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Thyroid function and Goitrogens

Who ever told us that thyroid function was so important and could be one of the keys to our health? Up to 113% risk in addition to being obese, Cardiovascular disease: due to a malfunction of the thyroid has also been associated with a greater risk of 2 to 53%.
If you have thyroid problems, you've probably heard of goitrogens. You may even know that some foods should be avoided because they contain this substance and that they are foods that disrupt the thyroid.



Most of the iodine is in the thyroid gland. Thus, an iodine deficiency leads to a reduction in the production of thyroid hormones, which is called in adults: a goiter. The consumption of so-called "goitrogenic" foods can exacerbate this disease because they prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing iodine.

The different types of goitrogens in foods that disrupt the thyroid

There are three main types of goitrogens:

- Goitrin

- Thiocyanates

- Flavonoids (or bioflavonoids).

Goitrin and thiocyanates are produced when the plants are damaged, for example when they are cut or chewed.

Flavonoids (or bioflavonoids) are naturally present in many different foods. For example, two types of flavonoids are easily found: catechin in green tea and resveratrol in red wine.

Flavonoids are generally considered good antioxidants for health, but some of them can become goitrogens when they pass through our digestive system and are transformed by our intestinal bacteria.

To remember: goitrin, thiocyanates and flavonoids are the three most common forms of goitrogens. They are present in many foods.

Goitrogens could cause thyroid problems

For people who have thyroid problems, excessive consumption of goitrogens can worsen the functioning of the thyroid gland:

  • Blocking iodine: goitrogens, present in foods that disrupt the thyroid, could prevent iodine from entering the thyroid gland, and iodine is needed to produce certain hormones.
    Interfering with thyroperoxidase (TPO or thyroid peroxidase): This enzyme helps to fix iodine to the amino acid called tyrosine, which together form the basis of thyroid hormones.
  • Reduce thyrotropin: goitrogens may interfere with the hormones that stimulate the thyroid gland and helps to produce hormones.

When the functioning of the thyroid gland is troubled, it struggles to produce the hormones that regulate your metabolism.

This can lead to problems with the regulation of body temperature, heart rate, protein production, calcium levels in the blood and how the body uses fat and carbohydrates (weight gain).

The body can compensate for a drop in thyroid hormone production simply by releasing more thyroid stimulating hormone, which causes the thyroid gland to produce more hormones.

Nevertheless, a malfunctioning thyroid gland does not respond as effectively to thyroid stimulating hormone. The thyroid gland then compensates by creating more cells, which causes an increase in the volume of this gland, a medical phenomenon called goiter.

This growth of the gland can cause hoarseness, a feeling of tightness in the throat, coughing, and difficulty of breathing and swallowing.

Remember: goitrogens can prevent the thyroid gland from producing sufficient amounts of hormones that the body needs to function normally. These foods that disrupt the thyroid are more likely to have a negative impact in people who already have thyroid problems.

Goitrogens can cause other health problems

Goiters are not the only health problems that should be kept in mind when eating foods that disrupt the thyroid gland. A thyroid gland that cannot produce enough hormones can cause other health problems, such as:

A decline in mental faculties: In one study, poor thyroid function increased the risk of mental decline and dementia by 81% among people younger than 75.

Cardiovascular diseases: malfunction of the thyroid was also associated with a higher risk of 2% to 53 to develop cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of premature death due to this disease of 18 to 28%.

Weight gain: during a long-term study on three and a half years, people whose thyroid gland was not working properly gained up to 2.3 kilos more than the other.

Obesity: researchers found that people who had a malfunction of the thyroid had between 20 and 113% risk in addition to being obese.

Delayed child development: low levels of some hormones produced by the thyroid during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, may interfere with brain development of the fetus.

Bone fractures: a study found that people who have a malfunction of the thyroid had 38% of risks in addition to having a hip fracture and 20% risk in addition to non-vertebral fractures.

Remember: the hormones produced by the thyroid gland help regulate the metabolism. A thyroid that is unable to produce as many hormones as necessary can cause many health problems.

How to minimize the effects of goitrogens

If your thyroid gland is not working properly or is not producing enough hormones, or if you are worried about the presence of goitrogens in your diet, there are some easy methods to reduce the risk of negative effects of foods that disrupt the thyroid gland:

Vary your diet: Eating a wide variety of herbal foods can help limit the amount of goitrogens you consume. In addition, it will help you consume enough vitamins and minerals.

Cook all the vegetables: try to sauté, steam or grill vegetables instead of eating them raw. This helps to reduce the enzyme called myrosinase (or thioglucoside glucohydrolase) which consequently reduces the presence of goitrogens.

Blanch the vegetables: If you like raw and fresh spinach or kale, in smoothies by example, try blanching the vegetables and then freezing them before squeezing them. This technique limits their impact on the thyroid gland.

Quit smoking: smoking is an important risk factor for goitre development.

Consume more iodine and selenium Consuming enough iodine and selenium can also limit the effects of foods that disrupt the thyroid by blocking goitrogens. It even happens that iodine deficiency is a well-known risk factor that can contribute to thyroid dysfunction.

Should you be worried about the presence of goitrogens?

The overall answer is no, it's not worth it. Unless your thyroid function is already limited or has difficulty, you do not need to limit your intake of foods that contain goitrogens.

In addition, when these foods are cooked or eaten in moderation, they should be undangerous for anyone, not even for people who have thyroid problems.

It also happens that many foods that disrupt the thyroid are also very important from a nutritional point of view, even if they contain goitrogens.

Therefore the risk posed by foods that disrupt the thyroid is not very large, and the health benefits that these foods may have are much more important.

By combining a food that contains goitrogens with a principal source of iodine food and increasing your intake of nutrients involved in the proper functioning of the thyroid gland such as: selenium, vitamin B12 and D. The ratio has good luck to interact with the consumption only food containing only goitrogens.

Hydrate properly

Since constipation may be a symptom of hypothyroidism, it is important to stay hydrated during the day by drinking 2 to 3 liters of fluid a day. Choose water as the main brew and avoid the liquid calories in fruit juices, soft drinks, cocktails, etc.

To go further:

Thyroid. 2002 Oct;12(10):879-88. Risk factors for goiter and thyroid nodules.
The Iodine Deficiency Disorders Creswell J Eastman, M.D. and Michael Zimmermann, M.D.
Messina M, Redmond G. Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: a review of the relevant literature. Thyroid. 2006;16(3):249-258.
Sworczak K, Wisniewski P. The role of vitamins in the prevention and treatment of thyroid disorders. Endokrynol Pol. 2011;62(4):340-344.

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