What Is The Best Diet For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in metabolism, body temperature, and hormone regulation. People with Hashimoto's thyroiditis have a chronically inflamed thyroid gland that slows the production of thyroid hormones. In extreme cases, the thyroid gland stops producing hormones altogether.

This article explores Hashimoto's thyroiditis and the best diet to ease symptoms.

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is Hashimoto's thyroiditis?

People with Hashimoto's thyroiditis have a chronically inflamed thyroid. The immune system attacks the thyroid and limits its ability to produce hormones, causing a gradual decline in function and eventual hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, or Hashimoto's disease. It can affect anyone but is more common in middle-aged women.

What are the causes of Hashimoto's thyroiditis?

Hashimoto thyroiditis develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. The exact reason for this remains unknown, but the following factors may play a role.

Hormones

Hashimoto's disease affects seven times more women than men. Therefore, it's reasonable to speculate that sex hormones play a role. Some women also experience thyroid issues within a year of giving birth, and 20% of them develop Hashimoto's disease years later.

Genes

Hashimoto's thyroiditis tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic component to the condition.

Other autoimmune diseases

People with autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Radiation exposure

There are increased cases of Hashimoto's disease among people who have been exposed to radiation, including radiation treatment for Hodgkin's disease, the Chernobyl nuclear accident, and the atomic bombs in Hiroshima, Japan.

Elevated iodine levels

Excess iodine in the diet can trigger Hashimoto's disease in people already at risk.

What are the symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis?

Hashimoto's thyroiditis takes years to develop, and, as such, you may not notice any symptoms.

The first sign of a problem is goiter – an enlarged thyroid gland that causes the neck to bulge. A goiter causes problems like difficulty with speaking, breathing, and/or swallowing.

The gradual decline in thyroid hormone production causes the following symptoms;

What are the complications of Hashimoto's thyroiditis?

Thyroid hormones are essential to the proper function of several body systems. Therefore, Hashimoto's thyroiditis can cause various complications if left untreated, including;

A goiter

The enlargement of the thyroid gland is one of the initial complications of Hashimoto's disease. In addition to interfering with swallowing and breathing, a goiter can affect your appearance.

Mental health issues

People with Hashimoto's disease can develop mental health problems, which only become more severe with time.

Poor pregnancy outcome

Reduced levels of thyroid hormones increase the risk of preterm birth and miscarriage. Moreover, babies born to women with hypothyroidism are at risk of developmental disorders like speech delays, autism, and/or decreased intellectual abilities.

Heart problems

Hypothyroidism increases the risk of irregular heartbeat, an enlarged heart, and poor heart function. It also increases lipoprotein cholesterol levels, which is a risk factor for heart failure and cardiovascular disease.

Sexual and reproductive dysfunction

Women with Hashimoto's disease experience reduced libido, irregular and excessive menstrual bleeding, and problems with ovulation. Men may suffer erectile dysfunction and lower sperm count.

Myxedema

This life-threatening condition starts with drowsiness and can develop into profound lethargy and even unconsciousness. It develops due to long-term, untreated hypothyroidism and requires immediate medical attention.

What is the prognosis for Hashimoto's thyroiditis?

Hashimoto's disease may be a chronic disease and a major risk factor for hypothyroidism. However, it doesn't have to take over your life. You can live a long, fulfilling life with the proper treatment and coping strategies. One of those strategies is a healthy diet and exercise. This post focuses on diets that can help people with Hashimoto's disease.

What is the best diet for Hashimoto's disease?

There is a clear relationship between health and food – healthy food will protect you against various diseases. What you eat can significantly impact your quality of life and the success of your treatment plan for Hashimoto's disease.

The best diets for this autoimmune disease focus on reducing inflammation. And because it's a lifelong condition, any dietary changes that improve your symptoms should be permanent. Otherwise, the benefits will cease when you deviate from the diet.

Experts recommend¹  the following diets for Hashimoto's disease:

  • Grain-free 

  • Gluten-free 

  • Paleo or autoimmune modified 

  • Dairy-free 

  • Low glycemic index 

Grain-free diet

People with Hashimoto's disease should cut down on amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, teff, and oats (note that processed oats can contain gluten).

It's worth noting that cutting grains from your diet can reduce essential nutrients like fiber and selenium, which are essential for treating hypothyroidism.

Gluten-free diet

Some people with Hashimoto's disease are sensitive to gluten. A gluten-free diet can prove helpful, especially for those with celiac disease.

A recent survey of 2232 people found that 80% of the respondents felt better after trying a gluten-free diet. They reported improvements in energy levels, mood, digestion, and weight reduction.

A gluten-free diet eliminates all gluten foods, such as pasta, baked goods, including bread, cereals, and soups. It focuses on naturally gluten-free foods – fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, eggs, legumes, lean meats, and seafood.

Low glycemic index diet

The low GI diet considers how different foods acutely affect your blood sugar levels. A GI diet can help you manage your weight² and improve glycemic control³, which helps to prevent systemic inflammation.

Paleo diet

Otherwise known as the autoimmune diet, the paleo diet attempts to replicate the eating patterns of our ancestors. The main goal is to reduce inflammation and damage to the gut.

It doesn't allow for grains, potatoes, lentils, refined oils, refined sugar, beans, or dairy. It encourages grass-fed and cage-free meats, vegetables, nuts, seafood, and seeds. Healthy fats like olive oil and avocado oil are also allowed.

