If you’ve been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism, you may have heard that what you eat could affect your condition, or that certain foods or supplements could interact with your medications. Although there is no specific “thyroid diet,” there are some things people with hypothyroidism should know.
Yes, it is true that food, especially soy, coffee, nuts, and high fiber foods, can reduce the body’s ability to absorb thyroid replacement medications. But here’s the good news: Eating your meals according to your medication schedule can help avoid potential problems.
Space out medications and foods for the thyroid
Unlike some medications which must be taken with meals, thyroid hormone pills should not be taken with food or supplements.
First, take the drug on an empty stomach and, if possible, wait at least an hour before eating. Foods high in iron, fiber, or calcium, such as calcium-fortified juices, red meats, liver, lentils, or broccoli, can reduce the body’s absorption of these drugs. If you choose to eat these foods, it is advisable to wait even longer, at least two hours after taking your thyroid medication.
Then, wait several hours after taking your medicine before taking calcium or iron supplements.
What about thyroid pills and other medications?
Thyroid medications are better absorbed in an acidic environment, which means they don’t combine well with antacids. It is therefore important to wait several hours after taking a thyroid medication before taking an antacid containing aluminum, magnesium or calcium.
You should also allow several hours to pass between taking thyroid pills and certain ulcer medications or cholesterol-lowering medications. Certain antibiotics, for example, may increase or decrease the absorption of your thyroid medication.
Eat well for your thyroid
There is no evidence that any particular diet improves thyroid function in people with hypothyroidism. That said, it’s still important to watch what you eat. Be sure to follow a healthy diet that emphasizes fiber and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, nuts and complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins. Choose foods with unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, fatty fish, and seeds. In the meantime, limit your intake of processed foods and foods high in salt, sugar and unhealthy saturated fats.
Cauliflower and soy are not the enemy
Despite what you may have heard, you don’t need to stay strictly away from soy, just avoid eating it too soon before or after taking your thyroid replacement medication. Eating large amounts of soy could reduce thyroid hormone production as it has antithyroid effects. (Iodine deficiency worsens these effects while iodine supplementation helps offset them). But it is important to understand that people who are not iodine deficient will not develop hypothyroidism from eating soy. Soy consumption is primarily a problem in babies with congenital hypothyroidism who are fed soy-based formulas.
You may also think you should avoid biotin, a substance found in some supplements as well as some hair and nail products. Biotin doesn’t actually change thyroid hormone levels, but it can make measurements inaccurate. That’s why it’s a good idea to stop taking it at least a week before your thyroid blood test if you take more than 5,000 micrograms (mcg) of biotin per day.
It is commonly believed that cruciferous vegetables are also bad for the thyroid. However, for most people treated appropriately for hypothyroidism, there is no need to avoid eating these foods, which include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. . In animals fed very large amounts of cruciferous vegetables, hypothyroidism may develop. But in studies involving humans, a similar effect was only detected in people with iodine deficiency.
So what about iodine?
It’s true: iodine deficiency can devastate thyroid function. It may spur you to be proactive about your health and try a supplement, but chances are your diet is enough to provide you with all the iodine you need. But remember that sea salt only contains a small amount of iodine. If you prefer to use sea salt in your cooking, you don’t have to give it up completely, but you can also include regular iodized table salt in your diet.
Taking iodine supplements, meanwhile, could be not only unnecessary but also risky, doing more harm than good. Most people think if they take iodine it will help them. But we are seeing overdoses from iodine supplements. A high iodine intake could lead to thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid gland.
Although excessive iodine intake from supplements can alter thyroid hormone levels, it is reasonable to consume foods high in iodine, such as milk, most seafood, eggs, and dairy products. iodine-enriched soy.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers may be an exception to this rule. These women may benefit from taking a daily iodine supplement or a prenatal vitamin that contains iodine since the recommended dietary intake for this mineral increases during pregnancy. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor to determine if a supplement is safe and appropriate for you.
Be Careful About Selenium
Selenium is necessary for thyroid health, but don’t take it unless your doctor recommends it. Taking too much of this essential element could make you sick. The recommended daily value for people ages 14 and older is 55 mcg (pregnant and breastfeeding women need slightly more). And don’t forget: Selenium-rich foods are everywhere: tuna, tofu, pork chops and nuts. In fact, just one Brazil nut chopped and sprinkled on your salad will give you around 90 mcg, more than the recommended daily allowance.