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Thyroid Function And You: How Primal May Be Hurting You

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  • Thyroid Function And You: How Primal May Be Hurting You

    The overwhelming majority of us on this forum know full well the benefits of adhering to The Primal Blueprint. Every day, people come to these forums signing the praises of how it's transformed their life. After only a few short weeks, ailments that plagued them for years start to subside. Weight loss, for the first time ever, seems effortless. Skin starts to clear up. Joints stop aching. Acne and allergies improve. It's amazing how eating a proper human diet can fix things up! But, alas, nothing is perfect. As with any lifestyle change, you'll get a few complaints. The two I see most often are:

    1.) Low thyroid function.
    2.) Hair loss.

    And, surprise! They're intertwined.

    An amazing 10% of Americans suffer from thyroid issues, and out of that 10%, 90% of those have issues with low thyroid. Iodized salt was a response to this issue. Oddly enough, the saving grace of the SAD is the outrageously high content of refined, iodized salt and refined sugar in the American Diet. When people leave the high sodium, high sugar SAD and move to The Primal Blueprint, their sodium and sugar intake drops dramatically. If they were borderline hypothyroid and the massive intakes of refined salt and sugar was actually keeping them afloat. Now, with that band aid removed, thyroid issues set in. If you're one of the new Primals suffering from hair loss or thinning, you are probably now hypothyroid and the sugar- and salt-laden SAD was keeping you afloat.

    Some of you may shrug this off. In your head, you may think, "This is ridiculous. That means all the cavemen were hypothyroid. No way!" Well, it's not just what you're NOT eating that's making you hypothyroid. It's also what you ARE eating. This post will discuss measures you can take to optimize thyroid function without reverting to SAD-levels of salt and sugar.

    1.) Iodine, iodine, iodine. The ancient diet was rich in sea creatures, sea vegetables and salt. How much kelp and seaweed are you eating? How often do you make an entire meal out of mussels, clams, cod, shrimp and oysters? The answer: probably not much. If you're anything like the average Primal, you're eating lots of muscle meats, some occasional organ meats, green vegetables and maybe a little fruit or starch. You're also probably not drenching your food in salt because of the whole "high blood pressure" scenario CW as drilled into your head since birth.

    2.) Unsaturated fat intake. Unsaturated oils are thyroid-suppressing. We all know the baddies: soybean, canola, corn, cottonseed, peanut, grapeseed, sunflower, safflower...the list goes on and on. High intakes of polyunsaturated fat (>4% total calories) is counterproductive to health, and these oils should be avoided at all costs. But what about monounsaturated fats? Both Primal and CW love MUFA's. Well, if you're having issues with thyroid, you should be avoiding these as well. Olive oil, avocado oil, high oleic sunflower/safflower oil, macadamia nut oil, hazelnut oil...toss these in the closet. The best things to be cooking with if you have hypothyroid is saturated fat. Coconut oil, beef tallow and butter/ghee are your go-to oils, and if you have issues with your thyroid, I wouldn't touch anything else. In fact, coconut oil is so high in saturated fat, if you suffer from thyroid issues, this is one of the rare occasions where I'll support supplementing with a tablespoon of coconut oil a day. This time, it is medicinal.

    3. Goitrogens. That's right, it's not just what you AREN'T eating, it's what you ARE eating. Everything has a balance: there are nutrients, and there are anti-nutrients. Well, there are pro-thyroid foods and anti-thyroid foods. To quote WHFoods:

    Goitrogens are naturally-occurring substances that can interfere with function of the thyroid gland. Goitrogens get their name from the term "goiter," which means an enlargement of the thyroid gland. If the thyroid gland is having difficulty making thyroid hormone, it may enlarge as a way of trying to compensate for this inadequate hormone production. "Goitrogens," like circumstances that cause goiter, cause difficulty for the thyroid in making its hormone.
    Here is a list of common goitrogens:

