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The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the base of the front of your neck, below Adam’s apple. The Thyroid generates three hormones – a peptide hormone called calcitonin and two thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The two thyroid hormones regulate the metabolic rate, protein synthesis, and growth and development in children. Calcitonin, on the other hand, influences calcium homeostasis. The thyroid affects the function of virtually every organ in the body and has a huge impact on your overall wellbeing. If your thyroid is out of balance, your body is out of balance, which can cause a large list of symptoms. 

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are two opposites. Hyperthyroidism is a condition when the thyroid is overactive (it produces too many hormones). Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is a disorder in which the thyroid is underactive. In the following chapters, you can learn more about each condition, the symptoms, and how to treat it naturally so that it becomes more manageable. 

 

 

Hypothyroidism 

Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. This condition may appear due to many different reasons. While too little iodine in the diet is by far the most common cause of the disorder, there are some others as well. 

Some of the most common reasons for hypothyroidism include:

  • Too little iodine in the diet (number 1 reason worldwide)
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – an autoimmune disease, which causes gradual destruction of the thyroid
  • Previous treatment with radioactive iodine
  • Radiation exposure
  • Hypothalamus or the anterior pituitary gland injury
  • Consumption of certain medications
  • Lack of a functioning thyroid at birth
  • Previous thyroid surgery
  • Postpartum thyroiditis – a condition experienced by approximately 5% of women after giving birth, which tends to correct itself within a few weeks or months without any treatment. Postpartum thyroiditis first causes hyperthyroidism, which is followed by a period of hypothyroidism. Approximately 20-40% of women with postpartum thyroiditis remain hypothyroid permanently. 

Hypothyroidism often has no symptoms, however, it can also cause a variety of pretty frustrating symptoms, including:

  • Brittle nails
  • Constipation
  • Delayed relaxation
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Goiter (swelling of the thyroid gland)
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold
  • Forgetfulness and poor memory
  • Hair loss and dry hair
  • Heavy menstrual periods (later on, light periods) in females
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Myxedema coma – a rare life-threatening state of extreme hypothyroidism
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor hearing
  • Possible infertility and increased risk of miscarriage
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slow heart rate
  • Swelling of the limbs
  • Weight gain

If untreated during pregnancy, it may lead to delays in the growth and intellectual development of the baby.

While there is no cure for hypothyroidism, there are several treatments that can improve your thyroid function, restore your hormone levels, and manage the disease so that it doesn’t interfere with the patient’s life. Doctors will usually prescribe hormone replacement therapy (for example, with Levothyroxine sodium tablets), however, this type of therapy usually lasts for life. Luckily, some people can manage the condition with diet and healthy lifestyle choices. 

Diet for hypothyroidism

Increase your iodine intake

If you suffer from hypothyroidism, chances are that you have an iodine deficiency. In this case, make sure to increase your iodine intake. Iodine is crucial for the production of thyroid hormones. Add iodized salt to your diet and iodine-rich foods, such as seaweed, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Taking iodine supplements isn’t necessary and if you consume excessive amounts of this mineral, you may actually damage your thyroid. 

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Add selenium and zinc-rich foods to your diet

Hypothyroidism Diet guide

In addition to iodine, selenium and zinc have also been shown to boost thyroid hormone production. Selenium also has antioxidant properties. It can be found in brazil nuts, tuna, sardines, and other seafood, turkey, grass-fed beef, eggs, and legumes. Taking a selenium supplement is not advised as it can be toxic in large amounts. Zinc, on the other hand, has been shown to help regulate TSH – a hormone that plays a vital role in instructing the thyroid to release hormones. Zinc-rich foods include oysters and other shellfish, chicken, and beef. 

Check your vitamin B levels

While low vitamin B levels may not cause hypothyroidism, the condition may affect your vitamin B (especially B-12 and B-1) levels. To repair some of the damage the conditions may have caused, consider adding more foods rich in vitamin B to your diet. Such foods include asparagus, peas, beans, sesame seeds, tuna, eggs, milk, and cheese. Taking a B-complex supplement is also relatively safe. 

