Diet for Graves' Disease
by Diane Linsley

The most important aspect of the 4-fold approach to treating
Graves' disease is the anti-inflammatory diet. I first read about
this diet in The Autoimmune Solution by Amy Myers, MD. 

This diet can be used for any type of autoimmune disease. It
decreases bodywide inflammation by eliminating all foods that
contribute to inflammation. Once the inflammation is reduced
enough, the symptoms of the disease should clear up.

If you have Graves' disease, you should be under the care of a
physician. This article is only a description of my own experience.
It is not intended as medical advice for any person. Only lab tests
can reveal what is going on with your thyroid hormones. Although
your symptoms may correlate with the lab results, how you feel
is not an accurate measurement of your thyroid levels.

A Challenging Diet

The diet is very challenging because it eliminates many common foods, including entire food groups. I was concerned about this because there are some deficiencies that can occur when certain food groups are eliminated.

After a few months on the diet, I started experiencing nocturnal leg cramps. I tried stretching out before bed, sleeping in a new position, and rubbing MSM cream on my feet and legs before going to bed. I even tried a homeopathic remedy called Hyland's Leg Cramps.

I finally figured out that I was calcium deficient, even though I was taking supplements. Dietary sources of calcium include milk products, whole grains, nuts and legumes, none of which are allowed on the anti-inflammatory diet. I needed another source of dietary calcium. So I started making bone broth from the chicken bones that I saved from whole, baked chickens. I also increased the amount of calcium citrate that I was taking in supplement form.

Having solved that problem, I can now heartily recommend Dr. Myers' diet. But it's still a hard diet to follow. It requires cutting out all grains, nuts, legumes, eggs and dairy products. You also have to avoid some citrus fruits, as well as vegetables from the nightshade family, including white potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. The book explains how each of these foods creates inflammation and triggers autoimmune disease in susceptible people.

Without the scientific research to back it up, I never would have believed that all these "healthy" foods were making me sick. Before I could fully accept it, I had to come to an intellectual understanding of why the diet works. I also had to personally experience how it affected my body. On the few occasions when I broke the diet, my symptoms returned.

What Can You Eat?

You're probably wondering what is left after all those foods have been removed from your diet. Well, it is rather limited. All that's left is the produce section at the grocery store, along with the organic meat and poultry section. I also had to throw out a few jars of spices. But I discovered some new anti-inflammatory spices and herbs that I really enjoy.

The main starch in this diet comes from sweet potatoes (yams). Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes do not cause inflammation in people with autoimmune disease. Sweet potatoes are the mainstay of my diet, along with free-range chicken and beef. I can also eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I desire - with a few exceptions.

Click here for recipes on Dr. Myers' website.

Low-Iodine Diet

The next part of my diet is specific for Graves' disease. This is the low-iodine diet recommended by Dr. Sarfraz Zaidi, author of Graves' Disease and Hyperthyroidism. It eliminates all foods and supplements that contain high amounts of iodine. 

People with Graves' disease are often hypersensitive to iodine. The foods that should be eliminated are iodized salt (switch to sea salt), seafood, seaweed, and multi-vitamins or other supplements that contain iodine (read the labels).

Interestingly, I was diagnosed with Graves' disease after a trip to Oregon, during which I had enjoyed eating seafood at some very nice restaurants for several days in a row. The night before I was hospitalized for symptoms bordering on thyroid storm, I had eaten a nice salmon steak. The doctor at the hospital thought I had food poisoning, but the lab results disproved his hypothesis. Meanwhile, his misdiagnosis postponed the proper treatment of Graves' disease, which could have been fatal if it had gone on much longer.

I've only eaten seafood once since going into remission, and I felt sick the next day. I never had problems with seafood before I developed Graves' disease, so I'm pretty sure that it's the iodine in the seafood that triggers the symptoms. Fresh water fish like trout is safe because it doesn't contain the high amount of iodine that is found in ocean fish.

The thyroid gland can store several months worth of iodine, which it uses to create thyroid hormone. So you won't see the results of a low-iodine diet right away. You should also watch for signs of hypothyroidism, which can occur after a long time on a low-iodine diet. Regular bloodwork is recommended for anyone who is dealing with thyroid problems, even if they are in remission.

Following a strict diet can be daunting at first, especially if you don't have the support of other people in your life. As a life coach, I can provide emotional support. If you are interested in coaching with me, click here to schedule a free consultation.

Additional Resources

The Autoimmune Solution by Amy Myers, MD

Hashimoto's Protocol by Isabella Wentz (supplements for autoimmune disease)

Graves' Disease and Hyperthyroidism by Sarfaz Zaidi, MD

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Recipes

Be well,
Diane Linsley

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Graves disease diet