What Makes an Effective Thyroid Diet?

The first step in treating a thyroid disease is to address the causes of thyroid dysfunction such as inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, hormonal changes due to stress, and overuse of medications. Most patients prefer to do this through a thyroid diet.

A thyroid diet is a special diet that eliminates foods that may cause immune reactions and inflammations while focusing on foods that help balance hormones, reduce inflammation, and heal the GI tract. Below, we look at foods that should be included in the thyroid diet, foods that should never appear in the diet, and various supplements that can be used alongside the diet to fast track the healing process.

Foods to focus on

  • Wild-caught fish

Wild-caught fish are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids EPA/DHA which help with hormonal balance and thus improve thyroid function. Omega-3 fatty acids in a thyroid diet also help to reduce inflammation and support neurological function. They are also known to boost mood and support a healthy immune system. There are many types of fish with high Omega-3 content. However, experts recommend salmon, mackerel, and sardines.

  • coconut oil on the wooden spoonCoconut oil

Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids in the form of capric acid, caprylic acid, and lauric acid that support healthy metabolism, fight fatigue, and increase energy. An ever-present in any thyroid diet, the oil nourishes the digestive system, improves immunity, enhances brain function, and has antioxidant, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties that help in suppressing inflammation.

  • High-fiber foods

Fiber improves heart health, supports healthy weight, and balances blood sugar. You should aim for between 30 to 40 grams of the nutrient daily. This can be achieved by taking lots of fresh vegetables, berries, seeds, lentils, and beans.

  • Sprouted seeds

Hemp, chia seeds, and flax provide ALA, a rare type of Omega-3 fat that is critical in hormonal balance. ALA also supports healthy mood and brain function while lowering inflammation. Plenty of sprouted seeds in a thyroid diet also stabilize blood sugar and help with healthy weight.

  • Bone broth

Chicken and beef broth contain amino acids I-glycine and I-proline which help with repair of the digestive lining. The broths also nourish the digestive tract, help overcome food sensitivities, reduce fatigue, improve energy, increase immunity, and lower muscle and joint pains.

  • Probiotic-rich foods

These include kimchi, kombucha, kefir (a fermented dairy product), fermented veggies, sauerkraut, and organic goat’s milk yogurt. They help create a healthy gut environment by balancing microflora bacteria and reducing leaky gut syndrome, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, and autoimmune reactions.

  • Seaweeds

Natural weeds are some of the best sources of iodine – a critical element in the thyroid diet. Kelp, dulse, and nori are the preferred choices here.

  • Fruits and vegetables

These are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants and help combat free-radical damage while lowering inflammation. They also support healthy brain function, hormone balance, heart health, and healthy weight.

  • Clean water

Water is needed for hydration and digestive function. Drinking at least eight ounces of water every two hour can prevent constipation, low energy, and sugar cravings.

Foods to avoid

  • Refined flour products

High-carbohydrate products such as enriched wheat flour negatively impact hormone levels which can lead to weight gain. Products such as bread, pastas, cereals, and baked goods should therefore be minimized or removed altogether from a thyroid diet. Instead, people with thyroid problems should choose flour made from 100% whole ancient grains such as buckwheat and quinoa.

  • Goitrogen foods

Goitrogens are substances that interfere with the production of thyroid hormones by interrupting iodine uptake in thyroid glands. As such, all foods in this category including raw broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, soy, kale, and Brussels sprouts should be avoided. If you must take these vegetables, steam them for at least 30 minutes and keep portions moderate in size.

  • Gluten

Most people with thyroid problems are sensitive to gluten while some have celiac disease, an autoimmune disease which causes allergy to gluten. The best advice therefore is to keep away from gluten-rich foods such as wheat, rye, and barley products. Gluten sensitivity may raise inflammation, worsen hormonal problems, and create nutritional deficiencies.

  • Sugar

Sugar disrupts hormone balance, can cause fatigue, and has the potential to worsen depression and weight gain. Since people with thyroid issues already find it difficult losing weight, it’s best to avoid sugar-filled foods.

  • Conventional dairy products

Dairy products can be problematic to the thyroid as they are known to trigger reactions that raise inflammatory responses.

  • Tap water

Finally, avoid tap water as it contains chlorine and fluorine, two elements that inhibit iodine absorption.

Natural remedies to speed up the healing process

  • Ashwagandha (500 milligrams daily)

This is an adaptogen herb known to help the body respond to stress by lowering cortisol and balancing T4 levels. Patients will realize increased thyroxine hormone levels which reduces the severity of thyroid disease

  • Iodine (150-300 micrograms daily)

Supplementary iodine can cause significant changes in thyroid hormone function. Combine the supplements with natural iodine sources such as eggs, sea vegetables, and seaweed for best results.

