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8 Foods to Avoid with Hashimoto’s Disease (And What To Eat Instead)

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8 Foods to Avoid with Hashimoto’s Disease (And What To Eat Instead)

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Hashimoto’s disease is a chronic autoimmune condition and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Some common symptoms include tiredness, weight gain, feeling cold, joint and muscle pain, constipation, dry skin, and thinning hair.
  • There’s growing interest in using diet to treat Hashimoto’s disease. Some of the worst foods for Hashimoto’s disease include processed meats, gluten, fast food, alcohol, refined sugars, lactose, and soy.
  • Studies show that anti-inflammatory diets such as the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for treating Hashimoto’s disease.

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition.

This means the body attacks its own healthy cells—in this case, the thyroid gland cells causing hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease include tiredness, weight gain, feeling cold, joint and muscle pain, constipation, dry skin, and thinning hair. 

While Hashimoto’s disease is typically treated with a synthetic thyroid hormone, levothyroxine, there is growing interest in using diet to manage symptoms.

Read on to learn about the worst foods for Hashimoto’s disease, plus which foods to include more of in your diet.

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What is Hashimoto’s Disease?

Hashimoto’s Disease, also known as Hashimoto thyroiditis, is a chronic autoimmune condition where the body attacks and damages the cells of the thyroid gland.

This leads to hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland.

Women are more often affected by Hashimoto’s Disease than men, with 10 women being diagnosed for every one man diagnosed.

Diagnosis typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50.

Treatment involves taking levothyroxine, a synthetic version of thyroxine (one of the hormones produced by the thyroid gland).

Some people also use dietary changes to manage this condition. 

How Diet Affects Hashimoto’s Disease

There are several potential triggers of Hashimoto’s disease, including a sedentary lifestyle, psychological stress, and dietary habits.

In particular, a Western-style diet characterized by processed foods, high-salt, high-fat, high-sugar, and low-fiber intake is thought to increase the risk of Hashimoto’s disease by altering the gut microbiota composition. 

There is mounting evidence of a relationship between the gut and the thyroid gland, known as the thyroid-gut axis.

In this relationship, the gut bacteria significantly influence the immune system and thyroid gland function.

Thyroid diseases are frequently associated with changes in the gut microbiota.

Since diet affects the gut microbiota, it’s thought that diet may play a role in managing Hashimoto's disease.

Nutrition therapy for Hashimoto’s disease is focused on influencing the immune system through an anti-inflammatory diet.

Since people with Hashimoto’s disease often have nutrient deficiencies, these must also be corrected. 

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8 Foods to Avoid With Hashimoto’s Disease

There’s no specific diet plan that studies have proven to treat Hashimoto’s disease.

However, several dietary components may be harmful for people living with the condition.

Read on to learn about the worst foods for Hashimoto’s disease.

1. Processed Meats

A study examining the effects of nutritional habits on Hashimoto’s disease found that a higher intake of animal foods (meat, fish, and dairy) was associated with higher advanced glycation end products (markers of oxidative stress, an imbalance between harmful molecules called free radicals and antioxidants in the body).

The study also found that meat consumption was associated with a higher likelihood of developing thyroid autoimmunity, such as Hashimoto’s disease.

Another study found an association between animal fat and processed meat consumption and Hashimoto’s disease.

It’s thought that the saturated fatty acids in animal foods can cause inflammation, which could worsen symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease.

Overall, it’s best to limit processed meats (bacon, deli meats, hot dogs, sausages, etc.) if you have Hashimoto’s disease, as they can increase inflammation, which could worsen your symptoms.

2. Gluten

Gluten is associated with several autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto’s disease.

This is because we see cross-reactions between gliadin (one of the building blocks of gluten) and thyroid antigens.

Plus, celiac disease is 10 times more frequent in people with Hashimoto’s disease compared to the general population. 

A study of women with Hashimoto’s disease found that women following a gluten-free diet experienced clinical benefits like better thyroid function and increased vitamin D levels compared to women who did not get a dietary treatment. 

When following a gluten-free diet, you will avoid all foods from wheat, barley, and rye products.

Luckily, many gluten-free alternatives exist.

While some people believe that a grain-free diet is better than a gluten-free diet for Hashimoto’s disease, there is limited research to support cutting out all grains.

3. Ultra-Processed Food

Ultra-processed fast food like burgers, fries, and pizza are often high in sodium and calories.

A diet high in ultra-processed foods has been linked to higher levels of inflammation.

Since Hashimoto’s disease has an inflammatory component, eating foods that increase inflammation could make symptoms worse.

In addition, Hashimoto’s disease slows metabolism, which may lead to weight gain.

Since fast food is often higher in calories than food prepared at home, it may contribute to weight gain, especially in people with a slower metabolism.

