fbpx

Vegan Diet for Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Disease

Hyperthyroidism-Vegan
5 min reading time

What we eat affects our thyroid glands, especially those who have an underactive thyroid gland. 

I am a vegan registered dietitian and this article outlines everything you should know about the plant-based diet for hypothyroidism and the plant-based diet for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Hashimotos-Hyperthyroidism-Vegan

What are hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease?

Hypothyroidism is a common condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. 

The thyroid controls the body’s metabolism, or how cells use energy from food. 

With hypothyroidism, metabolism slows, affecting the body’s temperature, heartbeat, and how well it burns calories. This means the body makes less energy, and metabolism becomes sluggish.

On the other hand, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland. It can cause hypothyroidism.

A note on eating disorders and hypothyroidism

Previous history of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, can cause hypothyroidism. 

These eating disorders can have a profound effect on thyroid function. They can cause low thyroid hormones, a reduction in metabolism, and damage to the hypothalamus. 

These effects can be reversed and treated. A dietitian can help you overcome your eating disorder and heal your relationship with food.

What are the risks of a vegan diet for hypothyroidism?

In 2013, the AHS-2 released findings on the risk of hypothyroidism with various dietary patterns. 

Prevalence of hypothyroidism among vegans was 11 percent lower than among non-vegetarians. In addition, vegans had a 22 percent lower risk of developing hypothyroidism compared to omnivores, however these findings were not statistically significant. 

Despite these findings that suggest that the vegan diet for hypothyroidism is beneficial, there are a few key nutrients to consider.

 

Iodine

Iodine is a key component of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). Iodine deficiency can result in hypothyroidism, skin problems, weight gain, and increased cholesterol levels. 

 

If you follow a plant-based diet for hypothyroidism, keep a close eye on your iodine intake! Since animal products tend to be rich in iodine, vegans can be at higher risk of developing iodine deficiency.

 

My biggest tip to avoid deficiency of this small but mighty mineral is to use iodized salt. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good fancy sea salt – but iodized salt is a helpful way to get your iodine. 

 

One-quarter teaspoon of iodized salt gives between 50-80 micrograms of iodine. Adults need 150mcg of iodine per day. 

 

Unfortunately, though it is delicious, seaweed is not a reliable iodine source because of variability in manufacturing processes.

 

Soy

Soy may adversely affect thyroid function in people who have hypothyroidism or are deficient in iodine. 

 

If this is the case for you, limiting soy consumption until the problem is corrected is recommended. Solutions include adjusting thyroid hormone dosage or correcting iodine deficiency to ensure a healthy vegan thyroid diet


Soy products have many health benefits, including potential anti-inflammatory effects. Speaking to a registered dietitian to determine what soy intake is recommended for you is a great idea.

 

Nutrient deficiencies

Eating a vegan diet may leave the body short on nutrients like protein, calcium, omega-3s, zinc, and vitamin B12 if you don’t pay attention. 

Like with any dietary pattern, it’s important to eat a variety of foods to ensure you are meeting all your nutritional needs. A well-planned vegan diet that includes nutrient-rich whole foods and fortified foods can help provide adequate nutrient levels. 

 

Nonetheless, you might find it tricky to have enough of these nutrients.

 

It’s important to speak to your doctor and dietitian regarding what supplements you should take as some may interact with your medications. The supplements you take should also be personalized to your needs.


For more information on vegan vitamin D, vitamin B12, omega-3, and iron needs, check out my article here.

 

How does a vegan diet affect Hashimoto’s?

Hashimoto’s can become more severe over time, so taking early action is beneficial and can slow the progression of the disease.

While incorporating a large amount of plant food into the diet will certainly provide amazing health benefits for the majority of people, an exclusively vegan diet for Hashimoto’s also carries potential risk.

 

For example, those with Hashimoto’s often experience blood sugar imbalances, which can be exacerbated by carbohydrate-heavy vegan diets

 

Choosing whole grain and fiber foods, as well as eating balanced meals and snacks is key (protein and fat sources).

 

Another risk of the vegan diet for Hashimoto’s is the risk of nutrient deficiencies, as alluded to earlier. 

 

Despite the potential risks, recent studies have been showing positive associations between veganism and autoimmune disease. 

 

Diets rich in fruits, veggies, and fiber have anti-inflammatory properties, are associated with lower BMI, and help reduce pain associated with autoimmune diseases. Animal foods are typically pro-inflammatory and can exacerbate symptoms for some people with Hashimoto’s. 

 

Further, the vegan diet has many benefits on the gut microbiome, which can reduce inflammation and pain in patients with autoimmune disease.

Thyroid-Vegan

So… should I eat a vegan diet for hypothyroidism?

Overall, hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s symptoms and effects can be modified by dietary factors. Studies have been showing positive effects of the vegan diet for hypothyroidism

Balanced vegan diets are rich in fruits, veggies, and fiber which all have anti-inflammatory properties. Further, the vegan diet has many benefits on the gut microbiome, which can reduce pain in patients with autoimmune disease. 

In all these ways, the plant-based diet is a good option for hypothyroidism.

However, it’s also important to consider soy’s effect on the thyroid and meet iodine needs.  

Overall, it’s about finding what works for you. There is no magic solution for hypothyroidism relief. 

For additional support, a plant-based nutritionist can support you in your vegan diet thyroid healing journey.