Diet Tips for Better Managing Graves' Disease

Assorted healthy food
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Graves' disease is a form of hyperthyroidism, which means that the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormone than what your body needs. There are other forms of hyperthyroidism but Graves' disease is the most common, at least in the United States.

Since thyroid hormones affect your metabolism, weight, heart disease risk, and cholesterol levels, eating a proper diet may be an important part of your treatment plan. Speak with your doctor and a registered dietitian before making any major dietary changes or taking any dietary supplements.

A Healthy Balanced Diet

Unless you have some specific allergy or dietary issues, you don't need to avoid any groups of foods. A healthy balanced diet should consist of the following:

  • Several servings of fruits and vegetables will help to ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and fiber. In addition, eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables has been linked with better health in general.
  • Protein sources such as lean meat, pork, poultry, legumes, nuts, fish, and seafood are essential for building and maintaining muscles. Avoid heavily battered and deep-fried foods and go with stir-fried, baked, broiled, or sautéed meats, poultry, and seafood.
  • Calcium sources are essential for maintaining strong bones. Dairy products such as milk and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium, but fortified foods, nuts, and dark green veggies are also good sources of calcium.
  • Healthy fats are important for heart and overall health. Choose olive oil for salad dressings or to top your veggies. Canola oil is a suitable cooking oil and cold water ocean fish such as salmon and tuna are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Whole grains add fiber and vitamins to your daily diet. Oatmeal, whole grain bread, and pasta are all great ways to add whole grains.

    Watching Your Weight

    One of the possible symptoms of Graves' disease is unexpected weight loss due to increased metabolic rate. Before you were diagnosed you may have felt you were getting too thin. Your weight may change again as you undergo treatment, so it's best to speak with your doctor or a dietitian who works with thyroid problems about your daily calorie goals.

    If you need to gain weight, the best way to go about it is to add more calories from healthy food sources. Add an extra serving of starchy vegetables or whole grain bread to an already healthy meal rather than choosing pizza and ice cream sundaes.

    Common Questions About Diet and Graves' Disease

    Do I need to take dietary supplements?

    A simple daily multivitamin is one way to ensure you get enough nutrients to support your overall health, but don't take any large doses of any dietary supplements unless your doctor says it's okay.

    Do I need to avoid iodine?

    Iodine is essential for thyroid function, but taking large amounts of iodine as a supplement or eating kelp or foods that contain kelp may interfere with your thyroid function or medications. A balanced diet should give you all the iodine you need.

    Your doctor may prescribe a temporary low-iodine diet if you're going to undergo radioactive iodine therapy. In that case, you'll have to avoid iodized salt, grains, cereals, some bread, ocean fish, shellfish, beef, poultry, milk, and dairy products until your doctor says you can go back to a regular diet.

    Should I avoid soy and cruciferous vegetables?

    Soy and broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and other cruciferous veggies can decrease your thyroid's uptake of iodine when eaten in very large amounts. They won't cause any type of thyroid damage but they can interfere with medications used to treat hypothyroid conditions. You don't need to avoid eating these healthy foods but eating lots of them won't 'fix' your hyperthyroid issue.

    Is coffee okay?

    If Graves' disease is causing you to feel irritable and anxious, it may be a good idea to avoid coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages. Caffeine doesn't hurt your thyroid but it can aggravate those symptoms.

    A Word From Verywell

    Although there are no foods you can eat or avoid that will cure your thyroid problem, eating a healthy diet is an important part of your treatment plan for Graves' disease. Do your best to follow a balanced meal plan and take in all of the nutrients your body needs.

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    Article Sources
    • American Thyroid Association. "Low Iodine Diet."
    • Mussig K, Thamer C, Bares R, Lipp HP, Haring HU, Gallwitz B. "Iodine-Induced Thyrotoxicosis After Ingestion of Kelp-Containing Tea." J Gen Intern Med. 2006 Jun;21(6):C11-4.
    • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Graves' Disease."