Relationship with antioxidants and Hashimoto's Disease
Sunday 30th August 2020
Written for Thyroid UK, August 2020, Melissa Cohen
This article sets out how antioxidants may lower the incidence of Hashimoto's Disease:
Oxidants are reactive molecules that occur outside and inside the body every second of the day. They are an essential part of metabolism, which are needed to sustain life and without which, we would not survive.
Though, as with most aspects of life and nature, it is all about balance. An accumulation of oxidants over time may start to damage our cellular structure, which is referred to as 'free radical damage'. Such free radical damage may lead to degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, brain dysfunction and auto immune disorders such as Hashimoto's.
Fortunately, as mother nature is so clever, our body's DNA codes enzymes that produce antioxidants to combat the effects of harmful free radicals. As the name suggests, those antioxidants intercept and stop the cascade of free radicals.
The medical world considers oxidative stress as an imbalance between free radical damage and antioxidant levels. By the end of this article you should have a broad understanding of how to balance this in the right direction.
The levels of antioxidants for each person is dependent upon genetics, lifestyle, age, and diet.
Though, before thinking about getting your genes tested, it is worth mentioning that lifestyle and diet may have a much bigger role to play then checking for deletions in genetics alone. Genes enable us to make an informed decision of which nutrients are essential in our diet and which may need to be supplemented in our diet.
Additionally, as we age, we produce more oxidative stress and a boost in antioxidants may well be all you need to keep those free radicals at bay. Have a look at my quick recipes below.
Bright coloured fruits and vegetables are an easy place to start to increase antioxidant levels. These include sweet potatoes, peppers, red onions, red cabbage, berries, beetroot, cantaloupe melon, carrots, and tomatoes.
The main antioxidants are Vitamins A, C, and E (ACE) and selenium. Copper, zinc, manganese, and iron also give an extra boost for antioxidant support. If you include a rainbow of vegetables and 1 tbsp of mixed seeds with every meal and consume oily fish three times per week, that would be a great start.
Scientific studies have also suggested that that the patients with Hashimoto's compared to the patients that do not have Hashimoto's, have higher oxidative stress levels and lower antioxidant status. The reason behind that could be due to:
• free radical damage, as a result of Hashimoto's disease (which is an auto immune condition caused by elevated thyroid antibodies attacking the thyroid, which in turn, creates even more free radical damage);
• decreased thyroid function, which inhibits the enzymes that produce antioxidants and therefore in turn reduces antioxidant protection and increases inflammation; or
• as a result of excess lipids (fats), correlated with Hashimoto's, which circulate in the blood stream (known as hyperlipidemia), which may lead to elevated cholesterol and more oxidative stress.
In other words, an imbalance in antioxidant status can trigger Hashimoto's or indeed any auto immune disorder and exacerbate the condition. Cholesterol clearance is dependent on an optimal functioning thyroid and when thyroid levels are low, cholesterol can build up in the blood due to the inability to break down and remove these fats.
Interestingly, a mild deficiency of selenium may contribute to the development and maintenance of Hashimoto' s and in some cases completely normalize the antibody concentrations. When a 200mcg of selenium supplementation was administered to a Hashimoto's patient, it resulted in a normalized level of antibodies and a vast improvement in other patients. A similar amount of selenium is found in three Brazil nuts. Though, sometimes a supplement may be better absorbed, depending on your digestion and gut health.
Vitamin A deficiency was referred to in my last article, which I suggest you read alongside this article due to Vitamin A being a key antioxidant.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant and can trap free radical damage in extra cellular fluids between cells, compared to Vitamin E which is the opposite as it quenches free radical damage on a cell's outer layer (the membrane), which protects the cell.
Collective studies have shown Vitamins A, C and E working in synergy to improve thyroid status and lower cholesterol.
I must mention Glutathione, which is the body's most powerful antioxidant and produced mainly endogenously. This has shown to be at extremely low levels for patients with many inflammatory conditions, including Hashimoto's. It is worth noting that taking a Glutathione supplement may help lower thyroid antibodies along with sulfur rich foods from the cruciferous vegetable family.
To summarise: if there are auto immune disorders in your family, you may wish to consider taking a test for antioxidant levels, along with inflammatory markers.
Eating a varied diet rich in antioxidants may help prevent Hashimoto's and decrease thyroid antibodies. It is also important to note there are other minerals and metals that are essential to support this anti-inflammatory process as stated below.
A good starting point is to find a multi-vitamin containing all the antioxidants suggested and for ease I have outlined these components and their food sources.
Antioxidants and Co-factors Food Sources
Vitamin A carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe melon, eggs
Vitamin C bell peppers, oranges, kiwi, sweet potatoes, squashes, tomatoes
Vitamin E seeds, nuts, and olives
Selenium brazil nuts, chicken, turkey, and fish
Glutathione (requires sulfur) broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale
Zinc oysters, chicken legs/thighs, tofu, seeds, and lentils
Copper grass fed meats and oysters
Manganese nuts, beans, lentils, brown rice, beetroot
Iron meats, fish, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu
Quick Daily Tips to Keep Antioxidants elevated
• Dice and chop carrots, sweet potato, beetroots and butternut squash, drizzle with olive oil, pressed garlic, and a pinch of pink Himalayan salt and turmeric. Bake in oven for 40 minutes, fan assisted oven at 170 °C or until softened. Keep any leftovers in the fridge and serve cold the next day. For extra support, sprinkle a handful of pumpkin seeds over salad.
• Add 2 handfuls of frozen berries mixed with a handful of greens blended with nondairy milk and 2 tbsps mixed seeds and serve.
Manage your stress
• Lastly, stress will deplete the body's most powerful antioxidant: vitamin C. Your adrenal glands demand vitamin C when stressed as that is where your stress hormone, cortisol is produced. Therefore, for antioxidant support a high dosage of vitamin C maybe required. Even better, prescribing yourself a high dose of laughter, exercise, and happiness every day will help reduce the demands of stress on your nutrient status.
If you would like a nutritional consultation and/or antioxidant testing please email us on email@example.com to arrange an appointment.