protein shakes and powders when they hear the word “protein” and “breakfast.”
Well, in this new approach to your breakfast, the focus is on using only real and fresh food, not processed foods like powders and shakes.
As humans, we were designed to eat, metabolize and absorb real food and not food that can sit in a box for two years – like protein powders.
That’s not real food. That’s just great marketing and gimmicks that make us feel fearful that we can’t get the right nutrients from real food.
It might be hard to hear me urge you to put away your protein powder. But, if you suffer from hormonal challenges, why not try something different for just the next three days and see how your body responds?
My coaching clients who follow the PFF breakfast recommendations report massive improvements. Many of them start losing weight, feel focused and grounded, their sugar addiction ends or lessens, the stop to binge, their energy returns, their skin clears of acne, eczema, and dryness, they sleep better and many report less PMS and less hot flashes.
Thyroid Recipe #1: Farmer’s Wife Breakfast
A hearty and savory breakfast is a wonderful way to start the day feeling grounded and satisfied.
Healing foods in this recipe:
- Sauerkraut (probiotics, estrogen regulator)
- Mustard greens (nutrient-packed, estrogen regulator)
- Avocado (sugar-balancing, anti-inflammatory, nutritionally dense, anti-carcinogenic)
- Ghee (precursor for a precursor of steroid hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and DHEA)
Thyroid Recipe #2: Oat Flour Pancakes (Gluten-Free)
This recipe is dedicated to all the Hypothyroid Mom readers who are found to have a gluten and/or egg intolerance or sensitivity and who thought they would never have another pancake. There is life after gluten! Try this and you will love it. It’s light and easy on your tummy. Just the way Sunday brunch should be.
You can serve them with yogurt and fresh fruit or your favorite jam, which would be rose petals jam in my case.
Thyroid Recipe #3: Better Than Coffee (Chicory Latte)
Black magic. Black medicine. Morning elixir.
If you had to give up either coffee or the internet for 2 weeks, which one would you choose?
Yeah, that was me, too.
As a person with Hashimoto’s, I’ve come a long way. Diagnosed in 2008 with TPOab above 1000 and feeling terrible and helpless, I managed to get them down to 66 by making significant diet changes (mainly repairing my gut), eliminating stress, and honoring my body’s need for sleep.
However, my progress hit a plateau. And then, I was found to have estrogen dominance and wonky cortisol levels. Me? After all those changes? I know you can relate – how you just want to pull your hair out.
So I asked myself: what is the most difficult change I could make that I have been resisting all this time?
And the answer was coffee.
My body does not metabolize coffee well and the result was very visible: I was impatient and even mean. I had to own it and I this is how I threw myself into looking for tasty, satisfying and healthy alternatives.
In this recipe I’m using roasted chicory root and roasted dandelion. You can get it online (anything you can’t get on Amazon?) and pick the organic version. If you have been to New Orleans, you know chicory coffee.
Even though I called the recipe ”coffee”, this drink does not contain caffeine. In fact, both dandelion and chicory have have been used medicinally in Western herbalism for centuries.
Dandelion root is known to support the liver function and chicory root is rich in inulin which is a “prebiotic” for the good bacteria to feed on. Chicory is also known to stimulate bile production which facilities our liver’s detoxification process – keeping our hormones in check.
Thyroid Recipe #4: Velvet Cacao Truffles
This recipe for Cacao Truffles is a guilt-free dessert that contains both veggies and fruit. They are the perfect blend of sweet and tart for an after dinner treat. The beet and avocado mixture give the inside filling a smooth and rich texture, while also providing good fats and a boost of progesterone. The cacao also provides the necessary magnesium that a woman’s body needs and craves for optimum hormone balance. Get creative with your favorite toppings, like coconut flakes, turmeric, and walnuts to give these cacao truffles your own twist!