Hypothyroidism and Nutrition: What You Need to Know

13 January, 2020 , ,

Hypothyroidism is a condition that affects up to 5% of the North American and European population. Postmenopausal women are the most affected by this disease. There are several food myths surrounding thyroid function. Let’s shed light on this subject.

The thyroid gland

The thyroid is an endocrine gland located at the front of the neck. It secretes two hormones, namely triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones regulate many body functions including fat and carbohydrate metabolism, breathing, body temperature, brain and heart functions, nervous system, blood calcium levels, menstrual cycle and integrity of the skin.


Hypothyroidism is a disorder that occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones for the body’s needs. It is most often caused by an autoimmune response known as Hashimoto’s disease. The lack of thyroid hormones slows down the metabolism and can cause a variety of symptoms that vary from person to person, including weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and hair, and poor concentration. In addition, people with hypothyroidism have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Indeed, lowered levels of thyroid hormones can increase LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, homocysteine levels ​​(a marker of inflammation), and blood sugar.

Hypothyroidism and weight management

In most people, hypothyroidism causes weight gain as well as difficulty losing weight up until the hormone levels stabilize. This is due to the fact that the lack of hormones lowers the basal metabolism, meaning that we burn fewer calories at rest. It may therefore be necessary to reduce your caloric intake. To do this, limit liquid calories (alcohol and sugary drinks) and eat at least 3 cups of vegetables per day. Include snacks rich in fiber and protein as needed. This can help you feel full until your next meal and reduce your portion sizes. Another way to offset the decrease in metabolism is to exercise more. In addition to increasing calorie expenditure, physical activity can help counter fatigue. If fatigue remains an obstacle to exercise, you can use a pedometer as a source of motivation to try to be more active in your daily activities. It is also important not to neglect stress and sleep, which also have an influence on the management of body weight. In short, it is essential to adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as a balanced diet, regular physical activity, good stress management and adequate sleep.

Foods and nutrients that can affect thyroid function

Several foods and nutrients can affect thyroid function. Here they are:


Iodine is a vital nutrient and essential for thyroid function. While autoimmune diseases are the leading cause of thyroid dysfunction in North America and in Europe, iodine deficiency is the leading cause worldwide. An iodine deficiency is more rare in industrialized countries, largely due to the use of salt fortified in iodine. Daily iodine requirements are 150 μg in adults, and 220 and 290 μg in pregnant and lactating women respectively. The best way to meet your iodine needs is to eat a varied and balanced diet. Iodized salt contains about 90 μg of iodine per ¼ teaspoon (1.5 g), but the amount varies by brand. Fish, dairy products and plants grown in iodine-rich soil are also excellent sources of iodine. For example, 90 g (3 oz) of cooked cod provides approximately 100 μg, and 250 ml (1 cup) of milk provides approximately 55 μg. It should be noted that an excessive intake of iodine can reduce the function of the thyroid gland. Thus, taking an iodine supplement with antithyroid drugs can have an cumulative effect and cause hypothyroidism.

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Kathryn Adel

Kathryn Adel

Kathryn completed degrees in kinesiology and nutrition, as well as a Masters in Sports Nutrition. She is a member of OPDQ and of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health. Kathryn is experienced with the low FODMAP diet and she completed the Monash University low FODMAP dietitian’s training.

Kathryn Adel

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