Hypothyroidism is a hormonal problem in which our bodies’ thyroid gland stops producing sufficient quantities of necessary hormones. The good news is that it is a condition which can be managed with the help of the Paleo lifestyle and routine medication.
The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands in the human body. It is butterfly in shape and lives in the front of our neck. If you are a male it sits below your adams apple and in front of your windpipe. The thyroid is responsible for producing and secreting several hormones which are all responsible for ensuring that our metabolism functions optimally. The main hormones of interest are Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4).
The production and secretion of the hormones are controlled by the brain in a complicated negative feedback loop that we won’t go into in this article.
The thyroid gland may be small in size but it has an enormous impact over our vitality, longevity and well being. When things go wrong they go very wrong.
One of the ways that things can go wrong is a condition called Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland slows down either on the production of the hormones or the secretion of them.
There are a few different reasons for the malfunctioning of the gland:
Dietary: The thyroid gland needs the mineral iodine to function. Our bodies do not make iodine so we have to get it from external dietary sources.When our bodies are not receiving enough iodine, the production of the thyroid hormones are disrupted. Some of the time we would develop a swelling of the thyroid gland called a goiter. Most countries have public health initiatives implemented which fortify ordinary table salt. Other than iodinised salt, dietary sources include; shellfish, fish from the sea, eggs, dairy products and seaweed (1).
Viral infection: In some cases the thyroid becomes inflamed, we call this thyroiditis. Thyroiditis can also be caused by a viral infection.
Autoimmune disease: The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimotos thyroiditis. With Hashimotos, our bodies produce antibodies which attack and destroy our thyroid gland.
Statistically hypothyroidism occurs more in woman than in men with with as many as one woman in eight developing a thyroid disorder during their life. Scarily, 12% of the U.S population will experience some degree of the thyroid hormone deficiency in their lifetime (2). Unfortunately many times the person suffering from hypothyroidism will be unaware and suffer silently with their symptoms (3). Unfortunately pregnancy is one of the risk factors for developing the disease (4).
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Feeling the cold more than usual
Unusual tiredness and lack of energy
Slow heart rate
Dry skin, dry hair and hair loss
Changes in the menstrual cycle
unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight
Swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter)
Carpal tunnel syndrome
The symptoms of hypothyroidism wont happen over night but rather they will gradually worsen as your bodies metabolism begins to slow down (5). If you suffer from any of these symptoms contact your doctor for a simple blood test to find out if you may have hypothyroidism (6)
How the Paleo diet can help
The cornerstones of the Paleo diet are simple unprocessed nutrient rich foods. Foods which were available to our Paleolithic ancestors, before the emergence of many of the current diseases of lifestyle.
The good news is nutrition can help prevent or manage most disease conditions. As we have mentioned above, iodine is crucial for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. There are other nutrients however which are just as important. These include; Vitamin C, Vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin B12, zinc,selenium, vitamin D and Vitamin A.
It goes without saying then, that the Paleo assists us in firstly encouraging an abundance of nutrient rich foods and secondly, cutting down on inflammatory foods which could contribute to a condition like Hashimotos disease.
Vitamin C rich foods:
Papaya, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, kiwifruit, brussel sprouts, pineapple, broccoli
Selenium rich foods:
Brazil nuts, seafood, fish, sunflower seeds, meat, mushrooms
Iodine rich foods:
Seaweed especially kelp, cranberries, seafood, eggs, salmon
Vitamin B12 rich foods:
Beef liver, clams, rainbow trout/salmon, eggs, meat
Magnesium rich foods:
Spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, dark chocolate, banana
Vitamin B2 rich foods:
Beef liver, Lamb, mushrooms, spinach, almonds, sun-dried tomatoes, eggs
Vitamin A rich foods:
Sweet potato, carrots, kale, butternut, red peppers, mango, melon,
Zinc rich foods:
Beef, lamb, turkey, oysters, sesame seeds, shrimp, pumpkin seeds,
Vitamin D rich foods:
fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon. Beef liver, egg yolks and sunshine!