How to Eat Well when You Have Graves’ Disease

Berries, Dairy, and Protein for Graves’ Disease

There’s really no such thing as a Graves’ disease diet. It’s more about filling your plate with healthy foods that won’t aggravate Graves’ disease symptoms.

Graves’ disease is actually the most common cause of hyperthyroidism—when your thyroid gland over-produces thyroid hormone. Although Graves’ disease can’t be prevented or treated through diet alone, certain foods can help ease Graves’ disease symptoms.

In addition to watching what you eat, you’ll most likely need a combination of treatments, such as medications and radioactive iodine, as part of your overall Graves’ disease treatment plan.

This article walks you through the foods you should choose to help manage the symptoms of Graves’ disease. However, because everyone has unique dietary needs, you should also talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about creating a meal plan.

Graves’ Disease: Foods to Eat
Berries: Berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are brimming with antioxidants. These antioxidants help keep your immune system strong. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, which means that your immune system attacks healthy tissues in your body. Eating berries can’t prevent Graves’ disease, but they can help protect your overall health.

How much you need to eat: 1 or more servings a day

Calcium: Untreated Graves’ disease can cause bone loss (which can lead to osteoporosis), but once Graves’ disease is treated, you need calcium to rebuild those bones. (You’ll also need vitamin D—read more about that below.) Get plenty of calcium from dairy foods, such as cheese, milk, and yogurt. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can get your calcium from fortified foods, such as fortified orange juice, soy milk, whole grain cereals and breads.

How much you need to eat: 3 servings daily

Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, are part of the goitrogen family of foods. These vegetables may help reduce the amount of thyroid hormone your thyroid gland produces, but you can’t treat Graves’ disease solely by eating these vegetables.

How much you need to eat: 1 or more servings every day

Vitamin D: Foods that are packed with vitamin D, such as salmon, eggs, and mushrooms, can help prevent osteoporosis, a complication that can occur if Graves’ disease goes untreated. Vitamin D is a mighty nutrient, and it works in conjunction with calcium to keep bones strong.

Conveniently enough, your body creates vitamin D naturally when your skin is exposed to the sun. However, as you know, too much sun comes with risks: skin cancer, for example. Also, some people can’t make enough vitamin D, even with adequate sun time. Then there’s the complication that people who live in northern climates struggle to create enough vitamin D in the winter.

All that to say: It’s a good idea to eat foods with vitamin D in them. You can also take a vitamin D supplement.

How much you need to eat: 1 or more servings daily

Protein: Chicken, turkey, beans, and nuts are quality sources of protein—an essential nutrient that helps build muscle and gives you energy.

Because weight loss is a common Graves’ disease symptom, eating plenty of protein can help ensure you maintain muscle mass. Protein may also help restore muscle mass once Graves’ disease is treated.

How much you need to eat: A serving at every meal

Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids—essential fatty acids found in salmon and other fish, olive oil, and walnuts—keep your body healthy and strong. Your body doesn’t naturally produce these fatty acids, so you have to get them from food.

How much you need to eat: 1 or more servings every day

Graves’ Disease: Foods to Limit
Caffeine: Foods that contain caffeine—coffee, soda, tea, and chocolate—can aggravate Graves’ disease symptoms, such as anxiety, nervousness, rapid heart rate, and weight loss. Although you may not need to completely eliminate caffeine from your diet, talk to your doctor about whether you’ll need to limit foods with caffeine.

Food allergens: If you have a food allergy—even if it’s a mild food allergy—you may need to eliminate that food from your diet. The effect that some food allergens have on the body can mimic Graves’ disease symptoms, so eliminating those foods may help your doctor figure out what exactly your Graves’ disease symptoms are. Common food allergens include dairy products, wheat (gluten), soy, corn, and nuts.

Iodine: Good for Graves’ Disease or Not?

Managing Graves’ Disease with a Healthy Diet
Instead of following a strict Graves’ disease diet, base your meals on fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and healthy fats.

Also, it’s important to note that eating (or limiting) certain foods alone won’t completely treat Graves’ disease. But a healthy diet should be a part of your overall treatment plan.

Taking dietary supplements, such as a daily multivitamin, can be beneficial, too, because they can make up for what your diet may be lacking. But check with your doctor before adding supplements to your Graves’ disease diet. Some supplements can interact with medications.

View Sources

Sources

  • Graves’ disease. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service Web site. http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/graves/. Published May 2008. Accessed May 3, 2011.
  • Hyperthyroidism. University of Maryland Medical Center Web site. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/hyperthyroidism-000088.htm. Accessed May 3, 2011.