How to manage Hypothyroidism (Thyroid disorder)
Have you ever been on a seesaw? Of course, we all have played on a seesaw as kids. In fact, grown-ups too can enjoy it – up and down, up and down – it’s fun. As the heavy side touches the ground, it lifts the lighter side off the ground. Seesaw is simple and fun. It works the best with two children about the same size, which means equal weight on both ends.
The thyroid gland in our body works exactly the same way. Balance is the key. Shaped like a butterfly, the thyroid gland rests in the middle of the lower neck just below Adam’s apple. It is small in size and weighs less than an ounce. Wait, don’t let the size fool you! From heart rate to metabolism and brain to digestive tract, it controls the rate at which every cell, tissue, and organ in your body functions. It produces thyroid hormone (T3 & T4), which controls how fast and efficient cells convert nutrients into energy – the chemical activity that we call metabolism.
When the secretion of the thyroid hormone is not stable, which means the thyroid gland is under or overproducing these hormones, it can throw your metabolism off balance. An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormones, which slows down the cells and organs of the body. This is called Hypothyroidism. If one becomes hypothyroid, the heart rate, for example, maybe slower than normal and intestines work sluggishly.
On the other hand, when the thyroid gland is overactive, it produces just too much of the thyroid hormones and the body cells start working faster than normal. This condition is called Hyperthyroidism. A few of its symptoms are racing & irregular heartbeat, fast pulse, excessive hunger & thirst, heat tolerance, muscle weakness, infertility, etc.
Both types of thyroid disorders are equally frustrating. Thyroid disorder affects our health systematically. The endocrine system, which is made up of glands that produce hormones, is responsible for growth, repair, metabolism, energy, and reproduction. So any slowing of thyroid can have crucial implications for our overall health.
In this blog, let’s discuss Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid, which affects more than 30 million women and 15 million men worldwide. The symptoms of mildly underactive thyroid aren’t always obvious. So, a person with thyroid dysfunction may go about normally, living in complete ignorance of the dysfunction. Hypothyroidism can cause body temperature fluctuations, fatigue, dry skin, muscle weakness, memory issues, mood changes, and more. The causes may vary from person to person, such as due to viral infection, pregnancy, or an autoimmune attack. Some medications can also suppress thyroid hormone production. Mysterious weight gain is a common symptom that drives many beyond frustration. Despite eating mindfully and exercising, the numbers on the scale keep going up. It leaves a deep impact on one’s self-esteem and confidence.
While there is no particular diet to beat hypothyroidism, there are certainly ways in which the right food and healthy habits can help you manage this condition and live life as normally as possible. Here is how you can fix with a healthy diet:
5 Essential Nutrients to manage Hypothyroidism
- VITAMIN D - Vitamin D levels tend to be lower in people with hypothyroidism because the body needs vitamin D to produce and use thyroid hormones.
Food sources: Fortified foods, milk, sardines, and sunshine.
- SELENIUM - The body turns the mineral selenium into a powerful antioxidant called glutathione, which protects the thyroid from inflammation and oxidative stress. Selenium supports a healthy thyroid because it is essential for the conversion of the active thyroid hormone that burns calories and promotes a healthy metabolism. Selenium can worsen thyroid function if one is also experiencing iodine deficiency. Make sure for iodine status before starting selenium
Food sources: Nuts, lentils, mushrooms, lamb, beef, eggs and chicken.
- ZINC Zinc is involved in the conversion of T4 to T3 hormones. It’s an important nutrient if one appears to have problems with thyroid-hormone conversion.
Food sources: Chickpeas, spinach, garlic, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, grass-fed beef, shellfish, legumes, mushrooms, and whole grains.
- IODINE - The thyroid requires iodine, a trace mineral, to synthesize sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone, and studies show that even mild iodine deficiencies can lead to thyroid problems.
Food sources: The best way to get iodine kick is by sprinkling iodised salt into food. Other than iodized salt, the richest source of natural iodine is seaweed. You can also add milk, yogurt, paneer and eggs to your daily diet.
- FIBER - Fiber foods help with digestive health, it also improves heart health, balance blood sugar levels, and supports a healthy weight by making you feel fuller. Getting enough fiber is good, but too much can complicate hypothyroidism treatment as excess fiber can interfere with the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement drugs. People with hypothyroidism may have digestive difficulties, so aim for 30–40 grams of fiber daily.
Food sources: Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes.
- OMEGA-3: Omega-3 fatty acids help in lower inflammation and enhance immunity.
Food sources: Salmon, walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
FOODS TO AVOID
- Avoid Cruciferous Vegetables: These vegetables contain a compound called glucosinolates that compete with dietary iodine and thyroid hormones. This includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, raw turnip, broccoli, and cauliflower. Cooking them will offer greater ease on the digestive system and reduce the chances of having a negative effect on the thyroid.
- Avoid Soy: Soy contains estrogen and flavonoids called isoflavones, which interfere with the body’s ability to utilize the thyroid hormone. Avoid soybean, soy milk, tofu, and soy products.
- Avoid Alcohol: Alcohol creates a negative effect on the body’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone and even in the production of thyroid hormone.
- Avoid Heavy Metals: Heavy metals and toxins in foods can bind the health-promoting minerals, making them unavailable to the body (and thyroid gland). Mercury in swordfish and tuna, lead in bone broths often tend to be the most common sources of heavy metals in the diet.
- Avoid Sugar: Sugar causes invisible inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation interferes with T4 conversion, necessary for thyroid function. Hypothyroidism can cause the body's metabolism to slow down which means it's easy to put on pounds if one is not careful. Taking more sugar will simply add more pounds. It's best to reduce the amount of sugar one eats or try to eliminate it completely from the daily diet.
- Avoid Green Tea: A study has shown that consuming green tea can reduce the T3 and T4 hormones in hypothyroidism patients. It is, therefore, suggested to avoid green tea, especially when one is on thyroid medication.
- Avoid Millets: Millet flavonoid that is apigenin greatly reduce the activity of thyroid peroxidase, the enzyme that inserts iodine into the thyroid hormone.
5 Lifestyle Changes to feel healthy with Hypothyroidism
- Go for small & frequent meals: Instead of three large meals every day, have more than three small and frequent meals. It helps to improve metabolism and will provide the body with constant fuel. Fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and are low in carbohydrates are good for hypothyroid patients.
- Say yes to more hydration: People with hypothyroidism tend to lose sodium from the body, which is important for thyroid function. Hence, drinking water can bring a big difference. Peeling, cracking skin which becomes brittle is a consequence of hypothyroidism. Drinking water will keep the skin hydrated.
- Don’t take thyroid medication with coffee: Caffeine has been found to block the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement. People who were taking their thyroid medication with their morning coffee had uncontrollable. Only take your medication with water. You should wait at least 30 minutes after taking your medication.
- Hit the ground & sweat it out: Exercising regularly helps keep a check on weight gain, which is one of the biggest problems faced by those struggling with hypothyroidism. Exercising increases metabolic sensitivity towards the thyroid hormone and encourages the secretion of the thyroid hormone. Exercises like brisk walking, cycling, biking, and dancing are helpful in reducing weight as well. Approximately 30-40 minutes of regular exercise 4-5 days per week is recommended for hypothyroidism patients. Consult an expert before starting any exercise regime.
- Avoid stress: Stress affects people who suffer from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis more deeply as it causes autoimmune suppression. Stay relaxed as much as you can since stress exacerbates underlying thyroid conditions.
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