Beyond Iodine: 3 More Ways to Protect Your Thyroid

October 9, 2009
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

Support Hormone Health and Help Fight Cancer.

thyroidIt’s a chemical world. Even before birth and throughout their development, children are exposed to neuro-, immuno-, and endocrine-toxic compounds. As adults, exposure to hormone disrupters, heavy metals like lead and mercury, and countless toxic chemicals increase the risk for cancer and thyroid disease.

New Danish research finds that heavy metal and other pollution significantly increases the risk for brain, breast, and thyroid cancer—even in nurses who may be more careful about their health than other women.

University of Albany scientists specifically target hormone disrupters (heavy metal and other chemical pollutants) as damaging to the thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland that plays a vital role in health.

Thyroid problems can lead to breast cancer, heart disease, fat gain, insulin resistance (a precursor of Type 2 diabetes), osteoporosis, fatigue, digestive disorders, and even early maturity.

Low thyroid function (or hypothyroidism) may affect as many as 27 million Americans today. Women are eight times more likely than men to suffer this kind of thyroid disease, particularly between the ages of 35 and 60.

Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:

1. A critical first step in removing heavy metal and other pollutants from the body is a safe cleanse, like my Fast Detox Diet Kit. Not only will you help protect your entire body including the thyroid with this cleanse but you can also lose fat which is a toxic dump storage site for oil-soluble toxins.

2. As you might suspect, malfunction in the thyroid, a gland so central to the workings of every cell in the body, can lead to serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. In addition to iodine-rich foods (like sea vegetables) or iodine supplementation (see my recent blog, Iodine Deficiency Hidden Link to Breast Cancer Risk), you can support this all-important gland with  thyroid- friendly nutrition:

15 mg of vitamin B2
25 to 50 mg vitamin B6
25,000 IU vitamin A
400 IU vitamin E
20 to 30 mg zinc
10 to 15 mg iron
100 to 200 mcg selenium
250 mg  tyrosine

3. Many of my patients with low thyroid function also suffer from other hormone imbalances, specifically excess estrogen and low progesterone levels. Raising progesterone through the use of an all-natural cream, bio-identical creme, like ProgestaKey, provides the physiological dose the body normally produces (20 mg per day) and often normalizes thyroid activity without medication.


Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Linda Linebaugh

    What natural remdies for anxiety

  2. Frances Gorman

    I was diagnosed with a goiter after being on the Fat Flus diet 2 years ago. I was on the diet for three months. The flax seed and the flax oil was the culprit that made my thyroid go crazy. I am now hypothyroid and on synthyroid meds. My TSH levels were 64 but have come down after 9 months of meds. I never had any thyroid symptoms, only the goiter appear. Please let anyone taking your diet(which by the way I loved until I got sick)know how dangerous the consumption of flax is for women. Also, the doctors have warned me to avoid soy, as it also causes many health problems. I have no other health issues and have always been extrememly healthy and athletic. People have always mistaken my age for about 15 years younger than my actual age. Your health information is always appreciated. Frances*

    • Mia

      This also happened to me. I wish I had never heard of Fat Flush. Gittleman makes absurd supplement recommendations that are not appropriate for everyone. Flax oil is a trendy so called super food and so many authors are recommending it across the board but I want to warn everyone that flax oil destroyed the health of my thyroid. I started Fat Flush a slim and healthy young girl and quickly turned into a fat and sick old woman from its effects.

      • Sierra

        It is important to have toasted flax seed if you are consuming it on a regular basis! Chia seeds are a great alternative to flax, they are very rich in the Omega fatty acids and high in antioxidants. I know many with thyroid problems that have had great success with Fat Flush, including myself and my best friend. I lost the 15 pounds extra that I was carrying and she lost about 35 pounds and counting.

      • Dee

        If you were a slim and healthy young girl, why did you start the fat flush?
        Something is amiss with your statement.

  3. Paige

    I was under the impression that flax oil was GOOD for women, especially our breasts, skin & EFA reasons. I have recently discovered that olive oil & coconut oil are also good fats. I hope ALG can clarify. Also, thank you ALG, for informing us about the OTHER minerals/vitamins that support the thyroid. With that list, you actually answered a knawing question Ive been needing an answer to for awhile!

  4. Ann Louise Gittleman

    My upcoming Fat Flush for Life now suggests fish oil as an option for flaxseed oil and chia instead of flaxseed. Your response was extreme and of course does not apply to everybody; however, your point is well taken – especially for those who do not toast the flaxseed. The thyroid/flax connection is in fact covered in The Fat Flush Plan in the Q and A section on page 175 in the latest edition.

