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 ).