A healthy thyroid is key to keeping your body’s metabolism operating at a healthy rate – but what exactly is it? Your thyroid is a gland at the base of your neck that produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate, heart and digestive function, muscle control, bone density, brain development and mood.
There are intricate pathways and feedback mechanisms in place to make sure your thyroid hormone production and conversion are operating optimally. That being said, there are a number of factors that can throw your thyroid hormone balance off or increase the likelihood of your immune system attacking it (this is called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), resulting in underactive thyroid gland.
When your thyroid is underactive (also known as hypothyroidism), some of the main symptoms you may experience include weight gain, fatigue, sluggishness, sensitivity to cold weather, constipation, slow heart rate, dry skin, hair thinning or loss, menstrual irregularities, infertility, depression and high cholesterol.
Your thyroid is stimulated by the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to produce thyroid hormones: T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). Of the thyroid hormones produced, 80% is T4 and 20% is T3. T4 subsequently converts to the more active T3, which acts on target tissues. In hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, labs show elevated TSH and low free T4. T3 is not routinely tested, but low T3 can be a sign of starvation, illness or nutrient deficiencies as well.
If you have thyroid problems, the foods you eat can affect how your feel. Here is a list of the best and worst foods for thyroid problems.
Your thyroid is your body’s silent workhorse—most of the time, it functions so smoothly that we forget it’s there. But this little, butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your neck helps regulate your metabolism, temperature, heartbeat, and more, and if it starts to go haywire, you’ll notice. An underactive thyroid—when the gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone (TH)—can bring on weight gain, sluggishness, depression, and increased sensitivity to cold. An overactive thyroid, on the other hand, happens when your body produces too much TH, and can cause sudden weight loss, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nervousness, and irritability.
What Is The Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid is an endocrine gland located at the front of the neck below the larynx and around the trachea. Iodine, an element found in many foods, is taken up by the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone. Thyroid disorders are very common. Although small, the thyroid plays a large role in producing hormones that every cell in your body relies on for the proper conversion of calories and oxygen to energy. In other words, metabolism regulation is dependent on thyroid function and the condition of your thyroid gland. This gland secretes essential hormones called thyroid hormones that are responsible for proper growth and development, balanced metabolism, and proper regulation of your body’s temperature.
- The thyroid is an endocrine gland located at the front of the neck below the larynx and around the trachea
- Iodine, an element found in many foods, is taken up by the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone
- Thyroid disorders are very common
- Many people have an undiagnosed thyroid problem
- Women are especially at risk for having unrecognised thyroid problems especially if they have a history of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anaemia, prematurely gray hair, vitiligo or other autoimmune disease
What are thyroid hormones?
- The two kinds of thyroid hormones made are Thyroxine, also known as T4, and Triiodothyronine or T3
- The thyroid gland makes and stores hormones that help regulate the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and metabolism
- Thyroid hormones are essential for the function of the body
- Thyroid hormones help regulate growth and metabolism
- Thyroid hormones also help children grow and develop
Thyroid hormones help regulate
- Body weight
- Body temperature
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
What is a thyroid disease?
- Thyroid dysfunction is when the thyroid gland produces the wrong amount of thyroid hormone
- When your body’s thyroid gland speeds up it is called hyperthyroidism
- When there is too little thyroid hormone being produced it is called hypothyroidism—this is when the body’s system slows down
- If your thyroid gland isn’t working properly, neither will you
What is hypothyroidism?
- Hypothyroidism, or under activity of the thyroid gland, occurs when the thyroid gland produces less than the normal amount of thyroid hormones
- This results in the slow down of many different bodily functions
- In its earliest stage, hypothyroidism may cause few symptoms – since the body can partially compensate for a failing thyroid gland
- Hyperthyroidism develops when the body is exposed to excessive amounts of thyroid hormone – resulting in a hyperthyroid state
- This disorder occurs in almost one percent of the population and affects women 5 to 10 times more often than men
- In its mildest form, hyperthyroidism may not cause recognizable symptoms
- More often, however, the symptoms are discomforting and disabling
- When hyperthyroidism develops, a goitre (enlargement of the thyroid) usually is present and may be associated with some or many of the following symptoms
Genetics, an autoimmune condition, stress, and environmental toxins can all mess with your thyroid—and so can your diet, one factor you can completely control. Here are the foods that may help keep your thyroid humming along, as well as some that won’t.
Here’s what you need to know about the modifiable factors that can make your thyroid underperform and how to correct them.
- Low vitamin D
- Too little or too much iodine
- Not eating enough
- Low zinc
- Low selenium
- Low iron
- Gluten and Celiac disease
- Low Vitamin A
- Altered Gut Bacteria
- Higher Estrogen
- Low Leptin or Leptin Resistance
- Environmental Toxins
Fortunately, there aren’t many foods that you need to avoid if you have hypothyroidism.However, foods that contain goitrogens should be eaten in moderation and ideally cooked.You should also avoid eating highly processed foods, as they usually contain more calories. This can be a problem for someone with hypothyroidism, since they may gain weight easily.
Here is a list of foods and supplements you should avoid completely:
- Millet: All varieties.
- Highly processed foods: Hot dogs, cakes, cookies, etc.
- Supplements: Selenium and iodine supplements should be avoided unless prescribed by your doctor.
Here is a list of foods you can eat in moderation. These foods have goitrogens or are known irritants if consumed in large amounts.
- Foods that contain gluten: Bread, pasta, cereals, beer, etc.
- Soy foods: Tofu, tempeh, edamame beans, soy milk, etc.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, etc.
- Certain fruits: Peaches, pears and strawberries.
- Beverages: Coffee, green tea and alcohol — these beverages may irritate your thyroid gland (31, 32, 33).
If you have celiac disease because of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or feel uncomfortable eating foods that contain gluten, then you should avoid gluten completely.People with hypothyroidism should avoid millet, processed foods and supplements like selenium and zinc (unless advised by their doctor). Foods that contain gluten and goitrogens are fine in moderate amounts unless they cause discomfort.
There are plenty of food options for people with hypothyroidism, including the following:
- Eggs: Whole eggs are best, as much of the iodine and selenium are found in the yolk, while the whites are full of protein.
- Meats: All meats, including lamb, beef, chicken, etc.
- Fish: All seafood, including salmon, tuna, halibut, shrimp, etc.
- Vegetables: All vegetables are fine to eat. Cruciferous vegetables are fine to eat in moderate amounts, especially when cooked.
- Fruits: All other fruits including berries, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, etc.
- Gluten-free grains and seeds: Rice, buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds and flaxseed.
- Dairy: All dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
- Beverages: Water and other non-caffeinated beverages.
People with hypothyroidism should eat a diet based around vegetables, fruit and lean meats. They are low in calories and very filling, which may help prevent weight gain.People with hypothyroidism have plenty of options for a healthy diet. They can eat eggs, meats, fish, most fruit and vegetables, gluten-free grains and seeds, dairy and non-caffeinated beverages.
The most common modifiable contributors to thyroid dysfunction. A basic understanding of essential components for optimal thyroid function can be key to avoiding or reducing thyroid disturbances and their impact on health. If you have been diagnosed with thyroid disease or suspect your thyroid is underactive, seek medical guidance for further testing. Diet and supplements are not a substitute for thyroid hormone treatment so please work with a licensed healthcare professional to help determine the best course of action for your condition.