Understanding Hypothyroidism and Importance of Iodised Salt in Reverting It

Understanding Hypothyroidism and Importance of Iodised Salt in Reverting It

I keep getting a lot of queries from my readers and clients about thyroid function. There is a common way of saying ‘I have thyroid’ when people have thyroid related issues but most are clueless about what those issues are. I have to really ask if it is hypothyroid or hyperthyroid and then I realise that some people can’t figure it even after seeing the reports. The questions about salt intake, iodised salt or unrefined salt, consumption of millets, soy products, cabbage etc are others things that concern people.

Talking about people who don’t have a background of nutrition or medicine, such a confusion leads to wrong dietary choices as most people have developed this habit of devising diets for themselves going by whatever impression they have regarding their medical condition. And then the confusion multiplies when internet is used as a resource for all such advise.

So when one searches about the ill effects of salt, one finds a whole lot of misleading facts and studies that are based on overconsumption of salt. While overconsumption of anything can lead to complications, and some people who eat packaged and processed foods a lot can easily fall into the trap of salt overconsumption, it is important to understand that in right amount, salt can be a preventive and even therapeutic tool in many health conditions. Do you know that most wild animals in forests find their way to supplement their mineral requirements by salt licks?

Be aware of the fact that salt is needed only in minimal amount and home cooked food is the best even in this case to have more control on what you eat, just choose the right kind of salt for your health concerns.

There is a misconception that salt intake causes weight gain, water retention and more health issues, this makes it more confusing for people looking for dietary solutions to prevent hypothyroidism. If one recommends iodised salt the immediate concern is whether it will cause some other health problems or cause weight gain. In fact Iodised salt helps the body get the much required iodine easily through normal intake of salt in each meal and help normalise the metabolism in cases of low Iodine availability. It is important to know that one doesn’t need to increase salt intake but just change the type of salt being used and iodised salt helps in preventing hypothyroidism.

While we do get a lot of good studies and solutions on the internet, we must realise that being aware of the exact problem is important to find a suitable solution for it. Having said that, thyroid dysfunction can actually be reversed by diet management most of the times if it is not caused by autoimmune factors. And I would stress on the fact again that one needs to understand the problem well before seeking the solution.

Discussing issues related to thyroid gland dysfunction, there are two conditions one needs to be aware of. Hypothyroidism which in layman terms is under active thyroid glad and hyperthyroidism which is over active thyroid gland. The thyroid gland secretes thyroxin hormone which is responsible for maintaining overall metabolism including digestive system, bone health, muscle control, brain development and heart movements. It is good to understand that in the condition of hypothyroidism the thyroxin hormone is deficient which causes overall metabolic rate to drop down, pulse rate becomes low and the person feels sluggish and low on energy. Prolonged deficiency of Iodine can also cause goitre which is visible as a swelling in front of the neck, apart from regular hypothyroidism symptoms.

On the other hand, Hyperthyroidism results in more thyroxin hormone which leads to high pulse rate, breathlessness, increased appetite, frequent visits to the loo, weight loss, and hair fall apart from a general feeling of tiredness.

First of all, we need to understand that salt intake has no effect on thyroid function. The myths and confusions around salt intake and thyroid function possiblly arise by the fact that iodised salt has been used all over the world to treat hypothyroidism effectively so salt has become the highlight and since salt has been linked with high blood pressure people assume it is linked to hypothyroidism as well. Salt actually helps carry the iodine to the bloodstream so it can reach thyroid gland to make T3 and T4 (two forms of thyroxin hormone) where iodine is an integral part. It is the actually the Iodine that helps treat hypothyroidism if it is caused by Iodine deficiency and salt is just a carrier. Note that in the cases of autoimmune related hypothyrpidism a different curative approach is required.

The two hormones from thyroid gland T3 and T4 control the metabolic functions and hypo- or hyper-thyroid are caused when these two hormones are either deficient or excessive. The reasons for hypo-thyroidism can either be deficiency of Iodine, some autoimmune condition or deficiency of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which is secreted by pituitary gland while the reasons for hyper-thyroidism can be stress, wrong medication, inflammation of thyroid, some autoimmune conditions or other medical conditions.

In fact the deficiency of iodine that causes hypothyroidism is quite common all over the world, especially in inland geographical areas. Since seafood, including kelp and algae, are rich in iodine, the coastal populations are rarely affected by iodine deficiency. Most soils are deficient in iodine and plants don’t have much iodine if they grow in such land. Missing Iodine from everyday diet (#MissingI) is as common as work stress and both may be interrelated. Even the seafoods have highly variable levels of iodine and for an Iodine deficient person one cannot determine the doses. Iodised salt, on the other hand is a reliable source of iodine because the iodine content is quantified and the daily dose of salt for an individual delivers the required amount of iodine.

Common unrefined salt is not a good idea for everyday salt intake for hypothyroid individuals and one must include iodised salt if prone to hypothyroidism or already affected by it because the symptoms are mostly so subtle that one gets to know when it becomes severe.

Prolonged deficiency of iodine can cause goitre (swelling of thyroid gland) or hypothyroidism leading to slow metabolism, low mental alertness and weight gain apart from many other symptoms. Even mild hypothyroidism can result in anxiety and depression so it is good to fix the issues with proper diet and supplementation.

In fact iodised salt is the cheapest and most practical dietary change everyone can adopt, there are a few sources of food that can help too. Vacuum evaporated iodised salt as recommended by the government authorities to tackle hypothyroidism, is affordable by everyone and Tata Salt is available throughout the country. Apart from salt all kinds of seafood, milk, cultured yogurt, buttermilk, fermented foods, brined pickles, fermented pickles, some beans, corn and some fruits have good amount of iodine.

A simple habit of having some thin buttermilk with iodised salt and roasted cumin powder, mint etc can help in prevention of hypothyroidism and can help revert it too if combined with a more focused dietary approach.