How your diet can trigger Hashimoto's

Design: BOOST Thyroid.

Design: BOOST Thyroid.

Modern eating patterns increase the risk of developing an underactive thyroid

Hashimoto’s and an underactive thyroid is a consequence of a combination of mutated genes and environmental factors. One of the main environmental factors is the food we eat.

For thousands of generations humans ate food shortly after harvesting it — fresh, wild, and in season. In the past 70 years human diets have changed dramatically, especially in urban areas. We have created new strains of grains, including wheat, rice, soy, and corn. Chemicals and hormones have been introduced through the mass production of meat, vegetables, and fruits to ensure high output and preservation. Consumption of artificial flavorings and sugars has become common. All of these changes in the foods we eat, and the way we eat, has lead to the rise of autoimmune diseases (1, 2).

The Western pattern diet (aka standard American diet) is the diet most commonly eaten in urban areas. This type of diet is characterized by high consumption of

  1. Red or processed meat,

  2. Pre-packaged and fried foods,

  3. Butter, dairy with high fats,

  4. Eggs,

  5. Refined grains,

  6. Potatoes, corn, and sugary drinks.

A Western pattern diet is one of the major triggers of autoimmune conditions (3).

Why is the Western pattern diet bad for the autoimmune health?

The Western pattern diet is low in fiber, vitamins, and most nutrient dense foods (4).

It increases the risk of autoimmune conditions by:

  • Disturbing the balance of the gut microbiome (gut bacteria) — increasing the number of bad bacteria destroying the gut barrier, which causes a leaky gut (5).

  • Disturbing the immune system by the high salt content of processed and fast foods — which is 100x higher than in similar home-made foods (6–8).

What is a healthy replacement of the Western diet?

A Mediterranean diet is comprised of whole foods: fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and olive oil (9–11). Following this diet will ensure an intake of all micronutrients, especially ones with antioxidant property which helps reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions (12, 13).

Several other types of diets are beneficial:

  • Partially vegetarian diet: allowing milk, eggs, and fish once per week and meat once every two weeks (14).

  • Specific carb diet: removing all grains, most dairy products, and sweeteners (except honey) (15).

  • Anti-inflammatory diet: modified carb and fatty acid intake, increased pre and probiotic intake (16).

  • Paleo: avoiding gluten, refined sugar, and any processed foods (17)

  • Autoimmune protocol: initially eliminating (and later reintroducing) certain food groups including grains, legumes, nightshades, dairy, eggs, coffee, alcohol, nuts and seeds, refined/processed sugars, oils, and food additives (17).

If you have a specific food allergy or food sensitivity, it’s helpful to exclude the entire respective food family from your diet — for example if you have onion intolerance, you should avoid all plants from the allium family, including garlic, chives, leek, scallion, and shallot.

The effect of diet on the body goes beyond what you eat — how much you eat and when is important. Some people find that intermittent fasting is helpful with Hashimoto’s and the regulation of the immune system and digestion.

You might need to try a couple of diets before discovering what works best for you. Try one at a time and allow a few weeks to see results. Track your diet in the BOOST Thyroid app.


  1. Vojdani A. A potential link between environmental triggers and autoimmunity, 2013

  2. Campbell A. Pesticides: our children in jeopardy, 2013

  3. Dolan KT, et al. Diet, gut microbes, and the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases, 2017

  4. Lewis JD, et al. Diet as a trigger or therapy for inflammatory bowel diseases, 2017

  5. Desai MS, et al. A dietary fiber-deprived gut microbiota degrades the colonic mucus barrier and enhances pathogen susceptibility, 2016

  6. Brown IJ, et al. Salt intakes around the world: implications for public health, 2009

  7. Shapiro L, et al. Osmotic regulation of cytokine synthesis in vitro, 1995

  8. Junger WG, et al. Hypertonic saline enhances cellular immune function, 1994

  9. Paradis AM, et al. Associations between dietary patterns and obesity phenotypes, 2009

  10. Min MU, et al.Dietary Patterns and Overweight/Obesity: A review Article, 2017

  11. Imamura F, et al. Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group (NutriCoDE) Dietary quality among men and women in 187 countries in 1990 and 2010: A systematic assessment, 2015

  12. Abellan van Kan G, et al. The I.A.N.A Task Force on frailty assessment of older people in clinical practice, 2008

  13. Castro-Quezada I, et al. The Mediterranean Diet and nutritional adequacy: A review, 2014

  14. Chiba M, et al. Lifestyle-related disease in Crohn’s disease: relapse prevention by a semi-vegetarian diet, 2010

  15. Suskind DL, et al. Patients perceive clinical benefit with the specific carbohydrate diet for inflammatory bowel disease, 2016

  16. Olendzki BC, et al. An anti-inflammatory diet as treatment for inflammatory bowel disease: a case series report, 2014

  17. Konijeti GG, et al. Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, 2017