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How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: Goitrogens and Soy, A Double Oy

Post Published: 14 June 2009
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Category: How To Kick Your Thyroid's Ass
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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 lecithin” 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,

Love Always,

Liz

Have a question, comment, story, love letter, or rant/rave to send me?: Liz@DearThyroid.com,

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25 Responses to “How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: Goitrogens and Soy, A Double Oy”

  1. Alexia says:

    I didn’t know about radishes, strawberries and peaches.. Damn.. and I bought beautiful succulent strawberries.. and I love radishes too

    no more

  2. Jensie says:

    No!! Not Strawberries, Peaches, sweet potatoes, Cauli, and broccoli…these are a few of my very favorite foods! boo hiss…. I am really bummed!

  3. Lisa says:

    This is a timely post for me. Thanks! My husband asked just about an hour ago, “are you going to eat broccoli this week?” I love broccoli and spinach. Used to eat both nearly every day. No wonder I have a goiter. Until about four months ago, I ate soy intentionally every day. It was great for a morning protein boost. If anyone is looking to trade their goitrogenic breakfast for an alternative, I’ve switched to egg whites and whey protein. There are even some frozen “to go” foods made of egg whites if you need convenience.

  4. Jody says:

    : (

    I eat loads of sweet potato, broccoli, pine nuts, spinach, bok choy when on a health kick.

    I thought the vegetables were only really effective goitrogenics when raw(???)

  5. Dorothy says:

    I have been buying four pounds of strawberries a week for the last two months and consuming most of them myself. But out of the blue I just stopped buying the strawberries. I quit drinking my quart of soy milk a couple of weeks ago in hopes it would help my headaches. No help there, yet. But I am not drinking the soy milk. It was an organic soymilk. I love strawberries, peaches, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, broccoli, radishes and many more bummer!!

  6. Coco says:

    Thank you for this post! I don’t think you are being Debbie-Downer-ish at all. I constantly tell others about goitrogens and soy (I won’t even use personal care products containing soy-and that is difficult to pull off; it’s in everything!) so I was glad to find someone else who is as conscious about it as I am.

  7. Carol says:

    Read this page with interest as I knew about most of the food items to keep outof my diet. Have a goitre for 10 years now which I am told is not cancer, also did the usual tests and told it is working fine but the hospital would like to take it out and look at it under a microscrope. The weight gain is such a challenge and felt for many years I am just not getting the nutrients etc absorbed into my body so feel run down which does nothelp during this lengthy menopause. Take supplements to try and help my system. Wondered if there is a list somewhere of foods that can actually help boost the system without giving me an excess heatwave. Am not on any meds as the doctors say there is nothing wrong apart from a nodule in my neck. All the usual natural remedies for menopause symptoms just seem to react in the opposite way with me and do not want HRT. Had a scare last year with a lump but thankfully it was OK.

  8. Lisa says:

    Thanks for all the info, I’m also learning that beets may fall under a goitrogenic food….how long do you usually feel the symptoms after consuming the
    “no no” foods?

  9. Annie says:

    Strange- I was drinking only vanilla soy milk prior to diagnosis of hypothyroidism with multi-nodular goiter..also I use to love to eat Skippy Low -fat( lol) PB right out of the jar like Ice Cream, To passify me..Also loved Brocolli-blanched and dipped into some sort of ranch dressing……now I do try to limit the amount of these items mentioned- I gave up (for the most part) soy milk and read labels for soy..and I really avoid the PB aisle in the store!I can actually feel SLOW if I do have something with Peanuts in it.. My thyroid condition ( goiter) has improved-even after I gave up the Armour and Cytomel…(6-20-09)..Blood levels were within normal range- Could The Thyroid condition be related to the “change of Life” @ 54…( menopausal for about 6 years now)..Just about the same amount of time I am dealing with goiter/hypothyroidism!!?
    Co-ink-E-Dink??

  10. Veronica says:

    I’m a vegetarian and have been for 30 years. I am hypothyroid and am not having success with Synthroid.

    I eat alot of soy. Soy milk in my cereal, yves ground soy….use it instead of ground beef in all kids of dishes, chili, lasagna, shepherds pie, spaghetti sauce, I could go on and on. Is it ok if the soy is cooked or should I just quit using it?

  11. Veronica says:

    Thank you for replying dearthyroid.

    Yes, i know the other proteins, soy was just so easy for me becuase I made so many dishes with it. I hate battling this thyroid. I’m trying to figure out if a whey protein would be ok to have in a shake for lunch. I’ve found a Whey with isolate..and it has no soy. I’m thinking of trying that. As far as the soy goes……..i dumped the rest of my soy milk this morning and I’ll give my soy curd to a friend of mine, she loves it. I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I wish I would have researched this years ago.

    I so wish I wasn’t a vegetarian :(

  12. Lisa says:

    Hello Liz,

    Thank you very much for the comprehensive answer!
    It is really great help to be able to share my thoughts with someone, who is informed and ready to share experience.
    I read about legume in a book called Food safety and toxicity by John De Vries, p. 45, edition 1997. I have seen similar information in other books and articles too, which I can not refer to, as I could not find them now.
    However, I am going to write to the American Thyroid Association asking them about books and studies that I can rely on. I will post it here, if you are interested in.
    I find it really hard to eat balanced without all of the goitrogenic food, so I will be really grateful, if I have access to recipes which exclude this food. I will have to check, if I have to eat gluten free, I hope not, because this restricts my selection of vegetables even more.
    P.S. In this book I was reading is written, that high fibre diet impairs the mineral intake of Zink, Ca, iron, so I am a bit confused as to, what is good for the body?
    Thank you very much once again for the nice support you provide by sharing with us all this information. I apreciate that!