  5. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Paige: You are basically correct. However, olive and coconut oil are not in the essential fats category; they are healthy fats – not essential like the EPA and DHA-containing fish or GLA-containing black currant and borage and primrose oils.


    Flax seed is a very poor replacement for Fish Oils. The ALA must be converted in the body in order for it to become Omega 3. The canadian Flax counclil did a study on the ALA conversion and discovered that not one of their subjects was able to convert ot Omega 3’s, forcing them to say that “Clearly ALA conversion is more complex than we thought.”
    Flax oil is unstable and very susceptible to heat easily creating a rancid oil.

  7. Liz Beck

    So important to look at Estrogen and Progesterone levels in relationship to Thyroid function. Salivary Hormone testing is a great way to find out
    what you need to balance. I have been post-menopausal for 13 yrs and the testing really helped me. Since I discovered I needed progesterone and started using the ProgestaKey that Ann Louise mentions above, I am really sleeping better and have no bone loss.

  8. Susan

    My hormone imbalance was a progesterone overload, after struggling with pms/depression/suicidal ideation and confusion for almost a decade, I was referred to a OB/Gyn chiropractic professor who diagnosed my imbalance. She immediately started me on flax seed oil, vit. E, B6 combination that was an absolute life saver for me. I was fortunate to have the most positive end of responses, within a month all confusion disappeared and I experienced a similar turnaround with the PMS. I have continued using flax seed oil, preferably organic coldpressed, for 20 years with no reoccurance of symptoms. It does need to be kept refrigerated and the raw liquid definitely was more dramatically effective than capsules. Any oil that is rancid becomes toxic, and blood type A’s like me have an extremely low tolerance for rancidity and mold of any kind, and I certainly threw away anythng with the least hint of mold or off taste. At any rate, the point of the diagnostic test I was given (which was largely a quiz of symptom details and timing with 4 basic different patterns) is again that no matter how good the advice not every person has the same needs or responds the same way. Fish oils, personally were nowhere near as effective for me, they also can be susceptible to contamination from mercury. In the long term I have made many dietary changes such as I find salmon very nourishing, I eat a fairly varied amount of healthy fats including nuts and a lot of avocado.

  9. Chris

    Can you someone explain what Frances is referring to when she says flaxseeds and/ or flaxseed oil is not good for you. I am confused. I thought they were good for you.

  10. gail

    have thyroid failure, which I discovered (late) runs in my mother’s family. am on replacement Rx. what else can/should I do? do you provide some kind of testing to find out what other supplements, nutrients, etc. may be helpful, because although my levels are now well within normal range and my energy level is better, I still have a sluggish metabolism, have not lost the unexplained weight gain, and the vague aches & pains persist. in addition, there’s an inflammation going on in my fingers, esp. left hand. I take fat flush, lemon water. I’m 56. Dx last year. thanks.

  11. Maria

    Thanks for your Edge on Health blogs – learning lots. Have been on fat flush off and on … amidst pregnancies and nursing. For 7 years have taken the cranwater/ground flaxseed mix … if toasting flax is better … how is this done without heating it too much and causing chemical changes to the fat? Funny that concern for flax is being mentioned … my mom has always said that it isn’t a great idea … is it a problem with an enzyme? Thanks!

  12. Fatima

    Thanks so much Ann for the valuable information, and helpful health blogs.

    what about if one uses sprouted flaxseed meal which biologically activates the seed so that all nutrients, EFA are bio-available resulting in better nutrient absorption and these essential oils are absorbed more efficiently?

    I have high levels of cholesterol and LDL, and after reading your blog on cholesterol lowering alternatives, I started consuming flaxseed but in a sprouted form. Is it OK to continue? Thank you.

  13. Paige

    Fortunately, over the last 7 years, I have only taken 1 TB/day of FSO in my shakes. Today, I use a flax/borage blend and again only 1 TB/day. Fish oil makes me sick/nauseas, so I do not take it. Instead, I eat salmon & non-toxic fish regularly & cook with only organic, extra virgin olive oil. I would like to know which EFA I DO need though, besides the borage oil that is blended with my FSO….I used to take EPO. And have yet to try the BCSO.

  14. Paige

    I will add that I am finding this fascinating….and I cant wait to read ALG’s new book FFFL!!

  15. Sandra

    I am intrigued by Liz’ suggestion about the salivary test, because I think what all these writings show is that we are each individuals and need to treat ourselves as such so we know precisely what we need to stay in balance. What exactly does the salivary test test for? Is it reliable?

