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Navigating the complexities of hypothyroidism demands a holistic approach involving a profound understanding of thyroid gland function and hormonal interplay, coupled with the implementation of the optimal diet for hypothyroidism management. This guide will delve into the critical components of thyroid health and  providing insights into crafting the best diet for hypothyroidism.

In my consulting experiences, I’ve worked with clients dealing with a variety of thyroid issuees presenting a spectrum of cases. Some individuals are faced with  severe symptoms, such as neck swelling (goitre), depression, energy loss, and brain fog. On the less severe end, signs like weight gain, hair thinning, and skin dryness are also indicative of thyroid dysfunction. Additionally, there are those who exhibit subtler indications, like minor energy loss, slight weight gain, or a tendency to feel cold.

Thyroid function

The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck, plays a pivotal role in producing and storing thyroid hormones that impact every facet of the body’s functions. This includes growth, development, cognitive function, metabolism, reproductive system, digestion, and cell repair. This intricate hormonal interplay is governed by the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis (HPT), adapting constantly to the body’s metabolic needs.

Thyroid hormones

Thyroid hormones come in various forms. The inactive form, T4, is stored in the thyroid gland and circulates in the blood. The active form, T3, influences the cells, while reverse T3, an inactive form of T3, is produced during stress, starvation, prolonged fasting, and liver diseases. The conversion of T4 to T3 occurs through enzymatic processes in the body, involving both the liver and kidneys. Consequently if your liver isn’t functioning properly, your thyroid will be suffering too. The thyroid also secretes calcitonin, which is crucial for bone health and regulates calcium and phosphate levels.

Types of hypothyroidism 

There are two primary types of hypothyroidism: primary and secondary. Primary hypothyroidism entails the absence of thyroid hormone production or secretion.  Secondary hypothyroidism results from inadequate stimulation for the thyroid gland due to pituitary gland dysfunction.

People with hypothyroidism experience an array of symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, depression, muscle and joint pain, cold intolerance, menstrual cycle changes, memory problems, and hair loss. Causes of hypothyroidism encompass genetic disorders, surgery, thyroid inflammation, autoimmune conditions (such as Hashimoto’s), and specific medications.

What is the best diet for hypothyroidism?

Drawing from my extensive experience with clients managing hypothyroidism, I’ve observed that low-calorie diets, insufficient protein intake, chronic stress, and specific nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate symptoms. The thyroid requires a specific diet for hypothyroidism management, rich in nutrients such as protein, iodine, selenium, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and fatty acids. Consequently, the absence of any of these elements in your diet can have an impact on thyroid function. Let’s take a look at why some of those nutrients are needed and how to obtain them through nutrition.

Iodine

 Thyroid hormones are comprised of iodine, which is the essential nutrient for the production and release of thyroid hormone. Iodine deficiency is rare in developed countries, but it is widespread in developing countries and one of the leading causes of hypothyroidism. If you have an iodine deficiency, add iodised salt to your diet and consider other dietary sources of iodine, such as seaweed, fish, dairy, and eggs.

Selenium

Selenium is the mineral that helps activate thyroid hormone and is also an antioxidant. Adding foods rich in selenium can help improve thyroid function if you are deficient. Excellent sources of selenium are Brazil nuts, Chicken, Tuna, shrimp, Beef, Turkey, Eggs, and Oatmeal. 

Zinc

Zinc helps the body regulate thyroid-stimulating hormone release. Zinc, along with selenium, helps to improve the function of the thyroid gland and reduce the effects of hypothyroidism in those diagnosed with this condition. To make your diet rich in zinc, add the following foods: Oysters, Crab, Beef, Chicken, Yogurt, Pumpkin seeds, Fortified cereals, and Legumes.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient not only for the regulation of bone health but also for the immune system, inflammation control and even cell growth. Consequently, low levels of vitamin D correlate with the development of autoimmune disorders and hypothyroidism. You only need 10-15 minutes of sun exposure daily to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. The best sources of vitamin D from food are fatty fish, eggs, beef liver, foods fortified with vitamin D and mushrooms. 

