January is national thyroid health awareness month, and to celebrate, Lisa Markley and Jill Grunewald, two dieticians-turned-authors, spoke at the college this Thursday to acquaint others with thyroid fitness through their book “The Essential Thyroid Cookbook.”
Not only is Markley a co-author of the book, but she’s also an adjunct professor of Human Sciences at the college.
The event began with a presentation about the thyroid, followed by a cooking demonstration using some of Markley’s recipes. Coconut rainbow salsa and curried coconut red lentil soup were served to the audience members for them to try.
One audience member, Mary Arling, said she learned much from the presentation.
“I’m a health freak, but I love food and they covered a lot about the thyroid and healthy eating,” Arling said. “They touched on so many different topics but you could spend days and days on it and you wouldn’t cover it all.”
Grunewald, the book’s co-author said the thyroid is a very important component of the human body.
“[The thyroid is] a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck and it is the boss of so many functions in the body from metabolism, energy and reproduction. It’s nicknamed the little gland that could,” Grunewald said.
It contributes to bone and heart health and produces a hormone that affects every cell in the body. Because of this, if something goes wrong, it’s can be very difficult to pin the cause on a defective thyroid.
“Because thyroid hormones affect every cell in the body, that’s why you see this full gamut of symptoms and sometimes people’s symptoms can be all over the map and sometimes those symptoms aren’t traced back to a thyroid problem,” Markley said.
Markley and Grunewald became acquainted with thyroid health because they both suffer from a thyroid issue known as hypothyroidism. This caused them to experience extreme fatigue and sparked many imbalances throughout their bodies.
Markley said over 90 percent of people with hypothyroidism have the autoimmune form of the ailment called Hashimoto’s. A main aspect of the immune system are antibodies, cells that act as the body’s defense force against viruses. People with Hashimoto’s have antibodies that work against them, which destroys the thyroid tissue and causes it to produce less of the hormone.
She said most times the condition is chronic, but the right nutrition and lifestyle approaches can help put it into remission, which is the case for Grunewald.
“[Grunewald] was the person I reached out to and she helped me when I was first having issues,” Markley said. “I was teaching cooking classes at the time and wanted to help take that nutrition information and translate it into actual [information] people can use.”
Markley and Grunewald spent five years collaborating on a way to help those suffering from thyroid issues by developing a book with over 100 recipes and filled with lessons and information about healthy eating. To see what foods would work best, they spent years researching, reverse engineering and testing various ingredients to break them down into their component chemistry.
“The thyroid needs vitamin D and some copper, iron, selenium and zinc,” Markley said. “You need all of these nutrients in some capacity … so we researched the best food sources of these nutrients and created a springboard of foods that contain these nutrients.”
While generally focused toward those with thyroid issues, these recipes take the information and make it widely accessible to all who are interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
For those interested in healthy eating, Markley teaches online biology 110, which is a two-credit hour class called Nutrition for life.
“It’s just a good introduction to nutrition,” Markley said. “If someone wants to make helpful changes to their diet, it’s a good place to start.”