Brassica vegetables

Being holistic versus (holistic) critical thinking.


Is being 'holistic' an advantage to holistic critical thinking? It’s relatively easy to get drawn into a naturalistic fallacy of consuming all foods in their most raw natural state. Perhaps you’re someone who went from a fast food diet, where you didn’t feel your best, to consuming more whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables? It’s easy to see how a switch and positive changes can occur in the short term. The next step is to start preaching to the masses how sugar is bad, how your life will be saved with green smoothies, nuts, seeds and coffee butt cleanses. For the record this is a waste of coffee and not to far from what I was preaching a decade ago. So what does it mean to be holistic?There’s a large movement within the health fitness and wellness industry (and lay people) that are drawn to  'holistic' thinking, and their definition is often enforced by the fallacy that everything in its most natural state is better for human health. This appears to include foods like nut milks (yes you can milk a nut), kale smoothies, seed oils like flax and undercooked broccoli and other greens, despite their negative effects on human health when consumed in substantial amounts. It’s a religion, and much like religion and with this mind-set it isn’t going to make you any healthier. I’ll make reference here to the late, great Beastie Boy, MCA who despite being a vegan and a Buddhist died far too early from throat cancer.

It is true that eating plenty of foods in their most natural state f(or some foods) can be important for health. But the image on the right highlights the faulty narrative of being holistic without thinking about the consequences. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meats and the like require minimal processing but in the quest for longevity, taste and profit, adding preservatives and flavour enhancers causes our food sources to become problematic. The so called ‘holistic’ folk get lost in this narrative urging your diet to become abundant in the rawest, greenest and brownest foods, that are most indigestible and contain potent inhibitors of biological function.

To integrate a level of holism into nutrition and function requires a level of critical thinking. What do these foods contain? How do they affect physiology? It’s well known that the brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts contain potent compounds that decrease energy output. These goitregens inhibit thyroid output and isothiocyanates found in cruciferous vegetables affects TPO or thyroid peroxidase, both of which are exacerbated when iodine uptake or restriction is present. Research tends to support these problematic effects (Choi & Kim, 2014)(Truong, Baron-Dubourdieu, Rougier, & Guénel, 2010), but much attention is focused on the smaller compounds that seem to work well in test tubes, rather than its global effects. As the environment becomes more stressful for biology do we need more building or reducing factors within our control?

The environment can be a harsh place. There are plenty of pollutants that have a negative effect on fertility, metabolism and other key endocrine aspects of health, some of which are industrial, others purposively added to food (arguably another form of industry) (Rajpert-De Meyts, Skakkebaek, & Toppari, 2000)(Upson, Harmon, & Baird, 2016). We can argue that the environment has always been a harsh place and adaptation has taken place as a response to selective pressures at the heart of evolution. Yet currently we are heading towards a tipping point, as environmental stimulants appear to be at the heart of acquired biological damage that is inherited by offspring. Cancer, fertility and other metabolic diseases are more common than ever and yet the approach is to keep seeking the magic bullet to ameliorate the fate that awaits many of us.

If we were to ask:

What enhances biological function, makes us more robust and allows us to have a stronger conversation with a stressful environment?

Rather than succumb to its stressors.

The highway to health

The highway to health

A biological system in its best working order could be represented, as an infinite road stretching into the  distance, perhaps with the odd bump along the way or a slight deviation but an ability to get back on track is available. Compare that to the inhibitory T-junction where the body cannot function as the clear straight road, it deviates from its true organised direction. The journey is laboured and restrictive. The ability to flux and respond to stressors is key and adequate energy is an essential component of reorganisation.

Nutrition is an important factor for such conversations with the environment. Eating a diet that is dominated with foods that are difficult to digest, decrease energy availability and create more stress are not going to make chatting any easier. If we make the effort to understand what keeps a cell and its mitochondria functioning at its most efficient state, we can understand why aspects such as sugar, adequate protein, moderate exercise, light and other factors, can play a role in overcoming current stimulus that decrease function and increase disease states.

The following article is definitely worth a read for an understanding of the concepts that I have talked about.


Choi, W. J., & Kim, J. (2014). Dietary factors and the risk of thyroid cancer: a review. Clinical Nutrition Research, 3(2), 75–88.

Rajpert-De Meyts, E., Skakkebaek, N. E., & Toppari, J. (2000). Testicular Cancer Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Endocrine Aspects. Endotext. Retrieved from

Truong, T., Baron-Dubourdieu, D., Rougier, Y., & Guénel, P. (2010). Role of dietary iodine and cruciferous vegetables in thyroid cancer: A countrywide case-control study in New Caledonia. Cancer Causes and Control, 21(8), 1183–1192.

Upson, K., Harmon, Q. E., & Baird, D. D. (2016). Soy-based infant formula feeding and ultrasound-detected uterine fibroids among young African-American women with no prior clinical diagnosis of fibroids. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(6), 769–775.

