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The Impact Of Goitrogens On Hypothyroidism

Many people with hypothyroidism are familiar with goitrogens, as these are foods and chemicals which can inhibit the function of the thyroid gland.  However, most people who have a hypothyroid disorder don’t truly understand the impact of eating goitrogenic foods.  I’m not suggesting that everyone with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should completely avoid goitrogenic foods.  But most people with these conditions should minimize their consumption of goitrogens.

For those looking to follow a natural treatment protocol, one of the problems is that some of the healthy foods are actually goitrogenic.  Some examples include foods such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, as well as certain fruits such as strawberries and peaches.  These are considered to be healthy foods, yet they can inhibit thyroid gland activity when consumed in large quantities.  And that’s important to understand, as many people with hypothyroidism can eat these foods, but should consume them in moderation.

Goitrogens Interfere With Iodine Metabolism

Just in case you’re wondering in what way goitrogens affect thyroid activity, what they do is inhibit iodine metabolism.  And iodine is important in the formation of thyroid hormone.  Someone with a hypothyroid condition already has problems manufacturing enough thyroid hormone, so it should be clear why it’s unwise for someone with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to consume large amounts of goitrogens.

However, for those people with hypothyroid conditions who follow a natural treatment protocol, in the beginning phases I do recommend that they try to avoid these goitrogens, or at least minimize their consumption of such foods.  Then once their hypothyroid condition has improved significantly they can begin incorporating more of these foods again, although they still shouldn’t consume too many of them.  One also needs to consider that some goitrogenic foods are more “mild” than others, which means they don’t have as much of an effect on the thyroid gland.  Spinach, peaches, and strawberries are examples of “mild” goitrogenic foods.

What About Soy?

I’ve spoken about unfermented soy in great detail in the past, and how not only people with hypothyroidism should avoid soy, but how most people in general should avoid it.  For most people, eating a moderate amount of soy isn’t a big deal.  But many people think soy is healthy, and as a result many people drink a lot of soy milk, eat soy-based protein bars, and consume many other soy-based foods on a regular basis.  I once was guilty of this, as a number of years ago I would eat soy chicken nuggets on a regular basis.  Once again, eating soy every now and then is fine, but in addition to soy being a goitrogen, consuming large quantities of unfermented soy can also lead to other health issues.

This of course can be challenging for vegetarians, as many will eat a good amount of soy-based products, as well as many of the other goitrogens I have mentioned.  If you’re a vegetarian, the best thing I can recommend is to try to minimize your consumption of these goitrogens and of course eat foods that are non-goitrogenic.  While this might narrow down the choices, there are still plenty of non-goitrogenic foods you can eat (other fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, brown rice, etc.).

If you have hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and feel as if you must eat cruciferous vegetables, then cook them, as this will reduce the goitrogenic activity.  In fact, it probably is best for most people to eat cooked cruciferous vegetables rather than to eat them raw, as this will make it easier to digest them.  On the other hand, cooking them too much can also cause them to lose some of the important vitamins and minerals.  By the way, cooking unfermented soy foods doesn’t seem to reduce the goitrogenic activity.

In summary, people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis definitely need to minimize their consumption of goitrogenic foods.  And those people with a severe hypothyroid condition who are beginning a natural treatment protocol will ideally want to avoid these foods completely for at least the first 30 days of following a protocol.  Then once you receive significant improvement you can once again begin consuming some goitrogens in moderation.