Your food and lifestyle choices can go a long way to support an underactive thyroid, and some of them may surprise you. For example, the diet for cancer prevention calls for many brightly colored vegetables, dark greens, onions and garlic, and cruciferous vegetables. Members of the cruciferous vegetable family include Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli. Mustard greens, kale, radishes, turnips, cauliflower and kohlrabi are also members of the cruciferous family. However, cruciferous vegetables can have a depressing effect on thyroid function. If you are wanting to support underactive thyroid, its best to go lightly with this vegetable family.
Underactive thyroid, known medically as hypothyroidism, exists when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain important hormones. This upsets the normal balance of chemical reactions in your body. In the early stages it seldom causes symptoms, however over time untreated hypothyroidism can cause health issues such as obesity, joint pain, infertility, cancer and heart disease.
Symptoms of underactive thyroid
Symptoms of underactive thyroid tend to develop slowly over a number of years. One might attribute the fatigue and weight gain simply to getting older. As your metabolism continues to slow, you may develop more obvious signs and symptoms, which include: increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, puffy face, hoarseness, muscle weakness, elevated blood cholesterol level, muscle aches/tenderness/stiffness, pain and/or stiffness or swelling in your joints, heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods, thinning hair, slowed heart rate, depression, and impaired memory.
Untreated hypothyroidism signs and symptoms can gradually become more severe. Myxedema can occur with advanced hypothyroidism. Although it is rare, a myxedema coma is life threatening. Other symptoms of advanced hypothyroidism include low blood pressure, decreased breathing, decreased body temperature, unresponsiveness, and even coma.
Who is at risk for hypothyroidism?
Anyone can develop hypothyroidism, however risk increases if you:
*Are a woman older than age 60
*Have an autoimmune disease
*Have a close relative with an autoimmune disease
*Have been treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications
*Received radiation to your neck or upper chest
*Have had thyroid surgery (partial thyroidectomy)
*Have been pregnant or delivered a baby within the past six month
Complications from under active thyroid include:
Goiter – Although generally not uncomfortable, it can affect your appearance and may interfere with swallowing or breathing.
Cardiovascular problems – Underactive thyroid may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease and high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Even sub clinical hypothyroidism, a more benign condition than true hypothyroidism, can cause an increase in total cholesterol levels and impair the pumping ability of your heart. Hypothyroidism can also lead to an enlarged heart and heart failure.
Mental health issues – Depression may occur early and may become more severe over time. Underactive thyroid can also cause slowed mental functioning.
Peripheral neuropathy – Long-term uncontrolled hypothyroidism can cause damage to your peripheral nerves for example your arms and legs. Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness or loss of muscle control.
Infertility – Low levels of thyroid hormone can interfere with ovulation, which impairs fertility.
Birth defects – Babies born to women with untreated thyroid disease may have a higher risk of birth defects.
Lifestyle and dietary changes that support thyroid function
Lifestyle and dietary choices that will help support thyroid function include eating several small, well-balanced meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar consistent and help with energy. Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and proteins. Snack on raw seeds, apricots, prunes and dates, and avoid refined sugars. When cooking use good quality extra-virgin olive, or coconut oil.
Snack on Brazil nuts–natural source of selenium, which reduces damaging thyroid inflammation, and builds the powerful thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3).
Cook your cruciferous vegetables—to break down the goitrogens that block the thyroid’s absorption of iodine. Iodine is essential to make energizing thyroid hormones. Cooking cruciferous for little as two minutes destroys goitrogens, as they are quite heat sensitive.
Add in dark greens – Some experts suggest rotating your dark green and cruciferous vegetable family choices in order to get their benefits while avoiding a build up of the goitrogens that can block the thyroid’s iodine absorption.
Eat lean protein with every meal to slow the absorption of carbs and prevent insulin spikes which are a proven thyroid suppressor. Protein is rich in the amino acid tyrosine, which is an essential building block of thyroid hormones. Iodine is directly related to thyroid function and is found in kelp and seaweed.
There is a debate about whether or not soy products should be consumed by those with hypothyroidism since the isoflavones (phytoestrogens) in soy have adverse affect on the thyroid. Soy can negatively affect the body’s ability to absorb synthetic thyroid medications. Wait 3 or 4 hours before consuming soy products after taking thyroid medication, or better yet don’t consume soy at all. Also wait before taking calcium, magnesium or iron supplements as they interfere with medication absorption. Excess fiber intake can have an adverse affect on thyroid medication as it interferes with medication absorption.
Scratched or damaged nonstick pans increase the risk of thyroid problems because the coatings interfere with the ability of thyroid hormones to bind to the tissues that desperately need them. Smoking and exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke increases your risk of thyroid problems. Tobacco’s cyanide clogs the receptor sites on your thyroid gland, interfering with the gland’s ability to absorb the nutrients.
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