Thursday, July 31, 2008

General Advice on under- active Thyroid

Hypothyroidism, or under-active thyroid, is 10 times more common in women than men. It is most common in women aged 40 to 50. In my experience, even while on medication, weight loss is slower than normal, so it is VERY important to stick closely to your diet plan AND take regular exercise.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism (Under-Active Thyroid)

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary in severity and typically develop gradually over months or even years. They may include:

- Extreme tiredness
- Weight gain
- Constipation
- Hoarseness of voice
- Intolerance of cold
- Water Retention (swelling of face: puffy eyes, dry, thickened skin)
- Thinning of hair
- Heavy menstrual periods (women)
- Some people with hypothyroidism develop a swelling in the neck (Goitre)
- Depression/ Mood swings

General Advice About Hypothyroidism

. Check Your Thyroid Levels Regularly
Make sure your thyroid levels are checked regularly, so your medication is kept at the correct dosage. Thyroid function can change quite quickly and needs to be monitored at least every 6 months.

. Get Active
Take regular exercise. Although you may not have much energy initially, get moving! The more you move the more energy you will have to exercise each day. Physical activity is especially important if you suffer from hypothyroidism. It is essential in order to help speed up your metabolism and increase weight loss. Individuals with hypothyroidism can have low levels of serotonin, the brain chemical involved in appetite control, depression, and sleep regulation. Just thirty minutes of aerobic exercise, five times per week can help increase serotonin levels to decrease these symptoms.

. Reduce Stress
Stress is a major factor and is believed to be a contributing factor to the development of hypothyroidism. Stress causes many people to make unwise food choices and overeat. Reactions to stress are controlled by the adrenal glands, which are overworked and under-functioning in hypothyroid patients. Stress also increases cortisol levels, increasing hunger and affecting insulin levels. One of the best ways to reduce stress is to take regular exercise. Similarly, deep breathing, swimming or doing anything you enjoy, will help reduce your stess levels.

. Check your Diet

-Reduce your use of stimulants
When trying to fight fatigue, stimulants like caffeine may be a way of life. Hypothyroidism makes the adrenal glands susceptible to overwork and burnout. The adrenal glands can only take so much stimulation before they begin to under-function. Weaning off of stimulants, including coffee, soda and tea, can help the adrenal system heal and recharge.

- Decrease the amount of carbohydrates you eat
Research shows that individuals with hypothyroidism are more successful when eating about 45-50% of total calories coming from carbs. At 50% carbs, your diet will probably result in about 30% protein and 20% fat.

-Choose more complex carbs
Enjoy plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, wheat germ). These foods are nutritionally superior to their refined counterparts. Complex Carbs are rich source of dietary fibres. People with hypothyroidism often experience sluggish digestion and constipation. A high-fiber diet can help move things along so to speak, while increasing satiety so that you never feel hungry.

- Drink lots of Water
Drink 8-12 glasses of water every day in between the meals. Metabolism requires water, so not drinking enough will hurt your weight loss potential as well. When increasing your fiber intake, water is even more important. Drink additional water to compensate for perspiration from exercise and hot weather.

More Information About Hypothyroidism and Diet

It is well documented that a diet low in iodine is associated with hypothyroidism or under-active thyroid. However do NOT take ANY iodine supplements without first consulting your doctor because excessive amounts of iodine can also lead to hypothyroidism.

It is also believed to help if you increase your selenium intake. This can be done by eating foods such as whole wheat bread, bran, Brazil nuts, onions and tomatoes. Include some of these foods on a regular basis.

Brassica Vegetables
Cabbage and other brassicas vegetables (eg. Chinese leaves, brussel sprouts, turnips, broccoli, kohirabi and kale) contain compounds known as 'thioglucosides' which, if taken in excess can disrupt the function of the thyroid gland. However, it should be stressed that this tends to occur only in people whose diets are already deficient in iodine.

Helpful Foods:
Foods that are helpful for the thyroid function are: carrots, spinach, apricots, asparagus, olive oil, avocado, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals, bananas, oily fish etc. So choose meals that include these foods.

Unhelpful Foods:
Foods to eat LESS of as they may interfere with iodine uptake are: cabbage, kale, broccoli, kohirabi, mustard, lima beans, linseed, sweet potato, peanuts, soy products, so keep these to a minimum. You don't need to cut them out completely.
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