Finding a solution to health problems can be frustrating — very frustrating. Especially, when you’ve dealt with that problem for years with almost no solution. And, when you go to a doctor who should know a thing or two about that issue — they’re no help.
That’s the time you take a self analysis of the situation and basically say — “screw it, I’m doing this my way!”
Well, that’s where I am at with my thyroid and testosterone right now in my life.
I was officially diagnosed with a hypothyroid back in 2008-2009 while I was still in college. It accounted for the dramatic weight gain the two years prior — and the lack of engagement, depression and heightened anxiety I felt up to that point.
I got regulated and this spurred my weight-loss journey between 2009-2012. Over the past 6-7 years I’ve had to regulate my thyroid yearly. It hasn’t been much of a problem until about two years ago. For some reason — it just tanked.
After regulating the medication — with hardly any results — and further tests, it was found that I had abnormally low testosterone levels for a man my age. Sure, after 30 it’s kind of expected for it to drop — but, it was pretty low. So, I was put on testosterone replacement meds.
I kinda wish I didn’t do that, because that messed with my thyroid medication and it’s been an up and down battle trying to figure out how to balance the two.
One will be in the normal range, while the other will be low — and vice versa.
It doesn’t help that I come from a family that has both issues. My Mom’s side pretty much all has thyroid issues. In fact my great grandmother died from an unchecked thyroid. Then on my Dad’s side — I get the testosterone issues. It’s something my Dad and all my brothers deal with. Well, not my youngest brother — but, I am sure his day will come.
So, here I am — the great science project that my parents created. Sure, a lot of my problems are hereditary — but, that doesn’t make any less frustrating looking for a solution. Especially when you’re an athlete and know the level you can compete at.
The last two years of my running have been frustrating to say the least. I will always love running and have had some AMAZING moments — but — I feel slower. I know I am slower. The clock doesn’t lie.
I put my miles in — I workout — and — well — here I am. About 40lbs. off of where I want to be with not much stamina to run through even a 5K or 10K race. Being an ultra marathoner and regular half marathon runner — that’s though.
This is one reason why I am not racing much the first part of the year — so I can build up that stamina. Or at least try to, while I am tackling my body as a whole.
My focus as of late has actually been three-fold when it comes to finding that balance —
- Finding better doctors (Endocrinologist & Family Medicine)
- Being consistent and deliberate with my workouts
- Fueling my body with foods that will optimally aid my thyroid and testosterone.
Fairly simple goals, right?
Too bad the simple goals come with a complex equation first in order to get to the best outcome.
But, that’s life — I am not crying about (already did that). I’ve just come to the realization that I just need to fight for it. I’ve got to be relentless, tenacious and determined — because it won’t just come to me.
So this post — is kind of an outcome of that. It’s an outcome of my homework over the past couple weeks. This list final? Probably not. If there’s anything I’ve learned about my thyroid and testosterone — the variable always changes. That’s the joy — well curse — of it all.
Plus, thyroids and testosterones are also personal little buggars. Meaning, what works for me — probably won’t work for you or even works better for you than for me. So, really, these are good guidelines to start testing with your body. I wish it was easier than that. Oh, how I wish.
Either way — here are a few things I’ve learned from doing my homework on thyroids and testosterone.
HYPOTHYROID & FOOD
Like with any diet — it’s not exactly what you do in the gym that gains the biggest results — it’s what you do in the kitchen that counts. And, with a faulty thyroid — it’s never more true than that.
I’ve poured over hundreds of articles on hypothyroidism and food — good foods, bad foods, diet plans and the like. Here are a few things I learned (and I am keeping it simple on purpose) —
- Clean Water — Kind of a duh — but, really, how often do we really just simply drink clean cold water? This means — without anything else in it? No lemon, no lime and especially no Crystal Light. Not only does it promote a healthy metabolism, but it helps fight fatigue, constipation and sugar cravings. And, like it shouldn’t be said, but should — drink about 8oz. of cold water every two hours. This is one reason why I have a water bottle with me throughout the day at work. Gotta keep it flowing.
- Fish — There are a couple benefits for adding fish to your diet. First, the Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of heart disease — which an under managed thyroid can increase. And, secondly, it’s a good source of selenium — which is mostly concentrated in the thyroid and helps decrease inflammation. So throw in some salmon, tuna, trout and sardines to the ‘ol diet plan.
