In recent decades, thyroid disorders are becoming increasingly common. Accordingly, it is essential to raise awareness about the importance of the thyroid gland in reducing thyroid-related disorders.
An important gland situated in the neck’s base, the thyroid affects almost all cells in the human body. A healthy thyroid ensures carbohydrates, proteins and fat are converted into energy seamlessly. Moreover, the thyroid gland plays a major role in regulating the body temperature, brain development, respiration, menstrual cycle and… the list goes on. Given its crucial role, a balanced diet and active lifestyle are necessary for maintaining good thyroid health. Proper diet is vital because the thyroid undertakes all its functions with the help of iodine obtained from food.
In other words, imbalanced diets can cause thyroid disorders. Two common thyroid ailments are hypothyroidism (lower production of the hormones T3 or Triiodothyronine and T4 or Thyroxine; underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (excess hormone production; overactive thyroid). Between the two, hypothyroidism is more common. It is marked by unexpected weight gain, tiredness, fatigue and increase in the blood’s cholesterol levels. While autoimmune in 90% of patients, other triggers comprise iodine deficiency or genetic conditions.
Since the symptoms and health impact of both differ so does their treatment. Thyroid disorders cannot be cured by dietary guidelines alone. A proper balance between exercise, medications and nutrients is required in managing thyroid problems and mitigating symptoms. Since thyroid issues can be accompanied by anxiety and depression, regular exercise is critical as it controls stress. Most importantly, never skip medicines. Else, any weight management programme won’t be effective.
No special diet is needed while having thyroid medications except for a few foods. Limit/avoid soy protein because excessive amounts of soy might interfere with thyroid hormone absorption. Also, avoid excessive amounts of iodine medications/supplements since this can alter thyroid hormone levels. Iodized salt and most iodine-rich foods such as fish are acceptable.
Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli) contain goitrogens, which may disturb the thyroid function. If these are well-cooked, however, the goitrogens are inactivated. Nevertheless, such veggies should only be consumed in moderation. Additionally, caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea as well as green tea can interfere with thyroid hormone secretion. Therefore, minimal consumption is advised. All processed foods should be avoided due to the excess sodium content while soy and gluten may be eaten in moderate amounts since they hinder thyroid health.
Another ignored factor is the leaky gut, which is considered the root cause of most thyroid diseases. As a result, developing a healthy gut and restoring digestive enzymes are imperative. This is possible by chewing food thoroughly, which naturally stimulates digestive enzymes’ secretion. A healthy thyroid diet should comprise fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Gut healing: Gut imbalance or leaky gut is believed to be the root cause of most thyroid disease
Besides, ensure an adequate intake of essential nutrients such as zinc, selenium and iodine. Zinc is found in nuts, meat, pumpkin seeds, oyster mushrooms, chickpeas, and garlic, among others. Selenium-rich foods include chicken, eggs, fish, legumes, peas, jowar, bajra and maize while iodine is available via iodised salt, legumes, eggs, some fish, potato, prunes and yoghurt.
Meanwhile, persons on thyroid medications must avoid consuming fibre immediately after taking medicines since it can impact absorption. Typically, a two-hour gap is best before eating any high-fibre meal.
Finally, since modern diets lack adequate micronutrients, home food fortification helps in meeting shortfalls. A daily meal food can be augmented through locally-available food fortifiers such as Nu-Shakti. These home food fortifiers can be added safely in daily staples or derivatives such as rice and wheat flour. Thereby, one’s daily micronutrient needs are met, ensuring better thyroid health.