The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. In the United States, hypothyroidism usually is caused by an autoimmune response known as Hashimoto’s disease or autoimmune thyroiditis. As with all autoimmune diseases, the body mistakenly identifies its own tissues as an invader and attacks them until the organ is destroyed. This chronic attack eventually prevents the thyroid from releasing adequate levels of the hormones T3 and T4, which are necessary to keep the body functioning properly. The lack of these hormones can slow down metabolism and cause weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and hair, and difficulty concentrating (see table).2 Hashimoto’s affects approximately 5% of the US population, is seven times more prevalent in women than men, and generally occurs during middle age.3
If hypothyroidism is left untreated, symptoms of myxedema can appear. These include very dry skin, and swelling around the lips and nose called non-pitting (firm) edema. More severe symptoms can be life-threatening and include low blood pressure, decreased body temperature, shallow respirations, unresponsiveness and even coma. Fortunately, advanced hypothyroidism such as this is quite rare.
The best diet for your thyroid requires more than just iodine, selenium, and vitamin D, says Ilic. And—perhaps unsurprisingly—foods that are high in antioxidants are also good for your thyroid. One 2008 study by researchers from Turkey suggests that people with hypothyroidism have higher levels of harmful free radicals than those without the condition.
If your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and adrenal hormones (cortisol, DHEA) are out of balance, this can make weight loss more difficult. Perimenopause and menopause, as well as estrogen dominance, can also cause a shift of weight to the belly, and make weight loss more difficult. Lack of testosterone in men and women can also make it harder to build fat-burning muscle. And adrenal imbalances can make you tired, less responsive to thyroid treatment, and less able to lose weight.
Hypothyroidism diet tips: Some foods, especially cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower) contain natural goitrogens, compounds that can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge by interfering with thyroid hormone synthesis. Cooking has been reported to inactivate this effect in Brussels sprouts. Cassava, a starchy root that is the source of tapioca, can also have this effect. Other goitrogens include corn, sweet potatoes, lima beans, and soy. Some practitioners recommend that people with under-active thyroid glands avoid these foods, even though most have not been proved to cause hypothyroidism in humans.
Moreover, a strong relationship exists between thyroid disorders, impaired glucose control, and diabetes. Thirty percent of people with type 1 diabetes have ATD, and 12.5% of those with type 2 diabetes have thyroid disease compared with a 6.6% prevalence of thyroid disease in the general public. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism affect carbohydrate metabolism and have a profound effect on glucose control, making close coordination with an endocrinologist vital.8
Having a thyroid condition is no picnic, but you're not alone with this health issue. According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of the population may end up dealing with a thyroid condition at some point in their lives. And thyroid issues can be sneaky: Of the nearly 20 million Americans living with the disease, as many as 60 percent don't even realize they have it.
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Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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