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4. Eggs

There is a small amount of evidence that eliminating eggs from your diet could improve your quality of life if you have Hashimoto’s disease.

A small study of 28 people looked at the effects of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), a modification of the Paleolithic diet.

This diet eliminates chicken, eggs, dairy products, and cereals.

While the study didn’t find any significant differences in thyroid function after the 12-week study, people following the AIP diet reported feeling better at the end compared to the beginning of the study.

Overall, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support removing eggs from your diet to treat Hashimoto’s disease.

However, you may wish to try removing them for a week or two to see if it affects your overall quality of life.

5. Alcohol

Studies show that alcohol negatively affects thyroid function.

Specifically, it suppresses thyroid function by damaging cells and causes a decrease in thyroid hormones when used chronically. 

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women.

However, they also note that drinking less alcohol is better for health than drinking more. 

When calculating your alcohol intake, keep in mind that one standard drink is equivalent to:

  • 12 ounces of 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer.
  • 5 ounces of 12% ABV wine.
  • 1.5 ounces of 40% ABV spirits.

6. Refined Sugars

Studies show that eating too many added sugars promotes the release of molecules associated with inflammation, leading to low-grade chronic inflammation.

Since Hashimoto’s disease involves inflammation, this could make symptoms worse. 

While it’s okay to enjoy sugar-sweetened foods like cookies, cakes, and ice cream on occasion, be mindful about how they make you feel.

You may find that eating large portions of high-sugar foods worsens your symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease.

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7. Lactose

Lactose intolerance is diagnosed in almost 76% of people with Hashimoto’s disease.

Since lactose intolerance reduces the bioavailability of levothyroxine, the drug used to treat Hashimoto’s disease, eliminating lactose is an important part of the treatment plan. 

If you enjoy eating dairy products, choose lactose-free products like lactose-free milk, lactose-free yogurt, or hard cheeses (which contain very little lactose).

8. Soy

According to some older research, soy, the bean used to make soy milk, tofu, and edamame, may interfere with the absorption of levothyroxine, the drug used to treat Hashimoto’s disease.

However, instead of avoiding soy altogether, you may wish to avoid soy only when you need to take your medication.

Alternative Foods To Eat for Hashimoto’s

An anti-inflammatory diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is recommended for people with Hashimoto’s disease.

Based on current research, the Mediterranean diet shows the most benefit for people with Hashimoto’s disease. 

The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods and healthy fats.

It includes high amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, and olive oil.

It limits red meat, processed foods, and simple sugars. 

In addition to following the principles of the Mediterranean diet, there are also specific nutrients to pay closer attention to if you have Hashimoto’s disease.

They include iron, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

Iron

One of the enzymes involved in thyroid hormone metabolism contains iron, so iron deficiency could worsen symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease and impair thyroid metabolism.

Include iron-rich foods, such as poultry and fish, in your diet.

Consult your healthcare provider before starting iron supplementation. 

Selenium

A selenium deficiency can worsen symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease.

Include foods high in selenium, such as Brazil nuts and mushrooms, in your diet.

Vitamin D

Some studies have found an association between vitamin D deficiency and thyroid autoantibodies (the molecules that attack the healthy thyroid cells in Hashimoto’s disease). 

While more studies are needed to see whether vitamin D supplementation can treat or prevent the progression of Hashimoto’s disease, eating foods rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, could be beneficial.

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Vitamin B12

Pernicious anemia, caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12, frequently coexists with Hashimoto’s disease.

Vitamin B12 is found in animal products, such as poultry and fish.

Try to include moderate amounts of these foods in your diet.

Takeaway

While certain foods are associated with the development of Hashimoto’s disease, there’s no specific diet proven to cure it.

However, following an anti-inflammatory diet like the Mediterranean diet could be beneficial for managing the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease and your overall health.

How a Dietitian Can Help

An autoimmune dietitian is a nutrition expert and licensed health care professional.

They translate scientific evidence into simple strategies you can follow to manage Hashimotos.

Find a dietitian near you to better understand how food can help you achieve your health goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods make Hashimoto’s worse?

Foods that worsen Hashimoto’s disease increase inflammation in the body.

These include processed meats, fast foods, added sugars, and alcohol.

Are eggs OK for Hashimoto’s?

There is some evidence that eliminating eggs as part of an Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet could improve quality of life for people with Hashimoto’s disease.

However, no studies have examined the effects of removing eggs alone on the disease.

If you suspect eggs worsen your symptoms, try eliminating them for a week or two.

If you don’t feel any better, add eggs back to your diet.

Is cheese OK for Hashimoto’s?

Many people with Hashimoto’s disease have lactose intolerance.

Cheese contains relatively little lactose compared to milk and yogurt.

Test your individual tolerance by trying a small amount of hard cheese, like cheddar.

You can include cheese in your diet if you don’t notice any digestive problems.

References

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