Hypothyroidism isn't any different from any other chronic autoimmune disease. To manage your condition, you'll take regular medication. But good management involves more than the right medicines.
You can't cure hypothyroidism by changing what you eat. But sticking to a proper hypothyroidism diet can help your thyroid function properly and mitigate your symptoms.
Which are the foods that can help manage thyroid problems? And which should you avoid entirely? Let's take a look.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of the hormones your body needs to be healthy. In India, irregular thyroid function affects about one in three people. Because hypothyroidism slows your metabolism, you may experience fatigue, weight gain and dry skin. You may also experience stiff joints and fluctuations in blood pressure. If untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to heart disease or heart failure, mental health issues and nerve damage.
Although anyone can develop hypothyroidism, women, the elderly, people with other autoimmune diseases, and people with a family history of thyroid disease are at an increased risk for the disorder.
A Balanced Diet for Hypothyroidism
Generally, the Mayo Clinic notes, there is no particular diet that combats hypothyroidism. However, eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients helps ensure proper thyroid function while fighting the underlying causes of thyroid disorders.
The following vitamins and nutrients can be found in many foods and are critical in helping your body produce enough thyroid hormones, which is key to managing hypothyroidism.
- Iodine. Your thyroid needs iodine to work properly. Most adults need 150 micrograms of iodine per day, the British Thyroid Association says. Iodized salt can help your thyroid develop the hormones necessary for growth and development. Seaweed, fish, dairy and eggs are also rich in iodine. You can take iodine supplements, too, but they aren't recommended if you're already being treated for hypothyroidism.
- Selenium. Selenium is essential to healthy thyroid function, according to the International Journal of Endocrinology, because it supports thyroid hormone synthesis and metabolism. Selenium can be supplemented, but it can also be found in seafood, eggs, garlic, broccoli, seeds, shiitake mushrooms and nuts. However, the Cleveland Clinic recommends getting no more than 200 micrograms in a given day.
- Vitamin B. All of the B vitamins are important for thyroid function and hormone balance. For instance, vitamin B6 — found in whole grains, pork and dairy products — helps the thyroid use iodine to produce hormones. Vitamin B12 — found in poultry, fish and meat — helps fight fatigue by turning nutrients from food into energy. You can also talk to your doctor about getting proper B-complex vitamins through supplements.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to hypothyroidism, according to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. A lack of vitamin D can lead to thin, brittle or misshapen bones. Although it's hard to find in most foods, according to the National Institutes of Health, eggs yolks, certain mushrooms, fatty fish are some natural sources of Vitamin D, while certain foods are available fortified with Vitamin D - such as milk, yoghurt, orange juice. If you need a supplement, your doctor can prescribe the right dosage.
Foods to Watch Out for
A good hypothyroidism diet looks just like any other healthy diet: You eat the right variety of foods in the correct proportions and avoid highly processed foods. There are no specific food restrictions and no particular calorie caps unless advised by your doctor / physician.
However, certain foods can interfere with thyroid function and exacerbate your symptoms.
- Soy. Soy — found in tofu, soy milk, soybeans, soy sauce and vegan cheese and meat products — might interfere with thyroid functions. If you have hypothyroidism, you don't need to avoid soy completely, but know if you eat or drink too much of it, you may be unable to absorb your medicines, the Mayo Clinic says.
- Cruciferous Vegetables. Fruits and veggies are high in vitamins and minerals and dense in nutrients. They support digestion, heart health, brain function and hormone balance. Your hypothyroidism diet should include large portions of them. However, cruciferous vegetables — such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts — contain natural chemicals called goitrogens, which can interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis. Baking or steaming these vegetables for over 30 minutes will neutralise most (90%) of their goitrogens. Limiting your consumption of cruciferous vegetables, though, is probably wise, says the San Francisco Chronicle.
- High-Fibre Foods. A high-fibre diet is recommended for people with hypothyroidism because it can help maintain digestive health and lead to a healthy heart. Up your fibre intake by eating fresh vegetables, beans, berries and pulses. However, too much dietary fibre can also impair your ability to absorb thyroid medication, the Mayo Clinic says. So don't overdo it: Men need about 38 grams of fibre per day, and women around 25.
Although food alone can't cure hypothyroidism, eating foods more suited to address thyroid problems is important in helping you feel your very best, every single day.
Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and is not a substitute for healthcare professional /nutritionist consultation or advice. This does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.