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. A good starting point are smoothies, you can get a few recipes here.
- 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. We have designed a thyroid and hormone-supporting detox program which is available in a DIY version and Live (we typically run it two times per year).
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.
Stress can also be caused by chronic digestive issues. When the small or large intestine is in distress (you know it when you are always constipated, bloated, suffer from gas, pain, loose stool etc), the body sees it as a state of stress. Cortisol is a potent hormone we won’t function without. However, when in excess, it can have a detrimental impact on the thyroid and the immune system (one of the functions of cortisol is to modulate the immune system).
If you suffer from hypothyroidism, we should not eat them raw. Goiter is a substance that inhibits iodine uptake to create the T4 hormone. The family of crucifers are: 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.
Having said that, same as many progressive thyroid practitioners like Dr K and Dr Wentz, I too believe that there is no need to cut out these wonderful vegetables 100%. The reason is: all crucifers are high in DIM (di-indolyl-methane) which is a substance that supports the liver detoxification pathways. This detoxification process helps us eliminate metabolized (or “used up”) hormones like estrogen as well as thyroid hormones to make space for new ones.
Soy is the only exception – we should not consume it at all, unless it’s in the fermented form (like miso or tempeh) and only in small amounts.
I therefore do NOT believe that we need to cut these wonderful vegetables out. Just don’t juice them and don’t eat them excessively in a raw form. Their nutritional profile is so high that we are doing ourselves a dis-service by cutting them out in lieu of loading up on supplements. Most people who suffer from hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s disease – you need to take care of your gastrointestinal health as your #1 priority, followed by stable sugar levels (see above) and lastly, by supporting your liver function (listen to our free Workshop Video #2 on thyroid and liver connection).
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 (dairy if you can tolerate or water kefir) are all rich in a wide spectrum of probiotics.
- introduce homemade bone broths from chicken and beef bones – they have an incredibly high nutritional profile – high in calcium, magnesium, phosphate, collagen and gelatin – the latter ones being instrumental in digestive lining recovery. You can check out my beef bone broth recipe here – they are styled on “Nourishing Traditions” cookbook.
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.
- Sauerkraut (pick properly fermented, not in vinegar)
- Kim chee (Korean fermented veggies)
- Yoghurt (this is my recipe to make your own yoghurt) – only if you can tolerate diary
- Kefir (has different bacteria than yoghurt, also super beneficial)
- Kombucha tea – although many people have a reaction to it, so apply your own “investigative” feel
- Vegetable medley (fermented)
- Coconut water kefir
It’s also good to supplement food with a food quality probiotic. My favorite brand is GutPro – it contains 8 strains, is free of all fillers, is free of l-acidophilus (which people with dairy sensitivities react to) and it’s the only supplement I do sell on my website – you can get it here.
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. Always D3 and not D2.
- calcium is key but needs to be taken with magnesium and vitamin D 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. If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, be sure to be very gentle with your body and don’t do excessive cardio work-outs and switch to light weight lifting, yoga, pilates, gentle cycling, hiking, dancing, etc.
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.
There are a few things you can do to help yourself:
IgG testing, muscle testing are not accurate, therefore the most reliable way to find out what your body / digestive tract is struggling with is to do the Elimination Diet. I’ve created the Elimination Diet Guide which is only $17 and it contains all the information you need to get started. It also contains a thyroid-catered meal plan and recipes.
2. Address your toxic load.
As explained above, toxicity in thyroid conditions is very common and needs to be addressed for your thyroid and the immune system to function properly. We have developed a thyroid-specific detox program which you can get for $97 as a DIY program. It’s a 12-day guided, step-by-step and very safe program. We do not push supplements and shakes at you – the idea is for your body to do the job and for you to just assist it with real food and herbs.
3. Order your own lab work.
You can order thyroid tests yourself. Most people do not know that. You can do so by going to Direct Labs or you can order the panels Direct Labs designed for us (it works out cheaper) – you can see the testing options here. They cover more than just TSH and T4 – you will get the full spectrum of results which you need to know to manage your thyroid and Hashimoto’s.
Not all probiotics are made the same. Many have too few strains to make it worthwhile and use fillers that people with digestive sensitivities react to. As you may know by now, I am not a big proponent of putting people on supplements as we over-rely on them in lieu of giving food and a clean diet a chance to heal us. Probiotics are one of the very few supplements I do recommend to take to speed up the healing process. My favorite brand is GutPro – it contains 8 strains, is free of all fillers, is free of l-acidophilus (which people with dairy sensitivities react to) and it’s the only supplement I do sell on my website – you can get it here.
Often times you find yourself totally alone in this, as if nobody else around you had a thyroid condition and if they do, they are not willing to make the changes you want or have been making. Get support – it’s important to be surrounded with like-minded people when you are going through this journey. Join our Hormones Community Calls for targeted thyroid and hormone nutrition tips, interviews and open Q&A calls.
I would also like to invite you to our Facebook Hormones Balance to like us and get daily tips, interviews, recipe and nutrition nuggets.
I hope this article gain a holistic view on thyroid health and given you some ideas how to start your own thyroid diet/protocol.
31 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.
Would like more information
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?
What is your opinion on taking Omeprazole? Does this upset the good bacteria in your gut? Is it safe to use sometimes? If I have been taking it long term, a year, what happens if I quit?
Thanks so much for this information!!!!!!
Magdalena…hurray for your site! I’ve been trying some of the same things you mentioned and while my Hoshi’s antibodies have gone up (which my doc claims is the fault of the Armour thyroid pills producing natural thyroid hormones which caused the antibodies to up their numbers…huh?! She wants me back on Synthroid which made me horribly absent minded and I asked for an alternative. She is giving get me a couple 2 weeks to come up with a new pill idea) I am still looking for new help. 2 things: any idea why I have lost 20 pounds and can’t gain it back (I am 63, 5′ 4 1/2″ and was comfy at 120?) and I wonder how many carbs I should get per day (I avoid sugary stuff but am not real clear on foods that convert to sugars (potatoes of any kind?, white rice, processed food …not real clear on that either…would that include sprouted crackers and ALL cereals and gluten free breads? )
Hope you can shed some light on that. Thanks again!
Can you recommend a women’s multivitamin? What brand,?
Not a fan of these.. They don’t address the underlying reasons why we are sick. I’m yet to meet a person who started feeling better from taking multis.
How do I order the lab tests from Direct Labs that you mentioned were designed for your program? I looked at their website but I am still confused.
Hi Rebecca – you can order them here: http://www.thyroiddietcoach.com/ordertesting and we pass the order to DL to fulfill and send you a requisition form to get the blood drawn. Hope this helps :-). Magdalena.
Thank-you! My doctor checked my thyroid with the standard blood test and it came back on the low level but still acceptable. She is not inclined to do anything further, but my husband is convinced I have a thyroid problem. I will discuss this with him.
Really excellent information, thank you for sharing all of this with us. It makes so much sense. Here in the UK, Doctors treat lab reports and not the patient. If the TSH is within 0.5 to 10 they consider the thyroid to be working well so to speak. Very rarely will doctors request T3/T4 and never reverse T3.
Usually the patient is labelled as a depressive and given Anti-deprs.
We have a broken system here in the UK and it ‘s a brave and very different GP who will help the genuinely ill patient!
Thank you again and I will continue to read!