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12 Goitrogens People With Hypothyroidism Should Avoid

Updated on August 4, 2011

Goitrogens consist of foods, chemicals, and other substances that inhibit the function of the thyroid gland. The main focus of this article is going to be on goitrogenic foods, and the impact they have on thyroid health, specifically with regards to people with hypothyroidism, although at the end of this article I will briefly talk about their affects on people with a hyperthyroid condition.

Here are twelve goitrogenic foods people with hypothyroidism should avoid:

1. Broccoli
2. Brussels Sprouts
3. Cabbage
4. Cauliflower
5. Kale
6. Mustard Greens
7. Peaches
8. Peanuts
9. Radishes
10. Soy-Based Foods
11. Spinach
12. Strawberries

There are other goitrogenic foods besides the ones I listed above, but these are some of the more common ones. By the way, not all of these have the same level of “goitrogenic activity”, meaning that some of these foods are mildly goitrogenic, while others aren’t so mild. For example, peaches, strawberries, and spinach are considered by most sources to be mildly goitrogenic. So for someone with hypothyroidism, they won’t have the same impact on the thyroid gland as the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc.)

This doesn’t mean that someone with hypothyroidism can safely consume the mildly goitrogenic foods. Anyone with a hypothyroid condition needs to be cautious about consuming too many goitrogens. But does this mean that people with hypothyroidism should completely avoid eating goitrogenic foods? Not necessarily, although anyone with hypothyroidism should at the very least try to minimize the number of these foods they consume on a daily basis.

However, whenever one of my patients begins a natural thyroid treatment protocol in an attempt to restore their health back to normal, I do recommend that they refrain from eating any goitrogenic foods for at least the first 21 to 30 days of the program, and sometimes for the first few months after starting such a protocol. Fortunately most people don’t have huge cravings for brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale, although it can be more challenging getting someone to stop eating other goitrogenic foods such as peanuts, strawberries, and soy, even if it’s only on a temporary basis.

Soy: The Worse Goitrogenic Food Of Them All?

Speaking of soy, this is definitely one goitrogenic food that not only should be avoided by people with hypothyroidism, but it also is important for people who don’t have a thyroid condition to minimize their consumption of soy. Although the soy industry has done a marvelous job of marketing soy as being healthy for us, many people are allergic to soy, and overall, soy can lead to a number of health issues. This doesn’t mean that people without a thyroid condition should completely eliminate soy from their diets (I think I overheard a sigh of relief from some vegetarians!), but soy should be eaten in moderation.

How Do Goitrogens Inhibit Thyroid Function?

The way goitrogens inhibit the function of the thyroid gland is by interfering with iodine metabolism. Iodine is important in the formation of thyroid hormone. So by inhibiting iodine, there will be a decrease in thyroid hormone. For someone who doesn’t have a thyroid condition this usually isn’t a big deal, as the body does a great job of adapting, and as long as the person isn’t consuming too many goitrogens, then they should be fine.

On the other hand, for someone who already has hypothyroidism, this should make sense why they would want to avoid consuming goitrogenic foods. Since people with a hypothyroid condition already have problems manufacturing enough thyroid hormone on their own, the last thing they’ll want to do is eat foods that further will suppress the production of thyroid hormone. But this is exactly what many people do, as they unknowingly consume many of these thyroid-inhibiting foods on a daily basis.

But what if someone with hypothyroidism is taking synthetic or natural thyroid hormone? Can these people eat goitrogenic foods since they’re not relying on their thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone? If this describes you and if you have no intentions of restoring the function of your thyroid gland back to normal through natural thyroid treatment methods, then consuming goitrogens in moderation isn’t going to harm you.

And just to be clear, those people who have gone through a natural thyroid treatment protocol and restored their health back to normal can eat some goitrogenic foods occasionally. So I’m not suggesting that someone with hypothyroidism who decides to follow a natural treatment protocol can never eat goitrogenic foods again, because this usually isn’t the case.

Can Hyperthyroid Patients Benefit From Eating Goitrogenic Foods?

