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Peanut butter not the cause of thyroid problem

Peter H. Gott, M.D.

Dear Dr. Gott: What connection, if any, is there between peanut butter and the thyroid gland?

I have been taking a thyroid supplement since 1980. I’m 83 years old and weighed between 130 and 140 pounds until eight years ago. Now I’ve picked up 20 more pounds.

Peanut butter sandwiches with a glass of milk have been my mainstay diet for about five years. They require no preparation, are satisfying, provide energy and make life simple. Why the weight increase?

Dear Reader: Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, occurs when the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland in the front of the neck doesn’t produce enough specific (but important) hormones. It rarely causes symptoms in the early stages but, over time, if untreated, it can cause obesity, heart disease, infertility and joint pain. Women over 50 are most commonly affected.

Synthetic thyroid hormone replacement is safe and effective when used according to properly prescribed amounts. Side effects are relatively uncommon.

Several foods appear to trigger hypothyroidism, two of which are peanuts and peanut butter. You indicate you’ve been on a supplement since 1980 but have eaten peanut butter sandwiches for about five years. Your diagnosis was made 23 years prior and can’t be blamed on the peanut butter.

As we age, we become more sedentary. This may be due to arthritis, other medical conditions or simple boredom. It’s much easier to lounge on the couch in front of the television than it is to get up and go out, but it is also a lot less healthful. As a result, we gain weight. You probably do not overeat. You could do a lot worse than enjoying a sandwich loaded with protein as a staple. An easy way to spice up your diet would be to spread the peanut butter on fresh apple or banana slices, cut up celery sticks or other fruits and vegetables you enjoy. Despite the work involved, fresh fruits and vegetables are important for a well-balanced diet. If you find this beyond your capabilities, consider a program such as Meals on Wheels that will deliver to your door for a nominal fee each day. Make snacks of carrot sticks, celery and other raw vegetables. You can cut them up or, easier still, purchase them already prepared at your local supermarket. Stay as active as possible by walking around the block or yard each day, and that extra 20 pounds will be off in no time.

It’s my guess you will remain on your thyroid supplement for the rest of your life. Continue as you are, under the direction of your primary-care physician.

Dear Dr. Gott: I’m 80 years old and still have hot flashes. They’re infrequent and don’t last long. I don’t perspire, but I am uncomfortable. My doctor is unconcerned.

Dear Reader: If your physician is unconcerned, I would take that as a good sign. Most women your age no longer experience the side effects of menopause.

Make an appointment with a gynecologist. If he or she expresses concern, proper testing can be coordinated.

To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Menopause.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed, stamped, No. 10 envelope and $2 to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.

Doctor Gott is a retired physician. He writes for United Media.
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