    ***SOY!!!

    Cruciferous vegetables (high levels of goitrogens):
    * Bok Choy
    * Broccoli
    * Brussel sprouts
    * Cabbage
    * Cauliflower
    * Collards
    * Kale
    * Kohlrabi
    * Mustard greens
    * Rutabaga
    * Turnips

    Lower level foods:
    * Bamboo shoots
    * Millet
    * Peaches
    * Peanuts
    * Pears
    * Pine nuts
    * Radishes
    * Spinach
    * Strawberries
    * Sweet potatoes

    The Primal Blueprint not only tends on trending to be a low salt/low sugar diet, but it is also a diet rich in goitrogens. Now, my personal opinion is that plant matter should not make up the majority of your food intake. I personally believe that the TRUE Primal diet is a diet rich in organ meats, moderate in muscle meat, moderate in starch, moderate in fruit and low in fibrous vegetables. Think about it: our body's digestive system is NOT made to handle fiber very well and vegetables are terrible sources of energy that have to generally be cooked very well to make the nutrition bioavailable to the human body. There is no way Grok wandered around picking leafy greens. They are a horrible source of energy and rough on the digestive system. Grok would have went for organs, fruits and starches because they are energy rich, simple to digest and the lowest in anti-nutrients. Therefore, it's my opinion that the popular diets around here - muscle meats and bigass salads without sugars and salt - is actually counterproductive to your thyroid function. And, of course, I'll take my customary shot at chronic low-carbohydrate diets. Surprise, surprise, eating low-carbohydrate is counterproductive to thyroid health, and another nail in the coffin for livin' la vida low-carb. I'm maintaining my stance that no one with a properly functioning metabolism should be eating under 100g of carbohydrate a day, and low-carb diets are for medicinal purposes only. It's not that Primal is wrong, but rather a problem with implementation.

    So how would I go about maintaining a healthy thyroid?

    1.) Supplement with iodine. I take 5 kelp pills every day, which is about 1.25mg of iodine. THIS ISN'T MUCH, but I do other things to help. If you are clearly hypothyroid and your hair is thinning and/or falling out, consider supplementing with this:

    Amazon.com: Iodoral 12.5 mg 90 tabs: Health & Personal Care

    2.) Add salt to things. Even Mark approves of salt. I believe salt has been the scapegoat for other baddies in the SAD and has an undeserved bad reputation. I have been liberally adding salt to mostly all my foods recently, specifically my meats and vegetables. I highly recommend Himalayan pink salt. It is fantastic and nutritious.

    FunFresh Foods Himalayan Pink Sea Salt

    3.) Stop avoiding sugar, particularly fructose. No, that doesn't mean start adding HFCS to things. HFCS, agave syrup and the like are poisonous, isolated fructose. I'm talking about eating whole fructose in the form of fruit. I make sure to have at least 1 serving of fruit a day, and typically eat 3-4 servings on days I lift heavy things. For thyroid function, FRUIT IS SUPERIOR TO STARCH. Fruit also has less of an impact for people with blood sugar issues than starch does, so outside of people on theraputic ketogenic diets, we should all be able to add some whole fruit into our diet. Again, even Mark agrees that whole fructose isn't the issue, but rather the isolated stuff. Even small amounts of sucrose could be acceptable if it fits into your carbohydrate and calorie goals. That's SUCROSE (go for whole/raw brown sugar), not HFCS. HFCS is poisonous for many other reasons, not just the isolated sugar part. Even Mark puts sugar in his coffee. 1-2 teaspoons of whole, raw sugar is not going to harm anyone but the most challenged diabetics. Just remember, poison is in the dose, and sucrose toxicity depends on your metabolic health. It's not inherently poisonous in and of itself (unlike wheat and soy).

    4.) Avoid goitrogens. Simply avoid the foods outlined above. That doesn't mean you can never enjoy a brussels spout again. Just don't make them staples in your diet. There are hundreds of vegetables you can enjoy out there. You don't need to eat broccoli, spinach, kale and cabbage every night. And trust me, your significant other will appreciate that

    I am NOT an expert on this subject matter and this is by no means a recommendation on what you should to about your own health. I'm not a licensed physician. This is just my opinion supported by a few references. Tell me what you think!

