Fitness and Nutrition Tips For Those With Thyroid Problems

By Mallory McKeever – August 24, 2022

For those with thyroid issues, everything from menstrual cycles to hair texture can be affected While fitness and nutrition are vital in alleviating symptoms, there are unbeknownst secrets about them (i.e. fitness could possibly do more harm than good, and popular iodine supplements can be damaging). So what can you do as a patient to help, not harm? 

What Does Your Thyroid Do?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that secretes hormones. This gland is so important that having an unhealthy thyroid can cause problems with sleeping, metabolism, joints, heat tolerance and more. 

Unfortunately, most thyroid disorders cannot be prevented. Not only is hypothyroidism 10 times more common in women than men, but it can be passed down from generation to generation, thus making it difficult to prevent. According to MedlinePlus, a leading online source of medical information from the National Library of Medicine, thyroid issues can vary from Graves’ disease to Hashimoto’s disease to intense diet and activity changes to simply taking a pill every day. A simple pill can sometimes fix the problem without much else being needed. Many patients simply take medication daily for the rest of their life and receive routine checkups to monitor hormone levels. 

Hyperthyroidism vs. Hypothyroidism

The two most common thyroid disorders are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. 

The American Association of Family Physicians explains in their articles that the difference between the two is that hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid that produces too much hormone while hypothyroidism refers to a lack of hormone levels because of an underactive thyroid.

With hyperthyroidism, in which “hyper” means excess, there is also an increase in metabolism to an unhealthy level. Because of this excess, common symptoms can include increased heart rate, nervousness, heat intolerance and protruding eyes because of a retraction of the eyelids. Simply put, excess hormone produces excess expense of heat and energy because of an overly active metabolism. 

On the other hand, since hypothyroidism involves a decreased hormone level, it can affect metabolism. Symptoms can include weight gain, always feeling cold, depression, fatigue and memory loss. 


Woman doing yoga.

For those with hyperthyroidism, exercise should be approached with caution. Cleveland Clinic advises physical activity to be done only when medication is already helping your thyroid issue; otherwise, exercising can be even more damaging to your health, causing patients to overheat because of their heat intolerance. Physical activity must be paired with your doctor’s orders. 

For hypothyroidism, starting small and focusing on strength building is the way to go. Starting exercise abruptly and harshly can roughly jolt the heart into action. It’s better to allow a few weeks for the medication to work before starting to exercise. 

Since your thyroid impacts your hormones and mood, exercise is an excellent practice for your general health as well as it boosts the mood and decreases stress levels, both of which can affect your quality of life and allow the medication to do its work quickly and efficiently. Low-impact aerobic exercises are not incredibly forceful, extreme or hard on the body and can deal directly with symptoms of fatigue, joint swelling, weight gain and a blue mood. According to low-impact exercises can include swimming, yoga, walking, rowing or cycling. 



A common misconception is that a diet change will cure or reverse a thyroid problem. Unfortunately, this condition cannot be fixed that easily. Just like most medical problems, medication is needed to truly mediate the problem, but symptoms can be better regulated by having an excellent diet, getting enough exercise and paying attention to the status of your thyroid. 

There are many resources online that offer special thyroid-boosting diets and food plans to either “fix” or prevent a thyroid problem. However, Jeffrey Mechanick, MD, of the American Thyroid Association states that the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists has the best eating guide. Some of the guidelines are listed below:

  • Variety of all products
  • Colorful veggies, berries and fruits
  • Limited amount of red meat, sugar, salt, trans and saturated fats
  • Seafood three times a week
  • Protein and fiber through beans, lean meats, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy
  • Plate method: Average meal consists of 25% protein, 25% whole grains, 50% vegetables and one fruit 

There are some items that don’t alter the thyroid gland directly but can affect thyroid medication. Being sure to take your medicine correctly is vital. Cleveland Clinic advises in an article posted in 2021 that supplements should be avoided, even the popular iodine supplements. While iodine does play a major role in healthy thyroid function, it’s advised to allow the prescribed medication to regulate iodine levels rather than take it into your own hands. Iodine levels can even be strewed by eating large amounts of kale, broccoli, spinach, kelp and seaweed. 

Thyroid issues are highly prevalent and often very easily manageable; unfortunately, that doesn’t always make coping with the symptoms an easy task. While there may not be a secret to alleviating symptoms with a magical supplement or fancy workout, there are certain things to know as you seek to deal with them in a healthy way. Maybe it means signing up for a spin class, incorporating more green veggies into your diet or taking a break for a few weeks from heavy exercise. Either way, it’s important to strive for a balanced and healthy life to help and prevent difficult symptoms.


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