Navigating the complications of hypothyroidism can be an overwhelming journey, given the increasing prevalence of the condition in the Indian population. Thyroid disease, which affects about 42 million Indians, is one of the most common endocrine disorders. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, an important regulator of the body’s metabolism. This deficiency can significantly affect energy levels, weight and overall health. While managing hypothyroidism poses its challenges, adopting the right strategies, such as incorporating a balanced diet and engaging in yoga practice, opens the door to a life of vitality and wellness. Whether you are newly diagnosed or have long known hypothyroidism, these holistic approaches offer promising ways to improve your overall health and quality of life.
Optimal Dietary Choices for the Management of Hypothyroidism
Searching for ideal foods for hypothyroidism may not yield a surprising selection, as there is no one food that will miraculously increase thyroid hormone levels. However, people managing hypothyroidism should focus on including certain foods in their diet for improved wellness. Listed below are foods rich in essential vitamins and nutrients to help people with hypothyroidism:
The primary cause of hypothyroidism worldwide is iodine deficiency, as this essential mineral cannot be synthesized naturally by the body. Dietary sources such as iodized salt, dairy products, seafood, seaweed and fortified cereals become important to fill this deficiency.
Iodine plays an important role in the body as it is a basic component of thyroid hormones. Deficiency of thyroid hormones is often associated with iodine deficiency in individuals. To meet the recommended daily intake of iodine, which is 150 micrograms (mcg), one needs less than half of a teaspoon of iodized salt. Ensuring an adequate supply of these essential nutrients is vital for effective hypothyroidism management.
A common problem in people with hypothyroidism is vitamin D deficiency, although the precise mechanism for this correlation is unknown. Ensure adequate vitamin D intake. The body produces vitamin D due to sunlight. Diet can play an important role in preventing deficiency-related illnesses such as bone loss and deformities.
To increase your vitamin D, include vitamin D-rich foods in your diet such as cheese, mushrooms, vitamin-D-rich foods such as fortified milk, fortified cereals, eggs, fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, and dairy products such as Greek yogurt. levels and contributes to the comprehensive management of hypothyroidism.
It is important to discuss with your healthcare professional before considering increasing or supplementing tyrosine-rich foods, as this amino acid may interact with hypothyroidism medications.
Due to its important role in thyroid hormone synthesis along with iodine, ensuring adequate tyrosine intake is essential. Foods containing tyrosine, such as seaweed, turkey, eggs and cottage cheese, can contribute to a balanced diet that supports thyroid health. Always consult your doctor to personalize your dietary regimen to effectively manage hypothyroidism.
Selenium, with the highest concentration in the thyroid gland, plays an important role in supporting enzymes necessary for thyroid function. Given its significance, people with hypothyroidism can often find themselves deficient in this important nutrient, which affects not only thyroid health but also the immune system, cognitive function, and fertility.
Including selenium-rich foods in your diet such as cereals, meat and dairy products, fish, seafood, milk, nuts, sea salt, eggs, yeast, bread, mushrooms, garlic, asparagus, kohlrabi and onions becomes essential to compensate for possible deficiencies. and promotes overall well-being, especially in those managing hypothyroidism.
In the management of hypothyroidism, the role of antioxidants becomes even more significant. These disease-fighting compounds, abundant in fruits and vegetables, actively combat oxidative stress—a heightened inflammatory state associated with hypothyroidism and various chronic diseases.
Increase your antioxidant intake by including superfoods like berries, nuts, seeds and dark-green leafy vegetables in your diet, including collard greens, spinach and kale. By doing so, you not only contribute to your overall health but also address specific challenges associated with hypothyroidism and oxidative stress.
Unlocking the benefits of yoga for managing hypothyroidism
Adopting yoga as a valuable tool in the management of hypothyroidism can have significant benefits. Although it may not provide an instant cure, the practice is known to promote glandular health and regulate metabolism, thereby acting as a preventative measure against potential complications. Notably, one study found that an intensive six-month yoga regimen significantly reduced dependence on thyroxine medication for women with hypothyroidism.
It is important to note that yoga, while providing substantial support for thyroid health, is not a stand-alone cure for thyroid imbalance. Instead, it works as a complementary therapy, enhancing overall well-being. It should be integrated into your health system alongside existing therapies and medications, ensuring a comprehensive and holistic approach to managing hypothyroidism.
Here are a few yoga poses that can contribute to supporting thyroid health and overall well-being:
Vipareetkaraniasana – Inverted Pose
Vipareetkaraniasana also known as Legs Up the Wall Pose, improves your well-being, especially in managing hypothyroidism. This pose increases blood flow to the thyroid gland, promoting regulation of thyroid function.
Lie on your back.
Keep your feet together.
While inhaling, raise both legs, hips and trunk.
The trunk is placed at a 45º angle to the ground.
Keep your neck and head in a neutral position for comfort.
Close your eyes, focus on deep and slow breathing and maintain the position for some time.
To come back, lower leg over head and touch toes to ground.
Place the hands down and then bring the spine and legs down as you exhale.
Ustrasana – Camel pose
Ustrasana, commonly known as camel pose, proves to be a thyroid-stimulating yoga pose by effectively stretching the neck and increasing blood circulation to the thyroid gland. Beyond its thyroid-related benefits, this pose also contributes to relieving spinal problems, making it a comprehensive and beneficial addition to your yoga routine.
Start by kneeling, making sure your knees are hip-width apart.
Keep your hands on your waist.
While inhaling, raise the arms above the head,
On an exhale, bend back and arch your back, gently reaching your hands toward your heels.
Push your stomach forward, lift your chest and tilt your head back, avoiding any pressure.
Hold the pose for 15-20 seconds, gradually increasing the duration as your flexibility improves.
Straighten the spine, head and arms while inhaling.
Bring the arms down while exhaling.
Sarvangasana – Shoulder Stand
Sarvangasana, commonly known as shoulder stand, plays an important role in maintaining the body’s governing system – the endocrine system. This yoga pose puts beneficial pressure on the thyroid gland, which is the largest blood supply to the body. Through this gentle pressure, Sarvangasana increases blood circulation, facilitating stagnant secretions within the thyroid gland.
Lie straight on your back with your arms at your sides. Keep your feet together.
As you inhale, lift your legs, hips and torso off the ground.
Bend elbows and support lower back on palms.
Straighten your legs upwards keeping them in line with your torso.
Breathe normally and hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, making sure your neck and head are in a comfortable position.
Slowly return to the starting position, slowly returning your legs and torso to the ground.
Setubandhasana – Bridge pose
Sethubandhasana, also known as Bridge Pose, is an effective yoga pose, especially beneficial for people dealing with hypothyroidism. This pose gently stretches the neck and increases circulation to the thyroid gland, making it a valuable addition to a yoga routine designed for thyroid health.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart.
Place your arms alongside your body, palms facing down.
As you inhale, lift your hips and spine toward the ceiling, creating a bridge-like position.
Engage your thighs and lift your chest toward your chin while maintaining a comfortable position for your neck.
Place palms on waist and support your lower back.
Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, breathing slowly and deeply.
As you exhale, gently lower your hips to the ground.
In the face of the challenges of hypothyroidism, taking a balanced approach becomes the key to achieving optimal wellness. Recognizing the prevalence of thyroid disease among millions of people, individuals can navigate this journey by incorporating the holistic strategies mentioned above. By focusing on overall health and seeking complementary support when needed, people managing hypothyroidism can increase vitality and embrace a life characterized by balance and improved quality.
(Dr. Babina NM Jindal is a Chief Medical Officer at NatureCure Institute)