While specific foods and supplements can’t treat or reverse thyroid disease, eating a healthy, thyroid-friendly diet can support your thyroid function, help you maintain or lose weight, and may even help reduce some of your symptoms like fatigue, constipation, and slow metabolism.
More research is needed to better understand the exact impact of food on thyroid health, but there’s some scientific evidence for how certain nutrients affect thyroid function.
The following dos and don’ts are a great place to start when you’re looking to make some changes. Consider seeking the help of a nutritionist who can help guide you further.
Thyroid-Friendly Foods for Any Budget
Though there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet that will work for everyone, and each person will need to address their own food sensitivities and nutrient deficiencies.
Here are some of the foods are found to be especially healing which can be made more budget-friendly with the following tips:
- High quality protein – Protein is an important source of amino acids such as glutamine and L-tyrosine, which repair gut cells and create thyroid hormones, respectively. Protein sourced from animals is more easily absorbed by the body. Meat can be bought in bulk with delivery options.
- Berries – Berries are a great source of antioxidants and myo-inositol. Myo-inositol is an important nutrient that may reduce thyroid antibody and TSH levels, help balance blood sugar, as well as reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety, mood swings, depression and OCD. Frozen berries are cheaper than fresh ones. They are also usually more nutritious, as they are flash frozen instead of being transported fresh (which means they don’t lose their nutritional value during transportation).
- Green smoothies – Load up on micronutrients by making their own green smoothies. It’s an excellent way to boost the number of vegetables you consume on a daily basis, in an easy-to-digest way. Leafy greens, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and fresh herbs are all inexpensive smoothie ingredients that can be purchased at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. For an excellent (and inexpensive) source of protein, you can also add protein powders to your smoothies.
- Fermented foods – Many fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, can be bought in jars for a reasonable price, but making your own fermented foods is cheap and easy. (For example, to make sauerkraut, all you need is a canning jar, some cabbage, and a bit of salt.
- Bone broth – Bone broth, which helps to heal damage to the digestive tract, is both easy and cheap to make. All you need are 3-4 lbs of bones from organic or pastured meat, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier digestive tract in no time. If you cannot consume pastured, organic meats for every meal throughout the month, getting a few organic bones and using them for bone broth can be incredibly healing.
- Cruciferous vegetables – Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and kale, are highly nutrient dense without being high-priced. Leafy greens are especially great choices that help move toxins out of the body. Look for sales on seasonal vegetables for the best deals.
- Cilantro – Fresh herbs like cilantro, which can help remove heavy metals from your body, are generally very cheap — but you can also purchase dried versions, which will last a long time in your pantry.
- Turmeric – Turmeric has a well-researched track record of reducing whole body inflammation, healing the gut, and detoxifying the body from heavy metals. You can buy turmeric and add it to your soups, teas, and curries for a great health boost.
In essence, the ideal thyroid diet will include plenty of whole foods, along with a few foods that are found to be particularly healing to the gut, and helpful for eliminating toxins. Whole foods such as frozen (or fresh) fruits and vegetables are more affordable than trendy superfoods and are just as (if not more in some cases) nutrient dense.
Limit Dietary Stress
Dietary stress in your body is caused by eating foods that create:
- Inflammation, sensitivity, or allergic response
- A spike or rapid fluctuations in your blood sugar
- Toxins or chemicals that can trigger immune responses
- High amounts of unhealthy fats
You can help eliminate dietary stress by making some strategic changes.
Eliminate Heavily Processed Foods
Processed foods don’t have a direct impact on thyroid function, but when they’re heavily processed, as in the case of frozen pizza, microwave dinners, and donuts, they aren’t healthy for anyone. Some heavily processed foods (such as processed meats) even contain certain ingredients that are considered carcinogenic (cancer-causing).
In addition, foods that are heavily processed often have a lot of empty calories that don’t support your body at all. It’s best to choose fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods that have been minimally processed if you can.
Skip Table Salt
Most Americans consume too much salt. Current USDA guidelines suggest that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Since many packaged foods already contain sodium, adding table salt to foods may put you over the limit.
Add Good Fats
Incorporate good fats like olive oil, avocado, and healthy nuts into your diet. These have anti-inflammatory properties that may help support your immune system. Salmon is also an excellent source of good fat. Choose wild-caught salmon instead of farmed salmon for maximum nutritional value.
Use grass-fed instead of grain-fed organic meats whenever possible. Meat from grass-fed animals is higher in healthier fats and nutrients and lower in fat overall than meat from grain-fed animals.
Thyroid disease increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To help reduce this risk and lower dietary stress, cut down or eliminate soft drinks, and other forms of sugar, such as honey and molasses, and cut diet drinks and artificial sweeteners from your diet entirely.
