Foods that Cause Hypothyroidism

dieases_thyroidIs your diet working against your thyroid gland? Find out which foods interfere with healthy thyroid function and how to minimize your risk.

 

 

My apologies for the delay in posting this month–the end of the academic year is always quite busy, but now that summer is approaching, I hope to return to my usual 2 to 4 posts per month.  Thank you for your patience!

HYPOTHYROIDISM 101

Thyroid hormone tells all of the cells in your body how busy they should be. Too much thyroid hormone (hypERthyroidism), and your body goes into overdrive; not enough thyroid hormone (hypOthyroidism), and your body slows down.  The most common causes of hypothyroidism worldwide are dietary—protein malnutrition and iodine deficiency.  This is because the two main ingredients needed to make thyroid hormone are tyrosine (an amino acid from dietary protein) and iodine (a naturally-occurring salt).

In the developed world, where protein is plentiful and many countries add iodine to salt and processed foods, we don’t typically need to worry about protein malnutrition or iodine deficiency.  However, the rest of the world is not so lucky. More than 2 billion people around the world suffer from hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency.  2 billion!  We are told that the reason for this planetary epidemic is that iodine comes from the ocean, and that the soil of inland areas has had most of its iodine washed away over time by erosion:

“A teaspoon of iodine is all a person requires in a lifetime, but because iodine cannot be stored for long periods by the body, tiny amounts are needed regularly. In areas of endemic iodine deficiency, where soil and therefore crops and grazing animals do not provide sufficient dietary iodine to the populace, food fortification and supplementation have proven highly successful and sustainable interventions.” [Brahmbhatt 2001].

But the iodine erosion explanation does not make sense to me, and here’s why.

Iodine is an essential ingredient in thyroid hormone, and thyroid hormone is critical to the growth and development of the bodies and brains of all baby vertebrates (animals with backbones).  Since they need iodine just as much as we do, and they do not have access to artificially iodized salt, how do they get their iodine?  Do they have a secret stash somewhere that they’re not sharing with us? I assume they are getting enough iodine because if they weren’t, they would all be born brain-damaged runts, and many would be infertile if they survived to adulthood.  To the best of my knowledge, wild inland animals are not herds of sterile, stupefied miniatures roaming the landscape in search of iodine…

IODINE REQUIREMENTS

We are told that humans need an average of about 150 micrograms of iodine per day.  Below is the iodine content of some familiar foods [in micrograms]:

  • Cod Fish (3 ounces) = 99
  • Shrimp (3 ounces) = 35
  • Turkey (3 ounces) = 34
  • Low-fat milk (1 cup) = 56
  • Egg (1 large) = 24
  • Prunes (5 whole) = 13
  • Banana (1 whole) = 3

When you look at this list, it is easy to imagine how it might be difficult to obtain 150 micrograms per day of iodine, depending on what you eat.  This is why we are told we should use iodized salt, which contains 142 micrograms of added iodide per ½ teaspoon:

“More than 70 countries, including the United States and Canada, have salt iodization programs. As a result, approximately 70% of households worldwide use iodized salt, ranging from almost 90% of households in North and South America to less than 50% in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean regions.  In the United States, salt manufacturers have been adding iodine to table salt since the 1920s, although it is still a voluntary program.”  [http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/#h3]

salt shaker

I suspect that there is actually enough iodine in the environment to go around, and that we actually need less than 150 micrograms per day of iodine.  From the above list, you can see that animal foods are much richer in iodine than plant foods—so how do herbivores (animals which eat a plant-based diet, such as rabbits and deer) get enough iodine?  I suspect that there is something about the human diet which interferes with our ability to absorb, utilize, and/or retain iodine, and that this is why we appear to be iodine-deficient compared to other animals.  So, what might the possible culprits be?   Hmmm….

PLANT GOITROGENS

When in doubt, blame plants.  Yes, plant foods, once again, are the usual suspects (to read more about why plants are untrustworthy when it comes to human health, see my vegetables page).  Many plant foods contain naturally-occurring chemicals which disrupt normal thyroid function.

The main job of the thyroid gland is to combine the salt iodine with the amino acid tyrosine to make thyroid hormone.  Whenever the thyroid gland has a hard time making enough thyroid hormone, it becomes stressed and grows bigger to try to do its job better, forming a “goiter” (enlarged thyroid).  Substances that interfere with normal thyroid function are called “goitrogens” because they have the potential to cause goiter.

GOITRIN

Goitrin is the most powerful plant goitrogen.  Unlike most other goitrogens, this chemical can cause goiter even if there is plenty of iodine in the diet.

Goitrin weakens the activity of the enzyme thyroid peroxidase, which is required to insert iodine into thyroid hormone.

Foods containing goitrin:

  • Seeds of Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Rutabaga (aka Swede, Yellow Turnip)

rutabaga

THIOCYANATES

Thiocyanates are sulfur-containing compounds found in a variety of popular vegetables.