- Nuts — Another selenium rich food that aids the thyroid. Especially Brazil, macadamia and hazelnuts. Like any nuts, watch your portion size since they all tend to be somewhat fatty.
- Whole Grains — A lot of thyroid sufferers will actually avoid whole grains because fiber tends to interfere with the thyroid hormone replacement. But, if you wait 30-60 minutes after taking your medication you’ll generally be okay. Just watch your portion size and stick to the whole grain pastas, breads and rice — the less processed the better.
- Fruits & Vegetables — This is pretty much a given in many or most diet plans. But, foods like blueberries, cherries, sweet potatoes and green peppers are high in antioxidants and can aid in lowering your risk for heart disease. But, make sure to avoid consuming too much cruciferous vegetables (see below in foods to avoid) because they can counter the effectiveness of your thyroid.
- Seaweed — Kind of a surprising food to see on this list, but the biggest benefit of seaweed is the iodine. If you don’t have enough iodine in your diet — the thyroid won’t get the jump it needs. Plus, it’s high in fiber, calcium and a plethora of vitamins.
- Dairy — Kinda surprised to see this on the list, probably more than seaweed. But, there is a link between Vitamin D deficiency and Hashimoto’s disease — so the more the better. Plus, Vitamin D enriched milk and dairy brings with it an increase in calcium, protein and iodine. And, if you’re not much of a dairy fan — there are always Vitamin D supplements.
- Beans — Not only are beans a great source of fiber, but for hypothyroid sufferers they are a great source of sustained energy. Especially if your energy levels are left low and drained throughout the day. Beans are loaded with complex carbs, antioxidants, protein, vitamins and minerals — that have more benefits most things on this list. I for one — will be adding a few more beans to my diet.
- Coconut Oil — The fatty acids in coconut oil help promote a healthy thyroid, fight fatigue and provide more energy — a MUST for all thyroid sufferers. Well, at least for me. Not only is coconut oil easy to digest, but it also contains antioxidants that aid in keeping your blood sugar level. So if you’re going to replace butter with anything — this would be it.
- Sprouted Seeds — Most notably — hemp, flax and chia seeds — are the best sprouted seeds to add to your diet. Not only do they provide awesome Omega-3 fats, but they will help lower inflammation, stabilize blood sugar and your mood. These are great additions to a smoothie or protein shake.
FOODS TO AVOID
- Soy — Researchers believe it can heighten one’s risk of hypothyroidism because it is loaded with phytoestrogen. The estrogen can interfere with a healthy thyroid.
- Cruciferous vegetables — Sadly this includes broccoli (my favorite vegetable) along with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, turnips and boy choy. Eating too much of these kinds of vegetables can block the thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine. So if you have an iodine deficiency along with a tanked thyroid — probably best to avoid this list.
- Gluten — I saw various opinions on this. Avoiding gluten is somewhat of a fad in today’s health consciousness. Gluten CAN hamper the absorption of thyroid replacement medication, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. I also read that if you do choose to eat gluten products to focus on whole-grain breads, pastas and rice with high fiber. Also, of note — if you’re going to eat those — you should avoid taking your medication with them, because fiber can interfere with its’ absorption effectiveness. Interesting.
- Fatty Foods — This includes fried foods (good to cut from any diet), butter, mayonnaise and fatty cuts of meat. Fats have been found to interfere with the thyroid’s ability to both absorb your medication and to produce hormone. I loathe this knowledge, because I love mayonnaise on my sandwich. But … if it must be so .. let it be so …
- Sugary Foods — If you haven’t seen the documentary Fed Up it’s a must for anyone whether or not you have a faulty thyroid or not. Sugar slows down the metabolism and makes it extremely easy to gain weight. Sugar is the stuff that makes you fat — not necessarily fatty foods. Most of what I read recommended that you cut sugar significantly or completely out of your diet. Which sounds much easier than it is — not only are we all most likely all addicted to sugar, it doesn’t help that nearly EVERYTHING in the grocery store contains sugar in it. And, you wonder why America is fat? This is a rant for another day …
- Overly Processed Foods — Not only do most processed foods come with a high fat and/or sugary intake — but, they are usually high in sodium. And, with an underactive thyroid — extra sodium should be avoided, because it increases the thyroid sufferer’s chances of high blood pressure. No beuno. Plus, processed foods are kinda nasty — let’s be honest.
