5 Foods that Can Wreck Your Thyroid

Wondering what the best thyroid diet is for overall health? The following food recommendations can help support your health so that not only your thyroid is healthier, but you feel better overall.

Hypothyroidism is a big topic these days. Seems almost everyone has thyroid problems these days.  Today, let's learn about foods that might affect your thyroid so you can talk with your doctor about your optimal diet.

So, you've recently found out that you have hypothyroidism.

Did you know that what you eat can impact your thyroid function—for better or worse.

It's true--there is actually research showing that what you put in your body impacts your thyroid function--so this is a good thing to talk with your doctor about.

Eat Healthy for a Better Life

Before we get into what foods to avoid with hypothyroidism, think about how this is common sense-if you want to be healthy, you have to eat healthy.

Think about it--does it make sense to put junk into your body and expect it to work well? Just like you wouldn't put sludge into your car's gas tank, you shouldn't be putting processed foods, pesticides, artificial colors, and more into your body.

But what about everything else? Does that mean that all whole foods are healthy for someone with hypothyroidism?

Actually, that's not the case. Even though on the surface, they might appear to be healthy, they might not be for you. In fact, there are several foods to avoid with hypothyroidism, or at least foods that you might want to take a closer look at if you struggle with thyroid issues.

This post contains affiliate links from which I will earn a commission.

5 Foods to Avoid with Hypothyroidism

The following foods can possibly be bad for your thyroid health for a variety of reasons. Let's talk about each of them and see why you might want to eliminate each of these from your diet. Of course, talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about these foods and your diet.

1. Soy

Soy is everywhere.

Soy burgers, soy cheese, soy milk.

It isn't necessarily the health food it's been made out to be, however.

The problematic compound in soy (for your thyroid) is isoflavones. In fact, a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported that researchers fed some subjects 16 mg of soy isoflavones, which is the amount found in the typical vegetarian's diet,  and others 2 mg soy isoflavones, which is the amount found in most omnivore's diets.

The subjects fed 16 mg were 3 times more likely to cause patients to convert from subclinical hypothyroidism to overt clinical hypothyroidism (Sathyaplan, 2011).

Cooking does not destroy soy isoflavones. To avoid them, you need to eliminate soy as much as you are able from your diet. 

What about soy formula?

Soy is not a friend of babies. Check out what the researchers in this study found:

Infants fed soy formula are at higher risk for hypothyroidism and for later development of autoimmune thyroid diseases. In humans, goiter has been detected in infants fed soy formula; this is usually reversed by changing to cow milk or iodine-supplemented diets . After the 1960s, manufacturers reportedly began adding iodine to formulas to mitigate thyroid effects.” (Doerge, 2002)

Soy formula should not be your go-to option if you are having difficulties breastfeeding. Watch out, because even formula that isn't labeled "soy formula" can contain soy.

If you are having trouble breastfeeding, be sure to check out these natural ways to increase your breast milk or try some of these lactogenic herbs.

Alternatives to Soy Formula

Finding donor milk is also a far superior option to formula as is making your own cow's milk formula or goat's milk formula.

You can even buy Powdered Goat's Milk!

2. Gluten

If you have a thyroid problem and you're eating wheat or other forms of gluten, you need to stop. Now.

Nearly 90% thyroid disorders are autoimmune in nature (that means that about 90% of all hypothyroid patients have an autoimmune disease).

There is also apparently a strong connection between gluten-intolerance and autoimmune thyroiditis. There are even some doctors who are prescribing a gluten-free diet for all of their patients with thyroid disorders.

3. Cruciferous Vegetables

One of the most controversial on the list of foods to avoid with hypothyroidism is this one. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, radishes, turnips, collard greens... and the list goes on (You can find the complete list of cruciferous vegetables here).

Some of my favorite veggies are in this list. But these vegetables can indeed cause problems with your thyroid.

These vegetables are considered to be goitrogenic foods. That is, these are foods that cause an enlargement or goiter of your thyroid.

They also can slow down the function of the thyroid by making it difficult for your body to use iodine, a necessary building block of thyroid hormones.

Good News: Cooking Helps with Cruciferous Vegetables and Thyroid

Does this mean you need to completely give up some of your favorite vegetables?

NO! ......Yay.

Finally some good news, right :)?

In fact, many of the enzymes in cruciferous vegetables can be partially destroyed by heating foods. So, if you're going to eat cauliflower, cabbage, or kale - be sure to cook the vegetables before eating them.

Additionally, there are some who advise that if one is taking sufficient iodine, selenium, and zinc that any possible negative effects of cruciferous vegetables is negated or reduced.

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4. Fluoridated Water

Until the 1950s, fluoride was prescribed to those suffering from hyperthyroidism as a thyroid inhibitor... and it worked in surprisingly low doses. This may sound strange, but fluoride exacerbates the impact of iodine deficiency.

As was discussed earlier, iodine is essential for the body in order to create thyroid hormones (Gas’kov 2005Hong 2001Wang 2001Zhao 1998Xu, 1994).

The National Research Council, put together a 500-page review of fluoride and toxicology. Here's what they had to say about fluoride's impact on thyroid disease:

“The effects of fluoride on various aspects of endocrine function should be examined, particularly with respect to a possible role in the development of several diseases or mental states in the United States. Major areas of investigation include . . . thyroid disease (especially in light of decreasing iodine intake by the U.S. population).” (National Research Council, 2006)

Do note that there are other studies that are somewhat mixed, so do your own research on this topic.

How to Get Rid of Fluoride?

Stop drinking fluoridated water.  You should invest in a good water filter for sure. Check out this post and this one on how to make your water safe.) 

Stop using fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash. You can find a number of healthy toothpastes you can purchase or recipes to make your own!

Don't forget to check your medications. You might be surprised to learn that many common medications are fluorinated. Antidepressants, antacids, arthritis medications, and more contain fluoride. Be sure to check this site to find out if the medication you're taking is on the list.

5. Processed Foods and Foods Containing Sugar

At the beginning of this list about foods to avoid with hypothyroidism, I mentioned that these are foods that aren't junk. Well, I take that back. this one is.

Sugar and processed foods cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation inhibits T4 to T3 conversion. Since your thyroid needs T3, this isn't a good thing.

Your thyroid produces a hormone called triiodothyronine, known as T3. It also produces a hormone called thyroxine, known as T4. Together, these hormones regulate your body's temperature, metabolism, and heart rate. Most of the T3 in your body binds to protein.

So if you can't produce T3, you have a problem.

Moral of the story: decrease foods that cause inflammation.

Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, free-range eggsgrass-fed meats, and healthy fats.

More Thyroid Information

Why Your Thyroid Test is Wrong-And What to Do About It

Got Hypothyroidism? 5 Questions You NEED to Ask Your Doctor

- Could THIS Be the Cause of Your Thyroid Disease?

Other Great Thyroid Resources

While this list of foods to avoid with hypothyroidism is helpful, there is so much more to know about thyroid disease. Following are two fabulous resources.

The book, The Root Cause, is a fabulous resource for those with thyroid issues.  Did you know that it's estimated that 90% or more of those with hypothyroidism have Autoimmune Hashimoto's?

I devoured this book totally in just a few sittings after getting it.  It's so full of great information and it's one of those "keeper" books.

Other books I take out of the library, but "keeper" books are for buying and taking notes in and going back to over and over again.

I met the author this year and she knows what she is talking about.

Hashimotos Root Cause
One of the best books on thyroid health in my opinion.

This author goes way deeper than just a list of foods to avoid with hypothyroidism. She dives into many angles of the disease to help your body function as well as it can.

Also, this book by Aviva Romm, is a great overall discussion about underlying causes of both thyroid and adrenal issues.

Please remember: neither Adrienne nor I are doctors, so please do not make changes to your diet, supplements, or exercise program without first consulting with your physician.


Are you avoiding all of these foods to avoid for hypothyroidism--
or would you add anything to the list?