Thiocyanates make it harder for the thyroid gland to absorb iodine because they compete with iodine for entry into the gland.  This effect can be minimized by supplementing the diet with iodine; the excess iodine can then crowd out the thiocyanate and win the competition.

Thiocyanates weaken the activity of the enzyme thyroid peroxidase, which is required to insert iodine into thyroid hormone.  This effect can be greatly reduced by iodine supplementation.

Foods that form thiocyanates:

  • Bamboo Shoots
  • Cassava*
  • Corn
  • Flax
  • Lima Beans
  • Sweet Potato
  • Cruciferous Vegetables:
    • Arugula
    • Bok choy
    • Broccoli
    • Broccolini
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Cabbage
    • Canola
    • Cauliflower
    • Chinese Broccoli
    • Chinese cabbage
    • Choy sum
    • Collard greens
    • Horseradish
    • Kale
    • Kohlrabi
    • Mizuna
    • Mustard Greens
    • Mustard Seeds
    • Radishes
    • Rapini
    • Rutabagas
    • Turnips
    • Wasabi
    • Watercress

cruciferous vegetables

The foods listed above do not contain any thiocyanate when they are in their living, intact state, because thiocyanates do not form until the plant is cut, crushed, or chewed.   For example, fresh broccoli contains a harmless substance called glucosinolate, which turns into a thiocyanate called sulforaphane when the vegetable is damaged (see my broccoli blogpost for more information).

*Cassava bears special mention here.  You may have heard of it because it is the starchy root vegetable from which tapioca is made, but cassava is also a popular staple food in many Third World countries, where it is eaten boiled, mashed, or ground into flour.  Fresh cassava root contains a harmless substance called linamarin, which can turn into hydrocyanic acid (aka cyanide!) when the plant is damaged or eaten. Flaxseeds also contain linamarin. Cyanide is very toxic, so the human body converts it into thiocyanate (which, although it does interfere with thyroid function, is less toxic than cyanide and easier for the body to eliminate).

cassava

Thiocyanates easily cross the placenta and can cause thyroid dysfunction in newborns, especially if the infant is not getting enough iodine.

Cooking, soaking, and fermentation can reduce cyanide and thiocyanate levels in these foods.

For more information about cyanide in foods: http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0207e/T0207E08.htm

FLAVONOIDS 

Flavonoids are a large family of related plant compounds; at least 3,000 different flavonoids have been discovered thus far, but we will concentrate on those that are especially risky when it comes to thyroid health.

Soy Flavonoids (genistein, daidzein) 

Soy flavonoids are perhaps better known as “soy isoflavones”, which we are usually told are good for us.  Yet, 

“It is well described but little known that the soybean and goiter have long been associated in animals and humans.” [Doerge] 

Soy

Soy flavonoids reduce the activity of thyroid peroxidase, the enzyme required to insert iodine into thyroid hormone.

Cooking does not destroy the goitrogenic activity of soy isoflavones.

There is strong clinical evidence demonstrating the anti-thyroid effects of soy products on infants, children, and adults.

“Infants fed soy formula are at higher risk for hypothyroidism and for later development of autoimmune thyroid diseases. In humans, goiter has been seen in infants fed soy formula; this is usually reversed by changing to cow milk or iodine-supplemented diets . After the 1960s, manufacturers reportedly began adding iodine to formulas to mitigate thyroid effects.” [Doerge]

When a baby is born with hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone supplements are administered to correct the deficiency.  Babies fed soy formula require 25% higher doses of thyroid hormone than babies fed soy-free formula.  [Xiao]  For this reason, doctors recommend that children with hypothyroidism avoid soy products if at all possible. 

In adults, the recommendations are stated more softly, perhaps because of the widespread belief that soy is good for us, or because some people prefer to eat soy instead of meat:

“Some evidence suggests that soy foods, by inhibiting absorption, may increase the dose of thyroid hormone required by hypothyroid patients. However, hypothyroid adults need not avoid soy foods. In addition, there remains a theoretical concern based on in vitro and animal data that in individuals with compromised thyroid function and/or whose iodine intake is marginal, soy foods may increase risk of developing clinical hypothyroidism. Therefore, it is important for soy food consumers to make sure their intake of iodine is adequate.” [Messina]

Note that the recommendation for adults is to increase iodine intake rather than to decrease soy intake. But take a look at this interesting clinical study [Sathyaplan]:

60 patients with borderline hypothyroidism were given either 2 mg of soy isoflavones (the amount found in the typical omnivore’s diet) or 16 mg of soy isoflavones (the amount found in the typical vegetarian’s diet).  The “vegetarian” dose of soy isoflavones was 3 times more likely to cause patients to convert from borderline (“subclinical”) hypothyroidism to full-blown (“overt clinical”) hypothyroidism.

In my experience, most people are unaware of the connection between soy and thyroid problems.  If a study like this had been about an ingredient in red meat, you can bet you’d see a giant headline in the New York Times trumpeting that red meat causes thyroid disease, and everyone would be talking about it…

Millet Flavonoids (apigenin, glucosylorientine, vitexin) 

Millet is most familiar to us in the developed world as birdseed, but it is also a common staple grain eaten by people in developing countries, because it grows well in hot places with poor quality soil.

millet

Millet flavonoids greatly reduce the activity of thyroid peroxidase, the enzyme that inserts iodine into thyroid hormone.  Apigenin is the most potent of the three listed above.

