If you have hyperthyroidism, you know the difficulties of having an overactive thyroid. You are constantly hungry, but you continue to lose weight no matter how much you eat. You are restless and have trouble sleeping. These are just a few signs that your thyroid releases too many hormones.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck. Thyroid hormones regulate how the body uses energy. Thus, they affect every organ in your body.
Hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid, is when the thyroid gland produces too many hormones than your body needs. This is why many of your body’s activities speed up with too much thyroid hormone.
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Frequent bowel movements
- Muscle weakness
- Menstrual changes
- Increased sensitivity to heat
In addition, there’s also a high risk of getting other ailments like:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Congestive heart failure
- Eye problems
- Anxiety disorders
What Causes Hyperthyroidism?
- Overactive Thyroid Nodules
Nodules, or lumps, in the thyroid, are caused by a thyroid that works too hard. They are common and are usually not cancerous. But one or more of the nodules may start making too much thyroid hormone. Most nodules that are too active are found in people over the age of 50.
- Graves’ Disease
Graves’ disease is the most common autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism. This illness attacks your thyroid, creating more thyroid hormones than it needs to.
- Excessive Iodine
Your thyroid needs iodine to produce thyroid hormone. The amount of iodine you take in affects how much hormone your thyroid makes. In some people, if they get too much iodine, their thyroids may produce too much thyroid hormone.
Thyroiditis is the inflammation of your thyroid gland. Various types of thyroiditis can cause thyroid hormones to leak into your blood. This makes you prone to hyperthyroidism symptoms.
Foods to Avoid if You Have Hyperthyroidism
A person’s diet and lifestyle is a key factor that affects the thyroid. The thyroid is a nutrient-dependent gland, so it’s helpful to steer clear of foods with low nutritional value. Moroever, some foods can help with symptoms, while others can worsen or mess with the treatments.
There are also some foods you need to watch out for if you already have hyperthyroidism. These foods can interfere with proper thyroid function and lead to worse complications. Thus, consider avoiding the following foods to help support your thyroid therapies.
Iodine Rich Foods
Iodine is a mineral that boosts thyroid gland activity. Hence, taking too much iodine can result in the thyroid gland producing a lot of thyroid hormones. That’s why too much iodine harms an already too active thyroid.
It would help if you considered avoiding foods high in iodine, such as:
- Fish (sardine, tuna, salmon, cod)
- Seaweed (kombu, kelp, nori)
- Oysters and shrimp
- Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt)
- Iodine supplements
Children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing thyroid disease are prone to iodine poisoning. If you get too much iodine, it can cause:
- Burning in the mouth, throat, and stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Weak pulse
Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are high in nutrients that are good for the body. However, they contain goitrogens, which interfere with thyroid hormone production. High intake of goitrogens leads to:
- Blocking of iodine absorption
- Reducing the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Slowing down the release of thyroid hormones
Other cruciferous vegetables to avoid are:
- Bok Choy
- Brussel Sprouts
Cooking these vegetables reduces their harmful effect. Before eating a small portion, try steaming or blanching them. Also, try adding foods rich in iron, zinc, and calcium.
Gluten is a protein in various grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. Some people have different reactions to gluten. If a person is allergic to gluten, their immune system may start to react to thyroid tissue. When this happens, the immune cells attack and destroy thyroid tissue. Thus, gluten harms the thyroid and causes thyroid inflammation.
Limiting gluten may be beneficial even if you do not have a gluten allergy or sensitivity. It’s also important not to depend on processed gluten-free foods, for they may be low in nutrients. Additionally, they contain many calories, sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. Examples are gluten-free cookies, chips, and other snacks. These foods contain unfortified rice, tapioca, corn, and potato flour.
Soy is a high-quality protein that aids in the control of cholesterol and blood pressure. Moreover, soy products can also reduce the risk of heart problems. However, several thyroid conditions, including hypothyroidism, goiter, and autoimmune thyroid disease, have been linked to soy consumption.
Soy can make it harder for the body to take in radioactive iodine, which is used to treat hyperthyroidism. This also applies to patients with other thyroid problems since soy intake can interfere with thyroid medication absorption. That’s why people with thyroid disease should avoid eating a lot of soy.
Soy sources include:
- Soy milk
- Edamame beans
Dairy products contain the hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor 1. This hormone boosts the production of sex hormones called androgens. As a result of the extra production of androgens, hormonal imbalances occur.
When this happens, you should look out for the following symptoms:
- Hirsutism (excess facial or body hair)
- Alopecia (thinning hair on the head)
- Persistent acne and oily skin
- Obesity around mid-abdomen
- Irregular menstrual periods
Furthermore, lactose intolerance is typical in those who have an overactive thyroid. Lactose intolerance is not being able to digest milk or products with milk. So it’s common to experience indigestion, bloating, and fatigue when consuming the following:
- Ice cream
Milk also causes an increase in insulin, affecting how the thyroid works and how inflammatory markers behave. You can try unsweetened coconut milk and nut cheeses that don’t have dairy.
Caffeine is a natural chemical that makes you feel more alert. It can be found in coffee, energy drinks, cocoa, and cola. Caffeine can intensify hyperthyroidism symptoms by increasing irritability, anxiety, and heart rate.
Caffeine also has an effect on thyroid function when consumed in large quantities. As a result, there is an overproduction of the stress chemical cortisol. This process can cause your body to remain anxious for an extended period of time.
Moreover, caffeine can briefly speed up the metabolism by using more fat. Keep in mind that the thyroid is in charge of keeping the body’s metabolism in check. Since caffeine can speed up the body’s metabolism, your thyroid gland has to work harder to keep your system balanced.
Alcohol is one of the world’s biggest causes of disease and disability. Research says it can directly stop the thyroid from working by damaging cells and killing them. Alcohol consumption has numerous disadvantages, including worsening hyperthyroidism. On top of that, alcohol has a detrimental effect on thyroid gland activity by reducing the body’s ability to utilize thyroid hormones.
Additionally, alcohol can deplete energy and cause sleep problems that come with hyperthyroidism. Alcohol consumption makes it harder for the body to absorb calcium and worsens calcium metabolism. Therefore, alcohol raises the risk of osteoporosis in hyperthyroid patients. Consider restricting or avoiding wine, beer, cocktails, and other alcoholic beverages entirely.
What Food is Good for Hyperthyroidism?
The optimal diet for hyperthyroidism is one high in calories and nutrients. People with hyperthyroidism should try to eat a healthy diet that includes:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Leafy greens
- Foods rich in selenium (brazil nuts, organ meats, eggs)
- Foods rich in zinc (beef, lamb, mushroom, chickpeas)
- Whole grains
- Lean protein sources
- Unsaturated fats
- Unsalted nuts
Even though there’s no “one solution” to treat hyperthyroidism, avoiding these foods can help your treatment work better. Talk to your doctor about making changes to your diet, both short-term and long-term. This can help keep your thyroid balanced and protect you from the harmful effects of hyperthyroidism.
You can enjoy home-cooked, whole foods with low iodine. Avoid eating out, buying boxed meals, and buying processed sauces and marinades. There may be extra iodine in these.
In addition, you can talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements. They could interact with your medications or cause side effects if you use them on your own.
If you think you might have hyperthyroidism, you should go to a credible medical facility right away. Getting checked out, tested, and given the right treatment is crucial.