Body-Friendly Diet for Hypothyroidism

Body-Friendly Diet for Hypothyroidism

If you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid disease one of the best ways you can help yourself is by paying attention to your diet and lifestyle.  Whilst there’s no conclusive proof that any particular foods or diet will cure hypothyroidism there are some nutrients that are essential for good thyroid health.  These should always be included in a good diet for hypothyroidism.

Typical examples of foods that should be included in a diet for hypothyroidism include:

  • Fish is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids.  Cod, tuna and shrimp in particular are high in iodine, one of the raw ingredients needed to make thyroid hormones.
  • Sesame seeds are a rich source of many essential nutrients including iron, zinc and copper which are needed for healthy thyroid function.
  • Lean meats that are low in saturated fat. Lean meat is very rich in protein and provides the essential elements for proper heart function.
  • Foods rich in iodine, selenium and zinc as well as important vitamins.

What To Leave Out Of A Diet For Hypothyroidism

There are also some types of foods that need to be avoided IF you have an iodine deficiency or an already underactive thyroid. Foods high in goitrogens and gluten are best eaten in moderation after being cooked or avoided altogether.  Examples of these include cabbage and similar green leafy vegetables, some types of fruits (strawberries, peaches), peanuts, soy products and of course anything made from wheaten and other flours high in gluten.  Again – these foods will only cause significant thyroid problems if you’re iodine deficient or already have hypothyroidism.

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Interesting Questions about Thyroid:

What is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland just below the Adam’s apple. This gland plays a very important role in controlling the body’s metabolism, that is, how the body functions. It does this by producing thyroid hormones (T4 and T3), chemicals that travel through the blood to every part of the body. Thyroid hormones tell the body how fast to work and use energy.

The thyroid gland works like an air conditioner. If there are enough thyroid hormones in the blood, the gland stops making the hormones (just as an air conditioner cycles off when there is enough cool air in a house). When the body needs more thyroid hormones, the gland starts producing again.

The pituitary gland works like a thermostat, telling the thyroid when to start and stop. The pituitary sends thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid to tell the gland what to do.

About 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Many are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. No age, economic group, race, or sex is immune to thyroid disease.

The thyroid gland might produce too much hormone (hyperthyroidism), making the body use energy faster than it should, or too little hormone (hypothyroidism), making the body use energy slower than it should. The gland may also become inflamed (thyroiditis) or enlarged (goiter), or develop one or more lumps (nodules).

Fact: Two of the most common thyroid diseases, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease, are autoimmune diseases and may run in families.
Fact: Hypothyroidism is 10 times more common in women than in men.
Fact: One out of five women over the age of 75 has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
Fact: Thyroid dysfunction complicates 5%-9% of all pregnancies.
Fact: About 15,000 new cases of thyroid cancer are reported each year.
Fact: One out of every 4,000 infants is born without a working thyroid gland.

What is a Goiter?

A goiter is an abnormal swelling in the neck caused by an enlarged thyroid gland. It can become quite large. The problem occurs in at least 5% of the population.

Worldwide, the most common cause of a goiter is lack of iodine, a chemical which the thyroid uses to produce its hormones. About 100 million people don’t get enough iodine in their diets, but the problem has been solved in the United States and most developed countries by adding iodine to salt.

Even with the right amount of iodine, the thyroid gland can swell, creating a goiter. This can occur in any type of thyroid disease, including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, and thyroid cancer. Many goiters develop with normal thyroid hormone levels and do not require treatment.

What is Exophthalmos?

Hyperthyroidism from any cause can make the upper eyelids pull back, but Graves’ disease often causes one or both eyes to bulge out of their sockets. This condition, known as exophthalmos, can cause loss of eye muscle control, double vision, and (rarely) loss of vision. Most cases require no treatment, but some patients may need to see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) for specialized treatment. This may include steroids, radiation, or surgery.

Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ

Dietary Conditions For Hypothyroidism Patients

One of the challenges faced with this disease is knowing the appropriate things to eat and what dietary supplements to take. However, before taking any supplements you should consult your health practitioner.  If you’re allergic to some types of foods that would typically be good for your diet for hypothyroidism, keep a note of these.  This information will help you to know if you can eat the meal.

Iodized salt is important but like most things, take it in moderation as excessive amounts of salt are also bad for you.  According to some people’s experiences it may affect immune cells and make you more susceptible to developing an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s. 

Taking your prescribed thyroid hormone replacement medications. 

Most doctors recommend taking thyroid medications, particularly levothyroxine, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and then waiting for at least an hour before eating or drinking anything.  If this isn’t possible then take them 3 to 4 hours after your evening meal.  Why?  Because the absorption rate when taking them on an empty stomach is higher than if you take them with food.  80% vs 64% in fact.

Chug them down with water, not a cup of coffee.  This study found that caffeine interferes with absorption of the medication in the intestines.

Avoid taking antacids or supplements with iron and calcium in them within 4 hours of taking your medications if you’re on levothyroxine.  Iron reduces the effectiveness of this drug and calcium interferes with its absorption.  Also avoid taking antacids with aluminium or magnesium within the same time frame.  Some ulcer medications will also affect the medication, notably sucralfate.

There are also certain foods that shouldn’t be eaten at the same time as you take your medication.  This includes:

  • Walnuts.
  • Soybean flour.
  • Cottonseed meal.

Always keep an eye on your health and if you notice symptoms worsening, try to identify the food that may be causing it.  And talk to your treating specialist.

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