Published May 8 2017
Most people who are eating well realize that they should avoid unhealthy beverages such as soda, energy drinks, and even cow’s milk. And while many people have no problem drinking water as their sole “beverage”, other people want more variety. And so I decided to put together an article which lists some other things besides water that you can drink. In addition, I’ll also list a few “beverages” that are healthy, yet controversial, and I’ll discuss if it’s fine to drink these for those who have a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition. I’m not going to discuss in detail the beverages that you should avoid, although I’ll list some of them towards the end of this article.
Beverages Most People With Thyroid and Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions CAN Drink:
Water. Of course water can and should be consumed by everyone with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition. The problem is that there is no consensus with regards to the type of water one should drink. I personally drink a combination of reverse osmosis water, along with some spring water out of a glass bottle. The downside of reverse osmosis and distilled water is that both of these filtration methods remove the minerals. However, most of the harmful chemicals are also removed, and you can get the minerals elsewhere. In fact, most of the minerals you get should be from food, not water. While there will be disagreements with regards to the type of water you should drink, most natural healthcare professionals would recommend for you to 1) avoid drinking tap water, and 2) avoid drinking water out of plastic bottles due to the xenoestrogens. This doesn’t mean that having an occasional cup of tap water, or drinking water out of a plastic bottle every now and then is a big deal, but some people drink tap water and/or out of plastic bottles on a daily basis.
Green tea. There are numerous health benefits associated with green tea, and I discussed many of them in an article I wrote entitled “Green Tea and Thyroid Health”. In the article I discussed how most of the health benefits of green tea is due to polyphenols, and the catechin EGCG has numerous health benefits, including preventing and calming down the autoimmune response. I drink green tea on a regular basis, and I commonly recommend it to my patients. However, those with adrenal problems should consume an organic decaffeinated green tea, and then once their adrenal health has improved they can switch to a caffeinated form of green tea (my favorite is Organic India).
Herbal Tea. I also enjoy drinking herbal teas, and most herbal teas are fine to consume for those with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions. Each of the herbal teas offer different benefits. Some herbal teas to consider drinking include peppermint, lemon balm (especially for hyperthyroidism), rooibos, and chamomile. Ginger tea can help to reduce inflammation, and if someone has blood sugar imbalances then they might want to consider drinking cinnamon tea. In fact, I would try to drink at least one cup of herbal tea per day, and you can rotate the herbal teas. One thing I should mention is that drinking herbal tea isn’t as potent as taking the herb as an extract. So for example, if you have a lot of inflammation, while drinking ginger tea can help, it isn’t going to be as powerful as taking ginger as an extract. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t drink ginger tea in this situation, but you can’t rely on it alone to reduce the inflammation.
Water or Coconut Kefir. Kefir is a fermented beverage that uses kefir grains to ferment milk. While milk kefir isn’t allowed on an autoimmune paleo diet, or even a standard paleo diet due to the dairy, both coconut kefir and water kefir are allowed. You just need to be cautious about the ingredients, as a lot of the premade kefir products include high amounts of sugar. Coconut milk kefir is prepared by using free kefir grains to ferment the coconut milk.Water kefir requires water kefir cultures. I personally don’t drink coconut or water kefir, and so I can’t give specific recommendations with regards to brands you should buy. But if you’re ambitious you can always prepare your own coconut or water kefir.
Kombucha. Kombucha is fermented tea. With kombucha you take black or green tea and combine it with sugar to initiate the fermentation process. You also need a colony of bacteria, which is referred to as a SCOBY. SCOBY stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”. Once the fermentation process has been completed kombucha becomes carbonated and is a great source of probiotics. It’s worth mentioning that many people with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) don’t do well when drinking kombucha, along with other fermented foods. In addition, if someone has a Candida overgrowth they should avoid drinking kombucha due to the yeast content, as Candida is the most dominating yeast genus during kombucha fermentation (1).
Bone broth. Although some reading this might not consider bone broth to be a “beverage”, I included this here because 1) bone broth is something you can drink, and 2) it has gut-healing properties, which is especially important for those with autoimmune thyroid conditions. And the reason for this is because the three-legged stool of autoimmunity theorizes that a leaky gut is a factor with all autoimmune conditions. And because of this I recommend bone broth to most of my patients with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. You can have beef, chicken, or even fish bone broth. Although bone broth has gut-healing properties, drinking bone broth isn’t a requirement for healing a leaky gut, which of course is good news if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, or if you simply don’t like bone broth.
Coconut milk.While soy, rice, and almond milk aren’t allowed on an autoimmune paleo diet, coconut milk is an option. Most prepackaged coconut milk has a lot of additives, and so be careful about the quality of any pre-made coconut milk you purchase, and ideally you would want to make your own. If you have the Paleo Approach Cookbook by Sarah Ballantyne then you’ll find a coconut milk recipe, although you can also find free coconut milk recipes if you search the Internet.
