If you’re managing a thyroid or hormone disorder then you’re likely gluten-free and may be eating rice-based, gluten-free substitutes. Unfortunately, research is showing eating rice regularly can deliver high levels of arsenic.
In fact, a 2017 study showed people on a gluten-free diet consuming rice-based products on a regular basis showed almost twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to those who did not (and 70 percent more mercury, another troublesome finding.)
If you are on a gluten-free diet to manage your thyroid and hormones, it’s important to be aware of some facts regarding rice-based foods. When managing an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, it’s important to be careful about limiting exposure to toxic chemicals and heavy metals so as not to trigger immune reactions.
Why arsenic is harmful
Arsenic is a naturally occurring heavy metal. It is the inorganic arsenic (not bound to carbon) that is toxic to humans if levels ingested are too high.
Although inorganic arsenic occurs naturally, it also accumulates in soil and water due to pesticides and fertilizers. Because rice grows in water, it is the grain highest in arsenic.
Consistent exposure to small amounts of arsenic increases the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders. Consuming arsenic during pregnancy may affect the baby’s immune system. This means arsenic clearly has deleterious effects on the immune health — something to be aware of when you’re managing autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Consumer Reports 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.
The FDA recently proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal. However, it’s impossible to know how much arsenic is safe to consume as risk is dose dependent; the more you consume the higher the risk.
How to minimize arsenic exposure from rice when you’re trying to go gluten-free
These troubling truths about arsenic exposure through rice don’t have to spell doom for gluten-free folks who consume rice-based substitutes.
- For starters, look for products made from other grains besides rice. Thankfully, there are many more on the market these days.
- Look at where your rice comes from. In 2014 Consumer Reports found that rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas had the highest concentrations of inorganic arsenic while California rice has almost 40 percent less arsenic. Brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan has a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices. Unfortunately, because the arsenic comes from the water, organic rice may not be lower in arsenic.
- Eat white rice (sorry!). Since arsenic tends to accumulate in the outer layers which are removed to turn brown rice into white, white rice contains less of the toxin than the whole grain.
- Rinse your rice thoroughly and cook in excess water. Wash your rice thoroughly before cooking and then cook your rice in a ratio of about six cups of water to one cup of rice and drain the excess water after. This cuts down arsenic levels by about one third compared to letting rice absorb all the water during cooking.
- Consider a grain-free diet. Many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism feel and function significantly better on a grain-free diet. This is because they react to most grains in general. If you don’t eat rice-based products, excessive arsenic exposure is one less thing to worry about in a world where we are constantly at battle with toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
Contact our team for more ways to protect yourself from toxic chemicals and heavy metals and how to manage your thyroid and hormone condition!