Ever heard of these wise, ancient idioms: “Let your food be your medicine”, or “All diseases start in the gut”?
These were my guiding principals when all else (meaning: western medicine) failed to help my thyroid drama; first Graves’ and later Hashimoto’s Disease. After many years of trying different things, I’m finally putting the pieces together and calling it the ”Thyroid Diet”.
I wish there were two different words to say what I want to say; one for “diet” when you want to lose weight and another for a nourishing food change that will bring healing and joy. Oh well… But you know when I say “diet” I mean a protocol, a way of being, living and eating that will free you from some/all of the fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight yo-yos, Weight Watchers micro-management and infertility that have plagued you for some time now.
There are some people who say that there is “no scientific evidence between food and thyroid or healing”. It’s a choice we make on how we want to view things and what we want to believe. Choice is a powerful tool we have. Let us never forget that. I would therefore offer a reframe from “there is no evidence” to “what if I just try something new/different for 3 weeks and see how I feel”. Because really, what have you got to lose? Especially if you have been sick for a long time… You might learn something new and have fun along the way! You have a choice.
Before you read on, it’s key to know (and most people do not realize this as doctors don’t have the time to explain things) that 90% of hypo- and hyperthyroidism results from an autoimmune disorder. This goes to say that most hypothyroid conditions are Hashimoto’s and most hyperthyroid conditions are Graves’ Disease. It means that your immune system started attacking the thyroid. Since the immune system resides in the gut, or our intestine, (did you know that?!), a lot of what you will read here is about rebuilding the digestive system.
To explain Thyroid Diet Foods, let me talk about 3 pillars. I developed these, while asking myself these questions:
Pillar 1: what to REMOVE from the current diet and lifestyle that is sabotaging my immune system and my thyroid?
Pillar 2: what to ADD to my life to boost the immune system, detox the body and help the thyroid?
Pillar 3: how to find a BALANCE in what I’m doing so I don’t go crazy and really get to like my “new life”.
So, here we go:
Pillar 1: REMOVE what is detrimental and toxic to your thyroid
a). SUGAR FLUCTUATIONS
This means sugar cravings, hypoglycemia or insulin resistance and normalizing these first is key. Without fixing your sugar issues, your thyroid will never improve. This is because the pancreas is responsible for sugar metabolism and same as the thyroid, the pancreas is also part of the endocrine system. As you can imagine, these glands are all intricately interconnected. A few tips for you here:
- Start reading product labels to see how much sugar is in your food; 4g = 1 teaspoon. F.eg a Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks has 64g of sugar = 16 spoons. Activia’s yoghurt proclaimed as “healthy food” has 7 spoons. Try not to consume more than 5 spoons of sugar is you have a sugar problem. Learn more about reading product labels in my How to Food Shop Guide.
- Start the day with a high-protein, high-fat breakfast; this is a big secret in the weight-loss industry as well. It will help you stabilize your sugar levels for the day, you won’t crush at 11am and won’t crave sugar and snacks during the day.
- Reduce carbs: we are a carbs-obsessed and addicted nation with carbs constituting 50-60% of our diet, much of which is coming from grains. Grains contain starch that feeds the pathogenic bacteria (read below about your digestive system) in your gut and worsen the problem
- Reduce starch; again, this is sugar too, especially from potatoes, sweet potatoes, and processed food.
b). FOOD INTOLERANCES
Do you see “gluten-free”, “dairy-free” etc popping up at the health stores today? This is because many people get off the “big five”; gluten, dairy, corn, eggs and soy and experience significant changes. To find the culprits, I always start off with an Elimination Diet and this produces clear, unbiased results. You can also get a food intolerance test (not allergy, it’s different) done but they are far from accurate. Gluten is an infamous food if you have a thyroid condition and eliminating it is key. However, often times, you would need to cut out more than just gluten.
