9 Diet and Exercise Tips for Underactive Thyroid

  • portrait-of-confident-woman-sitting-on-sofa
    Live Better with Hypothyroidism
    If you’re living with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), you are in good company. The American Thyroid Association (ATA) reports that an estimated 20 million Americans have thyroid disease, and women are eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. Though there’s no specific diet or quick exercise fix that will improve thyroid function, there are some things you can do that can help you manage your symptoms and feel better overall.

  • fruits and vegetables
    1. Eat a balanced diet.
    Most dietitians recommend a balanced diet to obtain all the nutrients your body needs. This is even more important for people with hypothyroidism who often suffer from fatigue or low energy. It also helps combat the weight gain that is often associated with an underactive thyroid. Focus your meals around veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats, and eat smaller meals, instead of 3 larger ones, throughout the day to help keep your energy levels stable. Also, ask your doctor if a multivitamin or other dietary supplement may be needed to meet your nutritional needs.

  • Fish
    2. Skip the iodine.
    The leading cause of hypothyroidism is iodine deficiency, and many sources claim that people with hypothyroidism need to increase their iodine intake with things like iodized salt, fresh ocean fish and seaweed. But many Americans already get plenty of iodine in their diet, so talk to your doctor about what you really need.

  • Soynuts
    3. Watch your soy intake.
    For some people, eating an excessive amount of soy may affect their thyroid function. If you eat soy on a regular basis, let your doctor know. You may need to increase your thyroid medicine. Also, eating soy at the same time you take thyroid hormone may interfere with its absorption. Try to wait at least three hours after taking your medication before eating any soy products.

  • brazil-nuts
    4. Try selenium.
    Some studies have shown that the trace element selenium reduces the inflammation found in those with Hashimoto’s disease, which is when the immune system attacks the thyroid. This may delay progression into hypothyroidism. Selenium can be found naturally in Brazil nuts. Talk to your doctor to see if this is right for you and how much you need in your daily diet.

  • pill-on-empty-plate-with-fork-and-knife
    5. Wait before eating or taking other medications.
    Thyroid medicine works best on an empty stomach. It’s also best to wait at least 1 hour before taking any other medications. Wait at least 4 hours before taking any supplements, such as fiber, calcium, iron or multivitamins. Ask your doctor if you should take your medicine at bedtime for better absorption.

  • woman-lifting-exercise-ball-over-head
    6. Get enough exercise.
    We all know exercise is important for a healthy lifestyle, but for people with hypothyroidism, it can do wonders to help boost energy, decrease stress and maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor about a regular exercise program that works in three critical elements: aerobic activity (or cardio), weight training (strengthening) and flexibility (e.g. with yoga or Pilates), and before trying any new exercise.

  • exhausted-female-runner-bending-over-on-road
    7. Don’t overdo it.
    If you have significant clinical hyperthyroidism (commonly caused by the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease), exercise can quickly leave the body “overheated.” You may go into heart failure if your thyroid hormones aren’t in check. Discuss this with your doctor so you know how much exercise you need and which activities are right for you.

  • Women meditating
    8. De-stress with your breath.
    Having a chronic disease like hypothyroidism—even if it’s being treated—is stressful. And on top of the thyroid symptoms you are trying to manage, stress can wreak havoc on your health. Exercising to de-stress can make a big difference on your body when you are feeling out of control or overwhelmed. Try deep breathing or meditation to relax your body and mind. You may also want to work in a massage now and then.

  • woman-doing-shoulder-stand-yoga-pose
    9. Strike a pose.
    Many patients with hypothyroidism have found yoga to be helpful, especially a pose called the Shoulder Stand, or sarvangasana, which increases circulation to the thyroid. Lie on your back, and lift your legs and lower body at a right angle to the floor so that the weight of your body is supported on your head, neck, shoulders and upper arms. Place your hands under your mid-back, and look up toward your toes. Work up to holding this position for five minutes a day. Do not do this pose if you are pregnant or menstruating. Although there’s no dietary or exercise cure for hypothyroidism, you do have some control over how it affects your life. Incorporate your medication with a healthy diet, regular exercise, relaxation and 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and you will begin to feel the powerful effects of a healthy lifestyle.

9 Diet and Exercise Tips for Underactive Thyroid

About The Author

Susan Fishman is a veteran freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience in consumer and patient education. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, and on numerous other national health, wellness and parenting sites. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in clinical rehabilitation counseling at Georgia State University.
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  4. Hypothyroidism. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/endocrine/hypothyroidism/Pages/fact-sheet...
  5. Hypothyroidism. Dr.Weil.com. http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03192/Hypothyroidism.html
  6. 4 Lifestyle Tips for Hypothyroidism. Endocrineweb. http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/hypothyroidism/4-lifestyle-tips-hypothyroidism
  7. Hypothyroidism diet: Can certain foods increase thyroid function? Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/hypothyroidism-diet/expert-answers/faq-20058554
  8. General Information/Press Room. American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/
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Last Review Date: 2018 Aug 2
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