Dairy-free diet

Some people with Hashimoto's disease are also lactose intolerant. In addition, dairy products interfere with the absorption of thyroid hormone medication⁴.

Nutrient-dense diet

If you want to ease your symptoms without focusing on what to cut out, a nutrient-dense diet is your most suitable option. It includes a variety of whole foods, fruits and vegetables, fibrous carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean proteins, and they offer a range of benefits.

Fruits and vegetables

Incorporating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables into your diet can ensure that you're getting enough of the essential vitamins and minerals.

Lean proteins

Reach for fish, chicken, tofu, nuts, or beans for healthy proteins without saturated fats.

High-fiber carbohydrates

They are essential for weight management, blood sugar control, and a healthy heart. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, legumes, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

Healthy fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in salmon, nuts, chia seeds, albacore tuna, and avocados help reduce inflammation. 

Key nutrients for Hashimoto's disease

Certain nutrient supplements can help reduce thyroid antibodies and inflammation in people with Hashimoto's disease. Beneficial nutrients include;

Selenium

Research suggests that taking 200mg of selenium each day can reduce anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies⁵ in people with Hashimoto's disease. You can get selenium from supplements or foods like halibut, Brazil nuts, sardines, lobster, sunflower seeds, liver, grass-fed beef, and eggs.

Curcumin

This powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound help protect the thyroid gland.

Zinc

This mineral is essential to healthy thyroid function and, when taken alongside selenium, can ease symptoms of hypothyroidism.

B Complex vitamins

People suffering from hypothyroidism tend to have low levels of vitamin B12. Taking vitamin B12 supplements can boost your levels of B complex vitamins.

Iron

There is a higher risk of anemia among people with Hashimoto's disease. Iron supplements can help correct the deficiency and lower the risk of anemia.

Vitamin D

People with Hashimoto's disease have significantly lower levels of vitamin D. Moreover, a study⁶ has shown a link between low vitamin D levels and the severity of Hashimoto's disease. The best food sources for this nutrient include salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, mushrooms, fortified milk, and swordfish.

Magnesium

Severely low magnesium levels are associated with higher thyroid antibodies⁷ and an increased risk of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Correcting the deficiency can improve symptoms and your overall well-being.

Foods to avoid with Hashimoto's thyroiditis

Below is a list of foods to limit or avoid if you have Hashimoto's thyroiditis:

Foods containing soy

There has long been debate over the effects of isoflavones – compounds found in soy – on the thyroid gland. And while some studies⁸ found that soy has no impact on thyroid hormones, other research suggests that soy can interfere with the body's ability to absorb thyroid medication⁹. Consider waiting three to five hours after eating foods with soy before taking your medication.

Gluten

Consider minimizing gluten intake if you have thyroid problems. Gluten is a protein found in foods processed from grains like barley, wheat, and rye. It can hinder the body's ability to absorb thyroid medication and irritate the small intestine in people with celiac disease. If you choose to eat gluten, choose whole-grain pasta and bread varieties.

Sugar

Hashimoto's thyroiditis can lead to weight gain. As a result, you should avoid any foods that offer empty calories as they are low in nutrients, such as those high in sugar.

Excess fiber

Fiber may be good for your health, but too much of it can complicate Hashimoto's treatment. Anything above 25-38 grams a day¹⁰ can affect the digestive tract and inhibit the absorption of hypothyroid drugs.

Alcohol

Excessive consumption of alcohol can wreak havoc on your thyroid gland and suppresses the production of thyroid hormones. Ideally, limiting or avoiding alcohol can benefit Hashimoto's disease patients.

Cruciferous vegetables

Broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables can affect the production of thyroid hormones in people with iodine deficiency if eaten in very large amounts. They inhibit the body's ability to absorb iodine, which is essential to healthy thyroid function. Cooking these vegetables can help reduce their impact on the thyroid gland.

Fatty foods

Fat contributes to weight gain and interferes with the production of thyroid hormones. You can reduce your intake by avoiding fatty cuts of meat, margarine, mayonnaise, butter, and fried foods.

Processed foods

Processed foods are high in sodium, which is bad for your thyroid gland. It leads to an underactive thyroid and increases the risk of hypertension.

It is best to avoid processed foods altogether. If purchasing them, check the nutritional information and choose foods with the lowest sodium content.

Coffee

A recent study¹¹ found that coffee can block the absorption of thyroid hormones, and this is particularly true for people who take their thyroid medication with coffee. Consider taking your medication with water and waiting at least 30 minutes before drinking your morning cup of coffee.

Other lifestyle modifications to try

It's essential that people with Hashimoto's disease get enough sleep, practice self-care, and reduce stress.

For optimal absorption, you should also take your medication on an empty stomach – 30 minutes before breakfast and three to four hours after dinner.  Don't take any supplements before consulting your doctor, as they can interfere with the absorption of the medication.

After starting medication, it will take a few weeks to feel better. Combining the medicine with dietary changes will improve your mental health and quality of life. If symptoms don't improve, talk to your healthcare team and find out if there are other options.

The lowdown

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a common autoimmune condition that can cause persistent symptoms if left untreated.

As mentioned above, dietary and lifestyle changes used alongside medication can ease the symptoms. Follow a well-balanced diet that focuses on whole, unprocessed foods with minimal gluten, sugar, and calorie content.

Keep in mind that every hypothyroidism patient is different. Be open to trying different diets until you find one that works best for you. It's also essential that you consult a healthcare professional or nutritionist to determine what nutrients you need. They can also help you find a diet that works for you.

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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