Diet for hypothyroidism

There is a link between an  underactive thyroid  and diet. The best known is that an  iodine deficiency  can cause an underactive thyroid. But the right diet can also have a positive effect on the function of the thyroid gland for other causes and for prevention.

Iodine deficiency as a trigger for hypothyroidism

The thyroid produces two hormones:  thyroxine  (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Via these messenger substances, it controls the energy metabolism, i.e. the heat balance, weight gain or loss and also the heart rate as well as the bone metabolism and growth in children.

The thyroid gland needs iodine, a trace element, to produce T4 and T3. Trace elements are supplied to the body with food in small amounts.

Iodine deficiency goiter

If the thyroid gland lacks iodine, it cannot produce hormones in sufficient quantities and hypofunction (hypothyroidism) can be the result in the long term. To compensate for this, the thyroid tissue multiplies and a goiter (goiter) develops. One speaks of an iodine deficiency goiter.

Overall, however, iodine-deficiency goiter is rare nowadays. More common causes of an underactive thyroid are inflammation and autoimmune diseases, as well as underactive thyroid function after surgery or radiation.

When does iodine have to be supplemented?

If an iodine deficiency is proven, care should be taken to ensure a sufficient iodine intake in the case of an underactive thyroid gland. The recommendation is 100-140 µg daily for children and 180-200 µg for adolescents and adults.

A special case is pregnancy, during which there is an increased need (230-260 µg). There are iodine tablets for this purpose, but they should be taken in consultation with a doctor.

Beware of iodine in Hashimoto’s disease

However, iodine should not be added to every form of hypofunction. In the so-called Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune-related  inflammation of the thyroid gland , which can manifest itself as both over- and underfunction, too much iodine can even worsen the clinical picture.

There are special  dietary supplements for these patients . In any case, you should talk to a doctor about the right diet.

Selenium for a healthy thyroid

Another trace element that is important for the functioning of the thyroid gland is selenium. If selenium is missing, the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3), among other things, cannot be activated.

Selenium also has a positive, anti-inflammatory effect on Hashimoto’s disease and is prescribed in the form of tablets for this disease.

Foods that promote goiter

There are also foods that can promote the formation of a goiter. These “goitrogenic” foods impair the iodine metabolism and thus the thyroid hormone formation. These include  cabbage , mustard greens, radishes, horseradish, and bitter almonds.

If you suffer from an enlarged thyroid gland or are already taking thyroid hormone tablets, you should not eat these foods raw or in large quantities.

Diet tips to prevent thyroid dysfunction

In general, you should always eat a balanced diet. The trace elements iodine and selenium are important for the formation of thyroid hormones.

Foodstuffs with a high iodine content are mainly sea fish such as haddock, plaice, pollock and cod. Seafood, seaweed, broccoli and cashew nuts also contain large amounts of the trace element. An ideal dish is sushi, for example.

Selenium is found in larger amounts in pork, fish,  nuts  and offal (liver and kidney). According to the German Society for Nutrition, a daily intake of 60-70 µg is recommended.

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