Although hypothyroidism diets exist practically everywhere, health experts say no evidence really exists that proves eating or avoiding specific foods helps improve thyroid function (MayoClinic). If you have checked with your doctor, had a blood test to check your TSH levels and have been diagnosed with an hypothyroidism also known as an underactive thyroid, the only way to improve your condition is through medication prescribed by your doctor.
However, there are many people who take thyroid medication and still have difficulty losing extra pounds. Some also wonder about the types of food they should avoid if they have hypothyroidism. Here’s what health experts say about diet and an underactive thyroid.
Support thyroid health by eating high-quality free-range, wild or organic protein, says Lorna R. Vanderheaghe in the Total Health article “Twenty-Three Percent of Americans have Low Thyroid.” The concept that adopting healthier high quality organic foods helps thyroid function is supported by health experts who say one of the reasons for the increase in hypothyroidism is all of the toxins and chemicals in society and in the foods people eat today.
Vanderheaghe is one of several health experts who recommends people with underactive thyroids eat organic or wild meals that contain a piece of protein and lots of green vegetables. Breakfast should consist of primarily protein like free-range eggs, yogurt with protein powder or chicken breast. Hypothyroid sufferers should also only use organic oils like extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed and sesame and avoid all artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners such as xylitol and stevia are acceptable. In addition getting 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise is recommended to increase metabolism and stimulate the thyroid gland (Vanderheaghe).
There are some reports that mention the Zone diet incorporated with organic food helps support thyroid health and helps reduce thyroid weight gain, and while the originator of the Zone diet, Dr. Sears, says his diet supports hormone health, not enough scientific evidence exists to support these findings.
Foods to Avoid
If you’re taking thyroid medication, ask your doctor about what foods you should avoid eating. Many health experts claim that people taking thyroid medication need to avoid eating the following foods and supplements for a few hours before and after taking their medication:
- Antacids containing aluminum or magnesium
- Calcium supplements
- Supplements or multivitamins containing iron
Soy and Iodine for Hypothyroidism
The research is mixed about soy products and iodine. Some health professionals say people with underactive thyroids should avoid soy products, while others say only to avoid soy for a few hours before and after taking thyroid medication. There are also mixed opinions about iodine. Some health experts say that people in the United States and other developed countries rarely suffer iodine deficiencies because there is enough iodine added to food sources such as salt, so people with hypothyroidism rarely need to supplement their diets with more iodine.
Iodine is a primary trace mineral necessary for optimal thyroid function. According to Ingrid Kohlstadt in the Townsend Letter article “Optimizing Metabolism,” population studies show that fortifying the population’s salt is often not sufficient to optimize iodine. “Some of the most compelling data on iodine status among Americans comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). This series of cross-sectional studies suggests that more than one in ten Americans is iodine-deficient.”
Kohlstadt suggests many people would benefit from more seaweed and less soy in their diets. Patients who suffer from hypothyroidism should be evaluated for iodine deficiency. Even those with normal TSH levels may have unacceptable iodine levels and would feel better by eating more seaweed and avoiding soy.
Kohlstadt, Ingrid. “Optimizing Metabolism.” Townsend Letter. December 2008, Issue 305, p112-113
Nippoltd, Todd B., M.D. “Hypothyroidism Diet: Can Certain Foods Increase Thyroid Function.” MayoClinic.
Vanderheaghe, Lorna R. “Twenty-Three Percent of Americans have Low Thyroid.” Total Health. Mar/Apr 2010, Vol. 30 Issue 5, p42-45.