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Written by Dr. Kye Peven, TCM & Naturopath

Diet Therapy for Hypothyroidism: The Traditional Chinese Medicine view

As diet is most closely related to Spleen and Stomach function in Chinese Medicine the fact that many hypothyroid cases involve some degree of Spleen deficiency makes diet recommendations relatively straightforward. When the Spleen is weak it is important to eat warm, easily digestible foods. This means at the very least that one should avoid eating anything cold or raw. No raw fruits, no raw vegetables, no cereal with cold milk, no ice cream, no cold leftovers. Food should be warmed up before eating, and even fruit should be lightly steamed. Though weak Spleen qi often leads to cravings for sugar and processed carbohydrates these should be avoided if possible. Instead, eat complex carbs that have been thoroughly cooked, like grains and root vegetables. Carbohydrates are important for Spleen function, and carbs are important for balancing blood sugar if the liver is not storing glycogen well. Especially with grains, cooking overnight in a crockpot or slow cooker is best to make them more digestible. Warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, cumin, coriander, or fennel are also good in small amounts. Season food with a bit of these spices to help the digestion and support the Spleen.

A small amount of bitter food, such as pickles, can be eaten to stimulate the appetite. A good tonic to take before meals is a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in some water, which will help increase Stomach qi and stomach acid. If there are signs of Stomach counterflow, such as heartburn, reflux, bloating, or nausea, a small dose of digestive bitters will help settle the stomach.


This is a health condition which affects the body’s ability to produce enough thyroid hormones. These thyroid hormones are useful in controlling metabolism, tissue repair and growth. Due to the importance of this hormone in the human body, individuals who suffer from hypothyroidism may tend to experience the following common symptoms; feeling down and unmotivated, weight gain, hair loss, frequent fatigue, and many other symptoms which are linked with the disease condition [1]. The occurrence of hypothyroidism is prevalent only among 1 to 2% of people worldwide and is more prevalent in women than in men [2]. Hypothyroidism Diet or nutrition has a vital role it plays in the control and treatment of hypothyroidism. With a combination of the right nutrient and best diet for hypothyroidism, coupled with the right medication, there is a high probability that the function of the thyroid gland may be restored to reduce the occurrence of symptoms [1].


The principal function of the thyroid hormone is to assist the body in controlling the rate of metabolism in your body. It supports you to burn more calories. During the occurrence of hypothyroidism, there is a small level of thyroid hormone production and thus, reducing or limiting the rate of metabolism which in turn, also affects the rate of metabolism in the body. The occurrence of these slow rates of metabolism can come with several health risks which may increase the level of the blood cholesterol levels and also make it harder for you to lose weight [1].


1.         Food high in iodine content

Focus on food such as dairy products, eggs, fish and seaweed since they have a high content of iodine. Lack of iodine has been identified as the primary cause of hypothyroidism in humans and consuming food rich in iodine can help to remedy the situation. You can also add iodized salt to meals or use iodine supplements [3].

2.         Food rich in selenium

Selenium activates the thyroid's hormone to make them usable by the body. It also acts as an antioxidant which protects the thyroid gland from damage by molecules known as free radicals. Examples of food rich in selenium include eggs, brazil nuts, legumes, sardines and tuna [4].

3.         Food rich in zinc

Zinc and selenium assist the body in activating the thyroid hormones. Research studies have also shown that zinc can regulate the secretion of Thyroid-stimulating hormone which activates or deactivates the release of the thyroid hormone. Zinc-rich foods include chicken, beef, shellfish, and oysters [5].


1.         Food containing Goitrogens

These are compounds which have a likelihood of interfering with the normal function of the thyroid gland.  Food containing goitrogen include the following; edamame, tempeh, tofu, spinach, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, peaches, cassava, sweet potatoes, peanuts, pine nuts, and millet. Please note, cooking foods with goitrogens may inactivate them thus rendering them safe for consumption.

2.         Food containing gluten

Gluten is a form of protein found in grains such as barley, rye, and wheat. Gluten increases the likelihood of coming down with celiac disease.

3.         Beverages

This includes alcohol, green tea, and coffee. They may lead to irritation of the thyroid gland.


Paleo diet protocols are aimed at promoting the diet predominant in the Paleolithic era when the early man only feed on plants and fruits. This diet protocol assists in describing the list of foods which are safe for consumption and how to cure hypothyroidism with food and Indian diet for hypothyroidism [6]. 

Foods to Eat

•           Non-caffeinated beverages and water

•           All forms of dairy products including yogurt, cheese, and milk.

•           Whole eggs

•           All forms of seafood including shrimp, halibut, tuna and salmon

•           Fruits such as tomatoes, oranges, bananas, and berries.

•           Gluten-free seeds and grain such as flaxseed, chia seeds, quinoa, buckwheat and rice

•           All meats including chicken, beef, and lamb

•           Vegetables which are moderately cooked.

These food items are low in calories and prevent weight gain[1].


Avoid foods rich in gluten and contains a high amount of goitrogens since they can adversely affect the thyroid. Some of the food to avoid while dealing with hypothyroidism include; edamame, tempeh, tofu, spinach, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, peaches, cassava, sweet potatoes, peanuts, pine nuts and millet [1].



Treatment of hypothyroidism can be carried out by utilizing other alternative and natural approach such as

1.         The use of dietary supplements

2.         Eating the right food

3.         Adding iodized salt to food.

4.         Lifestyle changes

5.         High-intensity aerobic exercise

All the methods stated above have found great use in assisting the body manufacture more thyroid hormones available in the body [1,7].



How to heal hypothyroidism with food therapy has been widely discussed by a good number of scholars. In one of the researchers, it was discovered that a high-intensity of aerobic exercise coupled with the right diet could assist people to treat or manage the condition. This ultimately boosts the body's metabolism and the rate of hormone production [8-9]

Review success stories from academic research cases, case studies from doctors and connect with right experts for a personalized solution to your challenges.


1.   Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284. Accessed January 2019.

2.   Verma, I., Sood, R., Juneja, S., & Kaur, S. (2012). Prevalence of hypothyroidism in infertile women and evaluation of response of treatment for hypothyroidism on infertility. International journal of applied & basic medical research, 2(1), 17-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3657979/. Accessed January 2019.

3.   Chung H. R. (2014). Iodine and thyroid function. Annals of pediatric endocrinology & metabolism, 19(1), 8-12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049553/. Accessed January 2019.

4.   Ventura, M., Melo, M., & Carrilho, F. (2017). Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment. International journal of endocrinology, 2017, 1297658. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5307254/. Accessed January 2019.

5.   Betsy, A., Binitha, M., & Sarita, S. (2013). Zinc deficiency associated with hypothyroidism: an overlooked cause of severe alopecia. International journal of trichology, 5(1), 40-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746228/ accessed January 2019.

6.   Meet your Thyroid: a Paleo Introduction. https://paleoleap.com/thyroid-a-paleo-introduction/. Accessed January 2019.

7.   Akash B., Amit K. Singh, C.M., Vivek, S.,  and Harminder, S. (2015): The effect of regular physical exercise on the thyroid function of treated hypothyroid patients: An interventional study at a tertiary care center in Bastar region of India. IJSR, 3(2): 244-46.

8.   Hackney, A.C., McMurray, R.G., Judelson, D.A. and Harrell, J.S. (2003) Relationship between caloric intake, body composition, and physical activity to leptin, thyroid hormones, and cortisol in adolescents. Jpn J Physiol 53:475-9.

9.     Boelaert, K. and Franklyn, J.A. (2005). Thyroid hormone in health and disease. J Endocrinol 187:1-15.



















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