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Diet and Lifestyle Prescription for Hypothyroid

brassica circadian rhythm hypothyroid iodine nitrates sleep soy stress thiocyanate thyroid tyrosine Nov 12, 2021
Diet and Lifestyle for Hypothyroid | Picture of Sushi | Dr Kaycie

Why Use Diet and Lifestyle to Support the Thyroid? 

According to the American Thyroid Association, 20 million Americans have Hypothyroidism (low thyroid).  That's almost one in every 16 people in this country! It is more common in women, and becomes more common as we age. (Wondering if you have Hypothyroid? Here are 10 Symptoms to look for) If you have hypothyroid, someone in your family has hypothyroid, or are concerned about maintaining good thyroid health for the long-term, there are some simple diet and lifestyle measures that can help maintain and promote thyroid health.

Foods that can suppress thyroid function 

  • Cruciferous Vegetables--In some vegetables, there is a chemical called thiocyanate which can decrease the body’s ability to use iodine, which is a critical nutrient for making thyroid hormone.  Foods that are high in this include: Collards, Brussels sprouts, and Russian kale.  However, turnip tops, commercial broccoli, broccoli rabe, and regular kale do not contain enough thiocyanate to cause any problem with the thyroid.  High levels of thoicyanates are also found in some cassava products and cigarettes.
  •  Soy-- Recent research has found that soy on its own does not impact thyroid function. However, for people who are taking thyroid hormone (synthroid or levothyroxin), soy can impair your ability to absorb and use that medication.
  • Nitrate/Nitrites-- Commonly used as preservatives for meat products. There is conflicting evidence about the role these can play in thyroid function, but they have been correlated with higher rates of thyroid cancer.

Foods that Support thyroid function (Listed by Nutrient)

  • Tyrosine-- Thyroid hormone is made primarily of an amino acid called Tyrosine.  Any high protein food, including nuts, seeds, poultry, and eggs will contain adequate amounts of this nutrient.
  • Iodine-- Iodine is the primary mineral that is involved in the creation of thyroid hormone. This is found in Fish, Seafood, Seaweed, Dairy and Eggs.  It is also found in iodized salt.  It is important, however, to not have too much iodine in your diet.  Supplements containing high amounts of iodine can have unpredictable effects on the thyroid and can potentially cause problems! The recommended intake of iodine for men and women is 150mcg/day.
  • Selenium-- This mineral helps convert thyroid into its active form.  It is found in higher amounts in Brazil Nuts, seafood, and organ meat.

Lifestyle choices for a Healthy Thyroid

  • Daily Exercise-- Brisk outdoor activity, such as water sports, skiing, or snowshoeing, stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone.  Also, aerobic exercise helps your body convert your thyroid hormone into its active form.
  • Full Spectrum Light-- Being in the sun and seeing full spectrum light helps to regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm.  Especially during the winter months, it is important to spend time outside each day without sunglasses to tell your thyroid to make enough thyroid hormone.
  • Get enough Sleep!-- Your brain makes melatonin when you sleep, which decreases thyroid hormone. When you are awake (and seeing sunlight!) the brain makes thyroid and decreases melatonin. When you sleep well all night and are fully awake during the day it creates a healthy cycle called the circadian rhythm which helps your body make the right hormones at the right time. Having trouble with sleep? Learn more about hormones and insomnia and natural therapies for insomnia.
  • Decrease Stress-- When you make too much of your stress hormones (such as cortisol), it decreases your brain’s signals to the thyroid to make thyroid hormone.  It also suppresses the conversion of thyroid hormone to its active form. 

Want to know more? Check out my articles on Botanical Medicines in Holistic Hormone Health, and the role of inspiration and relaxation on hormone balance. As always, Feel free to contact me with any questions!


Peter Felker, Ronald Bunch, Angela M Leung. Concentrations of thiocyanate and goitrin in human plasma, their precursor concentrations in brassica vegetables, and associated potential risk for hypothyroidism. Nutrition Reviews. 2016 Apr;74(4):248-58

Vincenzo Triggiani 1, Emilio Tafaro, Vito Angelo Giagulli, et al. Role of iodine, selenium and other micronutrients in thyroid function and disorders. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2009 Sep;9(3):277-94

Mark Messina 1, Geoffrey Redmond. Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: a review of the relevant literature. Thyroid. 2006 Mar;16(3):249-58.


Amir Babiker, Afnan Alawi, Mohsen Al Atawi. The role of micronutrients in thyroid dysfunction Sudan Journal of Pediatrics2020;20(1):13-19


Zahra Bahadoran 1, Parvin Mirmiran 2, Asghar Ghasemi . Is dietary nitrate/nitrite exposure a risk factor for development of thyroid abnormality? A systematic review and meta-analysis Nitric Oxide. 2015 May 1;47:65-76. doi:

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