What to eat if you’d like to ease or reverse your thyroid symptoms?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a straightforward answer to that question.
If there was a simple answer, I’m sure you’d know this already.
The thing is, diet is highly individual.
Even though we may have received the same diagnosis, the diet that works best for me doesn’t necessarily work (as well) for you.
What your body needs food-wise, depends on different factors such as your genetic blueprint, your environment, the level of stress you experience, and how well your body’s doing at the moment.
So how can you find out what works for you? Or what doesn’t work for you?
To start discovering your perfect individual diet, keeping a Food Symptom Journal is a great tool.
It’s simple, free and effective.
This tool can help you learn about you. It can help you start seeing connections between what you eat and how you feel. Or your food and your symptoms.
It helps you create awareness.
And all change starts with awareness.
For example, imagine your friend buys a beautiful new house. As a result, her monthly housing expenses rise and she needs to adjust her spending behavior. Where should she make changes?
That’s hard to tell if she has no clue where she’s spending her money on. This changes after she decides to track her expenses for a month or so. She now has insight into her spending behavior and notices that she spends relatively much on clothes, parking tickets and Starbucks coffee. This insight can help her make good decisions on how to change her spending.
It’s similar for your food and health. By tracking what you eat and tracking your signs and symptoms, you become more aware. Aware of the foods you eat. And aware of how you feel. It then becomes easier to make decisions that will help you ease or reverse symptoms.
If you don’t keep track of what you eat, you may forget about certain foods that you ate. It’s also called food amnesia ;).
For instance, you forgot the cookie that came with the cappuccino you had this morning. Or you forget about your 4pm snack. And then you’ll have no idea what food could’ve affected how you’re feeling. You keep guessing.
So how do you keep a Food Symptom Journal?
It’s simple. It works as follows.
In a journal or in a Word or Excel document, make 2 columns. The first column is for “Food” and the second for “Symptoms”.
1. The Food Part
Every time you have a meal or snack, you write down exactly what you ate. This also includes drinks other than water.
It’s important to remain as objective as possible. Don’t judge yourself for what you eat. Just observe and write it down.
Only write down what you ate, not how much you ate. This tracking exercise is about quality, not quantity.
If you eat packaged or processed food, carefully check the ingredient list. Make sure you don’t forget any of the hidden ingredients. For example, many sauces include sugar. Also, many soups and sauces contain gluten.
Do this for 5 days in a row. That’s a good amount of time to get a good picture of what your diet looks like.
2. The Symptoms Part
Write down how you felt after each meal or snack. This part includes any signs and symptoms you may experience, both physical as well as mental.
For example, you may notice that after certain meals, you feel your energy drain. Or feel very sleepy.
You may observe bloating or cramping after a certain snack.
Anything that you feel, write it down in the Journal.
Signs and symptoms can include but are certainly not limited to:
– Bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea
– Difficulty concentrating
– Brain fog
– Fluid retention
– Food cravings
– Joint pain
– Muscle aches
– Itchy skin
– Sore throat
– Feeling really full
If you experience certain symptoms (almost) constantly, give them a rating in severity.
Track you signs and symptoms also for 5 days.
Look for connections between what you ate and how you felt
Now that you’ve collected these data, what to do with them?
The idea is to see if you can find connections between what you ate and how you felt afterwards. This is how you can start:
- Look in the Symptoms column. When and where did you have interesting signs or symptoms? Interesting can be positive as well as negative. Perhaps you notice that symptoms that almost constantly bother you were better than usual or aggravated.
- Ask yourself “why”? Check out the foods that you ate when you noticed something interesting. Were they any different from other days? What could’ve caused this symptom? Or this improvement or aggravation? Get curious.
- Can you see patterns? For instance, you may notice that every day around 4pm you visit your colleague’s candy jar. Or you go for a coffee. Why do you do that? What need does this behavior serve? And if it’s not a health-serving behavior, how can you change it? Can you upgrade this behavior? For instance, instead of the candy, bring a healthy snack such as a healthy smoothie or soup (in a thermos bottle).
Maybe you notice that after lunch you experience so called food comas. That’s when the meal causes you to get very fatigued. I had this a lot. After lunch, all I wanted to do was put my head down on my keyboard and just close my eyes.
Your energy level is a good clue. Energy should be relatively steady throughout the day. Food comas for instance are a sign that the meal you just had doesn’t serve you well.
- Check the colors you ate during the last 5 days. You can use colored pencils or markers and color all of the vegetables and fruits in their color. Did you often eat leafy greens, red bell peppers, blueberries, mangos, cauliflower etc? Is one color remarkably underrepresented?
For instance, you notice a lack of orange foods. If that’s the case, eat more oranges, tangerines, orange bell pepper, pumpkins or other orange vegetables and/or fruits. This way, you’ll get more diverse foods into your diet with different health benefits. It’s an easy way to upgrade your diet.
Now it’s up to you. Give it a try!
Inspired yet? Give it a try and see what keeping a Food Symptom Journal can do for you.
Let me know how it’s going for you. I’d love to hear from you. And if you’d like my help with connecting the dots, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in learning more about how diet can help you feel better? You may like this post on food and inflammation as well.
In June, I’m planning a 2-week Health Jumpstart Program. During this program, participants will experience what food can do for their health and symptoms. A meal plan and recipes are included. More details coming soon. If you’d like to hear more, send me an email at email@example.com