Don't get it twisted!
Updated: Mar 15, 2018
Myths & Legends about thyroid health.
Remember that game you played as a kid called telephone? Where you all sit in a circle, you start with a phrase & whisper it in your neighbors ear? By the time it gets back to the beginning, its a completely different phrase??? Well, that's the same thing that happens when people misinterpret or misunderstand medical studies or information.
Let's talk about some of the common urban legends when it comes to thyroid health.
Myth #1: Only women get hypothyroidism.
It’s true that more women than men get thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism. That’s because it’s an autoimmune disease, which is more common in women thanks to the presence of estrogen. But men can have thyroid problems, too. In fact, the symptoms men experience from an underactive thyroid include hair loss, constipation, fatigue, loss of sex drive, and sore muscles, among others.
Myth #2: My thyroid is making me fat!
I hear this every day! Your poor thyroid may be a convenient scapegoat for noticeable weight gain; after all, it controls your metabolism, which affects how many calories you burn throughout the day — an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) means a slower metabolism, and therefore a slower rate at which your body can convert food into energy. But in reality, a slow metabolism is pretty rare. While there a minority of patients that will notice a significant weight gain with untreated hypothyroidism (and weight loss with treatment), most people have to address all the other factors that contribute to weight even when the thyroid is off.
Symptoms other than weight gain that may signal an issue with your thyroid: fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and constipation, sleeplessness, or eczema, acne, etc etc etc.
Myth #3: Goitrogens are terrible for Hashimoto’s, so now I can't eat broccoli.
Truth: Not those delicious and healthy veggies! Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and cauliflower have gotten a bad rap due to some old and outdated patterns in thyroid disease. Goitrogen is a word that was used in the 1950's to describe a substance that causes the formation of a goiter, aka- enlarged thyroid gland. It’s a pretty deceiving word, and can mean a variety of different things for different substances.
In relation to cruciferous vegetables, they are identified as "goitrogenic" because they have the potential to block iodine absorption.
This was a concern in the 1950's, as then, the primary reason for hypothyroidism was due to iodine deficiency, an issue in the 50s.... Fast forward to now! Much effort has been made to add iodine to the salt supplies of most industrialized countries, Hashimoto's has become the primary reason for hypothyroidism, responsible for 90-97% of cases of hypothyroidism in the United States. Iodine deficiency is not wide spread in people with Hashimoto's, sooooo, eating cruciferous veggies (unless a person is sensitive to them) is perfectly healthy for people with Hashimoto's and won't impact thyroid function.
If a person does have hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency, he/she can still enjoy crucifers as long as they are cooked or fermented. Cooking/fermenting will break down the iodine blocking content.
*There is one goitrogen to always avoid with Hashimoto's, and that is soy.
Myth #4: I can treat my thryoid with Iodine.
Like we said above, It’s true, your thyroid to function, so getting enough of it is key to a working gland. Radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy is sometimes used to treat overactive thyroid disorders or thyroid cancer. In reality, most people get adequate amounts of iodine just in their daily diets. Overdoing it on the iodine could actually cause more thyroid problems, like producing too much thyroid hormone in an attempt to process all the extra iodine. So don’t go the DIY route and take iodine supplements on your own without consulting with your doctor first.
Myth #5: I can still eat gluten, my sensitivity tests said that I was not reactive.
Gluten is a substance found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is a staple of the Standard American Diet (also Canada, Europe and Australia). It's found in breads, cakes, pastries and most processed foods. People with Hashimoto's are more likely to have Celiac disease. However, it's not just Celiac disease.
Leading health experts have proven that non-Celiac gluten sensitivity is one of the biggest triggers in Hashimoto's.
Lab testing can be helpful, especially if you get the right kind of testing, (Check my last 2 blogs for testing info) but unfortunately testing technology is not perfect. More often then not, false negatives can be seen for common reactive foods like gluten, dairy and soy. The best test for figuring out if you are sensitive to gluten is doing an elimination diet, when you avoid gluten for 2-3 weeks, then try it again to see if you react to it.
Going gluten free can help alleviate many symptoms associated with Hashimoto's, such as fatigue, hair loss, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, pain, acid reflux, weight gain and many others, as well as can reduce the autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland.
Going gluten free is one of the first things I recommend to not only people with Hashimoto's but everyone. Eventually you will develop a consumption intolerance that will lead to leaky gut, leaky brain and hence cause autoimmune reactions in everyone.
Myth #6: I have a lump on my neck! I have thyroid cancer!
Although a lump on your neck could signal an enlarged thyroid or thyroid cancer, that’s not always the case. It could be a swollen lymph node, which happens when you have a cold or a sore throat. Or it could be an enlarged cyst. Have your doctor check it out to be 100 percent sure.
Myth #7: Almonds are always healthy. I'm gonna eat them daily!
A lot of folks turn to almonds as a sub to eating grains. Almonds are tasty and versatile, they can be made into Paleo breads, used as a substitute for bread crumbs and can be eaten as snacks.
