What is a Thyroid Gland?
Before we discuss how a hypothyroidism diet can be beneficial to us, we must first define the thyroid and its overall role in the body. A thyroid is one of the largest endocrine glands. In the human anatomy, it is located in the neck and below the voice box or larynx. It is an important organ that regulates the body’s metabolism, energy consumption, protein production, and sensitivity to other hormones. The gland secretes two main hormones known as T3 or triiodothyronine and T4 or thyroxine. This function is dictated by a feedback mechanism by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, which are both located in the brain. Clearly, the importance of this organ cannot be understated. Therefore, when disorders or illnesses affect the thyroid, it can have disastrous results to the overall health of the human body.
What is Hypothyroidism?
One of the chief illnesses associated with the thyroid gland is hypothyroidism. This condition is the state in which the thyroid gland cannot produce a sufficient amount of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism affects people of all ages; however the elderly are more likely to be diagnosed with it. Women of the age of 60 and older are at a higher risk of having the condition. The disease is also hereditary.
Symptoms and Causes of Hypothyroidism
The symptoms of hypothyroidism, while varying between person to person, include subjectivity to cold, fatigue, increased pain in joints and muscles, weight gain, slowed heart rate and increased subjectivity to cold (source). These symptoms develop at a gradual rate, so the victim of this disease will not feel the effects until later. One of the main causes for hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which causes the immune system to attack the thyroid tissue in the body. As the immune system attacks the thyroid, fewer hormones are produced, thus leading to hypothyroidism. We will now see how food choices of a hypothyroidism diet impact the health of a thyroid gland.
How Does Diet Affect Hypothyroidism?
A method to both prevent and treat hypothyroidism is the hypothyroid diet. This practiced is based upon the idea of that avoiding or eating certain foods will improve thyroid gland function. While there is no hard evidence to claim that this diet for hypothyroidism has had any drastic impact on the thyroid gland, it is nonetheless an encouraged practice. The logic follows that since the majority of the immune system is located in the digestive tract of the guts and intestines, a healthy eating habit greatly influences the overall health of the thyroid glands. By rebuilding the digestive system, this would in turn provide for a healthy immune system that will not attack the thyroid. In the long run, this hypothyroidism diet is said to be beneficial to thyroid hormone production.
Avoiding Toxic Effects from Thyroid gland
A key part of the hypothyroidism diet is regulating sugar intake. The thyroid can never improve if consumption of sugar is not put in check. This is due to the pancreas playing a large role in metabolizing sugar, much like the thyroid. Thus, these two organs are closely related in function. Also important to a hypothyroidism diet is avoiding foods containing high carbs, as it is a strong source for pathogenic bacteria to feed off of in the gut.
Rebuilding the Digestive System
In order to promote a health hypothyroidism diet, a diverse, nutrient rich eating habit must develop. Foods that contain high amounts of proteins and fats are encouraged as they are the building blocks for the digestive track. These include walnuts and chicken. Also equally as important is the consumption of probiotics found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchee, and sauerkraut. Probiotics allow for easier vitamin absorption and aid in digestion of foods. Last but not least, vitamins and supplements such as Vitamin D and Calcium are also beneficial to the digestive system.
While there lacks hard evidence to prove the claim that a hypothyroidism diet is a significant factor in thyroid health, simply having a healthy eating habit by itself is beneficial to the body as a whole. Thus, a diet for hypothyroidism should be encouraged all people.