Millet flavonoids also (quite rudely) push thyroid hormone off of carrier proteins in the bloodstream.

Cooking does not destroy millet flavonoids.

In the Darfur Province of western Sudan, goiter in schoolchildren is closely linked to millet consumption:

“…goiter is more prevalent in rural villages of the Darfur Province in Sudan, where as much as 74% of dietary energy is derived from millet, than in an urban area, where millet provides only 37% of calories, even though the degree of iodine deficiency is similar in the two areas.” [Gaitan]

Other foods containing apigenin include:

  • Chamomile
  • Citrus fruits
  • Parsley
  • Onions
  • Wheat sprouts
  • Red wine
  • Beer

QUERCETIN and friends

Quercetin and its relatives work in two ways to interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism.

1.  Reduce activity of thyroperoxidase, the enzyme required to insert iodine into thyroid hormone.

2.  Reduce activity of hepatic deiodinase, a liver enzyme required to activate thyroid hormone.

Quercetin—found in significant amounts in capers, cranberries, onions, tea, broccoli, red wine, black currants, apples, grapes, blueberries, gingko biloba, and apricots.

Kaempferol—found in significant amounts in tea, capers, grapefruit, and endive.  Kaempferol is closely related to quercetin and even more easily absorbed.

Rutin—found in significant amounts in buckwheat, asparagus, citrus fruits, cranberries.  Rutin is also a close relative of quercetin, but less well absorbed.

Boiling destroys up to 30% of the quercetin, kaempferol and rutin in food.

Can you eat too much iodine? 

YesThe safe upper limit of iodine intake is considered to be 1,100 micrograms (1.1 mg) per day.  Since 1 teaspoon of iodized salt contains 284 micrograms of iodine, if you eat 4 teaspoons of iodized salt in a day, you have already exceeded the safe amount.

Strange as it may seem, hypothyroidism can be caused both by too much iodine and by too little iodine. Excess iodine interferes with the release of thyroid hormone into the bloodstream and can cause goiter and hypothyroidism.

“Excess iodine is generally well tolerated, but individuals with underlying thyroid disease or other risk factors may be susceptible to iodine-induced thyroid dysfunction following acute or chronic exposure. Sources of increased iodine exposure include the global public health efforts of iodine supplementation, the escalating use of iodinated contrast radiologic studies, amiodarone administration in vulnerable patients [amiodarone is a drug used to treat heart rhythm problems], excess seaweed consumption, and various miscellaneous sources.”  [Leung]

The foods most commonly associated with excess iodine are seaweed and iodized salt.  A single gram (0.035 ounce) of seaweed can contain anywhere between 16 and 2,984 micrograms of iodine!

seaweed

In addition to containing high amounts of iodine, seaweeds in the Laminaria family (kelp family) contain phloroglucinol and other polyhydroxyphenols, which are potent anti-thyroid compounds themselves.

Dietary Recommendations for Hypothyroidism

If you have hypothyroidism, or want to reduce your risk for hypothyroidism, you may want to consider the following strategies:

  1. Eliminate the most potent goitrogens from your diet (soy, millet, and rutabaga).
  2. Minimize or at least thoroughly cook all other goitrogenic foods listed in this article, such as cruciferous vegetables and sweet potatoes.
  3. If you choose to include significant amounts of goitrogenic foods in your diet, be sure to consume 150 micrograms per day of iodine.
  4. Be careful not to consume too much iodized salt or seaweed.

Coming next to my Food and Health Blog:

  • Month 2 of my ketogenic diet experiment (it’s going well!!)
  • Gluten and Mental Health

To be notified of new blog posts as they become available, click here↓

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REFERENCES

Almandoz JP and Gharib H.  Hypothyroidism: Etiology, Diagnosis, and Management. Med Clin N Am 2012; 96: 203–221.

Brahmbhatt SR et al.  Thyroid ultrasound is the best prevalence indicator for assessment of iodine deficiency disorders: a study in rural/tribal schoolchildren from Gujarat (Western India).  European Journal of Endocrinology 2000; 143: 37-46.

Brahmbhatt SR et al.  Study of biochemical prevalence indicators for the assessment of iodine deficiency disorders in adults at field conditions in Gujarat (India).  Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr 2001; 10(1): 51–57.

Cao Y et al.  Goitrogenic anions, thyroid-stimulating hormone, and thyroid hormone in infants.  Environ Health Perspect 2010; 118(9): 1332-1337.

Chandra AK et al.  Goitrogenic content of Indian cyanogenic plant foods and their in vitro anti-thyroidal activity.  Indian J Med Res 2004; 119(5): 180-5.

Chandra AK et al.  Role of bamboo-shoot in the pathogenesis of endemic goiter in Manipur, north East India.  Endocr Pract 2013; 19(1): 36-45.

Doerge DR and Sheehan DM. Goitrogenic and estrogenic activity of soy isoflavones.  Environ Health Perspect 2002; 110 (Suppl 3): 349-53.

Dormitzer PR et al.  Anomalously low endemic goiter prevalence among Efe pygmies.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 1989; 78: 527-531.

Ferreira AC et al.  Inhibition of thyroid type 1 deiodinase activity by flavonoids.  Food Chem Toxicol 2002; 40(7): 913-917.

Fruzza AG et al.  Unawareness of the effects of soy intake on the management of congenital hypothyroidism.  Pediatrics 2012; 130: e699–e702.

Gaitan E.  Goitrogens in food and water.  Ann Rev Nutr 1990; 10:21-39.

Grayson RR.  Factors influencing thyroidal I-131 uptake.  Am J Medicine 1960; 28(3): 397-415.

Greer MA.  Goitrogenic substances in food.  Am J Clin Nutr 1957; 5(4): 440-444.

Hakkinen SH et al.  Influence of domestic processing and storage on flavonol contents in berries.  J Agric Food Chem 2000; 48(7): 2960-2965.

Ioku K et al.  Various cooking methods and the flavonoid content in onion.  J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 2001; 47: 78-83.

Leung AM and Braverman LE.  Iodine-induced thyroid dysfunction.  Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes 2012; 19(5): 414-419.

Messina M and Redmond G.  Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: a review of the relevant literature.  Thyroid 2006; 16(3): 249-258.

[No authors listed]. Iodine. Monograph. Altern Med Rev 2010; 15(3): 273-278.

Sathyapalan T et al 2011. The effect of soy phytoestrogen supplementation on thyroid status and cardiovascular risk markers in patients with subclinical hypothyroidism: a randomized, double-blind crossover study.  J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96(5): 1442-9.

Shukla S and Gupta S.  Apigenin: A Promising Molecule for Cancer Prevention.  Pharm Res 2010; 27:962–978.

Teas J et al.  Seaweed and soy: companion foods in Asian cuisine and their effects on thyroid function in American women.  J Med Food 2007; 10(1): 90-100.

Vanderpas J. Nutritional epidemiology and thyroid hormone metabolism. Ann Rev Nutr 2006; 26:293–322.

Xiao, CW.  Health effects of soy protein and isoflavones in humans.  J Nutr 2008; 138: 1244S–1249S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • ruby

    Amounts vary among sources (1-13mg/day) but most agree that iodine intake among the Japanese universally exceeds what’s considered safe in the Western mainstream medicine. The Japanese don’t seem to suffer any ill effects. Why? Is there some synergistic mechanism at play here? Or are they just good at excreting excess dietary iodine?
    Thanks for the comprehensive post :-)

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Ruby
      Great question–the quote from the Leung article suggests that most people are able to tolerate excess iodine, but doesn’t explain why. I have just requested an article from the library that should help to clarify the issue. Once it’s arrived I’ll post what I hope will be a better answer…

      • Jenny

        Or maybe they NEED the extra iodine because most oriental vegetables belong to the crucifer family….

  • bjjcaveman

    Fantastic and thorough post! Bravo!

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Thanks, bjjc!

      • peggy

        i had 25 msg synthriod for 2 years mine is 4.7 and now i just get bloodwork and now go up for 7.0 and i am upset my hair already damage and very dry ( i never drink coffee or tea) and i am try to understand i want back to normal. how i get special food or diet food to normal . i know it no cure at all.but i need help please,

  • PC

    Thanks for this post Dr Ede! I used to eat rutabaga regularly and could never figure out why it was making me feel “off” after eating it. Interesting that querectin lowers thyroid – I started taking it recently for histamine issues and also noticed feeling a bit off afterwards.

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Glad you found it useful–I never knew about the quercetin connection either. Those plants…can never trust ‘em…

  • Carole Sampson

    Very interesting post, Georgia. Thanks!

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Thanks, Carole!

  • Marilyn

    Thank you! It’s good to have it all carefully spelled out. I’ve enjoyed your articles and was glad to find a new one today.

    I googled “tyrosine source.” Wiki offers the following list:

    “. . .found in many high-protein food products such as chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, bananas, and soy products.[4]”

    A list offered by the University of Maryland Medical Center reads: “. . .found in soy products, chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, lima beans …”

    I found the position of “soy” in the two lists to be interesting.

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Marilyn
      Glad you enjoyed the (much belated) post! Yes, tyrosine is an amino acid, so it is abundant in all foods that contain any significant amount of protein, including soy. Any person eating sufficient protein will be getting enough tyrosine, so tyrosine deficiency is only a problem in malnourished individuals, typically in developing countries. The combination of protein malnutrition and iodine deficiency increases the risk of hypothyroidism significantly, which is why goiter is so common in the Third World.

  • Monday_John

    This is of special interest to me because only a week ago my cardiologist suggested that although my heart is ok now I should get my TSH tested (because of weight loss).

