An officially and medically sanctioned Hashimoto diet does not yet exist. However, research shows that consuming certain foods and making specific lifestyle modifications may improve Hashimoto's disease symptoms.
What is a Hashimoto Diet?
If you are dealing with Hashimoto's disease, it is helpful to follow a diet that incorporates wholesome foods loaded with essential nutrients. It has been proven through studies that reducing the intake of added sugars and highly processed foods while increasing the consumption of whole, nutrient-rich foods can help improve your overall health, manage your weight, and alleviate symptoms associated with Hashimoto's disease (1).
This article explores the best scientifically-backed dietary options to ease symptoms of Hashimoto's disease.
What is Hashimoto's Disease?
Hashimoto's disease, also called Hashimoto's thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and inflames the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland beneath the Adam's apple in the front of your throat. Damage to this vital gland eventually results in insufficient thyroid hormone production (hypothyroidism).
Hashimoto's is the most prevalent thyroid condition in the United States, affecting an estimated 14 million people (1). It is also the primary cause of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Symptoms of Hashimoto's disease include fatigue, weight gain, depression, and constipation. Treatment typically involves thyroid hormone replacement therapy and dietary and lifestyle changes.
Foods for Thyroid Infographic Elements
Good foods for thyroid: eggs, nuts, lean meat, probiotic-rich foods, lemon, walnuts, honey, wild-caught fish, vegetables, shellfish, seaweed, coconut oil, kidney beans, navy beans, fruits, orange juice, pumpkin, sunflower seeds.
Bad foods for thyroid: fluoridated water, raw cruciferous vegetables, caffeine, alcohol, soy foods, fast food, carbonated soft drink, foods containing sugar, gluten-containing foods, processed meat products, refined vegetable oil and margarine, refined sugar.
End Infographic Text
How Diet Affects Hashimoto's Disease
Many people wonder why applying dietary and other lifestyle strategies is necessary if medications are available. The answer is that many people with Hashimoto's find that their symptoms continue even with medicine (2).
Aside from that, many people experiencing symptoms are only provided with medication if a change in their thyroid hormone levels has occurred (3).
In addition, there is evidence that inflammation may be the underlying cause of many of the symptoms of this condition, which may be promoted by inflammatory foods (4, 5).
A well-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet can also help reduce your risk of other ailments, such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
What is the best diet for Hashimoto's disease?
Health and food are inextricably linked, as healthy food protects against various diseases. Your eating habits can significantly influence your quality of life and the effectiveness of your treatment plan for Hashimoto's disease.
This autoimmune disease can be managed by eating a diet that reduces inflammation. After extensive study, many experts recommend the following diets for Hashimoto's:
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) regimen is formulated for individuals with autoimmune diseases. It eliminates potentially dangerous foods such as the following (6):
It was found that a 10-week trial of the AIP diet resulted in significant improvements in quality of life scores and substantial reductions in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in 16 women with Hashimoto's thyroiditis (7).
Although these findings are encouraging, more extensive, longer-term studies are required.
It was found that a 10-week trial of the AIP diet resulted in significant improvements in quality of life scores and substantial reductions in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in 16 women with Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Despite the promising results of these studies, more extensive studies with a longer duration are required.
Speak with your healthcare provider if you would like to try this eating plan. The AIP diet should be viewed as a phased elimination diet that must be prescribed, managed, and monitored by an experienced healthcare professional to give you the best chance of success.
Gluten-Free Diet/Grain-Free Diet
Hashimoto's disease is associated with gluten sensitivity in some individuals, which could be related to the autoimmune nature of this condition. After all, it has been demonstrated that a gluten-free diet can benefit those with celiac disease, another autoimmune disorder.
When 2232 people with Hashimoto's were surveyed, 80% felt better after switching to a grain-free diet that eliminated gluten. In addition, improved digestion, energy levels, mood, and weight loss were reported (8).
Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. This protein acts as a glue that holds foods together, maintaining their shape. As a result, many foods contain gluten, even those you may not expect, such as soups and salad dressings.
The gluten-free diet eliminates all gluten-containing foods, like baked goods, pasta, bread, and cereals. Instead, the diet emphasizes natural, gluten-free foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, eggs, legumes, lean meats, and seafood.
A grain-free diet eliminates all grains, even ones that don't contain gluten, like oats, corn, and buckwheat. However, think carefully before banning all grains from your diet. The removal of grains from your diet may result in a reduction of nutrients, such as fiber and selenium, that are vital to treating hypothyroidism.
Patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis often suffer from lactose intolerance (9). Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. To fully digest lactose, your small intestine needs to produce an enzyme called lactase. However, many people do not produce enough lactase, a condition called lactose intolerance, so they often suffer unpleasant digestive issues -- such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea -- after consuming dairy products.
Lactose intolerance is a common condition affecting between 30 and 50 million Americans. It is particularly prevalent in Hashimoto's patients.
For example, a study of 83 women with Hashimoto's thyroiditis revealed that 75.9% were lactose intolerant (10).
When you suspect lactose intolerance, eliminating dairy may aid digestion, thyroid function, and medication absorption. However, it is essential to remember that this approach may not work for everyone, as some people with Hashimoto's disorder may be able to tolerate dairy without any issues.
There is evidence that inflammation may be one of the contributing factors to Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Therefore, it is possible that symptoms may be significantly improved by consuming an anti-inflammatory diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.
It has been shown that anti-inflammatory diets effectively reduce inflammation in the body and relieve symptoms associated with many autoimmune diseases.