c). FIX YOUR DIGESTIVE TRACK (aka GUT)
As mentioned above, most thyroid conditions are auto-immune diseases. There are tons of lymphocytes and other immune cells in the gut, which protect the body from viruses, bacteria, and other invaders. This is why most people with thyroid conditions also experience frequent bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea. A diet change will help your gut tremendously. “All disease begins in the gut“, said Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine and I’m not sure why this is not taught in school today.
c). REDUCE TOXICITY;
from additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners (!), excessive sodium, trans-fats as well as toxins hiding around your house. Water toxicity is HUGE in thyroid conditions; we add fluoride in the US that is now linked to slowing down the thyroid; fluoride is believed to be leaching on to the thyroid cells inhibiting the uptake of iodine, hence the production of the thyroid hormone (T4).
Your liver and your gut as this is where the T4 hormone (inactive hormone) gets converted to T3, the active hormone which is actually the one that powers us up. Most of our body cells need T3, not just T4. If you are taking Synthroid, you are taking a synthetic version of T4 that still needs to be converted to T3. If you have a sluggish liver and gut, you won’t convert properly. Look into doing a yearly, bi-yearly detox by fasting, juicing, etc to give your body a break.
e). ADRESS STRESS and ADRENAL FATIGUE
This is huge topic, especially with women. You won’t be able to fix your thyroid without fixing the adrenals. The adrenals are also part of the endocrine system and fire up when you are stressed out. I recommend looking up adrenal fatigue symptoms to see if you have them. De-stressing by working with a therapist, life coach, getting into meditation, breathing, positive thinking; whatever work for you – is key.
f). REMOVE GOITROUS FOOD;
if you suffer from hypothyroidism. Goiter is a substance that slows down the thyroid. It is found in bok choy, broccoli, Brussels’ sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, radishes, soy, soy milk, soy lecithin (often used as a filler in vegetarian food) and tofu. Cooking them reduces their goitrous properties but you should still limit them in the recovery phase.
Pillar 2: ADD what your thyroid needs to start healing
a). FOOD that is nutritionally-dense and provides all the key macro- and micro-nutrients in good ratio.
Some tips here:
- always organic, they are more nutrition-packed and free of hormones that are known to interrupting our endocrine system
- meat must be at least organic but pasture-raised is best. We want to eliminate antibiotics and growth hormones from our diet
- food that is FERMENTED the traditional way, so things like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, homemade yoghurt, kombucha tea are all rich in probiotics.
b). PROTEINS and FATS
They are the building blocks of your digestive track and our hormones. We are fat-o-phobic in America and low-fat diets are one of the worse things that we invented. Europeans and Asians have fat-rich diets (traditionally) and enjoy much better health than we do. Good fat tips: avocados, walnuts, coconut oil, coconut butter. Animal fats are the best in restoring a troubled digestion; ghee (clarified butter), butter, chicken and beef fat are essential but need to be rendered and not in fried/processed form.
d). PROBIOTICS are key in restoring your digestive track
Everyone has bacteria in their digestive tract, or gut, that is essential to the function of the human body. A healthy adult has about 1.5 – 2 kg of bacteria in their gut, both good and bad. Normal levels of bacteria, or flora, in the gut protects against invaders, undigested food, toxins, and parasites. When the good and bad bacteria in the gut get out of whack (i.e. more bad than good), a whole host of negative reactions can occur in the body. Undigested foods can leak through into the bloodstream causing food allergies and intolerances, vitamins and minerals to not be absorbed, leading to deficiency, the bad bacteria to produce a whole host of toxins, and the immune system to not function properly.
