We all know the food we eat has a direct effect on how we look and feel. How much you choose to pay attention to—or disconnect—from that direct relationship is reflected in everything from your weight to your mood, your ability to get a good night’s sleep, how many aches and pains you suffer, the condition of your skin, and how sharp you are mentally.
It’s true that we are what we eat; the foods we consume become part of us as they’re absorbed, utilized and processed. Protein is used to build and repair tissues, fat helps the body absorb and move nutrients, and carbohydrates provide energy. Some types of food support optimal thyroid function and health, while others don’t.
Nutrition may be a complex science, but your own biochemistry doesn’t have to be a mystery. After all, you can easily recognize the effects of your food choices. A greasy cheeseburger leaves you sluggish and sleepy after lunch, and your jeans feel too tight after a spaghetti supper. Have a vegetable omelet for breakfast and you feel sharp and energized all morning.
It doesn’t make sense to ignore the relationship between what you eat and how you feel, or to ignore the inextricable link between diet and thyroid disease. If you want to be healthy, you have to eat healthy, and that means avoiding foods that worsen or aggravate thyroid disease.
Hypothyroidism can result in weight gain, brain fog, depression and fatigue. Whether you’re taking thyroid replacement or relying on an alternative type of therapeutic support for your condition, diet matters.
If thyroid symptoms have you feeling fat, fuzzy and frazzled, avoid these 7 foods:
Sugar is a big problem if you have a thyroid condition. If you have the autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s too, which most low thyroid patients do, sugar is especially harmful. Sugary food can cause inflammation and trigger autoimmune flares and discomforting symptoms. If you don’t already have an autoimmune disease, the inflammation caused by sugar predisposes you to developing one.
Sugar may contribute to leaky gut and poor gut health, resulting in nutritional deficiencies, bloating, brain fog and fatigue. The insulin spikes sugar causes can further weaken an already compromised thyroid, while at the same time, a poorly functioning thyroid is slow to remove insulin from the bloodstream.
Among other negative effects on your health, elevated insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance and type II diabetes over time. Insulin resistance may also cause mood swings, disrupt energy levels, and eventually lead to obesity, heart disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes and more.
Consuming sugar, either directly or via processed foods and high carb meals, can make it very difficult to get relief from thyroid symptoms.
2. Bread / Flour / Whole Grain
It’s fairly well accepted that avoiding refined grains like white flour and products made with it is best for your health. Nutritionists and health-food experts often tout whole grains as a ‘healthy’ alternative to processed grain products. But for Hashimoto’s and low thyroid symptoms, a gluten-free diet is a must, and that includes avoiding whole grains.
Hashimoto’s disease is linked to gluten sensitivity, and whole grain foods contain gluten. If you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction. In the case of Hashimoto’s, this inflammatory immune response involves an attack on thyroid tissue and a flare-up of symptoms.
There is a strong link between gluten consumption and low thyroid symptoms, so much so that one study suggests that following a strict gluten-free diet for one year may resolve low thyroid symptoms for most people.
Before jumping on the gluten-free grain products bandwagon, keep in mind that these foods, too, may be poor choices for thyroid patients. Some gluten-free alternative grain products are high in carbohydrates and calories, and offer little nutritional value. Gluten-free or not, a diet that is high in carbohydrates can have unfavorable affects on blood sugar metabolism and increase autoimmunity, among other diseases.
Dairy products such as milk and foods made from it contain protein that may increase inflammation in the digestive tract. This can make it difficult to absorb nutrients and produce symptoms associated with poor gut health, including bloating and reflux. Consuming dairy can even cause IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome.
If you have Hashimoto’s, it’s especially important to avoid dairy products, as the protein it contains can worsen autoimmune disease. Not only milk, but cheese, yogurt, sour cream, whipping cream, butter and ice cream should all be avoided if you’re trying to relieve or eliminate thyroid symptoms.
Corn, like dairy, is a cross-reactive food, which means it contains protein similar to gluten in structure. Corn may trigger an autoimmune response similar to what occurs with gluten consumption. As a grain, corn may contribute to gut problems, too, particularly leaky gut—and by now, you know this can result in unwanted symptoms.
Another concern with corn is that it’s a starchy vegetable. It’s not a good choice to consume in place of other less-starchy foods that have better nutritional profiles.
