Within the neck is a small butterfly-shaped gland called the thyroid. The thyroid produces and stores thyroid hormones, which affect nearly every cell in the body. When the thyroid receives a signal from the thyroid-stimulating hormone (THS) – produced by the pituitary gland at the base of the brain – it releases thyroid hormones into the bloodstream.
When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones, it is called hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism affects growth, cell repair and metabolism. People who suffer from hypothyroidism often experience fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, depression and/or feeling cold.
Diet, along with medication prescribed by a doctor, can help manage symptoms. The following are nutrients that are essential for people with hypothyroidism.
Iodine is a mineral that is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. Therefore, people with iodine deficiency are especially at risk of hypothyroidism.
If you have an iodine deficiency, skip the supplements; they are spendy, it is easy to get enough iodine from diet alone for most people, and some studies show that iodine in large quantities can actually damage the thyroid gland.
Instead, incorporate iodine-rich foods like seaweed, fish, dairy and eggs into your diet.
Selenium is good for people with hypothyroidism because it helps activate thyroid hormones so the body can use them. It also has antioxidant benefits, meaning it could help protect the thyroid gland from free radicals.
Selenium-rich foods include Brazil nuts, tuna, sardines, eggs and legumes. You should also avoid selenium supplements unless told otherwise by your health care provider; supplements are often available in large doses, and selenium can be toxic if taken in too large a quantity.
Zinc, like selenium, helps activate thyroid hormones. Studies also show that zinc may help the body regulate TSH.
Zinc-rich foods include oysters, shellfish, beef and chicken.
Foods to Avoid
While some foods can help relieve symptoms of hypothyroidism, other foods can exacerbate them. If you have hypothyroidism, avoid foods that contain high levels goitrogens. This compound gets its name from “goiter,” which is an enlarged thyroid gland that sometimes occurs with hypothyroidism.
Many common foods contain goitrogens, including:
- Soy foods: tofu, tempeh, edamame
- Certain vegetables: cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, spinach
- Fruits & starches: sweet potatoes, cassava, peaches, strawberries
- Nuts & seeds: millet, pine nuts, peanuts
For more information about dietary and other lifestyle changes to help with hypothyroidism, schedule an appointment with the experts at Hampton Roads ENT today!