  16. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Ladies: Basically, we are NOT created equal biochemically and what works for one body may not for another.

    Liz: With regard to the ALA to EPA and DHA conversion, you are correct. Flaxseed oil is not as effective as fish oil in providing EPA and DHA.

    BUT, this is not the reason it was included in Fat Flush. Based upon a myriad of heart studies, ALA has many stand-alone benefits that have nothing to do with its ability to convert into EPA and DHA. In several studies of breast cancer risks, the higher concentratin of ALA in breast tissue, the lower the risk of manifesting breast cancer. Moreover, if breast cancer arises, the higher the breast tissue concentration of ALA, the lower the risk of cancer metastasis to other parts of the body.

    With reagrd to the thyroid and flaxseeds, please note, as I wrote in Fat Flush, that lignan-rich flaxseeds are safe in proper amounts. They do, however, contain a substance known as cyanogenic glycosides, as do lima beans, sweet potatoes, yams, and bamboo shoots. Cyanogenic glycosides metabolize into yet another substance known as thiocyanate – a chemical that has the potential over time of suppressing the thryoid’s ability to take up sufficient iodine. This biochemcial occurrence raises the risk of developing goiter.

    As is also made clear in the book, to avoid this problem is to lightly bake or toast your flaxseeds which deactivates and decomposes the cyanogenic glycosides but preserves the beneficial properties.

    Both flaxseed oil and fish oil can become rancid unless there are antioxidants, like Vitamin E, C, or a rosemary derivative, added to the oil.

  17. Ann Louise Gittleman

    PS: Excuse my typos, I am trying to answer your questions as fast as I can and my PC makes lots of spelling errors 🙂

  18. Paula

    I have always loved your books and have many of them. Early on you recommended the Blood Type Diet by Peter D’Adamo. I have to say that I love his latest, the Genotype Diet, as it does talk about how different foods work for different people. It goes beyond the blood type. I am an “explorer” and flax is not good for me according to my food list. I also have a thyroid history, a nodule that was treated with radioactive iodine about 11 years ago. So I too struggle with what I believe is thyroid “weight”.
    Any way flax is not necessarily bad across the board.

  19. Ann Louise Gittleman

    I believe you are referring to your Body Knows Best – which was a bestseller in Germany (LOL). In it, I reference the work of D’Adamo’s father, who was the pioneer of the blood type diet theory. In any case, most of us are gluten and dairy intolerant to some degree and would be best to limit nightshades if arthritis is an issue. Type A’s, however, are genetically deficient in HCL, which makes them gravitate to a more vegetarian-based diet.

  20. Helen S

    Would soaking the flaxseeds also help this problem with cyanogenic glycosides? I developed a recipe for waffles that involves soaking flax and other seeds and grains overnight (which are delicious), but wonder if there are other ways to use soaked flax if this is helpful.

  21. sylvia

    ann,i nead to ask you pleas im expereancing for the first time in my life low libido, havy manestration waight gain of 11 lb in a mater of few months i just turned 44 years old and im amased no energy and black arownd the eeys also ech time befor my piriod i get flaky skin arownd the nose or even whan i eat yeast or whit flower o guess, eny vitamins in mind? pleas healp

  22. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Helen: Soaking won’t remove the potentially toxic substance – only light heat in the form of toasting. BUT, soaking flax and then using the gel is terrific for your GI tract 😉

    Syliva: Sounds like Perimenopause to me. Please get a hold of my book: Before the Change where I indentify exactly what you can do to help yourself in a step by step program. I would also highly suggest you call UNI KEY for the salivary hormone test. This is a good time to get a baseline of all six of the hormones…. Good Luck 🙂

  23. Name (required)

    25,000 IU is a lot Vitamin A. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable
    taking that much even for a brief of time. 5,000 IU (or less) daily
    or every other day is more reasonable.

  24. Ann Louise Gittleman

    To each his/her own. I have found that with thyroid disorders people do not metabolize beta-carotene into necessary Vitamin A. Known as the infection fighter, our national epidemic of Vitamin A deficiency is noteworthy. Some individuals take 100,000 IUs to fight off infection for several days at a stint. Thank you.

  25. Chris Mancini

    I always read about iodine deficiency for those of us with useless thyroids. What about me, though. After having had Lyme Disease and pneumonia back in 1994 or so, my thyroid quit. Period. TSH of 84, diagnosed as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. So, if the disease is autoimmune, doesn’t supplementing as you suggest just make things worse????

