What foods flare up Hashimotos?
How I’m Using Diet for My Hashimoto’s Flare
Just a few short years ago when my life was defined by cold hands and feet, heart palpitations, massive hair loss, unexplained weight gain, anxiety, chronic exhaustion, terrible sleep quality, and so much more.
I went to my doctor NUMEROUS times with complaints that my thyroid medication must have been off (I was on Levothyroxine at the time), he would simply just do his condescending doctor thing and tell me that medication matched my thyroid hormone levels and that was all that could be done.
“There’s nothing else?” I would ask.
“No. Your medication is at the right level for your hypothyroidism. These symptoms are just all in your head. There’s nothing else we can do, I’m sorry”, he would reply.
Talk about frustrating and defeating. I felt miserable, knowing in my heart that I wasn’t well, but being told there was nothing I could do. I was in my early 30’s for goodness sake! What the heck was it going to be like when I got old?
I continued living like this for years. Along the way, I learned a bit that diet might be able to make me feel better, but still wasn’t quite ready to commit completely to anything too drastic.
Until it got so bad that I knew it would be the only way to have the quality of life I deserved.
You Can Put Hashimoto’s into Remission
When I learned that it wasn’t “hypothyroidism” and that it was indeed an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis that was causing me issues. But the most astounding thing I learned?
I could put it in remission.
Even better? You can put it into remission using DIET. Not pills, not surgery, and when I say diet, I mean a delicious, filling, non-deprivation kind of diet. More like “eating style” rather than the traditional weight-loss kind of diet where everyone starves themselves.
My mind was blown, and with a renewed fervor I tackled using the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol diet and working with a functional medicine practitioner to get both my newly diagnosed Celiac Disease and Hashimoto’s into remission.
After that life was great! I felt FANTASTIC! I could play with my kids nonstop! Climb mountains! Sleep all night without waking up! Paint my nails because they were strong enough to last more than a week! I even started this blog to share my experience with the world. Things seriously couldn’t be better.
Then life happened.
Hashimoto’s flares are flare-ups of symptoms that you had previous to putting the disease into remission. They range all over the place – I even wrote a post about how to deal with a flare-up because it can be downright scary.
I’ve had several of these since I first put my Hashimoto’s into remission.
I’m always gluten-free because of my Celiac Disease, but when I get inadvertently “glutened” I notice I get flares shortly after. Not surprising at all since the Hashimoto’s and gluten link is so strong, so I usually go on a 1 to 2-month Autoimmune Paleo Protocol diet just to quickly get my immune system back into shape and stamp that out quickly. It’s only happened 3 times since I got diagnosed – and mainly in the beginning when I wasn’t as sure what to look out for (soy sauce, for example, contains gluten).
Other times I get flares because I’ve been experiencing a lot of stress. Usually just working on self-care and making sure to really tamp down the stress-levels helps get rid of those flares.
The last kind of flares I get seem to be from diet slippage. I typically eat a Paleo diet, which helps keep any bodily inflammation under control, but sometimes I branch out into eating gluten-free grains, dairy, beans, and sugary things (even things that contain natural sugars like honey and maple syrup). It’s not necessarily one or two times that does anything bad for me, but more when I eat these things on a more regular basis and they become a part of my everyday life.
My Latest Hashimoto’s Flare
I’ve been kind of lax on both the diet AND the stress-level fronts lately, so it’s really not a surprise that I’ve been experiencing Hashimoto’s flare symptoms lately.
My 1-year-old puppy has had some major medical issues and so I’ve been playing nursemaid to him, along with dealing with the stress of the bills piling up from his surgeries and hospitalizations. Plus I’ve JUST. NOT. CARED. about what I’ve been eating. Probably because of puppy, since we have a limited amount of willpower and all my energy has been used up with him, but corn tortillas, oatmeal, ice cream, cheese, and lots of Paleo muffins, waffles, pancakes, desserts, and chocolate… Lots of chocolate (even peanut m&m’s) – all have found their way to my plate on a regular basis lately.
