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What is Hypothyroidism

What Is Hypothyroidism & How Can It Be Prevented?

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland produces abnormally low levels of the thyroid hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). It affects approximately 1 in 1,000 men and 1 in 50 women and has a number of unpleasant symptoms including depression, tiredness and weight gain. In this article we are going to be a taking a deeper look at hypothyroidism, the causes, the symptoms and the ways you can prevent it.

Thyroid diagram

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism generally develops when the thyroid gland gets damaged in some way and cannot produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormones. However, it can also be caused by dietary factors and consuming certain medications. The list below outlines the main causes of hypothyroidism:

1) Autoimmune Thyroiditis: Autoimmune thyroiditis (also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) is a disease where the immune system malfunctions and creates antibodies that attack your thyroid gland. This then gradually inhibits the thyroid gland’s ability to produce T3 and T4 and slowly leads to the development hypothyroidism. Autoimmune thyroiditis is one of the leading causes of hypothyroidism but unfortunately, like with many autoimmune diseases, the trigger behind it is unknown.

2) Thyroid Surgery: Thyroid surgery can sometimes damage the thyroid gland and limit the amount of thyroid hormones it can produce.

3) Thyroid Radiotherapy: Thyroid radiotherapy often has a similar affect to thyroid surgery and can damage the thyroid gland which in turn minimizes the amount of T3 and T4 it can produce.

4) Iodine Deficiency: Your body uses iodine to produce both T3 and T4, so if you don’t get enough of this nutrient in your diet, your body can’t produce adequate amounts of these hormones.

5) Medications: Taking certain medications can interfere with the thyroid gland and prevent it from producing adequate levels of thyroid hormones.

6) Problems With The Pituitary Gland: In some rare instances, the pituitary gland does not produce enough thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). As the name suggests, TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T3 and T4, so if the pituitary gland does not produce enough TSH, the thyroid gland will not produce enough thyroid hormones.

What Are The Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism?

Since hypothyroidism is characterized by low levels of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 which affect a huge number of processes in the body (including your body temperature, heart rate, growth and metabolism), it has a wide range of symptoms which include:

–       Brittle Hair & Nails

–       Constipation

–       Depression

–       Memory Loss

–       Muscle Aches & Pains

–       Tiredness

–       Weakness

–       Weight Gain

 

How Can Hypothyroidism Be Prevented?

Although many of the causes of hypothyroidism cannot be fully prevented, keeping your thyroid gland healthy is one of the best ways to protect yourself against this condition. The list below highlights three natural ways to keep your thyroid healthy and fight hypothyroidism:

1)Eat Foods That Enhance Thyroid Function:

Many of the nutrients in natural, unprocessed foods support your thyroid gland and keep it healthy. The list below highlights these nutrients and explains how they boost your thyroid gland:

Iodine: Unlike the other foods on this list, iodine does have a direct impact on hypothyroidism. Your thyroid gland uses iodine to produce the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. If you don’t consume enough iodine as part of your diet, your thyroid cannot produce enough of these hormones and hypothyroidism develops. 

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): A study from the Journal Of Nutritional Biochemistry that was published in 2010 found that rats who were fed fish oil containing omega 3 EFAs were more receptive to thyroid hormones. Although there’s no supporting evidence for a similar effect in humans, this study is a promising and indicates that omega 3 EFAs may be an effective solution for preventing and treating hypothyroidism. 

Vitamin A: Not getting enough vitamin A can contribute to iodine deficiency and therefore indirectly lead to hypothyroidism. 

Vitamin B12: In a study from the Journal Of The Pakistan Medical Association in 2008 which looked at 116 people with hypothyroidism. The results of the study showed that around 40% of the participants also had a vitamin B12 deficiency and when they consumed extra vitamin B12, their symptoms improved. This suggests that not getting enough vitamin B12 may affect your thyroid health and even induce hypothyroidism while increasing your vitamin B12 intake may be an effective treatment for this disorder. 

Vitamin C: In a study published in the 2008 issue of BMC Endocrine Disorders which found that people who suffered from thyroid diseases often had low levels of vitamin C in their body. This indicates that failing to eat enough vitamin C may cause hypothyroidism whereas increasing your intake may be enough to prevent it or treat it. 

