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5 “Power Foods” For Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease

One of the most common questions I get asked from people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions is “what foods should I eat?”  A general answer I commonly give is to eat whole foods, minimize the refined foods and sugars, and to avoid common allergens such as gluten, dairy, corn, etc.  When it comes to choosing specific foods for thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, one of the challenges is that some healthy foods can cause problems.  For example, if someone tries to avoid all foods with antinutrients such as lectins, phytic acid, saponins, and oxalates, this will greatly minimize the amount of foods they can eat.  On top of this you might decide to avoid eating eggs and the nightshades.  After doing this you will be left with a very small category of foods.

So when putting together this list, I realize that there are some foods which fall within the categories I listed above.  And I’m not suggesting that everyone should eat these foods.  For example, one of the power foods I listed below is eggs.  Eggs have a lot of good nutrients and are a pretty good source of protein.  The problem is that it’s not uncommon for people to be sensitive to eggs.  Of course it’s possible to have an allergy or sensitivity to any food, although some food allergies and sensitivities are more common than others.  The point I’m trying to make is that the “power foods” I listed below represent an excellent source of nutrients and can benefit many people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease.  However, this doesn’t mean that everyone with these conditions can eat these foods.  And of course there are other nutrient dense foods which I didn’t include on this list.  While this blog post focuses on power foods for hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, for those with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, in the next blog post I’ll discuss some of the power foods for hypothyroid conditions.

With that being said, let’s go ahead and list five power foods that can benefit those people with hyperthyroid conditions:

Power Food #1: Kale. Kale has some wonderful health benefits.  First of all, it is very nutrient dense.  Second, it has antiproliferative effects (1), and so it can help with the prevention of cancer.  There is also evidence that it can favorably influence serum lipid profiles and thus reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (2).  As for whether you should eat kale raw, or if you should cook it, one study showed that the cooking process of kale resulted in lowering of the activity of its antioxidants (3).  However, you still will get many of the benefits of kale if you lightly steam it.  As for how kale can specifically benefit people with hyperthyroidism, kale is considered to be goitrogenic, which means that when consumed in larger amounts it can potentially inhibit thyroid function.  Cooking might reduce the goitrogenic activity, and if you have hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease feel free to eat a few servings of raw kale per day.  Bone density is an issue with hyperthyroidism, and kale is one of the best sources of calcium, and unlike spinach it exhibits excellent absorbability for its calcium (4).

Power Food #2: Organ Meats. Although I still can’t get over the “mental barrier” which has prevented me from eating organ meats, this category of food is very nutrient dense.  And while eating nutrient dense foods is important for everyone, one can argue that it is even more important for someone who is dealing with hyperthyroidism.  One of the biggest problems many people with hyperthyroid conditions have is losing a large amount of weight.  This of course is due to the increased metabolic rate caused by the elevated thyroid hormone levels.  And while it is important to normalize the thyroid hormone levels, while one is trying to accomplish this it is important to eat nutrient dense foods.

In addition, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is high in organs with high rates of metabolism such as the heart, kidney, and liver (5).  And numerous studies show that CoQ10 is low in people with hyperthyroid conditions (6) (7).  Although one can of course supplement with CoQ10, since organ meats have high amounts of this then this presents another option.

Power Food #3: Eggs. As I mentioned earlier, eggs are a common allergen.  As a result, not everyone is able to eat eggs.  However, even if someone doesn’t have an egg allergy, the egg whites have certain compounds which can cause problems in those people with autoimmune thyroid conditions, as well as those with other types of autoimmune conditions.  On the other hand, although I do have most of my patients initially avoid eggs, I’m not opposed to some people reintroducing eggs.  And this is especially true with those people who have hyperthyroid conditions, as many people with hyperthyroidism have a voracious appetite and are struggling to gain weight.  I know this described myself when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease.  Eggs are another nutrient dense food, and if someone doesn’t have an egg allergy it might be fine for them to eat egg yolks without much of a problem.

Some people are concerned that eating eggs will increase their cholesterol levels, even though research clearly shows that this isn’t the case (8) (9) (10).  In fact, one study showed that people who reported eating four or more eggs per week actually had a lower serum cholesterol concentration when compared with those who ate one egg or less per week (8).  In those with metabolic syndrome, eating eggs (including the yolks) improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity (11).  Ideally you want to eat organic, pasture-raised eggs.

Power Food #4: Almonds. Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fat, fiber, α-tocopherol, minerals such as magnesium and copper, and phytonutrients (12).  Other cardioprotective nutrients unique to almonds include arginine, manganese, calcium, and potassium (13).  One study showed that incorporation of almonds into a healthy diet could ameliorate inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (14).  There is also evidence that almond and almond skin ingestion may lead to an improvement in the intestinal microbiota profile and a modification of the intestinal bacterial activities (15).  One potential problem with almonds, as well as other nuts and seeds, is that it has antinutrients such as lectins and phytic acid.  As a result, you don’t want to eat large amounts of almonds, and if someone has a leaky gut then it probably would be best to avoid eating almonds while repairing the gut.  Because some researchers speculate that everyone with an autoimmune condition has a leaky gut, almonds are excluded from most autoimmune paleo diets, which means that those people with Graves’ Disease who are following this diet would want to avoid eating almonds.

