Goitrogens (Thyroid bad foods)

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Goitrogens:  Raw Foods That Hurt Your Thyroid

Have you heard of goitrogens? A Goitrogen is a substance in some foods that prevents the thyroid gland from working correctly by blocking the uptake of iodine. Iodine is essential for the production and activation of thyroid hormone and is one of the main minerals that helps speed up cellular metabolism.

Goitrogens get their name from the term “goiter,” which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland lies just above the collar bone in the neck area. If the thyroid gland is having difficulty making thyroid hormone, it may enlarge as a way of trying to compensate for inadequate hormone production and can be seen or felt as a soft pad about 2-5 inches in diameter on the neck, usually on one side but occasionally on both sides.

Goitrogens can induce hypothyroidism and goiter. I bring it up this month because often diet foods contains goitrogens. When eaten in large amounts, the dieter wonders what they are doing wrong and why they are not losing weight.

More than four cups/week of the following foods—in the RAW form only—will interfere with your thyroid gland function.

You can eat as much of these foods cooked as you want to—except tofu and soy products which we will talk about later. The foods are:  Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage of all kinds, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, peaches, pears, rapini (a vegetable similar to broccoli,) spinach, strawberries, radishes, rutabagas and turnips.

Other foods that have goitrogenic activity are soybeans (tofu), pine nuts, peanuts, millet, and rapeseed (Canola Oil.)

Goitrogenic foods are typically high in sulfur (especially the Brassiform family of plants such as kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi and broccoli). Sulfur, copper, and iron interact with each other and need to be in perfect balance for everything to work correctly. So, some researchers think that when you eat an excess of sulfur, it competes with iron and copper and can cause anemia. This brings up a good question because LOTS of people are on MSM, Glucosamine sulfate and Chondroitin supplements lately which are all high in sulfur. 

The main component in soy causing thyroid problems are isoflavones. Genistein is a soy isoflavone marketed as a hormone substitute for women and appears to reduce thyroid hormone output by blocking activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase. This enzyme is responsible for adding iodine onto the thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones must typically have three or four iodine atoms added on to their structure in order to function properly so this enzyme is pretty important.  Most goitrogens are inactivated with heat, but there is some evidence that isoflavones in soy are not heat inactivated.

Ask you can see, this stuff gets pretty complicated. We fix one thing in our world and several other challenges pop up! 

While many hyperthyroid people try to limit thyroid output by restricting their iodine and eating more goitrogen foods, this strategy can backfire. Iodine restriction causes the thyroid to increase in size (goiter) in an effort to filter more blood to get more iodine. When iodine is then re-introduced to the diet or accidentally ingested, the thyroid now grows even larger than before because now it has a larger capacity to do so!

Therefore the consumption of goitrogens to control hyperthyroidism is not a good strategy. It is better to increase foods high in copper as well as increase copper’s effectiveness to normalize the thyroid function.  After that, the body will tolerate iodine without increasing thyroid hormone production. 

Why is preventing thyroid disease so important? 2005 statistics for this disease show:

  • Hypothyroidism affects over 11 million Americans (1999 statistics.)
  • If untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to myxedema (retention of fluids under the skin) and eventually coma, which has a mortality rate of 80%.
  • Nearly one out of 50 women in the United States is diagnosed with hypothyroidism during pregnancy.
  • Six out of every 100 miscarriages are associated with thyroid hormone deficiencies during pregnancy. This seems to be the biggest thing I see in my own practice.

Foods that stimulate the thyroid gland include caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate,) avocado, coconut, and saturated fat. An overabundance of these foods in your diet are not good either.

I think the best way to handle these kinds of problems is to find out what the core cause is, correct that, minimize what you can, eliminate what you can and repair the damaged thyroid cells with protomorphogens and glandular supplements. If the client prefers to go the medical route and take drugs for the rest of their lives, the best bet is to get on a thyroid drug that seems to work and stay on it. Switching brands or changing protocols is just another bag of worms and causes even more problems. Armour thyroid seems to be the best drug for most of my clients.

Alternative therapies that seems to be working: A few minutes of heat applied to the thyroid gland for several months also helps. Some people also need a great mineral and vitamin program. One huge problem I see coming up is that we are exposing ourselves to excess stress from our busy lives and to lots of electromagnetic fields. Plasmas screen TV’s, computer monitor screens, microwave ovens, cell phones and cell towers are a huge drain on the system and really disrupt the hormones.

I will say that once people get on thyroid medications, they seem to be on them for the long haul. It seems to be too much for them to drastically change their lifestyles. They can’t seem to stick to a program that is working. They want to test the limits of it and end up crashing and going back on drugs. Thyroid hormone dips and peaks are just too stressful on the body to try to wean off thyroid drugs for most cases.

Helpful Links and References for Goitrogens: