The Thyroid

Original Image by Joseph Mercola via Flickr
Original Image by Joseph Mercola via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Often times I hear someone mention they know someone that has trouble losing weight because of their thyroid.  I know there has to be more to the story than I’ve always known.  This common comment sparked my interest on the role of our thyroid in nutrition and why people have troubles losing weight if they have thyroid problems.
Problems with one’s thyroid are often overlooked, but can quickly be the reason for some underlying issues.  Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, toxic adenomas, subacute thyroiditis, pituitary gland malfunctions, cancerous growth in thyroid glands, Hashimoto’s disease and/or Graves’ disease are all related and associated with the thyroid.
Let’s go start from square one.  The thyroid is a ductless gland that secretes triodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormone.  These hormones delivery energy to cells,  regulate growth and development through rate of metabolism.  It is located in the lower part of one’s neck.  The thyroid gland is a crucial key to the metabolic processes.
Benign problems are goiters, which are enlarged glands.  If left untreated, it can lead to life threatening issues, such as cancer.  Many people suffer from abnormal production of thyroid hormones.
Potential problems with one’s thyroid:
  • Goiter: enlarged thyroid; caused by deficiency of iodine and/or over or under production of T3 and T4
  • Thyroid nodules: lumps in thyroid gland

  • Hypothyroidism: under active thyroid; if there’s an under active thyroid at a young age, it can lead to cretinism–mental retardation and stunted growth; Most infants’ thyroids are routinely checked
    • Symptoms: fatigue; weight gain; depression; infertility; high cholesterol; neck pain/enlargement; hair loss; worsening menstrual and menopausal symptoms; low sex drive; fuzzy thinking
    • Types of hypothyroidism:
      • Hashimoto’s disease: an autoimmune disorder; thyroid tissue’s attacked by body, which causes the tissue to eventually be destroyed and ceases production of hormones; typically occurs during menopause
      • Lithium: use may cause hypothyroidism
      • Removal of thyroid gland: may need to be surgically or chemically removed
      • Exposure to excessive iodide: overexposure may occur from cold and sinus medicines, heart medicine (i.e. amiodarone), contrast dyes, may come from x ray
  • Relationship of hypothyroidism, Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes
    • With hypothyroidism, there’s an increased risk of CVD
    • low thyroid hormone levels increases the blood pressure, blood lipid levels, C-reactive protein, homocysteine
    • 30% of those with thyroid disease have type I diabetes; 12.5% of clients have type II diabetes along with thyroid problems
    • normalization of one’s thyroid positively impact’s one’s cholesterol levels
  • Hyperthyroidism: overactive thyroid
    • Symptoms: insomnia; unexpected weight loss; chronic diarrhea; anxiety; panic attacks; palpitations; high blood pressures; bulging eyes; hair loss; neck pain and enlargement; low sex drive and/or worsening menstrual symptoms
    • Graves’ disease:most common type of hyperthyroidism; antibodies target gland and increase hormone production–>overproduction
    • Toxic adenomas: nodules begin to secrete thyroid hormone, which upset’s body’s equilibrium; goiters often contain nodules
    • Subacute thyroiditis: inflammation of thyroid; causes “leak” of excess hormones; temporary  hyperthyroidism may occur
    • pituitary gland malfunctions and/or cancerous growths:  may be caused by hyperthyroidism
Impact of nutrition on thyroid:
  • Goitrogens
    • Naturally occurring in foods that impact one’s thyroid.  A goiter may occur, can be impacted by antithyroid drug, which causes an under active thyroid
    • main goitrogens: broccoli, kale, cabbage, soy
    • If one has hyperthyroidism, may want to incorporate goitrogenic foods into daily consumption
    • with hypothyroidism, one can consume goitrogens in moderation since the goitrogenic materials can partially be destroyed by heat
  • Coffee’s interaction with thyroid medication
    • One should wait an hour after taking thyroid medication to drink coffee since it can affect absorption of the medication
  • Calcium fortified orange juice’s interaction with medication
    • One should wait 3-4 hours after taking thyroid medication to consume calcium fortified orange juice and iron and calcium supplements since they can inhibit absorption of thyroid medication
  • Iodized Salt
    • Iodized salt is sometimes the solution for those with iodine deficiency, cretinism and/or retardation
    • one needs to consume the recommended amount of iodine for the thyroid to function properly (see in the suggestions section later on for the recommended mcg)
  • High Fiber Foods
    • Many with thyroid problems have problems with constipation and extra weight
    • Fiber intake can impact absorption of medications so it should be monitored by one’s doctor
    • Sources:spinach; sweet potatoes; brussel sprouts; avocado; beans; cabbage; carrots; kale; turnip greens; mushrooms; rhubarb; peppers; eggplant
  • Gluten and Wheat
    • subset of autoimmune thyroid patients have triggered autoimmunity because of celiac disease
    • a gluten free diet may eliminate antibodies, reduce bloating and help with energy and weight loss
  • Soy
    • consumption of soy can inhibit thyroid hormone absorption
    • suggested to limit soy to fermented forms (i.e. tempeh)
    • with hyperthyroidism, one may want to incorporate more soy into diet
Suggestions for the future:

Original Image by Ken Hawkins via Flickr
Original Image by Ken Hawkins via Flickr
  • Most important: calorie and carbohydrate monitored diet and lifestyle
    • monitor intake of added sugar and fats; fast food;
  • Thyroid hormone replacement medication: i.e. Synthroid, Levoxy; Armour, Naturethroid
  • Balance adrenal, reproduction and insulin hormones
  • Water: sufficient amount of water intake is important for one’s overall health and metabolism; can reduce appetite; reduce bloating and water retention; improve digestion and elimination and alleviate constipation
  • monitor vitamin D, selenium, iodine and vitamin B12 levels
  • Exercise regularly
  • regulate one’s stress
  • get adequate sleep and rest
  • Coconut Oil: A thyroid friendly option to replace fats and oils
  • Recommended consumption of iodine:
    • Birth-6 months–110 mcg
    • 7-12 months–130 mcg
    • 1-8 years old–90 mcg
    • 9-13 years old–120 mcg
    • 14-18 years old–150 mcg
    • Adults–150 mcg
    • Pregnant women–220 mcg
    • Breastfeeding–290 mcg
    • Source: cod, tuna, shrimp, seaweed, milk, yogurt, cheese, iodized salt, breads, cereals, etc.
One can’t argue the susceptibility of one’s thyroid to many diseases.  The state of one’s thyroid impacts almost every other organ in the body.  It’s critical to not only take a proactive approach to monitor your body’s “tell tale” signs, but to know the signs and symptoms one should be on the lookout for.

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