Posted on Nov 03, 2020, 7 p.m.
Learning what you can and can’t eat when you have hypothyroidism is important, while it can vary from person to person what you eat can not only affect your thyroid gland but also your body’s ability to use thyroid hormones as well as the absorption of medications.
This condition can be tricky to manage, and adding to this challenge what you eat can actually interfere with your treatment plan. The function of the thyroid gland can be heavily influenced by some nutrients and certain foods can inhibit your ability to absorb some of the replacement hormones that you may be taking as part of a thyroid treatment plan.
The American Thyroid Association estimates that over 12% of the populations may face the challenges of dealing with a thyroid condition at some point in their lives, and these issues can be fairly sneaky because of the 20 million Americans living with the disease as many as 60% may not even realize that they have it.
Living with a thyroid condition is no walk in the park, as with many other health conditions some factors are simply out of your control but others are not. There is not much one can do about family history and the environment around you, but what you eat is within your control. Diet plays a prominent role in many things, you are in control of what you eat, and you can decide to choose more thyroid friendly foods while limiting or avoiding ones that will not be doing you any favours.
Some of the choices that fall on the limit/avoid list may come as a shock-like fiber and coffee as they are typically considered to be healthy safe choices. While you may not have to completely avoid these two options, you may have to moderate your intake to enjoy them while managing hypothyroidism. There are also other choices that one should stay away from, many of these no-nos are no-brainers such as fried fast foods, salty processed foods, sugary treats, and excessive alcohol.
Unfortunately, there is no “one diet fits all” or “hypothyroidism diet” that will make you well, but eating smart and making better choices can help you to feel much better despite living with the condition.
Foods with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame contain the soy compounds called isoflavones that may have an effect on the thyroids. Some research suggests that too much soy may increase the risk of developing hypothyroidism. Additionally, some research suggests that soy may interfere with the ability to absorb thyroid medications, as a result, it may be best to wait around 4 hours after consuming soy-based foods before taking these medications; your doctor will be able to tell you what is best for you.
Fibre-rich cruciferous veggies may interfere with the production of thyroid hormones if you have an iodine deficiency. If you fall into this category it may be best to limit your intake as research suggests that digesting cruciferous vegetables may block the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine which is essential to optimal thyroid function. But according to the Mayo Clinic, one would actually need to consume a significant amount to truly impact iodine uptake. If you have both hypothyroidism and an iodine deficiency you can reduce their effect on the thyroid gland by cooking them and limiting intake to 5 ounces a day as this small amount appears to have no adverse effect on thyroid function.
It might also be a good idea to limit the amount of gluten that you are eating to help manage the condition, and for those with celiac disease, even a small amount of gluten will irritate the small intestine which could affect the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medications. Celiac disease and hypothyroidism are often present together according to a study published in the journal Endocrine Connections. If you choose to eat gluten look for whole-grain varieties that are high in fiber which can help to improve the bowel irregularity that often accompanies hypothyroidism and take medications several hours after consuming fiber-rich foods to prevent them from possibly interfering with the absorption of medications.
Fatty foods and all things fried have been found to disrupt the ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement medications, and they may also interfere with the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones. It is a good idea to eliminate these food choices from your diet as even without a thyroid condition they will not be doing the body any good.
All those sugary treats, foods, soft drinks/pop/soda, and yummy pastries with a lot of calories and no nutrients are also on the no-no list because hypothyroidism can cause your metabolism to slow down making it easy to pack on unwanted pounds.
Prepackaged processed foods and frozen foods tend to have a lot of sodium, and those with hypothyroidism should avoid sodium as having an underactive thyroid can increase one’s risk for high blood pressure and too much sodium will further increase the risk. According to the American Heart Association, you should read the packaging labels to find low sodium options, and restrict sodium intake to around 1,500 milligrams per day.
Although fiber is good for you, too much can complicate your treatment plan for managing hypothyroidism. If you are on a high fiber diet it is possible that you may need a higher dose of medication, be sure to talk to your doctor to make sure of what is best for you.
A study published in the journal Thyroid found that caffeine blocked the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medications, as such, it is best to only take medications with water and wait at least 30 minutes after taking medication before reaching for that cup of coffee. Current American Daily Guidelines recommend that adults up to the age of 50 should be getting about 25-38 grams of fiber every day.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that alcohol consumption wreaked havoc on thyroid hormone levels and the ability of the thyroid gland to produce hormones. It appears to have a toxic effect on the thyroid gland as well as suppressing the ability of the body to use thyroid hormones. Those with hypothyroidism would do well to eliminate the use of alcohol or at the very least drink in carefully limited moderation.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.