It is estimated that 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disease with up to 60 percent of those people completely unaware of their condition. This means millions are living with the symptoms of a thyroid disorder and either have no idea what’s wrong with them, or they have learned to live with the fatigue, aches, pains, and digestive issues as if they are “normal”.
The most common types of thyroid disease are Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, goiter, and thyroid nodules. While prescription medications can certainly mask the symptoms of the disease, the thyroid diet is one of the best approaches to treating it in a holistic way.
No matter what type of thyroid condition you have, the thyroid diet works to normalize your entire system, thus eliminating not only the symptoms but the cause of disease!
What is the Thyroid?
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.
How Our Thyroid Affects Our Health
This small gland might not look like much, but the hormones it secretes affect almost every single cell in your body. So, if your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, neither will you.
A healthy thyroid gland releases hormones called T3 (liothyronine) and T4 (levothyroxine) to help control your body’s functions including regulating your metabolism, balancing your energy levels and weight, and dictating how fast or slow your brain, heart, muscles, and liver work.
If you have too little thyroid hormone in your blood, everything in your body slows down. This is called hypothyroidism. You may notice flagging energy, unexpected weight gain, and very dry skin.
If, on the other hand, your thyroid is producing too much thyroid hormone, everything in your body speeds up. This is called hyperthyroidism. You may notice jitteriness, sudden weight loss, and hair loss.
The thyroid doesn’t work on its own. Rather, the amount of hormone made by your thyroid is adjusted by a gland in your brain called the pituitary. There is also another part of your brain, called the hypothalamus, that sends information to the pituitary gland, which, in turn, controls the thyroid gland.
As you can see, there are a lot of systems at work here, and it’s easy to see understand how one or more of these functions can be disrupted by environmental toxins, stress, poor diet, and gut issues.
Most Low Thyroid Issues Are Autoimmune (And Leaky Gut Is at the Root)
Autoimmunity is a condition that causes the immune system to attack its own healthy tissues. Research has shown that another condition, called ‘leaky gut syndrome’ is the root cause of this immune system malfunction.
There are three important factors to the development of autoimmune disease. The first factor is your genes. The second is your environment (or stressors). The third is your microbial flora.
Let’s say your grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis. Because you share a genetic code, you have a stronger likelihood of developing this or another autoimmune disease yourself.
However, just because you are genetically predisposed to a disease does not mean you will get it. Your environment, including toxin exposure, diet, and stress are the “triggers” that wake up that dormant DNA and activate the disease.
Your gut health is an extremely important factor in the function of your immune system. If your gut isn’t healthy, you cannot be healthy. Symptoms of poor gut health include bloating, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, food allergies, rashes, brain fog, and mental health disturbances.
Medications like antibiotics, NSAID pain relievers, and birth control pills can destroy your healthy intestinal microflora, leaving you vulnerable to disease.
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 sudden onslaught activates the immune system, and this is when it mistakenly turns on itself, causing autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and diabetes.
Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology February 2012, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 71–78
What Harms Our Thyroid
Unfortunately, there are many things that can disrupt thyroid function.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
As mentioned above, leaky gut occurs when the gaps in your intestinal lining widen due to inflammation. This allows bits of undigested food, yeast, and other toxins to enter your bloodstream, which, in turn, causes inflammation that triggers autoimmunity.
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.
E. A. Idris and R. Wiharddza, “Adverse effects of fluoride towards thyroid hormone metabolism,” Padjadjaran Journal of Dentistry, vol. 20, pp. 34–42, 2008.
Most soy produced in the United States and Canada is genetically modified. It contains a pesticide called glyphosate that disrupts the body’s ability to detoxify endocrine-disrupting chemicals and carcinogens, leaving those who eat GMOs much more susceptible to the development of chronic diseases, including thyroid disease.
Samsel, Anthony, Seneff, Stephanie. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdisciplinary Toxicology. 2013 Dec; 6(4): 159-184.
Another concern is that soy may have an adverse effect on the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone.
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.
Celiac disease has been closely associated with the development of thyroid disease for quite a while now. In addition, even those without celiac disease can have a negative reaction to gluten that triggers thyroid disease.
The molecular structure of the protein found in gluten (called gliadin) closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. If you have a leaky gut, gliadin is more likely to breach this protective barrier and enter your bloodstream, where it’s flagged for destruction.
Due to the molecular similarities, the antibodies attacking gliadin will also attack your thyroid tissue. So, if you have autoimmune thyroid disease, and you eat foods that contain gluten, your immune system will continue to attack your thyroid.
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.
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.
Goitrogenic chemicals are 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.
Goitrogenic drugs include:
• Amiodarone – This drug is prescribed to treat problems with heart rhythm. • Carbamazepine – This drug is used to treat bipolar disorder, seizures, and nerve pain. • Iodine-Containing Prescription Drugs – Prescription drugs such as Methimazole, Tapazole, Thyro-Block, and Cordarone are prescribed for thyroid disease. • Iopanoic Acid – This drug is a radiocontrast agent used in the treatment of hyperthyroidism. • Lithium – This mood-stabilizing drug has been shown to inhibit thyroid hormone release. • Sulfonamides – These drugs are used to treat infections caused by bacteria and other microorganisms. • Salicylamides – These drugs are commonly used to treat pain, inflammation, and fever. • Phenobarbitone – This drug is used to treat epilepsy. • Phenytoin – This drug is used to control the symptoms of seizure conditions. • Propylthiouracil – This drug is an anti-thyroid medication.
Environmental Toxins That Cause Thyroid Damage
• Tobacco Smoke – A major component of tobacco smoke is thiocyanate, which inhibits iodine uptake by the thyroid, increases the secretion of iodine, and inhibits thyroid hormone synthesis. • Perchlorate – This is a common ingredient found in rocket fuel, which has contaminated groundwater across the United States. Perchlorate interferes with the thyroid gland’s ability to uptake iodine. This, in turn, prevents the thyroid from making an adequate amount of a hormone that regulates metabolism. • Pesticides – Animal studies have shown that exposure to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), amitrole, and chemicals from the thiocarbamate family can act as goitrogens.