Unfortunately many people can be sensitive to almonds. After gluten, dairy and soy, almonds are one of the top reactive foods for people with Hashimoto’s. : ( People often develop new food sensitivities because they have not healed their guts & run a greater risk of becoming sensitive to almonds if you eat them over and over again, day after day. If you don’t react to them now, rotate them with other foods, eating them every 3-4 days.
Food rotation is the key to not developing food sensitives!
Myth #8: The best source of Selenium is from eating Brazil nuts
Selenium content in Brazil nuts can vary ten fold, depending on where the Brazil nuts were grown. This means that a Brazil nut can contain anywhere from 55 mcg to 550 mcg of Selenium. Unless your Brazil nuts were tested for Selenium content, you may be unknowingly overdosing or under-dosing yourself. Also, many people with Hashimoto's may be sensitive to nuts! Selenium methionine in supplement form, at a dose of 200 mcg has been clinically tested to show a 50% reduction in thyroid antibodies, over the course of three months. Some clinicians may recommend a dose as high as 400 mcg per day. I've had great results with Pure Encapsulations brand Selenium.
Myth #9: Raw dairy is fine for Hashimoto's, only pasteurized dairy is bad.
If you've already been sensitized to the dairy proteins casein or whey from drinking conventional milk, consuming raw dairy, organic dairy, lactose free milk, or goat's milk may still be a problem. Maybe if you drank raw dairy your whole life, you may have not developed a sensitivity, but cow's milk is difficult to digest for most adults & especially with Hashimoto's. Goat’s milk is highly reactive as well for those with cow milk sensitivity. Camel milk, might be well tolerated by people with Hashimoto's because the proteins are different enough not to cross react.
Symptoms like nasal congestion, constipation, acid reflux, joint pain and thyroid antibodies can improve by going dairy free.
Myth #10: Low carb eating is bad for people with thyroid issues.
Most people with autoimmune disease and Hashimoto's feel amazing on a ketogenic diet (a low carb diet where the body breaks down fats for fuel, instead of relying on carbohydrates). If you're still feeling tired on a diet that is mostly comprised of fats and proteins, this could be due to low stomach acid, which leads to improper protein digestion. Most people with Hashimoto's have been found to have low stomach acid/no stomach acid, and this impairs our ability to digest protein foods. Improper protein digestion may make us tired because digestion takes a lot of energy, and people who are low in stomach acid probably find themselves gravitating towards carbs for energy, since carbs do not need as much digestive juice as proteins for proper digestion.
Increased intake of proteins coupled with a lack of carbohydrates may results in feeling more tired as a result of protein being a bigger burden, as well as we may have a harder time getting nutrients for energy from our foods. Try starting your day with a green smoothie (to help along digestion, lowering the burden), increasing your veggie intake and taking the protein digestive enzyme Betaine with Pepsin, before you determine if low carb is a good choice for you or not. Many people have found that taking this supplement helped with fatigue.
Myth #11: Diet can heal everything!
If you do have a thyroid disease, treating it is more complicated than swapping your french fries for an apple. Obviously, making more healthful food choices will impact your thyroid, but it can’t be treated with diet alone.
If you’ve been on a clean diet for 3 months and not seeing results or getting stuck, you likely have unwanted tenants living inside of you and causing inflammation within your gut.
This gut infection can stand in the way of you healing. Gut infections lead to intestinal permeability, one of the main triggers of Hashimoto's.
Most infections require targeted treatments such as herbs, antibiotics, antifungals or antiprotozoal agents in order to be eradicated. Otherwise, the person can be sensitive to whatever foods he/or she is eating.
If you're someone that's plateaued in your healing, be sure to get tested for a gut infections ASAP, so you don’t run the risk of losing more foods. The tests I recommend include:
Bacterial Overgrowth Breath Test-Genova KIT for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
GI Effects Gastrointestinal Function Comprehensive Profile (One day collection)-METAMETRIX KIT for bacterial/fungal infections
GI Pathogen Screen with H. pylori Antigen-BioHealth KIT for parasitic infections/H Pylori.
Myth #12 I no longer have my thyroid, there's nothing I can do.
1- Even if you lost your thyroid, the meds you are taking depend on your gut and your liver for proper break-down and absorption.
2- If you are only on synthetic T4 (like Synthroid), your body still depends on the health of your liver to convert the inactive T4 hormone to the active T3 hormone utilized by your cells.
3- If you have/had Hashimoto’s Disease, you have an autoimmune condition. Sooooo, removing the thyroid isn't going to stop this mutation. That's why 50% of people with Hashi’s develop other, often far worse, autoimmune conditions like MS, fibromyalgia, lupus, RA and so many more (it’s a pandemic now).
With all three points, nutritional changes can make a huge difference. Starting with cleaning up your gut and liver to maximize the thyroid medication utilization to preventing other autoimmune diseases from developing.
It’s true that once you have Hashimoto's, you have it forever. However, you can get to a place of remission, be symptom-free and live a full and happy life.
Thanks for spending some time expanding your mind today!
Brianna, Holistic Healing Fit Club