Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland is under-active and does not generate and relay enough of certain very important hormones to the rest of the body. With this condition, normal balances of chemical reactions within the body are disrupted which if untreated can cause many health problems including: heart disease, infertility, obesity, and joint pain. The hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) are produced by the thyroid gland, and when the production rate of these hormones drop, regulation of common bodily functions can become compromised, causing problems with metabolism, body temperature regulation, heart rate, and protein production.
Hypothyroidism can result from a variety of different situations, including autoimmune disease, thyroid surgery, radiation therapy, or even treatment for hyperthyroidism or other medications. Although it is possible that hypothyroidism could also result from a congenital disease, pituitary disorder, pregnancy, or an iodine deficiency, they are still rare possible explanations.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary depending on factors such as, how long a person has had an underactive thyroid, the severity of the condition, and how well they are maintaining their condition through medication and dietary consumption.
- Increased Sensitivity To Cold
- Decreased Libido
- Coarse or Dry Hair
- Dry Skin
- Weight Gain
- Puffy Face
- Muscle Weakness
- Elevated Blood Cholesterol Level
- Pain, Stiffness or Swelling of the Joints
- Muscle Aches, Tenderness, and Stiffness
- Heavier Than Normal or Irregular Menstrual Periods
- Thinning Hair
- Impaired Memory
- Slowed Heart Rate
Hypothyroidism: Foods To Avoid
There are foods that patients with hypothyroidism should avoid to best manage their condition and symptoms. Although hypothyroidism cannot be resolved solely through diet, the foods that patients eat can have an effect on how well their treatment works for them. Certain foods should be avoided due to their innate ability to inhibit the body’s ability to absorb any replacement hormones that may be prescribed as a treatment for hypothyroidism.
You may not think that avoiding cassava is something that people in America need to concern themselves with since it is a tropical root, but it may be more common in the US than you think. Cassava is often referred to as yuca in Mexico and America, and when it is dried to a powdery extract it is called tapioca. I bet it sounds pretty familiar now, doesn’t it? If you read ahead, you’ll notice that gluten is also on the list of foods to avoid for hypothyroidism. Since tapioca flour is most commonly used as a substitute option in gluten-free baking, it is important to remember that patients with hypothyroidism should also moderate the amount of cassava, yuca, or tapioca they ingest.
Coffee is one of the most common sources of caffeine in a person’s diet, and in small quantities, it is not usually a problem or concern. For people who consume any type of caffeine, it is fairly uncommon for it to be consumed in small quantities though, and people tend to overdo it to the point where this substance has a negative effect not only on their thyroid but also on their overall health. Studies have shown that caffeine can also increase the actual incidence of thyroid cancer in rats, although no conclusive evidence has proven the same effects in humans.
Cruciferous vegetables including arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garden cress, kale, mustard greens, and turnips, should all be avoided by patients living with hypothyroidism. Despite the nutritional benefits that these vegetables may be able to provide they do interfere with the thyroid's natural functions. These foods are classified as goitrogenic which means that they contribute to the development of goiter (in patients with hypothyroidism), which is known as an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. This enlargement inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize iodine, which makes it increasingly difficult for the thyroid to generate necessary hormones.
Patients with hypothyroidism are often put on thyroid hormone replacement medications that help regulate the body’s natural chemical composition, but fatty foods have been found to disrupt the absorption of these medications, as well as interfere directly with the thyroid’s ability to naturally produce the thyroid hormone. It is suggested that those with thyroid conditions avoid all fried foods and significantly reduce, or eliminate their intake of butter, mayonnaise, margarine, fatty cuts of meats, and other unnecessary fat sources.
The most common reason for hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder. Studies show that Autoimmune Thyroid Disease (AITD) and gluten intolerance have a strong link between them since gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, so closely resembles the structural makeup of the thyroid gland. In patients with hypothyroidism eating gluten is dangerous because the immune system will not only attack the gliadin from gluten that has escaped into the bloodstream after ingestion, but it will also attack the thyroid. Studies suggest that cutting gluten completely out of your diet, and choosing whole foods as a replacement may be an effective way to avoid increasing thyroid problems.
Linseeds are more commonly referred to as flaxseeds and although they have some impressive health benefits patients with hypothyroidism are cautioned to limit their intake. Flaxseeds contain cyanogen, which is a chemical compound that is very toxic when consumed in large amounts. Eating more than two tablespoons of flaxseeds per day could prevent the proper amount of iodine to be absorbed by the thyroid, which can lead to iodine deficiency, which directly affects the body’s ability to make thyroid hormones. Flaxseeds are also guilty of containing goitrogens which can cause goiter and induce hypothyroidism. In short, flaxseeds are safe to eat in small doses but don’t overdo it.
So now that you know that you should stay away from gluten if you have hypothyroidism, perhaps you think switching over to a gluten-free grain like millet is a safe alternative. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. Millet is a nutrient-poor food whose continual consumption can cause dietary deficiencies including iodine deficiency. In addition, studies show that millet can also cause an impairment in iodine metabolism, which can exacerbate the problem and even cause goiter in extreme cases.
Having too much sodium in your diet is bad, whether you have a thyroid disorder or not, because of its correlation with high blood pressure. Sodium is especially dangerous to those with hypothyroidism because of their predisposition to developing high blood pressure, without the added risk that a high sodium diet presents. Processed foods are the worst offenders for high sodium content, and it is easy to pass the 1,500 milligrams per day that are recommended by the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for those with an increased risk for high blood pressure when you’re consuming high amounts of processed foods. To be on the safe side it is best to cut processed foods out of your diet, and pay attention to the amount of sodium that you’re getting from whole foods, to ensure that you aren’t going over the recommended amount.
Soy contains estrogen, which is a hormone that can interfere with the body’s natural ability to use the thyroid hormone. Other foods on this list have been shown to be responsible for inhibiting the actual production of the thyroid hormone, and/or the absorption of iodine resulting in improper thyroid function. Soy is unique in the fact that it will not alter the production of the hormone, it will simply not allow the hormone to be used once it is created. It is unknown how much soy, or other forms of estrogen, is needed to interfere with the body’s use of the thyroid hormone, so it is suggested that patients with hypothyroidism avoid soy whenever they can, and limit their intake when soy is unavoidable.
Strawberries & Peaches
Once again those evil goitrogens rear their ugly heads in strawberries and peaches, adding them to the list of foods that it’s best to limit or eliminate from your diet altogether if you have hypothyroidism. Not only do these fruits interfere with the absorption of iodine for proper thyroid hormone production, but according to reports by Natural Endocrine Solutions, they may also inhibit the effectiveness of prescribed hypothyroidism medications. Consumption of strawberries and peaches may also contribute to poor thyroid hormone level production.
The thyroid is a gland that, when healthy, produces an adequate amount of three different hormones, that work together to regulate your metabolism. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid no longer produces enough of these hormones to accurately regulate your metabolism, making sugar, and foods that contain high levels of sugar, dangerous to the system. Reducing the amount of sugar, or even eliminating sugar from your diet completely has been found to reduce these negative effects.
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