As a coach, I’ve heard just about every cockamamie myth out there about thyroid disease — and it’s not my clients’ fault. Thyroid conditions are one of the least understood diagnoses, especially for Western physicians who haven’t educated themselves on emerging science.
It’s no wonder that so many people are confused about thyroid disease and how to heal, so I compiled the top 10 myths I hear over and over again from my clients in the hope that I can help you clear up some confusion you may feel.
1. “I have normal TSH levels, so I can’t have a thyroid problem.”
This myth has long been perpetrated by Western medicine, and I’d like to give any doctor who tells his patient this a good shake. Your TSH levels can be well within normal ranges and you can still be having health problems related to your thyroid. There are so many different ways your thyroid can malfunction, because it is so directly connected to so many body processes. Click here to read more about the many different tests available.
2. “I’m not allergic to any foods.”
Just because you don’t go into anaphylactic shock when you eat common allergen foods doesn’t mean your body isn’t sensitive to them. Many of my clients had no clue that they were sensitive to wheat or dairy or any other allergens until they cut them out of their diet. And many others are able to add those troublesome foods back into their diets (in moderate, healthy amounts) once they’ve given their bodies a chance to heal. The point is, every body is different, and the only way to know for sure how yours reacts to a given food is to test going without.
3. “I’m too young to have thyroid problems.”
I’m living proof that this one isn’t true! While it’s true that one in five women over 60 will develop thyroid problems, that doesn’t mean younger women (and some men) don’t suffer from thyroid disease as well. In fact, it’s especially common to develop thyroid problems during pregnancy or immediately postpartum, as I did. Don’t rule out thyroid problems just because of your age (and don’t let your doctor rule it out, either).
4. “Thyroid problems are easily treated with medication.”
Some thyroid problems do require medication, but the problem is that many times, if your body is not processing thyroid hormones properly, the medication will lose effectiveness over time, just like your natural hormones did. Without supporting your body and all its processes, you may find you have to take more and more medication over time, and that your problems will get worse, not better.
5. “A low-calorie diet and exercise is the best way to lose the weight I gained because of my thyroid problem.”
Too much exercise and too much of the wrong kinds of foods can actually make your thyroid problems — and weight problems — worse. When my clients have been struggling to lose weight and I tell them to cut back on the exercise and add more healthy fat to their diet, they are all shocked! But they’re even more shocked and thrilled when it works. The old “calories in, calories out” method doesn’t work when the delicate balance of hormones in your body is all wonky due to thyroid issues!
6. “Now that I have a thyroid disease diagnosis, that’s the only thing I need to heal.”
Unfortunately, thyroid disease is sometimes only the first piece of the puzzle. Ninety percent of people who have hypothyroidism also have Hashimoto’s disease, but the regular TSH blood test doesn’t test for Hashimoto’s. Additionally, you might be suffering from adrenal fatigue, digestive problems, and sluggish detox pathways that have to be addressed before you can heal your thyroid issues.
7. “I already eat really well” and / or “I’m a vegetarian” so I don’t need to change my diet.
The problem with this way of thinking is, what is your definition of eating well? Loads of doctors would tell you that a low-fat diet filled with pasta and “diet” sodas and cookies is eating well. Others might say that vegetarianism or veganism is eating well but they don’t eat whole vegetarian foods, they eat loads of processed meat-like substitutes. For people with thyroid disease, however, those well meaning diets can be disastrous. Changing the way you eat can be hard, but necessary for many people to heal.
8. My doctor said that your diet doesn’t affect your thyroid and “I’ve already gone off gluten, dairy, and soy but I’m still not feeling better.”
I wish I could tell you that going a few days, or even a few weeks without those offending foods would magically heal you, but the truth is the damage done to your digestive tract didn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t always heal overnight either. In my experience, my clients need a minimum of six weeks to start to notice a change in the way they feel on their new diet. For some, it can take much longer to fully repair the damage.
9. Cutting out goitrogenic vegetables will do the trick.
For most people, goitrogenic foods are not the main problem with their diets. For one thing, 70–80 percent of the goitrogenic properties of these foods are eliminated through cooking. And second, they contain a substance that actually aids in detoxification, so cutting these foods out of your diet may not have the effect you hoped for. While I advocate cutting back on goitrogenic vegetables if you’re sensitive or at least eating them well-cooked, just cutting out goitrogenic vegetables is not a cure-all.
10. “I have to take medication because I lost my thyroid, so diet and lifestyle changes won’t work for me.”
Actually, the synthetic hormones doctors prescribe for thyroid problems and thyroid loss work because they mimic your real hormones — so the things that disrupt natural thyroid function, like stress and leaky gut, will still affect you if you’re taking thyroid medication. Your liver, in particular, needs to be strong and healthy for the medication to do its work properly.
What other questions do you have about thyroid disease? While I can’t address specific personal medical issues here in the comments (that would just be irresponsible!) I’d love to hear what you’re struggling with so that maybe I can point you to the right resources. Need a little more personal attention? Why not join us for the next session of The Thyroid Fix in 6 so that you can get the support you need for healing.