  • Michael Eversberg II

    So with this in mind, should I abandon my tea drinking habits?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Michael
      That’s up to you; it is not a source of the strongest goitrogens, but if you have thyroid problems and you have already made other dietary adjustments without any benefit, it may be worth a try…it depends partly on how much tea you drink and how much you would miss it if you stopped drinking it. My guess is that tea is unlikely to be a major culprit on its own. You can also overcome some of the anti-thyroid effects by ensuring adequate iodine intake.

  • Terri Fites, MD

    Glad to see another (very good) post! Thank you! No need to reply–just saying “Enjoyed it and thanks.”

  • carparr

    I use the Himalayan Pink Salt purchased at Costco in its own grinder. Is this (and similar types) of salt have sufficient iodine?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi carparr
      Good question. I cannot find any evidence that Himalayan salt contains any iodine. The only chemical analysis I found lists the iodine content of Himalayan salt as “less than 0.1 g/kg.” This doesn’t tell us anything meaningful, because we need to know how much less than 0.1 g/kg. It could mean that it contains essentially no iodine, or it could mean that it contains as much as 0.09 g/kg, which would actually be a lot of iodine (0.09 g/kg = 90 g/g = 126 grams of iodine per 1/4 tsp).

  • Giancarlo

    Hallo Dr Ede
    What about HYPERTIROIDISM?

  • Christy

    Hello, hello!
    My thyroid level was 7.8 this past week and in the normal range six weeks ago. I have been a vegan less than a year. What should I eat to bring my thyroid levels down?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hello, hello, Christy!
      I cannot provide individual clinical advice on this site, but I would rephrase the question: what should you stop eating to bring your thyroid levels down? There are suggestions within the blog post, so take a look at your current diet and see if you are eating foods that can interfere with normal thyroid function.

    • Jeannine

      Gluten and soy. I’m vegan, my levels are perfect and always 0.8 – 1.5. Eat clean – whole foods, avoid vegan junk, get in exercise no matter what, be kind to yourself, meditate, etc.

  • abdul khaliq

    Dear my sis having high thyriod, kindly advise which food is better to use which is avoid. kindly help me on this

  • Vernon

    Its amazing how the importance of iodine has been so quieted. Iodine is found in every cell in your body and is very critical to a healthy thyroid. With the thyroid problems increasing, especially in woman, one would think that the studies on iodine would be the focus. Like the studies that prove that every person with a thyroid disease or disorder has an iodine deficiency!

    According to the World Health Organization’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, iodine deficiency is a public health problem in 54 countries. The CDC states that iodine deficiency is one of the four major deficiency diseases in the world and the easiest to correct.

    http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/?a_aid=528d5efe5749d

  • Sparticus

    excellent!

  • Thomas H. Imhoof

    Georgia, what do you think about Dr. David Brownstein’s recommendations?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Which recommendations, specifically?

  • Mayan

    My T3 is 1.74, T4 is 67.5, TSH is 74; still I didn’t took any medication. I need good suggestion.

  • itellu3times

    Very interesting column! Would you have any information on turmeric/curcumin?

  • Amanda

    Hello, I found this very intriguing. I suffer from this. I am always tired and can never lose weight. I am a vegetarian and just about all that I eat is on this list! I don’t want to go back to meat but how can I balance the two, eating from this list and having proper thyroid function? How long should the vegetables cook to reduce their negative effects? Can steaming produce these results? (I posted this comment in a different place on the blog)

    • Antonette Pakay

      Get off soy and uncooked goitrogenic vegetables, add eggs/egg whites, and fish. I was vegan for a year I ate soy and a wide variety of goitrogenic vegetables, I started having memory problems, and extreme fatigue. I had blood work done turns out I had hypothyroidism and Hoshimoto’s disease, everything I was eating caused my thyroid to stop working. I still do not eat any animal flesh, I eat salmon and occasional shrimp for protein.

  • Auxane

    Hello,
    It seems that fruit also has negative effects on metabolism (along with vegetables, grains/nuts/seeds). You mention apples, cranberries, citrus, blackberries, apricots… uh…. what CAN we eat then?
    Thanks.

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      My belief is that an all-meat, or at least a mostly-meat diet, is probably the healthiest possible diet for human beings. However, this can be a difficult and boring diet to follow, so if you would prefer some variety in your diet, you would have to figure out which plant foods bother you the least and include them if you’d like. Some people have reasonably good ability to process carbohydrates and do pretty well with fruits but others of us are not so lucky.

  • jade

    Hi Dr. Ede,, excellent info on your site! I’m so glad I found you!

    I am an almost all meat eater, also an endurance runner, and it works for me!

    Following 10 years on a strict vegetarian diet, (very high carb, grain heavy), I had an enlarged thyroid and went to a naturopathic doctor who told me to take liquid Iodine…(the yellow tincture you put on cuts), and put it all over the soles of my feet before bed. My body would absorb what it needed. When I woke up in the morning and my feet were still yellow and my body had not absorbed it, to stop applying it.

