{News and Views} Thyroid health: Part Two

I wanted to continue last week’s post to give you an idea of what we all face as potential risks to our thyroid health. There are many factors that can cause the thyroid to become imbalanced. Today, I would like to talk about the environmental factors that can affect your thyroid health.

Environmental Factors

  • Exposure to radiation
  • Living in the mid western “goiter belt” where soil iodine levels are low
  • Exposure to certain chemicals (I will elaborate in a moment)
  • Excessive exposure to metals such as mercury and toxins such as estrogen’s, pesticides, PCBs and dioxin
  • Fluoridated water or dental treatments with fluoride
  • Heavy consumption of soy and goitrogenic foods

Reducing your exposure to these toxins, as well as living a healthy lifestyle will help reduce your risk of thyroid dysfunction.

What is goitrogens?

Goitrogens are foods and chemicals that suppress the thyroid by preventing it from getting the iodine it needs to function properly. Goitrogens include the following:

  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • brussel sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • garden cress
  • kale
  • kohlrabi
  • mustard
  • mustard greens
  • radishes
  • rutabagas
  • soy
  • soy milk
  • soybean oil
  • soy lecithin
  • soy anything
  • tempeh
  • tofu
  • turnips

Also included in the goitrogen category, even if mildly, are:

  • bamboo shoots
  • millet
  • peaches
  • peanuts
  • pears
  • pine nuts
  • radishes
  • spinach
  • strawberries
  • sweet potatoes

Foods that have a goitrogenic effect can be cooked to remove the risk to the thyroid, with the exception of soy. Cooking and fermenting soy do not eliminate goitrogenic effect on the thyroid. Consume other foods in moderation and make sure to cook them.

Goitrogenic chemicals:

  • Amiodarone
  • Carbamazepine
  • Iopanoic acid
  • Lithium
  • Phenobarbitone
  • Phenytoin
  • Potassium perchlorate
  • Propylthiouracil
  • Rifampin
  • Sulfadimethoxine
  • SSRI’s like Celexa and others
  • Fluoride, chlorine and bromides

This list from Stop the thyroid madness

Other factors that affect thyroid health

The other foods that have consequences for your thyroid are sugar, flour and other simple carbohydrates. Your body breaks down simple carbs into sugar. A healthy thyroid depends on keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range and a healthy blood sugar level depends on a functioning thyroid. Over consumption of simple carbohydrates causes the blood sugar levels to spike.

“When you eat too many carbs, the pancreas secretes insulin to move excess glucose from the blood into the cells where glucose is used to produce energy. But overtime, the cells lose the ability to respond to insulin…the pancreas responds by pumping out even more insulin… in an effort to get glucose into the cells, and this eventually causes insulin resistance.” Chris Kresser

So, eating complex carbs and avoiding simple carbs is good for anyone, but is especially important if you are concerned with your thyroid health.
Exercise is an important part of anyone’s health plan, but if you have trouble with your thyroid or you blood sugar levels it is  really important.

“Exercise is probably the best medicine on the market to treat insulin resistance….Our studies show that low intensity prolonged exercise –such as a daily brisk walk of 45 minutes to an hour–will substantially reduce insulin levels.”, according to Jean-Pierre Despres PhD., a professor of Medicine and Physical Education and Director of Lipid Research Center at Laval university hospital in Quebec.

These are some of the environmental and lifestyle factors that can affect all aspects of our health but especially for healthy thyroid function. It is important to recognize these factors so you can make informed choices if you suspect thyroid problems.

I wish you all good health and happiness.

This article is the opinion of the author and not meant to be taken as medical advice.

{Stevia Photo} by twig and leaf botanicals

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  1. This is great information- my sister found out last winter she has nodules on her thyroid and was suppposed to go back for a biopsy, which she still hasn’t scheduled- she has a chronic cough (which she claims is allergies) and is very thin – getting her to take this seriously and to take action has been making the rest of us crazy – I am linking her to your info and links – the dr (or I should say physician’s asst since that is who she sees) told her she may have damaged her thyroid by overexercise.

  2. Hi Tara
    I am doing a lot of research on the subject (by no means am I an expert) due to a recent discovery that my own thyroid is not functioning properly.
    From what I have read, if you have had your thyroid removed, these things don’t affect you. Since the thyroid is gone, goitrogens have no affect. Goiter being the end result of over consumption and exposure. Other imbalances occur because of these foods/chemicals as well. Since there is no thyroid to have an adverse reaction is not something most sites say you should worry about. Now that said I don’t know if they have any adverse reactions to medicine that you might be taking and that is something a doctor would need to answer.
    I hope this helps.

    • Thanks, Beth. I was actually asking for a friend. That makes sense and unfortunately having no thyroid makes things even more complicated. For those with thyroid functioning issues, someone told me about a well-known physician, Dr. David Brownstein, who has written books on Thyroid and Iodine, http://www.davidbrownstein.com Those resources may be helpful to people.

      • CORRECTION: http://www.drbrownstein.com – sorry!

        • Thanks Tara
          I did run across him in my research. Another great person to check out is Mary Shomon. I read a couple of her books and several of her articles over the past couple weeks. Here is a link to her bio: http://thyroid.about.com/bio/Mary-Shomon-350.htm
          And the link in the article to stop the thyroid madness will take you to a good site as well.
          If you run across more, please put them up. This would be a great place to give resources for folks to check out after they read the article. It is such a complex subject and there is so much information. I really had to stream line things and that’s with two separate articles.
          Here’s to being well

  3. You sound very experienced in this and the article was very informative. One question: Should a person who has had their thyroid removed still need to be concerned about these foods and chemicals with goitrogenic properties? Thank you.