Saul Marcus, ND - Naturopathic Doctor

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12. hypothyroidism diet

Gluten Sensitivity

For a long time gluten sensitivity was associated only with celiac disease. Today we know that celiac disease is just one of many different presentations of gluten sensitivity. Numerous illnesses, including hypothyroidism, are linked to gluten sensitivity.

Testing for gluten sensitivity, or at least a trial gluten free diet should be one of the first actions taken for hypothyroidism.


Goitrogens are chemicals found in some foods which block the thyroid from making new thyroid hormone.

Goitrogens are common in the brassica family of vegetables: cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower.

However, warnings that these foods are the cause of hypothyroidism are probably exaggerated. First, the goitrogens are destroyed when these foods are cooked. Secondly, the amount of these foods that someone needs to eat in order to get an anti-thyroid hormone effect is much larger than what most people would eat in a normal diet. Although I would not advise someone with hypothyroidism to eat lots of these vegetables uncooked, I have found no evidence that just eating normal amounts of these vegetables will cause.

Goitrogens may be helpful to include in the diet in case of hyperthyroidism.

Fake foods

Soy has goitrogenic properties as well and could be a problem in people who eat soy all the time.

Soy is commonly converted into fake foods such as most soy milks, soy burgers, soy chicken, soy ice cream, etc. Eating these fake foods all the time may induce a thyroid lowering effect through soy's goitrogenic properties. Soy may also have an anti thyroid affect by decreasing the absorption of iodine [64].

I have been to several professional seminars on where experts have said the sickest people they see in their practice are vegetarians. Therefore, they say, people should not be vegetarians. While I believe this anecdotal feedback I have received from colleagues on vegetarianism has some merit, I believe it is unfair to say no one should be a vegetarian. It is certainly true that many vegetarians are terribly unhealthy. However, this seems more a consequence of the types of products vegetarians are sold, rather than from being a vegetarian per se.

Bad vegetarian foods

  • Fake soy products. These fake meats and other soy concoctions are highly processed artificial foods. I recommend people stick with fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso. Although tofu has high protein content, it's very difficult for the body to digest and use the protein, therefore, as a vegan protein substitute tofu is overrated. Soy milk if consumed should be basically soy nuts and water. Long lists of chemical ingredients are often signs of unhealthy additives such as MSG.

  • Seitan is a fake food produced from the gluten portion of wheat. Gluten is the highly allergic portion of wheat and trigger of celiac disease. Therefore, seitan is a product that most highly concentrates one of the most allergenic and anti-thyroid foods there is! Celiac disease and the anti-thyroid effects of wheat and gluten foods was covered in section 8.

Considering the toxic effects of fake soy and fake wheat products on just the thyroid it is no wonder why many of my colleagues say vegetarians are the sickest patients they see. It's very easy to get enough protein. The challenge we face (vegetarian or not) is getting enough quality protein that is not adulterated and full of toxins.


Most people know that if you eat too little food, the body's metabolism goes down. In term of thyroid function, a low calorie diet will raise the inactive reverse T3 and decrease the active T3. This causes the body's metabolism goes down.

In one study, subjects who ate 600 calories or less a day, had a 40% drop in blood T3, and a 100% increase in reverse T3, within 48 hours. Most people get 600 calories a day, unless people are eating way to little in an effort to loose weight, or following certain detox programs like the master cleanse. Doing either of these is not good for the body, or the thyroid. I'll say a little more on the master cleanse next section [65]

A general problem people have is getting enough high quality protein. Most protein foods come from animal sources, which are products of industrial food industry.

Most whey proteins are processed at high temperatures, which destroy many delicate proteins (and along with them numerous health benefits. Some companies do sell whey protein supplied from health, grass fed cows and is not processed with high heat. These are far superior to typical whey protein isolate.

Pea and rice protein powders should not have long lists of chemical additives. If a protein powder has ingredients you can't pronounce, or look like it came from a chemistry text book then don't buy it. Hemp protein looks great in theory (personally, I use is sometimes), but I am not sure how much of the protein is actually used. Raw nuts and seeds are generally difficult for humans to digest.


Go to the page on iodine and hypothyroidism for more information