Managing Hypothyroidism DIETARY STRATEGIES Lowering High Blood Cholesterol

Hypothyroidism is linked with a greater risk of early heart disease as thyroid hormones influence the level of blood cholesterol. Indeed, many studies find that patients suffering from a deficiency of thyroid hormones, whether they have overt symptoms or not, have higher levels of total cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.3 And the more severe the hypothyroidism, the higher the cholesterol level was.

Researchers have also learned that people with a sluggish thyroid gland have LDL cholesterol particles that are more readily oxidized by harmful free radical molecules. Free radicals are reactive oxygen molecules that roam the body and damage cells. When free radicals oxidize your LDL cholesterol, this cholesterol has a greater tendency to stick to artery walls. While having a high level of LDL cholesterol is not good, having oxidized LDL cholesterol is worse. Your body does have ways of protecting itself from free radicals though. Special enzymes in the body and certain nutrients in foods act as antioxidants and help to keep free radical activity in check.

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If you have high blood cholesterol, there are many dietary changes you can make to help lower your levels to the normal range. I strongly recommend that you read the cholesterol-lowering strategies in chapter 11, “Heart Disease and High Cholesterol.” You’ll learn what foods and nutrients to add to your diet and what foods to limit. You will also read about the important role that vitamin E plays in protecting your LDL cholesterol from free radical damage. Interestingly, one study found that the vitamin E content of LDL cholesterol particles was significantly lower in hypothyroid patients compared to those with normal thyroid function.

Soy Foods for Hypothyroidism

If you do read chapter 11 on how to lower high blood cholesterol levels, you will notice that I am a big fan of soy foods. Indeed, I encourage all my clients to incorporate a certain amount of soy protein in their daily diet to help bring down their blood cholesterol. And this is a very effective dietary strategy.

You may have heard that eating soy foods can harm your thyroid gland and cause hypothyroidism. This simply isn’t true. It is true that raw soybeans contain compounds that interfere with the body’s ability to use iodine. But heating soybeans eliminates these effects, and all soy foods, from tofu to soy nuts, are manufactured using heat.

The misinformation may have stemmed from the observation that, back in the 1950s, a small number of goiter cases developed in infants fed soy formula. Since the 1950s, there have been no cases of infant goiter in babies fed soy formulas. What’s more, over the past five years a handful of studies have found no effect of soy foods on thyroid function or thyroid hormone levels. So rest assured, you can continue to enjoy your tofu.

VITAMINS AND MINERALS B Vitamins

Preliminary research suggests that people with hypothyroidism may have higher blood levels of homocysteine, a known risk factor for heart disease. Homocysteine is an amino acid that everyone produces. Under normal circumstances, we convert it to other harmless amino acids with the help of three B vitamins: folate, B6 and B12. When

this conversion does not occur rapidly enough, due to a deficiency of B vitamins or a genetic defect, homocysteine can accumulate in the blood. High levels of homocysteine can damage blood vessel walls and promote the build-up of cholesterol deposits.

Getting the right amounts of these B vitamins is an important way to keep your blood homocysteine at a healthy level. See the table on B vitamins on page 4 in chapter 1. The best food sources for each of these B vitamin are as follows:

B VITAMIN GOOD FOOD SOURCES

Folate Spinach, orange juice, lentils, wheat germ, broccoli, artichokes, asparagus, leafy greens and whole grains

Vitamin B6 Whole grains, bananas, potatoes, legumes, fish, meat and poultry

Vitamin B12 All animal foods including meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and eggs as well as fortified soy and rice beverages

Taking a multivitamin and mineral pill ensures you are meeting your daily requirements for all B vitamins, not just folate, B6 and B12. A standard multivitamin will provide 100 to 300 percent of the RDA for each nutrient.

“High potency,” “mega” or “super” multivitamins have higher amounts of the B vitamins. I often refer to these supplements as a multivitamin/mineral and B complex supplement rolled into one pill. There is certainly no harm in taking a high-potency multi, or a B complex tablet for that matter. Most B complex supplements contain 50 to 100 milligrams or microgram amounts of all eight B vitamins; many brands also add vitamin C.

One word of warning if you are shopping for a super-charged supplement. One B vitamin called niacin can cause flushing when taken in amounts greater than 35 milligrams. This is a harmless reaction that causes your face, chest and arms to feel hot and tingly. Although it can be uncomfortable, it doesn’t last long. The reaction is usually gone in 20 to 30 minutes. There are a few ways to avoid the niacin flush:

• take your supplement right after eating a meal

• buy a supplement with less than 35 milligrams of niacin

• buy a multivitamin or B complex that contains niacinamide, the non-flushing form of niacin, instead of niacin

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