After I had my second child I was diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis. This a condition following pregnancy where the thyroid swells, becomes inflamed and then dumps its store of hormones all at once, first causing hyperthyroidism, an over production of hormones by the thyroid, followed by hypothyroidism once those hormones dissipate. In most cases thyroid function eventually returns to normal on its own after pregnancy, however in my case I suspect it didn’t. Not wishing to subject myself to life-long thyroid medications without cause I sought out a diet that may naturally correct hypothyroidism and promote thyroid health.
How do I know if my thyroid may be under producing, or I may have hypothyroidism?
Under production by the thyroid will cause body system processes to slow causing a wide variety of symptoms which may or may not include;
-Fatigue or weakness
-A sensitivity to cold
-Pale, dry skin
-Weak, brittle hair
-Forgetfulness or slower than normal thought
-Irregular periods in women (usually heavier than normal.)
-Joint stiffness or pain
-A burning sensation in the toes or fingers
-Changes in hair growth
What can cause hypothyroidism besides pregnancy?
Iodine deficiency or excess, genetic predisposition, autoimmune disease, radiation, treatments for hyperthyroidism, thyroid injury, infection or surgery, pituitary gland injury or disorder and certain medications can all cause hypothyroidism.
What foods help promote thyroid health and hormone production?
Selenium- Selenium is one of the trace minerals that helps to regulate thyroid function. Foods high in selenium include Brazil nuts, tuna fish, cod, and beef. You need around 55 mcg of selenium as an adult.
Iodine- Incorrect iodine levels in the body can actually cause hypothyroidism making it one of most important foods to regulate if you suspect hypothyroidism. Excellent sources of iodine include sea kelp, iodized salt, yogurt, saltwater fish, and dairy products such as milk and cheese. Typically an adult should consume around 150mcg of iodine a day. To give you a rough idea a cup of yogurt contains 87.2 mcg of iodine.
Tyrosine- Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid used to produce hormones in the thyroid. Many thyroid medications actually contain tyrosine. Conveniently tyrosine is found in many of the same foods that are high in both iodine and selenium such as ocean fish like tuna and cod, sea kelp, dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, and some fruits such as banana and avocado.
Zinc- Zinc is used in the process of hormone production in the thyroid. Foods that are high in zinc include cow’s liver and beef, lamb, summer squash and asparagus.
Copper- Copper works with zinc to help produce hormones. An imbalance of copper and zinc in the body can affect thyroid health. Cow’s liver, summer squash are all excellent sources of zinc. Summer squash is also an excellent source of copper.
Iron- While it’s unclear which causes which, anemia or iron deficiency is more common in those with hypothyroidism, so eating foods high in iron such as green beans, lentils, red meat, or romaine lettuce is recommended for those with hypothyroidism. Several herbs and spices are also high in iron notably parsley, thyme and turmeric.
Vitamins E, B and C- Vitamin C is essential to tyrosine metabolism and vitamin E metabolizes selenium. Vitamin B is commonly found to be deficient in those with hypothyroidism and plays an important role in cell metabolism. Whole grains, fish and seafood, eggs, dairy and leafy greens tend to be higher in Vitamin E and B while fruits are a high source of Vitamin C.
Protein and Fiber- Protein and fiber are more additives to help lessen symptoms of hypothyroidism. Protein is found in high levels in meats notably seafood, fish and beef, as well as eggs, dairy and leafy greens. Good sources of fiber include leafy vegetables, green beans, various fruits, whole grains and nuts.
What foods can hurt thyroid production?
Goitrogens- This is a blanket term for substances that interfere with thyroid function. Foods that contain goitrogens include s oybean-related foods, millet, peaches, peanuts, radishes, spinach, strawberries, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, turnips, kale, cabbage, kale, rutabaga, and mustard.
Carbs- People with hypothyroidism have difficulty processing carbs, as a result a diet similar to that of a diabetic can be helpful. Low carbohydrates, high protein with plenty of exercise.
In summary a diet to improve thyroid production would include primarily seafood, fish, lean meat, leafy greens, whole grains, diary, eggs and select fruits. Carbohydrates, soy, and cruciferous vegetables should be avoided.
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