Wish you had much more energy and a faster metabolism? “Then it’s time to detox your thyroid,” says Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, nutrition expert and author of The New Fat Flush Plan ($17.98, Amazon).“Our thyroids set the speed at which our bodies turn calories into energy, so any time we struggle with fatigue and weight gain, it’s often because our thyroids need a jumpstart.”
We asked Gittleman to share guidelines from her plan — one that aims to eliminate thyroid-stalling foods and replace them with thyroid-boosting options. More good news: Because our thyroids are quite sensitive, they’re also very responsive. “You can experience substantial changes in a very short period of time,” promises Gittleman. Women who’ve tested her approach say it made them feel totally recharged as they whisked off 11, 12, and even 15 pounds in just 14 days. How well will it work for you? Here’s how to find out.
Thyroid Blockers to Skip
During your detox, you’ll go cold turkey on sugar and processed foods — the biggest culprits in blood-sugar spikes that inflame our systems in a way that suppresses thyroid function, notes Gittleman. Numerous university studies show that the more signs of inflammation we have, the more likely we are to have a sluggish thyroid. Gittleman also insists on a gluten free diet for thyroid health, claiming that it is, “a protein found in wheat that is so similar to thyroid hormone that it can trick our bodies into producing less of this critical compound.”
Thyroid Boosters to Enjoy
For a thyroid metabolism boost, you’ll load up on foods that steady blood sugar and soothe inflammation — especially high-quality protein, antioxidant-rich produce, healthy fats, and spices. Then there’s this detox’s game changer: bitter foods like watercress, arugula, cabbage, orange peel, grapefruit, lemon, ginger, and even coffee. All of these foods are proven to boost bile flow, which research now suggests is surprisingly beneficial to thyroid function.
How Bile Helps Your Thyroid
There’s growing evidence that bile — a liquid secreted by the liver to break down fat — stimulates production of thyroid hormone in fat cells, and seems “to block fat accumulation,” according to a University of California report. On top of that, preliminary evidence suggests bile’s ability to boost thyroid hormone “increases metabolism by 53 percent,” adds Gittleman, citing a Harvard study. French scientists are even exploring ways increased bile production might be used to create anti-obesity drugs. But according to Gittleman, "food is always the best medicine. Bitter foods have been shown to increase bile up to 150 percent. They’re my plan’s secret weapon.”
Meanwhile, multiple European studies show that reducing inflammation is so beneficial to thyroid health, it slashes our risk of thyroid disease dramatically.
And Gittleman’s detox also emphasizes the importance of protein and thyroid function — which contains building blocks that allow the body to repair any damage to the gland — and coconut oil, “which has been shown to enhance production of thyroid hormone by up to 50 percent,” she says. Put it all together and “it’s like sending your thyroid to a spa. It ends up rejuvenated.” And you end up slimmer!
After slipping out of the healthy eating habits that helped her maintain a 40-pound weight loss for years, 43-year-old Laura Straiton — who takes meds for a slow thyroid — tried Gittleman’s QuickStart plan to get back on track. “I found great prices on all the ingredients at my local Trader Joe’s, and I really loved the food — especially the morning smoothie made with coffee,” says the Connecticut mom. “I’m not sure which is better — all the energy I suddenly have, or losing 15 pounds in 14 days.”
Tyra Mitchell, 47, agrees. Diagnosed with a sluggish thyroid a few years ago, she’d been gaining and gaining despite diet and exercise. Then she heard about Gittleman’s thyroid detox. “When I started, I was busting out of a size 16. Now I’m almost in a size 12!” says the Maine mom and realtor. “I feel relaxed, lighter, and more joyful — no more intense fatigue or sugar cravings. My hair is thicker. Even my blood tests came back improved. This works.”
How Dandelion Tea Revs Your Thyroid
Roasted dandelion tea served over ice “has delicious toasted notes, is so refreshing and contains bile-boosting compounds that promote excellent thyroid health,” says Gittleman. And it comes with bonus health benefits, too. Compounds in dandelion have been shown to help lower high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. And scientists in New Zealand found that dandelion tea triggers a 244 percent increase in enzymes that help rid our livers of harmful toxins.
