Hypothyroidism is a condition that is one of the most diagnosed but also the most undiagnosed condition in today's population. The symptoms, which are sometimes hard to pin down or explain, include weight gain, headaches, menstrual cramps and constipation. Many people have turned to the Internet in hopes of finding answers to their questions about what is wrong with them. Patient awareness groups have sprung up as individuals compare symptoms and share concerns about which foods contribute to the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
An underactive thyroid is called hypothyroidism, with "hypo" meaning below normal. The thyroid is a gland that is found just below the voice box in the front part of the neck. This small, butterfly-shaped gland plays a significant role, creating just the right balance of hormones needed to regulate metabolism, growth and energy during all phases of life. When the thyroid doesn't create enough, the body begins to react in an attempt to return to health.
Vegetables and Fruits
The body's response to food and how it regulates hunger is one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Some foods are suspected of suppressing the functioning of a normal thyroid, because they affect how much hormone the thyroid produces. Certain foods contain a compound called goitrogens and have this effect when consumed raw. Cruciferous vegetables, which contain goitrogens, include broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, rutabaga, mustard greens, kale, spinach, radishes and Brussels sprouts. Some fruits also fall within the goitrogens category. These include peaches and strawberries.
Soy Is Harmful
Soy's effect on the thyroid is controversial. Daniel R. Doerge, who is a researcher in the Food and Drug Administration's National Center for Toxicological Research, is quoted in the March 1999 issue of Natural Health magazine as warning, "... I see substantial risks from taking soy supplements or eating huge amounts of soy foods for their putative disease preventive value. There is definitely potential for interaction with the thyroid." He contends that soy can be harmful to the thyroid in these circumstances.
Soy Is Not Harmful
Other doctors do not agree with the theory of soy's role in hypothyroidism. Dr. Christiane Northrup states on her website that normal levels of soy consumption have no disruptive effect on thyroid function. She cites over 70 years of clinical trials that were conducted specifically to determine if soy foods or soy isoflavones affected the thyroid, with negative findings. Soy products include tofu, soy sauce, miso and tempeh.
Polyunsaturated oils are known to affect the thyroid's function. Such oils, although considered part of a normal healthy diet, have been blamed for reducing the ability of thyroid hormones to circulate through the body. Also, tissues respond less efficiently to the thyroid hormone secretion. Dr. Ray Peat supports the theory that polyunsaturated oils block the secretions of the thyroid gland. An alternative is coconut oil, which consists of medium chain fatty acids, or MCFA. These types of acids increase metabolism, which is beneficial to hypothyroid suffers.