The butterfly-shaped thyroid glans lies at the front of the neck just below your voicebox. This small gland produces powerful hormones that help to trigger your body's growth, development and metabolism. Hashimoto’s disease or thyroiditis is a condition in which your body attacks its own thyroid, damaging this organ and leading to low levels of thyroid hormones. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include fatigue and tiredness, weight gain, a pale and puffy face, joint and muscle pain, thinning hair and depression. Some foods may increase your risk of getting Hashimoto's disease.
Your body needs to get the mineral iodine from your diet in order to keep your thyroid healthy and produce thyroid hormones. So it might seem counter-intuitive that in some people, iodine can also trigger thyroid disease. Research published in the "Journal of Autoimmunity" in 2007 noted that getting too much iodine in the diet can lead to autoimmune thyroiditis in some individuals. This condition causes inflammation in and damage to the thyroid gland. Individuals genetically prone to this condition may have to limit how much iodine they consume. The American Thyroid Association lists several food sources of iodine, including iodized table-salt, saltwater fish, soy sauce, shellfish, cow's milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
Soy-based products are popular health foods because they are rich in plant protein and low in fat. However, an article published by Bauman College in 2007 noted that foods such as soy milk, soy beans and tofu also contain high amounts of plant hormones that can disrupt your body's hormonal balance. This can lead to Hashimoto's thyroiditis, causing low levels of the thyroid hormone T3 in your body. The article cited Ken Blanchard, M.D., who noted infants fed soy formulas are at higher risk of developing autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto's disease later in life.
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are popularly used as a low-calorie alternative to sugar and are found in a range of foods from chewing gum to beverages and low-fat snacks. However, in an interview published by Thyroid-Info.com, Dr. Edward Bauman warned that such artificial sweeteners may be converted into toxins in the body. He noted that aspartame in particular may lead to thyroid gland damage. There is not yet conclusive evidence on the effects of artificial sweeteners on the body, and several studies are ongoing.
Environmental toxins, particularly those found in canned and processed foods, are also thought to increase the risk of Hashimoto's. In her book "Advancing Medicine with Food and Nutrients," Sheila George, M.D. noted that these chemicals can block the production of thyroid hormones. Dr. George reported that one of these environmental toxins, bisphenol A, or BPA -- a chemical found in the resin liner of most canned goods -- has been shown to leech into food.
- WomensHealth.gov: Hashimoto's Disease Fact Sheet
- Advancing Medicine with Food and Nutrients: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis; Sheila George, M.D.
- Bauman College: Hashimotos Autoimmune Thyroiditis: Eating for Heath Applications for Recovery; Jodi Friedlander, M.S. & Edward Bauman, M.Ed., Ph.D.
- Thyroid-Info.com: The Metabolic Detective: A Look at Nutrition for Your Thyroid: Interview with Dr. Edward Bauman
- American Thyroid Association: What Is Thyroid Deficiency?
- Journal of Autoimmunity: Modifying Effects Of Iodine On The Immunogenicity of Thyroglobulin Peptides
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.