Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid or low thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones.
Although it’s more common in women, men can also develop hypothyroidism. According to the NHS, 15 in every 1000 women and 1 in every 1000 men have underactive thyroids.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism are commonly seen in other health conditions, and for this reason hypothyroidism is often misdiagnosed. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can start to develop many years before any diagnosis is made.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Sensitivity to the cold
- Cold hands and feet
- Menstrual problems
- Delayed movements and thoughts
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Dry skin and eyes
- Brittle nails and hair
- Weight gain
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormone thyroxine, also known as T4. Thyroxine is secreted into the blood stream and is taken to the organs. It plays a central role in heart function, brain development, digestive function, bone health and muscle control.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism worldwide is a lack of iodine. In countries that have adequate iodine consumption, the most common cause is an autoimmune disease that damages the thyroid. 
Usually, antibodies created by the immune system are sent to attack bacteria and viruses, in order to keep us healthy. However, in the case of an autoimmune hypothyroidism, antibodies are wrongly sent to the thyroid and attack its tissue, affecting the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones.
The most common type of autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid is known as Hashimoto’s disease. It is not completely understood why this occurs, but researchers believe it may be triggered by a bacterium or virus, and a genetic flaw.
Diet for hypothyroidism
Ensuring that you are not deficient in iodine is important, because it is key in ensuring healthy thyroid functioning and metabolism. Iodine is found in milk, dried seaweed, cod, yoghurt, turkey breast, tuna, navy beans and baked potato.
Although western medicine doesn’t recommend any dietary changes, an Ayurvedic approach to dieting would include drinking adequate quantities of milk and increasing your intake of rice, barley, Bengal gram, coconut oil, moong dal and cucumber. In addition to this, it is advised that you avoid heavy and sour foods.