    The Coconut Diet™ - Thyroid Health: A Key to Weight Loss
    foods containing goitrogens
    WHFoods: What are goitrogens and in which foods are they found?

    For more info on thyroid function, both Danny Roddy and Ray Peat say a lot of great things.

    http://www.dannyroddy.com/
    http://raypeat.com/articles/
    Last edited by ChocoTaco369; 02-20-2012, 11:49 AM.
    Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

  • #2
    Good post, and I'm glad to see this discussion.

    Do you happen to know what percentage of goitrogens in cruciferous veggies are disabled by cooking? I think it's most, if not all. I still wouldn't rely on them for a large part of my diet, and certainly I wouldn't eat them raw, but I don't know if they need to be completely avoided by people without thyroid issues.
    Lifting Journal

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    • #3
      Does all salt have iodine? I use a sea salt, not labled as iodized, and I eat a lot of it.

      http://maggiesfeast.wordpress.com/
      Check out my blog. Hope to share lots of great recipes and ideas!

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      • #4
        This is definitely interesting. I was diagnosed as hypothyroid/gluten-intolerant 2 years ago after a long battle with the medical system. I actually found an MD who specializes in thyroid/hormone function, works outside of insurance, doesn't base diagnosis solely on lab test results, and attempts every kind of natural cure before resorting to pills.

        Long story short, she found out I had been dabbling in vegetarianism/veganism for a year and immediately sent me to this website to set me straight and said that primal/paleo tends to work best for her thyroid patients. I have done some reading on goitrogens, etc..before, but the only foods she told me to avoid are soy/grains/legumes. I may bring this up to her and see what her opinion on it is. At first I was highly skeptical of the whole "primal" thing, but I can't really argue with a master's degree in microbiology and medical school :P Thanks for the food for thought and I will be interested to see more replies!

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        • #5
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          • #6
            Originally posted by magnolia1973 View Post
            Does all salt have iodine? I use a sea salt, not labled as iodized, and I eat a lot of it.
            If the label does not specifically say it has iodine, it does not.

            And salt is only a problem if you are not getting enough potassium. If you are eating a lot of veggies, like you should on this diet, you do not have an issue with potassium. And honestly, if you are not hypertensive - salt is simply not a problem.
            Last edited by Andtckrtoo; 02-20-2012, 11:58 AM.
            Christine
            Wag more, bark less

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            • #7
              Originally posted by magnolia1973 View Post
              Does all salt have iodine? I use a sea salt, not labled as iodized, and I eat a lot of it.
              All salt is essentially sea salt, so any crappy, white salt can be labeled as sea salt. If it's white salt and it doesn't specifically state it has iodine on it, I'd assume it doesn't have any. My solution: don't buy any white salt. That's why I have pink salt You're likely paying a premium for regular, refined NaCl.
              Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Apex Predator View Post
                Good post, and I'm glad to see this discussion.

                Do you happen to know what percentage of goitrogens in cruciferous veggies are disabled by cooking? I think it's most, if not all. I still wouldn't rely on them for a large part of my diet, and certainly I wouldn't eat them raw, but I don't know if they need to be completely avoided by people without thyroid issues.
                No, I do not. I do know that crucifers should be cooked well before consumption. Raw cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale and the like are popular additions to salads, but they can cause all sorts of issues. I don't put any of these things in my BAS, and stick to foods meant to be eaten raw - lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots and celery.
                Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

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                • #9
                  I like this post a lot and have been doing more of those things. I have a large nodule on my thyroid that I developed pre-Primal, though scans and blood tests show that everything is functioning normally.

