Everything you should know about thyroid diets
It may shock you but thyroid problems are usually not purely related to your thyroid…
Underactive thyroid or Hashimoto’s is usually a symptom of other imbalances quite often related to gut, liver and adrenals.
In this article:
Thyroid Diets: Understanding Your Thyroid Health
What is causing those imbalances that contribute to thyroid dysfunction are nutrient deficiencies and chronic inflammation that can be driven by various factors. That’s why many people can go for years trying different diets and plans to improve thyroid but the truth is that you can not fully heal your thyroid if you don’t address the underlying imbalances.
Types of Thyroid Diets and Their Importance for Your Health
What really matters is how you nourish your body and your thyroid so it can perform all its function necessary for us to feel good and thrive. That’s why I don’t really like the word diet as it has pretty negative associations, No body likes dieting right?
If it comes to thyroid health, it’s about removing harmful factors (from our diet, from our environment and also from our minds) and providing essential nutrients that you are currently lacking. That’s why personalised approach works the best. As it focuses more on what your body really needs to heal rather than just ticking the boxes from a diet plan.
There are various diet types that became popular to heal thyroid condition so let me explain some key highlights of the most common ones like
- Autoimmune Paleo Diet
- Paleo Diet
- Low FODMAP Diet.
It’s great to use them as a reference but as I said, I wouldn’t just blindly follow without making your own adjustments. Below I‘m going the share with you brief summary of the most common thyroid diets with their pros and cons and key food groups that are beneficial for thyroid health. Hopefully that can give you a bit better understanding what can help you on your thyroid healing journey.
In my other posts I also covered gluten free and dairy free diet in terms of Hashimoto’s healing so If you are interested in reading more click here.
What is the best thyroid diet?
So the answer to what is the best diet for thyroid is not always that straightforward. Sometimes it may be just one key nutrient that you are missing, sometimes it can be more complex. However eating well balanced and nutrient rich diet can certainly help you with your symptoms! Before we dive deep into various types of thyroid diet let me share one more thing…
My personal thyroid diet journey
My thyroid problems started because of diet… Too restrictive diets for too long in combination with high stress led me to underactive thyroid. Once your thyroid slows down it may be very confusing what actually you should eat and what to avoid, especially when you start noticing bloating and other gut issues. Before I started experiencing low thyroid symptoms, I was experimenting with various diets as I was determined to discover the secret to longevity. I went from eating everything to vegetarian, vegan and then low carb and keto diets and this is where most of my thyroid problems started. Now I know that none of the extreme or restrictive diets are healthy in a long term.
Whoever is promoting benefits of certain types of diets is usually focusing one one or two aspects of health and not the impact of the whole body, especially impact on female hormones in a long term
So how I healed my under active thyroid?
On the nutrition side, sorting out my gut and reintroducing most of the foods with the main focus of foods rich in essential nutrients for thyroid like zinc, iodine, selenium and iron was game changing. More importantly, I made carbs my friends again and that was another turning point on my journey. Not all carbs are bad! Excess carbs and sugar certainly can lead to chronic disease and accelerate your ageing but it’s all about finding the right balance and choosing th right types of carbs or foods in general.
Which diet should you follow to heal thyroid?
It really depend at what stage of your healing journey your are, what are your other symptoms or important things to account for and whether you need to address Hashimoto’s which is linked with immune system dysfunction or only underactive thyroid. So let’s dive deep in the most common types of diet that can help you improve your thyroid and how to know which one may be suitable for you.
The Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet for Hashimoto’s
The Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) is a common elimination diet recommended to manage Hashimoto’s. It aims to reduce immune response and inflammation by eliminating the most common trigger foods. It is a good choice if you struggle with lots of gut issues, high levels of inflammation and are reacting to lots of foods however it’s very restrictive diet. AIP diet involves eliminating the following food groups:
Meat & fish
Typically, the elimination phase lasts from 30 to 90 day. People can see improvement usually after 3 weeks. By removing all the major known triggers you allow the autoimmune response to settle. That also helps with repairing the gut wall, improving digestive symptoms and restoring balance to the gut microbiome. By calming down inflammation and restoring gut health you will also improve absorption of key minerals and vitamins necessary for immune function and thyroid.
