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Friday, July 2, 2010

Thyroid and Nutrition

Just for fun, I started researching my thyroid issues (since PCOS is on the side at the moment) and I came across a bunch of nutritional information which is both interesting and irritating all at once. The following information comes from I am posting this because I am not the only one here with thyroid issues.

Treatments and Nutrition:

Standard treatment for thyroid disorders involves daily medication, although surgery or radioiodine therapy may be required in some cases. While most women are diligent about taking their medication, they may be unaware that nutrition and diet also play a role in thyroid disorders.

“If you have a thyroid disorder, certain foods can help or hinder the thyroid function,” Vasconcellos advises. However, she cautions, “you don’t want to use food to treat the thyroid disorder. It should be complementary to medication.”

Certain foods contain compounds called goitrogens that interfere with normal thyroid function or, after they are ingested, interact with other substances in the body to form goitrogens. “Natural goitrogens can suppress the thyroid function,” Vasconcellos explains.

Goitrogenic foods include the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, rutabagas, turnips, kohlrabi, kale), millet, peaches, peanuts, walnuts, pine nuts, radishes, spinach, and strawberries. The isothiocyanates in these foods reduce thyroid function by interfering with the activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase, which helps normal thyroid function by adding iodine atoms onto thyroid hormones. Soy, a staple in the vegetarian diet, is also a goitrogen and appears to increase T-4 without affecting T-3 levels. Isoflavones in soy, such as isothiocyanate, block the activity of thyroid peroxidase. Ultimately, this impairs thyroid function and can lead to weight gain.

Nutritionists and physicians recommend limiting intake of natural goitrogens but not eliminating them, since soy and cruciferous vegetables provide other proven benefits.

Women with a thyroid condition should limit soy intake to no more than one daily serving, which is equivalent to 4 ounces of tofu, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, or 8 ounces of soy milk. Cruciferous vegetables and other foods mentioned above should also be limited to 1 cup two to three times per week.

“Greater than 1 cup daily is considered excessive for those with a thyroid condition,” Vasconcellos says. She adds that cooking appears to make the goitrogenic compounds in these foods inactive and recommends that women with thyroid disorders consume goitrogenic foods in cooked form rather than raw.

If these goitrogenic foods suppress thyroid function, can women with overactive thyroid glands increase the amounts eaten of these foods? Vasconcellos says no. “Eating goitrogens can actually increase the effects of antithyroid medications taken for hyperthyroidism,” she emphasizes. For women with hyperthyroidism, Vasconcellos recommends the following:

• a high-calorie balanced diet;
• a higher fluid intake, if not contraindicated (eg, renal disease);
• appropriate calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus supplements for bone health;
• avoidance of stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate), which can stimulate thyroid function.

Vasconcellos says, “One of the main objectives for women with hypothyroidism is controlling body weight through a calorie-controlled diet appropriate for their age and weight.” In addition to a balanced, calorie-controlled diet, Vasconcellos recommends that women with hypothyroidism limit consumption of natural goitrogens and increase fiber and fluid intake. Increasing fiber (fruits and vegetables) and fluids can help with the constipation often experienced by women with hypothyroidism.

In addition to foods, minerals are also important to thyroid function. Some clinical research has suggested that the minerals copper, zinc, and selenium can influence thyroid hormone utilization. Recently, selenium was found to help prevent and manage cardiovascular conditions, as well as support the conversion of T-4 to T-3 thyroid hormone. The daily recommended dose is 1 milligram copper, 25 milligrams zinc, and 100 micrograms selenium—amounts that are in many daily multivitamins.

Other lifestyle modifications can aid women in alleviating symptoms associated with thyroid disorders. Although smoking is an unhealthy habit for anyone, women with a thyroid disorder should not smoke because nicotine has been shown to adversely affect the conversion of T-4 to T-3. Regular exercise, including appropriate cardiovascular conditioning and strength exercises, can assist a sluggish metabolism in hypothyroidism and help prevent osteoporosis, which frequently afflicts women with hyperthyroidism.