How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: Goitrogens and Soy, A Double Oy
This How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass, deserves a special opening line (a double oy): Oy and Oy. That’s because we’re talking about goitrogens today and, subsequently, the many many ways health food experts and high profile figures (you know who I’m talking about) are constantly extolling the powers of goitrogenic foods to people with thyroid disease. Oy and oy again. Eating high doses of goitrogens are the most fabulous way to ensure a goiter, and/or improper absorption of your thyroid medication/hormone. Of course, no, this will not be true in all cases and for all people, but the science behind goitrogens is compelling enough for us to consider eliminating them completely or mostly from our diets. Next to being gluten-free, reducing our goitrogenic intake is one of the most pertinent dietary changes people with thyroid disease should consider. It’s that important.
I also want to preface this by saying that I realize the three previous installments of How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass, have all focused on what we should not eat — and here I am yet again telling you something else is probably bad for us. And it may seem like I’m being all Debbie Downer-ish and am the bearer of bad news, but actually, I see these dietary changes or omissions as really hopeful and liberating., Really. Not lying. Maybe giving up your favorite foods all so that your thyroid could potentially get more well is a tough sell, because, after all, food is everything to us. Food is family and friends and gatherings and communities. Food is memories and fragrance and important and insignificant moments in our lives. Food has been the companion or played the supporting role at every major life event — for us or other people; it is our most basic means of survival — the one thing our bodies instinctively know and need. For me, now, food is also one half of the prescription I take every day, right alongside the little white pill and full glass of water first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. And the liberation part means actually being able to be awake and alert during the day, or have in-range values. Or, liberation was losing all of the thyroid-induced weight so that I actually like and recognize myself again; it’s being able to feel happy for a change — because of how I choose to fuel my body and meticulously examine and question everything I eat. It is very very hopeful and worth it and liberating and not sad at all. And I hope that message is clear.
Goitrogens are foods that contain certain chemicals known to decrease thyroid hormone absorption, limit the release of the thyroid hormone, decrease iodine uptake, and stimulate the gland in such a way as to cause enlargement. Such foods include spinach, peaches, strawberries, corn and millet (the grain we spoke about last week in Don’t be Grainwashed), cauliflower, brussel spouts, sweet potatoes, radishes, peanuts, cabbage lima beans, soy, broccoli, and many others. These may seem easy enough to eliminate — simply a matter of eating different fruits of vegetables, mainly. And for the most part, that’s correct. But here’s where it gets controversial and may explain why some goitrogens are promoted as wonder foods.
Many goitrogenic foods also happen to be members of the cruciferous family of vegetables. And cruciferous vegetables, of course, are anti-cancer agents, and who wouldn’t want to eat anti-cancer foods???, Well, people like you and I, that’s who. Here’s what we have to weigh: which is more important — easing a disease that we already have or preventing one that may never affect us?, Of course wholly-healthy lifestyles are so important, and I’m a self-proclaimed disease-prevention extremist, but there are other ways to work at preventing cancer than through consuming cruciferous vegetables alone. Some mechanisms thought to be at work in cruciferous vegetables that aides in preventing cancer are vitamin A, fiber, carotene, vitamin C, selenium, vitamin E, calcium, and vitamin D, all of which can be obtained from sources other than goitrogens.
The most controversial goitrogenic food has got to be soy. Though, soy deserves its own write-up in terms of its relation to thyroid health, so here’s a mere briefing: Like cruciferous foods, soy is also touted as many wonderful things, including, among others, to have anti-cancer properties due to its isoflavones (which is a member of the phytoestrogen family). And, like gluten, soy is in a whole hell of alot of stuff. It goes by various aliases (most prominent, “soy lecithinÃ¢â‚¬ which is an emulsifier), it gets added to foods you’d never consider, is used by most restaurants as a cooking oil, is processed into baby formula and cookies and crackers, and is advertised as a foremost health food often being mixed with tons of sugar and flavorings and additives (not so healthy). Chances are, every time you eat a piece of candy or chew some gum, you’re also ingesting soy. Besides other problems with soy (namely, the questionable role soy plays in hormonal disruption, which I will go into more detail later), it happens to be one of the most pesticide-laden foods Americans consume, if not purchased as organic. And because non-organic soy is in so many things, that means that our fragile immune systems are being constantly strained by pesticides. Not to mention, non-organic soy has been genetically-modified, which means major taxing and strain and reaction from our bodies. Oh, and any animal product we eat has also likely been fed a diet of non-organic soy. But that cup of sunshine is for another time.
These nutritional suggestions on eliminating or decreasing our intake of goitrogenic foods is much less consuming than the ideas I have presented to you in the past. And for that reason, I’d like to think this is a good starting point for any changes you may chose to make.
This week, for reliable resources to jumpstart your own research, I’d like to send you over to Mary Shomon’s Thyroid-Info and About.com sites, not just because we think she’s amazing, but for more practical reasons and because it’s important that the resources we utilize are science-based but also easy to understand (much of the information on goitrogens we will find on the internet is either one of two things — too holistic or too medical jargon-y). So check out some of these links: TSH Fluctiations, Goitrogens, , Soy
Until Next Week,
Have a question, comment, story, love letter, or rant/rave to send me?: Liz@DearThyroid.com,