Foods and Drugs to Avoid When Taking Hypothyroid Medication
My Experience on Thyroid Medication
As someone who takes thyroid medication, I wrote this article to share my experience and to provide information for others who might also have thyroid conditions. Since I want to improve my health situation, I did a lot of research and discovered some staggering facts. My prescription instructs me to take my thyroid medication 30 minutes before breakfast with 1 glass of water. I wanted to find out if there is anything else in my breakfast that might be bad for me. It turns out that my morning cup of coffee was interfering with my medication!
Here are some more foods to avoid if you suffer from hypothyroidism.
Foods and Drugs to Avoid While on Hypothyroid Medication
- Coffee or other drinks containing caffeine. Restrict your intake and never take your thyroid medication with a cup of coffee!
- Iron or vitamin supplements containing iron should be taken at least 3-4 hours after taking your thyroid medication.
- Calcium or vitamin supplements containing calcium should be taken at least 3-4 hours after taking your thyroid medication. This includes calcium-fortified orange juice!
- Antacids. Wait at least 2-3 hours.
- Antidepressants, e.g. Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac. Wait at least 2-3 hours.
- Soy products as well as flaxseed. These may alter your hormone levels!
- Goitrogenic foods: broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, turnips, soybeans, peanuts, linseed, pine nuts, millet, cassava, and mustard greens. Please note that the vegetables can be eaten in moderation but should always be cooked.
- Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
- Sugar and flour
- Highly processed foods
Note that the foods listed above should be avoided or limited if you suffer from underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). If you suffer from hyperthyroidism, there are different restrictions.
Between 200 and 300 million people all over the world are suffering from thyroid conditions. Many don't know about it. Especially in North America, the number of thyroid patients is staggering. When I was living in Europe, I didn’t know a single person with thyroid problems. Okay, I was younger then and thyroid disease mainly affects older people. But there could be two other reasons for this: In Switzerland, your TSH only gets tested when you see the doctor with full blown symptoms. Many patients suffer from serious depression and are too shy or embarrassed to seek help. Maybe this is one of the reasons why some European countries have a high suicide rate? Also, the tolerance values in Europe are far higher than in North America. In Switzerland, I once had a TSH of 5.5 which was considered normal, whereas here in Canada the alarm bells would have gone off.
Here my General Practitioner has a whole range of blood tests performed each year as part of my annual check-up. He believes in precautionary measures and I am glad about this. His tests have found out that I had a serious vitamin B12 deficiency as well as thyroid disease. According to my internet investigation, there could even be a link between the two. It turned out that I had a TSH of 6.5. I was hypothyroid, probably Hashimoto's. Since I’m not familiar with Japanese or medical science, I started reading up on the condition. By then I had developed all kinds of symptoms which so far had been normal enough for me to ignore them. After all, we are all getting older and experiencing the odd ache and pain, hair loss, dementia, poor eye sight, mental imbalance, etc. As a consequence, I was prescribed Synthroid and I became alive again. All of a sudden my motivation and creativity came back, two things that I had been missing for months.
I’ve been taking my thyroid meds for 2 years and my TSH gets tested every 3 months. I have to pop one cheap tablet a day and that does the trick. Quick and easy! Everything was fine until last fall when my TSH increased to 4.6. Time to put me on a higher dose. Within 3 months my TSH level dropped to a normal range of 1.1. I had never felt more active or creative. Since I am a skeptical person, I was worried that my new dose might be pushing me into the opposite direction. Hyperthyroidism is not to be joked with. So my doctor ordered another blood test 5 weeks later. All of a sudden my TSH was over 24 and therefore hypo again! I nearly died of shock - actually, I guess at such a high level I should have been dead anyway. Both my doctor and I were convinced that the laboratory had made a mistake. So another blood test was ordered. This time, the result was a staggering 25.4! Despite the extreme TSH value I did not show any signs of fatigue or depression; on the contrary, I was still as creative as ever. My doctor found this very strange but had no other solution other than to once again increase my med. He didn’t believe that this sudden fluctuation could have anything to do with my diet. His only explanation was that my estrogen hormones might be playing up. After all, for a woman who is approaching menopause, this is not unusual. I was asked if I was taking any hormones, which I denied.
On the way home, all of a sudden the penny dropped: years ago I had taken flaxseed to supplement my diet. My hormones went bananas! As soon as I stopped taking the flaxseed the problem solved itself. Recently my husband started putting 2 tsp. of flaxseed in my breakfast granola since he had read that it was supposed to protect against breast cancer and all sorts of other things. While this may be the case for a healthy individual, it certainly isn't for me. I searched the internet for thyroid & flaxseed and found some astonishing evidence suggesting that people with an underactive thyroid should avoid flaxseed altogether as it can alter their hormones. Bingo! Neither my doctor nor my pharmacist had ever heard about this. This lesson has taught me never to take over the counter supplements without first researching on the internet. Same applies to everyday food. Lately, I had also been eating a lot of grapefruit, another thing that can alter your estrogen levels. So now I'm avoiding both flaxseed and grapefruit.
Update, May 2012: Two months after my unusual TSH readings, I went back for another test. To my relief, my TSH has dropped down from 25.2 to only 3.0. The only food that I have been avoiding is flaxseed, which confirms my suspicion that flaxseed is bad for hypothyroid patients.
Do you have these symptoms?
If you take any other drugs, ask your pharmacist if they are likely to interact with your thyroid medication. For back-up advice search the internet. If there are any known interactions or problems, you are likely to find them in various blogs or medical websites.
Furthermore, there are various reputable websites stating that there is indeed a link between your diet and thyroid deficiency. While many foods (especially vegetables & fruit) may be good for most people, they may have a negative effect on thyroid patients. Find out which fruit & veggies to avoid; there are hundreds of alternatives.
The internet offers a vast amount of medical information. Nowadays a patient no longer has to play a passive role. Remember, your doctor is only human, and there is no way he knows everything. Also, especially if he is older, he may still consult his old textbooks and not know about the latest studies. Your pharmacist may have a vast medical knowledge but let's face it, he makes his business by selling you the drugs. So it's up to you to take action and to stay informed. After all it's your body and your health!
Being a thyroid patient is a learning curve for me and probably many other people. Thyroid disease can easily be treated with the necessary medication and I have absolutely no side effects.
Your comments regarding personal experiences, cures, or drug interactions are greatly appreciated.