Whether you are a true Irishman seeking to honor the life and history of St. Patrick or just someone looking for a good reason to celebrate, St. Patrick’s Day has something for everybody. Joining the fun is as easy as wearing green to avoid getting pinched! But if you have dietary restrictions due to thyroid disease, blending in around mealtime might be a little harder. Traditional St. Patrick’s Day drinks and eats include things like beer, breads, sweets, and even potentially thyroid-unfriendly vegetables known as goitrogens. Many of the delicious foods and beverages we associate with this festive holiday can cause problems for those struggling to restore thyroid health. Thankfully, there are still many options and healthy substitutions available for thyroid patients to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day. It may take a little extra time to plan your menu if you’re doing the cooking, but hopefully we’ve made it a little easier with the recipe ideas and swaps we’ve put together.
Navigating Thyroid Diets Takes More than Luck!
Even among thyroid patients, there is no “one size fits all” diet. However, there are some basic principles that can be helpful for just about everyone dealing with a thyroid condition. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Consider a gluten/gliadin and casein elimination – these are the proteins found in wheat (and some other grains such as barley, rye, and spelt) and many dairy products. Unfortunately, these proteins can cause an inflammatory reaction in many thyroid patients due to molecular mimicry. This is when partially digested dietary proteins escape into the bloodstream and trigger an immune reaction because they are not where they belong (in the digestive tract). And since they closely resemble thyroid tissue proteins, the body may not be able to tell the difference and begin to attack both the dietary proteins and the thyroid itself. This is particularly true for thyroid conditions that have an autoimmune component.
- Minimize sugars and refined grains – refined grains are stripped of nutrients and rich in phytates, which can prevent minerals that are important for thyroid health from being absorbed. Phytates and similar compounds are known as “anti-nutrients.” If you choose to consume grains, soaking or sprouting them helps break down some of the phytic acid. A diet laden with these processed carbohydrates and other dietary sugars can also lead to insulin resistance. When insulin levels are chronically elevated, so are cortisol levels. When these hormones are high, production of thyroid hormones slow down.
- Eat goitrogens in moderation – Goitrogens are foods that can interfere with thyroid function by reducing the uptake of iodine. These include members of the brassica family like cabbage, broccoli, and bok choy, unfermented soy products, and even certain legumes, root vegetables, and fruits. There is debate about how much of a concern these foods are for thyroid patients. However, the general consensus is that when consumed in moderation, thyroid patients with enough iodine in their diet can include them safely. Cooking these foods helps break down the goitrogens.
- Avoid Bromines – bromine is another substance that can lead to endocrine disruption due to its effect on iodine within the body. Food-related sources of bromines include certain types of pesticides, plastics, bakery goods, and sodas. Buying organic foods when possible, avoiding foods cooked or stored in plastic, ditching soda, and watching out for brominated baking flours are just a few of the things that can help minimize your exposure to bromines.
- Include foods rich in iodine, selenium, iron, and zinc – these minerals all play an important role in thyroid function. Making a conscience effort to include foods rich in these minerals is another dietary strategy for optimizing thyroid health. Some of the best foods to consume regularly include fish, sea vegetables (ie. seaweed), dark green leafy vegetables, coconut oil, nuts, and eggs.
If you’re new to the idea of using dietary changes to help manage a health condition, this list may seem overwhelming at first. But by simply focusing on eating more whole, fresh foods and less processed foods, you will already be well on your way to following these guidelines. Additionally, there are more and more resources becoming available all the time on how to eat well on a gluten and diary free diet. Here are a few resources to help you enjoy your St. Patty’s Day without hurting your thyroid.
Traditional Irish beers like Guinness and Smithwick’s are popular choices for St. Patty’s Day celebrations. Unfortunately, these beers and many others are made with gluten-containing grains. Of course, it’s better to pass on the alcohol all together; but if you just can’t give up that “cold one,” especially on a holiday like this, there are some satisfying gluten-free alternatives to choose from. Here are a few of the most comprehensive lists on the web:
- Best Gluten Free Beer Brands – 2017 List from BEST Gluten Free Beers
- Gluten Free Beer List – The Ultimate Guide from Urban Tastebud
- 17 Gluten Free Beers That Actually Taste Good from Bon Appétit
St. Patty’s Day Recipes Ideas
One piece of good news is that traditional corned beef and cabbage with carrots and potatoes is a naturally gluten and dairy free dish! If using store-bought corned beef, just make sure none has been added. And as long as you don’t go overboard on the cabbage (one of those goitrogenic foods), then you’re good to go! However, if you want a soda, bread or dessert to go with it or if you want to get creative and eat green foods all day long, you may need to swap out some of the usual picks in order to accommodate a thyroid-friendly diet. Here are a few great resources to get your menu planning started:
- St. Patty’s Day Recipe Roundup from Against All Grain
- A Perfect Paleo St. Patty’s Day Menu by Thyroid Loving Care
- The Ultimate List of Paleo Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day from Dr. Hardick
As you can see, living with a thyroid condition doesn’t mean having to miss out on holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. With some good ol’ Irish luck and a little extra planning, you can enjoy the festivities and still keep your health on track.