- Coffee — Being Mormon this doesn’t really affect me, but should be stated nonetheless. Researchers found that people who took coffee with their medications had uncontrollable thyroid levels. Interesting. I am not sure however if this is because of the coffee — or caffeine content? Either way — if you’re a coffee drinker wait about 30 minutes after taking your meds with water to get your cup.
- Alcohol — Again, one of those things I don’t really have to worry about being Mormon and all. But, it should be said. People with hypothyroidism should avoid alcohol or extremely minimize it’s consumption. Alcohol has shown to have a toxic effect on the thyroid gland and suppresses the body’s ability to use the thyroid hormone. Makes sense.
- Iron and calcium supplements — Surprisingly, but not really — iron and calcium supplements can interfere with the absorption of your thyroid medications. So, if you are going to take a supplement (or food with increased iron and/or calcium) you should stagger it throughout the day. Wait 30-60 minutes before you take it. Personally, I wait longer than that — about two hours.
HYPOTHYROID & FITNESS
- Get plenty of sleep — Most adults think they can get by with 4-6 hours of sleep. To get the optimal amount of sleep one should get on average 8 hours of sleep a night. Not only does this promote healing within your body overnight, but it also helps minimize stress — the common enemy to a healthy lifestyle, especially weight-loss.
- Strength Training — I found a number of training plans and suggestions for hypothyroid sufferers, so I am listing the three main ones I found. Strength training is ideal for hypothyroid athletes for a couple of reasons — one, it helps strengthen the joints, tendons and ligaments — which most hypothyroid sufferers find painful. And, it also helps boost your metabolism and burn the most fat over time than any other exercise. Some suggested workouts include squats, push-ups and leg raises (these help strengthen those joints I just mentioned).
- Aerobic Interval Training — Pick any kind of aerobic exercise — running, biking, swimming, jump roping, climbing stairs — really whatever gets your blood pumping and do a 20 minute interval of that exercise. Meaning every couple of minutes or so you’d change the effort of that exercise according to your plan. For runners this would basically be called ‘fartleks.’ Here’s a sample of what a typical interval would look like — just chose your exercise and do it.
- Aerobic Training — Aerobic training is two fold, not only does it get the blood pumping and going, but it also helps elevate the mood and is a natural antidepressant. If there is one thing any thyroid sufferer understands is it’s affect on your mood — depression, anxiety, the works. Kind of like interval training just choose something you like to do — walking, running, swimming, biking — whatever. The biggest difference between this kind of exercise is the intensity of the workout. Use the aerobic interval training as weekly training for your aerobic workouts which would be a sustained level throughout the workout. This is why I love running — it provides that needed balance between the two kinds of exercise.
- Yoga — I won’t lie, I’ve never done yoga. Well, I should say I’ve never done a Downward Dog on purpose. But, there are some real benefits for yoga and hypothyroid sufferers. Not only does yoga provide excellent joint strengthening, but it can also be help destress you — a common enemy to overall health.
LOW TESTOSTERONE & FOOD
- Bananas — I am so happy to see bananas on this list. Bananas contain the enzyme bromelain, which some studies have found boosts a man’s libido. They are also rich in B vitamins, such as riboflavin, which are essential for the manufacturing of testosterone. So, yeah — I’m not slowing down on eating yellow fingers.
- Fish — Fish, especially tuna, is high in Vitamin D. A serving of tuna contains your needed serving of Vitamin D. But, other fish like — trout, salmon and sardines are just as good. This is one food I can actually eat and benefit both my testosterone and thyroid! WOOHOO! Good thing I love tuna.
- Shellfish — Kind of in the same boat (pun intended) with fish. Great source of Vitamin D, a very good lean protein and well — in my opinion — also great tasting! So load up on the crab, shrimp and lobster and raise your testosterone levels.
- Vitamin D supplement — By increasing your Vitamin D intake you’re helping to strengthen your bones, immune system and other functions of your body. Plus, it helps that researchers have found that Vitamin D is linked to a longer life and better testosterone production.