Drink in Moderation
Alcoholic beverages are often heavy on carbohydrates and sugars. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional drink for most people, but overuse of alcohol is a stress on your liver and your immune system.
Avoid Eating Too Much in One Sitting
Eating until you’re stuffed causes a spike in your blood sugar, typically followed by a dip or crash. This is a dietary stressor that can be avoided by making your meals more balanced and stopping once you feel satisfied.
Mindful eating is a helpful strategy for avoiding overeating. It gives your body time to register that you’re full and improves your awareness of those signals. As a bonus, it can also help aid digestion.
Give Your Body a Nightly Food Break
Try to stop eating after 8 p.m. and give your body a 10- to 12-hour break overnight before you eat breakfast. When you sleep, your body starts producing thyroid, adrenal, and growth hormones. It draws the energy for this production from your stored fat, burning it as you sleep.
Studies have suggested that by allowing a break of 10 to 12 hours, you encourage your body to get the message that more food is not coming every several hours, which may help shift you into fat-burning mode overnight.
Hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides are toxins and they can trigger autoimmune and inflammatory responses. The more you can remove these toxins from your food, the less stress these foods will create in your immune and endocrine systems. Buy organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range, wild-caught, and pesticide-free foods whenever possible.
Try a Thyroid-Friendly Diet
Since it produces hormones that affect your entire body, your thyroid is sensitive to what you eat. The more dietary stress you put on yourself, the more likely you are to experience inflammation that can worsen your autoimmune reactions and interfere with your thyroid function.
Food intolerances and allergies—dairy, soy, and nuts, for example—can cause inflammation and make it harder for you to lose weight. It might be worth it to try an elimination diet and/or get allergy testing to determine if you have any food sensitivities or allergies.
Celiac disease is three times more common in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease than in the general population. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes an immune reaction in your digestive system to gluten, a protein in wheat, barley, and rye, leading to damage in your small intestine.
Having this disease can cause poor absorption of nutrients that are vital to thyroid health, like iodine and selenium, and lessen your body’s ability to absorb your thyroid hormone replacement medication (levothyroxine).
For those with celiac disease, going on a gluten-free diet may help reduce inflammation. If you haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease, but you think you might have it based on your symptoms and/or family history, be sure to get checked out by your healthcare provider.
A low-glycemic diet is low in sugar and simple carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed, such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals, potatoes, and corn. The benefit of this diet is that it helps to balance blood sugar spikes, which cause dietary stress.
Consistently high blood sugar can be inflammatory as well, so lowering and balancing your blood sugar reduces overall stress on your hormones, including your thyroid hormones.
Autoimmune Protocol Diet
The autoimmune protocol diet focuses on reducing inflammation and healing your immune system. It’s appropriate for any type of autoimmune disease and involves eliminating specific foods for six to eight weeks, then reintroducing them slowly.
Understand Proper Iodine Intake
Iodine is crucial for the production of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). An iodine deficiency can impair your thyroid function because then your body doesn’t have enough raw materials to produce the necessary thyroid hormone. This is uncommon in the United States due to the use of iodized salt.
Too much iodine can also be problematic, contributing to goiter—thyroid enlargement—and potentially causing autoimmune thyroid disease to flare up and worsen. When Americans have low levels of iodine, they are typically due to an iron deficiency, following a restricted diet, or taking certain medications.
If your healthcare provider tests you and finds that you have an iodine deficiency, you’ll likely take iodine supplements temporarily to get your levels back up. However, keep in mind that simply taking iodine supplements because you have thyroid disease is not recommended since it can make your condition worse, so don’t do it without your practitioner’s direction.
Watch for Absorption Issues
You shouldn’t drink coffee, including decaffeinated coffee, until at least an hour after you’ve taken your thyroid hormone replacement medication. This is because coffee can affect the absorption of your medication and make it less effective.
If you absolutely must have both your thyroid medication and coffee at the same time, talk to your healthcare provider about the liquid capsule form of levothyroxine called Tirosint, which research shows is not affected by caffeine. You may also consider taking your thyroid medication at bedtime instead of in the morning, but discuss this with your practitioner first.
It’s also important to wait at least four hours after taking your thyroid medication before taking calcium or iron supplements, or taking certain other medications like antacids, as these also may decrease the absorption of your medication and make it less effective.
Probiotics are foods and supplements rich in a good kind of live bacteria that help you maintain a balance of your intestinal bacteria. The right probiotics can help enhance your immune system, improve digestion, combat diarrhea and constipation, and fight infections.
It’s always wise to practice moderation when it comes to your diet. While there are some foods, drinks, and supplements you definitely need to avoid taking with your thyroid medication, there’s usually no reason that you need to completely eliminate any particular foods.
Remember to discuss any major dietary changes with your healthcare provider first and to let them know if you’re concerned about any nutritional deficiencies.