Hashimoto's disease, the most common form of hypothyroidism, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. As a result, your thyroid gland, which helps regulate important functions, like digestion, energy levels, body temperature and moods, produces too few hormones. Common symptoms include constipation, weight gain, depressive moods and skin dryness. In addition to medical treatment, dietary changes, including emphasizing appropriate carbohydrate sources, can help manage your symptoms. For best results, seek guidance from your doctor before altering your diet.
Many carbohydrate-rich foods, including whole grains, vegetables and fruits, provide valuable amounts of fiber. In an interview with "Today's Dietitian" published in October 2004, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, Patricia Vasconcellos, suggested fiber-rich foods as valuable tools for combating constipation associated with hypothyroidism. Because high-fiber foods also keep you fuller longer between meals, they may help ease the process of weight control. The rich vitamin B content in whole grains and fresh vegetables and the plentiful antioxidants found in colorful produce can also help reduce hypothyroidism symptoms.
Refined carbohydrate sources, like white bread, sugary sweets and enriched pasta, provide less fiber and have a greater impact on your blood sugar compared to whole, natural carbohydrate-rich foods. While whole grains and other natural starches guard against hunger pangs, refined foods may have the opposite effect, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. In addition, numerous natural carbohydrate sources, including cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, millet, turnips, peanuts and soy, contain goitrogens -- substances that can interfere with thyroid function, increasing your risk for Hashimoto's disease complications. (See References 1 or 2)
Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Although most people can consume it with ease, it causes harsh immune system reactions and digestive damage in people with celiac disease. In an Italian study published in the "European Journal of Endocrinology" in April 2002, 14 people with Hashimoto's disease underwent gluten intolerance testing. Six of the 14 participants showed potential signs of celiac disease, four of whom tested positive. Researchers concluded that a significant number of people with Hashimoto's disease show potential signs of celiac disease. Treatment for celiac disease involves a gluten-free diet. So in place of conventional breads, cereals and pasta, you consume gluten-free grain products, such as rice, popcorn and gluten-free oat and rice-based breads and cereals.
“One of the main objectives for women with hypothyroidism is controlling body weight through a calorie-controlled diet appropriate for their age and weight," said Vasconcellos. Your specific caloric needs depend on your current weight, goals, age and other factors, such as the severity of your thyroid symptoms. To meet your basic nutrient needs, however, the USDA's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that adults eat at least 2 cups of fruit, 2.5 cups of vegetables and 3 1 oz. servings of whole grains per day. If you suspect an intolerance to gluten or other foods, seek proper testing from your doctor.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Hypothyroidism
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
- "European Journal of Endocrinology"; Markers of Potential Coeliac Disease in Patients with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis; R. Valentino, et al.; April 2002
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans