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How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: The Calcium Myth

Post Published: 09 May 2010
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Category: How To Kick Your Thyroid's Ass, thyroid nutrition and health column
This post currently has 35 responses. Leave a comment

There’s good reason for many chronically-ill (and also, chronically healthy) people to avoid cow’s milk and dairy. We know that the artificial growth hormone given to dairy cows is directly linked to cancer. We know that dairy can cause yeast (candida) infections like nobody’s business. We know that autoimmunity can result as a byproduct of our guts not being able to break down hard-to-digest proteins (in the case of milk, casein). We have heard recent researchers call casein, “The most relevant cancer promoter ever discovered” — in their opinion, apparently, even worse than those environmental toxins. Milk is also sugary (the only animal product to contain carbohydrates, in the form of the milk sugar lactose). And the reality is, the milk we buy in the grocery store is a processed food just like a Whopper from Burger King is, or an Oreo, or box of crackers. That’s because milk as we know it is nothing like it occurs in nature, in its original form. Just like white sugar, white flour, white rice, and table salt, milk is yet another white food that has been altered, manipulated, and stripped of some of its most beneficial properties (probiotics especially).

But, what about calcium, you ask. It’s safe to say, we’ve been fed a lie — a calcium myth, if you will. Another species (cows) milk, although totally tolerable to some people’s bodies, and totally damaging to others, is an altogether unnecessary food. Cultures that traditionally do not consume dairy, such as in Asia or Africa do not have any higher incidence of death caused by osteoporosis, and in fact, America tops the list. And when it comes to children, cow’s milk is exorbitantly higher than many components found in human breast milk (casein and calcium, primarily) which begs the question — why would we need to overload our bodies? Let’s look at the numbers.

Human breast milk contains 33 mg of calcium in a 3.5-ounce portion. The same amount ofcow’s milk contains 291 mg of calcium. This is a striking difference, considering the 33 mg in human breast milk are nourishing and supporting a growing human just fine — in fact, perfectly, seamlessly, flawlessly. If we use the ratio of calcium in human breast milk, we can understand our daily requirements for calcium, and it is, clearly, substantially lower than the milk of a cow which is meant to nourish a huge growing calf.

If you feel your body cannot tolerate dairy, or if you would like to experiment with eliminating dairy from your diet for health reasons (it could particularly benefit those with cancer and autoimmune disease), consider these numbers:

Sesame seeds contain 1160 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Amaranth (a grain) contains 267 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Kale contains 249 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Parsley contains 203 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Mustard greens contain 183 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Watercress contains 151 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Beans contain 135 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Pistachios contain 131 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Figs contain 126 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Sunflowers seeds contain 120 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.
Leeks contain 52 mg of calcium for 3.5 ounces.

So if you choose to forgo processed dairy, you can still be getting large amounts of calcium from plant sources. Even the plant sources contain higher ratios of calcium than human breast milk. And because the calcium is from a plant source, you don’t have to worry about the negative side effects of processed cow’s milk dairy, hormones and casein in particular.

Are you dairy-free? What led you to that decision? Has it since helped your health? If you’re not dairy-free, would you consider it now that you have plant sources of calcium at your disposal?

Until Next Week,

Love Always,

Liz

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35 Responses to “How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: The Calcium Myth”

  1. Alexia says:

    wonderful information as usual.. You really know your info. Thanks.

  2. Dear Thyroid says:

    Right, Alexia – So great to learn about non-dairy calcium nutrients and foods.

    Are you vegan?

  3. Michelle says:

    Good article Liz. I was dairy and meat free until my thyroid cancer diagnosis. Then I discovered the controversy re soy and thyroid goiters and possible toxicity issues. Not to mention the info on my synthroid packaging about soy disrupting uptake. So you see my dilemma…I chose to be vegan from an ethical standpoint regarding the mistreatment and suffering of animals in factory farming. I relied heavilly on soy for my protein supplementation. I am of no use to anyone if I cannot get sufficient nutrition. So my compromise is to consume small portions of organic milk to get some protein and calcium together without crazy hormones and hopefully better treatment of animals. Post cancer I also only purchase organic fruits and vegetables. I can not put food soaked in chemicals in my body.

  4. Sherree says:

    Dairy free here except for good Greek yogurt. That’s all I can tolerate (gut-wise). I count on the food I eat to give me my calcium. What do you think about calcium supplements (which I don’t take)? Any safe ones out there to consider? As always, your information is informative. Thanks!

  5. Dear Thyroid says:

    Michelle – How are you doing post-diagnosis? I do see your dilemma. What kind of food program have you designed for yourself, if you don’t mind sharing? We’re always looking for new ideas and tips to share with each other.
    Thank you so much for adding your thoughts.

    Katie

  6. Dear Thyroid says:

    Hi Sherree – Out of curiosity, does your doctor discuss supplements with you? I ask because my doctor actually did after requesting info about the best calcium supplements out there. She gave me a few to choose from, which enabled me to do some research.

    I’m looking forward to Liz’s thoughts regarding your question.

    PS: Love Greek Yogurt, too!

    Can you eat the foods Liz suggested for calcium? Do you have a high calcium deficiency? If so, do you know why?
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Katie

  7. Elmasue says:

    I was raised vegetarian, on the Adventist diet of soy protein substitutes. I am now eating meat every few days on average. Just saw recently that soy interferes with synthyroid (my dose is 200mcg/day) uptake, and reluctantly increased my meat intake. What is the best option? I bought whey protein as a substitute, but would rather have food closer to the source, so use cottage cheese daily, occasional milk, yoghurt w/o sweeteners, etc.

    I also noted that when I added kelp daily, in tablet form, I became HYPERthyroid w/in a month. Do you have any advice for adding in kelp or the like to supplement and maybe increase metabolism? ( I also noted that my total cholesterol went down 100 points with the kelp, in 3 months…great, but I couldn’t sit still, and was having palpitations!!!)

    Thanks for the informative site~

  8. Christina says:

    pretty much all studies on dairy are based on pasteurized milk.
    I have seen a dramatic improvement in my health since switching to raw milk. I have a casein allergy and am lactose intolerant and I love raw milk. It has helped me heal and I don’t get sick from it.

    Not only does pasteurization and homogenization destroy everything good in milk, there is a difference between the casein in A1 and A2 milks. There are several types of casein and you can’t compare dairy and braest milk properly unless you are talking about raw milk.

  9. Dear Thyroid says:

    Hi Elmasue – How do you feel eating meat every few days? Do you find it helps? Your cholesterol went down 100 points?! WOW.
    check out this installation of Liz’s column regarding Kelp:http://dearthyroid.org/how-to-kick-your-thyroids-ass-more-thyroid-hormone-please-how-to-get-more-iodine-into-your-diet/. What concerns me the most, is how radically the change affected your thyroid function.
    You might also want to check out David’s three posts on the Paleo Diet. Here’s a link to access all of his columns: http://dearthyroid.org/?s=+paleo

    I’d be curious to know your thoughts on both. Also, I’m interested to read Liz’s thoughts regarding your question.

    Thanks so much for chiming in and sharing your thoughts.
    Katie

  10. Christina says:

    I should add, we grow figs, kale, beans, mustard greens etc. I get calcium from so many sources and the benefits of raw milk far exceed the calcium.

    I wish I knew about the raw milk before poisoning myself all those years with soy milk.

  11. Dear Thyroid says:

    Christina – This is great information. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. You grow your own figs? I love figs. I’ve never tried raw milk. Is it an acquired taste? I don’t drink milk, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. What would you say it tastes like?

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

    Katie

  12. Christina says:

    there is so much misinformation in this article. none of her “facts” that we “all know” can be said about raw milk from grass fed cows.

    It’s not really all that different from people who think all cholesterol and saturated fats are bad. There is so much research done on this!

    Holistic medicine has given me my life back. I have been so sick for so long and as of the last couple of weeks I feel awesome.

  13. Christina says:

    oh my goodness. well i drink goat and cow and goat has a tang to it. the cow milk is so rich and creamy! mmmm
    yes, I can’t get the figs going in florida, although others have success at this. We have them in pennsylvania. fortunately we have several bushes because the deer go nuts for them.

    a lot of our kefir(so beneficial), yogurt and cheeses are made from raw milk from either goat or cow.

    My significant other goes to the cancer victor meetings which are full of survivors and practitioners who have treated cancer using holistic measures. I got turned onto raw milk there. A lot of Weston A. price Foundation members there. a lot of people think cancer patients can’t drink dairy and eat meat, but they don’t know about raw dairy and pastured organic meats.

  14. Kathleen Wells says:

    When I eat a pure vegan diet my calcium levels are just fine. I am at my absolute best on a vegan diet containing 75% organic raw foods. I have Hashimotos,lupus and a genetic blood disease.

    To be sure I had complete chem blood panels done, calcium was perfect without supplements or dairy. If I can’t eat right for whatever reason I do have organic goat milk yogurt from a free range farm that treats the babies with love and respect. But I do better 100% vegan

  15. Margaret Ann says:

    Two published articles from http://t-tapp.com/
    Medical Research and Calcium
    by Teresa Tapp

    http://forum.t-tapp.com/archive/index.php/t-905.html
    Keep Thyroid Healthy for Weight Control
    by Teresa Tapp

    http://forum.t-tapp.com/archive/index.php/t-885.html

  16. Katie says:

    Christina – you are a wealth of information. Thank you so much for sharing more dish with us. Which is your preference; goat or cow milk? I love goat cheese. I wonder if I’d like goat milk, too. how did you arrive at the dietary and nutritional choices? Was it through Weston and/or your own research, or a culmination of things. I didn’t know deer loved figs. Can’t say that I blame them, though. Do you grow your figs in a special place so they don’t get to them?

    Thank you again for sharing even more with us!
    Great education.

    Katie

  17. Coffee Dog says:

    Wow, I’d heard some of this before, but not all. Christina, what are A1 & A2 milks?

    Katie, the best way I can describe the taste of raw cow milk is ZOMG YUM. It tastes the way you think milk is supposed to taste, only more so. Unfortunately for me, even raw cow milk gives me headaches (or it did the last time I tried it – I’m willing to try it again if I can find some around here). I did try raw goat milk once – this was before I’d made the milk-headache connection – and I can say that it tasted wonderful, completely unlike the icky pasteurized goat milk they have in the grocery store. I could hardly tell the difference between the raw goat milk and cow milk, it was that good – creamy and yummy, with just the tiniest little tang to it, but not nearly as tangy as, say, buttermilk. If I can tolerate (and afford) raw goat milk, I’ll be one happy camper.

  18. Katie says:

    Kathleen – with so many chronic conditions (sorry about that), how did you come to the conclusion that a vegan diet/organic was the best for you? Had you tried other diets first? Did you do a bunch of research? Being vegan, how much of a drop in symptoms do you experience?

    Again, thank you so much for chiming in. I’m learning a lot from you and everyone else today. LOVE IT.

    Katie

  19. Annacai says:

    I am trying to understand how calcium interacts with thyroid hormone. Becuase I have trying to recover from vitamin D deficiency osteomalacia – rickets-, I have been taking calcium supplements along with vitamin D supplements. I am concerned about how this interferes with my thyroid meds.

  20. Monica says:

    I used to drink raw milk until I was told to lessen my dairy intake. I raised my 14-year-old son on raw milk and the only illnesses he’s ever had were the usual viruses children pick up at school and he’s never had cavities. There are many benefits to raw milk, plus the taste is unbelievable as Christina mentioned. I did a research paper on raw milk versus pasteurized milk and while we are shown the process of how milk is produced in a “sanitary and sterile environment,” there isn’t any press that there are additives added so the milk is a pretty white color and a powdered fat supplement is added to make it 1%, 2% and whole if you don’t opt for skim.
    By choice, I will never ingest soy milk or any product made with soy since finding out that my zealous intake of soy in the past (thinking it was good for me) may have contributed to causing my adrenals to fail which led to the first lupus attack.

    I do take a calcium supplement with Vit D because I am going through menopause, and also because my doc said if the thyroid meds are too high (whatever that means!), there is a greater chance of osteoporosis occurring.
    Since being diagnosed with lupus, and having had a thyroidectomy because of the possible cancerous nodule, I try to eat as clean as possible, meaning organic veggies and fruit (check out Environmental Working Group for their list of the dirty dozen), pasture-fed animals when I do eat meat, and as little processed food as possible, although I do like to have a piece of cake or chocolate once in a while.

    Bottom line is there is so much information that we hear about or read that is contradictory that it is best to do our own research and to be our own experiments to find out what works for us and to be consistent with what we’re doing.

    ☮ ♥

  21. Liz says:

    Michelle, I totally understand your dilemma. I think it’s a myth that vegans have to rely on soy for their protein. I wrote an article addressing protein, which you can read here: http://dearthyroid.org/how-to-kick-your-thyroids-ass-the-case-for-veganism-part-ii-and-a-giveaway/
    Aside from the sources of protein I list in that article, you could also try hemp. Hemp seeds are one of my favorite foods. They are very versatile, near tasteless, full of protein and vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids, etc. You can really get creative with them too and turn them into anything. I make huge batches of hemp seed salad dressing and put it on everything — salads, pastas, use it as a veggie or tortilla dip… it’s delicious. You can make your own hemp milk. You can sprinkle the seeds onto salads… it’s really endless possibilities. I would suggest you try them and look up some recipes and see what you think, in order to avoid soy…

  22. Liz says:

    Thanks Alexia!

  23. Christina says:

    ahaha. I am not a wealth of knowledge because I can’t remember 90% of what I read. But i remember the intention and themes fairly well so I do OK.

    Everything is a culmination of things, I rarely come across an author or organization i believe may be 100% right and i don’t think anything exists that is 100% right for 100% of the people.
    A1 & A2

    http://heal-thyself.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-amazing-thing-is-that

    I don’t know about all deer, but Havertown deer eat figs. The figs grow right next to the house, but they are suburban deer and don’t mind nibbling steps away from the front door. It’s about 3 acres and there is an “orchard” and they eat a lot of fruits there as well. there is a blueberry house so the blueberries remain unmolested. I don’t mind sharing but it upsets other family members. They don’t seem to eat the dandelion greens and we love those. it all balances out.

    I love goat cheese and just came across a goat “cream cheese” at the farmers market last week. It was so delicious. As far as the yogurt, kefir and milk go I prefer cow. But i use them all. i try to use only products made from raw milk, but I don’t entirely. I get less sick from cheeses made with conventional milk than if i drank the milk but it’s still not the best thing for me. I fail to follow any of my beliefs 100% of the time. and some of them not even the majority of the time.

  24. Liz says:

    Sherree, I have a thing about supplements… I think it’s best to try and get our nutrition directly from food. That said, I really don’t have good supplement info on calcium. Just make sure what you’re taking isn’t a synthetic vitamin.

  25. Monica says:

    annacai,

    Through a class I took, I learned that calcium can interfere with your thyroid meds so it is best to wait 2-3 hours before ingesting any calcium. Also, you need to wait an hour after taking your meds before eating. That’s why the prescription usually says to take it first thing in the morning.

    Hope that helps.
    ☮ ♥

  26. Liz says:

    Elmasue, just like I suggested to Michelle, I would suggest hemp seeds for you. They are full of every vitamin and mineral, and are full of calcium, good fats, and protein. They contain no known allergens and are not goitrogenic.

  27. Liz says:

    Christina, yes, you are absolutely right, which is why I made a point to say “processed milk”. Raw milk is the way to go if you want to do dairy healthfully. I have written before about the differences in the A1 and A2 cows and their casein content. Thanks for bringing that up today too! Very important stuff

  28. Christina says:

    My last post never took, which is disappointing as i spent a good deal of time on it. This one will be brief.
    I am not a wealth of knowledge and I forget 90% of what I read.
    a good article on A1 & A2:
    http://heal-thyself.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-amazing-thing-is-that
    The figs grow against the house. havertown deer are suburban and don’t mind nibbling near the doors. They eat a lot in the “orchard” as well. The only things that are safe is whatever grows in the blueberry house.

    All i have learned is a drop in the bucket compared to what i still have yet to learn. it’s cumulative knowledge and nothing is 100% right for 100% of people, in my opinion.

    I love cheeses from a few animals but as for a preference on the taste of just a glass of milk, I choose cow.

  29. Christina says:

    oh and liz, i saw you said processed but the vast majority of readers would not know the difference.

  30. Christina says:

    why my longer comments refuse to post I do not know. I have wasted a good 45 minutes writing long answers to all the questions and the only thing that posted is that single sentence. I am about out of patience for thsi task.

  31. Lolly says:

    Another great article Liz I love how you have listed other sources of calcium and the ratios. I have been milk/Diary free now for about 15 years. I had gut problems and after excluding dairy products noticed they improved dramatically still not 100%.
    Another thing about Diary and cattle is they also clean the pumps for milking the cattle, with Iodine based solutions so another source of contamination for those of us with autoimmune thyroid disease.

    I love sunflower seeds have about 10 plants springing up in my greenhouse ready to plant out and they yield thousands of seeds yummy. At least I know they haven’t be sprayed with any insecticides either.

    Thank you for your very informative column.

    Lollyx

  32. Michelle says:

    Liz, thank you so muh for the link to the other article and the hemp seed suggestion. I am sooo going to try them! And Monica, after my cancer diagnosis, I eat almost exactly as you say you are. I feel like I was reading a description of my diet And Dear Thyroid, I now am trying to incorporate a little fish and a tiny bit of chicken a couple times a week. But I do personally struggle with it… I will say however, after eliminating all but a few bits of soy here and there after my surgery, I feel great. I’m not sure if it was my cancer filled thyroid or the soy that made me feel so bad. But things are soooooo much better now

  33. Liz says:

    Lolly, it’s so funny and interesting how many people have avoided dairy… very interesting that we’ve all found this common link.

  34. Liz says:

    Great Michelle. Let me know how you like them.

  35. Robin says:

    the doctor that did my colonoscopy told me “no dairy except skim milk with bran flakes and no calcium supplements”. When I broke my right leg and it was taking forever to heal, another doc said “take calcium supplements”.

    But I generally don’t consume dairy. Never had Greek yogurt, but I hear it’s great. But regular yogurt disagrees with me, so I just don’t bother with it at all

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