Hypo or hyper thyroidismcan both be difficult conditions to manage, as what we eat on daily basis significantly interferes with the treatment. Some nutrients heavily influence the function of the thyroid gland, and certain foods can impair your organism’s ability to absorb the replacement hormones you may take as part of your thyroid treatment.
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.
As with many health conditions, some factors are out of your control, including your family history and the environment around you. But diet also plays a prominent role — and since you’re the one in charge of your plate, you can decide which thyroid-friendly foods to choose.
You should also be familiar with what foods should be avoided, as they can significantly worsen your state. Here are some of them:
- Soy and foods containing it
There’s long been concern over the potential negative effects that certain compounds in soy, called isoflavones, may have on the thyroid. Some researchers believe that too much soy may increase a person’s risk for hypothyroidism. But others theorize that only those with both hypothyroidism and an iodine deficiency should watch their intake.
So there are no specific dietary guidelines, but some research does suggest that consumption of soy may interfere with your ability to absorb thyroid medication. For that reason, you may want to wait four hours after eating soy-based foods before taking your regular dose. Check with your doctor to see what’s best for you.
Those with hypothyroidism may want to consider minimizing their intake of gluten, a protein found in foods processed from wheat, barley, rye, and other grains, says Ruth Frechman, RDN, a dietitian in the Los Angeles area and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, gluten can irritate the small intestine, and may hamper absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medication.
If you do choose to eat gluten, be sure to choose whole-grains varieties of bread, pasta, and rice, which are high in fiber and other nutrients and can help improve bowel irregularity, a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Also be sure to take your hypothyroidism medication several hours before or after eating high-fiber foods, to prevent them from interfering with the absorption of your synthetic thyroid hormone.
- Fried and fatty foods
Fats have been found to disrupt the body’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement medicines, says Stephanie Lee, MD, PhD, associate chief of endocrinology, nutrition, and diabetes at Boston Medical Center and an associate professor at the Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts.
Fats may also interfere with the thyroid’s ability to produce hormone as well. Some healthcare professionals recommend that you cut out all fried foods and reduce your intake of fats from sources such as butter, mayonnaise, margarine, and fatty cuts of meat.
Ruth Frenchman, the dietitian mentioned before, says that hypothyroidism can cause the body’s metabolism to slow down. That means it’s easy to put on pounds if you aren’t careful. “You want to avoid foods with excess amounts of sugar because it’s a lot of calories with no nutrients,” she says. It’s best to reduce the amount of sugar you eat or try to eliminate it completely from your diet.
- Processed foods
Another tip from Ruth Frenchman is that processed foods tend to have a high content of sodium, which should be avoided by people with thyroid disorders. She recommends reading “nutrition facts” label on the packaging of frozen or processed foods to find the options with the lowest sodium content.