Are you confused by the nutrition recommendations for Hashimoto’s? Do you feel like you just want to give up on trying to change your diet because it’s too overwhelming and you don’t know what the best diet for Hashimoto’s is? I get it!
After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in 2019, I began the quest to figure out what type of diet I should be following. After all, I am a Registered Dietitian, so this should be easy, right?
Discovering the Best Diet for Hashimoto’s
I have concluded that the best diet for hashimoto’s is the one that you feel the absolute best following. In fact, it shouldn’t be a diet, but a style of eating that naturally fits into your life as easily as possible.
Living with hashimoto’s can feel relatively normal, or it can leave you feeling completely exasperated, depressed, anxious, riddled with brain fog and flat out exhausted. In my previous blog post, Natural Treatments for Hypothyroidism & Hashimoto’s, I explain the ins and outs of hypothyroidism and hashimoto’s and natural ways that you can improve or eliminate many of the signs and symptoms that come with both.
In this post, I am going to keep it simple and jump right into the nitty gritty details of finding the best diet for hashimoto’s FOR YOU. Let’s go!
The Best Diet for Hashimoto’s for YOU
Let’s face it, not everyone is super excited about venturing out into the land of misfit diets. Nutrition is not a one size fits all, whether you are looking to clean up your diet a little bit or go all in with a full lifestyle change. What works for you and your lifestyle may be completely different than what works for me.
If you have kids and a family, a super strict diet that the whole crew cannot follow may not be feasible. If you have a super picky spouse, the meat and potatoes kind of guy or gal, it may be more difficult to have a plant-based diet. I am going to simplify this for you so that you can find what is right for YOU, no matter where you are on your hashimoto’s journey.
Eating is to be enjoyed and should not become a source of tension in your life. Sharing a meal with family and friends should not feel stressful or restrictive. It does not have to be that way and I am going to help you learn how to change that dynamic.
A very simple place to start is keeping a food journal. You can do this anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. In this journal, I want you to simply record anything you eat or drink, the time of day you consume it and any unpleasant symptoms following intake of that item. Download this free food and symptom tracker to help you with this step.
Now that you have completed step 1, consider temporarily eliminating any foods that caused unpleasant symptoms; such as bloating, fatigue, gas, headache, body aches and skin rashes. Consider continuing step 2 for a minimum of four weeks but no longer than eight weeks. Foods that most commonly cause symptoms are items such as eggs, dairy, wheat, gluten, soy and shellfish.
In step 3, start adding one new food or drink item back into your diet every three to five days. Once again, keep a food and symptoms journal to keep track of symptoms associated with each new food you reintroduce. This should be less time consuming than step 1, because the list of foods being reintroduced should be much shorter. If you find an item that causes unpleasant symptoms, you should consume it less frequently or consider eliminating it all together.
In some cases, taking a *digestive enzyme prior to a meal may be helpful if you desire to consume one of your less easily tolerated food items. Digestive enzymes support the process of digestion throughout your gastrointestinal system by helping your body break down food.
If certain foods or beverages cause severe symptoms, you may wish to eliminate those items from your diet altogether. If you experience throat swelling or difficulty breathing upon reintroduction, seek medical help immediately.
What about Gluten and Dairy?
Research suggests that unless you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance it is not necessary to follow a gluten-free diet. Likewise, it is not necessary to follow a dairy-free diet if you don’t have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy.
Approximately 75% of individuals with hashimoto’s are eventually diagnosed with lactose intolerance, and it’s not uncommon for individuals with Hashimoto’s to experience both gluten and dairy intolerance. You may want to consider getting tested for celiac or gluten intolerance by asking your medical provider to perform the test or by trying a home testing kit, such as imaware, a simple at home test to screen for celiac disease.
Keeping It Fresh
We’ve all heard the phrase “fresh is best”, right? There’s a lot of truth to that statement. When following YOUR best diet for hashimoto’s, there are a few simple tips to keep in mind. These nutrition tips closely mirror a Mediterranean Diet, which is abundant in brain healthy foods that may improve your mood. These foods should be easy to include in the diet of one person or an entire family.
Consume vegetables with most meals. Aim for ½ of your plate to be plant-based. Choose vegetables that satisfy you and that your body tolerates well. A diet high in vegetables will help you consume adequate fiber, with 25-35 grams being the minimum you should consume daily.
Eat healthy, whole-food fats. This will keep you feeling full and satisfied longer. This includes fats from avocados, coconut, olive oil, macadamia nuts, salmon, and eggs, for example. Fatty fish, such as salmon, provides a great source of Omega 3, which is great for reducing inflammation.
Consume lean protein throughout the day, aiming for at least several ounces per meal and snack. Foods such as organic, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, pork, eggs and wild caught fish are great choices.
Limit processed, junk foods. Snack foods are full of salt and sugar and increase inflammation in the body. Many times, these are the foods that we reach for when we are feeling down or seeking comfort. While it’s very understandable, many times that leaves us feeling worse physically.
Gluten and Dairy. Limit gluten and dairy as needed.
