One of the top most misdiagnosed conditions people come to me for help with is their thyroid function, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, many patients miss receiving proper diagnosis and care for their thyroid because the appropriate labs were never ordered. Even more problematic, your symptoms plaguing your daily life as a thyroid patient may have been shrugged off as “normal.” But when did unrelenting fatigue, stubborn weight loss, or depression become tolerable or normal?
When I hear patients complain of stubborn weight loss, cravings, dry skin, acne or eczema, unexplainable fatigue, inability to focus or concentrate, problems with menstruation or fertility, or even abnormal metabolic lab results for cholesterol, iron, or blood sugar, I immediately question if their thyroid is properly functioning.
There are many reasons why a large percentage of our population is suffering from a low functioning thyroid. These reasons range from environmental toxins like mercury, which block active thyroid hormone from entering the cells through the receptor site, to low nutrient status, which inhibits the conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone T4 to its active form T3. Because everyone is different I use lengthy checklists and labs to assess an individual’s unique root cause of low thyroid.
What I do not look for in these assessments, however, is if a person eats cruciferous vegetables and whether or not foods like broccoli, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, radish or cabbage are the trigger for their hypothyroid or an autoimmune Hashimoto’s condition.
There is a lot of chatter in the pop-nutrition culture saying that these vegetables have an ill effect on the thyroid because they contain goitrogens. Goitrogens can block iodine from entering the thyroid and eventually cause a swollen thyroid or goiter. Because iodine is critical for normal thyroid function, some believe that if you consume too many goitrogens, then your thyroid will not function properly, leading to an underactive thyroid.
The active form of your thyroid hormone is called triiodothyronine – the “iodo” part of the word highlighting the significance of iodine in proper hormone function. So you can see why people would be curious to know if foods containing substances (goitrogens) would block iodine from the thyroid and question if they should eliminate or at least eat them with caution.
The truth is, you would need to consume a large amount of these vegetables for their goitrogenic constituents to have an impact on your thyroid. Even more important is that you would have to consume them raw. When was the last time you ate 10 cups of raw Brussels sprouts or blended up 5 cups of raw kale in your Dr. Hyman’s Whole Foods Protein Smoothieand consumed it every day?
Because most of us steam, lightly boil, roast, sauté or bake our cruciferous vegetables, the amount of goitrogens our body actually receives is that much less due to the effect cooking these foods has on active goitrogenic level. So, my advice is not to worry about eating moderate servings of raw or cooked cruciferous veggies and to actually make a point of consuming 1 to 2 servings of them daily because they are so fundamentally crucial to disease prevention (especially cancer), as well as normal metabolic function (such as detoxification).