Hypothyroidism is the condition when the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone. There are a number of possible causes of this, including iodine deficiency (a common cause in developing countries); "Hashimoto's thyroiditis", which is an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland is attacked by T-cells; postpartum thyroiditis, a condition in women who have recently given birth; and genetics. While treatment hypothyroidism depends on the severity of the condition, there is much debate that a specific diet can help improve the function of the thyroid gland.
Mary Shomon's "Thyroid Diet"
One of the most well-known voices in the United States on the specific topic of thyroid health, hypothyroidism in particular, is not a doctor but author and patient advocate Mary Shomon. Ms. Shomon has written a number of books on the topic, including the New York Times bestseller "The Thyroid Diet: Manage Your Metabolism for Lasting Weight Loss," and has long fought the notion that the information and advice given to patients with thyroid conditions by doctors is typically misleading and often flat out wrong. In 1995 Ms. Shomon was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis and was given what she feels was useless and damaging information by her doctors in treating her condition. Over the years she developed a plan that led to how she successfully manages her condition and gives advice to all different kinds of thyroid conditions.
She describes her "Thyroid Diet" as a low-glycemic (low sugar), good fat, and good-carb. Vegetables and fruits high in fiber such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, apples bananas, and pears are an important element to the diet for hypothyroidism, but warns not to eat vegetables such as broccoli or cabbage raw because they are goitrogenic (which is a quality that may aggravate hypothyroidism by enlarging the thyroid gland but can be diffused by cooking foods that have this characteristic). As for good carbs, she recommends one or two servings a day of starchy carbs like cereal with high fiber or a bran muffin. Good fats include those found in fish oils, fatty acids, olive oil and avocados. Trans fats and saturated fats should be avoided altogether. The diet is designed to be complemented by exercise and a variety of supplements including thyromine, iodine, vitamin B, and vitamin C.
The Hypothyroidism Diet Myth
Dr. Todd Nippoldt, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, is symbolic of the experts that Mary Shomon has targeted.
According to Dr. Nippoldt, there is no diet that can help improve the function of the thyroid. Dr. Nippoldt also believes that the avoidance of specific foods will not help improve the function of the thyroid. However, Dr. Nippoldt believes that the absorption of the synthetic thyroid hormone taken as a treatment for hypothyroidism can be affected by consuming too much fiber. He also believes that other foods and supplements can have the same negative impact on synthetic thyroid hormone absorption, including cottonseed meal, walnuts, soybean flour, calcium supplements, antacids containing magnesium or aluminum, and iron supplements. In addition, he also believes that certain medications like sucralfate used to treat ulcers and cholestyramine and colestipol used for the treatment of high cholesterol can have the same negative effect.
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