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. 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.
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.
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
- Dairy Products: 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. 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
- Foods Containing 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. Your doctor may recommend you 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
- Fats: 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: What 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.
- Base your meals on fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and healthy fats.
- 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.
- 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.