Some people with hyperthyroidism actually use goitrogenic foods as a way to manage their symptoms. After all, since hyperthyroidism involves an excess production of thyroid hormone, it might make sense to eat these foods in order to naturally manage this condition. While consuming goitrogenic foods might be better than taking anti-thyroid drugs or receiving radioactive iodine, I personally don’t recommend that my patients intentionally take these foods as a way of managing their symptoms, especially since natural thyroid treatment methods are so effective in restoring the health of people with hyperthyroidism. I’m proof of this, as I had Graves’ Disease and restored my health by following a natural treatment protocol, which by the way didn’t include increasing the amount of goitrogens I consumed.

With that being said, I don’t have the same restrictions for patients with hyperthyroidism who are following a natural thyroid treatment protocol as I do with my patients with hypothyroidism. In other words, while I don’t encourage my patients with hyperthyroidism to increase their consumption of goitrogenic foods, at the same time I don’t tell them to avoid these foods as I do with my hypothyroid patients in the initial phases of such a protocol.

In summary, people with hypothyroidism definitely need to be more cautious of these goitrogenic foods than people with hyperthyroidism. And when following a natural thyroid treatment protocol, someone with hypothyroidism should ideally avoid these foods for at least the first 21 to 30 days, and in some cases longer. For those who have hyperthyroidism or no thyroid condition, feel free to eat these foods in moderation.

For more information on how to treat hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis through natural treatment methods, please visit my facebook fan page, Natural Solutions for Graves Disease and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis at www.facebook.com/NaturalThyroidTreatment

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    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 6 years ago from UK

      Interesting and useful article. My boyfriend was quite ill for a long time until he was eventually diagnosed with Graves disease. He has since had radio-active treatment on the thyroid and it has improved - he has gone from over-active to under-active thyroid and will be on thyroxine forever now. I note that some of the foods you mention at the beginning of the article are typical Christmas Dinner and/or Sunday Roast veg - any ideas alternatives? Great hub - thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      sajwie 6 years ago

      I've been hypothyroid for 40+ years. Also had a pituitary tumor and no longer have that functioning gland. Also have fructose intolerance, and am glocose resistant. I wonder what's left to legally eat? No matter, I eat just about everything on the list, and my meds work just fine. It is impractical to try a food, get a thyroid test. I've found some thyroid patients have made that little gland 'their reason for living'. Take your meds, relax, and enjoy your life....something much worse can always be around the corner.

    • DrEricO23 profile image
      Author

      DrEricO23 6 years ago

      Hi Leni,

      That's a great question. I honestly can't think of any alternative foods for to eat for Thanksgiving, but I'll try to do a little bit of research! You might be able to find some alternatives by asking the people who work at your local health food store as well.

      Dr. Eric

    • Golfgal profile image

      Golfgal 6 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Dr Eric, Thanks again for a great job on your hub and info on hypothroid. I eat everything on your list expecially I love peaches and strawberries. One would wonder why the body would crave these things having this condition.

    • DrEricO23 profile image
      Author

      DrEricO23 6 years ago

      Hi Golfgal,

      I agree with you, as I also love peaches and strawberries. And I'm not suggesting that you or anyone else shouldn't eat them, but just in moderation (as is the case with most other foods).

    • profile image

      Drapes 5 years ago

      Hi Eric, My naturopath has suggested that cooking the goitrogenic vegetables well, actually destroys their goitrogens - do you feel the same about this? Also do you feel that fermented soy eg in tamari / soy sauce is as bad as other soy products?

    • Christos Palmer profile image

      Christos Palmer 5 years ago from Caerdydd, Cardiff, United Kingdom

      Thanks for the article, I'm a vegetarian, and I try to not eat too many soy products, but it does leave my diet lacking some of my favourite foods, I barely eat anything on the goitergenic list if I can help it.

    • profile image

      cd 4 years ago

      i don't understand... with strawberries, i read that it's high in iodine, so i would have thought this good.... (newly diagnosed with hypothyroidism)

    • profile image

      ramsha abid 4 years ago

      my mother is 45 years old and has a thyroid problem i just need to know what should she avoid eating?

    • profile image

      Cindy Ostrom 4 years ago

      I read that as long as those Goitrogenic foods were cooked they were fine for those with Hashimoto's. is that true or false?

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