Here are examples of traditionally fermented food you could incorporate to your diet:
- Sauerkraut (pick properly fermented, not in vinegar)
- Kim chee (Korean fermented veggies)
- Yoghurt (this is my recipe to make your own yoghurt)
- Kefir (has different bacteria than yoghurt, also super beneficial)
- Kombucha tea
- Vegetable medley (fermented)
- Coconut water kefir
c). HERBS, SUPPLEMENTS and VITAMINS that benefit the thyroid
Although I’m a fan of getting these from real food whenever possible. It’s hard to give tips here as many people over-medicate and feel worse later. Hopefully these tips help; they apply to most auto-immune conditions (this was given by my naturopath who focuses on hormonal and thyroid health):
- most people are Vit D deficient, taking Vit D in 2,000 units is safe and good to do as Vit D is actually a hormone, connected to the thyroid
- calcium is key but needs to be taken with magnesium for full absorption
- for hypothyroidism: selenium, turmeric/curcumin, phytosterols and for GI support; probiotics and L-Glutamine are key.
- for hyperthyroidism: copper and magnesium are a common deficiency in people with hyper.
e). SIMPLE MEDITATION, BREATHING and VISUALIZATION techniques that manage stress and emotions.
I cannot emphasis how important this is, especially for people with hyperthyroidism. We underestimate what stress and emotions do to us; each flare-up of anger, feelings of guilt, fear, hostility, jealousy, etc fire up the adrenals which release cortisol and this hormone has a detrimental impact on the thyroid.
d). MOVEMENT PLAN
Whether it is sports, dancing, yoga that gets you moving that does not drain your adrenals and your thyroid, yet gives you a sense of accomplishment and joy.
Pillar 3: BALANCE based on your bio-individuality
No one diet/plan works for everybody as each person has a unique way of healing. There is a saying: “One person’s food is another’s poison.” It’s always worth remembering that just because one diet worked for one person it does not mean it will work for you too. The same way one person could have healed their thyroid by just changing the water filters (by getting rid of fluoride) alone and another needs to implement five major diet and lifestyle changes to start feeling just a little better. Let’s respect our differences.
Our body has an amazing ability to heal; just give it the right environment and tools and it will do all the work for you.
Learn more about thyroid nutrition today.
P.S. We encourage you to join in our Thyroid Community Calls for targeted thyroid nutrition information and to learn about ways to receive support in your journey to thyroid health.
21 Responses to So, what exactly are “Thyroid Diet Foods”?
Thanks for the info on hypothyroidism. I will definitely try some of the things mentioned.
Thank u for the great info. What kind of water filter is recommended by u?
I use one from http://www.cleanairpurewater.com – they reduce fluoride but not completely eliminate it. But, it’s worth for the price. If we were to completely eliminate fluoride, we need to use reverse osmosis filters which cost $5,000. Auch!
Great! It’s only when you try new things, you get new results!
Thank you so much for the helpful advice! Do you recommend the consumption of cheese, and if so what kinds do you recommend?
Thank you again!
I’m not a fan of cheese as most people have a problem with it, sadly. If any at all, always unpasteurized, made from pasture-raised cows, goats – which is hard to find. Some people can tolerate soft cheeses like cottage cheese as it’s made of fermented milk (yoghurt). You need to observe your body and gauge if you are getting any bloating, acid reflux, gas, constipation, migraines, headaches, etc from eating cheese. Sorry if I disappointed you!
You’re an inspiration Magdalena! I’ve only recently stumbled upon your site and am hoping to tune in to your Skype seminar on the “7 Toxins Sabotaging Your Thyroid Health” next week as I have only in the past week been put on Levothyroxine for my viral thyroiditis (essentially Hashimotos, though he claims it’s not even though my prior doctor from 2 years ago had said it was due to the antibody levels being around 1400!) and am noticing a subtle change, however am extremely skeptical about the western “palm it off to lifelong medication” approach and knew all along that the root cause was a disrupted immune system, so your site ad your story is gifting me the greatest hope that I too will someday heal this the natural and holistic way – and along the way I am determined to ween myself off this medication malarky and have the music career I have been working so hard for in spite of flagging energy and a crazy arse body, ha! We need more brave women like you to show your light and strength so that we can find ours and spark others to do the same and heal successfully too. Bless you a thousand starlights darling, it really means the world to me!
