Hypothyroidism is a condition in which an individual’s thyroid gland fails to make enough essential hormones to support bodily functions. Along with controlling energy consumption, the hormones produced by the thyroid also work to control critical automatic behaviors like breathing, heart rate, mood, and even digestion. Some individuals might be more at risk of developing hypothyroidism, such as people over 60, and individuals with previous thyroid issues share an increased risk. But along with prescribing medications, many patients may find that making changes to diet can improve outcomes.
Common symptoms associated with hypothyroidism are lethargy, frequent constipation, weight gain, dry skin, and a previous history of thyroid problems. Lab tests will be performed when a physician suspects that a patient may suffer from an underactive thyroid. People diagnosed with hypothyroidism may exhibit high levels of TSH and low levels of thyroxine. Testing has become more advanced and doctors can identify hypothyroidism earlier in patients thanks to the blood test.
Diet and improving hypothyroidism
While diet can improve hypothyroidism, patients should be aware that altering food consumption alone cannot reverse hypothyroidism. The goal of dietary changes is to minimize symptoms and improve thyroid function. In particular, patients with hypothyroidism should be aware of which foods can improve outcomes and which options might make symptoms worse.
Foods to prioritize
Mineral or nutrient deficiencies are commonly found in people with hypothyroidism. Iodine is an essential mineral that the thyroid needs to make hormones. But nearly one-third of the world struggles to get the daily recommended amount of iodine. Physicians often recommend consuming iodine-rich food like fish, eggs, dairy, or seaweed for people with an iodine deficiency. Additionally, focus on foods high in selenium such as tuna, legumes, Brazil nuts, and sardines. Zinc is another critical nutrient that can be found in oysters, beef, chicken, and shellfish.
Foods to skip or limit
In particular, people with an iodine deficiency linked to hypothyroidism should avoid foods that contain goitrogens, a compound that can negatively impact the thyroid. Foods such as soy, starchy plants, cruciferous vegetables, and nuts like peanuts, pine nuts, and millet contain goitrogen and should be avoided or thoroughly cooked to neutralize the compound. However, millet does not lose goitrogen by cooking the food and should be avoided entirely. Along with avoiding highly processed foods, people with hypothyroidism should not take supplements to bolster nutritional intake because of the risk of consuming too much of a nutrient.
Combining medical and dietary strategies
Hypothyroidism is a condition that can be controlled or cured through medical interventions and patient support. Along with working with a physician to monitor thyroid hormone levels and taking prescribed medications, patients can adjust diets to incorporate critical nutrients to support thyroid health. Patients concerned about how dietary decisions could impact thyroid health should speak with a physician or dietician.