Got Hypothyroidism? Here’s What You Need to Know

You’re exhausted yet you have trouble sleeping at night.  You can’t lose weight no matter how much you diet and exercise.  You’re always constipated, and annoyed with everyone around you.  If this sounds like your day to day life, you could be one of the 20 million Americans with a thyroid disorder (American Thyroid Association).

If you’ve been diagnosed or believe you may have hypothyroidism, there are steps you can take to support your body systems.  Even if you’re taking medication for your condition, it’s crucial to supply the body with certain nutrients that are often deficient in individuals with an under-active thyroid gland.

What does the thyroid do?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found at the base of the neck. This small gland is responsible for a number of critical body functions, including metabolism, body temperature, heart function, weight, fertility, blood pressure, and energy levels.

The thyroid works with other endocrine glands. Signals are sent between these glands and tell the thyroid when to produce hormones (T4 and T3). T4 needs to convert to T3, which is the “active hormone”. This conversion takes place mainly in the liver and tissues (Bauman, 2015).

What is hypothyroidism?

Issues arise when there is a disruption in gland communication, when the body doesn’t convert T4 to active T3, and/or when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. This is called hypothyroidism, and affects the entire body. Because the thyroid is responsible for so many body functions, day-to-day life can be deeply affected by this condition.

Got Hypothyroidism? Here's What You Need to Know|Grow Eat Glow

Is Hashimoto’s the same as hypothyroidism?

No. Also known as autoimmune thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid. This causes inflammation and leads to an underactive thyroid gland. Antibodies eventually destroy the thyroid. A person may have Hashimoto’s disease but not be hypothyroid. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an individual with Hashimoto’s to cycle between hypo- and hyperthyroidism (Shoman, 2014).

What factors lead to hypothyroidism?

  • Hashimoto’s (most common cause)
  • Treatment for hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer
  • Stress and elevated cortisol levels
  • Certain medications (lithium, birth control, anti-thyroid)
  • Certain vitamin/mineral deficiencies: iodine, tyrosine, zinc, iron, selenium, copper, A and B vitamins (Bauman, 2015)

Food and Your Thyroid

Eating organic, fresh, seasonal, local, and unprocessed food is essential, especially when healing the body. Pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals found in conventional/processed foods delay the healing process and Got Hypothyroidism? Here's What You Need to Know|Grow Eat Glowpromote disease.

Protein – eat organic and free-range meat/eggs. Commercial meat (and dairy) contains antibiotics, which disrupt the thyroid. Try to eat plant or animal protein with each meal to keep blood sugar stable and energy up.

Healthy Fats and Oils – avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, raw butter, nuts, and seeds.

Fruits/Vegetables – eat a colorful variety of fruits and veggies (5-9 servings per day).

Herbs – black pepper, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cilantro, cinnamon, mint, parsley, and rosemary are warming and help raise the body’s metabolism.

Sea Vegetables – an excellent source of iodine and trace minerals. Sea veggies include agar agar, bladderwrack, dulse, hijiki, kombu, nori, and wakame. These can be taken as a supplement or enjoyed in a salad or as a wrap.

Foods to Avoid

Gluten – new evidence reveals a link between thyroid conditions and gluten intolerance due to similarities between gluten molecules and thyroid tissue (Kresser, 2010). Learn more about gluten here.

Iodized Salt – table salt is processed, bleached, and stripped of minerals. Instead, use Pink Himalayan salt, which is unprocessed and includes 84 trace minerals the body needs.

Soy – soy is disruptive to the endocrine system, known to negatively affect estrogen, and most soy is genetically modified. Acceptable soy foods are fermented and include tempeh, natto, and miso (Bauman, 2015).

Junk Food/Processed Food – ingredients cause inflammation and inhibit conversion of T4 to T3.

Aspartame – also known as Equal or Nutrasweet, chemicals in this sugar alternative may cause thyroid malfunction. Use stevia, honey, or maple syrup to sweeten instead (lowthyroiddiet.com).

What About Goitrogens?

Goitrogens interfere with iodine uptake, which is essential for thyroid function. There is much debate whether or not “goitrogenic” foods affect thyroid function. Peanuts, millet, soy and cruciferous foods are considered goitrogenic. Most soy should be avoided for the reasons mentioned above. Cruciferous foods such as kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, etc. must be consumed raw and in large quantities (more than 4 cups per day) to affect an individual with an existing thyroid condition. If you’re worried about eating cruciferous veggies, cooking or lightly steaming will remove goitrogenic compounds (whfoods.com).

Nutritional Support

Balancing hormones is a priority when healing a thyroid issue.  Because certain vitamins and minerals are lacking in hypothyroidism, it’s important to eat foods high in these nutrients and supplement when necessary.  What you eat has a big impact on your road to recovery.

  • Essential Fatty Acids – 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day. Foods include flaxseeds, walnuts, sardines, salmon, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Vitamin B Complex – may be included in multivitamin or take a Vitamin B complex supplement. The B vitamins work together and are found in a variety of vegetables and animal protein.
  • Magnesium – 200 mg 2x per day. Foods include dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, beans, and lentils.
  • Selenium – 200 mcg for 3 months. Foods include Brazil nuts, fish, crimini mushrooms, oats, sunflower seeds, and brown rice.
  • Iodine – avoid bromine, chlorine and fluoride, which deplete iodine. Use supplements under a physician’s guidance. Foods include seaweed, wild caught seafood, and Pink Himalayan salt.
  • Vitamin D3 – 1,000 – 5,000 IU per day. Beef, liver, cheese, egg yolks, and fatty fish are good sources of this vitamin. Sunlight is the best way to get your Vitamin D.
  • L-Tyrosine – 500 mg 2x per day. Egg whites, salmon, turkey breast, seaweed and mustard greens are great food sources.
  • Zinc – 30 – 50 mg of chelated form per day if deficient. Foods include oysters, organic beef, sesame and pumpkin seeds, and crab (Bauman 2015).

Lifestyle SupportGot Hypothyroidism? Here's What You Need to Know|Grow Eat Glow

Stress has a big impact on the endocrine system, particularly the thyroid and adrenal glands. Additionally, it’s common for individuals with a thyroid condition to also have issues with adrenal function (the glands that control how we respond to stress).  It’s important to reduce stress in order to allow the body to heal. Yoga, meditation, exercise, journal writing, acupuncture, getting at least 8 hours of sleep, and even talking with a therapist are ways we can reduce stress and nourish our body, mind, and spirit (Bauman 2015).

Sources:

American Thyroid Association. Retrieved on June 6, 2015 from http://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/.

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2015). Therapeutic Nutrition, Part 1. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.

Kresser, C. (2010). The Gluten-Thyroid Connection.  Retrieved from http://chriskresser.com/the-gluten-thyroid-connection/.

Low Thyroid Diet. Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid. Retrieved on March 16, 2015 from http://lowthyroiddiet.com

Shoman, M. (2014). Hashimoto’s vs. Hypothyroidism: What’s the Difference? Retrieved from http://thyroid.about.com

World’s Healthiest Foods. Retrieved on March 16, 2015 from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=250

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Comments: 2

  1. Renee June 7, 2015 at 8:24 AM Reply

    Being hypothyroidism is horrible!! You do feel like yourself (normal). Good information in this post, Christi!

    • Christi June 7, 2015 at 8:53 PM Reply

      It affects your whole body, mentally and physically! I’m creating a protocol for hypothyroidism for school. I’d be happy to share it with you if you’re interested. 🙂

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