- Vitamin D fortified dairy — Kind of goes without saying after reading above, but if you can find skim or non-fat milk that is fortified with Vitamin D the better. Not only does it provide the nutrient punch that you need, but without the added fat or sugar.
- Egg Yolks — Another great source of Vitamin D. The only thing you should be careful of here is if you have any cholesterol problems. If you do, you’d definitely want to avoid too many eggs.
- Oysters — I won’t lie — I’ve never had oysters before. And, I don’t know if I really plan on eating them any time soon. But, they do have some good benefits for people suffering from low testosterone. Namely, added zinc.
- Beef — There are a number of health risks for over consuming read meat (ie-colon cancer, more fat, etc). But, there are also certain cuts of beef that can also be advantageous to your testosterone — namely the beef liver (high in Vitamin D) and ground beef and chuck roast (high in zinc). Obviously, choose leaner cuts and eat sparingly.
- Beans — Another food that’s great to add to the diet that will benefit both the thyroid and testosterone. For stronger testosterone levels white, black and kidney beans are all considered a great source of Vitamin D and zinc. Apparently baked beans are as well, but really don’t offer much nutritional value. Makes sense — I actually despise baked beans with a passion.
- Pumpkin seeds — Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc and it’s easy to slip them in your daily yogurt, salad, oatmeal or even smoothies. Heck, even just eating a handful mid-afternoon is a great way to eat them.
- Wheat Bran — There was a study in Turkey that showed those that ate wheat bran in their diet had increased testosterone. But, this was only if the subjects also paired it with high-intensity workouts. Not sure why? But, this is duly noted.
- Strawberries — Strawberries are loaded with antioxidants that help lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is shown to adversely affect your testosterone levels, because after a lot of stress on the body (ie-workouts, etc) the cortisol can crowd out the testosterone and it’s usefulness.
- Spinach — Popeye is the poster child of this vegetable, right? Spinach is pack full of magnesium which has been shown to impact the testosterone more than any other nutrient. Sure there are plenty of other magnesium rice foods, but it’s also VERY easy to blend up a bunch of spinach in your morning smoothie or protein shake.
FOODS TO AVOID
- Soda — This is just a good practice in general. But, most sodas are loaded with sugar and empty calories. Even diet soda drinkers aren’t immune to it’s effects on the testosterone and body’s overall health. Diet sodas have been linked to coronary heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes. This is why I haven’t drank soda in over three years now. No thank you!
- Soy — Much for the same reasons that it affects your body with hypothyroidism, soy affects testosterone levels because it promotes the increase of estrogen in your body. Why are we even drinking or eating soy then? I will say tofu that is cooked right can taste rather delicious, but still … the benefits should out weigh the risks.
- Processed Beef — Yes, there are good qualities to beef consumption as listed above, but avoid the processed beef that you’ll find in fast food restaurants namely burgers and hot dogs. The nutritional value of them is pretty much zapped out and there are added chemicals that can adversely affect your testosterone levels. Just best to stay clear.
- Alcohol — Alcohol can turn testosterone into estrogen, especially if you go overboard. Interesting tidbit, eh? The recommended intake for men is two drinks a day — or basically a glass of wine. And, the recommended intake for me? None (psst … because I’m a Mormon).
- Flaxseeds — I’ve seen some things about the impact flaxseed to one’s testosterone levels … and I am not sure exactly what to believe? Because some diet plans don’t seem too concerned with it? But, apparently, flaxseed is rich in the compound lignan — which is highly estrogenic. It can also reduce the free testosterone levels in men.
- Licorice — Apparently licorice contains something called — glycyrrhizic acid, which can suppress testosterone production. This is really sad for me considering my love of black licorice, Good n’ Plentys and any product that Red Vines throws in front of me. And, according to researchers even a small amount of glycyrrhizic acid can dramatically affect your testosterone levels. Sad day for me, eh?
- Mint, Spearmint, Peppermint — All of these come from the “mentha” family which are known to have testosterone lowering effects on the body (I am literally chewing on spearmint gum as I am writing this). Researchers believe that mint induces stress levels and negatively affects the level of testosterone in the body. But, the good thing is, this theory is probably more debated than the affects of flaxseed on the body — sooooooo — I’m still chewing my gum.