    I painted the soles of my feet each night and every morning it would be gone, for 4 nights…then on the fifth morning i woke up and the soles were all yellow, like I had just finished applying it, it was bizarre…i knew I didn’t need any more.

    Obviously I was very deficient though. Oh and my thyroid is back to normal size.

    I thought this might be interesting to your readers…

    All the best,
    and thanks

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      That is fascinating! Thanks for sharing this, Jade.

  • finished

    Thanks for the intense article, Dr Edes. Very thorough and eyeopening.

  • hazeema

    hello Dr
    i am taking medicine thyroxin sodium tablets 150mg for hypothyroid for last 2 years and the medication is for lifetime ,in such condition what should be my diet .can i recover compleatly from medication

  • Kelly

    If one has hypothyroidism, and they are primarily vegan, what else can they eat? I had breast cancer a year ago, and I have been encouraged to eat cruciferous veggies, because I am estrogen dominant. But according to your article, I can’t have these or many other vegetables. Can you explain? What then, since I’m primarily vegan, can I eat??

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Kelly

      Yes, a vegan diet can be challenging when it comes to avoiding goitrogenic foods, but so long as you minimize or thoroughly cook the major culprits (crucifers, millet, soy, etc.) and steer towards protein-rich plant foods not listed in the article (nuts, for example?), you can reduce risk to your thyroid gland. You may also find the series of blog posts on cancer helpful.

  • Tonya

    My son has Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism. He has had a normal T4 for about 1 year but we haven’t been able to get a normal TSH. His doctor has always asked me if he ate anything soy; I didn’t make the connect that he actually was eating soy until now. We are eliminiating it from his diet. i realized he has been eating a processed dish almost daily that contains soy. His last TSH level was 30. It ranges from 10-30 usually. Do you think soy could make his TSH run that high?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Tonya

      I suppose it is possible, but the only way to know for sure is to do exactly what you decided to do already–to eliminate the soy and see if it makes any difference.

  • Kerry

    My thyroid level started at .8. I went to the Dr. and they put me on medication. However, my thyroid level went even higher than before. It went to .43. I told my Dr. that I was having very bad thoughts, depression, lethargic etc. She said that she has never heard of anything like that in 25 years. She recommended that I continue my medication. I took it upon myself to stop my thyroid meds. I feel much better now, but I would like to change my diet. I need to bring my levels down or at least keep an eye on them. I came searching for foods to lower thyroid levels. Hopefully with your list of foods it will work. Thank you for your help!!

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Good luck, Kerry!

    • angela

      Kerry, I would suggest a doctor less full of crap, that is exactly what synthyroid did to me, take a look at Wilson’s syndrome, if it sounds relative then try adding 200 mcg of selenium to your daily supplements. Without selenium there is no point in taking iodine, and is useless. I was surprised not to see that iin the above article, maybe I missed it.

  • Jigo

    Hello
    I’m a teenage girl suffering from hypothyroidism. I’ve been putting weight since i remember. My metabolism is horrible. I’ve tried many many many diets. The low calorie diet, only vaggies & fruits diet, loads of exercising, starvation, no-sweets diet. And none of them helped me even a slight bit in getting rid of my obesity. Gosh, please, somebody help?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Jigo

      I’m sorry to hear about all the troubles you’ve been having! If you have never tried a healthy, whole foods, low-carbohydrate diet (as opposed to simply a no-sweets diet), you may want to consider it. Reducing total daily carbohydrates to less than 50 grams per day can be very helpful with weight control. You can read about low-carb diets under my diets tab, and I would also recommend http://www.dietdoctor.com , which is Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt’s excellent website about healthy low-carb diets for health and weight control. Good luck!

  • Wally Paul

    Hello Everyone!

    I am Wally Paul Calma from Philippines. My problem is my Potassium Level is always down. THIS IS ABOUT RELATION WITH hypokalemia to (Hyperthyroid) or Hypothyroid. so last DECEMBER 2013 i start the diarrhea then almost 3weeks the diarrhea to me so then the JANUARY 2014 my Legs is cramps and am cannot able to moved like paralysis muscle then when to go the Hospital my potassium is 2.1 the normal is 3.5 up so the doctor decisions is need to, potassium dextrose then yesterday am able to moved because the dextrose potassium so This Last February 21 2014 again am not able to move again because my potassium is down so am going to another doctor and health center the my potassium level is 2.81 again am confuse if what happened to me so the doctor say you need potassium supplement or drug this is Kalium Durule then the few days again the doctor say you need the test for Kidney, Urinary Bladder, 24hrs urine potassium, so my say doctor the kidney and urinary bladder is normal, then the past few days the doctor want to see the result of my 24hours urine potassium so the result is 327.60 MEQ/24h in 2800ml urine so the doctor is no knowledge about the electrolyte problem so he say is refer me to nephrologist the electrolyte and kidney specialist so last friday February 28, 2014 my check up so the doctor for nephrologist is ask me about what happened to me so i say am

    palpitation, Sudden weight loss, Nervousness, anxiety and irritability, Fatigue, muscle weakness or cramps, trembling my hands and finger, Difficulty sleeping and Behavior.

    then This March 1, 2014 my result in thyroid is FT3 24.51 pmol/L then FT4 90.86 pmol/L and TSH 0.05 ulU/ml.

    my schedule in m doctor this coming friday March 7, 2014 my result is now he see so as of now am now feeling well im not healthy now anytime my legs is attacking to cramps and i don’t want to paralysis my legs because the potassium down people here do you think? the hypothyroid is responsable for the hypokalemia?