Power Food #5: Berries. Consuming different types of berries can be beneficial to one’s health.  This includes blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and cranberries.  All berries have different phytonutrients, and the phenolic compounds are responsible for their antioxidant properties (16) (17).  In addition, numerous studies have shown berries of different kinds to have anti-inflammatory properties, and can potentially modulate inflammatory cytokines which are found in different types of autoimmune conditions (18) (19) (20) (21) (22).  Berries are typically high in oxalates, and so you want to be cautious about eating too many of these.  Growing up I never was much of a berry eater, as I frequently ate a lot of apples, grapes, and bananas.  But I currently have a smoothie on a daily basis, and I’ll always include some organic berries, as I usually rotate between blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

So these are some of the “power foods” which can benefit people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease.  Of course there are other foods I didn’t include on this list which are also nutrient dense.  For example, while kale is without question a “power food”, so are other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage.  And although organ meats are very nutrient dense, other types of meat are nutrient dense.  For those people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, in the next blog post I’ll discuss power foods which can be beneficial for people with these conditions.


 

18 Comments

  1. Linda says:

    Almonds can be soaked overnight then redried in a dehydrator for better digestion. Kale can be dipped in hot water to reduce oxalates and make it easier to digest.

  2. Suz says:

    I have Hyperthyroid/ Graves Disease and I eat a lot of fresh berries, until I saw articles online saying strawberries and cranberries are high in iodine, thus harmful for Hyperthyroid/ Graves Disease people. This is one of the articles: http://bembu.com/iodine-rich-foods

    It also mentions eggs…

    Confused from the inconsistency of the information online. Appreciate much if you could help clarify.

    Thanks!

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Suz,

      I’m not sure if you read the article I recently wrote about seafood, as I discussed about how I’m not concerned about the iodine content in these foods, and that most people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions don’t have a problem eating seafood due to the iodine, although there of course are other concerns (i.e. toxins). And the same concept applies with most other foods which are higher in iodine. The only concern I would have is with sea vegetables in some people, as these foods have very high amounts of iodine and can cause problems in some people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions.

  3. Michelle Smith says:

    Hello
    I have Graves diseaase and a number of food allergies -onions, leeks, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, kale, spinach, brussel spouts, asparagus, celery. All these started after reacting to erythromycin in July 2012 after which I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Due to becoming neurtropena while taking carbimazole I changed to PTU for 6 months until the thyroid came into range. I have been in range for 18 months but still cannot eat properly and at the moment I am overactvie again and back on PTU. I did follow a gluten, grain, dairy and sugar free diet for 9 months last year but still could not eat any of the foods listed which left me with a very restricted diet! Any help would be very much appreciated. Thank you Michelle

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Michelle,

      There can be numerous factors which are causing the food sensitivities, including a leaky gut and/or intestinal dysbiosis. Although eating well can help with these problems, other actions usually need to be taken. For example, if someone has a leaky gut then the goal should be to find out what’s causing the leaky gut, follow a gut repair diet, and take certain supplements to help repair the gut. If someone has intestinal dysbiosis then one not only needs to try to balance the good and bad flora of the gut, but they also need to find out what’s causing the dysbiosis. For example, if someone has small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while it’s probably necessary to take herbs or medicine to help address the overgrowth, it also is important to address the cause of the overgrowth. Sometimes it can get complex, which is why I commonly recommend working with a natural healthcare professional to help detect and then correct the cause of the problem.

  4. David Cody says:

    “…four or more eggs per year”? Can I assume this is a typo and actually should be week or day?

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi David,

      Thank you for pointing this out, as it was a typo and should have said “four or more eggs per week”. I went ahead and corrected the error.

  5. Bryana Innerarity says:

    I have Graves disease, i would like to know if there is any home remedies i can do to reduce my swollen eyes…

  6. Megan Yoder says:

    Thank you for all this great information! I was diagnosed with Graves Disease this past summer and there is a lot of information on the internet that is very confusing. I recently ordered Juice Plus Chewables and I am uncertain about taking the Orchard one because it contains vegetables such as kale and broccoli (among others). Do you have any suggestions about whether or not this product should be avoided in someone with hyperthyroidism? Thank you for all your great advice that you provide!

