Brazil Nuts, Hypothyroidism & Chinese Medicine

Brazil Nuts, Hypothyroidism & Chinese Medicine

15 July 2017 by Caitlin Armit

What is hypothyroidism?

The thyroid gland stores and produces hormones which play a critical role in metabolism, heart rate and body temperature. It affects the distribution of energy to our muscles, bones, brain and internal organs and it’s function is monitored by the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland communicates with the thyroid gland, instructing it to produce more or less hormones to keep balanced hormone levels in the blood.

One of the common causes of hypothyroidism is the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s disease. The exact cause of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is unknown however it is widely accepted that there are genetic and hormonal components involved.

Western medicine investigations use blood tests measure serum TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which stimulates the production and secretion of T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone). When levels of these hormones are low it is known as hypothyroidism, a condition characterised by weight gain, feeling cold, fatigue, a pale face, muscle pain, constipation, dry skin and thinning or brittle hair.

Hypothyroidism and Brazil Nuts

The thyroid gland uses iodine from foods such as seafood and dairy products to produce hormones, however selenium is also a vital nutrient for thyroid function. Selenium protects the thyroid gland from excessive levels of iodine and protects from antibodies which contribute to thyroid disease. The enzymes which remove iodine from T4 require selenium, thus selenium assists the conversion of T4 into T3. Though selenium deficiency isn’t common, it’s prevalence is higher in people who have other digestive conditions such as Coeliac and Crohn’s disease.

The long-term effects of selenium supplementation are not yet well understood however there is research to support the notion that selenium intake through dietary choices improves thyroid function for people with hypothyroidism.

The goods news is that Brazil Nuts, which are technically a seed not a nut, contain more selenium than any other food source and you only need to have one or two each day to reap the benefits.

Brazil Nuts, Hypothyroidism and Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine diet therapy, Brazil nuts are considered nourishing foods for the spleen, lung and large intestine. They belong to the Earth element, have a sweet flavour and are neutral to warm in temperature with regards to their effect on the body.

The role of the spleen in Chinese Medicine theory is to transform and transport nutrients and energy throughout the body by way of metabolism. This happens to coincide nicely with the Western Medicine function of the thyroid. Furthermore, the most common Chinese Medicine diagnoses correlating to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease is ‘spleen and kidney qi deficiency’. Kidney qi is a bit like our ‘essence’ or our DNA – it is our prenatal qi inherited from our parents and determines our basic constitution, strength and vitality and whilst it can be conserved, it cannot be added to. Kidney qi therefore has a close relationship with our hormones and genetic predispositions to particular health problems. As a general rule, nuts and seeds are beneficial foods for nourishing our kidney qi.

It’s fascinating how the relationships between elements, organs, flavour, food temperatures and body functions in Chinese Medicine diet therapy can match so well to modern Western Medicine research into health and nutrition. This is a medicine thousands of years old that acknowledged the connections between specific foods and body functions and yet the principles have well and truly stood the test of time and can be applied to modern Western Medicine diagnoses.

How to incorporate Brazil Nuts in your diet

You can purchase Brazil nuts from most supermarkets or local fresh produce markets. It’s important not to go overboard with Brazil Nuts because excess consumption can result in selenium toxicity. My suggestion is simply to buy small quantities of Brazil Nuts at a time because they can spoil quickly and consume one or two a day as a snack while you work. And if you fancy chocolate brownies or protein balls then crushed brazil nuts are the perfect addition those treats.


SP423 Effect of Selenium Supplementation via Brazil Nut on Thyroid Hormone Levels in Hemodialysis Patients: A Pilot Study 

Selenium and iodine supplementation: effect on thyroid function of older New Zealanders

Brazil nuts: an effective way to improve selenium status

Brazil Nuts and Thyroid Gland

The Association between Selenium and Other Micronutrients and Thyroid Cancer Incidence in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study

A Single Consumption of High Amounts of the Brazil Nuts Improves Lipid Profile of Healthy Volunteers

Categories: Brisbane Chinese Dietetics Blog | Digestive Health Brisbane

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