Almond Milk And Thyroid Health: Good Or Bad?

The majority of people who start their day with coffee prefers to enhance flavor with sugar, cream or, of course, some cow’s milk. People also turn to cow’s milk when it comes to eating cereal, drinking milkshakes, even for baking. Cow’s milk, however, isn’t as popular as it used to be anymore.

Health conscious people are now turning to alternative options instead – hemp milk, rice milk, flax milk, and coconut milk are all now commonly used by people as an alternative to cow’s milk. Here, we want to focus on almond milk specifically.

Almond milk has become extremely popular today. Millions of people have started to replace their cow’s milk with almond milk. This milk has a unique taste to it – it goes great with coffee, cereal, and many other foods and drinks.

In this post, we want to take a look at how almond milk affects Thyroid health. The Thyroid is a gland that is located in a patient’s throat – this gland plays quite a significant role in metabolism and many other functions in the human body.

We are going to take a look at whether almond milk is good or bad for the Thyroid, and what people should take into account when they do decide to start switching their cow’s milk for almond milk – especially if a patient has been diagnosed with a Thyroid disease like Hypothyroidism.

Why Are People Switching To Almond Milk?

Almond milk has become a rather popular “health drink” recently. For many people, the choice for switching from adding cow’s milk to their coffee to rather opting for almond milk is because this particular “milk” is made from almonds. Almonds are known to be exceptionally high in fiber, protein, magnesium, and many other nutrients that the body depends on to stay healthy and functioning. Almonds have also been linked to reduced oxidative stress in the body, improved glucose regulation, and alleviation of inflammation1.

For others, however, almond milk offers them a way to boost the flavor and texture of their coffee without having to experience adverse effects of intolerance or allergies they might have to dairy products.

Even though almond milk does not contain all of the nutrients that are present in whole almonds, there are still numerous health benefits associated with the use of this “milk” product. The most obvious benefit is that almond milk is dairy-free, which means individuals who experience allergic reactions when using cow’s milk can use almond milk without such worries. Additionally, almond milk contains a low amount of calories and a relatively high concentration of vitamin E2, which helps to fight oxidative stress and helps to improve several functions in the body.

Furthermore, many brands that produce almond milk fortifies the drink with nutrients like vitamin D and calcium. This ensures that bone health can be maintained, even when moving away from cow’s milk.

Why Is Thyroid Health So Important?

Before we consider how almond milk may affect the function of the Thyroid gland, let us first take a look at why the Thyroid plays such an important role in the human body. The Thyroid is classified as a “hormone gland.”

What this means is that the purpose of this gland is to produce and then release certain hormones into the bloodstream – the hormones are then carried toward cells that contain receptors that respond to the hormones. In turn, they serve certain functions within these cells.

In case of the Thyroid gland, three different hormones are produced and secreted into the blood – this includes T3 (also called Triiodothyronine), T4 (or Tetraiodothyronine / Thyroxine), and Calcitonin3.

All three of these hormones play a role in metabolism. Calcitonin has a unique function – these hormones help with the metabolism of bones and also helps the body break down and absorb calcium.

The other two hormones have a lot in common, but one is considered to be a more “active” form of Thyroid hormone than the other. T4 is the more abundant hormone of the two but is also less potent than T3. The body produces more T4 than T3 and then converts T4 into T3 when needed. Both of these hormones have an impact on the body’s basal metabolic rate.

When the basal metabolic rate of the body is increased, then an increase in body temperature is experience, along with a stronger heartbeat, improvements in energy production, and the nervous system is activated. Many other functions in the body also depend on a healthy dose of Thyroid hormones to function at an optimal level.

How Does Almond Milk Affect The Thyroid?

It is already commonly known that individuals with existing Thyroid-related problems need to watch what they eat and drink as there are numerous foods that can alter the function of the Thyroid gland. While someone with a healthy Thyroid may not experience significantly noticeable side-effects when they eat food that can increase or decrease Thyroid hormone production, a person with a condition like Hypothyroidism may experience aggravated symptoms in such a case.

Almond milk is quite an interesting topic when it comes to looking at the connection between this “health drink” and the function of the Thyroid gland. The truth is, switching from cow’s milk to almond milk completely may not only be bad for some people who have existing problems with their Thyroid, but could possibly cause issues among individuals with a healthy Thyroid. To understand why we have to look at the important role that iodine plays in the Thyroid.

