What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient amounts of the thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), thyroid hormones that help control the body’s metabolism. Diminished levels of these hormones can considerably slow down metabolism - a process in which the body digests the food and nutrients and converts them to energy.
Women are more susceptible to hyperthyroidism than men and women who are in their fifties and older are the most affected by this disorder. The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary greatly from person to person and depend on just how much the metabolism has slowed. Symptoms tend to appear gradually over longer periods of time.
Signs of under active thyroid
There are many symptoms of hypothyroidism. The most commonly observed are:
- Unexplained fatigue that cannot be relieved by regular sleep and rest
- Sensitivity to cold that may also include cold hands a feet
- Constipation that is not related to changes in diet
- Thinning hair and brittle fingernails
- Depression and mood swings
- Changes in skin health
- Weight gain not caused by change in diet or exercise routine
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Pain, stiffness, or swelling of joints
- Difficulty to concentrate, forgetfulness, or unexplained confusion
There are many other symptoms caused by hypothyroidism that can be associated with multiple conditions such as heart disease or infertility, making hypothyroidism even more difficult to diagnose. A blood test is usually performed to determine the cause of any chronic symptoms.
Nutritional solution to hypothyroidism
There are foods and supplements to be taken and others to be avoided when one suffers from hypothyroidism. Patients on medications sometimes feel that they want some other kind of treatment. They are not always supported by their medical practitioners and feel left alone in their suffering.
Thyroid is a very "fragile" organ and its deficiencies are not easy to treat. But there are ways to take care of the problem nutritionally. One of the most important supplements is L-Tyrosine, an amino acid that supports the function of a healthy thyroid. It is a precursor to the body's own hormone thyroxine. The suggested dose is 500 mg L-Tyrosine on empty stomach. Instead of taking supplemental tyrosine, one may prefer to indulge in tyrosine-rich foods like avocados, bananas, almonds, pumpkin seeds, legumes, lean chicken meat, and fish among others.
In order to produce thyroid hormones the body needs iodine. The diet can easily be enriched with sea vegetable, salt water fish, and unprocessed sea salt that has its natural content of iodine and sea minerals. A caution is advised as excess iodine in the body may worsen the thyroid condition even further.
One should also supplement with high quality multivitamin especially high in Vitamin B complex, essential fatty acids, beta carotene, Vitamins C and E, selenium, and zinc. These nutrients not only support thyroid health, but also prevent from damage caused by low thyroid. Probiotics should be taken daily to keep the intestines healthy and improve the absorption of nutrients. Nutrition rich in fiber will help to maintain regularity.
Healthy thyroid is associated with optimal levels of Vitamin D. Our bodies produce Vitamin D when we are exposed to sun. During the winter months when our exposure to sun is minimal, we need to supplement. The suggested does of Vitamin D3 is 800 IU. Fatty salt water fish and cod liver oil are the best sources of this vitamin.
Just as there are foods that support thyroid function, there are also foods that are considered detrimental to this organ. It is important to avoid foods that are goitrogenic, like non-fermented soy products, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, radishes, strawberries, and peaches. These foods contain substances that interfere with the thyroid function. Moreover, nutritionists suggest to reduce the intake of gluten containing foods. People with hypothyroidism should also avoid processed foods, foods containing preservatives, additives, and artificial sweeteners. The consumption of caffeine should be reduced to an absolute minimum.
Under-active thyroid is not always easy to diagnose. Many people whose thyroid hormones seem to fall into a normal range, experience symptoms of low thyroid. These symptoms are often disregarded by conventional health care providers, but thanks to some serious clinical studies, sub-clinical hypothyroidism is receiving more attention now. Thyroid problems can be addressed nutritionally. Simple lifestyle changes, improved nutrition, supplementation with vital nutrients, moderate exercise, and proper relaxation may help considerably to improve one's condition.
By Dominique Allmon
Also of interest
This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.
Nutritional Support for Underactive Thyroid Gland by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.