I think most people who suffer from thyroid disorders know about goitrogenic foods and how they can be bad for the thyroid. I know that it was one of the first things I learned when I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism years ago.
I was always told that if you cooked these types of vegetables, then it wasn’t a big deal to eat them, as the cooking process neutralized the goitrogenic properties. While the cooking process does reduce these properties, it does not completely eliminate them, so if you’re one of the people who have noticeable reactions to these foods, then cooking may or may not improve that.
It’s strange, but once I started paying closer attention to my body, I began to notice a difference in how I felt when I consume foods like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Whenever I eat these foods (both fresh and cooked), I get this tense, tight feeling across my throat, like a constricting of the airways. It ranged from a slight sensation to something rather strong and uncomfortable.
For the longest time, I thought I was just imagining things, until I was talking to one of my friends about it and she said that that feeling is actually quite common. Another lesson that once we start paying attention to our bodies and listening to what it has to say, there will be certain cues that we’ll start noticing. It is our duty to pay attention to these cues.
Once I did start paying attention, it was obvious that my body was reacting to these foods. And, it was important that I take note of these reactions.
I began experimenting with goitrogenic foods. I tested both raw and cooked versions and then noted any effects after consuming them. The tightness / swelling persisted, so I made a decision to eliminate these foods from my diet for a time. The discomfort was not worth it.
Around the same time that I eliminated these foods, I started full force on healing my gut and getting my Hashimoto’s (which I had recently been diagnosed with) under control. While I know my gut is not completely healed, I do know I have made large strides in healing. You can read about my healing journey here.
After about a year of avoiding these foods, I decided to test them again and see what my reactions were.
Lo and behold, I had no reaction!
I was thrilled, as most of my favorite veggies are on the list below. I was careful to reintroduce them slowly and pay attention to any symptoms, but it’s been a year or so now and things are great. I eat a lot of these veggies every week (both raw and cooked) and do not experience that same tightness I did before.
The key here is that we are all different.
What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.
While I have spoken to many people who experienced the same reactions I did, there are others who have thyroid conditions who never had any of these issues. I advise experimenting, like I did, and see what you find.
Considering how many vegetables are on this list, it would be a shame to eliminate them if you don’t have any reactions. But, for those who do have reactions, eliminating them, even for a short period of time, can make life a lot more comfortable!
IMPORTANT NOTE: I have received a lot of comments and emails about how everyone needs to supplement iodine, especially those with thyroid conditions. While we do all need iodine, supplementation can be tricky and sometimes dangerous. I strongly encourage you to work with a naturopath or other practitioner who is familiar with supplementing iodine and can help you supplement correctly. If you do supplement with iodine, there are other minerals you need to add to your regime in order to keep your body in balance.
Also, for people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (like myself), supplementing iodine is NOT advised, as it can cause your thyroid to burn out faster. Chris Kresser, one of my favorite alternative practitioners, has a fantastic series of posts that I encourage anyone suffering from thyroid disorders to read:
- The Most Important Thing You May Not Know About Hypothyroidism
- Three Reasons Why Your Thyroid Medication Isn’t Working
- Iodine for Hypothyroidism: Crucial Nutrient or Harmful Toxin?
- Basics of Immune Balancing for Hashimoto’s
- The Gluten-Thyroid Connection
- The Role of Vitamin D Deficiency in Thyroid Disorders
- Thyroid, Blood Sugar, and Metabolic Syndrome
- 5 Ways that Stress Causes Hypothyroid Symptoms
- The Thyroid-Gut Connection
- Why Changing Your Diet is Always the First Step in Treating Hashimoto’s
- Why Thyroid Medication is Often Necessary
Now, let’s take a look at goitrogens.
What are Goitronenic Foods?
According to Wikipedia:
Goitrogens are substances that suppress the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake, which can, as a result, cause an enlargement of the thyroid, i.e., a goitre.
Yeah. I’m already freaked out enough about an enlargement of my thyroid gland (which I do already have have), and I certainly don’t want it to get any bigger. I am constantly asking my hubby if he can visually see an enlargement. He assures me he can’t.
See, I told you I was neurotic!
Anyways, when I started avoiding goitrogenic foods, I was doing a lot of research and as I was perusing Dr. Sara Gottfried’s site, I came across her list of thyroid-suppressing foods and there were some that I didn’t know about! Pears, peaches, and strawberries? GAH! Most of these I can do away with no problem. But some of them make me very sad.
According to Dr. Sara, here’s the foods we should avoid or minimize, especially in their raw form, if we are suffering from thyroid issues:
- Soybeans (and soybean products such as tofu, soybean oil, soy flour, soy lecithin)
- Pine nuts
- Strawberries :(
- Pears :(
- Peaches :(
- Bamboo shoots :(
- Sweet Potatoes :(
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese cabbage
- Choy sum
- Collard greens
- Kai-lan (Chinese broccoli)
- Mustard greens
- Radishes :(
- Rapeseed (yu choy)
Like I mentioned above, I experimented with these foods and after a period of eliminating them and focusing on healing my gut health, I no longer have the issues I was having before. I had also done research on fermenting these veggies to see if that made a difference and I found this article stating that fermenting actually increases the goitrogens in certain vegetables.
For those of you who don’t suffer from any thyroid problems, eat up! Here are two of my favorite lactofermented vegetables:
For those of you who do suffer from thyroid problems, experiment! See what works for you, what your body tolerates, and take time to really pay attention to any reactions you may have. They may be small, they may be big. We’re all different.
What are your feelings on goitrogenic foods? Anything on this list surprise you? Do you avoid these foods altogether? Have you noticed a difference in how you feel with eliminating these foods? How about when you eat them? Do you notice a difference in how you feel? Leave a comment below!