Trisha Gilkerson is a homeschooling mom to four crazy boys. She blogs with her awesome hubby Luke at Intoxicated on Life where they talk about faith, homeschooling, and health. They’ve authored the Write Through the Bible curriculum and family Bible Studies and have recently released their first healthy living book - Weeding Out Wheat: A Simple Faith Based Guide. They love connecting with their readers, so be sure to follow them on their blogFacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest.

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138 Comments

    1. Hi there. Sorry but I can't medically advise. If your doctor's answers aren't sufficient for you, you could get a second opinion. I personally had some and had my blood work run and it showed some issues that we started working on.

  1. I am new to the thyroid struggles, likely a lifetime issue but always overlooked due to the "normal" range number that MD's go by. In addition to removing gluten my dietitian has me removing dairy. After 2 weeks I was already in a smaller size jeans but the scale was the same. She recommended one of the books you mention here that I am listening to the audio book version. There is a level of bloating that comes with the dairy so that may be something for your readers to be aware of and ask their providers about.

    1. Hi there. I appreciate the info. I just was reading in a book about how "normal" thyroid isn't always normal. Hard to know what to think. There appears to be conflicting information. This one particular author said that the normal labs were based off of 95% of people being tested? But if I remember correctly, in some other information by this same person she was leaning on those same labs for other data.

  2. If research shows Flouride is negative for healthy Thyroid, then why do we continue with Flouride in so many food sources??

  3. This is not even proven that cruciferous vegetables are causing hypoteroism. They help to prevent cancer and tastes good when raw. This looks like some kind of anti-vegetarian propaganda to me. While I did mention negative effects from soy and gluten cruciferous vegetables never caused any problems. One literally need to eat pounds of broccoli to feel some negative effect.

    1. Hi Olga,

      No, no one here is against vegetarians. It's mainly about what kinds of foods can aggravate the thyroid. I'm aware that there are people who say that there are no effects from eating cruciferous veggies if they are steamed, but others say that there might be. Perhaps you missed the qualifications in the post? If it was "anti-vegetarian" then the steaming qualification wouldn't make sense. Does that clarify things? Thanks for reading!

  4. Hi! I know this is kinda off topic however I'd figured I'd ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog article or vice-versa? My site covers a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Awesome blog by the way!

    1. Hi there. I'm possibly open to that -- just swamped at the moment and things won't clear up until at least late August / Sept. Feel free to email me - thanks!

  5. I think soy intake in protein bars I ate everyday caused my umderactive thyroid.
    I have been feeling tired and unexplained back and neck stiffness. I also ate a lot of strawberries and strawberry yogurt. I have been off of these for 3 days now and feel much better.

    1. There are a lot of posts on my site about thyroid but I hope to write more. You can search "thyroid" in the search box in the sidebar. Please let me know if you didn't notice that there. I'm trying to put it in a more prominent place.

  6. Thank you so much for more helpful information about my hyperthyroidism to hypothyroidism condition; more helpful than the two endocrinologist I have gone to in the past 3 years

  7. I thought you could eat broccoli, cauliflower etc if it was cooked? What about dairy? I've had hypothyroidism for 25 years...Seems we can eat less & less?
    Kim

    1. Many say that that is fine. Dairy is pretty inflammatory so it depends on you and your body, but many w/ Hashimotos avoid it. You can work on strengthening your gut and eliminating allergies which might help.

  8. I eat gluten free but have recently read that it can be dangerous because of the rice used in most GF foods. Most rice apparently contains small amounts of arsenic but over time can have an adverse effect. Also read that we need the grains for certain vitamins and going GF is harmful in this aspect. HELP! SO confused!

    1. It is confusing. I am going to ask around about this. Brown rice has more than white. I don't know that we need grains but even so there are many other grains that can work. I will see if I can find anything more out about this. I just eat rice protein pretty much and we lean more on quinoa and buckwheat than rice, but I know what you mean. What vitamins are you hearing that we need to eat grains for?

    2. Hi again, Jennifer. I have done a little digging. One thought is that you can lean on white rice. I tend to eat Basmati as that has a lower glycemic load. However, if you can get rice bran solubles that have been tested for arsenic then that's a great option! I had one but looks like it's not available any longer.