Hypothyroidism & Carbohydrates

Spaghetti with Garlic Bread
A big bowl of pasta with garlic bread on the side. (Image: junce/iStock/Getty Images)

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is unable to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone for your body. The thyroid gland, which lies at the front of your neck, is responsible for regulating body temperature, metabolism and control of your appetite. When the thyroid gland isn't working correctly, you may experience symptoms such as cold sensitivity, weight gain and fatigue. You also may find that your body handles foods differently, including carbohydrates, which generally comprise the largest proportion of food in your diet. Check with your doctor before making significant dietary changes.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is most commonly experienced by women over the age of 50 and can be caused by an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Disease. This is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid gland, and occus when the body's own immune defenses mistakenly attack the gland. When the gland is attacked, its efficiency in producing thyroid hormone diminishes, causing the processes it controls to also decline. This is why individuals with hypothyroidism often experience problems with regulating temperature and difficulty losing weight. Hypothyroidism can cause cravings for foods that are high in carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are most commonly found in the form of starches, fiber and sugar. Fiber is an indigestible form of carbohydrate that helps aid the movement of food and wastes through the digestive system. Starches and sugar are converted to glucose by your body to use as fuel. Glucose molecules are released into your bloodstream, at which point the pancreas secretes insulin to help their absorption. Complex carbohydrates are digested and absorbed more slowly than simple carbohydrates such as like highly processed white flour products. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables are rich sources of dietary fiber, and help you feel fuller so you eat fewer calories.

Hypothyroidism and Carbohydrates

If you have hypothyroidism, you may find yourself craving carbohydrates over other types of food. This may be due in part to a decrease in the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for feelings of calm and pleasure. Since carbohydrates tend to raise serotonin levels, craving them is your body's way of trying to restore balance. Unfortunately, because your metabolism is also compromised with hypothyroidism, your body is also less adept at using the excess calories you eat in an attempt to satisfy your cravings. Left untreated or misdiagnosed, hypothyroidism can therefore lead to obesity and increased risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Considerations

Because hypothyroidism can lead to an increased risk of chronic and preventable illnesses, if you are experiencing symptoms, it is important to see your doctor. Once your condition is properly managed, you should have increased energy, which can help you implement a plan of regular physical activity to lose and manage your weight. Making significant changes to the foods you eat, including carbohydrates, can also help increase energy levels and decrease weight. Individuals with hypothyroidism should emphasize foods that contain antioxidants. These include fruits and vegetables, which are also rich sources of carbohydrates. Eating whole-grain versions of breads, cereals and pastas adds dietary fiber that can help you manage your weight.

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