Proper Nutrition & Diet for People with Graves' Disease

Low- or nonfat dairy products supply vitamin D for Graves' disease patients.
Low- or nonfat dairy products supply vitamin D for Graves' disease patients. (Image: fotoedu/iStock/Getty Images)

Graves' disease is an immune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland produces excess T3 and T4 hormone. Hyperthyroidism can cause fatigue, diarrhea, insomnia, bulging eyes, a rapid and irregular heartbeat, trouble tolerating heat, hand tremors, anxiety and goiter, an overlarge thyroid that makes the neck look swollen. If you have Graves' disease, you will need to follow a balanced diet emphasizing nutrients that can help you manage your condition. Ask your doctor or a dietitian for help designing a healthy Graves' disease nutrition plan.

Focus on Whole Foods

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an individual with Graves' disease should adhere to the same basic nutrition guidelines as people who don't have the condition. A typical meal should include whole grains like whole-wheat bread or brown rice, lean protein, low- or nonfat dairy and plenty of fruits and vegetables. To keep each category of nutrients in balance, the USDA recommends filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with protein and one-quarter with grains. Round out the meal with a serving of dairy. Limit your intake of refined grains, sugar and fat.

Get Plenty of Vitamin D

Graves' disease can result in bone loss, which may lead to brittle bones and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Adequate vitamin D is required for your body to absorb and use calcium to build and maintain bones, and Graves' disease patients with a high intake of the nutrient may be able to counteract bone loss. A Graves' disease diet should include plenty of fatty fish like salmon or sardines and vitamin D-fortified products such as orange juice, soy milk, low- or nonfat milk and breakfast cereal.

Keep Sodium Under Control

Some people with the disorder experience swelling due to excessive fluid retention. To limit fluid retention, you should control your intake of sodium. Avoid processed, frozen, canned, prepackaged and ready-made foods including deli meats, pasta mixes and instant-cereal packets. If you do use convenience items, look for low- or no-sodium brands. Use herbs, spices and fruit juices like lime or lemon juice instead of salt or high-sodium seasoning mixes to add flavor to your food. Do not add salt to your food at the table.

Limit Your Iodine

Your thyroid needs iodine in order to function properly. However, consuming too much iodine can exacerbate the symptoms of Graves' disease. Limit the amount of sea vegetables you consume, including kelp, dulse and seaweed, and use less iodized salt or eliminate it from your diet completely. Cod and potatoes are other high-iodine foods to eat only in moderation. Do not begin taking iodine supplements, and talk to your doctor if you are already using a supplement that contains iodine.

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