Iodine is essential for human life. Even though popularly known as an effective disinfectant, this is actually a micronutrient that plays a vital part in the wellbeing of the Thyroid. In fact, cells of the Thyroid gland are the only cells in the entire human body that can utilize iodine – and without an adequate supply of this micronutrient, the Thyroid is unable to produce hormones to support metabolism in the body.

Cow’s milk is the primary source of iodine in the diets of millions around the world. Since iodine is a crucial component of Thyroid hormone production, when switching from cow’s milk to an alternative, such as almond milk, it means a person’s iodine intake will become considerably lower.

A study4 published on the OpenLearn platform analyzed the iodine concentration in 47 different products that are considered alternative options to cow’s milk. What they found was alarming – these alternatives had an average of 2% the value iodine that most cow’s milk products on the shelves currently offer. This is a significant reduction in iodine – and when iodine intake is lowered, it means Thyroid function may become impaired.

In addition to almond milk not providing a person an adequate supply of iodine, another important factor to consider is that almonds are classified in goitrogens. Goitrogen5 is a term used to refer to any substance that may interfere with the Thyroid’s ability to produce crucial hormones. While the milk may not act as a suppressant to Thyroid function in all people, this is still an important factor that needs to be taken into consideration.

Should People With Hypothyroidism Completely Avoid Almond Milk?

As noted before, there are two primary reasons why almond milk may not be the most appropriate option for individuals who are conscious about the wellbeing of their Thyroid. When it comes to Hypothyroidism, the concerns are even greater.

Hypothyroidism means the Thyroid does not produce enough hormones already. There are many causes for this condition – including autoimmune responses where the immune system creates antibodies that are sent to target the healthy cells of the Thyroid, causing impairment in overall Thyroid function. This condition can cause a person to experience many adverse effects, such as lethargy and fatigue6. It is also not uncommon for a person with Hypothyroidism to start gaining weight, often unexpectedly, and to become constipated. This is because a deficiency in Thyroid hormones leads to a slower metabolism.

When Hypothyroidism is already active, and a person reduces their daily intake of the crucial micronutrient iodine, it may cause a further impairment in Thyroid function – this may cause the symptoms they are already experiencing to become even worse. It is not only the lack of iodine that is a problem here, however. Individuals with existing Hypothyroidism can also experience a significant negative reaction when they consume foods and drinks that are known to be goitrogens – and, as discussed previously, almonds are classified as goitrogens. Since almond milk is made from almonds, it may cause the Thyroid’s ability to produce hormones to become impaired.

How To Manage Iodine Intake When Switching To Almond Milk?

Every person with Hypothyroidism is different and does not respond the same way to goitrogens. For some people, almond milk may be like poison when it comes to Thyroid function, but others may consume this milk without any significant adverse reactions. In such a case, it may be appropriate to have almond milk instead of cow’s milk – but the issue regarding iodine still exist in such case.

Fortunately, there are ways to increase iodine intake without having to go back to cow’s milk. Supplements are one way to go – not many supplements do include iodine, but some research would reveal options available int he local area.

When it comes to natural sources, switching regular salt for iodized salt is one potential option. Iodized salt is not, however, available in all countries. Seaweed is another good source of iodine, but should be consumed in moderation as the iodine levels in seaweed is quite high. Other important sources of iodine include prunes, eggs, tuna, shrimp, and cod.

Conclusion

The Thyroid gland is a vital part of the human body. This gland helps the endocrine system regulate several functions in the human body that are dependant on certain hormones. When Thyroid function becomes impaired, metabolism can slow down, a patient can start gaining weight, and many other health problems may also start to develop.

Understanding what foods and drinks can harm or benefit the Thyroid is important for anyone with Hypothyroidism or any other type of Thyroid disorder. When it comes to almond milk, individuals with existing Thyroid dysfunction are advised to be cautious. Fortunately, some people will be able to enjoy some almond milk now-and-then, as long as they ensure they obtain an adequate dosage of iodine in their diet.

References

1 A. Kamil, C.Y. Chen. Health benefits of almonds beyond cholesterol reduction. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 11 July 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22296169

2 A. Arnarson. Seven benefits of almond milk. Medical News Today. 1 August 2017. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318612.php

3 How does the thyroid gland work? PubMed Health. 19 April 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072572/

4 M. Rayman, S. Bath. Why going dairy-free can hit your iodine levels. OpenLearn. 17 October 2017. http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/health/why-going-dairy-free-can-hit-your-iodine-levels

5 E. Gaitan. Goitrogens. Bailliere’s Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. August 1988. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2464986

6 Hypothyroidism. PubMed Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0022776/

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