Exercise and Nutrition for Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a hormone disorder where the thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormones – leading to an under-active thyroid. The disease affects 1-2% of people worldwide and is 10 times more likely to affect women.
The most common type of hypothyroidism (in the United States) is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Causes may include iodine deficiency, a genetic disorder, taking certain medication, or surgery where part of the thyroid gland has been removed. Having an under-active thyroid disrupts the ability for growth, repair and metabolism.
· Slower metabolism
· Gradual weight gain
· Feeling cold year round
· Muscle weakness
· Joint and muscle pain
· Sadness or depression
· Pale, dry skin
· Slow heart rate
· Heavy menstrual bleeding
It may feel like a vicious cycle - the symptoms of fatigue, achy joints and weight gain causes muscle weakness, which in turn can make exercise feel like a chore. It can be difficult to find the energy to exercise due to a slow metabolism however it is vital to establish a routine to help elevate metabolism, improve energy and relieve depression.
Moderate or high intensity cardio including fast-paced walking, running, hiking or rowing where the heart and lungs are working >50% can help to alleviate symptoms. Exercising 150 minutes per week split as 30-60 minutes over 5 days can help to boost mood, ease constipation, promote muscle and joint flexibility and help manage weight.
If you are new to exercise begin with stretching and weight bearing exercises – you can find our free stretch guide here! You can begin to increase weights and intensity as your tolerance grows. Avoid pushing through fatigue as this will trigger exhaustion and make exercising less desirable.
Diet & Nutrition
Although food won’t cure hypothyroidism, consuming the right combination of nutrients and medication can help restore function and minimise symptoms. Iodine (seaweed, fish, dairy, eggs), selenium (antioxidant, brazil nuts, tuna, sardines, eggs, legumes) and zinc (oysters, shellfish, beef, chicken) assist in activating the thyroid hormones and are preferably consumed as wholefoods rather than supplements unless otherwise prescribed by your health practitioner.
Avoid goitrogens in the case of iodine deficiency, or eat in moderation, ideally cooked, as these may interfere with normal function of the thyroid. Goitrogens include soy foods (tofu, tempeh, edamame), cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, raw kale), fruit and starchy plants (sweet potato, cassava, peaches, strawberries), and nuts/seeds (millet, pine nuts, peanuts).
"What about a high protein diet?"
Higher protein diets can increase the speed of metabolism; consider 1.5-2g per kilogram of body weight. This will also assist in muscle recovery and growth. It is important to consume a healthy diet of eggs, lean meats, fish, vegetables (cruciferous in moderation, cooked), fruits, gluten-free grains and seeds, and dairy. It would be suitable to consider a low to moderate carbohydrate diet.
"SHOULD I DO A Low Carb / Ketogenic Diet?"
Thyroid hormones are essential to maintain and regulate the metabolism of energy and carbohydrates. Energy (glucose) that we get from carbs is required to fuel production of thyroid hormones – carbohydrates influence the conversion of T3 from T4 which is important for hypothyroidism as T3 is the active thyroid hormone that needs to be increased. When carbohydrate intake is reduced the conversion declines. Prolonged calorie restriction or fasting reduces T3, which slows down metabolism (ultimately leading to weight gain).
A low carb diet without ketosis is unlikely to influence thyroid levels, whereas keto can cause other hormonal imbalances (particularly in women) that which would be unnecessarily risky. It is not recommended to follow a very low carb or ketogenic diet if you have hypothyroidism
Eleise Britt (nutritionist), Is Low Carb Bad for Hypothyroidism, Diet VS Disease, retrieved from [https://www.dietvsdisease.org/low-carb-hypothyroidism/]
Thyroid Disease, Office on Women’s Health, retrieved from [https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/thyroid-disease]
Authority Nutrition, Best Diet for Hypothyroidism; Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid, Health Line, retrieved from [https://www.healthline.com./nutrition/hypothyroidism-diet#section9]
Greene, C. 2013 The Permanently Beat Hypothyroidism Diet & Exercise Shortcuts Cookbook, Createspace Independent Publishing.