Thank you, Princess Freesia. **Blush**. Stay strong, and trust your gut. Magdalena.
What detox programs do you recommend ?
Hi Annie, you can check it out here: http://www.thyroiddetox.com.
Thank you so much for this information. My 15 yr old is being referred to an endocrinologist for high levels of T3 accompanied by mood swings and appetite issues. I wanted to see what our options are for natural remedies rather than sentencing her to a lifetime of pharmaceutical poisoning. Your information has provided the direction and hope I needed and a place to start healing her.
What about rice? I see no reference for it and is is a no or a Yes you can eat this during elimation. Thank you so very much and I am sharing this with all my friends.
Hi Lonna – rice is perfectly fine as it’s gluten-free. Best to get brown rice, always.
I had my thyroid out in 2000 and have never felt good. I’m going to start with kombucha and the yoghurt.
Magdalena, you are amazing. Im so grateful to have stumbled upon You on youtube! I currently live in Brooklyn also but in two Weeks am moving to Germany with my husband. I’ve just been diagnosed with hypo and on my 2nd day of thyroxin. (German prescribed), and am awaiting my blood results on Hoshimotos… Most likely, as my thyroid was swollen AND asymmetrical. :/ What are your thoughts Magdalena, on taking the meds AND changing to a completely healthy diet like how you suggest? THANK you so much. Hugs!
I think it’s the best approach – to start the meds and change your diet 100%. When your body gets the chance to heal and revive itself, you might not be needing the drugs any longer. However, it all depends on the extent of the thyroid damage – some people can get off meds and others can’t. But, at least you feel better and yourself again even if you need to remain on meds.
hey folks, I stumbled on this site, and wanted to add my two cents as a hypo sufferer for decades. I was diagnosed with Wilson’s Syndrome, but I guess now that is defunked, whatever. Been on Westhroid and then naturthroid for years. T3 and T4, up to 3 pills daily to maintain a normal life. Ok, this is what I found helped me recently. I did the Chia seed challenge for a month. Feb. FELT WAY better. Changed from regular salt to himaylan salt. Added dulse to my diet, and now drink yerba mate, and since those additions to my diet, am down to 1/2 tab daily, under Dr.’s watchful eye. But goal is to get OFF meds because I don’t TRUST the pharmaceutical companies anymore, period. I have added tyrosine, B6 and vitamin C, taken on empty stomach…and that addition is INCREDIBLE on helping me feel normal. Just thought I would share that it is possible to take your body back, I am 53 and so it is NEVER too late to change.
Adrenal fatigue is a term applied to a collection of nonspecific symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. The term often shows up in popular health books and on alternative medicine websites, but it isn’t an accepted medical diagnosis.
This site is the best I’ve seen… very informative. Thanks! I will share it with my family. I have many symptoms of hypothyroidism. I am 49. Mom and sis have it. I agree the gut holds the key.
Can u please help I had my thyroid gland out 6 years ago my weight has gained over the years and with havi ng 2 babies . I have been trying really hard for 3 months now spinning at least 3 times a week and also doin kettlecise my weight is still the same I loose a few pounds and then it goes bk on again I really. don’t no what I’m diung wrong I’m eating healthy can anybody give me advice.
1000 times congratulations to your Magdalena, to your optimistic and supportive attitude helping all of us with thyroid problems to our journey restoring our health and learning to take care of our gut. All the dietary changes you propose are very well argued and work miracles! I believe that everyone can implement those lifestyle changes. All we need to do is to experiment with food/habits replacements and devote a bit more time to our meal preparation by planning ahead what to shop and what to cook. I find also amazing the idea of keeping a diary of what we eat and how we feel… I am in the end of the elimination diet… which I have come to love it! One question I have is this: Since staying gluten-free is a must for the patients of Hashimoto, as you have already stated in your Community Calls, should we really re-introduce it? What for? Is it possible that gluten is not a trigger and that is well-tolerated by our digestive track?