The results of a study of 218 women with Hashimoto's thyroiditis found that eating fruit and vegetables more frequently reduced markers of oxidative stress (11), which causes chronic inflammation.
The following are examples of foods with powerful anti-inflammatory properties: vegetables, fatty fish, fruits, and spices.
It is essential to remember that even though certain foods may have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body, finding the best foods to consume and avoid may require elimination dieting, or a lot of experimentation.
Elimination dieting can be a long and challenging process, but with the help of a medical professional, it can be an effective way to identify which foods are causing inflammation. It's also important to remember that while certain foods can cause inflammation, it's essential to maintain a nutritious and balanced diet in order to keep your body healthy.
The Paleo Diet
Paleo diets, also known as autoimmune diets, strive to recreate the eating habits of our ancestors. It is primarily intended to reduce inflammation and damage to the gut.
This diet excludes the following foods:
The Paleo diet emphasizes the following foods:
In addition, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado oil are permitted.
A nutrient-dense diet is an excellent option for those who don't want to be restricted to certain types of food. Ideally, a nutrient-dense diet will alleviate your symptoms without making you feel deprived.
Foods to Enjoy
The diet consists of a variety of whole foods, including the following:
Nonstarchy vegetables. Examples include kale, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, cauliflower, and radishes.
Lean protein. Examples include fish, grass-fed beef, oysters, shrimp, beef liver, and chicken.
Whole food fats: Examples include olives, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, eggs, and coconut.
Low-sugar fruits. Examples include all berries, all citrus fruits, peaches, and cherries.
Foods to avoid
The foods to eat infrequently or avoid on a nutrient-dense diet include the following:
Foods to Potentially Limit with Hashimoto's Disease
A specific balance of iodine is needed for healthy thyroid function. This is because the thyroid gland uses iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Consequently, those with an iodine deficiency are at increased risk of developing hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and Hashimoto's disease.
What happens if you consume too much iodine? Excessive iodine intake could cause your thyroid gland to become overactive, a condition called hyperthyroidism, where it produces too much hormone. It can also trigger Hashimoto's if you're genetically predisposed to it, or it can worsen the symptoms of this disorder.
So, avoiding iodine isn't advisable. Instead, you should strive for the proper balance of iodine in your diet. Speak to your dietician or healthcare provider about how much dietary iodine you should consume daily.
Incidentally, only trace amounts of this mineral are required—150 micrograms per day for most adults (12), and you can quickly get enough through your diet. Foods that contain iodine include iodized salt, shrimp, seaweed, cod, tuna, and eggs.
Foods such as soy are considered goitrogenic, which indicates that they can interfere with thyroid function. It may also interfere with your body's ability to absorb your thyroid medication fully.
With that said, avoiding soy altogether is unnecessary; you may want to limit the amount you consume and avoid eating soy products when taking your medication.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, contain goitrogens, which can interfere with thyroid hormone production.
Even so, these vegetables are incredibly healthy, and cooking them reduces their goitrogenic properties. Therefore, unless consumed in substantial quantities, they are unlikely to interfere with thyroid function (13).
Consequently, you can eat cruciferous vegetables in moderation even if you have thyroid disease.
Essential Vitamins and Minerals for Hashimoto's Disease
People with Hashimoto's thyroiditis may benefit from several effective supplements that reduce inflammation and thyroid antibodies. It is also likely that individuals suffering from this condition will be deficient in specific nutrients, so they may need to supplement their diet (14).
Below are 5 vitamins and minerals that may help relieve your Hashimoto's symptoms.
Studies suggest that people with Hashimoto's disease can reduce anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies by taking 200mg of selenium daily. (High levels of anti-thyroid peroxidase antibiotics significantly increase the risk of hypothyroidism symptoms.) (15)
You can take selenium in supplement form or obtain it through your diet. Selenium-rich foods include eggs, lobster, liver, Brazil nuts, and grass-fed beef.
The thyroid is dependent on the mineral zinc for proper functioning. Thus, studies suggest that people with hypothyroidism may benefit from supplementing with 30 mg of zinc daily, alone or in conjunction with selenium (16, 17).
Zinc is easy to get through the diet. Foods that contain zinc include whole grains, seafood, meat, nuts, and beans.
Research has found that the vitamin D levels of patients with Hashimoto's disease are significantly lower than those without it. In addition, studies suggest that low vitamin D levels contribute to the severity of Hashimoto's disease (18, 19).
Food sources of vitamin D include sardines, salmon, cod liver oil, and fortified milk.
There is a relationship between low levels of this mineral and an increased risk of Hashimoto's thyroiditis and elevated thyroid antibodies. Additionally, correcting magnesium deficiency may help individuals with thyroid disease improve their symptoms (20, 21).
Food sources of magnesium include spinach (and other leafy greens), nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
B Complex Vitamins
People who suffer from Hashimoto's thyroiditis are also likely to be deficient in vitamin B12. A high-quality B complex vitamin enhances levels of B12 and other essential B vitamins.
You can also get an adequate amount of B-12 through your diet. Food sources of B12 include clams, liver, salmon, eggs, ham, and chicken breast (22).
Several foods can support or hinder the function of the thyroid gland. Although specific diets are said to assist in treating Hashimoto's, the effectiveness of any one depends on the individual, and more research is needed to support their efficacy.
It may be challenging to adhere to specific dietary changes that are restrictive or expensive, and you may need to consider whether your family can adopt the same changes. Considering making considerable changes to your diet? Consult your healthcare provider for recommendations that will support your overall health.
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