It is estimated that 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disease. Perhaps even more troubling, more than 60 percent of those people are completely unaware of their condition!
This means that millions of people (possibly even you) are living with the symptoms of a thyroid disorder and either have no idea what’s wrong… or they have learned to live with fatigue, aches pains, and digestive issues as if they are “normal”.
The most common types of thyroid illness are Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, goiter and thyroid nodules. And while prescription medications can certainly mask the symptoms, the thyroid diet is one of the best approaches for treatment and a permanent cure.
The advantage of a thyroid diet is that it can be helpful for any type of thyroid disorder. There’s no need for a specific protocol hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
No matter what type of thyroid condition you may have, the thyroid diet helps to normalize your entire system, helping to eliminate not only the symptoms of the disease but also the cause!
What is the Thyroid and How Does it Affect Your Health?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped, ductless gland that sits at the base of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. This gland is responsible for secreting hormones that regulate growth and development through the rate of metabolism.
And while this small gland might not look like much, the hormones it secretes affect almost every system and cell in your body. If your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, neither will you.
A healthy thyroid gland releases hormones called T3 (liothyronine) and T4 (levothyroxine) to help regulate your metabolism, balance energy levels, maintain a healthy weight and dictate how fast or slow your brain, heart, muscles and liver work.
Too little thyroid hormone in your blood (hypothyroidism) and everything slows down. You may notice flagging energy, unexpected weight gain and very dry skin.
If your thyroid is producing too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), everything in your body speeds up. You may notice jitteriness, sudden weight loss, loss of strength and hair loss.
The thyroid doesn’t work on its own. The hormonal output of your thyroid is adjusted by a gland in your brain called the pituitary. In turn, another part of your brain, called the hypothalamus, sends information to the pituitary gland.
As you can see, there is a chain of command at work. And any one of these systems can be disrupted by environmental toxins, stress, poor diet and (especially) gut issues.
What Harms Our Thyroid?
Unfortunately, there are many things that can disrupt thyroid function.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is a condition that often occurs as a result of chronic inflammation in the gut, whether it is due to medications, poor diet, digestive disease or all three.
Chronic inflammation in the gut causes the intestinal lining to become more porous than it should be, allowing bits of undigested food, yeast, and other toxins to enter your bloodstream. This activates the immune system and can lead to autoimmune illness, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s and chronic fatigue.1 It is also clearly correlated with thyroid disease.
A study done on children living in a New Delhi neighborhood with an average water fluoride level of 4.37 ppm showed evidence of clinical hypothyroidism directly attributed to the fluoride. They also found borderline low free T3 levels among all children exposed to fluoridated water.2
In addition to avoiding fluoridated water, also be sure to avoid fluoridated toothpaste, processed foods, pesticides, pans made with Teflon (PFOA/PFTE) as well as foods naturally high in fluoride, including green and black teas.3
Most soy produced in the United States and Canada is genetically modified. It also contains a pesticide called glyphosate that disrupts the body’s ability to detoxify endocrine-disrupting chemicals and carcinogens. A study published in the journal, Toxicology, posits that those who eat GMOs may be more susceptible to the development of chronic disease, including thyroid disease. Another concern is that soy may have an adverse effect on the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone.5
Celiac disease is closely associated with the development of thyroid disease. And even those without celiac disease can have a negative reaction to gluten that triggers thyroid disease.
The molecular structure of gliadin (a protein found in gluten) closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. If you have a leaky gut, gliadin is more likely to enter your bloodstream, where it’s flagged for destruction. Due to the molecular similarities, the antibodies attacking gliadin will also attack your thyroid tissue.
If you have autoimmune thyroid disease and you eat foods that contain gluten, your immune system will continue to attack your thyroid.6
There is a protein called A1 casein found in cow’s milk. This protein can cause leaky gut syndrome, thereby increasing inflammation in the thyroid gland and impeding its function. Unfortunately, this protein is also in goat’s and sheep’s milk, so these should be avoided, as well. The only exception for dairy may be camel milk, otherwise, opt for healthy dairy-free milks like unprocessed coconut milk.
