3 Must Avoid Foods on a Low Thyroid Diet
After some diligent research, the most popular foods to avoid on a low thyroid diet are not cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, etc.) and antioxidant rich foods (fruit). Now I am betting that if you are like most of the patients that I see, you are perplexed as this is what many sources suggest. Nearly all health related associations like the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Association enthusiastically recommended vegetables and fruits. So does it make sense to you that these are good for several of the organs of the body, but not the thyroid? Exactly, and it didn’t make sense to me either! However, it does turn out that there are specific foods to be avoided as part of a low thyroid diet but it turns out to be something other than vegetables and fruits.
The Food You Absolutely CANNOT Eat on a Low Thyroid Diet
A low thyroid diet is best for those suffering from hypothyroidism, or insufficient thyroid hormones. The standard approach to hypothyroidism, often diagnosed by a single out of range lab test, is the medication Synthroid. While beneficial for some, in most cases this standalone therapy fails to offer a solution. Most hypothyroid cases are actually Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition. And when I say most, estimates range as high as 90%. The fatigue, lack of motivation, difficulty in completing your daily tasks and work, is not going to improve by trying to achieve a certain lab value with a medication. Instead, you need to be focused on the trigger of the autoimmunity (attack by your immune system) against your thyroid, or stated differently what is causing the Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
There are many triggers that can promote a reaction by the immune system. But a review of the scientific literature placed a close association between Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Celiac Disease. While most autoimmune conditions do not have a clearly defined cause, Celiac does. Gluten is the culprit in Celiac disease, and given the well established link between the two conditions, logic would have it that gluten is a trigger for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as well. So food number one to avoid on a low thyroid diet is gluten, and better yet, all grains that may have it.
Beware of Soy if you have Low Thyroid Function
If you are reading this article, I am assuming you already have hypothyroidism, or at a minimum are concerned about it. Unfortunately that also likely means that you are feeling bound by the use of medication as the treatment option of choice. On the contrary however, you can become part of the solution for your thyroid based on the food that you choose, even beyond gluten. Another food linked to hypothyroidism and that should be avoided while following a low thyroid diet is soy. Soy has been praised for its health benefits, but you are not getting “The Whole Soy Story”. Contrary to media advertising proclaiming the health benefits of soy, this food, especially in the genetically modified form found in the United States, actually poses an increased risk to health. The low thyroid connection to soy is not new. According to Kaayla Daniel, PhD, CCN, and author of the book, The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food,“More than 70 years of studies link soy to thyroid disorders.”
Still not convinced soy should be avoided when eating a low thyroid diet. In that case, here is what you have to look forward to. Eating soy increases the likelihood that you will have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning when the alarm goes off, you will be lacking motivation, and that 10-20 extra pounds you keep seeing on the bathroom scale will not budge. According to one study, this increased risk is three-fold.
The Hidden Food that Is Preventing Thyroid Recovery
It is no big secret that sugar in excess is harmful to our bodies. However, what you may not realize is that there is also a strong like between hypothyroidism and insulin resistance, a pre-disease state characterized by abnormal blood sugar that can lead to diabetes. Blood sugar is made worse by the consumption of carbohydrates and sugars in excess. This is often not difficult to do as sugar is commonly hidden in many foods to enhance the flavor, especially those that may be labeled as fat free.
Healing the thyroid and having a chance of freeing yourself of the use of medication that does not address your core problem is highly unlikely with routine sugar consumption. Hypothyroidism is both promotes abnormal blood sugar and it also a cause. It can become a cruel cycle to be trapped in. So ask yourself, is eating that tasty desert worth feeling sluggish and drained of energy all day? If you don’t think so, then beware of the sugars and refined foods that like to creep their way into your low thyroid diet.
The Low Thyroid Diet Myth
I recently had another clinician ask inquisitively, “Do you find broccoli, cauliflower and similar foods to be a problem for your patients with hypothyroidism?” My answer, “No, I don’t.” I see many patients with hypothyroidism and promote a Paleo Diet for them that is balanced and free of grains. Even with the consumption of cruciferous vegetables and fruits high in antioxidants, they consistently get better. There is little evidence supporting the avoidance of cruciferous vegetables. In fact, there is growing evidence highlighting the benefits of some of the compounds found in these foods to support functions such as detoxification.
Your choice of food is your first step to improving the health of your thyroid. The notion that you should avoid foods for the thyroid that are beneficial for multiple other systems in the body seems to be missing the forest for the trees. The foods that you should avoid to help your thyroid rebound are not cruciferous vegetables, but rather gluten-containing grains, soy and sugars (refined foods). We all like more bang for the buck. If you want the most bang for your buck when it comes to choosing the right foods as part of your low thyroid diet, take advantage of the Paleo Diet food list and join others that are losing weight, feeling like they used to and getting more done each day.
Hi Dr. Hill!
Long time no see!
Re: Taking note of your awareness of celiac and connection with Hashimotos.
I am afflicted with low thyroid and do not take meds for it, just selenium and watch diet…eliminating coffee would probably be another good idea for me as it wears me out and I know it’s a culprit but more associated with adrenals. So addressing them both is a need. I have a question about iodine and Hashimotos…..the multi vit I take has iodine in it and I remember from years ago the controversy around iodine and thyroid……take it or don’t. Just wanted to ask you from your knowledge of low thyroid if you recommend taking it to your patients or is it “the fire that ignites” the thyroid?
The amount of iodine that you are likely to find in a multivitamin is around 75-150mcg. This amount is not likely high enough to cause any problems with autoimmune thyroiditis. Iodine is not a first-line treatment option when it comes to autoimmune thyroiditis for me as it is not addressing the core of the problem which is the breech in the barrier systems of the body, usually the gut, and environmental triggers such as foods and toxins.