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Your Guide to Thyroid Eye Disease

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6 Foods to Avoid with Thyroid Eye Disease

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Evelyn Creekmore on February 8, 2022
  • senior Hispanic couple reading newspaper and talking at breakfast table in kitchen
    Thyroid eye disease and diet
    While Graves’ disease doesn’t cause thyroid eye disease (TED) directly, approximately 30% of people living with Graves’ disease have TED, too. Making changes in your diet can improve Graves’ disease symptoms and as a result, TED symptoms. Learn what foods it can pay to stay away from and why. Before you make any drastic changes, it’s a good idea to get your doctor’s advice.
  • Epsom salt
    1. Iodine.
    Iodine speeds up the production of thyroid hormones. We all need a little iodine to live (just 150 micrograms for adults), but the general medical consensus is we get enough from food without making a special effort. Iodine deficiency is rare in North America. Try to cut out all the extra iodine you can by avoiding seafoods high in iodine, especially seaweed and kelp. Don’t add extra salt while you’re cooking or eating. Try spices that don’t contain iodine instead.
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  • sliced-white-bread
    2. Enriched flour.
    Enriched flour has been linked to higher levels of thyroid hormone. You’ll typically find it in white pasta, bread, rice, cereal, and crackers. Try substituting some whole grains instead. Tasty mealtime options include 100% whole bread, brown rice, barley, and quinoa. For snack time, steer clear of pretzels, cookies, brownies, and cake. These choices are also more healthful, but still satisfying: air-popped popcorn, nuts, and seeds. It can be hard to pass up a doughnut for a dried date, but it will get easier with time.
  • gettyimages 487573197
    3. Added sugars.
    Added sugar doesn’t provide you with any nutritional value, while simultaneously taking a toll on your body. Cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose can all elevate your blood sugar (glucose) level, which can cause inflammation–something that can make TED symptoms worse. Think of the things your sweet tooth longs for, and try cutting back. Typical trouble spots include syrups, soft drinks, and desserts. Fresh fruits and 100% fruit juices can be healthier choices.
  • pitcher of milk pouring into glass on table
    4. Common allergens.
    All of the following are common allergies that worsen Graves’ disease symptoms: gluten, wheat, peanuts, and lactose (found in dairy). Your doctor can perform a simple “pin prick” allergy test in the office or clinic, although these tests aren’t always accurate. Some people prefer to work with their doctors on an elimination diet that removes one item at a time to see if symptoms improve.
  • Steak
    5. Red meat.
    Red meat comes in many forms, from meatloaf to hamburgers to prime rib. All of it is high in saturated fat and bad cholesterol. It also causes inflammation that can make thyroid disease worse. Many people benefit from adopting a more heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. It emphasizes fiber-packed whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Red meat, added sugars, and enriched flour are limited, as is hydrogenated vegetable oil. This type of oil decreases levels of good fat in the body that works to lower cholesterol naturally.
  • Soda pop
    6. Certain beverages.
    Some people with Graves’ disease have heart palpitations. Caffeine makes them worse. Try working in more water, and less coffee and soda. Whole milk can cause problems, too, because it’s hard to digest. Consider skim milk as an alternative. It’s also best to avoid alcohol when you have an overactive thyroid. Alcohol can disrupt your sleep at night and cause fatigue the next day. Talk with your doctor about diet at your next check in. You may be surprised at the amount of support available to help you feel better living with TED.
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Thyroid Eye Disease & Diet | Foods to Avoid With Thyroid Eye Disease

About The Author

Evelyn Creekmore has more than 15 years of experience writing online educational health content, including nearly 10 years full-time at WebMD, where she was the director of brand content. She holds an MPH in Applied Public Health Informatics from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and an MA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
  1. Iodine. (2021). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-Consumer/Graves’ disease. (2017). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/graves-disease
  2. Graves’ disease and nutrition recommendations. (n. d.). https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/graves_disease_and_nutrition_recommendations
  3. Nagpal, R., et al. Gut microbiome-Mediterranean diet interactions in improving host health. (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359750/
  4. Thyroid eye disease. (2020). https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/thyroid-eye-disease/
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Last Review Date: 2022 Jan 24
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