Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is an endocrine disorder that occurs when a person produces insufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland in the neck makes thyroid hormone that controls how the body uses and stores energy.
Autoimmune thyroid disease (called Hashimoto’s disease or Hashimoto's thyroiditis) is a form of hypothyroidism. Myxedema coma is a severe form of hypothyroidism.
The opposite of hypothyroidism is hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the body produces too much thyroid hormone.
There is no specific one-size-fits-all diet for people who have hypothyroidism. There are some foods that might be avoided to help patients feel their best, including:
- Plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) such as soy foods
- Phytoestrogens may inhibit the activity of enzymes that help in the production of thyroid hormones
- Phytoestrogens may block iodine uptake and interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication
- Soy foods to avoid include tofu, soy milk, and soy sauce
- Goitrogens, which are foods that may inhibit the function of the thyroid gland
- In people whose diets contain adequate iodine, these foods may be consumed safely in limited amounts, particularly if cooked
- Limit cruciferous vegetables such as bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens
- Limit fruits such as peaches, pears, plums, raspberries, and strawberries
- Avoid or limit added sugars, highly processed foods, and foods high in saturated fats
- Foods that contain gluten
- Avoid grapefruit or grapefruit juice, coffee, foods that contain soy or cottonseed meal, walnuts, or dietary fibers for at least four hours after taking hormone replacement medication, such as levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Unithyroid) as these foods may impact how the body absorbs the medication or decrease its potency
- Foods high in fiber, high in calcium, or high in iron may lower the effective dosage of thyroid medication when eaten within four to five hours of taking thyroid medication
As for what to eat, some research suggests that plant-based diets are good options for people who have thyroid disorders.
What Are Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may be vague and nonspecific and some people may not have any symptoms.
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
- Loss of energy
- Weight gain
- Decreased appetite
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Cold intolerance
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Weakness in extremities
- Impaired memory/forgetfulness
- Mood swings
- Mental impairment
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fertility problems
- Menstrual disturbances
- Decreased sweating
- Numbness and tingling and nerve entrapment syndromes
- Decreased hearing
- Blurred vision
- The feeling of fullness in the throat
- Nail problems such as nail infection, vertical white ridges on the nails, nail splitting, brittle nails, slow nail growth, nails lifting up
What Is the Treatment for Hypothyroidism?
Treatment for hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone replacement therapy. The medication usually used is levothyroxine (LT4) (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Unithyroid).
Another form of thyroid hormone, liothyronine (T3) (Cytomel, Triostat), may be given with T4 in some cases. However, since T4 is converted into triiodothyronine (T3) in other organs, most studies have not shown an advantage of combining T3 and T4 over using T4 alone.
Women may need higher doses of T4 during pregnancy.