Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is under-active and doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.
In the process, the body produces less heat and the organs function below optimal levels. This results in symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, weakness, difficulty concentrating and feelings of being cold constantly. Less energy also results in decreased activity levels, which can contribute to further weight gain.
Although there's no evidence that eating or avoiding certain foods will improve thyroid function in people with hypothyroidism, you can certainly treat the symptoms with diet therapy.
Hypothyroidism leaves you tired and sluggish. To gain more energy, you may be relying on higher-kilojoule foods to give yourself a boost, but this only adds to your weight problem.
• You will still need to focus on complex carbohydrates to provide yourself with a steady stream of energy, but limit your portion sizes of whole grain breads, brown rice and other carbohydrates to 1 slice or 1 cup.
• Eat these foods early in the day, when your energy demands are at their peak.
• Leave green, leafy vegetables and lean proteins for your last meal of the day.
• Consider switching to purified water for both cooking and drinking to reduce fluoride consumption. Fluoride has been implicated by some sources in reduced thyroid function. Black and green teas also contain fluoride.
Nutrients to boost thyroid function
Without sufficient iodine, your thyroid cannot produce adequate hormones to help your body function at an optimal level. Of all foods seaweed, like kelp, is the most famous and reliable source of natural iodine, however egg and dairy products can also be good sources. The best alternative may be to take an iodine supplement, although it should be noted, that too much iodine can actually trigger thyroid problems and worsen symptoms, so it’s important to have a healthy balance.
This mineral is said to be critical for the proper functioning of your thyroid gland, and is used to produce and regulate the T3 hormone. Selenium can be found in foods such as shrimp, snapper, tuna, cod, halibut, button and shitake mushrooms and Brazil nuts.
• Zinc, Iron and Copper
These metals are needed in trace amounts for healthy thyroid function. Low levels of zinc have been linked to low levels of TSH, whereas iron deficiency has been linked to decreased thyroid efficiency. Copper is also necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. Foods such as spinach, mushrooms, turnip greens and Swiss chard can help provide these trace metals in your diet.
• Omega-3 Fats
These essential fats, which are found in fish or fish oil, play an important role in thyroid function, and many help your cells become sensitive to thyroid hormone.
• Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is made up of mostly medium-chain fatty acids, which may help to increase metabolism and promote weight loss, along with providing other thyroid benefits. This is especially beneficial for those with hypothyroidism.
• Anti-oxidants and B Vitamins
The anti-oxidant vitamins A, C and E can help your body neutralise oxidative stress that may damage the thyroid.
In addition, B vitamins help to manufacture thyroid hormone and play an important role in healthy thyroid function. You will need to concentrate on foods such as quinoa, brown rice, lentils, nuts, whole-wheat pasta (if you are not allergic), fortified cereals, bananas, chicken/turkey, salmon, baked potatoes and spinach.
Foods to avoid
There are certain foods that should be avoided to protect your thyroid function. These include:
It is believed that the artificial sweetener, aspartame may trigger an immune reaction that causes thyroid inflammation and thyroid auto-antibody production.
• Non-fermented soy
Soy is high in isoflavones, which are goitrogens, or foods that interfere with the function of your thyroid gland. Soy, including soybean oil, soy milk, soy burgers, tofu and other processed soy foods, may lead to decreased thyroid function.
Fermented soy products, including miso, natto, tempeh and traditionally brewed soy sauce on the other hand, are safe to eat, as the fermentation process reduces the goitrogenic activity of the isoflavones.
Gluten is a potential goitrogen and can also trigger auto-immune responses (including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) in people who are sensitive. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley, along with most processed foods.
Some nutritional warnings
• Certain foods should be avoided for up to two hours after taking your medication, as they can inhibit your medication from working completely. These include cabbage, broccoli, spinach, pine nuts, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, iodine, kale, flaxseed/linseed or soy foods.
• Avoid taking your thyroid hormone at the same time as walnuts, soybean flour, iron supplements or multi-vitamins containing iron, calcium supplements, antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium, some ulcer medications, such as sucralfate (Carafate) and some cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as cholestyramine and colestipol.
• Too much dietary fibre can also impair the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone.
• To avoid potential interactions, eat these foods or use these products several hours before or after you take your thyroid medication.
• If you have hypothyroidism, take thyroid hormone replacement as directed by your doctor, generally on an empty stomach.