If you know someone with a thyroid disease, you most likely saw them reject certain foods even when it’s a formal dinner. If you have hypothyroidism or thyroid enlargement, your endocrinologist would have given you a food chart with an underline on foods to be avoided or limited.
Yes, foods can alter your thyroid hormone production and can in fact lead to a condition called goitre (enlargement of thyroid glands). Foods that cause this condition are called goitrogenic foods.
What is Goitre?
Goitre is a condition characterized by a swollen neck. It is caused due to enlargement of thyroid glands. Some goitres do not show significant swelling of the neck and do not manifest in the form of symptoms. These are called simple nontoxic goitres. These are normally seen in people above the age of 40 yrs., smokers, women, and people with a family history of goitres. This needs restricting foods that excite the goitre anyway.
Some goitres that do cause swelling in the neck and can at times cause breathing problems, a feeling of tightness in the throat, difficulty swallowing, and a change in voice. Goitres are caused due to autoimmune diseases, iodine deficiency, hypothyroidism, hormonal changes, and use of certain medications.
Goitre occurs in two types:
- Diffuse Goitre (swelling involving the entire thyroid gland)
- Nodular Goitre (consisting of lumps, can occur singly or in multiple numbers)
What are Goitrogenic foods?
Known as the worst enemies to the thyroid glands, goitrogenic foods are foods that cause impairment of the thyroid glands. These foods contain substances called goitrogens, which prevent the absorption of iodine. Since iodine is needed to synthesize thyroid hormones, lack of iodine absorption leads to reduced production of thyroid glands and in turn goitre. Goitre is the response of the thyroid gland that is stimulated by an effort to do its job better.
For a healthy function of thyroid glands, some foods can be consumed in limited quantities. Goitrogenic foods fall under this category – they actually act like an antithyroid drug, disabling healthy thyroid function. Below are some goitrogenic foods that can cause symptoms such as fatigue, cold sensitivity, and weight gain, among others.
A few foods that are known to be Goitrogenic
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- Green tea
Though many of these foods are very healthy, have antioxidants and anti-cancerous properties, consuming them in higher quantities can lead to a reduction in the levels of thyroid hormones. Here are some substances that are also known to be goitrogenic foods causing hormonal disorders.
Gluten is a potential goitrogenic food. In the case of autoimmune hypothyroidism, reducing the consumption of barley, wheat, and rye is suggested. A lot of processed foods have these substances as well so it is best to scale back on them. Pasta, bread, beer, cereals, and other baked goods need to be avoided in large amounts in order to keep such endocrine diseases under control.
Humble Cabbage, Isothiocyanates, & its Cruciferous friends
Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cabbage, broccoli, and kale typically have isothiocyanates. Though isothiocyanates have a lot of benefits including protecting our cells, they do have goitrogenic properties that can decrease the level of thyroid hormones within a few days.
These veggies are sometimes food for cattle and the goitrogens can be passed on to us via their milk products as well. These can irritate your hypothyroidism and ought to be consumed in moderation.
Other foods that contain “potentially goitrogenic” compounds in small quantities are found in certain starchy vegetables and fruits, nuts, and millets. For instance, spinach, pine nuts, millets, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, peaches, sweet potatoes, sorghum, strawberries, and sweet corn can be bad for you if you have goitre. However, highly processed foods and millets should be avoided completely.
Limiting/Avoiding – What to do?
Most people go for an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to most goitrogenic foods. However, they are largely nutritious which means you are denying your body foods that have beneficial micronutrients that support skeletal, immune, digestive, and cardiovascular function. Limiting their intake can reduce the harmful effects.
There is even a possibility of eliminating goitrogens by prepping foods a certain way that can help break the goitrogenic compounds down. Simply cooking, fermenting, or steaming those helps in some ways. Rotating these foods with other non-goitrogenic ones can also ensure you get a richly varied diet. It’s best to get a clear picture by visiting an endocrinologist for a hormone balancing diet.
What you should eat
Seafood: Think shrimp, fish, and seaweed. They can amp up the iodine.
Eggs: Eggs, in entirety are good, considering the selenium and iodine present in the yolk. The whites bear good amounts of protein.
Meats: Beef, chicken, lamb, are good places to start.
Veggies: Barring those mentioned above, the remaining vegetables are good to go.
Fruits: Fruits such as bananas, oranges, berries, tomatoes get the green signal.
Gluten-free grains and seeds: Rice, quinoa, buckwheat, chia seeds and flaxseed will work well in your hormone balancing diet plan.
Dairy: Nothing to worry about here (mostly). Include cheese, butter, milk, yogurt, etc.
Beverages: Most non-caffeinated beverages and water suit the condition.
The Bottom Line
Eating right with a diet that has whole foods inclusive of fruits, lean meats, and vegetables can be a natural treatment for hormone imbalance. It helps reduce symptoms and manage weight better, thereby improving thyroid function.