Eating Greens For Thyroid Health

Eating greens for thyroid healthAre you bloated and gassy, but really enjoys your greens? If the answer is yes, keep reading to learn how eating greens for thyroid health can work for you!

If so, there are some things you need to know, especially if you are someone with hypothyroidism or suffering from hypothyroid symptoms.

To avoid getting stuck in the “this is good” “this is bad” madness, we want to make it very clear – leafy greens are high in nutrients, they are loaded in fiber, however, they are also loaded with lots of natural chemicals. One of the most important factors when working to heal the thyroid is reducing stress on the system. Leafy greens, and the chemicals they contain can place a tremendous amount of burden on the body and interfere with healing.

The fact that cows, sheep, goats and deer can thrive on a diet of foliage shows that leaves contain essential nutrients. Their minerals, vitamins, and amino acids are suitable for sustaining most animal life, if a sufficient quantity is eaten. But when people try to live primarily on foliage, as in famines, they soon suffer from a great variety of diseases. Various leaves contain antimetabolic substances that prevent the assimilation of the nutrients, and only very specifically adapted digestive systems (or technologies) can overcome those toxic effects.” – Ray Peat

Above the ground vegetables produce naturally occurring pesticides for the purpose of protection from insects, birds and grazing animals. These pesticides, or plant toxins are designed to destroy the digestive system of any organism that might consume them, a very effective approach wouldn’t you say?

Interestingly enough, we have an entire society plagued with digestive health issues, who are consuming a very high plant-based diet. It is not to say these are the culprits in the breakdown and function of the digestive system, but when we take a closer look at the thyroid – gut connection we know a digestive issue cannot occur without some degree of metabolic disturbance and vice versa.

If your health goal and focus is on healing your gut and/or thyroid, consuming large amounts of raw vegetables, particularly things like kale, spinach, lettuce, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables might not be supporting all your hard work, effort and commitment.

Some of the chemicals produced naturally in plants include lectins, lignans, oxalates and other digestive disruptors such as pectins and poyunsaturated fats. These mild toxins designed to protect the leaves, stems and seeds of the plant, contain properties limiting to digestive enzyme production and interfere with nutrient uptake. Here is a handful of information you might find interesting.

Lectins were created by mother nature to help plants grow and when the plants die, they become a useful fertilizer. Lectins are known to cause leaky gut, placing a tremendous burden on the immune system and can lead to blood clotting. When processed with heat and cooked, lectins may not pose too much of a problem, but when not broken down with heat at least 60 percent remain biologically active and immunologically intact, a combination equivalent to a time bomb in the digestive tract. Lectins can also affect the gut flora and gain strength with other anti-nutrients such as protease inhibitors (inhibit some of the key enzymes that help us digest protein) and saponins.

Oxalates, found in rhubarb and spinach, as well as soy protein (also known as soy protein isolate-found in just about all processed foods), prevent the absorption of calcium and can lead to kidney stones. Studies have also shown oxalate-containing foods must be eliminated from the diet of those being treated or suffering with autism before any real progress can be made in treating this condition. Also noted are products containing gluten, casein and soy.

Goitrogens block the synthesis and utilization of thyroid hormones and are leading to an epidemic of thyroid dysfunction.

Lignans are classified as phytoestrogens because they can mimic some of the effects of estrogens. Although many studies discount the degree of effect these phytoestrogen have, whether weak or strong, the estrogenic response of a chemical will add extra estrogenic burden on the system.

People under stress, those who suffer with thyroid deficiency or those who do not consume adequate protein typically have elevated estrogen levels. The accumulation of essential fatty acids, the polyunsaturated oils, in the tissues promotes the action of estrogen in a variety of ways.

Eating carrot salads can help to reduce the effects of excess estrogen as well as help to normalize gut bacteria and health.

But what about the fiber?

How many of you see protein in your stool?

How many of you see your salad from the night before in your stool?

Ok. Point made, but have you ever wondered why?

Simple. We are not ruminant animals. Humans lack the enzyme necessary to digest cellulose.

All plant cells have an outer cell wall composed of cellulose and lignin. This greatly reduces the amount of energy available for extraction, be it by an animal or a human because most lack the specific enzymes that would allow then to digest cellulose.  Ruminant animals on the other hand, have special bacteria and microorganisms in their digestive tracts that do it for them. They are then able to absorb the broken down cellulose and use its sugar as a food source.

To be fair, in a healthy body and in moderation, cellulose has been shown to be an effective bulking agent or roughage, that can help the movement of our intestines.