Green Smoothies. Okay, I’ll admit that a smoothie probably isn’t considered to be a beverage by many people’s standards, but since it is something you can drink I figured I’d include it here. I actually use a smoothie as a meal replacement, as every morning I have a breakfast smoothie that consists of one cup of organic green leafy vegetables, ¼ cup of organic carrots, some protein powder, a healthy source of fat (i.e. coconut oil or an avocado), ¼ cup of organic berries, and I add 1 ¾ cup of purified water, and ¼ cup of organic almond milk.
So why are smoothies considered to be controversial? Well, although I do love smoothies, you do need to be aware of a few things. First of all, some of the common smoothie ingredients are high in oxalates, and if you’re not familiar with oxalates I would read my recent blog post entitled “Oxalates, Kidney Stones, and Thyroid Health”. Second, many people load up their smoothies with fruit, and add little or no vegetables. On the contrary, I add mostly vegetables to my smoothies, although when I first started making smoothies I admittedly did add a lot of fruit, and it did take awhile before I was drinking mostly “green” smoothies.
Almond milk. I get asked a lot about whether almond milk is okay to drink, and although I like almond milk and add a small amount to my smoothies, if you’re following a strict autoimmune paleo diet then almond milk is on the “excluded” list of foods. In fact, all nut milks aren’t allowed for those following a strict AIP diet, although it’s fine to drink almond milk if you’re following a “standard” paleo diet. Just as is the case with coconut milk, you need to be careful when purchasing almond milk, as most prepackaged almond milks include a lot of additives, but you of course can prepare your own almond milk.
Red wine. Although red wine has some health benefits, it isn’t part of an autoimmune paleo diet. In fact, red wine can increase the permeability of the small intestine (2), which of course isn’t a good thing for someone who already has a leaky gut. One study shows that one week of moderate consumption of red wine in patients with inactive IBD was associated with a significant decrease in stool calprotectin, which is a good thing, and an increase in intestinal permeability, which of course is not good (2). However, keep in mind that this study involved moderate consumption of red wine, as it involved them drinking one to three cups of red wine daily for one week. On the other hand, upon restoring the health of your gut I do think having some organic red wine on an occasional basis is fine for most people.
Raw milk. Dairy is excluded from both an autoimmune paleo diet and a standard paleo diet. But I decided to bring up raw milk because many people ask me about it. Without question I do think that raw dairy has some health benefits and is a better choice than pasteurized, homogenized milk. However, I still recommend for my patients to avoid dairy initially, and ideally until the gut is healed. Chris Kresser has an excellent article series called “Raw Milk Reality” that talks about the benefits of raw milk, and also talks about the safety concerns.
Coffee. I do recommend for most of my patients to avoid coffee while trying to restore their health. This is especially true for those who have adrenals problems, as well as those who are slow metabolizers of caffeine. I spoke more about coffee in a blog post I wrote entitled “Does Caffeine Need To Be Avoided In People With Thyroid Conditions?” And so if you are one of those people who would be willing to give almost everything up with the exception of drinking coffee, then I definitely would check out this post when you get the chance. I’ve had some patients ask if drinking organic decaffeinated coffee or the herbal coffee alternative Teeccino are good substitutes, and while these are also “controversial”, I will say that I’ve had patients drink these without it having a negative effect on their progress. But of course everyone is different, and I can’t say that everyone will do fine drinking these.
Beverages Most People With Thyroid and Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions Should Avoid:
- Sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade)
- Energy drinks
- Fruit juice
- Pasteurized, homogenized milk
- Rice milk
- Soy milk
- Other alcoholic beverages
I’m sure there are many other unhealthy beverages I didn’t list here, but these are some of the most common ones that should be avoided by those people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions. Some might question including “fruit juice”, and while doing your own juicing does have some health benefits, I would try to avoid drinking prepackaged fruit juice. This is true even for organic juices, and the main reason for this is because most of them are very high in sugar. And of course this is true for many other prepackaged beverages, as you need to be cautious about the sugar content. In fact, this is also true when making your own beverages at home. For example, some people will load up their green tea or herbal tea with sugar, which will negate some of the health benefits you’re receiving from the beverage itself.
So hopefully you have a better understanding with regards to what beverages you can and can’t drink, as well as those beverages that are controversial. Those beverages most people can drink include filtered and spring water, green tea, herbal tea, water or coconut kefir, kombucha, bone broth, and coconut milk. Some of the controversial beverages include green smoothies (which I love), almond milk, red wine, raw milk, and coffee. And some beverages you should avoid include soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juice, pasteurized milk, rice milk, soy milk, and alcoholic beverages.