Consider probiotics

Hypothyroidism Diet guide

Studies have confirmed that hypothyroidism is linked to small intestine issues, more specifically small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. To keep your intestines healthy, consider taking probiotic supplements or fermented probiotic-rich foods, such as kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and some cheeses. 

Opt for a sugar-free and gluten-free diet

Sugar and processed foods have been proven to cause inflammation in the body, which can slow down the production of some thyroid hormones. Gluten, on the other hand, is potentially harmful as many patients with hypothyroidism also have celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance. As such, many hypothyroidism patients have reported feeling better after eliminating gluten from their diet. However, make sure not to buy prepackaged gluten-free foods as these may have a higher content of saturated fats and less fiber. 

Adopt an overall healthy diet

Hypothyroidism Diet guide

In addition to foods that have been shown to help control hypothyroidism, such as fish, meat, eggs, and dairy, make sure to opt for overall health-boosting foods, such as all vegetables (including cruciferous vegetables in moderation and when cooked), most fruits (including berries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and bananas), and gluten-free grains and seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds, quinoa, rice, etc.). Also, make sure to drink lots of water. 

Know which foods to avoid

One of the most important steps in fighting hypothyroidism is to know which foods to avoid. Such foods include goitrogens-rich foods, such as soy products, certain cruciferous vegetables, certain starchy plants and fruits (sweet potatoes, cassava, pears, peaches), and some seeds and nuts (millet, peanuts, pine nuts), as goitrogens seem to affect the normal function of the thyroid. Cooking these foods may shut down harmful compounds. Also make sure to avoid processed foods, millet, and certain beverages (alcohol, coffee, and green tea). In case you decide to take selenium and iodine supplements due to deficiency, make sure not to exceed the recommended daily intake, as it may be harmful. 

Move your body

Hypothyroidism Diet guide

Research shows that moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise, such as hiking, fast-paced walking, running, and swimming may help increase your thyroid hormone levels. It can also boost your metabolism and help you lose weight, both of which are frustrating symptoms of hypothyroidism. Weight loss can also be achieved with mindful eating, adopting a moderate carb diet, getting enough sleep, and meditating. 

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Decrease stress

As stress has been found to cause and worsen thyroid issues, make sure to avoid stress as much as possible. Meditate, try breathing exercises, listen to calming music – simply find ways to relax as much and as often as possible. 

Note: Diet and lifestyle changes shouldn’t replace the medications and therapies prescribed by your doctor, they can simply help you manage the symptoms.

Hyperthyroidism 

Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid. The condition can be caused by several different reasons. Usually, the entire gland is producing excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, however, sometimes a single nodule is overproducing them. 

Some of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Thyroiditis – an inflammation of the thyroid gland
  • Overactive thyroid nodule
  • Graves’ disease – an autoimmune disease believed to be caused by inadequate levels of iodine in the diet
  • Toxic thyroid adenoma 
  • Toxic multinodular goiter
  • A struma ovarii
  • Postpartum thyroiditis – a condition experienced by approximately 7% of women after giving birth, which tends to correct itself within a few weeks or months without any treatment
  • Amiodarone – an antiarrhythmic drug that may cause increased or decreased levels of thyroid hormones
  • Oral consumption of too many thyroid hormone tablets or drugs with pharmacy compounding errors
  • Excess consumption of ground beef or pork contaminated with thyroid tissue
  • Excess iodine consumption

Hyperthyroidism can be asymptomatic or it can cause some symptoms. The most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Anxiety
  • Brittle hair
  • Excessive urination
  • Fast heartbeat and heart palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling hot
  • Hand tremors
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased perspiration
  • Irritability
  • Lighter menstrual flow and longer cycles for women
  • More frequent bowel movements and diarrhea
  • Muscular weakness
  • Nervousness
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

If untreated, the condition may result in an irregular heartbeat and excessive bone loss. 

There are different ways and approaches to treating hyperthyroidism. Doctors tend to prescribe antithyroid drugs, beta-blockers, radioiodine therapy, or they recommend surgery. However, hyperthyroidism can also be treated with Chinese herbal medications and an appropriate diet. 

