09 Sep Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
By Rebecca Jaspan, MPH, RD, CDN, CDCES
The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ located at the front of the neck, is small but mighty. The 2-inch gland is a major part of the endocrine system and affects almost every organ in the body. It is responsible for regulating fat and carbohydrate metabolism, respiration, body temperature, brain development, cholesterol levels, the cardiovascular and nervous system, blood calcium levels, menstrual cycles, skin integrity, and so much more1. Thyroid gland issues are fairly common in the United States with 27 million people affected with one of many thyroid abnormalities2. Any issue with the thyroid gland puts someone at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other metabolic disruptions. The good news is that management with medication, diet and lifestyle changes under the guidance of a registered dietitian can provide the opportunity for the best quality of life.
The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism, which is when the thyroid gland is under-active. Hypothyroidism is typically caused by an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The body recognizes its’ own tissues as an invader and attacks its’ organ. This causes the thyroid to release inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone to keep the body systems functioning properly2. Consequently resulting in a slower metabolism, fatigue, dry skin and hair, slow heart rate, shortness of breath, constipation, menstrual irregularities, and many other symptoms3. Hashimoto’s is largely caused by genetics and is associated with other autoimmune disorders as well such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease4.
If you feel that you are experiencing any symptoms of Hashimoto’s, it is important to see an endocrinologist who can diagnose your condition, and help develop a treatment plan with regards to mediation. Your endocrinologist may have a RD in their office or you can seek the help of a RD, CDCES to help you develop easy diet modifications to manage symptoms, provide education regarding dietary supplements, and share tools and or exercises to decrease stress levels.
Diet and lifestyle modifications are key to reducing symptoms and preventing further complications of Hashimoto’s. Changes to reduce inflammation are ideal, but the focus should be on what to include rather than what to exclude. It is important to be recognize any existing or history of disordered eating or even an eating disorder. Please share this with your medical doctor and dietitian, as some dietary modifications can seemingly feel restrictive. Research does show an association between autoimmune diseases and the development of eating disorders5. An experienced eating disorders dietitian known as a certified eating disorders specialist can guide you through these nutritional and lifestyle changes in a way that feels safe and inclusive.
Addition of monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids such as fatty fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are helpful for reducing inflammation, slowing and preventing further thyroid damage3. Due to the relationship between inflammation and the microbiome, taking a probiotic supplement may help improve the quality of the gut microbiota6. Many individuals experience improvement in symptoms when following the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, which is an elimination diet that helps figure out which foods are harmful for the thyroid and which can be resumed. This may require the individual to avoid gluten, dairy, and certain vegetables3. Specific nutrients of concern are iodine, iron, selenium, zinc, magnesium, and Vitamin D which may require supplementation and a focus on foods high in these nutrients6. Regular lab/blood tests ordered by your doctor in combination with nutrition sessions will ensure you maintain adequate levels of these nutrients.
While a diagnosis of an autoimmune condition may be scary and the medical and nutrition management may seem daunting, finding a team with an endocrinologist and a RD, CDCES, CEDS you can trust will help you feel more at ease. Here at Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition, we are passionate about working with you collaboratively to help you manage your diagnosis of Hashimoto’s with realistic meal plans/structures, easy recipes, and supplement recommendations so you can feel calm and confident.
- Canaris GJ, Manowitz NR, Mayor G, Ridgway EC. The Colorado thyroid disease prevalence study. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(4):526-534.
- Bethesda, MD: National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2012. NIH Publication No. 12–6180.
- Ihnatowicz P, Drywień M, Wątor P, Wojsiat J. The importance of nutritional factors and dietary management of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Ann Agric Environ Med. 2020 Jun 19;27(2):184-193. doi: 10.26444/aaem/112331. Epub 2019 Oct 2. PMID: 32588591.