Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What I Know About Hypothyroidism

I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism since February of this year, but for sure I’ve had it for awhile longer.

Here’s what I remember about it from my research: It’s a metabolic disorder caused by underproduction of certain hormones. There does not seem to be a cure, but it is treatable with daily doses of synthetic hormones or of natural hormones from animal sources.

The thyroid produces several hormones, including thyroxine and triidothyronine. These hormones help regulate metabolism. Sometimes the thyroid begins to gradually underproduce these hormones, and when that happens, a person—commonly, though not always, a middle-aged woman—may begin to experience a wide range of symptoms including dry skin; dry brittle hair; weak, brittle nails; constant tiredness; depression; sensitivity to cold; weight gain or difficulty losing weight in spite of a decrease in appetite or food intake; and hoarseness of the voice. Because these and other symptoms of hypothyroidism are so common to other conditions and their onset so gradual, doctors commonly misdiagnose it and propose treatments that ultimately do not address the actual condition.

There are two ways a doctor can determine if a person has hypothyroidism, and both are blood tests. The first test measures blood levels of thyroxine and triidothyronine. If these hormones are found to be low, then this is definitive for hypothyroidism. Sometimes, however, these hormones may be within acceptable levels even when the thyroid is underactive. This is because of the action of the thyroid-stimulating hormone, which is produced by the pituitary gland. Thus, the second test a doctor can do looks at blood levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone. If there is an elevated level of this hormone in the blood, this is definitive for hypothyroidism.

There are a few different kinds of hormone replacement therapy a doctor may implement, but initial treatment will include routine blood work to gauge the effectiveness of the therapy used. The object of effective therapy is to help restore metabolic balance by supplementing the deficient thyroid hormones. A person will need to continue routine checks to ensure that therapy continues to be effective.

Typically, treatment is lifelong once it is begun. If the treatment is stopped without a doctor’s approval, the symptoms can come back more quickly and forcefully than they came on initially. Continued lack of treatment can result in a condition called myxedema. A person can go into a coma and even die. That should not be a worry as long as treatment is initiated and continued.

The things that I personally find most aggravating about hypothyroidism are what it does to my hair and my metabolism. I also don’t like the depression. And then there’s the thing with goitrogenic compounds!

These compounds are known to have a suppressive effective on the thyroid. According to my research, hyperthyroid patients are encouraged to eat lots of foods containing these compounds. A person with normal thyroid levels can also eat these foods with no problem. For people with underactive thyroids, however, the recommendation is to avoid raw foods containing goitrogens. Cooking destroys some of these compounds, but the recommended limit on cooked goitrogenic foods is 2-3 servings per week.

After scouring the internet for lists of these foods and finding several, I put them all together and came up with what I think is a comprehensive master list. I don’t claim that these are all the goitrogenic foods ever, but this is a list based on every other list I found. Foods that are on one list are not all on another, but all of them had some foods in common.

For my own use, I broke my master list down into three categories:

Fruits – Apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, honeydew, oranges, peaches, pears, prunes, raspberries, strawberries

Vegetables, Brassica (cruciferous) – bok choy, broccoli/broccolini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, canola, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, choy sum, collard greens, garden cress, kai-lan (Chinese broccoli), kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, rapeseed (yu choy), rupini, rutabaga, tatsoi, turnips

Vegetables, non-Brassica – bamboo shoots, horseradish, lima beans, potatoes, radishes, soy/soy derivatives, spinach

Other – Almonds, cassava, corn, millet, peanuts, pine nuts, sorghum, tapioca, walnuts

So what, you may ask after reading all that, is there left for a person to eat? Everything else, basically. I’ve noticed that meat and dairy are totally absent from all the goitrogen lists. I’ve been getting plenty of those! The smart thing to do here is to check with your doctor and see what that person recommends.

And now you know what I know about hypothyroidism!


  1. hey hunn just stopping by showing your blog some love.. ;-p


    come stop by sometime.. : )

  2. I tried synthroid for several years and while it normally kept my thyroid levels within normal range none of the symptoms associated with the disease were alleviated. As I continued to sleep irregularly, was consistently cold, and continued gaining weight in addition to various other symptoms I decided to try bovine thyroid after my mom had successful results with it and have been a huge advocate ever since as it is the first time in over a decade I have truly felt like a normal person again!