Cilantro and Hypothyroidism
Here’s another featured ingredient to add to your list of thyroid-loving foods:
Cilantro has a reputation as one of the world’s most polarizing herbs. Some of us love it’s pungent and citrusy leaves. Some of us equate it with eating hand sanitizer. For those of you who think cilantro tastes like soap, apologies and have a nice day. For the rest of you, I think you better read this.
Why Should We Care About Cilantro and Hypothyroidism?
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, then you know I’ve been doing some interesting reading about cilantro, as well as the link between heavy metal toxicity and they thyroid. Boy did I dig up some dirt. Buckle in and put your game face on thyroid warriors, because this one’s a roller coaster. Let’s start with some of the good stuff.
Did you know that cilantro, is a powerful detoxifying herb? Or that it can help stabilize blood sugar, fight infection, protect the heart, reduce anxiety and help you sleep? These are just a few of the benefits outlined in this article by Dr. Josh Axe, which I highly recommend reading. It’s a thorough primer on the benefits and key nutrients which abound in both Cilantro (aka Chinese Parsley) and the seed form of cilantro, commonly referred to as coriander.
For our purposes here on Hypothyroid Chef, I’m going to focus on the detox factor of cilantro. The reason why is that heavy metal toxicity in the body, from substances like lead, mercury, aluminum, cadmium, and arsenic, is closely intertwined with our thyroid health.
Heavy metals set up camp in our tissues where they get stored along with other toxins. Our thyroid metabolizes things quickly; therefore, more toxins pass through it. Sometimes those toxins are so chemically similar to iodine, that the thyroid absorbs them.
Heavy metals are everywhere– the air, the water, the soil. They are an unavoidable part of the Earth we call mother and home.
One major source of heavy metal pollution is the burning of coal and fossil fuels, which puts stuff like mercury into our environment. Those toxic metals make their way into our bodies through the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink, and our bodies really don’t benefit from them. We’ve all been reminded of the irreversible health consequences of ingesting lead, for example, while witnessing the Flint water supply debacle.
As the world gets exponentially more populated and polluted, heavy metals are likely going to increase in our environment and therefore our bodies. Health issues like autoimmune-related thyroid disorders are part of that great web. It’s all inter-connected, right: our planet, our diet, and our well-being.
I know guys, this is heavy-duty stuff, but good news is coming. I promise. Stay with me though, because this next part is important.
The Link Between Mercury and Autoimmune Hypothyroidism (or Hashimoto’s)
Thyroid antibodies are an indicator of autoimmune hypothyroidism, otherwise known as Hashimoto’s Disease, in which the immune system attacks and destroys thyroid tissue. Some experts estimate that as many as 90% of hypothyroidism cases are in fact autoimmune. In other words, if you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, there’s a very strong chance you more specifically have Hashimoto’s Disease, but since most doctors only test TSH levels, and not thyroid antibodies, you may never know unless you request the recommended tests yourself.
Doctor’s don’t know what causes the immune system to attack the thyroid; therefore, effective treatment can vary greatly from patient to patient. Potential triggers include but are not limited to genetics, viruses, bacteria, and estrogen fluctuations. There are also environmental triggers, like mercury exposure. Studies have shown a direct link between mercury exposure and an increase in thyroid antibodies. It’s bad news for sure.
You’re probably wondering,
What Can We Do To Minimize Our Mercury Levels?
For starters we can minimize our exposure to heavy metals by doing things like filtering our drinking water, and carefully selecting which types of fish to consume. This is good practice for anyone, hypothyroid or not, and especially children.
If you’re not already familiar, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch is an AMAZING resource for making choices that are healthy for our bodies, and for fish populations. Click here to find a printable consumer guide for your state, outlining which seafood choices are lower in mercury. I have kept one in my wallet for years, and refer to it often. They offer specific recommendations for sushi if you’re into that, and they even have an app.
The other thing we can do is add things to our diet that help remove toxic metals from the body. Like cilantro. Yay cilantro! Here comes the good news:
This medical study provides evidence that cilantro can accelerate the body’s urinary excretion of mercury and lead from the body.
Another study showed that lead levels in tissues were significantly decreased in laboratory mice by administering coriander.
Without the proper testing and detective work, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s causing your hypothyroidism. Therefore, no single hypothyroid diet exists. But the mission I have rather inadvertently (albeit passionately) stepped into, is to find foods that are generally agreed upon as being supportive to and not diminishing thyroid function. You can read more about it in my Recipe Guidelines.
Even if you don’t have a speck of mercury in your body– which is impossible– cilantro is on the safe list for as far as the eye can see. If it helps rid you of some heavy metals along the way, bonus! If you are suffering from Hashimoto’s triggered by mercury exposure, double bonus!
Detoxes are extra popular these days, and if you’ve done one that helped you feel better, please share in the comments section below. Personally, I have tried a couple detoxes. They made me feel terrible, spaced-out, ravenously hungry, and exhausted. The boost in my energy levels that their proponents claimed would follow, never came. If there was any weight lost, it found it’s way back within days. So far, I’m not a huge fan. But I do know that adding more detoxifying foods like cilantro, in moderation, to a well-balanced diet has not made me feel terrible or exhausted, and is hopefully helping to lighten my toxin load without over-stressing my bod.
Plus, cilantro just tastes good…to most of us ; )
How Can I Incorporate More Cilantro Into My Diet?
Cilantro can be so much more than just a garnish. There are millions of delicious cilantro-heavy recipes online. Here are a few that make me want to hit the kitchen:
- Cilantro Chimichurri— Delicious on grilled meat, fish, or veggies.
- Cilantro Pesto— Also delicious on grilled meat or fish, drizzled on roasted cauliflower, or as a dip for cucumber or zucchini coins.
- Pineapple Cilantro Green Smoothie— Just remember to steam cruciferous greens before adding, or use a non-goitrogenic green like chard.
Here are a few of my other recipes that feature cilantro:
What are your favorite ways to eat more cilantro? Please share in the comments section below. I will be sharing my recipe for Chicken Cilantro with you in next week’s post. Until then, I hope you’ve found some food for thought here, and a little extra inspiration to load up on that garnish.
Wishing You Good Eating and the Best of Health,