How do popular cleanses affect your thyroid? Are detoxes safe if you have hypothyroidism?
In the age of on-line marketing, there are many opportunists keen on selling you the latest pills or powders as treatment for a myriad of issues. In recent years, this has been the great and mighty detox. However, there isn’t much scientific evidence that shows a specific detox plan is effective. The reason for this is that there are just too many variables to test, making it difficult for scientists to come to any solid conclusions.
However, although there are many products that are marketed to us to detox the body, there IS scientific evidence to show that there are specific foods that in fact boost the natural detoxification processes of the body. Therefore, including specific foods can naturally help the body to detox.
When it comes to optimal thyroid health, however, there are many aspects to popular cleansing and detox practices and foods that may do more harm than good. If you have a thyroid condition, take the following points into consideration…
Top 4 Thyroid Detox Mistakes:
1. Iodine May Exacerbate Your Thyroid Condition
Iodine is a vital nutrient needed for optimal thyroid health. In fact, iodine deficiency is the number one reason for hypothyroidism worldwide. However, in modernized countries that have implemented programs to include more iodine in common foods like salt, hypothyroidism is still seen in the form of autoimmune disease.
Since it is known that excess iodine can be a trigger for autoimmune disease and therefore hypothyroidism, it is important to be aware of common detoxifying foods that include more iodine. For people with autoimmune thyroiditis, it is prudent to avoid these foods.
A lot of the foods used to cleanse the body such as algae like chlorella and spirulina are rich sources of iodine. Iodine may not be a problem for many with hypothyroidism, however, taking too much can exacerbate an autoimmune condition. Especially if you are deficient in selenium, iodine may do more harm than good. Therefore, before starting a detox regimen that contains iodine, check your selenium status and make sure not to surpass the daily dose of 150 mcg per day.
2. Fasting May Throw Off Blood Glucose Balance
Another trend increasing in popularity as a means to detox the body is intermittent fasting. This involves allowing a 12 to 15 hour window of not eating in order to allow the intestines to rest and to decrease the amount of time that insulin is stimulated. This method is also used to lose weight.
Although intermittent fasting can be effective for a lot of people, it may be detrimental for people that have hypothyroidism. This is because many people with hypothyroidism produce excess amounts of cortisol (or adrenal fatigue) which can throw off optimal blood sugar balance. A fast as part of a detox program can further exacerbate blood sugar balance by producing even more cortisol (which also decreases thyroid function).
For most thyroid patients, eating every 3-4 hours with a mixture of high-fiber carbohydrate, good fats and protein will help to balance blood sugar levels. Drinking smoothies as part of your fast can be a good alternative to people with hypothyroidism who want to do their own version of a fast. You simply incorporate a protein source like grass fed collagen powder into the smoothie and drink one portion every 3-4 hours to help offset the side-effects associated with increased cortisol production.
3. Watch Out For Foods That Can Trigger Autoimmune Responses
For many with hypothyroidism, simply avoiding gluten, dairy, and sugar and adding a lot of legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and eggs in hopes to enhance the detoxification pathways of their bodies, may actually be counterproductive.
Having an autoimmune condition can make you sensitive to all of the aforementioned foods. They can act as triggers to an autoimmune response or contribute further to a leaky gut (seen in many with autoimmune disease).
Another example of a group of foods that may seem like a good idea to include in a detox is the nightshade family of fruits and vegetables. These include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, white potatoes, and Goji berries. As mentioned before, for people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, these foods serve as a trigger to their disease. Therefore, if you know that these foods do in fact bother you, try to avoid them all together when attempting a detox plan. Click here to learn more about foods that trigger autoimmune responses and how to avoid them.
4. You Do Not Have To Be Afraid of Goitrogens
Many people with hypothyroidism believe that avoiding foods like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach, and kale can benefit them. These foods contain goitrogens, which are compounds that can suppress the function of the thyroid by interfering with iodine uptake.
However, in the absence of an iodine or selenium deficiency, certain goitrogens can actually aid in T4 production and support optimal thyroid function. Also foods that belong to the cruciferous family play an important role in supporting the detoxification processes of the body and therefore protect against diseases like cancer.
So, if you are hypothyroid, do not be afraid to include these powerhouses of nutrition into your detox regimen. As long as you don’t have an iodine or selenium deficiency you should be fine. If you’re not sure, you can make sure to cook cruciferous vegetables which helps break down the goitrogens.
Tips for Doing A Detox When You Have Hypothyroidism
- Do An Elimination Diet. Sometimes, the best way to enhance the detox pathways of the body is simply to stop ingesting food that causes inflammation. The most common foods that do this are sugar, gluten and/or grains, and conventional dairy. Simply removing these foods can help a person with hypothyroidism resolve a lot of symptoms (like brain fog or fatigue) that plague them.
- Add Nutrient Density. Choose foods like pasture-raised meats and poultry, wild-caught fish and seafood, offal and a plethora of fruits and vegetables. These foods will provide the nutrients necessary to detoxify the body, without triggering any unwanted side-effects. Learn about the best food for hypothyroidism here.
- Drink bone broth. Bone broth is rich is the amino acids glycine and proline. These specific amino acids are vital in supporting the liver to remove toxins from the body.
- Supplement if necessary. In order to boost the effects of a nutrient-dense diet, it may be necessary to add specific supplements. For example, if after an elimination diet one experiences headaches, muscle aches, and trouble sleeping, supplementing with magnesium before bedtime may be beneficial. However, it is very important to work with a trained health care practitioner with a background in nutrition in order to help you understand your symptoms and direct you towards which supplements may work for you. Make sure to avoid supplements with additives that may do the opposite of what a detox is supposed to do. Learn about the best supplements for hypothyroidism here.
What is the lesson to be learned here? Always be wary of pills and potions that promise to give you the fountain of youth. There is no better way to detoxify the body than to give it the nutrients it needs to boost this process. When it comes to the thyroid, choose foods that help it to work optimally instead of work against it.
Additional Hypothyroidism Resources:
- 5 Best Thyroid Supplements
- 5 Foods to Avoid for an Underactive Thyroid
- 6 Best Foods for Hypothyroidism
- Free Hypothyroidism Diet Guide Printable
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About Tina Christoudias, The Thyroid Dietician
Tina Christoudias is a Harvard-trained registered dietitian with nearly 18 years of experience as a nutrition counselor. Having had personal experience with hypothyroidism, she specializes in diet protocols for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism and has recently finished her book, Tired of Feeling Tired? She is a strong advocate of the Paleo diet and is currently getting certified as an autoimmune protocol certified practitioner.
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