Almost 1 in 20 adults in the United States have hypothyroidism — resulting in decreased production of thyroid hormones.
Since virtually all hypothyroidism patients experience weight gain, many of them ask, “How can I lose weight fast with hypothyroidism?” They understandably want to shed a few pounds.
But getting rid of excess fat isn’t the only reason you should follow a hypothyroidism diet. In some cases, it may play a part in reversing your hypothyroidism!
Hypothyroidism describes an underactive thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland produces T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which regulate your body’s metabolism, body temperature, and blood pressure, among many other roles.
In hypothyroidism, you don’t produce enough thyroid hormones. That leads to these hypothyroidism symptoms:
- Weight gain
- Cold sensitivity
- Hair loss
- Slow heart rate
- Enlarged thyroid (called a goiter)
Contrary to many mainstream endocrinologists, we at PrimeHealth in Denver, CO believe hypothyroidism can be reversed much of the time. Our patients prove it.
Want to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with us? You can do so using this link.
One of the main ways we see hypothyroidism go away is a change in our patients’ diet.
Why is diet so important with hypothyroidism?
Nutrition is always important to a person’s overall health. But it is doubly important in thyroid disease patients, as poor diet can actually trigger poor thyroid health in the first place.
If you have hypothyroidism, your metabolism doesn’t work as effectively. This is because your thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) regulate when your cells know to turn food into energy. Since hypothyroidism slows your metabolism, unexplained weight gain will follow.
Many people desire weight loss while they deal with an underactive thyroid. But shedding those extra pounds isn’t the only reason a hypothyroidism diet is important.
90% of hypothyroidism cases stem from Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by:
- Hormone imbalance
- Nutrient deficiency (especially iodine)
- Food sensitivity
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Tick-borne diseases or other chronic infections
- Toxin exposure
Nearly all of those Hashimoto’s triggers can be affected by diet. What you eat can affect your hormones, your exposure to toxins, and the function of your detoxification and immune systems. But most importantly, diet determines your nutrient intake, food sensitivity response, and your gut health.
Treating the underlying causes of Hashimoto’s can permanently reverse your hypothyroidism, particularly when combined with a targeted treatment approach with your functional healthcare provider. One of the most important changes that can reverse your hypothyroidism is your diet.
AIP Diet for Hypothyroidism
The Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) Diet is the hypothyroidism diet we recommend to our patients. Similar to the Whole30 diet, the AIP diet restricts your intake of potential food allergens.
This thyroid diet is short-term. Why?
This is a very restrictive diet, the main point of which is to identify any potential food allergies through elimination. If hypothyroidism symptoms decrease during the AIP diet, we recommend slowly introducing one food back into your diet at a time. If a reintroduced food triggers a worsening of your symptoms, cut that food allergen out of your diet more permanently.
As always, consult a dietitian or healthcare provider before making major changes to your diet.
What are the best foods to eat if you have hypothyroidism?
- Proteins, such as beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and seafood (especially fatty fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids) will promote strong muscles, bones, and most importantly, a healthy endocrine system. Consume large amounts of proteins. It’s very important to know the quality and source of the protein you consume. Ensure that meats, eggs, and fish are organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, or wild caught.
- Healthy fats, including coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, and ghee.
- Non-dairy fermented foods, like apple cider vinegar and kombucha, provide good bacteria to strengthen your gut health.
- Non-nightshade vegetables will steer clear of potential food allergies while providing you with all the benefits of veggie consumption.
- Cooked cruciferous vegetables are healthy. Make sure these veggies and either cooked or steamed (not consumed raw) to avoid any potential issues with iodine absorption.
- Herbs and foods like garlic, turmeric, and ginger make cooking more interesting, flavorful, and healthier (but not paprika or red pepper as those are classified as nightshades).
- Gelatin and bone broth provide collagen (great for skin and joints) without any risk of food allergies.
- Green tea is a healthier method of consuming caffeine than coffee or chocolate, as it’s filled with antioxidants like EGCG.
- Arrowroot starch promotes healthy digestion and immune function. It is a food thickener that is important to gluten-free cooking.
- Drink plenty of water. Do we need to explain why hydration comes with its own health benefits?
- You can also consume small amounts of honey, maple syrup, and fruits, even though these have natural sugars. Monk fruit is a great sweetening alternative which comes with no added sugar.
What foods should you avoid if you have hypothyroidism?
- Dairy contains casein and lactose, both of which can often cause inflammation.
- Eggs are a common allergen for many.
- Grains often contain gluten and cause inflammation. Celiac disease is the most severe gluten allergy and often comes together with autoimmune hypothyroidism.
- Nuts and seeds are potential food allergens.
- Dried fruits are high in sugar and calories.
- All nightshade vegetables should be avoided: tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, peppers.
- Vegetable oils like canola oil are high in omega-6s — which are pro-inflammatory and actually block the absorption of healthy omega-3s!
- Beans/legumes can trigger a food allergy because of the potential allergen lectin.
- Chocolate is often chock full of dairy products and sugar. Carob is a great alternative.
- Sugar consumption is linked with increased risk of heart disease, fatty liver, acne, diabetes, depression, and cancer.
