Hypothyroidism – Tips for nutrition

An underactive thyroid is usually treated with L-thyroxine. / Hypothyroidism - Tips for nutrition

In order for the tablets to work properly, there are a number of things to consider – including when it comes to nutrition. / Hypothyroidism – Tips for nutrition

According to some guides, the thyroid can be boosted and treated naturally with a specific diet or diet. So far, however, there is no reliable scientific evidence that home remedies or a special diet can improve an existing hypothyroidism. However, there are certain things to watch out for.

Effect of iodine on the thyroid / Hypothyroidism

The nutrient iodine plays an important role for the thyroid gland because it is a central component of the thyroid hormones. The organ can only function normally if it is adequately supplied.

If there is an iodine deficiency, not enough thyroid hormones can be produced. However, too much iodine can also lead to the organ producing too many hormones.

In Germany, only a few people are able to cover their iodine requirement through food, so that iodine deficiency is relatively widespread. However, a deficiency can promote an underactive thyroid. For this reason, iodine can be added to table salt in this country.

Good to know /

A pronounced iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism. In Germany, however, this rarely happens. An adequate supply of iodine is also important in the case of existing hypofunction.

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends a daily intake of 200 micrograms (µg) of iodine through food. Sea fish are among the foods that naturally contain large amounts of iodine. But other foods such as milk and milk products, meat or eggs also contain iodine.

An overdose of iodine through the normal daily diet is usually hardly possible (even with iodized salt). However, care should be taken with dried algae, as these often contain very high amounts of iodine: depending on the product, the content can vary between 5 and 11,000 µg per gram dry weight.

Table: iodine content of foods (examples)

Food iodine content per 100 grams
Cod (cod) 229 mcg
Haddock 135 mcg
Saithe (Alaska) 88 µg
Plaice 53 µg
Herring (Atlantic) 47 mcg
Salmon 34 mcg
Carp 2 µg
Trout 4 µg
Chicken egg 10 to 15 mcg
Yoghurt (0.3 to 3.5% fat) 4 mcg
Cow’s milk (1.5 to 3.5% fat) 7 to 10 mcg
Broccoli 15 mcg
Peanuts 14 mcg
Spinach 12 µg
Bananas 3 mcg
Black tea 11 mcg
Wheat bread 6 µg

Iodine is also allowed with Hashimoto

In people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypofunction, very large amounts of iodine can exacerbate the underlying inflammatory processes and ultimately the disease. However, it is unnecessary to avoid iodine in the diet altogether or to eat a diet that is very low in iodine. Iodized salt or milk products and also the occasional fish are usually not a problem for those affected in this regard.

However, adults with Hashimoto should be careful not to significantly exceed excessive iodine intake beyond the daily recommendation of 200 µg per day. Those affected should therefore avoid taking dietary supplements with iodine, regular consumption of algae products or sea fish that is very rich in iodine.

Forbidden foods for hypothyroidism?

In some guidebooks you can read that certain foods are forbidden in the case of hypothyroidism. This usually refers to foods that contain so-called goitrous or goitrogenic substances. In the long run, these substances can interfere with iodine absorption and thus promote goiter (technical term: goiter).

Goitrogenic substances are mainly found in plant foods. These include in particular soy and soy products (such as tofu or soy milk), but also types of cabbage such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or kale.

In large amounts, goitrogenic substances can actually adversely affect the thyroid gland and, over time, contribute to goiter. However, people with an underactive thyroid need not avoid such foods in their diet.

On the one hand, very large amounts of such foods would have to be consumed regularly before they have a negative effect. On the other hand, goitrogenic substances are partially inactivated during cooking.

Which foods interfere with the absorption of L-thyroxine

If you have an underactive thyroid and therefore take L-thyroxine every day, you should be particularly careful when it comes to nutrition. Because some foods or their ingredients make it difficult for the body to absorb L-thyroxine. This can make the thyroid pills less effective. However, for optimal treatment of thyroid disease, the dose should be the same every day.

Disturbing foods include, for example, high-fiber foods such as wholemeal bread or muesli. But also foods with a lot of calcium, milk and milk products, soybeans and soy products (such as tofu), walnuts and coffee are problematic for the absorption of L-thyroxine. A complete renunciation of these foods is not necessary – they should just not be eaten or drunk together with the thyroid medication.

Ideally, those affected should therefore ensure that there is a time interval between taking L-thyroxine and meals. It is best if the stomach is completely empty at the time of ingestion.

Doctors therefore usually recommend taking thyroid medication at least 30 to 60 minutes before breakfast. The tablets should also only be taken with (tap) water and not with other drinks.

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