    Best regards:
    Lisa

  13. lizschau says:

    Alexia,

    i know, i’m right there with you on the radishes (and cabbage, and cauliflower). but, as always, maybe moderation is best for you. i just try to vary my diet and not overload on goitrogens or one kind of goitrogen too much every week. :)

  14. lizschau says:

    hi Jensie!!

    like i said to Alexia, i think it’s important to rotate foods and just not overload on any. plus, imagine all the tons of other varieties of veggies that don’t do things like this to our bodies; there are so many! and remember… this is for prevention purposes, which is a really positive thing!! ;)

  15. lizschau says:

    hey Lisa!

    thanks so much for the advice!

    another great morning protein boost is nuts or seeds. i used to do that alot. it’s also really convenient when you’re busy in the morning. :)

  16. Jody says:

    Ooops – read a bit further – 30 mins is long enough to totally destroy any palatability (is that a word?) of these vegetables.

  17. lizschau says:

    Jody,

    the reason i didn’t include a part about the effectiveness of cooking goitrogens in order to eliminate the harmful chemicals is because the research i have read is very conflicted and inconclusive in terms of how long these foods need to be cooked. there is not one consensus on how long they should be cooked, and then even after they’re cooked, if the goitrogenic effects are destroyed or just as strong. for me, it was important to relay the facts and because the role of cooking goitrogens seems still like alot of theory, i chose not to include the suggestion.

    however, yes, you have a fabulous point and thank you for sharing it with us! also, thank you for your readership! we greatly appreciate it. :)

  18. lizschau says:

    Dorothy,

    have you been able to check out this article from “How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass” about gluten intolerance that could possibly be causing your headaches?: http://dearthyroid.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/how-to-kick-your-thyroids-ass-gluten-and-your-thyroid-might-be-in-a-fight/

    :)

  19. lizschau says:

    Coco,

    thanks so much for your comment! lol, i’m not Debbie Downer-ish?? well that’s surprising and i’m so glad to hear that. ;) yes, i never consume/use something that is unnatural or that contains things known to harm my thyroid. soy IS everywhere — you’re absolutely right. good for you for going out of your way to live by that and make a point to tell people. what kind of thyroid disease do you have (if you do indeed have one)?

  20. dearthyroid says:

    Carol,

    please take a look at the “How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass” on gluten called “Gluten and Your Thyroid Might Be In A Fight”. it talks about our stomach being damaged so we’re not absorbing all the nutrients we should. but good for you for looking into natural means. so sorry about your troubles with your goiter and weight gain.

  21. Carol says:

    Thankyou for theinfo, have had a good read.Did cut out everything but oats for breakfast 2 weeks ago.Food intolerances make diet difficult.Also in menopause so doubly a problem with foods.Allergy to all shellfish, intolerant to anything with yeast, zinc makes me constipated, L-tyrosine gives me heart palpatations, cannot drink alcohol, usual remedies for menopuase sem to do the opposite on me so live with it.Not had a clear nights sleep in 10 years since this goitre appeared but feel willing to have it taken out if someone tells me there is something wrong which they say there is not? Confused and still reading everything I can to try and resolve it myself. Thanks for the leads, enjoyed learning more than I knew.

  22. dearthyroid says:

    Veronica,

    In general, soy is just plain bad for the thyroid and hormonal systems no matter how you eat it. Alot of people talk about fermented soy being less potent and harmful. However, the more you can transition out of soy, the better. It really does have an effect on the thyroid. There are lots of other protein sources you can replace it with, as I’m sure you know: nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, even veggies contain protein.

    Let us know what you think and if you have any more questions!! SO glad you found us! Let us know what you do and if it helps at all!! :)

  23. dearthyroid says:

    Veronica, HMMM that’s a good question. I know it’s said that whey protein contains gluten, but I’m not sure about the soy part. We are wishing you luck with your food journey!! Let us know what you end up doing and how it goes, and also if it seems to affect your thyroid. :)

  24. Lisa says:

    Hello,

    I would like to know, if legume is goitrogen, as you have recomended this food as substitute for proteins. I have read on many web sides that all the legume are goitrogen as soy is; they belong to the same family.

    And also is there any link or article with good food menus which do not contain goitrogen. I am running out of idies how to have a balance menu without all the food that contains it.

    Thank you very much! I am happy to have found your web side!

    Best regards
    Lisa

  25. dearthyroid says:

    Lisa,

    That is a really great question. Off the top of my head, I know that a few legumes are also goitrogens. Those would be peanuts and soy. Also, keep in mind that nearly every processed and premade food will contain soy.

    So, I just googled this and here’s a link to a book with info on this.

    Otherwise, I’m not finding any information to indicate that ALL legumes are goitrogenic. I will keep researching this for you, though. It’s a great article topic, so maybe I’ll write about it. Thanks for the question!!

    And you know, I can’t say that I’ve ever come across recipes that are non-goitrogenic. In my opinion, there are so many other veggies and fruits out there that I would just substitute other foods you and your family like that aren’t goitrogenic. Maybe I’ll come up with some recipes to share that are gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, and non-goitrogenic. Shouldn’t be too hard. ;)

    Thanks Lisa and let me know what you think!!

    –Liz

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