By Daria Zeoli, Guest Contributor

I was unaware that January is Thyroid Awareness Month. I find this surprising because I am an eight-year diagnosed sufferer of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Did you know that an improperly functioning thyroid can really mess you up?

What’s the Thyroid, Anyway? puts it best:

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck just below the Adam’s apple. Although relatively small, this gland influences the function of many of the body’s most important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin.

And, what’s Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease. I (only half-)jokingly like to describe it as my body being at war with itself. Specifically, the immune system mistakes normal thyroid cells as foreign tissue and produced antibodies to destroy them. When your thyroid isn’t working properly, you can develop hypothyroidism (which could increase risk of heart disease) or hyperthyroidism (which creates strain on the heart and increases risk of osteoporosis).

How do you treat thyroid diseases?

In my case, I’ve been on Levothyroxine tablets since I was diagnosed, and I get my thyroid hormone levels checked with a simple blood test every six months to make sure the dosage is still appropriate. I was on the same dosage for several years until last year, when, after some weight loss, my dosage was lowered.

Is a vegan diet helpful?

I think the more appropriate question is whether a vegan diet is harmful to thyroid function. I was sure to ask my doctor about cruciferous vegetables, as I had heard talk that they could interfere with things. My doctor agrees with Dr. Joel Furhman:

The fear (circulating the internet by some authors) of eating cruciferous vegetables or that those with hypothyroidism should reduce or avoid the consumption of kale or other cruciferous vegetables is unfounded and does a disservice to the community.

Can soyfoods affect thyroid function?

I asked my doctor about this as well, and was told I did not have to change my soy intake. It is important, however, to make sure you are getting adequate iodine. As Ginny Messina, RD says in her article Soyfoods, Iodine and Thyroid Function in Vegans:

Soy doesn’t adversely affect thyroid function in healthy adults either. As long as people meet the recommendations for iodine intake, consuming large amounts of soy has not been shown to have adverse effects. Whether soy is harmful to those who have deficient iodine intakes hasn’t been determined. But if this turns out to be the case, the answer will be to consume adequate iodine, not give up soy.

Ethical veganism is about the animals, but remember: one of the things we can do to best advocate for animals is make sure we’re taking care of ourselves.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  All information is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Please read the full disclaimer here.