Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto and what you can achieve through food and exercise

Published on July 3, 2020 by Cori Grămescu


Many clients who contact me for personalized weight loss programs have thyroid issues – namely, hypothyroidism. Most often, this is caused by the Hashimoto auto-immune disorder. Here are some summary measures or food and exercise remedies if you suffer from this affliction.

Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland, which no longer produces thyroid hormones in sufficient quantities. The main cause of hypothyroidism is an affliction called Hashimoto Autoimmune Thyroiditis – a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland, caused by an autoimmune disorder.

Other causes of hypothyroidism

  • Overreaction to hyperthyroidism treatments (when the thyroid secretes excess hormones, medication is required and some patients may develop aggressive reactions to it)
  • Surgical interventions on the thyroid, whereby various sections of the gland are removed
  • Various medicines (some of which are prescribed for psychiatric disorders)
  • Various congenital illnesses
  • Hypophysis problems
  • Pregnancy – some women develop post-partum hypothyroidism or may suffer from hypothyroidism triggered during pregnancy, which may increase pregnancy loss risk and may severely affect fetus development

This article focuses on autoimmune hypothyroidism, aka Hashimoto thyroiditis, because this is the most frequent disorder of its type in Romania and around the globe.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism (including the Hashimoto disorder)

  • Prolonged fatigue
  • Frissons and sleepiness
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Weight gains
  • Depression and loss of focus
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Muscle cramps
  • Water retention

In case these symptoms occur, you need specialized medical attention. In Romania, the endocrinologic exam of the thyroid gland usually contains a series of blood test to determine the levels of thyroid hormones (T3, T4 and TSH), as well as the level of anti-TPO antibodies and those of the reactive C protein. A thyroid gland ultrasound is also recommended.

Hasmimoto Thyroiditis specifics

Since Hashimoto Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder, it cannot be completely cured or prevented. However, a series of diet and lifestyle choices have been discovered to appease the effects and to stabilize the autoimmune aspect of this disorder.

Persons living with Hashimoto Thyroiditis may initially go through a hyperthyroidism phase, when the chronically inflamed thyroid may secrete more thyroid hormones than necessary.

Hashimoto Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder and its triggers are still unknown. However, it has been proven to be associated with other autoimmune disorders, such as Type B Diabetes and the celiac disease. This ailment is 5-10 times more frequent in woman than men. T lymphocytes attack thyroid gland cells, causing a chronic inflammatory response, which is often detected once the severe symptoms have already occurred. One should undergo regular periodical screenings for the thyroid gland, especially women above 35 – for example, during the annual routine medical exam.

Apart from the hormone substitution treatment, it is useful to adopt a diet specifically designed for thyroid disorders. There are some studies that show positive effects of various nutritional supplements on various categories of people. However, a clear conclusion on this issue has not yet been drawn. Your best bet is to ask the endocrinology specialist regarding taking nutritional supplements in conjunction with the hormone substitution medication.

Diet matters

The diet suited for Hashimoto Autoimmune Hypothyroidism has two important characteristics: one, it must be anti-inflammatory, based on whole, natural foods, with high nutritional value and as little processing as possible. Two, it must be a balanced diet, with a moderate glucide content, taking from vegetables, fruit and partially from leguminous produce and naturally gluten-free cereal. A constant intake of high-quality protein and healthy fats is required, in order to maintain the adequate underlayer needed for the body to function properly. Also, in order to prevent weight gain, the food intake must be monitored and adapted to the client’s age, physical activity and weight gain/loss history.

The most balanced diet formula for Hashimoto Hypothyroidism is a paleo-gluten, free-plant based diet: that is, a diet plan based on plants, without any products containing sugar, dairy, gluten and cereal. Some people exhibit beneficial effects only after eliminating gluten, without completely eliminating cereal from their diet. However, in other cases, stricter intervention is required.

In any case, as with all autoimmune disorders, you need to eliminate processed products from your daily diet – processed meat, sweets, pastry and fast food products, products with gluten and simple sugar derivates, such as maple syrup, honey, agave syrup or synthesized sweeteners (cyclamate, aspartame, sucralose, tagatose etc.).

What can you eat?

I also wrote here about foods that may help you with hypothyroidism.

  • Vegetables (some physicians recommend you give up algae, cruciferous vegetables and potatoes) – salads, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, courgettes, eggplants, onions, garlic, string peas, kidney beans, peas, carrots, celery, parsnip, asparagus, spinach, dock, turnip, sweet potatoes, endives, okra, artichokes, mushrooms, pumpkin, kohlrabi, orach, sorrel, red beetroot, chickpeas, lentils
  • Fruit – any organic fruit is indicated for hypothyroidism diets, as long as you eat in moderate quantities.
  • Fish, seafood and meats – It’s important to choose freshly caught fish and meat from farm-raised animals, or even organic/bio. Choose oceanic small-sized fish, freshly caught seafood (pay particular attention to shrimp – most come from farms) and bird meat (turkey, duck, goose, pearl hen, quail), or yeanling meat, lamb, veal or game. Occasionally you may also eat chicken and pork, but pay attention to the provenance of the meat.
  • Raw oleaginous produce – almonds, Romanian walnuts, Brazilian walnuts, macadamia nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds.
  • Foods rich in natural probiotics – kimchi, kombucha, water kefir.

Although some benefit from taking cereal of their diet completely, and even though a gluten-free diet alleviates the effects of Hashimoto Autoimmune Hypothyroidism, you should first try to eliminate cereal with gluten content from your daily diet (wheat, barley, rye) and switch to bird seeds, buckwheat, quinoa and whole rice.

Even though this is not a rule, a series of nutritional supplements have been observed to rebalance the mineral content in the blood, thus alleviating the unpleasant Hashimoto symptoms. However, before taking these supplements, consult your endocrinologist to find out whether they are suitable for you. These are Selenium, Magnesium, Zinc and Vitamin B1 (thiamin). If blood tests show any deficiencies (test must be run for vitamin D, ferritin and B12), nutritional supplements have been shown to alleviate these deficiencies.

Exercise limits weight increases

Exercise plays an important part in thyroid gland disorders. In order to prevent excess weight gain and the growth of your body fat ratio, you need a constant program of moderate physical exercises, to increase the quality of your muscle mass and to boost your endurance to cardio effort. Since hypothyroidism causes severe fatigue anyway, the training program should be varied, not very intense, and should include functional exercises, mild jogging or swimming. However, the training must be constant, 3-4 times a week.

Exposure to the Sun is important for Vitamin D synthesis. So, save at least 20 minutes per day for open air exercise.

Since Hashimoto Autoimmune Thyroiditis is a chronic illness, I recommend that you regularly check yourself up with the endocrinologist, implement a balanced, healthy lifestyle, and keep taking the medication prescribed by your doctor. Go to as many exams as needed in order to accurately dose the hormone substitution therapy, make sure you maintain your weight in the long run and never ignore any aspect that might destabilize you – avoid prolonged stress, allot the adequate time for sleep and relaxation, make time for activities you enjoy and never stop exercising.

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