The thyroid gland plays a hugely important role in the body. It produces hormones which regulate cell metabolism and basal metabolic rate, growth development, oxygen delivery and thermogenesis.
Hypothyroidism may be transient or permanent and has a higher prevalence in women aged 30-50. It is often under-diagnosed in the UK as most doctors only usually look at TSH and T4 at a push. A number of my clients have been unaware of their thyroid conditions because their readings have been in the normal parameters but this doesn’t always mean that the clinical picture doesn’t look right.
I always recommend that my patients request a T3 test as this is the more active thyroid hormone and there is often a problem with conversion from T4 to T3. Iron deficiency anaemia may also mask hypothyroidism so if your iron levels are low, this could also be causing your thyroid function to be disrupted.
Hypothyroidism can have a primary cause, such as iodine deficiency, drugs, surgery, radiation or an auto-immune defect known as Hashimoto’s. Secondary hypothyroidism involves pituitary or hypothalamic dysfunction, including high levels of stress. The end result is that metabolic function is reduced and organ dysfunction starts to occur.
How does it manifest? Common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism are often quite generalised and include poor circulation and a deep feeling of cold, blood sugar dysregulation and associated symptoms, fatigue, weight gain and difficulty losing weight, lowered immunity, migraines, foggy head, memory loss and fertility issues.
Nutrients essential for healthy thyroid function and thyroid hormone conversion include selenium, iodine and co-factors, including zinc, copper, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin C so it’s important to eat a diet high in required nutrients. A more paleo-style approach might be useful but make sure you choose only lower glycaemic load carbohydrates.
Foods to avoid with hypothyroidism include:
Sulphur-containing goitrogenic substances, which can inhibit thyroid hormone transport and reduce thyroid function if eaten raw so always steam lightly or cook if you do eat them. These include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and radishes. Others include soy, millet, peanuts, almonds and pine nuts.
Processed foods and any food sensitivities, which add more strain to the liver, where thyroid hormone is converted. These don’t just include takeaways or ready meals, rather anything that has not been cooked fresh in a kitchen from ingredients without strange and interesting chemical-sounding names. Check for food intolerances, and avoid these foods.
Non-organic or poorly washed fruits and vegetables as pesticide residues present may disrupt thyroid receptor function. I use grapefruit seed extract, charcoal or vinegar.
Tap water: fluoride and chloride are two environmental pollutants, which interfere with thyroid hormone activity. Use a good water filter, get a distiller or reverse-osmosis system or choose bottled water, preferably from glass.
Alcohol intake should be cut as much as possible or eliminated completely as it interferes with thyroid receptor activity.
As an aside, heavy metals and chemical pollution can also affect the thyroid adversely so also stop smoking!