Medically reviewed by
Dr. Natalie Bessom, D.O. Board-certified family medicine doctor with specialty training in nutrition, USA
Food plays a major role in fighting inflammation. Here is a brief guide on foods to avoid and others to incorporate into your diet.
Your thyroid is a small gland in your throat that controls a variety of body functions through hormone signaling. These hormones are responsible for regulating our bodies’ metabolism, and the expenditure of stored energy.
If you have a thyroid condition, carefully choosing your food is key for managing your symptoms and overall health. An anti-inflammatory diet has been shown to regulate the action of the immune system in individuals with thyroid issues, particularly autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Disease.
This article will discuss the following topics:
- What is inflammation?
- How can an anti-inflammatory diet help your thyroid condition?
- Inflammatory foods to avoid
- Top anti-inflammatory foods
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a consequence of our immune systems fighting an invasion by a pathogen, a chemical or any irritant that is harmful to our bodies. We typically see signs of inflammation as redness, swelling, heat and pain surrounding a site of injury.
While it is a normal part of recovery in an infection or physical trauma in the short-term, a sustained inflammatory attack is very detrimental to overall health and needs to be addressed through treatment or lifestyle changes.
Some experts, as cited in an article published in the Journal of The American College of Nutrition, refer to this form of chronic inflammation that is not associated with any pain as ‘silent inflammation’. Commonly resulting from chronic conditions such as heart disease and hypothyroidism, it is very harmful as it often entails the destruction of our own bodies’ tissues by our immune systems.
Some consequences of ‘silent’ inflammation include:
- Brain fog
- Muscle aches and pains
- Insomnia and
- Excessive mood fluctuations.
Studies show that ‘dietotherapy’ and focusing on getting enough micronutrients while avoiding harmful foods can help reduce this inflammation and improve symptoms of various thyroid conditions.
How Can An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Impact Your Thyroid Condition?
An anti-inflammatory diet is not rigid in its definition and instead focuses on some key goals including:
- Focusing on low glycemic-load foods → Eating foods that are proportionally low in carbohydrates promotes the slower release of insulin, which can reduce levels of inflammatory stress within the body. Additionally, high blood sugar has been linked with the release of cortisol (the stress hormone), which is also linked with inflammation.
- Incorporating more plant-based foods → Most vegetables and fruits are high in antioxidants, which play an important role in combating free radicals that damage cells and lead to inflammation.
Some studies have shown that anti-inflammatory diets are even associated with a decreased risk of developing obesity and diabetes as well as mood disorders like depression.
Many popular science and lifestyle websites encourage people to adopt extreme diets like going “gluten-free” or “keto”, which involve cutting out large food groups completely. However, not only can this type of lifestyle change be unsustainable due to its restrictive nature, research also shows that they can reduce daily intakes of important nutrients by limiting food options.
Instead, individuals with thyroid conditions can focus on a moderate form of such diets by cutting out highly inflammatory foods and incorporating more nutritive elements into their daily meals.
Despite numerous benefits to health, an anti-inflammatory diet is not a substitute for medical treatments and medications for thyroid conditions. While most of the recommendations listed in this article can be easily incorporated into daily life, it is important to consult your physician or endocrinologist to see if the proposed dietary changes are right for you.
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
Highly-processed food has a lot of added sugars and salt which raise blood glucose and pressure. Both of these outcomes are linked with inflammation and can be avoided by cutting out refined foods, white bread, sugary drinks as well as processed meats.
Fried food is a bad idea for several reasons. For one, they are high in saturated fats, which raise levels of low-density, or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Additionally, the oil used to fry them is often reused and the repeated heating process leads to the production of inflammatory free radicals. Therefore, consider forgoing fast food options for healthier, non-fried alternatives.
Higher-fat dairy products like cheese, whole milk and butter are high in saturated fats, which can cause inflammation. Additionally, for reasons that scientists have not fully elucidated, some individuals may find that they are sensitive to dairy and find relief when they cut it out of their diet.
However, as mentioned earlier, eliminating dairy completely can be a double-edged sword; for many people, milk and other dairy products represent their primary sources of important micronutrients.
Suddenly cutting off these foods means that most individuals cannot meet their daily recommended amounts. Studies have shown that dairy-free diets do not provide enough calcium and must be supplemented otherwise to maintain health.
Furthermore, research also shows that certain forms of dairy, like yogurt, can have protective effects against inflammation by enhancing appropriate immune responses and improving gut health.
Therefore, before shunning dairy altogether, please consult your primary healthcare provider to find out if a dairy-free diet is appropriate for you.
When drunk in excessive amounts, alcohol poses a significant toxic burden to our livers and can even cause sustained inflammation if consumed frequently. Therefore, scaling back on alcohol consumption can decrease inflammation and lead to improved symptoms.
That being said, red wine has been shown to have antioxidative effects and can reduce inflammation. If you do drink, recommendations for red wine consumption are 4 ounces per day for women (or people assigned female at birth) and 8 ounces per day for men (or people assigned male at birth).
Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Add to Your Diet
Leafy Vegetables and Fruits
Leafy vegetables and fruits are a good source of vitamins and minerals, which are key for carrying out normal body functions like energy production, digestion and even thinking. Research also shows that getting enough of these in your diet can also provide you with a stable source of polyphenols, which are compounds found in plants that can prevent oxidative stress and inflammation.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to make your meals as colorful as possible as many brightly-colored fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants.
Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which inhibit hormones that contribute to inflammation. One way to incorporate them is to gradually substitute options like salmon and mackerel for other forms of protein like red, processed meats.
Alternatively, if you do not eat fish, you can take omega-3 supplements.
Like fatty fish, legumes are rich in omega-3 fats, as well as antioxidants, which make them a good candidate for an anti-inflammatory diet. They also contain polyphenols and saponins, an antihypertensive compound.
It is important to cook legumes like beans and lentils properly before consumption as they contain lectin compounds which can be harmful if eaten raw.
One of the easiest ways to make a healthy diet change is to substitute some of the ingredients you use to cook most of your dishes with a better alternative. Olive oil is one such ingredient; it is low in saturated fat and high in antioxidants.
As a bonus, multiple studies have even been shown that it is protective against many chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease as well as obesity.
- Your thyroid is a small gland in your throat that controls a variety of body functions through hormone signaling.
- Commonly resulting from chronic conditions such as heart disease and hypothyroidism, chronic inflammation is very harmful as it often entails the destruction of our own bodies’ tissues by our immune systems.
- An anti-inflammatory diet has been shown to regulate the action of the immune system in individuals with thyroid issues, including autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Disease.
- Some foods to incorporate into your anti-inflammatory diet include vegetables, fruits, legumes, fatty fish and olive oil.
- Some foods to avoid include processed and highly-sugared foods as well as fried foods. In some cases, it may also be a good idea to avoid certain dairy products and alcohol.
You can find more diet tips and recipes on the ThyForLife website, and track how any diet changes affect any thyroid-related symptoms using the ThyForLife Health app.
At ThyForLife, we do our utmost to provide accurate information. If you require more detailed information regarding medical terms, conditions, and practices please consult your healthcare professional. Always listen to the advice of your healthcare provider