- Alternative sweeteners, like sucralose and aspartame need to be avoided as well.
- Coffee can promote a healthy immune system in some, but a dysfunctional immune system in others. Excessive consumption can stress your adrenal glands, which can lead to further thyroid dysfunction.
- Alcohol is a toxin and affects your body’s physiology.
- Processed foods are empty calories that typically contain preservative chemicals that your body doesn’t like.
Sample Meal Plan
An AIP diet breakfast might include:
- Unsweetened green tea — as a caffeine replacement for coffee
- Dairy-free (almond milk) collagen smoothie — using a few fruits can naturally sweeten this morning snack
Lunch on the AIP diet may look like this:
- Kelp, steamed kale, and cucumber salad with salmon — blanched greens, dressed in apple cider vinegar and topped with garlic-salted proteins
- Organic turkey burger on a gluten-free bun with seasoned kale and cauliflower
- Chicken or wild-caught salmon salad made with avocado mayo — if you can find yummy gluten-free crackers, all the better
- Grilled chicken and kimchi
Here’s a sample of what dinner could be on the AIP diet:
- Bunless grass-fed burgers with Brussels sprouts
- Grilled shrimp skewers — spiced with turmeric, garlic, and iodized salt
- Sashimi sushi with non-nightshade vegetables
- Prime rib and roasted asparagus
Vital Nutrients for Healthy Thyroid Function
There are several vital nutrients that hypothyroidism patients should make sure get into their diets:
- Iodine is found in iodized table salt and is needed in thyroid hormone production. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of goiters — an enlarged thyroid. Iodine seems to be important in treating and preventing autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Selenium can be found in muscle meats, fish, Brazil nuts, and eggs, as well as in supplement form. Research indicates that selenium, when added to a conventional treatment of hypothyroidism, improves thyroid function.
- Vitamin D is essential to thyroid function. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism. Vitamin D rich foods include fish, beef liver, and egg yolks. Our greatest source of VItamin D comes from sunlight exposure.
- Zinc helps convert T4 to T3, important to preventing thyroid disorders. Healthy zinc intake leads to higher T3 levels. You can get dietary zinc from meats, shellfish, and mollusks.
- Probiotics are good bacteria, found in sauerkraut, kombucha, and supplement form. Studies show that probiotics can reverse leaky gut by strengthening the lining of your intestines. If you’re at risk for leaky gut syndrome, dietary probiotics can help restore normal thyroid function.
Supplement & Medication Considerations
Depending on your Hashimoto’s triggers, some dietary supplements may help reduce hypothyroidism symptoms:
- Iodine supplements — if you are at risk of iodine deficiency
- Vitamin D3 — especially if your kidneys are underactive, or you don’t go outside much
- Vitamin B complex
- Probiotics — if you are at risk of leaky gut
- Curcumin — since it helps prevent autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s
- Chasteberry — because it balances hormones
However, there are also foods, supplements, and drugs you’ll want to avoid taking with your thyroid medication (such as thyroid hormone replacement).
If you are on thyroid medication (like levothyroxine), avoid taking these foods/drugs within several hours of your thyroid medication and talk to your healthcare provider:
- Soybean flour
- Cottonseed meal
- Excess fiber (can impede digestion of important nutrients)
- Excess iodine (can trigger Graves’ disease, therefore hyperthyroidism in some people)
- Calcium supplements
- Iron supplements
- Certain ulcer medications, like sucralfate
- Certain cholesterol drugs, like cholestyramine or colestipol
- Antacids which contain calcium, magnesium, or aluminum
Some experts even suggest waiting to drink your morning coffee at least 30 minutes after taking your thyroid medication.
Long-Term Dietary Recommendations for Hypothyroidism
The AIP diet is a short-term elimination diet, getting rid of potential food allergens to find out if that is the root problem. However, there are some long-term dietary guidelines you shouldn’t give up when it comes time to stop the AIP diet.
- Focus on a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins. These health-promoting foods will keep you fuller longer.
- Avoid goitrogens (foods that contain goitrin, a natural chemical which disrupts normal thyroid function — such as uncooked cruciferous vegetables).
- If you discovered you have a food sensitivity, don’t consume that food. Gluten is the most common food sensitivity, with dairy close behind.
- Steer clear of soy, including soy milk, especially non-organic soy.
- If you don’t want to cut out alcohol altogether, drink in moderation and stay away from the sugary drinks.
- Don’t buy heavily processed foods. These consist of empty calories and preservative chemicals your body doesn’t recognize. If you don’t understand many of the words on the ingredients list, then it’s probably not a good choice. Mainly stick to the outer walls of your grocery store since the aisles are where everything is boxed. “Boxed” likely means “processed.”
- Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland is underactive. Abnormal thyroid hormone levels lead to weight gain, fatigue, and other symptoms.
- We recommend a hypothyroidism diet that cuts out all potential food allergens. Mostly, this is so we can identify if a food sensitivity was triggering your hypothyroidism in the first place. But it also reduces overall inflammation in your body.
- The AIP diet is an effective elimination diet, but it’s meant to be short-term.
- Long-term healthy diet recommendations include avoiding soy, food allergens, alcohol, and processed foods.
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