Unfortunately no one is taking into consideration the abundance of external factors (stress, poor nutrition and environmental toxins) responsible for compromising the health of the gut and leading to inflammation and dysbiosis (altered gut bacteria). The function of the thyroid is essential to peristaltic movement and a healthy ecosystem. Once this goes array the bacteria (which make up the bulk of your stool, the other 75% being water) are no longer available to retain water, soften the stools and provide stool bulk. This leads to constipation.

What is the answer to constipation? Eat some fiber!

Sure, this might help for a while but it is not doing anything to help restore the function of the gut by restoring the bacteria back into balance. Like most “this for that” approaches, you take the bandaid off and you are left with the same issues you started with, except now they are more pronounced and more chronic.

Fiber acts like a roto-rooter in the gut and can create a ton of irritability to the delicate lining of the gut. Now we have an altered system, caused by external stressors being double whammied by internal stressors, limiting the ability of the body to absorb the very nutrients you are working to retain, another internal stress! The layers are building here and to top it off you have undigestible food (cellulose) sitting in your gut serving as the perfect breeding ground for bacteria!

Left unattended these issues, which might only start as minor symptoms of constipation, will lead to conditions, which over time will turn into chronic disease. A vicious down hill spiral we hope we can help you all avoid.

For those of you wondering how you are going to get the vital nutrients these plant foods have to offer, not to worry. We have to remember that nutrient dense animal foods contain concentrated nutrients because the animals eating them spend their whole lives chowing down literally tons of fresh greens and other plant matter. the result is meat and fat containing all the vitamins and minerals found in fresh produce, not only in a more concentrated form, but also one that is easy for us to digest.

Vegetables containing high amounts of insoluble and should be avoided or well cooked include all cruciferous vegetables, all greens (kale, chard, spinach, arugala, collards, etc.). If you are going to eat the leafy stuff or crave yourself some broccoli or cauliflower, make sure it is well cooked and accompanied by a starch or fruit to help get that metabolic kick you need to heal your gut.

Eating Greens for Thyroid Health

If you are someone like me who really does like some fresh crunchy vegetables now and then, here is a perfect alternative to a fresh salad.

Portion is approximate. This is just something I throw together when I get the itch. I do recommend keeping it to 1/2 cup or a cup serving.

  • 1/8 cup grated beets
  • 1/8 cup grated carrots
  • 1/8 cup grated jicama
  • 1/8 cup grated butternut squash
  • 1/8 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/8 cup grated summer squash (yellow or green or a little bit of both)
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt

Grating your vegetables make them much easier to digest and breakdown and essentially can be compared to the first phase of our digestive process, chewing. Cool, right?!

For more ideas on how to use metabolic foods to help restore your health and heal your gut, click here and schedule some time to talk with us.

We would also love to hear your comments so please scroll down and share your thoughts:)

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Share Your Thoughts





  1. Laura

    Can taking a tabletts of charcoal help relieve the stress and allow for the beneficials to be absorbed?

    March 23, 2016 • 11:12 pm •
  2. Vincent Aia

    Thank you very much for the very important information that you share and having some effect and improvement lately on my diet and health.

    May 14, 2016 • 7:41 pm •
  3. Sean

    Your points are correct, however dandelion is a very useful green. The main use of greens are not a staple of course, but for vitamin k and to stimulate digestion.

    They stimulate bile and can increase stomach acid; the more bitter they are the more useful. I.E chewing on a dandelion leaf before a meal. The consumption of bitters is done by many cultures.

    In excess they will definitely cause problems.
    I avoid kale though because of the goitrogens.
    The oxalates in spinach can be countered with calcium, but even then only a handful should be consumed with a meal, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue.

    February 18, 2017 • 9:43 pm •
  4. EastWest Healing

    Thanks for your comment. We are not saying greens are bad so much for thyroid health, but the excess intake of them. Same for polyunsaturaed oils. But we understand the importance of greens like dandelion for vitamin K, stimulating digestion, increasing stomach acid, etc. But, eating bone broth or creating a food frequency to regulate blood sugar to pull the body out of a stressed survival state does the same thing.

    February 19, 2017 • 5:31 pm •
  5. […] such as grains, beans, an excessive consumption of cruciferous veggies and leafy greens (particularly raw), lentils, breads, nuts and seeds, and alcohol are some of your leading offenders when it comes to […]

    August 1, 2017 • 1:31 pm •