You’ll never give a passing thought to thyroid hormones when they’re in proper balance. But for millions of people, overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) and under production of the hormones (hypothyroidism) disrupt metabolism and prompt reactions that are uncomfortable at best, and at worst quite dangerous.
One of our readers, Mary, recently wrote, ‘I have hypothyroid. I take a prescription drug for it but wondered if there are any dietary changes I can make that could further help?
Hormone treatments should always be taken under a doctor’s care and those patients who are currently taking synthetic thyroid medication should talk to their doctor before making any changes to their regimen.
In terms of diet, there are a couple of types of food that Mary might do well to avoid.
Hypothyroidism: So what is hypothyroidism?
Before Mary was diagnosed as hypothyroid she probably began to feel chronically fatigued. She may have also frequently caught a chill in warm environments, gained weight and felt depressed.
These are all typical symptoms of hypothyroidism, which depletes the energy of cells throughout the body.
Research shows that the thyroid hormone T3 is more active than T4 – in fact, it is roughly four times as strong as T4. In the body, all T4 hormones must be converted into T3 in order to control metabolism.
Many patients with hypothyroidism do not have the enzymatic capability to make that conversion, which is why they suffer from the above symptoms.
Hypothyroidism: Dietary landmines
Beyond treatment, there are a couple of foods that may present pitfalls for patients with hypothyroidism.
Another one of our regular readers, told us: ‘I have seen mentioned that broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower (cruciferous vegetables) should not be eaten more than three days per week if one has hypothyroidism.
What exactly goes wrong if this is not adhered to?
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, a high intake of cruciferous vegetables may prompt the development of a compound call goitrin, which has been shown to impede the synthesis of thyroid hormone.
Soy is the other food to be wary of.
Soy products can play havoc with hypothyroid patients because the soy isoflavones limit the cells’ ability to receive thyroid hormones.
Other isoflavone rich foods include legumes, grains and cabbage. Red clover (sometimes used to address menopausal symptoms) is also high in isoflavones.
You can find more information about the problems soy causes for hypothyroid patients at the web site for the Weston A. Price foundation (westonaprice.org).
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‘Armour Yourself Against Hypothyroidism’ William Campbell Douglass II, M.D., Daily Dose, 10/29/02, realhealthnews.com ‘Cruciferous Vegetables’ Linus Pauling Institute, lpi.oregonstate.edu
‘Slovak Doctor Says Solar Flares Could Raise Strokes’ Matt Reynolds, Reuters Health, 5/22/06, reutershealth.com