All you need to know about hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism means our thyroid gland is not functioning at its optimum level

Sucheta ShriyanUpdated: Saturday, June 04, 2022, 10:46 PM IST
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According to an endocrinological study in India, it is estimated that about 42 million people in the country suffer from thyroid and hypothyroidism is the commonest of all the disorders.

The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland situated in the neck secretes two hormones — thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3). Iodine is an important nutrient required by our body. Iodine present in the body is used by the thyroid gland to make these hormones. The action is triggered by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) when a gland in the brain instructs it to do so.

In hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland doesn’t create enough of these hormones. The malfunction of this gland leads to weight gain, low energy, tiredness, cold hands and feet, mood swings, forgetfulness, hair loss, constipation, joint pain, muscle cramps, depression, heavy menstrual flow and infertility.

Of the detected cases of hypothyroidism, more than half are surprisingly due to an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The disorder causes our immune system to attack and destroy the thyroid gland. Specific antibody tests identifying Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are necessary for disease management. These tests include Anti-Thyroglobulin Antibody and Anti-Microsomal Antibody (Anti TPO). Your endocrinologist will be able to guide you on this path.

Reasons that can trigger hypothyroidism

Fasting or following a very low-calorie diet to lose weight can harm thyroid activity. It is the body’s natural mechanism to save energy in times of food shortage and on the contrary, leads to weight gain.

Goitrogens: Certain raw plant-based foods contain enzymes that interrupt thyroid hormone synthesis and thus should be restricted in the diet. These are commonly found in cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard seed, turnip, radish, bamboo shoot, kale and cassava.

Flavonoids: Generally, flavonoids are considered healthy food but these are contraindicated in hypothyroidism as they tend to disturb the thyroid hormone metabolism. Isoflavones are present in soy and its products and luteolin present in fruits and vegetables like parsley, thyme, celery, olive oil, onion leaves, chamomile tea, broccoli, peppermint, peppers, rosemary, oregano, cabbages, carrots, artichoke and apple skin, inhibits iodine intake in the body and should be avoided. Pearl millet (bajra) affects thyroid function even with sufficient iodine intake.

Glutens: Wheat and its products (like rava, maida, biscuits, vermicelli, lapsi, pasta, noodles, wheat flakes), rye and barley can increase anti-thyroid antibody activity.

Vitamin D: Deficiency of Vitamin D and calcium can trigger hypothyrodism. Regular tests for Vitamin D and serum calcium levels are recommended for hypothyroid patients.

Selenium deficiency: Deficiency of selenium is one of the reasons for low T3 levels.

Iron deficiency: Low iron can also cause hypothyroidism. Therefore, a substantial intake of iron-rich foods should be part of your daily food intake.

Screening of all nutrients is the first step toward hypothyroid management, wherein every person’s record and history will turn out to be different. Hence, it’s crucial to find the correct dietary regimen that best suits your needs.

One must remember that certain nutrients and dietary supplements can hinder thyroid medication absorption.

We will discuss the dietary changes and requirements next week.

[The writer is PG (Dietetics and Applied Nutrition); MSc (Dietetics)]

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