Limit Alcohol. There are many negative effects that come with consumingalcohol. Alcohol is a known depressant and while many times we consume it to alleviate stress and to promote sleep, it can have the opposite effect. For more on this topic, check out my post “Is Alcohol A Depressant or Stimulant?”.
Now let’s look at a diet that may be the best diet for hashimoto’s if you have mastered the basics and still need a more rigorous solution to combat your symptoms.
The autoimmune protocol (AIP) is an elimination diet designed to reduce inflammation, pain and other symptoms in individuals with autoimmune disorders by healing leaky gut and eliminating problem foods from the diet. Due to the strict nature of this diet, and the potential of creating nutrient deficiencies, it is best to attempt this under the supervision of a registered dietitian or other trained medical provider. Research is limited on the benefits of following the AIP, however the strongest evidence now exists for individuals with hashimoto’s and irritable bowel disease.
The AIP focuses not only on nutrition, but also stress management, sleep optimization and gut health. It begins with a 30-90 day elimination of all food and medications that are believed to cause harm to one’s gut health, such as grains, certain seeds, nuts, alcohol, coffee, sugars and sugar substitutes, eggs, processed foods, dairy, legumes and nightshades. Nutrient-dense, minimally processed, probiotic-rich foods are encouraged.
The AIP may be hard to follow if you are a rookie at elimination diets or have too much brain fog to focus so heavily on nutrition. If you feel that this may be the best diet for hashimoto’s for YOU, consider checking out The Paleo Mom blogs AIP page, for more details and guidance.
Tips for Optimizing Your Diet Plan
Thankfully, eating out has become much easier for the health-conscious diner. Many restaurants now have symbols on their menu that indicate healthier choices. Remember, success doesn’t require perfection! Sometimes just making the “better” choice is all you can do.
Eating at home does allow more control over our food choices and it’s preparation, but don’t be afraid to ask the restaurant to prepare your food without butter, put salad dressing on the side, or not bring bread to the table, if it’s too tempting.
I am not one to be particularly fond of supplements, because I have never realized the value a good, quality supplement could provide, and as a Registered Dietitian have always taught a “food first” approach. There are some dietitians out there that are still anti-supplement, but I have to ask myself, “have they suffered from an autoimmune disorder, chronic stress, chronic insomnia, anxiety and/or depression and treated it solely with food?”. I guess it’s possible, but that has not been my experience.
I have found so much peace and healing with a supplement regimen that supports my gut-brain connection. Did you know that so much of how you feel comes from messages your gut is sending to your brain? There are various supplements on the market that contain concentrated forms of natural herbs and adaptogens an have been proven over hundreds of years to help with symptoms such as brain fog, stress resilience, insomnia, anxiety, depression and much more.
*My gut brain axis regimen is a combination of many of these adaptogens that work symbiotically together and have helped thousands of people feel and function better and not succumb to their symptoms.
Organic, Grass-Fed & Pasture Raised
Organic, grass-fed and pasture raised products are superior when you have access to them and can afford them. This is not a “must have”, but if you are looking to know what is good, better and best, then these items would be in the “best” category.
With hashimoto’s, one goal is to reduce the toxic load that our bodies are exposed to. Conventionally grown produce has a high exposure to pesticides, which may affect thyroid function. Check out the Environmental Working Groups dirty dozen to know which produce is more susceptible to a heavier toxic load.
Grass-fed, Pasture-raised beef, pork and poultry is higher in essential nutrients, vitamins and anti-inflammatory fats (Omega 3, DHA, EPA, CLA). These animals are generally raised on smaller family farms that use humane practices and are not subject to stress, chemicals, antibiotics and growth hormones like many conventionally raised animals.
Vegetarian / Vegan
While there are certainly benefits to eating a plant-based diet, there is no evidence to support that a strict vegetarian or vegan diet is the best diet for hashimoto’s. If you are vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons, there are certain things you need to take into consideration.
Often times, plant-based diets can become carbohydrate heavy and contain ingredients that contribute to elevated blood glucose and leaky gut. Leaky gut prevents absorption of adequate nutrients, amino-acids and vitamins, which may be a trigger hashimoto’s.
Protein is an important source of amino acids and protein sourced from animals is easier to absorb. Amino acids are important because they help repair leaky gut and also produce thyroid hormones.
When following a vegan diet, it’s essential to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Pay close attention to nutrients that you would typically get from animal sources, such as iodine, protein, calcium, B12 and Omega 3’s. With special care, you can substitute many of these items with plant-based alternatives.
Iodine in particular is a vital nutrient for thyroid function. Soy products, often used as a dairy alternative, may interfere with thyroid medication absorption and thyroid function. It may not be necessary to avoid soy, but it would be wise to keep an eye on your iodine levels.
Whether you are just starting on your hashimoto’s journey or a seasoned veteran at dealing with the nuances of living with hashimoto’s, there’s likely always a little room for improvement when it comes to nutrition. Remember, keep it simple when you are just starting out. Start with the basics of cleaning up your diet and move toward some of the more advanced practices as needed and as able. I can say from experience that sometimes it’s just too overwhelming at first, especially when you are still in the throws of experiencing hashimoto’s symptoms. Here’s to improving your hashimoto’s naturally!
The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.
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