  • http://www.abicana.com/shop2.htm Knut Holt

    You face a dilemma with the goitrogen plant foods. Those are the same foods that help to prevent cancer, so eliminte them is probably a bad choise for most of us.

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hello, Knut

      I am not aware of any experimental evidence that shows that vegetables of any kind have the power to prevent cancer. Please see my vegetables page (under the foods tab) or my vegetables video (link on the home page) for more details.

      • Marie

        I’m a bit concerned after reading this info. I have been a vegan for 4 years and last year, after having my son I developed a sluggish thyriod. Allthough I’ve battles with depression for most of my adult life. I may have had the condition all along. I so eat quite a lot of soy & my whole diet is vegtable based. I just thought thyriod problems were heredity as my mum & sister also suffer. There are also insulin dependent diabetics In my close family… I don’t think I could ever go back to meat but I’ve come of my medication as it was making me very aggressive with my children & I felt constantly stressed. The dr told me this was not the medication doing it but as soon as I stopped the those statins went away. Although I may now go back on meds as when I’m working outside I can’t feel my hands & they stop working! & I’m very sad most of the time. Any advice? Thanks

  • Kelly

    Hello, I have Hoshimoto’s and I am a 45 year old perimenopausal female. This past year I have gained 15+ pounds. I eat like a bird and no weight comes off. I have researched online for the perfect thyroid diet and still unsure what diet is best. I need a step by step program. Any suggestions?

    • Nicole-Lee Serfontein

      Google Marc Ryan & Amy Myers both dr’s in the USA they both deal with hashimoto’s ! As Hashimoto’s is a autoimmune disease they focus on that ! They both have excellent success rates with the diets they have you follow etc.

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Kelly
      While I cannot give personalized medical advice on this site, what I can say is that weight control is almost entirely about insulin regulation, which means that it is mostly about carbohydrate intake. I don’t know if there is a perfect thyroid diet, but I can say that, in addition to the thyroid diet advice I provided in the article above, if you have not tried reducing carbohydrate intake or at least eating a low glycemic index diet, I would highly recommend it. Please see my DIETS tab for more information about low-carb and low glycemic index diets, and also my “Carbohydrates” page (under the FOODS tab) for more information. Best of luck!

    • angela

      Hi Kelly there is a women who was able to do just that, I believe her approach was to eliminate glutten in the diet, there is also the paleo diet which may help. I would also consider trying a full body cleanse before attempting any diets or supplements, sometimes you need a fresh start. If you don’t have high blood pressure a simple try would be, in the morning before eating anything else, take a bottle of water, room temp or lukewarm and add two Tsp’s (not tablespoons) of SEA salt, NOT table salt. Give it a chance to run thru, usually about 30mins to an hour and it should flush out many of the toxins and such. People with Hashimoto’s have done well trying fulvic acid/humic… But my newest focus is good o’l fashion colloidal silver, it’s always good to have some on hand. I also believe parasites have been known to cause unexplainable weight gain, along with inability to lose it, a good candida or parasite detox are on the market ranging in price.

  • Poonam

    hello
    i am suffering from hypothyroidism and with not regular periods.what should i do to maintain the proper cycle of my body.i gained 20kgs..please suggest me something!

  • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

    Hello, Aquarius

    Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughtful comments here. I agree that we are told that vegetables are important in fighting against cancer and that we need their antioxidant properties to be healthy, but unfortunately there is no evidence for these claims, strange as that may sound. If you are curious to take a closer look at the science behind these claims, please see my “Vegetables” page (under the FOODS tab) or see my vegetable video, which is posted on the home page of my site.

    • Chris

      I was born with underactive thyroid (I’m a 62 year old female) and have been eating veggies all my life. However, I have thinning hair and the doctor says my thyroxin is the right dose, so what’s going wrong?

  • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

    Hello, Knut

    Thank you; I completely agree that cancer prevention data are misty (i like that word!). I also have no problem disagreeing with, or at least calling into question, the science behind the opinions of the experts. Please also see my blog post about cruciferous vegetables if you are curious about the science behind broccoli and cancer. There is a link to the article on my home page. I guess all I’m saying, in a nutshell, is I’m not convinced by the science and think the jury is definitely still out when it comes to veggies and cancer, unfortunately.

