Common Thyroid Myths
With the seemingly limitless amount of information out on the internet, people with many thyroid questions can easily feel lost about how to best take care of themselves. Unfortunately, there are too many thyroid misconceptions based on misinformation and these are not only a waste of time and mental energy, they are extremely misleading and dangerous. Of course, it is important to check the source of thyroid content as a gauge of how credible that content is but with thyroid research still ongoing combined with the general population still not fully aware of the thyroid gland and its impact on overall health, Dr. Arem advises anybody still learning about thyroid disease to take most thyroid information written by non-professionals (bloggers, self-proclaimed health advisors, thyroid patients, etc…) with a huge grain of salt. These topics include the thyroid and weight gain relationship, natural remedies for hypothyroidism, and signs that you have a thyroid problem. Dr. Arem strongly emphasizes that everybody’s case is different in some way and that medical advice should only be taken from medical professionals. To help you avoid misinformation, we have included a few common thyroid myths that are on the internet today:
- Thyroid patients should avoid vegetables such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts because they are considered “goitrogens”
A goitrogen is a substance that hinders thyroid hormone production by limiting the uptake of iodine. This in turn can cause thyroid disease. For this reason, some thyroid patients tell me that they completely avoid these foods. The reality is that the goitrogenic characteristic of these foods can only be a problem if the patient is deficient in iodine and/or consuming large amounts of them in their raw form. Properly cooking these vegetables would be enough to destroy the goitrogenic compounds in these foods. In fact, these foods have many benefits for the immune system, and therefore can help thyroid patients because most thyroid diseases are tied to autoimmunity, so they should not be avoided in my opinion.
- T4/Levothyroxine alone is enough to treat your thyroid
Levothyroxine is the primary prescription thyroid medicine used to regulate TSH levels and keep them stable. It is still assumed by many that it is enough to keep their thyroid imbalance in check. There are studies showing some benefits of combining T4 and T3 as well as studies that did not show an increased benefit from a combination therapy. This led to doctors who were strong proponents of T4-only therapy to convince their patients that there was no benefit of a combination treatment. However, what was not said was that most of those studies used stereotypical protocols for everyone rather than individualized doses of T3 based on thyroid balance needs and symptoms.
- Once you start taking thyroid medicine, you will need it forever
Of course, there are certain situations where thyroid sufferers will need to take medication for the rest of their lives such as when the thyroid gland has been removed or completely ablated by radioactive iodine. That being said, if your thyroid is still functioning, this myth can be extremely dangerous. This is the case if your thyroid imbalance was a temporary flare-up due to hormonal changes. This is most often the case during puberty, menopause, and the postpartum timeframe following pregnancy. In these cases, your hypothyroidism could be temporary and you may not need the thyroid medication forever. Your doctor could gently adjust the dose of medication and see if you need to continue the treatment. This can save you money and actually promote better thyroid wellness.
- The TSH test is the sole determinant of how thyroid imbalances should be diagnosed and treated
This might be one of the most dangerous thyroid myths because many people in the health industry have complete faith that it is true. If you have been doing a lot of research on the thyroid, you may have encountered many studies that have questioned the overall validity of this test. While it does have an important purpose, the test alone is rarely enough to create an accurate diagnosis and treatment regimen. In fact, even the endocrinology community cannot reach a consensus over the normal reference range for the TSH test. You also need to know that you could be suffering from a pituitary dysfunction causing hypothyroidism where your TSH level will be normal but your free T4 will be low.