According to an endocrinological study in India, it is estimated that about 42 million people in the country suffer from thyroid and hypothyroidism is the most common of all disorders.
The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland located in the neck secretes two hormones – thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3). Iodine is an important nutrient that our body needs. The iodine present in the body is used by the thyroid gland to make these hormones. The action is triggered by thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) when a gland in the brain commands it to do so.
In hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland does not create enough of these hormones. Dysfunction of this gland leads to weight gain, low energy, fatigue, cold hands and feet, mood swings, forgetfulness, hair loss, constipation, joint pain, muscle cramps, depression, heavy menstrual flow and infertility.
Of the cases of hypothyroidism detected, more than half are surprisingly due to an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The disorder causes our immune system to attack and destroy the thyroid gland. Specific antibody tests identifying Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are necessary for the management of the disease. These tests include anti-thyroglobulin antibody and anti-microsomal antibody (anti-TPO). Your endocrinologist can guide you in this direction.
The reasons that can trigger hypothyroidism
Fasting or following a very low-calorie diet to lose weight can affect thyroid activity. It is the body’s natural mechanism to save energy in times of food shortage and, on the contrary, leads to weight gain.
Goitrogens: Some raw plant-based foods contain enzymes that interrupt thyroid hormone synthesis and therefore should be limited in the diet. They are commonly found in cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard seeds, turnips, radishes, bamboo shoots, kale, and cassava.
Flavonoids: Generally, flavonoids are considered healthy foods, but they are contraindicated in hypothyroidism because they tend to disrupt thyroid hormone metabolism. Isoflavones are present in soy and its products and luteolin is present in fruits and vegetables like parsley, thyme, celery, olive oil, onion leaves, chamomile tea, broccoli , peppermint, bell peppers, rosemary, oregano, cabbage, carrots, artichoke and apple skin, inhibits the intake of iodine in the body and should be avoided. Pearl millet (bajra) affects thyroid function even with sufficient iodine intake.
Gluten: Wheat and its products (such as rava, maida, cookies, vermicelli, lapsi, pasta, noodles, wheat flakes), rye, and barley may increase anti-thyroid antibody activity .
Vitamin D: Vitamin D and calcium deficiency can trigger hypothyroidism. Regular testing for vitamin D and serum calcium levels is recommended for hypothyroid patients.
Selenium deficiency: Selenium deficiency is one of the reasons for low T3 levels.
Iron deficiency: A lack of iron can also cause hypothyroidism. Therefore, a substantial intake of iron-rich foods should be part of your daily dietary intake.
Screening for all nutrients is the first step towards managing hypothyroidism, where each person’s record and history will turn out to be different. Therefore, finding the right diet for your needs is crucial.
It should be remembered that certain nutrients and dietary supplements can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication.
We will discuss changes and dietary requirements next week.
[The writer is PG (Dietetics and Applied Nutrition); MSc (Dietetics)]
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