However if you have more severe gut dysbiosis, parasites (most common in Hashimoto’s is Blastocystis hominis), H.Pylori bacteria or candida overgrowth, AIP elimination diet may not be enough.
The Paleo Diet for Hypothyroidism
The paleo diet is another elimination type diet however less restrictive comparing to AIP protocol. The paleo diet aims eat like our cave man ancestors did—including fish, meat, nuts, leafy greens, regional vegetables and seeds. It excludes all dairy, cereal grains, legumes, refined fats, salt, and sugar. So the only main difference comparing to AIP diet are nut & seeds, variety of spices, coffee and nightshades vegetables that are allowed on Paleo.
It’s still pretty restrictive and what I like more is so called “modified Paleo” . The focus remains on consuming wholesome, unprocessed foods and eating clean but it gives you a bit more flexibility to include some whole grains and legumes. Dr Gundry that advocates that grains should be avoided as they are full of lectins has a point. Lectins are protein that in excess can damage your gut lining leading to leaky gut and inflammation. However not all grain or other lectin foods are equally high in lectins.
Modified Paleo is a good compromise if you struggle with thyroid issues, moderate gut sensitivities and want to improve overall inflammation.
Low FODMAP diet – thyroid & gut bacteria overgrowth
The purpose of the Low-FODMAP diet is to exclude certain type of carbohydrates that can aggravate your existing gut issues. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccarhides And Polyols – these are types of carbohydrate that can trigger fermentation within the gut resulting in bloating, flatulence and stomach pain in severe cases.
The FODMAPs food groups include:
- Lactose from dairy products.
- `Fructans: garlic, onions, wheat etc.`Fructans: garlic, onions, wheat etc.
- Galactans: legumes such as lentils, beans, soybeans etc.
- Fructose: honey, certain fruits, high fructose corn syrup etc.
- Polyols: stone fruits such as avocados, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, nectarines etc. and sweeteners such as xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol
On the good side it allows you more variety of other food groups comparing to AIP and Paleo: Eggs, cheese and certain types of grains like oats, rice and quinoa. Low FODMAP diet works well if you have gut bacteria overgrowth like SIBO or IBS and IBD. It can be benefitical for autoimmune conditions with most autoimmune conditions there is strong connection between inflammation and gut dysbiosis or leaky gut.
So how low FODMAP diet can help you with thyroid?
- Thyroid hormone conversion happens in you gut and liver. With suboptimal gut function your body will be struggling with converting T4 to T3.
- Gut dyspiosis leads to poor nutrient absorption. That means you may eat the best quality foods on this planet however if you have gut dysbiosis caused by bacteria overgrowth and poor digestion, you will not be able to absorb those nutrients that are necessary for thyroid function.
Gluten free diet to improve your thyroid symptoms
What all these diets have in common is excluding gluten. Basically everyone who removes gluten can see improvements. Moreover, some women are able to lower thyroid antibodies and significantly improve thyroid function, just by reducing gluten. If you are not sure how you should go about your diet and thyroid, start with reducing or completely excluding gluten. Click here to read more
Should you avoid goitrogen rich foods with hypothyroidism?
One very important thing to note no matter what type of diet you decide to follow is being mindful about goitrogen rich foods. It applies for both Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism.
Goitrogens are compounds found in certain foods that can interfere with thyroid function. They work by blocking the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland, which can lead to decreased production of thyroid hormones. Iodine is an essential nutrient that is required for the production of thyroid hormones. Click here to read more about iodine rich foods and get rough idea if you are getting enough iodine.
Some examples of foods that contain goitrogens include:
- cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale
- soy products,
- some fruits like peaches and strawberries
However, it’s important to note that these foods only have an impact on thyroid function if they are consumed in large quantities or if the person has an iodine deficiency. If someone has an iodine deficiency, consuming large amounts of goitrogenic foods can make the deficiency worse and exacerbate thyroid issues.