  26. Paige

    Chris, I believe ALG is suggesting that you do an iodine loading test, to see if you NEED the said iodine. Or not?

    ALG — I find it very interesting about the Vit. A factor! Is a Beta-carotene supplement the way to go, then? I am now getting approx. 14,000 IU’s/day, combined. Thank you for your time.

  27. Paige

    P.S. Would Liz @ Unikey, or 15 min. consults with you, be best to contact after the iodine test & another TMA review? I have been seeing an ND since June — and quite frankly, feel that from what Ive learned through you, Linda Page & Life Extension research, I know more than she does! Id like to know where/who to turn for proper bio-nosis. : )

  28. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Chris: Paige gave you good advice.
    Paige: I prefer straight Vitamin A. Determine dosage you are morst comfortable with, however.
    Since my time is very limited, I would suggest you contact Liz at UNI KEY.
    P.S. High calcium on a TMA is not unusual these days. It means you are either not absorbing it properly or the body makes a protective “calcium shell” as a response to copper overload.
    Both Before the Change and Why Am I Always So Tired talk about this phenomenon.

  29. Paige

    I replied to your iodine blog as well — but please know how much you are appreciated! The info you have provided is very needed. I will surely give Liz @ Unikey a ring asap. I would like to get to the bottom of what is causing my symptoms. Thank you again for all you do for us!

  30. Liz Beck

    Please contact me at Uni Key 208 209-8253 if you have Tissue Mineral Analysis questions. One of the benefits of obtaining this test through Uni Key is that I am available for 10 min. consultations on your results.

  31. shakeh

    Dear ann: I am on low thyroid meds. Can I still take iodine to benefit breast health and others without effecting my thyroid function? Is iodine going to effecgt my thyroid function? Thanks for your time and help. Shakeh

  32. shakeh

    also, the pelvic ultrasound showed a one cm nadule inside my uterus. Can Iodine be helpful?
    Thanks again. Shakeh

  33. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Shakeh: Yes to all of your queries but you really should consider taking the iodine loading test to get a baseline assessment of levels. Iodine is good for the thryoid, breast and uterus. Some can tolerate higher dosages while others cannot. So, you will need to figure out what is right for you as a unique individual 😉

  34. Paige

    I encourage all readers to order the iodine loading test when you are able to afford it. One thing I have learned, as a woman w/out health insurance — that no matter what, self-diagnosing is not the best idea. Try to take as many lab tests as you can & then find a qualified ND, health professional, with the latest knowledge for women — and ask them to work with you on a sliding scale. It CAN be done…I know its overwhelming but we have to stay hopeful that there are Dr.’s out there who can help us reach optimal health.

  35. Paige

    P.S. I should add — qualified Dr.’s who dont treat with synthetic drugs…but treat us as whole beings.

  36. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Dear Friends:
    I would love to answer each and every single one of your queries, as I have done to the best of my ability, in the past. The popularity of this Blog has grown to the extent that I can no longer provide that service but I am in the planning stages of an Internet – TV show where you can call in and get those questions answered by me in person! Please stay tuned for this exciting development. I first must complete a new manuscript and then will make some exciting announcements. In the interim, may I suggest that if you have questions about products, call UNI KEY at 1-800-888-4353. The folks there are helpful and will direct you accordingly. If you are concerned about a particular health condition, then by all means check out the Testing Kits on my site which will help you to determine underlying causes. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and interest!

  37. Susan

    Hi Ann Louise,

    I am trying to find an endocrinologist in the Boston area who is a thyroid specialist. Do you know of anyone good or can you give advice on how to find someone? Willing to travel outside of MA if necessary. Any guidance you can give would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  38. Health

    iodine is very necessary for our body.thyroid can be prevent by it where as i know that
    iodine present in the sea salt.thank you very much for sharing to most important knowledge..

  39. Karen

    You mentioned Flax Seed is okay in proper amounts. I’ve used untoasted ground flax seed (maybe a half tablespoon) in my protein shake each morning based on Dr. Weil’s advice. Had no idea they were to be toasted first. So, what is safe to consume and not interfere with your thyroid? I was just recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism and wondered if I caused it by consuming the flax seed (been eating it for years). No symptoms that I’m dealing with, but wondered if I stopped consuming flax seed if that would help improve thyroid function.

    • Team ALG

      No worries Karen, toasting the flaxseeds inactivates the thyroid inhibiting compounds. Ann Louise recommends 2 tablespoons per day.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This