  • Selenium (200 micrograms daily)

Selenium is essential for the production of T3 thyroid hormones that help in reducing autoimmune effects. It also decreases anti-thyroid antibody levels while improving the structure of the thyroid gland.

  • L-tyrosine (1,000 milligrams daily)

L-tyrosine is an amino acid used in synthesizing thyroid hormones. Supplementing the substance can improve sleep deprivation, combat fatigue, and improve mood.

  • Fish oil (1,000 milligrams daily)

Lastly, fish oil contains essential DHA and EPA Omega-3 amino acids that are critical for brain activity and thyroid function. These amino acids lower risk of thyroid symptoms such as anxiety, high cholesterol, depression, arthritis, diabetes, and weakened immune system. They also balance Omega-6 levels in the diet which can go a long way in improving health.

I have heard many thyroid supplements contain these natural remedies. In fact, recently the Huffington Post came out with an article regarding these thyroid supplements. I will be looking into this further as I believe others should as well.

A thyroid diet based upon this list can quickly relieve symptoms, effectively setting the patient on the path to recovery. Remember to collaborate with a licensed physician throughout the treatment period to help monitor your progress while providing valuable advice along the way.

Hypothyroidism and Diet

Hypothyroidism Word Cloud

Thyroid DrawingAn underactive thyroid can be medically managed in a number of ways including the use of synthetic drugs and natural supplements. One area often overlooked by individuals suffering with hypothyroid problems is diet. There are everyday foods that can alleviate hypothyroidism and others that exacerbate thyroid function problems. When functioning normally, the thyroid gland produces thyroxine (T4) which is then converted into triiodothyronine (T3) by an enzyme called Iodothyronine deiodinase which contains selenium. Selenium is used to process the thyroid hormones. In hypothyroidism, these vital hormonal functions are reduced, causing hormonal imbalance.

Sufferers of hypothyroidism can help alleviate some of these problems by following a carefully selected diet to compliment the prescribed drugs they are given by their health practitioner. Certain foods aid this chemical process by helping the production of thyroxine, or where there is a deficiency, increasing the level of selenium found in the thyroid hormone processing enzyme.

Moderation and balance is the key to a healthy hypothyroidism diet and it is generally recommended that you speak to your doctor or dietician prior to making changes to your intake.

Foods for an underactive thyroid:

Selenium sources:

Fish, such as tuna, sardines and trout are a good source of selenium, the nutrient which aids the processing of thyroid hormones. There are also other benefits with fish consumption such as its high level of omega-3 fatty acids which help brain function, inflammation and your immune system.

Nuts are another source of selenium but should not be eaten in large quantities as they are high in fat.

Shellfish and Molluscs such as oysters, clams, lobster, shrimp, calamari and mussels are packed with this vital nutrient.

Whole-wheat Bread is another source but lower in terms of selenium per gram when compared to the sources above. Whole-wheat bread should not be consumed in large quantities or prior to taking your thyroid drugs as it contains gluten which can affect the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormones.

Mushrooms are low in calories and some species are a great source of iron. They also contain selenium which is not only good for an underactive thyroid, but also for bladder function.

Meat such as pork, beef, lamb, chicken and turkey are another source of selenium, protein and other healthy nutrients but these should always be consumed as part of a balanced diet as some studies have linked them to heart disease and other medical issues (particularly red meat).


Iodine sources:

Sea Vegetables, including Kelp and Kombu are high in iodine. Kelp was the original source of iodine in the 1800’s and as many people with hypothyroidism have an iodine deficiency, these are great vegetable to include in your diet.

Fortified Milk not only comes with the benefits of vitamin D, but is also a source of calcium and iodine.

Potatoes are another source of iodine, particularly when eaten with the skin.

Yoghurt is a natural pro-biotic and is a great source of iodine. Yogurts can be used in cooking, with salads or just eaten on their own.

yoghurtNo dietary recommendation would be complete without mentioning fresh fruit and vegetables. They are typically low in calories and aid weight loss. However, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips should be taken in moderation and cooked well for individuals that have hypothyroid problems as they can interfere with the absorption of iodine.


Food and beverages to avoid:

Soy and soy based foods contain phytoestrogen which can increase oestrogen levels in the body. Oestrogen could possibly interfere with the processing of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones according to some studies.

Cruciferous Vegetables, as mentioned above, these can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones and iodine absorption.

High fat foods such as French fries, mayonnaise and deep fried chicken can hinder the ability to produce thyroid hormones.

Coffee can block the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone replacement drugs. It is recommended that coffee is not consumed around the time of taking your thyroid medication.

Alcohol is a toxin and therefore, it is recommended that people who suffer with an underactive thyroid that are on medication, should not consume it at all as it can create problems around synthetic hormone absorption as well as thyroid hormone production.