The Best Diet for People with Graves’ Disease

Medically reviewed by Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C on January 25, 2018Written by Corey Whelan on January 25, 2018

The foods you eat can’t cure you of Graves’ disease, but they can provide antioxidants and nutrients that may help alleviate symptoms or reduce flares.

Graves’ disease causes the thyroid gland to produce too much thyroid hormone, which can result in hyperthyroidism. Certain symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism include:

  • extreme weight loss, despite eating normally
  • brittle bones and osteoporosis

Diet plays a big factor in managing Graves’ disease. Some foods may exacerbate Graves’ disease symptoms. Food sensitivities or allergies may negatively impact the immune system, causing disease flares in some people. For this reason, it’s important to try to identify the foods you might be allergic to. Avoiding these foods may lessen symptoms.

Foods to avoid

Talk to your doctor or to a dietitian to help determine which foods you should avoid. You might also keep a food diary to track which foods aggravate your symptoms and which foods don’t. Some types of food to consider eliminating include:

Gluten

There is a of Celiac disease in people who have thyroid disease than there is in the general population. This may be due, in part, to a genetic link. Foods containing gluten for people with autoimmune thyroid diseases, including Graves’ disease. Many foods and drinks contain gluten. It’s important to read labels and to look for gluten-containing ingredients. These include:

  • wheat and wheat products
  • rye
  • barley
  • malt
  • triticale
  • brewer’s yeast
  • grains of all kinds such as spelt, kamut, farro, and durum

Dietary iodine

There is that excessive iodine intake might trigger hyperthyroidism in older adults or people who have a preexisting thyroid disease. Iodine is a micronutrient that is necessary for good health, so taking in the right amount is important. Discuss how much iodine you need with your doctor.

Iodine-fortified foods include:

  • salt
  • bread
  • dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt

Foods which are naturally high in iodine include:

  • seafood, especially white fish, such as haddock, and cod
  • seaweed, and other sea vegetables, such as kelp

Avoiding meat and other animal products

One found evidence that vegetarians had lower rates of hyperthyroidism than those who followed a non-vegetarian diet. The study found the greatest benefit in people who avoided all animal products, including meat, chicken, pork, and fish.

Foods to eat

Foods containing specific nutrients can help reduce some of the symptoms associated with Graves’ disease. These include:

Calcium-rich foods

Hyperthyroidism can make it difficult for your body to absorb calcium. This can cause brittle bones and osteoporosis. Eating a diet high in calcium may help, although some dairy products are fortified with iodine and may not be as beneficial for you as others.

Since you need some iodine in your diet, it’s important to talk to your doctor or dietitian about which dairy products you should eat, and which you should avoid. Other types of food that contain calcium include:

  • broccoli
  • almonds
  • kale
  • sardines
  • okra

Foods high in vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from food more readily. Most vitamin D is made in the skin through the absorption of sunlight. Dietary sources include:

  • sardines
  • cod liver oil
  • salmon
  • tuna
  • mushrooms

Foods high in magnesium

If your body doesn’t have enough magnesium, it can affect its ability to absorb calcium. A magnesium deficiency may also associated with Graves’ disease. Foods high in this mineral include:

  • avocados
  • dark chocolate
  • almonds
  • brazil nuts
  • cashews
  • legumes
  • pumpkin seeds

Foods containing selenium

A deficiency in selenium is thyroid eye disease in people with Graves’ disease. This can cause bulging eyeballs and double vision. Selenium is an antioxidant and a mineral. It can be found in:

  • mushrooms
  • brown rice
  • brazil nuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • sardines

The takeaway

Graves’ disease is a leading cause of hyperthyroidism. While it cannot be cured through diet, its symptoms can be reduced or alleviated in some people. Learning if you have any food sensitivities or allergies will help you determine what you should and shouldn’t eat.

There are also specific nutrients your body needs to reduce disease flares and symptoms. Talking to your doctor or a dietitian and keeping a food diary can help you determine what to eat and what to avoid.

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