Best and Worst Foods for Thyroid Eye Disease
Thyroid eye disease (TED) is an autoimmune condition also known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy or Graves’ eye disease. It occurs when the immune system triggers an overproduction of thyroid hormone, and those same autoantibodies lead to damage of healthy tissue around the eyes. Common symptoms are eye swelling, bulging, and dryness. While there is no one definitive thyroid eye disease diet, certain foods have been shown to make symptoms better or worse.
Fruits, vegetables, and nuts that contain antioxidants can strengthen the immune system and potentially improve TED symptoms. Consider working more of them into your meals and snacks, including:
- Berries (blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries)
- Bell peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Walnuts and pecans
Think about your salt intake. Salt makes fluid retention and swelling worse, so cutting back can have the opposite effect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer these tips to reduce sodium in your diet:
- Substitute garlic and other seasonings for salt when you cook
- Buy canned and frozen foods with no salt added
- Look for foods with labels that say reduced sodium and low sodium
- Avoid prepared meals with more than 600 milligrams of sodium
Keep an eye on iodine, too. While everyone needs to get some iodine through foods like fish or dairy to produce thyroid hormone, those who have an overactive thyroid are likely getting enough. Adding more iodine through high-iodine foods like seafood, kelp, and sushi can backfire.
It’s generally a good idea to avoid fried foods and foods with added sugar. They don’t have the nutritional value you need to strengthen your immune system. Try whole grain breads and pastas in place of white. Bake or broil instead of frying. Experiment with better-for-you butter trades like olive oil, canola oil spray, or margarine.
Some people with TED benefit from adopting a low-carbohydrate, gluten-free diet heavy in fruits and vegetables. The connection isn’t entirely clear, but roughly half of those who have TED also have celiac disease, a severe sensitivity to gluten. Common foods that contain gluten include:
- Brewer’s yeast
To find out if you have celiac disease, your doctor can do a simple blood test. If you think you have celiac disease, don’t quit gluten until after your blood test. It’ll need to be in your blood for accurate results.
If you smoke, quitting can also make a difference. People with TED who smoke tend to have more severe symptoms more often. Ask your doctor to help you develop a quit strategy.
Your doctor may also be able to add a nutritionist or registered dietitian to your healthcare team to provide guidance on healthy food choices and create menus that suit your taste and leave you satisfied, with your symptoms eased.