                  I think the only thing that I have issues with is eating too many goitrogens. I LOVE cruciferous vegetables, especially in the fall and winter. Cooking definitely helps though.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ChocoTaco369 View Post
                    No, I do not. I do know that crucifers should be cooked well before consumption. Raw cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale and the like are popular additions to salads, but they can cause all sorts of issues. I don't put any of these things in my BAS, and stick to foods meant to be eaten raw - lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots and celery.
                    Indeed. I err on the side of over-cooking them.
                    Lifting Journal

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                    • #11
                      I've had amazing results with my autoimmune hypothyroidism since going primal. You should see how much new hair I have. It's really quite shocking. But then my issues are stemming from autoimmunity and not just chronic low thyroid functioning.

                      Previous to going primal, I was not a SAD eater. I was pretty orthodox CW. I had already given up soy and switched to an unrefined salt (Real Salt). I have experimented with iodine supplementation, but I've been a bit hesitant to go whole hog since I've also read that it can fuel the autoimmunity. I take a small amount now. Plus I add trace minerals to my water (Concentrace). I have a reverse osmosis filter so my water is completely de-mineralized if I don't do this. One of the reasons I opted for rather extreme filtering is that fluoride is also possibly linked to poor thyroid function. I also switched to a non-fluoridated tooth powder for this reason. A couple other things I think are important are Vitamin D and selenium. Whether you supplement or just get some sunshine and eat some selenium-rich foods, I think many people are lacking in these two things.

                      I probably still eat too many goitrogens, but I generally cook them. I love cruciferous veggies. I didn't realize kale was a problem, so I might have to give up my kale chips. I dehydrate them at a pretty low temperature. But the main difference between my diet before primal and after has been giving up the grains and legumes and changing the fats that I eat. I do really think that industrial seed oils are one of the worst things you can eat. They just aren't food. I don't eat enough organ meat. I eat almost entirely muscle meat. I rarely have fish more than once a week, which is a shame. I do eat a fair amount of olive oil, too. Maybe if I changed this, I'd see even better results but I'm pretty happy with how things are going as it is. My lab results have been good. I feel fantastic. I don't have the swelling, joint pain, intolerance to cold, etc. that I had before.

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                      • #12
                        How long do you think it'd take for the goitrogenic effects to subside after scaling back on those types of foods? I'm wondering if this is part of the reason I've been struggling with my weight lately.

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                        • #13
                          Chris Kresser and Chris Masterjohn just talked about this issue in a podcast. They said that as long as you have enough iodine and selenium, goitrogens are not much of an issue.
                          http://www.prettyinprimal.blogspot.com

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by AutumnP View Post
                            How long do you think it'd take for the goitrogenic effects to subside after scaling back on those types of foods? I'm wondering if this is part of the reason I've been struggling with my weight lately.
                            I don't know. The popular thing to do is go 30 days free of whatever thing you suspect and see if health improves. That's probably a reasonable bet here.
                            Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by hazyjane View Post
                              Chris Kresser and Chris Masterjohn just talked about this issue in a podcast. They said that as long as you have enough iodine and selenium, goitrogens are not much of an issue.
                              The problem is, so many people lack these things. I probably have these things since I'm young and didn't eat a horrible diet pre-Primal, so that's why my kelp supplementation is low and I still get goitrogens in moderation. For someone eating the SAD for 30 years with no care about their health, the salt and sugar may be the only think keeping their thyroid functioning. These are the folks who complain of hair loss, low body temperature, lack of weight loss and other classic effects of hypothyroidism when turning Primal. So many of us are hanging by a thread and don't know it. Going Primal may simply be the straw that breaks the camel's back with their thyroid.

                              I will say this: when I bought into the whole low-carbohydrate Primal thing, I would get the chills any time I'd break a fast. It was like there was like an energy drain and I'd want to put a coat on. Now that I eat a lot more carbohydrate overall, particularly fruit, supplement with kelp and have been adding liberal amounts of salt to my food, my body temperature feels to have increased significantly. I don't get the cold feeling I used to get and overall I feel much better, although water retention has increased from the significant increase in sodium. That's a small price to pay, though.
                              Last edited by ChocoTaco369; 02-20-2012, 12:55 PM.
                              Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

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