Functional hypothyroidism is on the rise, and it effects more of us than we realize. While a traditional thyroid panel may not reveal it, there are many, many people who go undiagnosed with hypothyroidism yet still have all of the symptoms.  There are many, many reasons for decreased thyroid function, and they are beyond the scope of this article.    However, the goal of this article is to simply share some thoughts on how to eat if you are struggling with symptoms of a sluggish thyroid.

So what are the symptoms of hypothyroidsim?  Fatigue, inability to lose weight, constipation, dry, brittle hair or nails, always feeling “cold”, depression, frequent infections, poor circulation in hands and feet, edema (swelling), and muscle cramps while at rest.  And while oftentimes, patients with a diagnosed hypothyroidism are prescribed hormones to replace the low output of the thyroid, this is often a band-aid solution at best, as it does not truly identify the mechanism by which the thyroid is malfunctioning.  Again, not the purpose of this article. A great book on this topic is by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, called Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests are Normal?

As a nutritional therapist, I work with many women who have functional hypothyroidism, which means that they exhibit symptoms of low thyroid function without necessarily having a clear diagnosis.  This is due in large part to adrenal stress, impaired digestion, mineral imbalances, and use of exogenous hormones.  All in all, this leads to a lowered metabolic rate, and therefore the “ideal foods” we often think about in the Real Food world (grass-fed beef, lots of cream and good fats, etc.) can actually be counter-productive if the woman has a slow oxidation rate. This is very common in post-partum women as well. 

The hypothyroid state is one of slowed digestion, lower body temperature, and oftentimes, decreased cellular permeability.  Therefore ,many women benefit from eating foods that are not only nutrient-dense, but simple to digest, and which also have a “warming” effect on the body.  Raw food diets, while certainly appropriate for certain times and situations, may not be the most helpful in hypothyroidism.  Because of the sluggish metabolism induced by hypothyroidism, eating a high fat diet is often not helpful as well, since the body is unable to digest fats appropriately.  Therefore, proper supplementation and nutritional support to balance one’s oxidation rate is imperative, (and the goal is always a healthy fast oxidation rate), as well as choosing foods that are warming and digestible. 

Warming foods are red, orange, or yellow in color.  Fruit, however, is mostly “cooling” to the body, and therefore should be used sparingly if one is working to balance out one’s body chemistry.  Fruit today is very hybridized and bred to be higher in fructose, and I don’t think I have to list the numerous reasons why we need to limit fructose in our diets!  Let me know if you need some good reasons…..

Stir-frying or steaming vegetables makes them more warming than eating them raw.  Root vegetables and those in the brassica family such as cabbage are also more warming as they take longer to grow.  Even chewing our food completely makes it more warming.  So based on what I see in my practice, most women do better with more lightly cooked vegetables that are warming, and fat intake based on their oxidation rate, and moderate protein consumption from healthy, sustainably-raised animals, and properly-prepared, (preferably gluten-free) soaked grains.

In the spirit of being Organic and Thrifty, it must be pointed out that those foods which are most warming tend to be the ones that grow well through the cold winter climates–so if you find yourself living in the Northern latitudes, I encourage you to resist the temptation to eat those English cucumbers and tomatoes flown in from down south, even if they are organic.  Eating locally grown-food isn’t just “hip and green”, but it actually makes sense physiologically.  The food that grows in the climate in which we find ourselves living is most likely the best food for us to eat! 

In order to keep myself accountable to utilize what’s in season, I’ve joined a Winter CSA. These are harder to find in Portland, but they do exist, and they will supply you with an endless variety of squashes, kales, onions, sweet potatoes, cabbages, and all the brassicas. 

So as we head into fall and we can embrace the new variaties of food brought forth from the Earth and we can be encouraged to know that the food that is grown locally is the healthiest, not only for the planet and our pocketbooks, but for our bodies as well!

(Did you know that I write customized menus for clients based on their personal metabolic type?  Interested in digging deeper into your own health enigma and getting some answers?  Private, web-based  Nutritional Consultations are available to those needing support along the journey ).

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4 Responses to “Functional Hypothyroidsim and What to Eat”

  1. Natalie Identicon Natalie says:

    Ugh. I see so much about hypothyroidism but hardly anything about hyper. I’ve had strange PMS symptoms and what appears to be infertility for nearly a year not. I’ve had my thyroid checked a few times. It started at .67, dropped to .41 and then .33 and five weeks after that, it went back up to .76. A friend, who’s a PA, things I have a pituitary problem and/or thyroid problem. But, b/c that .33 went back up into the normal range, my FP refuses to send me to an endocrinologist.

    I also have Meniere’s disease and some patients, studies show, have problems with hyper or hypo thyroid – revealing a possible autoimmune link. So, why I keep getting refused a referral, is beyond me. It’s so much easier to attack a particular diet when you have a diagnosis to go with. I’m a real food eater (raw milk, soaked grains, ghee, kombucha, etc) and while my energy has improved eating real food, my symptoms are all over the place. Though, the Meniere’s is under better control. That could be a medication I was put on in Europe, better stress control or diet. Or all of them combined.

    So, while I love the hypo info you provide, I’d love more about hyper…

  2. carrie Identicon carrie says:


    Great point! I could write a very similar post about hyperthyroidism and I’m more than happy to oblige you! Beyond that, I am very familiar with autoimmune thyroid and know that there is a lot of success balancing this out nutritionally. I would highly recommend Dr. Kharrazian’s book. I have studied under him and also under Dr. Larry Wilson who has had great success using nutrition to balance out hypo/hyperthyroidism. Feel free to contact me privately if you want to discuss this further or have personal questions! Thanks so much for your feedback!

  3. Megan Identicon Megan says:

    Hi there! I just got some bloodwork back and it showed that my thyroid & testosterone levels were low so this article caught my attention. Would that mean I could potentially have hypo or hyper-thyroidism?

    I’m currently on a modified elimination diet (no gluten, red meat, dairy, processed foods, etc.) for 3 months, and doing a lot to rebuild my gut lining, so hopefully that will help too.

    Thanks for shedding light on these issues!

  4. carrie Identicon carrie says:

    Hi Megan!

    Low thyroid (TSH) numbers can indicate hyper-thyroidism. TSH is thyroid stimulating hormone. The thyroid stimulates more hormone (thyroxin) to be made when there is not enough. So high TSH = low thyroid, and when TSH is low it indicates there could be excess Thyroxin, so hyperthyroidsim. Did your practitioner consider your levels to be concerning, or did they fall within “lab ranges”? Was your TSH low or Thyroxin? There are LOTS of reasons why hormones can be low, and I would be happy to talk to you more about this offline. You can feel free to email me at Take care!!! Thanks for your comment. I wish you healing! Good for you to work on your diet/gut first. That will go a long way!

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