Be sure to avoid processed corn products such as high fructose corn syrup and ‘crystalline fructose,’ the latest version of HFCS. High fructose corn syrup is an insulin-disruptor, and we’ve already established why elevated insulin levels should be avoided at all costs by thyroid patients.
5. Splenda (Artificial Sweeteners)
Splenda and other artificial sweeteners are far from the ‘safe’ sugar alternative they’re marketed to be. Research indicates Splenda, or sucralose, is associated with a wide range of potential negative effects on health. Splenda is an endocrine disruptor that may promote diabetes. Like other artificial or chemical sweeteners, it is known to increase appetite and contribute to weight gain. Consumer complaints about Splenda include gastrointestinal problems and a ‘spaced out’ sensation.
If you have Hashimoto’s disease, take notice: Use of artificial sweeteners, including Splenda, has been tentatively linked with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. These findings have led to speculation that artificial sweeteners may trigger or amp up autoimmune attacks on the thyroid in some individuals. Anyone trying to manage low thyroid symptoms and Hashimoto’s should avoid artificial sweeteners.
Most people are aware that drinking too much alcohol isn’t great for their health, but it’s particularly bad for thyroid patients. Alcohol negatively impacts thyroid function in multiple ways, and it is known to worsen symptoms.
Thyroid health depends on the liver, and when the liver is burdened with processing and metabolizing alcohol, it does a poorer job of facilitating proper hormone balance and blood sugar management. Alcohol disrupts hormone balance, too, and leads to estrogen dominance, which can cause a decrease in the production of thyroid hormones.
Many individuals who have hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s develop an intolerance for any alcohol. If you have a thyroid condition and you’re still drinking, don’t wait for your body to make the decision for you. Stop drinking now so you can get on with managing your condition and look and feel your best.
7. Fast Food
Fast food is known to be high calorie and low on nutritional value. Unfortunately, that’s just a sliver of the magnitude of problems food from take-out joints presents for thyroid patients.
Fast food is a sort of catch-all for several problematic foods we’ve already discussed. Burgers, fries, subs, sandwiches, wraps and condiments from popular fast food establishments typically contain sugar, bread/flour, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners like sucralose. That’s on top of the refined oils (such as canola, corn and soybean oil) and other unhealthy fats used to prepare them, which are known to cause inflammation.
Artificial food dyes and preservatives contained in fast food may also make it harder to control autoimmune flares and to manage thyroid symptoms. Artificial food coloring, which binds to proteins in foods it contains, cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes. This can result in intestinal inflammation and contribute to leaky gut, both of which are associated with autoimmune disease and thyroid symptoms. In addition, additives may increase food and chemical sensitivities, making it more difficult to manage Hashimoto’s.
There is nothing fast food has to offer that is of benefit if you have a thyroid condition or Hashimoto’s disease. There is nothing convenient about feeling fat, fuzzy or frazzled. Don’t be surprised if once you are eating a healthier, whole-foods based diet, even the smell of fast food becomes sickening.
The Power of Nourishing Food
Learning the truth about these 7 foods to avoid and what they’re really doing to your health should be empowering. Yet, at first glance, you may feel overwhelmed. Maybe there are one or two or several foods on this list that you still ‘indulge’ in occasionally, even though you’ve made good strides in improving your diet. Or, it could be this list appears to exclude virtually everything you normally eat on a daily basis.
When confronted with the facts about unhealthy food choices, the emotional component involved in our relationship with food has to be considered. Maybe you “love” croissants, or you can’t imagine unwinding after a tough day at work without a few glasses of wine. But the truth is, food choices often impact our mood and how we physically feel in opposite ways than what we believe. It’s very easy to become so disconnected from the relationship between food and how we feel, it seems ‘normal’ to wake up with heartburn and a headache at 3 am most nights of the week, or to be bloated and uncomfortable after every meal.
Through practice, you can change habits. The great news is that when it comes to avoiding foods that are truly toxic to your health, you’ll likely feel a difference fairly quickly. You can support your mood and look and feel your best by taking advantage of the remarkable power of nourishing food. What you eat can help you recover and heal, finally get lasting relief from thyroid symptoms, and enjoy optimal health for a lifetime.
At Red Lotus Wellness Center, Dr. Y. K. Scarlett, implements a wholistic approach to help you recover or stay healthy.