LOW TESTOSTERONE & FITNESS
- Sleep — Simply put — sleep is essential for a healthy balanced life. The more sleep deprived you are — the more cortisol your body produces (from the stress of a fatigued body), which naturally lowers your testosterone levels. So the two really go hand in hand — so if you want to boost your testosterone levels, make sure to get a good night’s sleep.
- Destress — Stress, like with the thyroid, is an enemy to a health level of testosterone. The more stressed you are — the greater effect it will have on your testosterone levels. Meaning — it can nose dive the levels. This is why taking time out to destress in the gym, a brisk run or walk or on a yoga pad is important. Don’t forget your sleep either — low amounts of sleep combined will make you more prone to higher stress levels.
- Interval Training — By regularly exercising, especially through interval training, you’re helping your body build muscle mass that also helps release more testosterone from protein. Makes sense, right? The more you move and build, the more testosterone you’ll produce.
- Watch your BPA Levels — There’s a link between BPA (found in a lot of plastics, including plastic bottles) and lower testosterone levels, because BPA is found to act like estrogen in the male body. So avoid cooking your foods in plastic containers along with plastic bottles and cups that aren’t BPA free. The best way to drink your water — in a glass.
- Sprinting — I found this interesting. A study showed that people who did short six second sprints increased their testosterone levels naturally — even after they fully recovered from their workout. I don’t know exactly why this is — but this is good to put into my
- Lift Heavy — Full body, heavy exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and Olympic lifts are ideal workouts for heavy lifts, at 85-95% of your 1RM (or one repetition maximum). You need to do 2-3 full body weight lifting workouts per week to get good testosterone-boosting results.
MY FITNESS PLAN
Okay, after processing all of that — I made myself a fitness plan. This is putting into consideration both my hypothyroidism and low testosterone levels. The diet is pretty specific and basic — which is by design. Make something overly complicated, right? It’s just not in my nature — gotta keep it simple.
Just a few things of note I didn’t put on my plan — my sandwiches are all on whole grain bread and includes the meat, a fat and veggies. Pretty simple.
You’ll also notice a few lines a bit off on the graphic — this might not bug you, but it’s kinda bugging the hell out of me. So, don’t be surprised if my OCD gets the best of me and I try to fix that. It’s just a matter of getting the motivation to do it.
But, I digress.
Anyways, feel free to use this fitness plan. It’s kind of tailored towards my needs and fitness goals for the next 6-8 weeks. If it works well — I’ll probably keep and tweak it a tad (to prevent boredom).
And, like always — I’m not a nutritionist, doctor or trainer — I’ve consulted mine for advice on this and you should too if you’re planning on changing your diet plan … blah, blah, blah.
Anyways here’s the plan in a neat little graph I made …
CLICK TO ENLARGE
THE FINAL WORD
This has really turned into one looooooong post. Probably the longest post I’ve ever written? I know it’s one of the most researched posts I’ve done … and that’s all by design.
Because I want to tackle this — I have to tackle this. It’s worn on me the past couple of years without much help from doctors. And, I’ve realized that shouldn’t be my sole source of answers — I’m a smart person. I have a college degree. I know how to use Google. I can do my own research, my own trail run and find my own solutions.
This obviously doesn’t minimize the need of a doctor — I still need someone to draw my blood and test my levels and help medicate accordingly. But, I am done with looking for absolute answers with their sole help. This is MY health, so it really should be MY responsibility.
So, here I am.
And, if you’re finding yourself reading this, relating to a lot of my same struggles — just remember — you’re not alone in this. An estimated 20 million Americans have issues with their thyroid — whether that’s hypo-, hyper, Hashimoto’s or even thyroid cancer.
That’s a lot of people.
I would just encourage everyone to crave their own journey and do what’s best for you. Maybe this struggle has been longer than mine, maybe you just found out about your thyroid issues? Whatever the case may be — this is your journey, take control of it and don’t rely solely on a doctor’s check list response.
Because, as hard as this has been over the years — I know this fix is a lot more complicated than by joining Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig to control my weight.
Anyways — I hope you find value in this post and let me know what you think. But, more than that, I want to know what has worked best for you! Feel free to email me or leave a message. The more we connect the better, right?
Oh, and you can also join a support group I started on Facebook last week — ThyroidRunners. The best thing we can do in journeys like this, is do it with others, right?