  • orangeman

    This is an except from the site you referenced:
    “scientists caution that while broccoli appears promising as an excellent
    food for preventing cancer, the results of such studies cannot be
    considered by themselves. The anti-cancer effects of any single food
    cannot be completely understood without looking at it as part of a
    bigger dietary picture. It is still unclear, for example, whether the
    phytochemicals in broccoli have benefit on their own or whether it is
    the vitamin C, beta carotene, folate, and other compounds, working
    together and in the right quantities, that might protect people against
    cancer. ”

    Dr Ede was right, the study is at best, inconclusive.

  • TS

    Looking at this list, I can see almost all good food is banned !!!! I have hypothyroidism and mine is 12.5, although I am under medication. Dr. Ede, could you please provide a list wherein I can see all that I can practically eat ?
    The reason is that I am more of a vegetarian (I eat chicken/fish, but almost only once in a week). If I do not eat green leafy vegetables (I can see flax seeds as well in the forbidden list :( ), what do I eat basically ? Also, almost everywhere low fat milk is not recommended due to artificially injected hormones content in it. I do not understand what to eat. Please post the list It would be really very helpful.

  • TS

    Also, I am only 26 ! :(

  • Jeannine

    Why is there so much focus about the symptom ‘hypothyroidism’ rather than the actual real issue? 99% of hypothyroidism is caused by an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s. It’s not all cookie cutter! But I do know most of the time it’s triggered by stress. Studies and information should be focused more on the immune aspect of this disease. I eat a plant based diet and have reduced my medication AND lost 80lbs. I don’t supplement with iodine or eat any sea vegetables. Sometime iodine can is like adding FUEL TO THE FIRE for hypothyroidism. I eat a lot of the vegetables above.

    • angela

      Hashimoto’s is considered to be an uncurable disease, it also is not always present with individuals with thyroid problems. If you suffer from thyroid issues and things like synthyroid and iodine supplementing, magnesium, and vitamin D3 or adrenal disease are things you have fixated on, and none of them helped you may want to look into Wilson’s syndrome not to be confused with Wilson’s disease. Also the symptoms of hypothyroidism mimic many other illnesses, not to mention if you’ve gone without treatment, could have caused more issues such as fibremyalgia, hyperglycemia, diabetes or insulin resistance, chronic fatigue syndrom, IBS… It is so complicated trying to figure out what exactly is wrong, and the second you walk thru your doctors office they already wrote a prescription. Always seek alternatives once you can pinpoint what is causing your body issues.

  • angela

    You forgot to mention strawberries and peaches, I believe there are a lot more negatively affecting foods you left out. Some which cause the thyroid to become inflamed or inflammation over your body. It seems to be my conclusion that most doctors do not wish to help people cure hypothyroidism because that would mean they won’t be purchasing their lifelong sentence or prescriptions such as synthyroid. Think about it, all doctors seem to do is put a temporary fixer into play, never once considering the other problems these prescriptions might cause. I know my father was on a ton of meds for type 2 diabetes, he past away last Tuesday, from pneumonia, his kidneys were failing him, his lungs collapsing. Isht if you had any clue how responsible he was about his medications one would think he should of lived 100yrs, certainly making it to 70, but that’s not the case and you know what, it’s because you can’t rely on doctors today. People have to be smart and willing to read for themselves.

    • frogandprincess

      TOTALLY AGREE!

  • TexasOlTimer

    I spent the first 67 years of my life never having to worry about gaining weight. I’m short, wore a size 10 and in spite of having myasthenia gravis since my early 40s, got along well with an active (although interspersed with a lot of rest) life. Then I started gaining weight and for the first time in my life tried diets for a year without success. Four years ago a hypothyroid test resulted in the answer. The synthetic forms of thyroid did not help and I’m on natural thyroid. The weight gain has not gone away although many of the other symptoms did.

    I eat foods as all natural and organic as possible. I cook from scratch and avoid foods with chemicals. I’m allergic to corn, cheese and have found that I now need to avoid gluten. Leaving these out of the diet along with the foods recommended not to eat, staying within the calorie count, and exercising as much as possible, the weight only goes up. I take vitamins to help with foods that I cannot chew or swallow due to the weakened jaw and tongue muscles.

    Unfortunately medicare does not cover new clothes and the closet full of size 10 are hanging useless as I have to purchase larger and larger sizes. The extra weight means the muscles weaken more easily, creating a greater problem for exercising. It’s basically a catch-22 situation. Have you any suggestions?

  • viswanath

    hello
    i am taking medicine for hypothyroid from one month i am taking 137.5mg of thyroxin sodium tablets how long i have to use these tablets is it for life time or for a some period please let me know and what diet i have to follow please let me know

  • Jan

    Thank you very much for this very informative article concerning goitrogens. I’ve done a bit of research concerning thyroid function relating to vegetables and your article has been by far the most interesting, humorous and helpful.

  • http://www.TheReFeatheredNest.com/ Kim Wilson Steadman

    Just discovering your site as I am on a mission to not be bound by a drug, when the drug isn’t consistently helping. I found a very concise “what you should eat” list to boost your thyroid. It will be helpful for me for shopping at the market until I learn the food list by heart. Hope it helps someone else too. http://www.lowthyroiddiet.com/foods-to-eat.htm