Certain foods may help improve hyperthyroidism symptoms. However, some foods may worsen symptoms or interfere with medications.
Hyperthyroidism, a type of thyrotoxicosis, is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Some people refer to this condition as an overactive thyroid. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease.
The symptoms of an overactive thyroid include unintentional weight loss, anxiety, sweating, frequent bowel movements, difficulty sleeping, and muscle weakness. Hyperthyroidism is
This article discusses how diet affects hyperthyroidism and provides lists of foods to eat and avoid.
Eating certain foods will not cure hyperthyroidism, but some nutrients and minerals play a role in managing the underlying condition. Diet can affect both the production of thyroid hormones and how the thyroid functions.
- Iodine, which the thyroid gland uses to produce thyroid hormone. Too much iodine in the diet can increase the production of thyroid hormone.
- Calcium and vitamin D are vital because hyperthyroidism can cause problems with bone mineral density.
- Foods and drinks containing caffeine
can worsenthe symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
The following foods can have benefits for people with an overactive thyroid:
Low iodine foods
If a person is planning to receive radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism, their doctor may ask them to follow a low-iodine diet. A low-iodine diet is a diet with less than 50 micrograms (mcg) of iodine per day.
Foods and drinks that are low in iodine include:
- non-iodized salt
- egg whites
- fresh or frozen vegetables
- herbs and spices
- vegetable oils
- sugar, honey, or maple syrup (up to 2 tbsp.)
- jams or jellies
- unsalted nuts and nut butter
- beer and wine
- moderate portions of beef, chicken, turkey, veal, and lamb
- fruit and fruit juices
The American Thyroid Association offers tips on how to follow a low-iodine diet.
Some cruciferous vegetables
These cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts and cabbage
- collard greens, mustard greens, and turnip roots and greens
- kale and arugula
- radishes and rutabagas
- bok choy
- broccoli and broccoli rabe
Foods containing selenium
Selenium is a micronutrient that the body requires for the metabolism of thyroid hormones. Research suggests that selenium can help improve some of the symptoms of autoimmune thyroid disease, such as thyroid eye disease.
Among people using anti-thyroid medications, those who take selenium supplements may achieve normal thyroid levels more quickly than those who do not.
Foods rich in selenium
Other selenium-rich foods, including tuna, halibut, shrimp, ham, egg yolks, and cottage cheese are also high in iodine which may affect iodine therapy. Eat fortified pasta and cereals, and rice made without ingredients that contain a lot of iodine. Eat limited amounts of beef, chicken, and turkey.
Foods containing iron
Iron is a nutrient that is important for normal bodily processes, including thyroid health. Iron helps the red blood cells carry oxygen to other cells in the body.
Researchers have linked low levels of iron to hyperthyroidism.
People can maintain an adequate intake of iron by including
Some iron-rich foods are also high in iodine, which may affect iodine therapy. Make sure your total iodine intake is less than 50 mcg per day:
- oysters and fish
- white beans, kidney beans, and black beans
- canned beef, chicken or turkey
- cured pork products (bacon, sausages, or hot dogs)
Look for fortified cereals made without ingredients that contain a lot of iodine.
Foods containing calcium and vitamin D
Foods rich in calcium include:
- milk (no more than once a day)
- fortified orange juice
- bok choy
Many people with hyperthyroidism have vitamin D deficiency. The primary source of vitamin D is the sun hitting the skin so that the body can make its own. However, due to concerns about sun exposure and increased risk of skin cancer, many people actively limit their time in the sun or use sunscreen.
Not many foods are good sources of vitamin D, but the following foods contain some of this vitamin:
- salmon and tuna
- milk and some fortified dairy products (check the labels)
- fortified cereals
These foods are also high in iodine, which may affect iodine therapy, so you may have to limit these foods or make sure your total iodine intake is less than 50 mcg. Look for fortified pasta and cereals, and rice made without ingredients that contain a lot of iodine.
A person can speak to a healthcare professional about vitamin D supplements.
Studies have linked certain spices, including turmeric and green chilis, to a reduced frequency of thyroid disease, including hyperthyroidism.
Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties.
People can use different spices, such as turmeric, to add flavor to their food.
Below, we look at the foods that can be harmful to people with hyperthyroidism if they eat them in large quantities:
Too much iodine can make hyperthyroidism worse by leading the thyroid gland to produce too much thyroid hormone.
A person with hyperthyroidism should avoid eating excessive amounts of iodine-rich foods, such as:
- iodized salt
- fish and shellfish
- seaweed or kelp
- dairy products
- iodine supplements
- food products containing red dye
- egg yolks
- blackstrap molasses
- carrageenan, which is an additive
- baked goods with iodate dough conditioners
Animal studies have shown that soy ingestion can interfere with radioactive iodine uptake for the treatment of hyperthyroidism.
Sources of soy include:
The reason for this is not apparent, but genetics may play a role. Having celiac disease can also make a person
Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine as a result of the ingestion of gluten. Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, oats, and rye.
People with celiac disease need to follow a gluten-free diet. Some research suggests that following a gluten-free diet may facilitate better absorption of thyroid medications by the intestine and decrease inflammation.
Where possible, a person with hyperthyroidism should try to avoid foods and drinks containing caffeine. These include:
- regular coffee
- black tea
- regular soda
- energy drinks
Below are some common questions about how diet can affect hyperthyroidism.
Which foods are good for hyperthyroidism?
Foods containing selenium, iron, calcium, and vitamin D may be beneficial for a person with hyperthyroidism.
What foods should a person with hyperthyroidism avoid?
Healthcare professionals may recommend that people with hyperthyroidism avoid high-iodine foods, soy, gluten, and caffeine.
Can diet reverse hyperthyroidism?
Certain foods can affect the production of thyroid hormones and how the thyroid functions. However, diet alone cannot cure hyperthyroidism.
What should someone with hyperthyroidism drink?
People with hyperthyroidism should drink water to stay hydrated. Milk, certain herbal teas, and low-iodine drinks, such as lemonade, may also be fine to consume, in moderation.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is overactive and produces excess thyroid hormone. People should follow their treatment plan and any dietary recommendations from their doctor.
Changing their diet might improve symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Certain nutrients may help support healthy thyroid function or decrease hyperthyroidism symptoms.
A doctor or dietitian can provide more information about dietary changes for hyperthyroidism.