These things aren’t necessarily BAD, but they’re bad for ME.
The sugar dragon has reared his ugly head and his fire comes out in a slew of Hashimoto’s symptoms.
So… I’m going on a Whole30 diet to clean it all up and get my Hashimoto’s back under control.
Here’s the vlog I did about all the symptoms I’m experiencing and using Whole30 to get the symptoms under control:
What is Whole30?
The Whole30 is a strict Paleo template that removes the usual Paleo suspects of grains, gluten, dairy, beans, refined sugars, and weird ingredients like carageenan, etc, but it goes a few steps further and also removes ALL sugars (even honey and maple syrup) as well as alcohol. It limits dried fruits and encourages you to only eat fruit with fats and protein (like as part of a meal), discourages snacking just to snack, mindless eating, and other bad habits. It ALSO prohibits the consumption of treats – so no Whole30 waffles, baked goods, muffins, pancakes, pizza, cereal, store-bought chips, or ice cream. You can read all of the Whole30 Program “rules” here.
The idea is to redefine and understand your relationship with food. Do you really need that Paleo muffin? Maybe… maybe not. Even if you want it, maybe you need to understand why. Are you used to eating a baked good at 10 am every day? Or it is just freakin delicious and this is the only one you’re eating this month. It makes a difference.
So this 30-day reset is important to me to get off the blood sugar rollercoaster and feel like I’m back in control of my well-being.
Why Whole30 and not AIP?
I actually did an entire video on this as well (skip to 3:24 in the video if you don’t want to see what I got from Thrive Market)
[arve url=”https://youtu.be/LYdAwXx2bmQ” title=”Whole30 vs AIP for Hashimoto’s | My Feb Thrive Market Haul” description=”I have 2 autoimmune diseases – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Celiac Disease. I control these diseases (and have put them in remission), using diet, but sometimes I get flare-ups of my symptoms. Come see how I’m using a Whole30 to get this latest flare under control.” upload_date=”2018-02-26″ thumbnail=”5537″ /]
The basic gist, if you don’t feel like watching the video, is this:
- I used Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) to originally put my Hashimoto’s into remission
- it’s pretty strict though, and removes a lot more foods than Whole30
- so I’m doing a Whole30 first to see if it helps put my Hashi’s back into remission
- if not, I’ll go to AIP
I think it really comes down to how desperate you are to feel better. I’m not feeling that bad, so I think 30 days of cleaning up my diet should help. However, Whole30 would NOT have helped me enough back in 2014 when I was really suffering. It may have helped (and I had actually done a few where they did help to an extent), but it wouldn’t have been enough to put me over the edge to FANTASTIC-ville. AIP was what I really needed to get there. (And I did strict AIP for 6 months to get there)
My Whole30 Experience
- Whole30 Prep – How I’m Meal Planning and Getting Ready
- My Whole30 Experience Week 1
- What I Eat in A Day on Whole30 Week 2
- Whole30 Daily Meals and Experience Week 3
- Vacation on Whole30 – My Whole30 Experience Week 4
- Whole30 Results – Recap
9 Foods to Avoid if You’re Diagnosed With Hypothyroidism
What you eat can affect your thyroid gland as well as your body’s ability to use thyroid hormone. Learn which foods to avoid when managing hypothyroidism.
By Dennis Thompson Jr Medically Reviewed by Kacy Church, MD
Reviewed: January 30, 2020
Certain foods like fatty meat and cruciferous veggies may interfere with the production of thyroid hormone.
