In honor of thyroid awareness month, today we're chatting about eating for your thyroid. Or more accurately, what NOT to eat.
As a Hashimoto's Thyroiditis warrior, this topic is close to my heart. Learning about how nutrition impacts this powerhouse organ was a turning point for me in my healing journey.
For years I was on thyroid medication, but without the knowledge I'm sharing today, I still struggled with cold hands and feet, stubborn weight, irregular menstrual cycles, and debilitating fatigue.
And those aren't the only symptoms you can expect with this common condition. Those with hypothyroidism may experience high cholesterol, dry skin and hair, constipation, depression, memory issues, swelling, hoarseness, and bradycardia... just to name a few.
Dealing with these symptoms but don't have a hypothyroid diagnosis?? It's estimated that 25 million people have hypothyroidism, but HALF go undiagnosed.
How could that be??
Many doctors only test TSH (or thyroid stimulating hormone) and as long as that number is in range they send you on your way.
But there are many other measurements of thyroid function:
- T4 is your mainly inactive thyroid hormone that regulates system metabolism.
- T3 is your active thyroid hormone.
- Reverse T3 blocks T3 from its functioning.
- Then you have TPO and Tg antibodies which signal autoimmune thyroiditis, aka Hashimotos.
If you don't get a clear picture of all of these markers you could be missing where the dysfunction lies.
For example, maybe you have enough TSH to produce enough thyroid hormones. But your liver is congested and is having a hard time converting inactive T4 to active T3.
Or maybe you're producing enough TSH and T3, but you're over-producing Reverse T3 which is rendering your T3 useless.
The point is, you need to make sure you're getting a FULL thyroid panel to know the true state of your thyroid.
AND I highly recommend getting a functional medicine doctor to review your labs as conventional ranges are much wider than optimal ranges. This is usually the culprit when someone's doctor says their numbers are 'in range' but they're still experiencing symptoms.
Now that we have some background on hypothyroid symptoms and diagnoses, let's get into the nutrition. These are the foods you should strongly consider limiting or eliminating if you want a healthier, happier thyroid:
If you get rid of nothing else at all... get. rid. of. gluten. This was the absolute key to finally experiencing relief from symptoms and actually healing my hashimotos.
Gluten plays a role in your thyroid health in a number of ways.
First of all, when we eat gluten it stimulates zonulin which opens up the tight junctions between the cells in the gut lining (this condition is known as leaky gut).
So instead of only nutrients being released into your bloodstream, toxins, pathogens, and food particles can escape into the bloodstream causing widespread inflammation and damage to organs like - you guessed it - your thyroid.
Not to mention, the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut play a role in thyroid hormone metabolism as well as regulating the immune response (obviously important if you have the autoimmune version of hypothyroidism). Leaky gut can negatively impact that balance of good and bad bacteria.
The other major problem with gluten it its connection to the autoimmune response.
What many people don't realize is majority of hypothyroid cases are caused by the autoimmune disease hashimotos where the body attacks the thyroid gland.
What happens is, the immune system more or less reads the 'name tags' of different compounds to determine if they're friend or foe. And due to something called bio-mimicry, the 'name tag' of gluten looks very similar to the 'name tag' of your thyroid tissue, thereby causing an uptick in antibodies, an uptick in thyroid damage, and an uptick in hypothyroid symptoms.
Soy contains goitrogens which can inhibit the uptake of iodine from the thyroid gland (a crucial element for the synthesis of thyroid hormones). But honestly that's not a huge concern given that cooking tends to destroy a lot of these goitrogens.
The bigger problem is that isoflavones in soy have the ability to block the function of an enzyme necessary for the production of T3 and T4 hormones.
Remember, even if you don't eat a lot of tofu or soy sauce, soy lecithin is a common ingredient in many processed foods. Read your labels!
Caffeine can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication, reducing its effectiveness in individuals with hypothyroidism. Obviously this isn't a problem if you consume it far enough away from your thyroid medication.
However, high levels of caffeine may also contribute to adrenal fatigue and stress, which can indirectly impact thyroid health. The pituitary gland is what makes, stores, and releases thyroid hormone, and when it's stressed out by chronic stress, caffeine, skipping meals, and missing out on sleep, you're hindering the 'go' button that signals the production of thyroid hormones.
Like I mentioned earlier, your liver is responsible for converting inactive T4 hormones to active T3 hormones. When it's congested or overburdened with excessive alcohol intake, it's likely going to exacerbate thyroid issues. Not to mention, anything that causes inflammation is a potential problem for the health of your thyroid (and body as a whole).
Removing these 4 foods is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes holistically managing hypothyroidism. If you really want to ignite intense healing in your thyroid, you'll have to address the stress-thyroid connection, optimize your gut health, improve your detox capacity, and address any underlying infections.
If you want a step-by-step plan laid out for you that will incorporate all of those necessary components, and address any specific concerns you have, click here to learn more about my functional nutrition coaching and to book a free consultation!