Hyperthyroidism, once diagnosed, can be treated. You can also manage your symptoms by monitoring your food intake. Some foods can help reduce symptoms, while others may worsen them.
If you want to get your hyperthyroidism under control and potentially reduce your need for medications, learn everything you can about the condition, including what dietary changes you can make.
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Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. It is most often caused by an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease, but it can also be caused by inflammation in the thyroid or excessive iodine consumption.
Some forms of hyperthyroidism are chronic, such as Graves’ disease. Others are subacute, meaning they will typically go away after a while. One example is postpartum thyroiditis, which affects women who have given birth within the last year.
The overall relationship between nutrition and hyperthyroidism is still not well understood, and there is no specific “hyperthyroid diet.”
However, one link is well-established—excessive amounts of iodine can lead to hyperthyroidism.
The most common cause is taking kelp supplements for weight loss. Since a common symptom of an overactive thyroid is weight loss, it can look as if the supplements are working.
Other than this, there is still no strong evidence that eating or not eating certain foods can affect your risk of developing hyperthyroidism.
The development of Graves’ disease is significantly influenced by genetics, and it tends to run in families, although not everyone will have symptoms. It is still unclear why certain people develop it while others do not.
In other words, more research is needed into hyperthyroidism and its causes.
However, if you are trying to improve your life, reduce your symptoms, and potentially reduce your need for medication, it helps to understand what foods are good for hyperthyroidism and what to avoid.
If your hyperthyroidism results in weight loss and you are now underweight, you should address that first by bringing up your weight to a normal range. In contrast, other people experience weight gain when they start treatment.
Some foods have been shown to help support your thyroid and normalize levels. Consider consuming more of the following when you have hyperthyroidism.
Foods low in iodine
Excessive iodine consumption can aggravate (and even cause) your thyroid overactivity, so you should try to eat foods low in iodine.
This is especially true f you are either about to receive radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism or if your thyroid issues are known to be caused by excessive iodine.
Some foods that are deemed safe for those with hyperthyroidism are:
Jam and jelly
Unsalted nuts and nut butter
Beer and wine
Beef and veal
Chicken and turkey
Fruit and fruit juices
If you have specifically been asked to follow a low-iodine diet for a short period, try to stick to those foods. However, this is not meant to be done for an extended period.
Foods with selenium
Selenium¹ is really important for your thyroid. It’s also proven to improve symptoms of complications of Graves’ disease, including Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which causes bulging eyes and double vision.
Your doctor may recommend a selenium supplement using organic selenium. However, foods rich in selenium include:
Make sure to cross-check as some of these foods (such as shrimp) are also high in iodine, and you need to monitor your consumption. If you are on a low-iodine diet, you may be better off taking a supplement.
As many of the good sources of selenium are animal products, you might also want to supplement if you are vegan or vegetarian.
Cruciferous vegetables contain substances called goitrogens, which reduce your ability to produce thyroid hormones. Substantially increasing their consumption can help your hyperthyroidism symptoms.
However, be aware that if you have thyroiditis, it is fairly common to go from being hyperthyroid to hypothyroid, at which point you should reduce consumption.
Here are cruciferous vegetables you should eat more of:
Foods rich in iron
Low levels of iron² are associated with autoimmune thyroiditis. However, if you are getting enough iron already, you may not want to push it.
Ask your doctor to check your iron levels. Vegetarians and vegans are more likely to need an iron supplement.
If you are deficient in iron, consider adding more of the following to your diet:
White, kidney, and black beans
The same applies here; make sure you keep your iodine levels down. This can sometimes be more important than anything else you do.
Foods rich in calcium
It’s not uncommon for people with hyperthyroidism to go a long time without being formally diagnosed. This can lead to several complications, one of which is a high risk of osteoporosis.
While treatment will slow this and can even reverse it, you should make sure to support your bone health by getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
Good sources of calcium include:
Our bodies produce vitamin D, but we can be lacking as many of us don’t get enough sunlight, especially in the winter. You should eat foods fortified with vitamin D (this generally includes milk and cereals) or take a supplement to increase your vitamin D levels.
Turmeric is a spice with a reputation for having health benefits. The active ingredient, curcumin, is anti-inflammatory and a good antioxidant, making it helpful against thyroid inflammation.
Curcumin is also good for your joints and muscle soreness after exercise, among other things. Consider a curcumin supplement, but make sure it contains enhancing agents, as curcumin alone is not very easy for your body to absorb.
If you have hyperthyroidism, there are some foods you should avoid eating. Note that some of this can be contradictory. Talk to a healthcare professional about your specific symptoms.
Caffeine is not dangerous to your thyroid in and of itself; however, it can worsen some symptoms, such as anxiety and tremors.
Another common symptom of hyperthyroidism is insomnia. If you have this, try cutting out caffeine.
As caffeine can also cause sleep disturbances, removing coffee, tea, and soda from your diet can help you get better sleep, which will help heal your thyroid.
It’s not necessary (or even wise) to avoid high-iodine foods altogether. However, you should consider lowering your consumption of foods that are particularly high.
Avoid kelp supplements, which have a lot of iodine, and watch your consumption of the following:
Fish and seafood
Food products containing red dye
The additive carrageenan
You should also avoid any baked goods with iodate dough conditioners. Commercial bakeries don’t use these so much anymore, but they’re still out there. Look for sodium iodate, potassium iodate, or calcium iodate and avoid brands that use them.
If you are getting radioactive iodine treatment, you should avoid soy products before and during treatment. Soy ingestion³ can interfere with iodine uptake and affect how well your therapy works.
Typically, your doctor will ask you to avoid soy products for several weeks before your treatment.
Soy products include:
Many vegan/vegetarian meat substitutes (check the ingredients)
Teriyaki sauce (which contains soy sauce)
Textured vegetable protein
After your treatment, you should be able to enjoy soy again, although if you end up hypothyroid, you may want to be a bit careful with it.
You should talk to your nutritionist about all of these. As a note, it is relatively common to have both Graves’ disease and celiac disease, so getting tested for gluten intolerance could be a good idea.
A lot more research needs to be done on the effectiveness of dietary changes for hyperthyroidism. However, consuming food that can help reduce symptoms or avoiding certain high-iodine foods can help.
Talk to a nutritionist before making any major dietary changes. They will help you develop a sustainable diet plan that works for you.
While there is no hyperthyroid diet, good nutrition can help you manage this condition and improve your overall health.