Hypothyroidism can be a tricky condition to manage, and what you eat can interfere with your treatment. Some nutrients heavily influence the function of the thyroid gland, and certain foods can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb the replacement hormones you may take as part of your thyroid treatment. Having a thyroid condition is no picnic, but you’re not alone with this health issue. According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of the population may end up dealing with a thyroid condition at some point in their lives. And thyroid issues can be sneaky: Of the nearly 20 million Americans living with the disease, as many as 60 percent don’t even realize they have it. As with many health conditions, some factors are out of your control, including your family history and the environment around you. But diet also plays a prominent role — and since you’re the one in charge of your plate, you can decide which thyroid-friendly foods to choose. Some items on this list may strike you as odd, like fiber and coffee, because for many other diets they’re considered ‘healthy’ or ‘safe’ picks. You can still enjoy these foods groups, but moderating your intake is a good idea when managing hypothyroidism. But many of the others to watch out for already fall into the no-no category as part of a smart diet, so skipping them, or at least cutting way back, is definitely a no-brainer. These include fried fast-food meals, salty processed foods, sugary treats, such as pastry, cake, cookies, and ice cream, and excessive alcohol. So while there’s no such thing as a «hypothyroidism diet» that will make you well, eating smart can help you feel better despite the condition. Here are nine foods to limit or avoid as you manage hypothyroidism:
Foods With Soy, Including Edamame, Tofu, and Miso
There’s long been concern over the potential negative effects that certain compounds in soy — called isoflavones — may have on the thyroid. Some researchers believe that too much soy may increase a person’s risk for hypothyroidism. A study published in March 2019 in Scientific Reports, however, found that soy has no effect on thyroid hormones and very modestly raises thyroid stimulating hormone levels. So there are no specific dietary guidelines, but some research does suggest that consumption of soy may interfere with your ability to absorb thyroid medication. For that reason, you may want to wait four hours after eating soy-based foods before taking your regular dose. Check with your doctor to see what’s best for you.
Cruciferous Vegetables Like Broccoli and Cauliflower
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, are full of fiber and other nutrients, but they may interfere with the production of thyroid hormone if you have an iodine deficiency. So if you do, it’s a good idea to limit your intake of Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and bok choy, because research suggests digesting these vegetables may block the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, you would need to consume a significant amount of cruciferous vegetables for it to truly impact iodine uptake. If you have been diagnosed with both hypothyroidism and iodine deficiency, there are some things you can do to make these vegetables less harmful. Cooking them can reduce the effect that cruciferous vegetables have on the thyroid gland, and limiting your intake of these (cooked) vegetables to 5 ounces a day may help as well, since that amount appears to have no adverse effect on thyroid function.
Gluten, Found in Bread and Pasta
Those with hypothyroidism may want to consider minimizing their intake of gluten, a protein found in foods processed from wheat, barley, rye, and other grains, says Ruth Frechman, RDN, a dietitian in the Los Angeles area and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, gluten can irritate the small intestine and may hamper absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medication. An article published in May 2017 in the journal Endocrine Connections noted that hypothyroidism and celiac disease are often present together, and while no research has demonstrated that a gluten-free diet can treat thyroid conditions, you may still want to talk to a doctor about whether it would be worth eliminating gluten, or getting tested for celiac disease. A study published in July 2019 in Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes found that a gluten-free diet may have clinical benefits for women with thyroid disease. If you do choose to eat gluten, be sure to choose whole-grain varieties of bread and pasta, which are high in fiber and other nutrients and can help improve bowel irregularity, a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Also be sure to take your hypothyroidism medication several hours before or after eating high-fiber foods, to prevent them from interfering with the absorption of your synthetic thyroid hormone.
Fatty Foods Such as Butter, Meat, and All Things Fried
Fats have been found to disrupt the body’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement medicines, says Stephanie Lee, MD, PhD, associate chief of endocrinology, nutrition, and diabetes at Boston Medical Center and an associate professor at the Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts. Fats may also interfere with the thyroid’s ability to produce hormone as well. Some healthcare professionals recommend that you cut out all fried foods and reduce your intake of fats from sources such as butter, mayonnaise, margarine, and fatty cuts of meat.
Sugary Foods Like This Delicious Chocolate Cake
Hypothyroidism can cause the body’s metabolism to slow down, Frechman says. That means it’s easy to put on pounds if you aren’t careful. «You want to avoid foods with excess amounts of sugar because it’s a lot of calories with no nutrients,» she says. It’s best to reduce the amount of sugar you eat or try to eliminate it completely from your diet.