Vitamin E: A study from the journal of Cell Biochemistry & Function in 2005 found that due to its antioxidant properties, vitamin E can protect against hypothyroidism and prevent its negative effects.

Foods To Keep Your Thyroid Gland Healthy?

There are many foods that are rich in the thyroid boosting nutrients listed above. Generally, consuming a diet that contains high levels of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fresh fish and fresh meat will provide you with good levels of all six. However, if you want some ideas to get you started, the list below contains five of the best thyroid boosting foods:

Milk: Milk is a fantastic source of both iodine (58.6mcg per cup) and vitamin B12 (1.3mcg per cup). It tastes great when drunk on its own or can also be used to mix up a protein shake or as part of an omelet.

Salmon: Salmon is a top source of omega 3 EFAs (1.5g per 4 oz. serving) and vitamin B12 (6.6mcg per 4oz. serving). It can be eaten both hot and cold, with chilled smoked salmon making a great addition to almost any salad and grilled salmon steaks being an excellent hot dinner choice.

Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a brilliant alternative to regular potatoes in terms of both nutrition and flavor. A single cup provides you with 1.3mg of vitamin A and 22.3mg of vitamin C. In addition to this, sweet potatoes are highly versatile and can be boiled, mashed, roasted and much more.

Almonds: Almonds are a brilliant source of vitamin E and contain 9mg of this nutrient per 35g serving. They taste great on their own and also can be ground up and used to add a crunchy texture to yogurts.

Bell Peppers: Bell peppers are sweet, crunchy and juicy. They’re also packed with three thyroid boosting nutrients – vitamin A (1.5mg per cup), vitamin C (117.5mg per cup) and vitamin E (1.5mg per cup). When it comes to eating bell peppers, they can be consumed hot or cold and make a great addition to virtually any meal.

 

2)Avoid Foods That Inhibit Thyroid Function:

Not all foods are good for your thyroid gland and studies have shown that soy and many cruciferous vegetables can actually inhibit thyroid function when consumed in large quantities. These foods still have many other health benefits, so there’s no need to eliminate them from your diet completely. However, if you currently eat large amounts of these foods, you should moderate your consumption. Let’s take a deeper look at these foods and discuss how they may increase your risk for hypothyroidism.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale all contain goitrogens (substances that affect the function of the thyroid gland by inhibiting iodine uptake). The good news is that cooking inactivates these goitrogens, so if you’re a fan of green leafy vegetables, you don’t have to eliminate them from your diet completely. Instead try to stick to the cooked varieties and limit your intake of raw cruciferous vegetables to boost your thyroid health and reduce your hypothyroidism risk.

Soybeans

Soybeans are another food that affects the function of the thyroid gland. They contain a powerful group of phytonutrients called isoflavones that have numerous health benefits and can boost your blood, prevent cancer and more. However, studies have shown that these isoflavones can also block the action of your thyroid hormones. The good news is that like with cruciferous vegetables, this is only a problem with uncooked soybeans, so if you stick to cooked soy products, the isoflavones won’t have a negative impact on your thyroid health.

Aspartame

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is added to many low calorie processed foods and drinks. Consuming large amounts of aspartame for a prolonged period may be a trigger for one of the leading causes of hypothyroidism – autoimmune thyroiditis (a disease where the immune system produces antibodies that attack your thyroid gland).

Gluten

Gluten is a protein that can be found in the vast majority of processed wheat products. Like aspartame, gluten may be one of the triggers behind autoimmune hypothyroidism and therefore may increase your risk of developing hypothyroidism.

 

3) Exercise Regularly:

High intensity exercise (HITT) has been known to help alleviate the symptoms, high intensity exercise increases the amount of TSH in your blood stream. As discussed earlier in this article, TSH stimulates the production of T3 and T4 which means regular exercise could protect against hypothyroidism.

Summary 

We hope this article has helped you learn more about hypothyroidism and the natural ways it can be prevented. While the natural solutions listed won’t protect against all instances of hypothyroidism, they will strengthen your thyroid gland, keep it healthy and reduce your risk. So if you’re not doing so already, follow the three thyroid boosting tips discussed above and give your body all the tools it needs to fight hypothyroidism.

 

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