Diet and Hypothyroidism

When you are living with hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), figuring out what to eat can be a confusing process. This is especially true if you are trying to lose weight or are battling the symptoms of hypothyroidism, like bloating or fatigue.

The foods you eat can play an important role in managing the disease.

This article offers tips to improve your diet and help ease hypothyroidism symptoms.

how to ease hypothyroidism symptoms with diet

Verywell / Ellen Lindner

Protecting Thyroid Function

Goitrogens are substances found in foods that may interfere with thyroid hormone production. It affects many people with iodine deficiency worldwide but is rare in the United States.

Goitrogen-containing foods, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, release a compound called goitrin when they are hydrolyzed (broken down chemically). However, when heated, this compound is typically eliminated. Talk with a healthcare provider about the specific servings of goitrogenic foods that are best for you.

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7 Essential Facts About Goitrogens and Diet

What About Soy?

Soy is another goitrogenic food. Numerous studies have shown that soy doesn't cause hypothyroidism in people with adequate iodine stores. However, soy supplements are not recommended, as they can disrupt thyroid function.

Review your soy consumption with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to determine if your intake is too high.

Changing Your Eating Habits

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating, but strict calorie counting or macronutrient counting is usually not recommended. This can often lead to disordered eating and an inability to understand hunger cues. In addition, drastic weight loss can result in muscle loss and a slower metabolism.

Making small, sustainable changes can help you stick to a new way of eating for good. When you consume nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, you will feel satisfied without depriving yourself.

Break Down Your Plate

Focus on your plate, and include fat, fiber, and protein at each meal. Fill 50% of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, 25% with lean protein, and 25% with starches from foods such as whole grains or legumes, which include nuts, beans, and seeds.

Choose Fiber-Rich Foods

A meal plan rich in fiber is associated with a reduced risk of constipation (commonly found in people with hypothyroidism), heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, while improving weight loss. Fiber is found in plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Drink Plenty of Water

When you increase your fiber intake, you'll need to increase your water intake as well. This helps to prevent bloating and gas and regulates your bowels. Fluid needs vary based on gender, age, weight, and activity level. General guidelines suggest that adults consume 9–13 cups of water daily.

Focus on Healthy Fats

Eating healthy fats has many benefits, such as increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (considered the “good” cholesterol), absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, and reducing inflammation. Aim to add healthy fats to your meals and snacks to satisfy hunger, boost flavor, and improve mood. Healthy fats include:

  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Nuts (pistachios, walnuts, almonds)
  • Seeds (flax, hemp, chia)
  • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)

Consume Enough Protein

Protein is an important nutrient for building and repairing tissue, improving enzyme and hormone production, and developing muscle, bones, skin, blood, and cartilage. It also takes a while to digest, which can make you feel full longer. Some studies suggest that eating more protein can lead to weight loss by preserving muscle mass and preventing metabolic slowdown.

Choose protein sources low in saturated fat, including white-meat chicken, eggs, turkey, fish, beans, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Be sure to include protein sources in meals and snacks.

Supplements

Discuss your supplement intake with your healthcare provider since certain supplements can affect thyroid function and may interact with thyroid medication by reducing absorption.

Managing Symptoms

In addition to losing or maintaining weight, eating nutritiously can also help reduce various symptoms of hypothyroidism, including the following.

Bloating

Bloating is a common symptom in people with an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism can cause as much as a 5- to 10-pound weight gain from excess water alone. Some of that water weight gain may be in the face, causing puffiness around the eyes, fluid retention, and swelling in the hands, feet, and abdomen.

Identify triggers that can cause bloating. Foods high in sodium, such as hot dogs, pizza, certain types of bread, soups, and processed foods, can worsen fluid retention.

Increasing your fiber intake too quickly or without consuming enough water can cause bloating and gas. Research suggests that following a low-FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet may ease bloating.This diet is not specific to hypothyroidism but can be helpful to people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

The low-FODMAP diet, which reduces certain carbohydrates, is not meant for all. Consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for more information.

Constipation

Unlike bloating, consuming fiber, like beans, whole grains, and apples, can relieve constipation. Drinking adequate amounts of water also helps you maintain healthy bowel function.

Talk with your healthcare provider if your dietary changes do not help your constipation.

Fatigue

Some people with thyroid disease still note fatigue despite regulating their thyroid hormone levels. In this case, your healthcare provider may want to rule out other health conditions that may cause fatigue, such as anemia (lack of healthy red blood cells) or depression. Regular exercise, a consistent bedtime routine, and reducing sugary foods from your diet can help fight fatigue.

Proper Nutrition

Since nutritional deficiencies may worsen symptoms of thyroid disease, ensuring adequate vitamin and mineral levels is important. 

Iodine

Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of thyroid dysfunction worldwide. Getting iodine from small amounts of iodized salt, seawater fish, sea vegetables (seaweed), dairy, eggs, and grains may aid in thyroid health by preventing a deficiency.

It's important to not supplement with iodine without caution as this can cause symptoms to flare. Discuss with your healthcare provider your need to increase your intake of certain foods or use supplementation.

Vitamin D

Besides sunlight exposure, you can get vitamin D from foods like oily fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cereals. Vitamin D maintains strong bones, and research suggests it plays a role in immune system health. Some studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency is linked to thyroid dysfunction.

Vitamin B12

Research suggests that about one-third of people with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis are deficient in vitamin B12, which is found in fish, meat, dairy products, fortified cereals, and nutritional yeast. Vitamin B12 is critical for producing red blood cells and neurological function. 

Selenium

Selenium is a mineral found in foods like Brazil nuts, tuna, lobster, halibut, and grass-fed beef. Early research suggests that selenium supplementation can improve the mood or well-being of those with Hashimoto's thyroiditis. However, it is more pronounced in people with deficiency or low levels at the onset. Too much selenium is associated with gastrointestinal disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Therefore, have your selenium levels checked before starting supplementation.

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7 Quick Nutrition Tips for Thyroid Wellness

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which foods make thyroid problems worse?

    Soy has been linked to an increased risk of hypothyroidism. While some research has raised questions about whether that’s true, you may want to be cautious. Also, eat raw cruciferous vegetables in moderation because certain types interfere with how iodine is used within the body.

  • Can I lose weight with hypothyroidism?

    Hypothyroidism is associated with weight gain, but it's possible to lose weight despite having this condition. Weight gain related to hypothyroidism is often due to salt and water retention. The proper thyroid medication dosage should enable you to lose that extra water weight. Focus on eating more plants, reducing your intake of sugar and saturated fat, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep.

  • Are there foods that can heal my thyroid?

    While food won’t reverse an autoimmune disease or a thyroid injury, increasing key nutrient contents in your diet may help regulate thyroid function and hormone levels. Selenium, specifically, is important for a healthy thyroid. Brazil nuts, seafood, and organ meats are the best sources of selenium.

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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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Additional Reading

By Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN
Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.

Originally written by
Mary Shomon
Mary Shomon
Mary Shomon is a writer and hormonal health and thyroid advocate. She is the author of "The Thyroid Diet Revolution."
Learn about our editorial process