Thyroid and Diet Plan: The Natural Way of Hypothyroidism Treatment
1 in every 10 Indian suffers from the thyroid disorder and it is particularly common among women. The disorders of thyroid can range from a harmless goiter to thyroid cancers. But the most prevalent thyroid disorders seen in people are the disorder related to the production of thyroid hormones.
What Is Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped organ located above the larynx in the neck. The thyroid gland greatly impacts the body function because the hormones produced by the thyroid gland regulate the metabolism. To put it simply the thyroid hormones control the rate at which you burn your calories or your heart beats.
The thyroid gland produces two hormones namely, the L-Thyroxin (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid gland requires dietary iodine to produce these hormones.
The Thyroid Disorders
The thyroid diseases or disorder are related to overproduction or underproduction of Thyroid hormones.
- Hyperthyroidism – occurs when the thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormone than required by the body. It leads to increased weight loss and appetite, rapid or irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, disturbed sleep or insomnia etc.
- Hypothyroidism – occurs when the thyroid hormones are produced in lesser quantities than need by the body. Increased sensitivity to cold, weight gain, fatigue, slow heartbeat etc are few symptoms associated with the under-active thyroid.
Medical management is available for both the disorders like oral medicines, radiotherapy and in some cases surgery. However, in this article, we will talk about how diet and nutrition play an important role in the management of thyroid disorders.
The Thyroid Diet Plan
A poor diet can low in nutrients can increase the risk of thyroid disorders. In addition toxins from an unhealthy diet and gut bacteria and microflora, imbalances can also lead to poor absorption of nutrients that are essential for thyroid function and regulating metabolism. Following a well-balanced diet becomes crucial in both the cases- hypo and hyperthyroidism.
In case of hyperthyroidism, a well-balanced diet with all the essential nutrients is necessary to prevent excessive weight loss due to increased metabolism whereas in case of hypothyroidism a thyroid diet for weight loss is required due to increased weight gain owing to the sluggish metabolism.
Many nutritional factors play an important role in regulating thyroid function. The key nutrients you need to look out for in your thyroid diet include :
Iodine is a vital mineral that plays an important function in the body and one of these is regulating the production of thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones are made up of iodine as its deficiency or excess is responsible for excess or underproduction of thyroid hormone. Based on consensus, iodine deficiency is the leading cause of thyroid disorders worldwide. Dietary intake of iodine is advised and use of supplements should be done with caution as it can cause symptoms to flare up. Many countries including India have made fortification of salt with iodine mandatory. Thus iodized salt and other natural sources like dairy, whole grain cereals and fish should be a part of your thyroid diet.
Most of us suffer from vitamin D deficiency due to our lifestyles. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to many disorders and diseases including thyroid disorders. Studies show that more than 90% people with an underactive thyroid i.e. hypothyroidism have vitamin D deficiency, however, it is not clear whether the disorder leads to deficiency or vice-versa.
Including sources of vitamin D like fatty fish, milk, dairy, eggs, and mushrooms and most importantly sunlight are recommended. Vitamin D supplementation can also be taken if required under the guidance of an expert or a physician.
Another important nutrient to be considered is selenium. The thyroid gland contains the highest concentration of selenium in the body, emphasizing its importance in thyroid function. Selenium is an essential trace mineral and plays a role in the immune system, cognitive function, fertility in both men and women, and mortality rate. Selenium is recognized to be a key enzyme that regulates important thyroid functions.
Incorporating healthful, selenium-rich foods, such as Brazil nuts, tuna, crab, in your diet is helpful. Selenium supplementation can also be looked at in certain cases.
Mostly all the vitamins of the B-complex play a role in thyroid hormone production from absorption and transportation of iodine to the synthesis of hormones and their release. A diet containing all food groups gives a balanced mix of these vitamins. A deficiency of any of the B-complex vitamins can cause suppression in thyroid function.
Essential fatty acids
The essential fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6 play a vital role in thyroid function and help lower risks for thyroid disorder as well as help maintain general health.
Proteins are the important part of hormones. Increasing the proteins in your diet helps maintain weight, boosts immunity, builds muscles and regulates metabolism. In case of thyroid hormones, amino acid tyrosine which is a non-essential amino acid i.e. can be provided through diet as well as produced in the body.
Other very important consideration while following a thyroid diet is avoiding the goitrogens.
What Are Goitrogens?
There are certain foods which interfere with thyroid function. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage and soy are Goitrogenic foods and they hinder thyroid hormone synthesis. However, heating and cooking these vegetables disables the Goitrogenic effect of these foods. Cooking cruciferous vegetables reduces this Goitrogenic effect by as much as 70-80%. Goitrogens pose the greater risk in people with iodine deficiency.
An Ideal Thyroid Diet Plan
An ideal diet plan for thyroid should incorporate following foods:
- Cereals – like oats, quinoa, whole wheat, broken wheat and brown rice. Millets like jowar and bajra should be taken is occasionally. Selecting whole grain cereals over refined cereals and flours is advised as whole grains are fiber-rich and help in weight loss.
- Pulses and legumes– are energy-rich and provide proteins, fiber and phytochemicals that help regulate thyroid function, aid weight loss and help fight fatigue. Variety of dals and pulses like moong, moth beans, chawli, rajma, chickpea, channa, kidney beans etc should be included in your thyroid diet.
- Nuts – especially walnuts and Brazilian nuts. Brazilian nuts are rich in selenium and help improve thyroid function. Walnuts on the other hand are the good source of omega 3 which help boost hormonal balance, maintain cell wall integrity and improve brain function. However, limiting amount of nuts is advised as they are high in fats.
- Milk and milk products– calcium and protein from milk and milk products, help maintain muscle activity and transport of hormones. A daily 2-3 serving of low-fat milk, buttermilk and paneer is recommended. (1-serving =150ml)
- Vegetables and fruits– are rich in antioxidant and fiber, they boost energy, reduce body stress and help in detoxification which helps enhance thyroid function and promotes weight loss.
- Fish– if you are non-vegetarian, adding healthful omega 3 in the form of fish is beneficial. Fish oils help reduce inflammation caused by hypothyroidism, improves cognitive health and build immunity.
Thyroid disorders bring with them complex issues related to weight, cardiovascular risks, nutrient deficiencies and interactions with medications. Following a proper diet under the guidance of a nutritionist helps overcome the hurdles and reduce the symptoms.