Thyroid diet – food sources of key vitamins and minerals
|Iodine*||Thyroid hormone production||Seaweed, eggs, certain fish and seafood|
|Zinc||Helps to regulate TSH and maintain overall hormonal balance||Oysters, beef, lentils, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms|
|Selenium||Thyroid hormone conversion – it helps to reduce thyroid antibodies||Brazil nuts, eggs, shellfish, organ meats|
|Vitamin B12||Improves thyroid hormone conversion – it helps with homocysteine metabolism and can reduce inflammation||Beef, wild caught salmon, tofu, cheese, eggs|
|Omega 3s||Helps reduce inflammation and improve thyroid hormone utilisation||Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, wild caught salmon, sardines, anchovies|
Whole-foods, nutrient dense diet is a great starting point on your healing journey. Your diet should account for replenishing nutrient deficiencies and supporting thyroid related imbalances like gut dysbiosis and food sensitivities (for the healing phase), sluggish liver and overworked adrenals. Excluding gluten and soy is essential. Moreover, be mindful about goitrogenic foods and omega 3:6 ratio in your diet. Excess omega 6 can exacerbate inflammation making your symptoms worse.
I keep repeating myself but addressing the root cause is one of the best and quickest way to heal your thyroid. If you already tried many diets and it didn’t work, you may need to look including certain supplements and also consider other factors disrupting your thyroid health like toxins, mould, gene mutation (most common is MTHFR gene down regulation), insulin resistance or other hormonal imbalances and last one – high stress!
Frequently Asked Questions:
What foods I should avoid with hypothyroidism?
Soy products like soy milk and tofu should be excluded. Additionally removing gluten can be beneficial as avoiding gluten helps to reduce inflammation. Cruciferous vegetables and sweet potatoes should be consumes in moderation as in excess they can interfere with iodine absorption and thyroid function.
Can I use sweeteners instead of sugar with hypothyroidism
Artificial sweeteners - big no! Natural sweeteners like stevia from time to time can be used. However excess use of sweeteners (both natural and artificial) can disrupt your gut microbiome. Also sweeteners can spike your insulin and elevated insulin can make hypothyroidism worse.
What foods worsen Hashimoto's
Gluten and iodine rich foods can worse Hashimoto's. Additionally excess sugar, alcohol and caffeine can make your symptoms worse.
What is best seaweed for hypothyroidism?
Bladderwrack, Dulce and Irish Moss are great seaweed types to boost your iodine intake and improve hypothyroidism (if you don't have autoimmune condition like Hashimoto's i.e).
What fish is high in iodine?
Best fish to boost your daily iodine intake are cod, haddock, pollock and wild caught salmon. You can read here more about the safest and dirtiest fish to eat.
What are best grains for Hashimoto's?
It depends on the stage of your healing journey. In the first healing phase grains should be excluded. Later you can re-introduce gluten free grains like quinoa or buckwheat i.e. Millet - be mindful about amounts as it contains goitrogens. Goitrogens can interfere with iodine absorption and slow down your thyroid
Can I eat oats with Hashimoto's
Oats can be tricky! they can cause cross-reactivity. It means you can react to oats similar way as you react to gluten. To be on the safe side exclude them during the healing phase until you improve your gut and repair leaky gut.
What are gluten cross-reactive foods?
corn, oats, millet, dairy, rice, yeast, instant coffee, chocolate are the most common.
Can I drink coffee with levothyroxine?
Best to wait at least 30-60min before taking the medication. Especially avoid coffee with milk as calcium decreases absorption of levothyroxine
Can intermittent fasting helps with hypothyroidism?
It really depends. Intermittent fasting has lots of benefits. If your underactive thyroid is caused by insulin resistance, poor gut health or fatty liver then intermittent fasting can certainly be beneficial. However if hypothyroidism is linked with overworked adrenals, intermittent fasting can make things worse.
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