These are chemicals believed to cause a goiter by acting directly on the thyroid gland as well as altering the thyroid’s regulatory mechanisms, peripheral metabolism and release of thyroid hormones.
There are many drugs that are well known goitrogens. If you are taking any prescription medication, do a search to find out if the medication has known effects on the thyroid. If so, seek other alternatives or ways to stop taking medications entirely.
Certain healthy foods (including cruciferous veggies, sweet potatoes and strawberries, to name a few) also contain goitrogens. However, these may not be problematic unless a deficiency in iodine or selenium is present.7 What’s more, cooking foods that contain goitrogens may help to decrease their goitrogenic effect.
The pesticides widely used on conventional produce are well known goitrogens. Likewise, the chemical perchlorate – a component of rocket fuel, which has contaminated groundwater across the United States – interferes with the thyroid’s ability to uptake iodine. This prevents the thyroid from making adequate amounts of hormones that regulate metabolism.
Oxalates are chemical compounds found in many green vegetables and other foods that are considered healthy. Your body also produces them as a waste product.
If your digestive tract does not contain enough healthy bacteria to break down oxalates before they can reach other parts of your body, you may be at increased risk of inflammatory, allergic and autoimmune conditions.
Viral infections are frequently cited as a factor in subacute thyroiditis and autoimmune thyroid diseases.
These include the “Big Three”:
1. Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) – The cause of mononucleosis, this virus is also commonly linked with the development of Hashimoto’s disease. A 2015 Polish study found the Epstein-Barr virus in the thyroid cells of 80 percent of people with Hashimoto’s and 63 percent of people with Graves’. Control subjects did not have EBV present in their thyroid cells.8
2. Yersinia Enterocolitica – This bacterium is found in contaminated food and water. If your gut is healthy, your system will fight off the bacterium and you will only experience the symptoms of mild food poisoning or a “stomach bug”. However, in some cases, Yersinia takes hold in the gut. This can persist without GI symptoms, while triggering Hashimoto’s disease.
3. Helicobacter Pylori – This opportunistic bacterium is a known contributor to stomach ulcers. It has also been linked with the development of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Low Stomach Acid
Low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) increases intestinal permeability, inflammation, and infection. Studies show a strong link between low stomach acid and autoimmune thyroid disease.
Studies show that mold exposure triggers inflammation, which can lead to the development of autoimmune disease. Exposure to Aspergillus is directly associated with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.9
Healing the Thyroid Naturally…
If you have noticed any of the symptoms listed in the introduction to this article, there is a chance they are caused by an over- or under-active thyroid gland. Of course the first step is to get a proper diagnosis… and to avoid the foods, chemicals and risk factors listed above.
And please stay tuned for my next article in the US Wellness Meats newsletter… where I will discuss healing the thyroid naturally with a sound nutrition plan that provides ample nutrients and gut-healing support.
Ed Note: Kelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and much more.
- Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, February 2012, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 71–78
- E. A. Idris and R. Wiharddza, “Adverse effects of fluoride towards thyroid hormone metabolism,” Padjadjaran Journal of Dentistry, vol. 20, pp. 34–42, 2008.
- Fluoride Action Network: Fluoride Content of Tea. http://fluoridealert.org/studies/tea02/
- Samsel, Anthony, Seneff, Stephanie. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdisciplinary Toxicology. 2013 Dec; 6(4): 159-184.
- Messina M, 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):249-58.
- KUČERA, P NOVÁKOVÁ, et al. Gliadin, endomysial and thyroid antibodies in patients with latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA). Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 2003 Jul; 133(1): 139–143.
- What About The Goitrogens in Cruciferous Veggies? The Paleo Mom. https://www.thepaleomom.com/teaser-excerpt-from-the-paleo-approach-what-about-the-goitrogens-in-cruciferous-veggies/
- Janegova A, Janega P, Rychly B, Kuracinova K, Babal P. The role of Epstein-Barr virus infection in the development of autoimmune thyroid diseases. Endokrynol Pol. 2015;66(2):132-6.
- Winzelberg GG, Gore J, Yu D, Vagenakis AG, Braverman LE. Aspergillus flavus as a cause of thyroiditis in an immunosuppressed host. Johns Hopkins Med J. 1979;144(3):90-3.