After she gave birth, Priti Shah suffered from chronic fatigue and disturbed sleep. What's more, despite the fact that she was exercising regularly, the weighing scale insisted on bending to the right. A simple test revealed that she was suffering from hypothyroidism. "And I thought it was genetic," she says. Obviously, she stands corrected.
What is hypothyroidism?
It's only a small gland at the base of our neck but if it does not function well, the resulting health fall out can be on multiple levels. A recent survey conducted by the Indian Thyroid Society points out that about one in ten adults in India suffers from hypothyroidism. It is ranked ninth amongst other ailments including cholesterol issues, depression, diabetes, insomnia, heart problems and asthma.
While women are more at risk of thyroid-related issues (especially pregnant women who are three times likelier to be affected), men too are at risk thanks to our stress-filled lives. Simply put, hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones. This leads to experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- weight gain
- loss of sleep
- disturbed menstrual cycles
- sensitivity to cold
- loss of sleep
- thinning hair
- joint pains
- difficulty in concentration
A planned and balanced diet to the rescue
The good news is that a thoughtfully chosen, balanced diet along with the prescribed medication can make a big difference. According to Riddhima Pathak, clinical nutritionist, Jupiter Hospital, Pune, "A diet for hypothyroidism should be rich in protein, selenium, Omega 3 and iodine and low on carbs and fats. Do away with the refined and processed goods from your kitchen and your body will thank you for it."
"Unlike yesteryears, there is enough iodine in the diets of middle and upper-class individuals thanks to salt and other options. However, the very poor still suffer from iodine deficiency. For the rest, it is a story scripted by sedentary lifestyles, high stress, pollution and easy availability of amenities," says Pathak.
What you should be eating
Frequent meals at regular intervals help. So will a diet full of eggs, fish and dairy. Buttermilk and paneer (about 2 to 3 serves of 100 gm each is a good option). A glass of cow's milk can be included too. Fish like tuna, sardines and salmons are a great source of Omega 3 too. Dals and pulses are rich in protein, fibre and anti-oxidants. So go right ahead and include 2 to 3 servings of 30 gms each of moong, rajma, chawli and chickpea in your diet.
"Fiber-rich oats in the form of porridge or pancakes are a great option and so are quinoa and brown rice," says Shahida Patel, a hypothyroid patient. "Avoiding simple carbs like bread and bakery products has helped. I prefer eating multi-grain rotis of jowar or bajra with green vegetables or pulses.”
Mumbai-based nutritionist Arti Sharma also recommends walnuts that are rich in Omega 3 to boost immunity level. "However, go easy on them and don't have more than 2 or 3 per day as they are high in fat," she cautions.
Foods you should avoid
At the same time, there are certain foods to be avoided. These are full of Goitrogens that interfere with the activity of the thyroid and absorption of iodine from the blood. You should avoid veggies from the cruciferous family including cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, kale and broccoli, soybeans and sweet potato.
“Similarly, peanuts and peanut butter are best avoided,” adds Sharma. As for Shah, she says her carefully constructed diet and thyroid medicine have helped her lose 5 kgs and counting. "I would recommend checking one's thyroid every few months," she says.