Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a condition in which the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone, thus leading to slow metabolism. Thyroid hormone helps to control the growth, repair, and metabolism of the body.
- Less thyroid hormone production can happen due to inflammation of the thyroid gland or due to some surgery performed on the thyroid gland.
- Hypothyroidism may also occur if the pituitary gland is not producing enough thyroid stimulating hormone, leading to less production of thyroid hormone.
- Certain autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis also cause hypothyroidism.
- Medications and radiation therapy may also lead to malfunctioning of the thyroid gland.
The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are
weakness and fatigue. The patient gains weight and has difficulty in losing it. Hair loss/ thinning of hair, dry coarse hair, rough pale skin, puffy face, intolerance to cold, muscle cramps /tenderness/ stiffness, memory loss, irritability and depression, abnormal menstrual cycles (heavier than normal), constipation, bloating and decreased libido are common signs of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism does not show symptoms right away, but with time, one faces a number of health conditions like obesity, infertility, heart problems due to elevated cholesterol levels and joint pains.
Thyroid function test helps to diagnose hypothyroidism. Doctors usually treat hypothyroidism with medications that replace the thyroid hormones.
Diet for Hypothyroidism
Diet can play an important role in the management of Hypothyroidism. A combination of the right nutrients like iodine, zinc, selenium, and medicines helps to restore the thyroid function and manage the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Some foods certainly improve the condition over time while some make it worse for the patient. A healthy diet is much needed by the patient to avoid weight gain.
1. Foods Rich in Iodine
Iodine is recommended to manage the symptoms of Hypothyroidism. The body requires iodine to produce thyroid hormone. The good sources of iodine include beetroot, radish, potatoes, saltwater fish, oatmeal and bananas. Cheese, milk, iodized table salt, seaweed, whole eggs are also rich in iodine. However, consuming large amounts of iodine may lead to hyperthyroidism.
2. Foods Rich in Zinc
Zinc is an important nutrient that helps in promoting thyroid hormone production. Consuming zinc in combination with selenium increases the levels of thyroid hormones called T3 and T 4. It is important to increase the intake of foods like legumes, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, fortified cereals, crab, Oysters, chicken, pork.
3. Foods Rich in Selenium
Selenium is known for its antioxidant activity. It is a micro nutrient that helps in production of thyroid hormone as the thyroid tissues naturally contain selenium. It is recommended to increase the consumption of selenium rich foods like eggs, oatmeal, chicken/turkey, brazil nuts and whole wheat breads.
4. To Ease Constipation Caused by Hypothyroidism,
one should drink plenty of water and eat foods that helps in relieving constipation especially whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
5. To Overcome Fatigue
drink a caffeinated beverage like tea in the mornings and take a dietary supplement like coenzyme Q10. Caffeine does block the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medicines, so it’s not recommended to take the medicines with morning coffee. The medicine should only be taken with plain water.
Foods to Avoid
1. Goitrogenic Foods
need to be avoided as soon as possible, they contain natural goitrogens, which leads to enlargement of the thyroid gland and potentially decrease thyroid hormone production. These foods include raw cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, collards, Russian kale, cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, rapeseed, turnips, bokchoy etc. Digesting these foods block the thyroid ability to utilize iodine which is essential for normal thyroid functioning etc. The cooking process, however, deactivates the goitrogen’s effects to some extent.
Gluten is a protein found in foods processed from wheat, barley, rye and other grains. Gluten irritates the small intestines and hampers the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medicines. Breads, pasta, rice should be consumed gluten free and high in fiber to help with constipation. The medicines should be consumed before or several hours after eating high fiber foods.
3. Soy Products
Soy is also goitrogenic food and can interfere with how the body produces thyroid hormone. Consumption of too much soy interfere with the ability to absorb thyroid medication. Soy milk, soy sauce, tofu, miso, and edamame are some of the soy products that should be restricted to manage the symptoms.
4. Avoid Too Much Sugar, Dairy, and Processed/Frozen Foods
Processed foods have lots of sodium and calorie dense but offer very fewer nutritional benefits. Fast foods, fried foods, cookies, cakes, donuts, hot dogs all lead to weight gain. These foods are rich in fats that disrupt the body’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone medicines and also interferes with the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones. Intake of fats from butter, mayonnaise, margarines, and meats should be limited. Since the metabolism is compromised, sugary foods put on weight fast. They need to be avoided as much as possible.
- Underactive thyroid gland increases the risk for high blood pressure so too much sodium in food increases the risk of complications like high blood pressure. Sodium intake should be restricted to 1500 mg a day.
- Other foods that may be avoided are based on the symptoms one is facing. To avoid bloating, it is recommended to refrain from wheat, onions, garlic, beans, and fruits like apples, cherries, apricots, mangoes, peaches, plums, nectarines. High fiber foods lead to gas and cause bloating.
- Foods that interfere with how well the body absorbs the thyroid replacement medicines should also be limited. And some medicines also interfere with the body’s absorption of thyroid hormones like antacids/ acid reducers, calcium, and iron supplements.
- It is highly recommended to quit smoking and alcohol consumption as these decreases the thyroid hormone levels in the body. Alcohol has toxic effects on thyroid glands.
- In order to keep weight gain in control, one should do regular exercise and try to check the calorie intake daily. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins are the best way to keep one full length. A healthy diet surely goes a long way in managing hypothyroidism. Eating a healthy diet is the only way to help feel better.
Dr. Vikram Chauhan (MD-Ayurvedic Medicine) is an Expert Ayurveda Consultant in Chandigarh (India). He has vast experience of herbs and their applied uses. He has successfully treated numerous patients suffering from various ailments, throughout the world. He is CEO and Founder of Krishna Herbal Company and Planet Ayurveda in Chandigarh, India. He researched age old formulas from ancient Ayurvedic text books to restore health and save human beings from the worst side-effects of chemical-based treatments.