What is functional hypothyroidism?

You won’t find the term functional hypothyroidism in the medical literature, or at least not yet. Primarily due to clinical hypothyroidism being bound to a rigid assessment usually diagnosed by the blood test thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH. TSH secretion is controlled by synthesis of thyroid releasing hormone or TRH in the supraortic and supraventricular nuclei of the hypothalamus. TRH is transported to the anterior pituitary by the hypothalamo- hypophysial portal system where it stimulates synthesis of TSH. T4, T3 and TRH control the secretion of TSH (Gardner et al., 2011).

TSH production can also be affected by TSH receptor damage, medical drugs, disease states, iodide, blood glucose levels and other circulating hormones TSH may also be affected by environmental pollutants and heavy metals (Llop et al., 2015).  Metabolic disease and increases in Body Mass Index appear to be correlated with an increase in TSH levels (Ruhla et al., 2010).

Often, you will see clear links and studies to key micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, iodine and other important co-factors. These deficiencies can exist demographically but usually in westernised societies, there deficiency can be linked to impaired absorption rates, perhaps linked to digestive dysfunction and other factors.

“Measuring the amount of thyroid in the blood isn’t a good way to evaluate adequacy of thyroid function, since the response of tissues to the hormone can be suppressed (for example, by unsaturated fats) (Peat, R.1999).

 Dietary factors such as unsaturated fatty acids in the diet may potentially be one of the most overlooked factors that supress thyroid function. Other factors such as caloric restriction, stressful environments, over exercising and other factors are some of the others. It’s well known that in certain areas of hormone dysregulation such as menstrual cycle irregularities, oligoamenorrohea (loss of cycle), anovulation (failure to ovulate) and lack of libido and fertility in both men and women,  can be attributed to poor energy intake and environmental factors (Nieuwenhuijsen et al., 2014) (Skakkebæk, 2003). Dietary factors have synergy with hormonal imbalances perpetuating high levels of estrogen.

The functional suppression of thyroid function by unsaturated fats, eating a so-called healthy diet (full of uncooked brassica vegetables, nuts and seeds) orthorexic states and other factors is largely ignored by physicians.

I can say with some certainty, after completing postgraduate studies at university with a number of Doctors, that diet and inhibitory factors of diet rarely get assessed when it comes to assessing energy and thyroid function.

A persistent functional hypothyroid state, induced by unsaturated fats may lead to the pre-diabetic and diabetic states induced by an inability to utilise carbohydrate and the preferential shift to use of fats instead of sugars as suggested in the Randle or glucose fatty acid cycle (Randle, Garland, Hales, & Newsholme, 1963). Increased cortisol, oxidation, decreased carbon dioxide and an increased stress on the oxidative system, could potentially lead to glycolysis and an increase in lactic acid, further increasing damage, stress and further suppression of thyroid function.

Measurement of thyroid blood tests remains inaccurate and problematic without the inclusion of a variety of symptoms and previously accurate assessment, such as basal metabolic rate, body temperature and pulse. The suppression of both thyroid and adequate energy states will always remain.

As the common approach for diagnosing hypothyroidism is having TSH above 4 or 5 mmUL and the preferred treatment is to supplement with synthetic levothyroxine. How much change can you realistically achieve if you fail to address the supressed metabolism induced by diet, an individuals susceptibility to stress and their own environment?



Gardner, D. G., Shoback, D. M., Greenspan, F. S. et al .(2011). Greenspan’s Basic and Clinical Endocrinology. McGraw Hill.

Llop, S., Lopez-Espinosa, M. J., Murcia, M., Alvarez-Pedrerol, M., Vioque, J., Aguinagalde, X., … Ballester, F. (2015). Synergism between exposure to mercury and use of iodine supplements on thyroid hormones in pregnant women. Environmental Research, 138, 298–305.

Nieuwenhuijsen, M. J., Basagana, X., Dadvand, P., Martinez, D., Cirach, M., Beelen, R., & Jacquemin, B. (2014). Air pollution and human fertility rates. Environment International, 70, 9–14.; 10.1016/j.envint.2014.05.005

Peat, R. (1999). Thyroid Therapies, Confusion and Fraud. Retrieved from

Randle, P. J., Garland, P. B., Hales, C. N., & Newsholme, E. A. (1963). The glucose fatty-acid cycle its role in insulin sensitivity and the metabolic disturbances of diabetes mellitus. The Lancet, 281(7285), 785–789.

Ruhla, S., Weickert, M. O., Arafat, A. M., Osterhoff, M., Isken, F., Spranger, J., … Möhlig, M. (2010). A high normal TSH is associated with the metabolic syndrome. Clinical Endocrinology, 72(5), 696–701.

Skakkebæk, N. E. (2003). Testicular dysgenesis syndrome. In Hormone Research (Vol. 60, p. 49).