If you are feeling frustrated with using medication to achieve normal thyroid levels, just know that you are not by yourself. There are others out there just like you that feel this same level of aggravation. Trying to find the right dose of medication for your thyroid can feel like being on a merry-go-round. You spin and spin in frustration as your next dose of thyroid hormone is based on information that you question is even telling the doctor how you feel. We have all heard the saying, “Listen to Your Gut.” And that is exactly what you should be doing as you take back control of your own health.
There is a better approach, and one that does not rely on old methods that rarely produce significant results. Medications, while needed for some, are not the best answer for most. There are more reliable ways to achieve normal thyroid levels, so let’s explore them.
Stop Looking at TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)
You have likely become highly interested in what your TSH level is to manage your dose of medication. After all it is what your doctor is focusing on. Have you ever asked why? Have you ever checked your gas gauge to see how fast your car is running? Of course not. They are not directly related. Instead you look at the speedometer to know how fast you are going. The fuel level does not directly affect speed, but if you want to know the speed of your vehicle, the speedometer should have your attention. So then if you are interested in the amount of thyroid hormone that your producing, it makes more sense to look directly at thyroid hormone markers (T4, T3, Free T4, Free T3) rather than TSH. According to Dana Tretini, The Hypothyroid Mom, reliance on TSH is one of the main reasons that the thyroid gland is misdiagnosed.
TSH is not even a thyroid hormone. It is a hormone produced in the brain from the pituitary gland. It does not show the whole thyroid picture. Even more noteworthy is that the range recommended by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (0.3-3.0) does not match the range recommended by most labs (0.5-5.0). So even within professional circles there remains much debate. I can also add from my own observation that those that often feel good when using thyroid hormone have low TSH. TSH is not ideal for people using thyroid hormone, but rather for an initial diagnosis. Bottomline, stop worrying with TSH to determine if you have normal thyroid levels. It will only add to your frustration.
Non-Thyroid Hormones that Prevent Normal Thyroid Levels
How competitive is a baseball team with only one player on the field? They are not. One player cannot perform up to the level of 9 players. This is the way our hormones function. They do not act alone, but rather in concert. The response of one hormone has direct impact on others. In the case of the thyroid, three hormones well known to interfere include cortisol, estrogen and testosterone. The more changes in these hormones, the more change in thyroid. Even when you achieve normal thyroid levels on a lab test, you may still feel tired and different than you used to because of the affect of other hormones. End your frustration and look at the whole hormone picture.
You’ve Been Overlooking the Most Common Cause of Hypothyroidism
If all of this has not raised your level of frustration enough, this one is really going to send you over the edge. But don’t worry, I have a solution to help bring you back. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune condition that decreases the production of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland. In other words, your immune system is attacking your thyroid just like it attacks a virus. Until this attack stops, the hypothyroidism continues. The traditional approach is to give medications like Synthroid. This misses the mark. First, it does not address the core problem. Second, it is hard to find the right level of hormone because of the effects of the immune system that are not accounted for. So unless you want to stay frustrated with you current approach and trying to find just the right dose that will again change in the near future, you need another plan.
Autoimmune conditions are common nowadays. One thing I have learned from working with patients with autoimmune conditions is that food matters. Since one of the greatest challenges to achieving normal thyroid levels and function is your immune system attacking your thyroid, you have to eliminate the food triggers. There are 3 key groups of food you want to avoid. These are grains, soy, and sugar (refined foods). It is amazing that you can have normal thyroid levels by continually trying to tweak your dose of thyroid hormone, but by changing the foods that you are eating. This pattern of eating can be simply summed up as the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet is a proven strategy to help eliminate the problems with modern food that are preventing normal thyroid levels. The Paleo Diet Food List is a great place to help you get started with making the right choices to begin balancing the interaction between your thyroid and immune system.
I sympathize with your frustration. I hear it in the voices of my patients that have been through the medical cycle, still don’t have normal thyroid levels and are simply looking for some needed help. Leave your frustration at the door of the next doctor that tries to base your thyroid function on TSH. With all of the other more relevant thyroid hormones and over 300 other physical indications that can be associated with hypothyroidism, stop worrying about your TSH. Once you leap this hurdle, consider the actions of a few other hormones and make a few simple diet changes with the direction of your free Paleo Diet Food List, you will on track towards normal thyroid levels without the frustration and reliance on a medication.
After some diligent research, the most popular foods to avoid on a low thyroid diet are not cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, etc.) and antioxidant rich foods (fruit). Now I am betting that if you are like most of the patients that I see, you are perplexed as this is what many sources suggest. Nearly all health related associations like the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Association enthusiastically recommended vegetables and fruits. So does it make sense to you that these are good for several of the organs of the body, but not the thyroid? Exactly, and it didn’t make sense to me either! However, it does turn out that there are specific foods to be avoided as part of a low thyroid diet but it turns out to be something other than vegetables and fruits.
The Food You Absolutely CANNOT Eat on a Low Thyroid Diet
A low thyroid diet is best for those suffering from hypothyroidism, or insufficient thyroid hormones. The standard approach to hypothyroidism, often diagnosed by a single out of range lab test, is the medication Synthroid. While beneficial for some, in most cases this standalone therapy fails to offer a solution. Most hypothyroid cases are actually Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition. And when I say most, estimates range as high as 90%. The fatigue, lack of motivation, difficulty in completing your daily tasks and work, is not going to improve by trying to achieve a certain lab value with a medication. Instead, you need to be focused on the trigger of the autoimmunity (attack by your immune system) against your thyroid, or stated differently what is causing the Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
There are many triggers that can promote a reaction by the immune system. But a review of the scientific literature placed a close association between Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Celiac Disease. While most autoimmune conditions do not have a clearly defined cause, Celiac does. Gluten is the culprit in Celiac disease, and given the well established link between the two conditions, logic would have it that gluten is a trigger for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as well. So food number one to avoid on a low thyroid diet is gluten, and better yet, all grains that may have it.
Beware of Soy if you have Low Thyroid Function
If you are reading this article, I am assuming you already have hypothyroidism, or at a minimum are concerned about it. Unfortunately that also likely means that you are feeling bound by the use of medication as the treatment option of choice. On the contrary however, you can become part of the solution for your thyroid based on the food that you choose, even beyond gluten. Another food linked to hypothyroidism and that should be avoided while following a low thyroid diet is soy. Soy has been praised for its health benefits, but you are not getting “The Whole Soy Story”. Contrary to media advertising proclaiming the health benefits of soy, this food, especially in the genetically modified form found in the United States, actually poses an increased risk to health. The low thyroid connection to soy is not new. According to Kaayla Daniel, PhD, CCN, and author of the book, The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food,“More than 70 years of studies link soy to thyroid disorders.”
Still not convinced soy should be avoided when eating a low thyroid diet. In that case, here is what you have to look forward to. Eating soy increases the likelihood that you will have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning when the alarm goes off, you will be lacking motivation, and that 10-20 extra pounds you keep seeing on the bathroom scale will not budge. According to one study, this increased risk is three-fold.
The Hidden Food that Is Preventing Thyroid Recovery
It is no big secret that sugar in excess is harmful to our bodies. However, what you may not realize is that there is also a strong like between hypothyroidism and insulin resistance, a pre-disease state characterized by abnormal blood sugar that can lead to diabetes. Blood sugar is made worse by the consumption of carbohydrates and sugars in excess. This is often not difficult to do as sugar is commonly hidden in many foods to enhance the flavor, especially those that may be labeled as fat free.
Healing the thyroid and having a chance of freeing yourself of the use of medication that does not address your core problem is highly unlikely with routine sugar consumption. Hypothyroidism is both promotes abnormal blood sugar and it also a cause. It can become a cruel cycle to be trapped in. So ask yourself, is eating that tasty desert worth feeling sluggish and drained of energy all day? If you don’t think so, then beware of the sugars and refined foods that like to creep their way into your low thyroid diet.
The Low Thyroid Diet Myth
I recently had another clinician ask inquisitively, “Do you find broccoli, cauliflower and similar foods to be a problem for your patients with hypothyroidism?” My answer, “No, I don’t.” I see many patients with hypothyroidism and promote a Paleo Diet for them that is balanced and free of grains. Even with the consumption of cruciferous vegetables and fruits high in antioxidants, they consistently get better. There is little evidence supporting the avoidance of cruciferous vegetables. In fact, there is growing evidence highlighting the benefits of some of the compounds found in these foods to support functions such as detoxification.
Your choice of food is your first step to improving the health of your thyroid. The notion that you should avoid foods for the thyroid that are beneficial for multiple other systems in the body seems to be missing the forest for the trees. The foods that you should avoid to help your thyroid rebound are not cruciferous vegetables, but rather gluten-containing grains, soy and sugars (refined foods). We all like more bang for the buck. If you want the most bang for your buck when it comes to choosing the right foods as part of your low thyroid diet, take advantage of the Paleo Diet food list and join others that are losing weight, feeling like they used to and getting more done each day.