How to Avoid Foods that are Harmful to Your Thyroid
Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It releases hormones that control metabolism (how your body gets energy from the food you eat), and if this process becomes interrupted it can lead to heart disease, osteoporosis, infertility and, in rare cases, even coma and death.
Women over 50 are most likely to have hypothyroidism.
More specifically, your thyroid produces two main hormones thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3), which are responsible for:
- Maintaining the rate at which your body uses fats and carbohydrates
- Helping control your body temperature
- Influencing your heart rate
- Helping to regulate the production of protein
Your thyroid also produces a hormone that regulates the amount of calcium in your blood.
Hypothyroidism: The Most Common Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disease, which impacts 27 million Americans according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, can cause your thyroid to use energy more quickly (hyperthyroidism) or more slowly (hypothyroidism) than it should.
Over 20 percent of menopausal women in the United States are diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction, according to Marcy Holmes, NP, Certified Menopause Clinician, and Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN N.P. However, studies suggest that millions more may be suffering from subclinical problems, but remain undiagnosed.
Most women are affected by hypothyroidism, a sluggish or “underactive” thyroid. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- High cholesterol
Other women may be affected by the opposite, hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid. A person with hyperthyroidism may:
- Have trouble sleeping
- Feel anxious
- Be irritable
- Feel overheated
- Experience weight loss (with an increased appetite)
Hormonal imbalances, which could be caused by stress and nutritional deficiencies, trigger thyroid disease. Hypothydroidism may also occur at other times your body may be more prone to hormonal imbalance, such as during perimenopause, menopause and pregnancy.
It is hypothyroidism that is most common, making up perhaps 80 percent of thyroid disease cases. In hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland is not active enough, leading to:
- Weight gain
- Sensitivity to cold
- Muscle weakness
- Pale, dry skin
- Swelling of your joints
- A puffy face and hoarse voice
- Brittle fingernails and hair
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto thyroiditis, which may be caused by a virus, bacteria, genetics, or a combination of environmental factors. Thyroid surgery, radiation therapy for cancer and certain medications (such as lithium) can also lead to hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is generally diagnosed using a blood test that measures your levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Conventionally, hypothyroidism is treated by taking a synthetic or natural thyroid hormone daily.
How Do Foods Impact My Thyroid?
Naturally occurring substances known as goitrogens exist in certain foods and are known to interfere with thyroid function. Foods that contain goitrogens include:
- Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, etc.)
- Soybeans and soy extracts
If you’re healthy, there’s no need to limit goitrogen-containing foods, however if you have hypothyroidism some health care practitioners recommend against excessive consumption of these foods.
That said, because research studies showing a link between goitrogenic foods and thyroid hormone deficiency have yet to be conducted, you probably don’t need to eliminate these foods entirely, just eat them in reasonable quantities.
Generally speaking, the food that could be most problematic would be soy. This is because soy exists in many forms in most processed foods. So if you eat a lot of processed foods, you could be inadvertently consuming a lot of soy. Therefore, people with hypothyroidism may want to limit their intake of processed foods.
A small amount of broccoli or other cruciferous veggie is unlikely to cause much thyroid trouble, especially if it’s cooked. However, excess quantities could be problematic.
Cooking is also known to help inactivate goitrogenic compounds in foods, so if you enjoy cruciferous veggies but are concerned about your thyroid, eating them cooked may be preferable.
Beneficial foods that may HELP your thyroid function are those rich in selenium, iodine and animal-based omega-3 fats such as ocean fish, Brazil nuts, beef and sea kelp.
Supportive nutrients from not only foods but also supplements act as raw ingredient precursors to enhance the health of the thyroid gland. There are scientifically designed all-in-one support supplements for the thyroid that provides botanical and nutritional enhancement of thyroid hormone production, peripheral conversion of T4 to T3, and receptor function and recognition of thyroid hormones.
Regarding fatigue, many experts believe that strengthening the adrenal glands enhance energy levels, promote healthy hormone balance, and improve adaptation to stress. Using a prescribed supportive supplement may increase the effectiveness of a nutritional support program for hypothyroidism.
Finally, if laboratory testing supports the need for iodine, there is an Iodine supplement that is excellent for many if not most patients to be considered based on your health conditions.