Are you one of the many Americans who suffer from thyroid abnormalities? Whether you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, thyroid abnormalities can wreak havoc on your body and mind, after all, the thyroid gland is what’s responsible for setting our basal metabolic rate, among other things. A change in thyroid hormone secretion can cause many different symptoms depending on whether your thyroid gland is overactive (hyperthyroid, most commonly caused by the autoimmune condition, Graves’ Disease) or underactive (hypothyroid, due to certain medications, or commonly caused by the autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism). The number one treatment for both of these conditions starts by consulting a Medical Doctor, preferably an Endocrinologist who specializes in the thyroid gland or metabolic diseases, but what can you do to help yourself after going on medication?
You can take control of your diet and exercise habits, which may help your thyroid, and will definitely help your overall health. For hypothyroidism, there are certain foods to avoid, especially when taking your medication. According to some, you shouldn’t take your medication at the same time as eating anything with soy, walnuts, calcium supplements, iron supplements, antacids, and certain cholesterol-lowering drugs. Goitrogenic foods, which include cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower) and soy products (tofu, soymilk, tempeh, and others) may cause the thyroid gland to enlarge and cause the thyroid to slow down even more, so you might want to limit these foods. Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages, like cola or other soft-drinks, should also be avoided when taking medication especially, because caffeine may prevent some of the medication from being absorbed. Some people claim that gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, among other grains) can inhibit thyroid function and some individuals find that their hypothyroid symptoms decrease after going on a gluten-free diet, however, substantial evidence has not yet been proven. It is getting easier to go gluten-free (see my previous posts linked here and here). Hypothyroid often causes individuals to feel sluggish and lethargic, but with medication, symptoms should decrease overtime. Consuming a well-rounded, healthy diet along with daily exercise may increase energy levels, which overtime, makes exercising a lot easier. Getting active and spending some time outside every day also helps decrease symptoms of depression, which is common in individuals with hypothyroid.
What about those with hyperthyroid? In this condition, individuals may feel anxious and experience unintended weight loss. Depending on the treatment your doctor has prescribed (medication, partial or full thyroidectomy) you may not have to alter your diet too much, or you may be advised to increase your consumption of goitrogenic foods (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc). Going gluten-free is also a suggestion made by many in the alternative-health community, although, as stated above, the research has yet to prove anything concrete. As with hypothyroid, it’s important to eat a well-rounded diet and get some exercise. Those with an overactive thyroid gland may feel anxious at times, and learning ways to calm the body and mind may be helpful. Activities like yoga and outdoor walking or hiking may be helpful.
Although diet and exercise can help anyone with a thyroid condition, it’s always best to visit your doctor first, and then try alternative routes. Untreated thyroid conditions can result in heart problems, so take your thyroid health seriously.