Diet for hyperthyroidism

Decrease your iodine consumption

In case hyperthyroidism is caused by excessive iodine consumption, the first thing you must do is to avoid foods high in iodine, such as iodized salt, kelps, and edible seaweed. Also, decrease your consumption of seafood, dairy, beef, poultry, grain products (pastries, bread, pasta), egg yolks, soy products (soy milk, soy sauce, tofu), and certain herbal supplements. 

Instead, opt for low-iodine foods, such as egg whites, fruits, insulted nuts and nut butter, grain products without dairy, salt, and effs, oats, potatoes, coffee, tea, honey, maple syrup, and non-iodized salt. 

Before taking such measures, make sure the cause of your problem is indeed excess iodine, otherwise, you may cause iodine deficiency, which may cause even bigger health issues. 

Choose cruciferous vegetables

Hypothyroidism Diet guide

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, bamboo shoots, cassava, mustard, collard greens, and rutabaga may stop the thyroid from using iodine and thus help manage hyperthyroidism. 

Add vitamins and minerals 

Vitamins and minerals are important for thyroid and overall health. Make sure to include iron-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables, dried beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and a bit of poultry and red meat (avoid the latter two if you have excess iodine). Selenium-rich foods, such as chia seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, mushrooms, tea, rice, oat bran, poultry, and red meat, may help you regulate thyroid hormone levels and prevent cell damage and illness. Zinc has also been found to promote thyroid health, therefore, make sure to add cashews, pumpkin seeds, cocoa powder, chickpeas, and lamb to your diet. As hyperthyroidism may result in bone loss, make sure to eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, both of which promote healthy bones. Calcium can be found in spinach, collard greens, kale, white beans, okra, and almond milk. Vitamin D, on the other hand, can be added through diet (with fatty fish, mushrooms, and liver) or with regular sun exposure. 

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Increase healthy fats

Hypothyroidism Diet guide

Healthy fats are known to reduce inflammation, which helps protect thyroid health and hormone production. If you are sticking to a low-iodine diet, make sure to include non-dairy fats, such as olive oil, avocado and avocado oil, unsalted nuts and seeds, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, etc. 

Try spices

Certain herbs and spices, such as turmeric, black pepper, and green chilies have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help balance thyroid function. 

Turmeric

Turmeric boasts an impressive benefit in the management of cholesterol levels. Turmeric’s role in cholesterol management is predicated on its active compound, curcumin, which has been found to decrease LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels while increasing HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol). This dual action promotes a healthier cholesterol profile and subsequently reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Opt for supplements which prioritize turmeric curcuminoids, which is the most potent extraction of pure curcumin.

When it comes to balancing thyroid levels, turmeric has shown great potential. To get the most out of turmeric supplements, look for brands such as True Turmeric that specialize in herbal blends designed to enhance turmeric absorption, ensuring optimal results. By combining turmeric with other natural herbs and minerals, its bioavailability can increase significantly with absorption rates up to 21 times. Their blend includes 95% pure curcumin extract.

Avoid certain foods

In addition to all the foods that promote thyroid health, there are some foods that may worsen hyperthyroidism. In addition to iodine-rich foods, which we have already covered above, also try eliminating gluten from your diet, as it has been shown to harm the thyroid by causing inflammation, soy products, and caffeine, which may worsen some of the most unpleasant symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as anxiety, irritability, and increased heart rate. 

Try lavender and sandalwood essential oils

Hypothyroidism Diet guide

Lavender and sandalwood essential oils are known to promote calmness and sleep and reduce feelings of anxiety. As such using these two essential oils may help you manage nervousness and sleeplessness, which are common symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Nonetheless, there is insufficient evidence to support this claim. 

Consider taking supplements

Hypothyroidism Diet guide

Supplements that have been shown to help control hyperthyroidism include L-carnitine, Bugleweed, vitamin B-12 or B-complex, Selenium, Lemon balm, and glucomannan. However, before you take any of these herbs or supplements, make sure to consult your doctor. 

Note: Diet and lifestyle changes shouldn’t replace the medications and therapies prescribed by your doctor, they can simply help you manage the symptoms

 

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