Skip to main content

The Thyroid Gland and Your Diet

Mohan is a family physician and a Postgraduate Associate Dean working in the UK. He has a keen interest in self-regulated learning.

thyroid-problems-and-your-diet

Hypothyroidism


By far the commonest cause of Hypothyroidism across the world is Iodine deficiency. Though less common in civilized world due to the use of iodised salt, there still are a large number of people with underactive thyroid who have problems stemming from their diet.

There are a variety of foods available that can help or hinder the Thyroid Gland. In this hub we will look at those food items that can help the Thyroid gland to function better. We will also look at dietary items that could worsen thyroid function.

Thyroid problems can often be sub-clinical and don't get diagnosed until late. This is because many of the symptoms are non specific and easy to ignore. We often attribute tiredness, sleep disturbance, weight gain, stress, feeling cold to age and lack of fitness. It is always worth keeping in mind that excess or persistence of these symptoms can also be due to Thyroid problems. A simple blood test is all it takes to diagnose problems in Thyroid activity.

thyroid-problems-and-your-diet

Causes of Hypothyroidism


Congenital: agenesis ( malformed or unformed gland)

Iodine Deficiency : Dietary

Drugs ( Lithium, Amiodarone, Interferon)

Thyroid Gland inflammation ( Pregnancy, Autoimmune)

Infection

Infiltration from a Tumor

Post Radiation

Surgery for Growths

Pituitary problems: TSH deficiency

The Pituitary Gland produces a Thyroid Stimulating hormone in response to how much active Thyroxine in running in our blood. This in turn switches the thyroid gland on and off to produce appropriate amounts of Thyroxine. Dietary Iodine is essential.

The Pituitary Gland produces a Thyroid Stimulating hormone in response to how much active Thyroxine in running in our blood. This in turn switches the thyroid gland on and off to produce appropriate amounts of Thyroxine. Dietary Iodine is essential.

If on Thyroid hormone replacement therapy, a 6-12 monthly Thyroid function Test is essential to monitor and maintain. Some patients may need lifelong thyroxine replacement.

What is the Thyroid?


Scroll to Continue

Ever since we began in the primordial ooze as single celled organisms, life on earth has spent a long time in the sea before slowly crawling into land. Our evolutionary origins in the sea means that our bodies and our cells still have a very strong connection with elements that have a strong presence in the sea : salt and iodine.


Our metabolism is the way we process our energy, grow and the way our body responds to various endocrine hormones and processes.The master controller of our metabolism is the butterfly shaped Thyroid gland that resides in our neck in front and just below of our voice box.


The Thyroid Hormone is essential to control our metabolic processes. When the gland works well there is a constant stream of this hormone circulating in our blood. The demands of the body are met by a steady production especially in times of growth spurts, stress, child birth and overactivity. Dietary iodine is essential to make the hormone and as long as we are eating a balanced diet rich in this ingredient, the gland works well, and we have no problems.

If for the reasons mentioned in the side box, the Hormone production slows and reduces, we are in trouble. The reduction may be slight or severe. This is what we call as Hypothyroidism.


Occasionally the Gland can overproduce the thyroid hormone and this can have an opposite effect on our metabolism. This condition is called Hyperthyroidism ( If you say them quick both conditions sound the same, so it is important to remember them as under and overactivity!)


thyroid-problems-and-your-diet

The symptoms of under and over activity are listed above and can overlap with clinical depression. However, there are also symptoms unique to the problems and will give you clues as to which one it is likely to be.

Underactive Thyroid ( Hypo)Shared problemsOveractive Thyroid (Hyper)

 

 

 

Cold Intolerance

Fatigue

Heat Intolerance

Weight Gain

Weight change

Weight Loss

Slow Heart Beat

 

Palpitations

Dry, Coarse skin

Thryroid Swelling (Goiter)

Sweating

Apathy

 

Muscle Weakness

Sluggishness

 

Tremors

Depression

Mood Disorders

Manic

Heavy Periods

Period Problems

Loss of Periods

Escessive Sleepiness

Sleep problems

Insomnia

Coarse Hair

Skin and tissue changes

Thin Skin

Hoarse Voice

 

Muscle Weakness

Brittle Nails

Anxiety

High Cholesterol

Lipid problems

Low cholesterol

Constipation

Bowel Problems

Diarrhoea

Foods that may cause Hypothyroidism


Broccoli

Cauliflower

Cabbage

Mustard

Turnip

Radish

Kale

Millet

Peanuts ( Raw)

Soybean and Soy products

Spinach

Strawberries and Peach ( in excess)


It is important to realise that these foods also contain many helpful nutrients and are by no means dangerous to normal individuals. Also many of these food items need to be eaten in very large quantities (and eaten raw) to cause problems.

Foods That Can Cause Thyroid Problems


There are a handful of foods that may cause or aggravate thyroid underactivity. This could be problem for people with already low thyroid function and those who have genetic predisposition to Thyroid problems.

It is important to realise that these foods also contain many helpful nutrients and are by no means dangerous to normal individuals. Also many of these food items need to be eaten in very large quantities and often eaten raw in order cause problems. Well cooked items may lose many of their thyroid disturbing property.


Soymilk and Soy substitutes do represent a problem for many women who may use them as natural substitutes during the menopausal stages. Though they do help in hot flushes, their anti-thyroid property can reduce hormone production during the crucial menopausal age when thyroid activity does decrease.

Women are more vulnerable to Hypothryoidism during puberty, pregnancy and menopause.

thyroid-problems-and-your-diet

Foods That Help Thyroid function


Very high Iodine

Sea Vegetables: Kelp, Arame, Kombu

Sea Salt

Cranberries


Moderate Iodine

Seafood: Fish, Mussels, Shrimp

Organic Yogurt

Milk & Cheese

Navy Beans

Potatoes

Strawberries


Rich in Tyrosine

Bananas

Avocado

Sesame Seeds

Almonds

Oats

Dairy products

Foods Rich in Iodine and help Thyroid Gland


There are many dietary items that contain varying levels of Iodine and help production of Thyroxine. The main source of dietary iodine is of course sea or table salt. The salt in most civilized countries is now iodized during production. However as we increasingly go for a salt free diet, there is a danger we may lose the Iodine supplementation as well.