Vitamin B 12

Vitamin B12 is essential for blood formation, DNA synthesis, skin health and cognitive function. Deficiency of this vitamin is quite common in people with hypothyroidism, and supplementing with B12 helps in alleviating some of the symptoms. The best food sources of this nutrient are beef, liver, fatty fish, turkey, eggs, and low-fat dairy products. 

Just like some foods and nutrients help improve thyroid function, some foods and nutrients should be avoided as they can be harmful.

Goitrogens

Goitrogen is a compound in several foods, such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, kale, and broccoli. Consuming goitrogenic foods in your diet can interfere with thyroid function. It is recommended to avoid eating raw foods containing Goitrogens, and consuming those foods cooked or fermented is a better option for people who have hypothyroidism.

Gluten

Gluten can increase inflammation in people who suffer from autoimmune conditions and worsen symptoms of hypothyroidism. Going gluten-free can improve the symptoms and absorption of thyroid medication. 

Processed foods

 Processed foods are always a problem for a healthy lifestyle. Avoiding processed foods such as hot dogs, fast foods, doughnuts, and cookies can help to improve thyroid function, manage weight, and improve overall health. 

Coffee

Caffeine can inhibit the absorption of thyroid medication and fluctuation of the T4 hormone. If you can’t live without coffee, consider switching to decaffeinated coffee or herbal teas or drinking it a couple of hours after taking the medication. 

 

Alcohol

Alcohol can be toxic for the thyroid because it suppresses the production and body’s ability to use thyroid hormone and should be avoided in people with hypothyroidism.

 

 If you are having problems with the thyroid gland, taking only thyroid medication might not be enough. 

The optimal diet for hypothyroidism emphasizes the importance of incorporating these key nutrients. For individuals grappling with thyroid issues, this comprehensive approach involves appropriate nutrition and gentle exercise which are essential for proper thyroid function. Morover nutrients like iodine, selenium, zinc, vitamin D, B12, protein, and fatty acids are paramount for thyroid health, forming the foundation of the best diet for hypothyroidism. On the other hand steering clear of processed foods, gluten, alcohol, and coffee is advisable. Lastly, addressing chronic stress is essential, considering its impact on thyroid health and overall well-being.

Book a nutritional consultation with me if you are ready to tackle persistent fatigue, address thyroid concerns, and improve health. Together, we can tailor a personalised approach based on your unique genetic factors and health goals, ensuring a path to genuine well-being that lasts a lifetime.

References:

– J. L. D. N. (2023, September 21). The Best Diet For An Underactive Thyroid: Splitting Fact From Fiction. Diet Vs Disease. https://www.dietvsdisease.org/the-best-diet-for-an-underactive-thyroid/

-Charlton, K. E., & Skeaff, S. (2011, November 1). Iodine fortification. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. https://doi.org/10.1097/mco.0b013e32834b2b30

-Jonklaas, J., Bianco, A. C., Bauer, A. J., Burman, K. D., Cappola, A. R., Celi, F. S., Cooper, D. S., Kim, B. W., Peeters, R. P., Rosenthal, M. S., & Sawka, A. M. (2014, December). Guidelines for the Treatment of Hypothyroidism: Prepared by the American Thyroid Association Task Force on Thyroid Hormone Replacement. Thyroid, 24(12), 1670–1751. https://doi.org/10.1089/thy.2014.0028

-Diet and lifestyle considerations in thyroid disease. (n.d.). Health Times. https://healthtimes.com.au/hub/nutrition-and-hydration/42/practice/hw/diet-and-lifestyle-considerations-in-thyroid-disease/4483/

-Hypothyroidism: Foods to eat and avoid. (2023, March 6). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324819

-The Australian Thyroid Foundation – Iodine Food Choices. (n.d.). https://www.thyroidfoundation.org.au/Iodine-Food-Choices

-Cross, J. (2006, April). MEDLINE, PubMed, PubMed Central, and the NLM. Editors’ Bulletin, 2(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1080/17521740701702115

 

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