By Avni Kaul
Thyroid is an integral part of the endocrine system of the human body and is situated in front of the neck – just below the Adam’s apple. It is an important gland because it secretes thyroid hormones, that influence the metabolic rate, growth, repair and protein synthesis in our body. These hormones also have many other effects – they regulate our metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, bone maintenance and also influence our moods.
The thyroid may be affected by several diseases, but the two most common forms of thyroid-related diseases are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Insufficient production of thyroid hormones leads to hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency, genetic disorders, certain medications and surgery that removed or affected part of the thyroid can also cause this. Since the body’s metabolism is affected by thyroid hormones, their insufficient quantity alters the temperature of the body and the rate of calorie-burning. This is the reason why people suffering from this condition often feel cold, tired and may gain weight easily.
Nutrition during treatment
Abnormal weight gain or loss can be managed by eating nutritious meals, exercising and sufficient sleep. Emphasis should be first on getting the disease under control with medication. After this, patients should be encouraged to eat lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, heart-healthy fats and omega 3 fatty acids and high-fibre food to help manage or prevent other problems (such as diabetes, heart disease , cancer and many more). Consumption of higher protein also increase metabolism.
Which nutrients are important
- Iodine – is the main nutrient needed to battle hypothyroidism. But it can be easily made a part of our meals by adding iodized salt, fish, dairy and eggs to our regular meals.
- Selenium – is another essential mineral which has an antioxidant benefits. It activates thyroid hormones so that they may be used by the body and also protects thyroid gland from damage by free radicals. Selenium rich foods are brazil nuts, tuna, sardines, nuts and legumes and they should be added to your regular diet for a healthy body. Supplements of iodine and selenium should not be taken unless advised otherwise by a doctor despite its benefits
- Zinc – also activates thyroid hormones and regulates TSH which is a hormone that tells the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones.
- Vitamin D – Hyperthyroidism causes bone loss which is compounded if you have Vitamin D deficiency. This is something that women need to take care of especially. Fatty fish, milk, dairy, eggs and mushrooms are good sources of Vitamin D. Supplements maybe given if Vitamin D levels are very low under medical supervision.
Foods to avoid
Foods with goitrogens (tofu, edamame, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peaches, strawberries, millets and peanuts) should be eaten in moderation and ideally cooked. Avoid eating processed foods for they are loaded with calories. Supplements of selenium and iodine should be avoided . Coffee, Green Tea and alcohol should also be avoided if they irritate your thyroid gland.
Foods to eat
People suffering from hypothyroidism have lots of nutritious options. They can include eggs, meat, fish, most of the fruits and vegetables, gluten free grains and seeds like rice, buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds and flax seeds, dairy and non-caffeinated beverages.
Maintaining healthy weight
Slow metabolism leads to weight gain in hypothyroidism. But by exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep and eating a low to moderate carbohydrate diet and always keeping portion control in mind helps.
Hyperthyroidism is caused by antibodies in the blood that turn on the thyroid and cause it to grow and secrete thyroid hormone in excess. This problem is hereditary and usually young women are affected by it.
In this, the metabolism becomes faster leading to nervousness, irritability, increased sweating, heart racing hand tremors, anxiety, difficulty in sleeping, weight-loss, thinning and dullness of hair, skin and muscle weakness, especially in upper arms and thighs. Bowel movements become more frequent. Menstrual flow may lighten in women. Exhaustion, elevation of upper eyelids, or an enlarged thyroid gland are also early symptoms.
Radioactive iodine is given to the patients because this turns hyperthyroidism to hypothyroidism (easier to treat). Surgical removal of all or most of your thyroid gland cures hyperthyroidism permanently. However, complications (damage to the parathyroid glands which control your body’s calcium levels, vocal chords) may occur.
Diet, nutrition & supplements
Lots of supplements have a potential impact on thyroid function. Therefore, it is advisable to take precautions by coordinating patient care with a knowledgeable practitioner.
For example, calcium, coffee and fibre supplements and chromium picolinate is recommended for blood sugar control and weight loss interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication. High dosage of flavonoid supplements may also suppress thyroid function.
Regular exercise is as important as medication and nutritious food for thyroid patients as they help reduce weight gain, fatigue, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances.
Author of the article is Nutritionist and Wellness Coach, Founder of Nutri Activania.
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