Food can play a big part in managing your thyroid health

Is there such a thing as a hypothyroidism diet? Can particular types of food improve your thyroid health?

Well the official news is, no – there’s no clear medically approved hypothyroidism diet. However, there are a number of dietary changes you can make to help manage your thyroid health and improve your overall wellbeing.

These food factors relate to iodine deficiency, understanding the effect of sugar and gluten and knowing what foods can interact with thyroid medication.

Thyroid issues can be complicated and wide-ranging, so if you’re considering making any major changes to your diet we suggest talking to your doctor first.

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Iodine deficiency and diet

According to the Thyroid Foundation, iodine deficiency is the most common cause of thyroid disorders worldwide.

Iodine is an important nutrient for healthy thyroid function and metabolism, and most of our iodine intake comes from what we eat and drink. The main sources of iodine are seafood, dairy milk or dairy products, commercial bread, eggs and foods containing iodised salt.

Having a diet that’s low in iodine can cause hypothyroidism because it prevents the thyroid from making enough hormones. It can also lead to an enlarged thyroid gland (goitre) and affect fertility, pregnancy and the development of babies’ brains.

However, too much iodine in the diet can also be a problem – leading to an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism in some people.

And, if your hypothyroidism is not related to iodine deficiency, including more iodine in your diet is likely to have no effect.

Iodine deficiency is a major cause of #thyroid disorders. Find out more about #hypothyroidism and #diet. Click To Tweet

The best way to tell if your iodine levels are on track is to have a urine test. Your doctor may also recommend a blood test to check that your thyroid hormone levels are within the healthy range.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are often encouraged to take an iodine supplement, but if you have a thyroid condition you should always consult your doctor first.

Sugar and thyroid health

Australian author Sarah Wilson’s well-known ‘I Quit Sugar’ program was started to improve her health after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disease.

Wilson says quitting sugar started as an experiment, but “her energy, skin and wellness improved so much, she just kept going”.  She believes removing sugar can benefit other people with autoimmune disease, however, the peak body for dietitians has a different view.

The Dietitians Association of Australia says focussing on a single ‘dietary villain’ like sugar is easy, but the concept has major flaws. It says:

You don’t need to avoid sugars (or fructose) completely for good health, but it’s sensible to limit the intake of foods which contain added sugars (whether that be fructose, glucose, sucrose or any other form of added sugar) which also provide little or no nutritional value.”

Should you go gluten-free?

Gluten free foods are sometimes considered within a hypothyroidism diet

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, barley and oats.

Research has found that some people who have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may also have coeliac disease – where the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten causing damage to the small bowel (intestine) – and vice versa.

While coeliac disease can’t be cured, it can be managed with a strict gluten-free diet.

However, according to Dr Suzanne Mahady, a gastroenterologist and Monash University lecturer, if you don’t have coeliac disease, there’s “no evidence to support claims a strict gluten-free diet is beneficial” for your health.

Symptoms of coeliac disease include diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, cramping, bloating and abdominal pain. They can also include iron deficiency anaemia and/or other vitamin and mineral deficiencies, bone and joint pains, and skin rashes.

 For people with the condition, following a strict gluten-free diet can help to heal the small bowel, resolve symptoms and reduce the long-term risk of complications.

If you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and are experiencing any gastrointestinal symptoms, we suggest you discuss these with your doctor.

Did you know some people with #Hashimoto's thyroiditis, may also have #coeliac disease? #gluten #hypothyroidism #diet Click To Tweet

Food interactions with thyroid medication

Hypothyroidism diet: How some foods can interact with thyroid medication

If you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you may be prescribed levothyroxine – a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine.

It’s important to take this medication first thing in the morning, at least 30 minutes before you eat anything. This is to make sure the dose is absorbed properly.

You should avoid taking your thyroid medication with antacids, iron salts, milk, and soy-based formulas, as they may reduce the absorption of thyroxine.

If you’re having treatment for an underactive thyroid, talk to your GP or endocrinologist and check the advice leaflet provided with your medication for specific interaction details, because medication instructions can vary.

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Seek expert dietary advice

When you have a thyroid condition like hypothyroidism, diet can play a big part in how you feel and manage your condition.

If you’d like further information about what you should or shouldn’t be eating, look at the resources available from the Australian Thyroid Foundation, find an accredited practising dietitian near you, or speak to your doctor.

Check your thyroid health

If you’d like to check on your thyroid health, you can also take a simple at-home Thyroid (TSH) blood test. This fingerprick blood test measures the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood.

This test is most commonly used to diagnose an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) or to make sure the correct dose of medication is being given to treat an underactive thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

The test involves placing a few spots of blood from your fingertip onto a special collection card that you mail back to our pathology lab. We send the results directly to you through a secure website and you can share and discuss these results with your doctor as you choose.

If your TSH levels are outside the healthy range, we’ll let you know and recommend you follow this up with your healthcare provider.

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