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Fatigue and low energy are among the most common complaints I hear from members of the thyroid community. Often, we are told that taking thyroid medication alone will fix this, so what do we do when it doesn’t?
Here is a guest post from Alice Godfrey, a BANT registered nutritionist and thyroid health specialist.
Written by Alice Godfrey
4 Ways to Boost Your Energy When You Have Hypothyroidism
Sofa time and early nights are likely to be a significant part of any hypothyroidism sufferer’s life but there are some easy ways to optimise the energy we do have, and to contribute to the processes that enable better thyroid function.
Here are 4 of the nutrition strategies I use with all my tired thyroid clients:
– Key nutrients
– Blood sugar management
– No Gluten
1. Key Nutrients
As you are probably aware, there are many vital nutrients when it comes to thyroid health but the ones I focus on to start with for my tired clients are iron, selenium and zinc.
Iron – It’s very common for menstruating women to be low in iron, especially when less meat is being eaten, and iron is needed to get T3 hormone into our cells. Low, or sub-optimal, iron stores (ferritin) can mean hair loss. It’s important to test iron levels before supplementing though as having too much can be dangerous. Iron rich foods are a safe bet though – good quality meat, almonds, apricots, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Selenium – Essential for converting T4 hormone into T3. You can usually get it in brazil nuts but levels are so unreliable (it depends on the soil they are grown in) that it can be preferable to take a supplement (of around 200mcg day) for a period of time.
Zinc – Also necessary for thyroid hormone conversion, and in order to make thyroid stimulating hormone. Zinc is found in seeds, chickpeas, lentils and oysters but supplements can get your levels up faster.
2. Blood Sugar Management
Many of us who suffer with thyroid problems have unstable blood sugar. In Hashimoto’s there is a tendency to be hypoglycaemic (consistent low blood sugar) or to be insulin resistant, or both. This situation will generally worsen autoimmunity if it’s already there but regulating blood sugar so that it’s kept more balanced can dramatically improve symptoms.
Here’s how to do that:
– Don’t skip meals. It’s fine to skip the snacks but make sure you are getting all the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, healthy fat) at every meal and leaving the table full up.
– Eat a high protein breakfast. You haven’t eaten all night, don’t spike your blood sugar with a high carb breakfast like cereal. Eggs are a great way to start the day. Alternatives are paleo style granolas or coconut yoghurt with fruit, nuts and seeds.
– Reduce refined carbohydrates (ie. anything sweet plus white breads, pastas, grains). Stop the cravings by eating bitter foods throughout the day (eg. a few leaves of rocket, watercress or chicory, or a green or dandelion tea). A spoonful of apple cider vinegar in some water also has this effect.
– Don’t eat carbohydrates on their own. Always combine with substantial protein and / or healthy fats. Eg. Seeded oatcakes with nut butter or hummus, apple slices with nut butter, a low fruit / sugar smoothie with protein powder, a nuts and seeds trail mix, half an avocado with extra virgin olive oil.
Eating this way will reduce blood sugar spikes and mean that our blood sugar rises more gradually and falls more gently. The peaks and troughs that happen when blood sugar is mismanaged mean that we get energy slumps, bad moods, sugar cravings, and our brain doesn’t get the constant supply of energy it needs, which means mental health is affected.
All our cells need water to function properly. Many of the chemical reactions that happen in our bodies require water, including energy production. If there isn’t enough water available energy production is literally blocked.
The average woman needs about 2 litres of water a day and the average man between 2.5 and 3. And don’t start eating before making sure you are hydrated. The digestive process requires copious amounts of water so dehydration can contribute to IBS symptoms. If you’re getting IBS symptoms, it’s a sign your food isn’t broken down properly which means you aren’t getting all the nutrients from it which will have knock on effects for all of your health.
4. No Gluten
You might know this one by now. But did you know that even if you eat just a tiny bit of gluten that it can contribute to more autoimmune destruction and stay in your system causing trouble for up to 6 months?
Gluten molecules are shaped like thyroid molecules and when gluten gets into the bloodstream the body tries to destroy it, and it seems, can mistakenly destroy thyroid tissue.
Cutting out gluten was fundamental for me. I stopped it when I was trying to get pregnant as I’d been told it was causing inflammation in my body. Eventually I did get pregnant but before that, about 2 months after I gave up gluten, the muscle aches and pains in my wrists and shoulders (that I’d had for years) disappeared. I was astonished but I know now, that this is common.
Gluten proteins can get into the bloodstream through a leaky gut (intestinal impermeability) and cause chronic inflammation in a variety of different places. And you don’t need to be coeliac to have a gluten sensitivity that contributes to huge problems for you.
I’ve found with my clients that eating any gluten once they’ve cut it out, means they are struck down with fatigue, which gives some indication of how it might be affecting anyone still eating it who has hypothyroidism. I usually recommend avoiding it completely for two months in order to see how it affects your symptoms.
My aim with these steps is first to bolster my hypothyroid clients against the extra demands their body places on them, and to increase their resilience, while creating new habits that will help keep them that way. Once we’ve set the foundations, at the heart of my practice are the personalised steps that aim to get to (and address) the root cause of their condition.
I’m Alice, a BANT registered nutritionist and thyroid health specialist. I help those with thyroid problems get to the bottom of their brain fog, weight gain, low mood and lack of energy and I’m passionate about making life easier and healthier for busy people.
You can see my FREE ebook here: ‘When normal isn’t normal. The truth about thyroid testing and 3 strategies to feel better’.
I’m at @alicegodfreynutrition on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Clubhouse. Join my Facebook group. and visit my website www.alicegodfreynutrition.com
If you would like to submit a guest post, whether you’re a thyroid patient, doctor or anyone else, please get in contact.
Diana ShirleyDecember 12, 2021 at 2:49 pm
Does hypothyroid diet change depending on what meds you are on? I take NDT, here in Canada. I eat cabbage and broccoli, not everyday though and I also cook them. I usually have little to no energy at the end of my work day.
AnitaApril 9, 2021 at 9:56 am
Thank you so much for this! It is VERY important to know what foods to eat and what foods to AVOID when you have hypothyroidism. I tire some days late at night, I’m ready for bed/sleep by 8;30 pm ! My husband doesn’t understand this; he can sit up to wee hours of the morning! Please keep what foods to avoid (I know cabbage, broccoli, kale). I take levothyroxine pill once/day. Get blood work done every 3 months (in case the dosage changes) through my PCP doctor.