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Diet to Treat Low Thyroid Hormone Levels

author image Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.
Diet to Treat Low Thyroid Hormone Levels
A fried egg in a cast iron pan. Photo Credit: Amarita/iStock/Getty Images

If you have low thyroid hormone levels, you may be experiencing unpleasant side effects of fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, depression, feeling cold, headaches, menstrual irregularities, constipation, dry skin or muscle aches, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Making dietary changes may help improve your thyroid hormone levels. However, many people with hypothyroidism -- a condition that causes low thyroid hormone levels in your body -- require prescription synthetic thyroid hormone.

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Causes of Hypothyroidism

Although getting too little iodine in your diet can lead to hypothyroidism, diet alone is unlikely to cause thyroid problems. Inflammation of the thyroid gland, Hashimoto’s disease, some medications, radiation treatment of the thyroid gland, congenital hypothyroidism or surgical removal of all or part of your thyroid gland often lead to hypothyroidism, according to the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Services, or NEMDIS.

Dietary Sources of Iodine

To reduce your chances of getting hypothyroidism from too little dietary iodine, choose plenty of iodine-rich foods on a daily basis. These include fish, seafood, seaweed, dairy foods, eggs, iodized salt, as well as enriched breads, cereals and macaroni. Iodized salt provides almost half of the iodine-recommended percentage of the daily value for adults, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Some, but not all, multivitamins are also sources of iodine.

Treating Hypothyroidism

If you’re getting plenty of iodine in your diet but still have low levels of thyroid hormone in your body, changing your diet likely won’t treat the hypothyroidism; likely, it’s time to chat with your doctor. NEMDIS reports that hypothyroidism is often corrected by taking synthetic thyroid hormone medication every day on a regular basis, as instructed. Your doctor will recommend proper dosing of this prescription medication, based on your thyroid levels, and will monitor you closely.

Other Dietary Considerations

A balanced diet is recommended for people with hypothyroidism, according to NEMDIS. This includes eating a good balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, low-fat dairy foods, plant-based oils, lean meats, seafood, poultry or soy products, eggs and legumes. You will likely obtain the recommend dietary allowance, or RDA, for iodine -- which is 150 micrograms daily for adult men and women, 220 micrograms during pregnancy and 290 micrograms per day while breastfeeding -- by eating a variety of iodine-rich foods. However, since iodine requirements are higher for pregnant and breastfeeding women, doctors may recommend a prenatal multivitamin that contains iodine.

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