A part of my thyroid cancer treatment involves a dose of Radioactive Iodine (RAI), which is oral chemotherapy. To prepare for this, I will have to stop taking my thyroid medicine and go on a low-iodine diet for about 5 weeks (4 weeks before, 1 week after).
Educational moment: Thyroid tissue is the only tissue in the body that takes up iodine and iodine is actually really important for normal thyroids. Lack of iodine in the diet is associated with goitars and other thyroid malfunctions. For this reason, developed countries have added iodine to pretty much everything to make sure that people get enough.
The type of cancer I have likes to spread via the bloodstream to your lungs and bones, but really it can pop up anywhere in the body. And even after a thyroidectomy, there is still some remnant thyroid tissue left in the body (around the parathyroid glands).
Since iodine is only taken up by thyroid tissue, it is the perfect mechanism for killing leftover thyroid tissue and killing any thyroid cancer cells that may be in other locations of the body. RAI will help get rid of any cancer cells which may have spread (which hopefully none did) and help keep the cancer from coming back.
A nuclear pharmacist (like our friend, Reid) will prepare a radioactive form of the iodine (I-131). In terms of side effects, it doesn't have many. It is a MUCH better alternative to systemic chemotherapy.
The Low-Iodine diet will basically starve my body of Iodine so that when I get the I-131, the thyroid tissue will soak it all up.
There are quite a few restrictions on this diet. They differ a little depending on who you talk to, but here's the jist:
- No dairy (that includes cheese, milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt, and chocolate)
- No egg yolks
- No soy products
- Basically nothing processed
- No iodinized salt
- Nothing from the ocean. No fish, shellfish, sea salt, seaweed, etc.
- No chicken plumped with brine.
- Only 6 oz. of meat a day
- Only 4 servings of grains a day
- No Red #3
- Distilled Water
- Certain types of beans are off limits
- Not too much spinach and broccoli
- No canned anything (except peaches, pineapple, and one other thing I can't remember)
There's still plenty to eat, but it requires a little more planning than usual since almost EVERYTHING has to be made from scratch. And it will be a lot of fruits and vegetables. I am secretly hoping I will lose weight while doing this, but that isn't likely. In addition to the restricted diet, I have to stop taking my thyroid medicine so my metabolism will be virtually non-existant. And I'll probably feel like crap.
But it must be done! I can do it. Hopefully this will be one of the last steps in this process.