Hypothyroidism and Diet

Hypothyroidism Word Cloud

Thyroid DrawingAn underactive thyroid can be medically managed in a number of ways including the use of synthetic drugs and natural supplements. One area often overlooked by individuals suffering with hypothyroid problems is diet. There are everyday foods that can alleviate hypothyroidism and others that exacerbate thyroid function problems. When functioning normally, the thyroid gland produces thyroxine (T4) which is then converted into triiodothyronine (T3) by an enzyme called Iodothyronine deiodinase which contains selenium. Selenium is used to process the thyroid hormones. In hypothyroidism, these vital hormonal functions are reduced, causing hormonal imbalance.

Sufferers of hypothyroidism can help alleviate some of these problems by following a carefully selected diet to compliment the prescribed drugs they are given by their health practitioner. Certain foods aid this chemical process by helping the production of thyroxine, or where there is a deficiency, increasing the level of selenium found in the thyroid hormone processing enzyme.

Moderation and balance is the key to a healthy hypothyroidism diet and it is generally recommended that you speak to your doctor or dietician prior to making changes to your intake.

Foods for an underactive thyroid:

Selenium sources:

Fish, such as tuna, sardines and trout are a good source of selenium, the nutrient which aids the processing of thyroid hormones. There are also other benefits with fish consumption such as its high level of omega-3 fatty acids which help brain function, inflammation and your immune system.

Nuts are another source of selenium but should not be eaten in large quantities as they are high in fat.

Shellfish and Molluscs such as oysters, clams, lobster, shrimp, calamari and mussels are packed with this vital nutrient.

Whole-wheat Bread is another source but lower in terms of selenium per gram when compared to the sources above. Whole-wheat bread should not be consumed in large quantities or prior to taking your thyroid drugs as it contains gluten which can affect the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormones.

Mushrooms are low in calories and some species are a great source of iron. They also contain selenium which is not only good for an underactive thyroid, but also for bladder function.

Meat such as pork, beef, lamb, chicken and turkey are another source of selenium, protein and other healthy nutrients but these should always be consumed as part of a balanced diet as some studies have linked them to heart disease and other medical issues (particularly red meat).


Iodine sources:

Sea Vegetables, including Kelp and Kombu are high in iodine. Kelp was the original source of iodine in the 1800’s and as many people with hypothyroidism have an iodine deficiency, these are great vegetable to include in your diet.

Fortified Milk not only comes with the benefits of vitamin D, but is also a source of calcium and iodine.

Potatoes are another source of iodine, particularly when eaten with the skin.

Yoghurt is a natural pro-biotic and is a great source of iodine. Yogurts can be used in cooking, with salads or just eaten on their own.

yoghurtNo dietary recommendation would be complete without mentioning fresh fruit and vegetables. They are typically low in calories and aid weight loss. However, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips should be taken in moderation and cooked well for individuals that have hypothyroid problems as they can interfere with the absorption of iodine.


Food and beverages to avoid:

Soy and soy based foods contain phytoestrogen which can increase oestrogen levels in the body. Oestrogen could possibly interfere with the processing of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones according to some studies.

Cruciferous Vegetables, as mentioned above, these can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones and iodine absorption.

High fat foods such as French fries, mayonnaise and deep fried chicken can hinder the ability to produce thyroid hormones.

Coffee can block the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone replacement drugs. It is recommended that coffee is not consumed around the time of taking your thyroid medication.

Alcohol is a toxin and therefore, it is recommended that people who suffer with an underactive thyroid that are on medication, should not consume it at all as it can create problems around synthetic hormone absorption as well as thyroid hormone production.

5 Signs You May Have a Thyroid Problem

Thyroid Sore

Thyroid problems are quite common in men and women. The thyroid gland produces hormones which helps maintain your body’s metabolism. There are two types of thyroid problems and as such the symptoms also vary.

The two types of thyroid problems are either hyperthyroidism (overactive) or hypothyroidism (underactive) which means a high level of thyroid hormone or low levels of the hormone respectively. Hyperthyroidism is commonly known as an overactive thyroid gland and hypothyroidism is known as an underactive thyroid gland.

heavy menstruation thyroid problemSudden Changes in Your Body

If women have hyperthyroidism, then they may suffer from menstrual changes where they have either prolonged or excessive bleeding when they menstruate. On the other hand, if women are suffering from hypothyroidism, the menstrual flow might be reduced.

Both men and women may also suddenly start to put on weight without knowing the reason. If you haven’t changed your diet or exercise regime and you find you are suddenly putting on weight where you didn’t before, you should consult a doctor for more advice.

cold feeling thyroid problemsTemperature Tolerance Fluctuations

Another common symptom is tolerance to temperatures. People with hyperthyroidism will often complain of being too hot and can’t tolerate higher temperatures.

Equally, those suffering from hypothyroidism will feel cold. They will find it difficult to warm up and continually feel cold even in mild or hot temperatures.

mental thyroid problemsMental Sluggishness

A person’s brain can be affected by either elevated levels or low levels of the thyroid hormone. Those people who have hyperthyroidism will often complain that they can’t concentrate very well. As a thyroid problem progresses, levels of concentration will often go down. Conversely, where a person has hypothyroidism people feel depressed and sluggish.

dry skin thyroid problemHair and Skin Problems

Thyroid conditions often cause problems for a person’s hair and skin. Hypothyroidism can cause hair to become dry and brittle, and it can break and fall out more easily. On top of this skin becomes very dry and irritable, as well as scaly and coarse. It has been known for the hair in the eyebrow to fall out too.

Hyperthyroidism can also cause hair to fall out. It doesn’t make hair brittle, instead your hair will be thin and very fine. Skin will also become thin and fragile. Moreover, rashes have been known to appear on the skin surrounding the shins.

Therefore, if you notice any changes in your hair or your skin complexion you should consult a doctor as it could be a sign of having either an overactive or underactive thyroid gland.

Digestion Issues

Another sign that you may have a thyroid problem is if you have any long-term or severe digestion issues. Hypothyroidism often causes people to become constipated over a long period of time. What’s worse is that this constipation doesn’t respond medication or other treatments and can cause a lot of pain.

Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. Suffers will often complain of diarrhea, a watery stool, and even develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

In both cases the symptoms are long-term. If you have had diarrhea for longer than three days, you should always go to visit a doctor. But with thyroid issues, these symptoms can continue for much longer.

Identifying a Thyroid Problem

It is very important to remember that people have many different symptoms. Some people much notice all of the symptoms described in this article whereas others may not even get one.

Moreover, these symptoms are not specific to thyroid problems and could just be an isolated sickness or a sign of a different illness. Therefore, it is always advisable that you visit a doctor should you get any of the symptoms described in this article.