Thyroid Problems - What Foods to Eat and What Foods to Avoid
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the throat that produces hormones that regulate many bodily functions, such as metabolism, growth, and temperature. When the thyroid does not produce enough hormones, it causes a condition called hypothyroidism, which can lead to symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, cold intolerance, mood changes, and constipation.
The diet can have a significant impact on hypothyroidism. Some nutrients like iodine, selenium, and zinc can help maintain healthy thyroid function, while others may worsen or interfere with hypothyroidism treatments. Here are some foods to eat and avoid if you have thyroid problems.
Foods to Eat
The body needs iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency can cause an enlarged thyroid gland, known as a goiter. However, too much iodine can also worsen hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormones). Therefore, it is important to get the right amount of iodine from your diet. Foods rich in iodine include:
- Iodized table salt
- Saltwater fish
- Whole eggs
Selenium is another nutrient that plays a role in the production of thyroid hormones and has antioxidant activity. Selenium deficiency can impair thyroid function and increase the risk of thyroid disease. Foods rich in selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Brown rice
Zinc is another nutrient that may benefit people with low levels of thyroid hormones. Zinc deficiency can affect the synthesis and metabolism of thyroid hormones. Zinc supplementation may improve thyroid function in people with hypothyroidism. Foods rich in zinc include:
- Fortified cereals
- Pumpkin seeds
Foods to Avoid
Some foods may interfere with thyroid hormone production or absorption and should be avoided or limited if you have hypothyroidism. These include:
- Goitrogen-containing foods: These are foods that contain substances that may inhibit the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland or interfere with the conversion of thyroid hormones. They include cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts), soy products (such as tofu, soy milk, edamame), millet, cassava, peanuts, and flaxseeds. However, cooking these foods may reduce their goitrogenic effect and make them safer to consume in moderation.
- Gluten: This is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. Some people with hypothyroidism may have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, which can damage the intestinal lining and impair the absorption of thyroid medication. Therefore, avoiding gluten may help improve symptoms and medication effectiveness.
- Processed foods: These are foods that are high in calories, sugar, salt, fat, and additives. They can contribute to weight gain, inflammation, and insulin resistance, which can worsen hypothyroidism symptoms and increase the risk of other health problems. Examples of processed foods are chips, cookies, cakes, candy, soda, fast food, frozen meals, etc.
- Alcohol: This is a substance that can affect the liver's ability to metabolize thyroid hormones and increase the risk of liver damage. Alcohol can also interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication and cause dehydration and nutrient deficiencies.
However, it is important to consult with your doctor before making any dietary changes or taking any supplements, especially if you are on thyroid medication. Remember that diet alone cannot cure hypothyroidism, but it can complement your treatment and help you feel better.
Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)
Internal Medicine Specialist
Phone : 85000 23456