If you’re addressing your Hashimoto’s low thyroid through diet and lifestyle in addition to medication, it’s likely you’re gluten-free and consuming rice-based substitutes. If you are eating them regularly, you may be consuming unsafe levels of arsenic.
A 2017 study showed those who follow a gluten-free diet consuming rice-based products regularly showed almost twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to those who did not. (They also showed 70 percent more mercury, another troublesome finding.)
If you eat rice-based products on a gluten-free diet to prevent inflammation and flare-ups of your Hashimoto’s low thyroid, it’s important to understand the arsenic issue and how to minimize your exposure. Exposure to toxic chemicals and heavy metals can trigger immune reactions.
How arsenic is harmful to human health
Arsenic is a heavy metal that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. The type of arsenic that is harmful to health is inorganic arsenic (not bound to carbon) if ingested levels are too high.
Inorganic arsenic occurs naturally, however, it’s important to note pesticides and fertilizers lead to excessive accumulation in soil and water. Because rice grows in water, it is the grain with the highest arsenic levels.
Studies show regular exposure to small amounts of arsenic raises the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer. It also increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders. Consuming arsenic during pregnancy may affect the baby’s immune system.
Because we know arsenic is so deleterious to human health and immunity, it’s clearly something to be aware of an limit exposure to when managing autoimmune Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
How much is safe to eat? If we go by a Consumer Reports study, the answer is sadly not much. The organization found one serving of rice pasta, rice cereal, and rice milk exceeded a safe amount of arsenic for one week while one serving of rice cakes came close. This is a sobering consideration for those eating or feeding their children rice-based substitutes on a daily basis.
The FDA recently proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal. However, it’s hard to know how what constitutes safe levels of arsenic as risk is dose dependent; the more you consume the higher the risk.
How to reduce arsenic exposure from rice when you follow a gluten-free diet for Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Arsenic concerns don’t have to mean the end of rice and gluten-free substitutes for those with Hashimoto’s low thyroid. Consider the suggestions below.
Shop for products made from other grains besides rice. Thankfully, there are many more on the market these days. Aim for those with a blend of various grains and not solely rice-based if you’re going to eat them regularly.
Pay attention to where the rice is grown. Consumer Reports found rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas contained the highest amounts of inorganic arsenic. Rice from California rice has almost 40 percent less arsenic.
Also, brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan has a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices.
Unfortunately, organic rice may not be a sure bet because the arsenic comes from the water it is grown in.
Eat white rice. We are taught brown rice is healthier because it has more nutrients and fiber. But because arsenic concentrates in the outer layers that are removed to turn brown rice into white, white rice actually contains less arsenic than brown.
Rinse rice thoroughly and cook it in a 6:1 ratio of water. Wash your rice very well before cooking and then simmer it in six cups of water to one cup of rice, draining the excess when it’s done. The normal method of having the rice absorb all the water allows for arsenic to accumulate. Using extra water cuts down arsenic levels by about one third.
Go grain-free. If you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid, it’s strongly likely you will feel and function your best on a grain-free diet. Many people with Hashimoto’s are sensitive to grains in general. Going on a more paleo-style grain-free diet eliminates the worry about arsenic in rice completely. However, we still need to be mindful of what we feed our gluten-free children.
Ask my office for more ways to protect yourself from toxic chemicals and heavy metals and how to manage Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office.
About Dr. Josh Redd, Chiropractic Physician — Utah, Arizona, New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto’s, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here.