Thyroid Detox Diet Menu
Our nutrition team worked with Gittleman to create this version of her plan for you to try. While using it, drink 10-12 cups of water daily. Twice daily, add a splash of unsweetened cranberry juice to give water a dose of bitter compounds that boost thyroid function. To get even more of these compounds, also sip coffee and dandelion tea, and incorporate as many foods as possible from our thyroid diet food list. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
(Choose One Daily)
Option 1: Energy Blaster Thyroid Detox Smoothie: Whisk or shake together 8 oz. black coffee or dandelion root tea, 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, 2 Tbsp. cacao powder, 2 Tbsp. full-fat coconut milk, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. sea salt, 1/8 tsp. ginger, and few drops of stevia (optional); 1/2 grapefruit.
Option 2: Your Whey Pancakes: Whisk 2 eggs, 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon and prepare pancake-style in a hot skillet using coconut oil and 1 cup blueberries or blackberries.
Thyroid Detox Juice Frappe: In blender, blitz 8 oz. purified water, small handful watercress, 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, 1/2 frozen peach, 1 Tbsp. hempseed oil, 1 Tbsp. chia seeds and ice cubes (optional) until smooth.
(Choose One Daily. With each meal, enjoy a large salad with vinaigrette.)
Option 1: Crab Cakes: Pick clean 1 lb. canned crab meat; rinse, drain. Mix with 1 beaten egg, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 clove minced garlic, pinch cayenne, and 2 Tbsp. each onion, bell pepper, celery, fresh dill, and parsley. Form 8 patties and bake on oiled sheet at 350 degrees fahrenheit until browned, about 15 minutes. (Makes 4 servings.) Unlimited broccoli roasted with 1 Tbsp. coconut oil.
Option 2: 5 oz. lean ground meat sautéed with unlimited onion, bell pepper, and a pinch organic taco seasoning; serve in large lettuce leaves with salsa and 2 Tbsp. guacamole.
Option 3: 5 oz. lean grilled steak seasoned to taste. Bell pepper, onion and/or mushrooms sautéed in 1 Tbs. coconut oil. Unlimited cauliflower rice prepared per package directions.
Option 4: 5 oz. chicken marinated in juice of 1/2 lime, 1/8 tsp. each coriander, ginger and garlic; sauté in 1/2 Tbs. coconut oil. Unlimited veggies roasted with 1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil.
Good Food for Thyroid Problems
Add unlimited portions of these thyroid-boosting foods to any meal: arugula, asparagus, artichoke, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cucumber, endive, grapefruit, greens (kale, spinach, watercress, etc.), herbs, jicama, lemon, orange peel, radicchio, radishes.
(Enjoy as needed to control hunger.)
Unlimited sliced veggies spritzed with lemon juice or dipped in apple cider vinegar.
Make Your Own Menus
Each day, include 2 servings of whey protein powder, 1 1/2 servings of fruit, 2 Tbsp. of fiber-rich chia seeds, 5 or more servings of veggies, 2 Tbsp. of hemp seed oil, plus 1 Tbsp. of olive oil or coconut oil and 4-6 oz. of lean protein daily. Add herbs and spices as desired.
After two weeks have passed, transition to three daily meals, each containing 1 serving lean protein, 1 serving good fat, an optional serving of fruit, and unlimited nonstarchy vegetables. Season meals with unlimited herbs, spices, lemon/lime juice, vinegar, and stevia. Drink plenty of water, coffee, and tea. Gradually experiment with fiber-rich unprocessed grains and starch to see how much you can include while still losing weight.
Want more tips for kickstarting your metabolism? Ann Louise Gittleman's latest book and program, Radical Metabolism ($18.30, Amazon), is all about resetting your metabolism after age 40. Learn more here.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.