  7. Ana Green says:

    Hi,

    I have Graves Disease. I like the idea of adding organ meats to my diet, but should I exclude liver due to the high content of iodine? I guess beef heart would be ok.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Ana,

      The iodine content in liver usually isn’t high enough to cause problems. Of course everyone is different, and of course you don’t have to eat liver, but if you want to eat it I wouldn’t be concerned about the iodine.

  8. Elana says:

    I have subclinical hyperthyroidism and a benign thyroid nodule. Also I’m trying to get pregnant. Could you please recommend what to eat with my conditions.

  9. Judy says:

    Hi I have been diagnosed with Graves’ disease and goitre since July but unfortunately I’m having trouble with anti thyroid medication and my specialist wants me to have RAI or surgery. My levels are vey high still. I’m able to take half dosage of PTU. Any advise please

  10. Susanna says:

    To Judy
    I was also on PTU for a long time, for 20 years. Then I left them and started taking iodine 2*5 drops of iodine tincture. It worked for a while for 5 months then the Wolf-Chaikoff effect started to realise and iodine lost its power. I took back medication but I had a period of detoxication when when medicine could go out of my organism.

  11. Simone says:

    I’m really confused. I have Graves and I’ve been told to limit my iodine intake because it just feeds the thyroid which is what I’m trying to slow down naturally so I can reduce or eliminate the need for meds. I was drinking kale smoothies because of the goitrogens to block the uptake of iodine, but it also contains iodine.

  12. Amanda Millward says:

    Hi Dr Eric,
    Firstly I would like to thank you for all the great info…I am all for finding the underlying cause of an illness and have found such great helpful articles on your website.
    I am a 56 year old female, who has for most of my life has struggled with Autoimmune conditions (in my 20s was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis) however went on a strict Candida & dairy-free diet for 2 years and managed without medication to put this terrible condition into remissission. I have though always struggled with food allergies and gut issues (I haven’t though been as careful with what I eat as I should have been over the years).
    For the last 5 years that I know of, I have had a swinging Thyroid Autoimmune condition (going Hyper then Hypo).
    I have a friend who is a Naturopath and is now treating my Gut issues. Recently she got me to go to a Doctor and request a Stool test, and came back POSITIVE to the Yersinia Entercolitica bacteria (that you mention in one of your articles is quite often found in people with Autoimmune Thyroid conditions). My Dr had never heard of this bacteria and due to my Leaky Gut issues I am concerned it might have gone through the intestinal wall and into my blood stream and into other organs and have requested her do a Blood test for this.
    I therefore just have a couple of question.

    1. Can this Bacteria actually be found through a blood test? I have researched it and cant find much info to say exactly how to test for it if it has gone extra-intestinal. I believe is is some sort of Mimic bacteria and this is why the immune system mistakes it for healthy body tissue I assume this would only be if had gone into the bloodstream and into other organs though?

    2. I have also now developed TOTAL TOTAL NON Sleep without a Sleeping pill (Temaze) which I only try to take every second or third night (have tried EVERY natural remedy under the sun and my diet is now excellent (no dairy, sugar, processed foods, coffee, caffeine, grains etc). I have also been to an Endocrinologist and after viewing all my many tests for my Thyroid Level and many Others said he has no clue as to why I have developed this Total Non Sleep condition. The only thing that came up with besides the bacterial, thyroid swinging is an elevated DHEA Level (just over double of the top of the range). I am wondering if this Bacteria could be maybe attacking whatever the process is to tell my body to go to sleep? I am extremely tired but it is like DAY time 24 hours a day. (Has been going on over 6 months now). I have also lost all my muscle tone, everywhere including have gone from a DD cup to a C cup in this time.
    3. I know Graves causes everything to speed up, however as my levels aren’t that high, and if the Yersinia bacteria hasn’t got into my bloodstream affecting other organs, then is there any other virus or bacteria that you are aware of that I could get tested for that might be contributing to this Total Non Sleeping condition I have?

    I live in Brisbane Australia and unfortunately our Doctors here are very controlled by the Pharmaceutical companies, as to how to treat patients presenting with certain symptoms. Mostly they just stick people on medication and don’t look for underlying causes. My younger sister was diagnosed with Graves in her 40s and has had her Thyroid Gland taken out. My main issue though is my Total not sleeping, as it will be difficult to heal my body with out sleep and I want to get of these sleeping tablets (however they are probably saving my life at present, as I have gone 5 nights without sleep when I don’t take them)

    PS I don’t know how much you know about Low Dose Naltrexone….this is what I am on to assist my Immune System deal with the Autoimmune condition going on in my body (of course among other supplements (and also Bioidentical Progesterone (from a compounding chemist.
    I would appreciate your thoughts and happy for you to post my email if you wish
    Regards
    Amanda

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Natural Treatment Methods:
Graves Disease Treatment
Hypothyroidism Treatment
Hyperthyroidism Treatment
Natural Thyroid treatment


Conventional Treatment
Methods:
Radioactive Iodine
Thyroid Hormone