Processed Foods in Packages and the Frozen Aisle
«Processed foods tend to have a lot of sodium, and people with hypothyroidism should avoid sodium,» Frechman says. Having an underactive thyroid increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure, and too much sodium further increases this risk. Read the «Nutrition Facts» label on the packaging of processed foods to find options lowest in sodium. People with an increased risk for high blood pressure should restrict their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day, according to the American Heart Association.
Excess Fiber From Beans, Legumes, and Vegetables
Getting enough fiber is good for you, but too much can complicate your hypothyroidism treatment. The government’s Daily Guidelines for Americans currently recommends that adults up to age 50 should take in 25 to 38 grams of fiber a day. Amounts of dietary fiber from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes that go above that level affect your digestive system and can interfere with absorption of thyroid hormone replacement drugs. If you’re on a high-fiber diet, ask your doctor if you need a higher dose of thyroid medication. Your maintenance dose may need to be increased if you aren’t absorbing enough medication.
Coffee: Time Your First Cup Carefully in the Morning
Per a study in the journal Thyroid, caffeine has been found to block absorption of thyroid hormone replacement. «People who were taking their thyroid medication with their morning coffee had uncontrollable thyroid levels, and we couldn’t figure it out,» says Dr. Lee. «I now have to be very careful to tell people, ‘Only take your medication with water.'» You should wait at least 30 minutes after taking your medication before having a cup of joe.
Alcohol Doesn’t Play Well With Your Thyroid
Alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on both thyroid hormone levels in the body and the ability of the thyroid to produce hormone, according to a study in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. Alcohol appears to have a toxic effect on the thyroid gland and suppresses the ability of the body to use thyroid hormone. Ideally, people with hypothyroidism should cut out alcohol completely or drink in careful moderation. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that rice contains gluten. It does not. Everyday Health regrets the error.
What to Eat When You Have Hashimoto’s Disease
Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.
Published on June 22, 2021
Ana Maria Kausel, MD, is a double board-certified endocrinologist affiliated with Mount Sinai St. Luke’s/Mount Sinai West in New York City.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism. Researchers have started to link the foods we eat to the cause of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s and how to treat them. There isn’t a specific diet that can help prevent or treat Hashimoto’s disease specifically, but there are a number of changes you can make to your diet that can help you manage your condition.
In Hashimoto’s disease, your body makes antibodies to your thyroid hormones and attacks them. This impairs your thyroid’s ability to produce hormones, leading to a gradual decline in function and eventually an underactive thyroid.
Most commonly, treatment for Hashimoto’s disease involves replenishing hormones with the medication levothyroxine. If diagnosed with a thyroid disease that lowers your natural hormone levels, you will need to take replacement medication for the rest of your life.
What you eat and how you eat it can have a big impact on the success of your Hashimoto’s disease treatment plan. Dietary changes can potentially improve the overall quality of life for people living with Hashimoto’s disease.
Numerous studies have investigated the benefits of diet for autoimmune diseases. The focus is usually on eating or avoiding foods that can contribute to inflammation. When there is inflammation in your body, more antibodies are produced, leading to increased autoimmune disease activity. There may also be specific foods that uniquely aggravate your condition.
While existing evidence shows promise, more research that shows these benefits is needed.
How It Works
The general idea of diets for Hashimoto’s disease focuses on reducing inflammation in the body. It’s also important to remember that a diet alone cannot prevent or cure thyroid disease.
Hashimoto’s disease is a lifelong condition that will require continuous medication. Likewise, any changes you make to your diet that help your condition should be permanent. If you adopt dietary changes that improve your condition, you should expect those benefits will stop when you stray from that diet.
What to Eat
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Starchy vegetables
- Healthy fats
- Animal protein (in moderation)
- Gluten-free grains
- Seeds, nuts, and nut butters
- Beans and lentils
- Dairy and nondairy substitutions
- Herbs and spices
- Unsweetened beverages
- Foods with added sugar
- Fried foods
- Fast food
- Refined grains
- Highly processed meats
- Processed or frozen foods
- Gluten-containing foods
You might find that some of the foods on the compliant list may aggravate your condition if you eat too much or too little of them. For example, studies have shown that people who eat a lot of meat, are obese, or consume fewer fruits and vegetables have higher rates of Hashimoto’s disease.
