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Polyphenols, Hashimoto’s, and Thyroid Antibodies

Can polyphenols help you lower your thyroid antibody levels and put Hashimoto’s into remission?
Polyphenols, Hashimoto’s, and Thyroid Antibodies
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For many with Hashimoto’s, understanding antibody levels is one of the most challenging parts of their journey. It’s a complex challenge to understand what drives thyroid autoantibodies and what can help bring them down into a range where the disease itself is considered in remission. Now, polyphenols -- have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects that help lower antibody levels and promote thyroid health. Ahead, a look at the relationship between polyphenolic compounds and thyroid antibodies.

What are polyphenols?

Polyphenols are bioactive compounds in plants, mainly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The role of these natural compounds in plant life is to protect against damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun and make the plants more resistant to viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other disease-causing pathogens.

While there are 1,000 kinds of polyphenols, they are broken down into four categories:

  1. Phenolic acids: Phenolic acids are found abundantly in foods such as certain red fruits, black radishes, and onions.
  2. Flavonoids: There are more than 4,000 varieties of flavonoids, making them the most studied group of polyphenols. The foods with high concentrations of flavonoids are usually plants with bright-colored flowers, fruits, and leaves. Some dietary sources of flavonoids include citrus fruits, berries, and apples.
  3. Stilbenes: There is generally a lower intake of stilbenes in the human diet. Yet one food item where it is primarily found is grapes and specifically red wine, which has a significant amount of resveratrol, a subtype of stilbene. Other sources include mulberries and peanuts.
  4. Lignans: Dietary sources of lignans include various vegetables such as peppers, carrots, spinach, and white potatoes; fruits such as apricots, green grapes, and kiwi; Beans such as sesame seeds and flax seeds (with sesame seeds exhibiting the second highest lignan concentration of all sources).

In food, polyphenols contribute to bitterness, astringency, color, flavor, odor, and oxidative stability.

How do polyphenols impact your health and thyroid function?

It wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that studies suggested that long-term consumption of polyphenols could offer protection from cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and neurodegenerative disease. Polyphenolic compounds have been linked to reducing inflammation, protecting against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, improving brain function, and supporting overall immune health.  Polyphenols also help to protect against oxidative stress, a common precursor to chronic illness and autoimmunity.

Oxidative stress can have a negative impact on the health and functioning of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland regulates various metabolic processes, including metabolism, growth, and energy production. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s ability to detoxify and repair the damage caused by ROS. This can lead to the accumulation of oxidative damage in the cells of the thyroid gland.

Oxidative stress can impair the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, leading to a decrease in the production and release of thyroid hormones. Ultimately, this can result in various thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or goiter. Additionally, oxidative stress can also promote inflammation in the thyroid gland, further exacerbating thyroid dysfunction.

Therefore, reducing oxidative stress through lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and stress management, can help maintain the optimal functioning of the thyroid gland. 

A diet rich in polyphenols -- with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and legumes --  can improve lipid profiles, blood pressure, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation. A polyphenol-rich diet increases the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed for all processes and functions of the body - especially the thyroid gland. 

Can polyphenols reduce Hashimoto’s antibodies?

The short answer is yes, in some cases. One study investigated the influence of biologically available and active phenolic compounds in food on Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb). TPO  is an enzyme in the thyroid gland that is a marker for Hashimoto’s disease. A TPOAb blood test can detect these antibodies and is used to diagnose autoimmune thyroid disease. 

This study found an inhibitory influence on the TPO enzyme with certain polyphenols, specifically ones such as rosmarinic acid, which turned out to have significant antioxidant activity and act as the most effective TPO inhibitor. Rosmarinic acid is a phenolic acid naturally occurring in several plants, including rosemary, sage, basil, oregano, marjoram, and lemon balm.

As most autoimmune diseases are generally a result of chronic inflammation, polyphenols are a wonderful component to incorporate as they offer both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant beneficial effects.  Increased consumption of antioxidants, like those found in polyphenol-rich foods, has protective effects, can reduce levels of oxidative damage, and help minimize the impact of various conditions, including thyroid problems and autoimmune diseases.

What is a polyphenol-rich diet?

How can hypothyroid patients follow a polyphenol-rich diet? Here are some simple steps to help you get started.

  1. Eat a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of polyphenols. Aim to include a diverse range of colorful produce in your diet to reap the maximum benefits. Berries, cherries, grapes, citrus fruits, broccoli, kale, spinach, and artichokes are just a few examples of polyphenol-rich options to include in your meals.
  2. Choose Whole Grains: Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread are not only rich in fiber but also contain polyphenols. Swap refined grains for whole grains to increase your polyphenol intake and improve your overall diet quality.
  3. Enjoy Dark Chocolate: Good news for chocolate lovers – dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols, particularly flavanols. Opt for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (70% or higher) to maximize the polyphenol content, and choose varieties with minimal added sugar.
  4. Sip on Green Tea: Green tea has long been recognized for its health benefits, primarily due to its high polyphenol content. Brew a cup of green tea and enjoy it hot or iced to boost your polyphenol intake.
  5. Include Herbs and Spices: Herbs and spices enhance the flavor of your meals and add a hefty dose of polyphenols. Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, oregano, thyme, and rosemary are just a few examples of polyphenol-packed additions to incorporate into your cooking.
  6. Choose Organic: Opt for organic produce whenever possible. Studies have shown that organic fruits and vegetables tend to have a higher concentration of polyphenols compared to conventionally grown counterparts.
  7. Avoid Overcooking: Remember that polyphenols are sensitive to heat and light. To preserve their content, aim to cook your food using gentle methods like steaming, sautéing, or roasting at lower temperatures.
  8. Limit Processed Foods and Sugary Drinks: Processed foods and sugary beverages tend to be low in polyphenols and high in unhealthy additives. Minimize your intake of these items and focus on whole, unprocessed foods instead.
  9. Consider Supplements: If you find it challenging to meet your polyphenol needs through diet alone, you may consider adding polyphenol supplements to your routine. However, consulting with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements is essential.

A note from Paloma

In conclusion, following a polyphenol-rich diet has significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and can optimize your health and well-being. You can easily increase your polyphenol intake by incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dark chocolate, green tea, herbs, and spices into your meals. Remember to choose organic options, avoid overcooking, limit processed foods, and consider supplements if needed. Embrace this flavorful approach to nutrition and experience the many benefits of a polyphenol-rich lifestyle.

If you’re confused about what foods to incorporate or add into your daily diet to help your thyroid health, consult with one of our Paloma nutritionists. They can work with you to develop thyroid-friendly and polyphenol-rich dietary habits and a nutrition plan to keep you on the path of health and wellness. 

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Neeyaz Zolfaghari

Holistic Nutritionist and Nourishment Coach

Neeyaz Zolfaghari is the founder of Unspoken Nutrition, a nutrition and lifestyle brand dedicated to helping others find and create harmony with their daily habits to support their wellbeing and ‘health’. Her journey began over a decade ago, when she was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases. Knowing what she learned from her upbringing, Neeyaz turned to nutrition as the first pillar of her healing. As her body began to heal on a physical level, she began to learn how our minds, bodies and souls are all innately connected.  

Now as an Integrative Nutritionist and Patient Advocate, Neeyaz offers the people she works with the support, guidance, and tools they need in order to live a fulfilled life. While Neeyaz initially endeavored to make a difference at the individual level, her vision grew to embrace broader community impacts. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Health, serving as a testament to her unwavering commitment to instigate change on a grander scale.

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