What Should Your Diet Include if You Have Hyperthyroidism?

23 September, 2020
Diet plays an important role in managing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Therefore, once you know you have this disease, it’s best to make adjustments to your diet. What should be considered?

What should your diet include if you’re diagnosed with hyperthyroidism? The thyroid is only about 2 inches long, but a malfunction triggers a wide variety of symptoms. Why? Simply because this small butterfly-shaped gland releases hormones that directly affect almost all body functions.

Therefore, when you suffer from some kind of alteration, you need to improve your diet to regulate its activity and avoid complications. What is hyperthyroidism? What foods to eat and what to avoid? We’ll answer these questions in detail.

What is hyperthyroidism?

The thyroid is a small gland, located in the neck. It secretes different types of hormones, some of which are fundamental to the body. Its good functioning is basic to our health, as these hormones affect almost all cells in the body. In particular, its functions include the following:

  • Energy regulation
  • Protein synthesis
  • Enzymatic activity
  • Body temperature regulation

Hyperthyroidism is a disorder where the gland doesn’t produce thyroid hormone normally. In this case, and for varied reasons, the problem is increased secretion of T3 and T4 hormones. Several diseases have been described, such as Graves-Basedow disease, multinodular goitre, or toxic thyroid adenomas.

When hyperthyroidism appears, all body functions tend to accelerate. As a result, a series of symptoms appear as follows:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Nervousness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tremors
  • Increased sweating
  • Palpitations

If you suffer from any thyroid disease, such as hyperthyroidism, you should go to the doctor or endocrinologist to guide the treatment that best suits each particular situation.

A woman touching her neck.
With hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland releases hormones excessively. Therefore, various functions of the body are altered.

Discover: 6 Signs to Identify Thyroid Problems

Diet and hyperthyroidism

As experts from the British Thyroid Foundation point out, there’s no diet protocol for thyroid gland diseases. However, maintaining a good diet is essential, as it helps to control symptoms and improve quality of life.

Different nutrients play an important role in the function of the gland and the normal secretion of hormones. The main ones are iodine and selenium, although other food contents such as cruciferous vegetables or soy are also studied.

Taking them into account is important as it means better health. Don’t forget that hyperthyroidism is a disease that, once diagnosed, will last a lifetime.

Thus according to medical specialist Oscar Vidal, there are two aspects to consider:

  • Keep a diet low in foods that help produce thyroid hormone, such as iodine.
  • Add more antioxidant foods, which allow healthy cells to be regenerated. Such as selenium.

How to control the amount of iodine?

In a diet for hyperthyroidism, you have to monitor iodine levels, since it participates in the production of hormones of the thyroid. Rational consumption is necessary because it’s very difficult to eliminate it.

The main sources of iodine in food are as follows:

  • Iodized salt
  • Seafood such as some fish, seafood, or algae
  • Dairy products
  • Egg yolk
  • Some cereals and grains

Also, foods from the cruciferous family (such as broccoli, cauliflower, or brussels sprouts) can inhibit iodine absorption by the thyroid gland.

What should your diet include: Selenium

Selenium is one of the nutrients with the closest relationship with the thyroid gland. A review of scientific literature establishes the specific role of this trace element in its functioning. It’s deposited in many body tissues, especially the thyroid gland, where it’s found in the form of selenoproteins.

This type of protein has very important antioxidant action, therefore selenium contributes a protective activity of the thyroid and to the improvement of health in general.

Some specialists discuss selenium supplementation in Graves’ disease. However, this nutrient can also be obtained through diet. We find it in foods like salmon, whole grains, or eggs. But, without a doubt, the biggest source is Brazil nuts.

A portion of two or three of these nuts already provides more than the recommended daily allowance.

A plate of Brazil nuts.
Foods like Brazil nuts have an abundance of selenium. Therefore, they’re appropriate in case of hyperthyroidism.

Discover: Trace elements: why are they important?

What should your diet include: Vitamin D

As we’ve already mentioned, thyroid hormones have effects on a large number of cells and body functions. Among these are the bones, which can be weakened if hyperthyroidism isn’t treated properly.

But also, as the British Thyroid Foundation points out, low levels of vitamin D are observed in people with this disease, although more research is needed to find out what the cause and its possible consequences are.

What’s clear is that it doesn’t hurt to pay special attention to vitamin D, and to reinforce positive habits for muscle-skeletal health. Some recommendations are as follows:

  • Exercise regularly and perform activities that strengthen muscles.
  • Sunbathe for ten minutes a day. It’s a good idea to take advantage of times when the sun is weak to avoid its adverse effects.
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus for optimal skeletal status. You can find these in dairy, bluefish, almonds, chickpeas, vegetables, and seeds.

A good diet for hyperthyroidism is basic for successful treatment

A malfunction of thyroid hormones causes hyperthyroidism. Although the main treatment is pharmacological or surgical, a special diet for hyperthyroidism can’t be ignored. 

Following a balanced and healthy diet, and paying attention to foods with iodine and selenium, is key to accompanying drug treatment and ensuring a better quality of life.

  • De Leo S, Lee SY, Braverman LE. Hyperthyroidism. Lancet. 2016;388(10047):906-918. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00278-6
  • American Thyroid Association. Hipertiroidismo. 2014.
  • Babiker A. et al.  The role of micronutrients in thyroid dysfunction. Sudan J Paediatr. 2020;20(1):13-19.
  • Benvenga S. et al. Nutraceutical Supplements in the Thyroid Setting: Health Benefits beyond Basic Nutrition. Nutrients. Setiembre 2019;11(9):2214.
  • Gaitan E. Goitrogens. Bailliere’s clinical endocrinology and metabolism. Agosto 1988. 2(3):683-702.
  • Gorka J. et al. Metabolic and clinical consequences of hyperthyroidism on bone density. Int J Endocrinol. Julio 2013. 2013:638727.
  • Leung A.M, Braverman L.E. Consequences of Excess Iodine. Natural Reviews Endocrinology. Marzo 2014. 10(3):136-42.
  •  O’Kane S. M et al. Micronutrients, iodine status and concentrations of thyroid hormones: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews. Junio 2018. 76 (6): 418–431
  • Ventura M. et al. Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment. International Journal of Endocrinology. Enero 2017.