Additionally, autoimmune diseases are notoriously individualized, so what works for someone else with Hashimoto’s disease may help you, but it might not.
Iodine and Hashimoto’s Disease
The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral in some foods, to make thyroid hormones. However, people with Hashimoto’s disease or other types of autoimmune thyroid disorders may be sensitive to the harmful side effects of iodine. Eating foods that have large amounts of iodine, such as kelp, dulse, or other kinds of seaweed, or taking iodine supplements may cause hypothyroidism or make it worse.
There is some evidence that fasting might contribute to increased levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). While this may sound like a good thing, elevated TSH levels actually indicate low levels of thyroid hormones.
Generally, a whole-food strategy may benefit people with Hashimoto’s disease. Foods high in certain fats, fried foods, and processed foods are all known to aggravate autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s. Using cooking strategies that focus on starting from scratch or whole-food principles may be beneficial.
If you have chosen to follow a diet that focuses on limiting certain foods—like gluten or soy—or increasing others, keep in mind that these dietary changes won’t completely cure your condition. Additionally, gluten-free foods can be costly or full of added sugar. Vegetarian or vegan diets, on the other hand, could require you to substitute or supplement some aspects of your nutrition.
You may also need to consider the other members of your household, and the burden of eating prepared foods or food in restaurants. It can be difficult to follow very restrictive diets, especially when the ingredient you are trying to avoid—like soy—can be hidden in so many common foods.
If your family or household members don’t follow the same diet as you, it can also make maintaining a special eating plan more difficult or costly. Be sure you discuss your diet plans with your healthcare provider to learn about any supplements you may need to take, and try to establish a good support system that can help you along your journey. Support groups may be able to help you find recipes or cost-saving tips for your new lifestyle.
Hashimoto’s vs. Other Diets
While there isn’t necessarily a formal Hashimoto’s diet, recommendations for dietary changes to make to support hypothyroidism are common to a few other diets.
Gluten-Free or Grain-Free Diets
Diets that are low in or avoid gluten altogether may be helpful in managing thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s. However, these diets can be difficult and costly to follow, and packaged gluten-free foods often have other added ingredients like sugar. Also, the sample size in studies that looked into these gluten-free or grain-free diets for Hashimoto’s is not large enough to support this claim fully.
Anti-inflammatory diets have been found to help reduce inflammation in the body and provide relief for a number of autoimmune diseases. While there are certain foods that can have an inflammatory impact on your body, finding out the best foods to consume and avoid may include elimination dieting or a lot of trial and error.
Autoimmune Protocol Diet
The autoimmune protocol diet is a diet that aligns closely with an anti-inflammatory diet. Certain foods are incorporated or avoided to help reduce autoimmune activity in the body that triggers dysfunction of your thyroid gland. Like autoimmune diets, these diets may require a lot of trial and error, and specific food requirements may vary from person to person.
Dairy, or rather a sugar found in dairy products, called lactose, has been found to increase TSH levels. Choosing a dairy-free diet, even if you make no other changes, may help improve your symptoms.
Should I Say No to Kale?
Cruciferous vegetables have a bad rep when it comes to thyroid disease. Vegetables that fall into this category include broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale. The effect that these vegetables can have on your thyroid function is limited. Consuming a lot of these foods is not recommended, but eating them in moderation should not be a problem.
A Word From Verywell
There are a lot of foods that can help support or hinder good thyroid function. Even though specific diets are said to help with Hashimoto’s, how well any of these diets actually work depends on the individual, and more research is needed to support their benefits. Some dietary changes that are restrictive or expensive can be difficult to follow, and you may have to consider whether the rest of your household can adopt the same changes. If you are considering making big changes to your diet, ask your healthcare provider for suggestions that take into account your overall health.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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- Oregon State University. Cruciferous vegetables.
By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.