Dietary advice for hyperthyroid patients undergoing treatment

Dietary advice for hyperthyroid patients undergoing treatment

People who are hyperthyroid tend to lose weight because their body’s metabolic rate is faster than normal. In the body’s effort to compensate for burning fuel (food) faster, the appetite and, consequently, food intake, increase. This varies from person to person, sometimes taking the form of larger food portions or more between-meal snacks. Also, there is often a preference for more sweets. If consumption does not keep up with the increased metabolism, weight loss occurs. (It is also possible to increase intake so much that a weight gain occurs.)

Whatever the therapy, treatment of hyperthyroidism is aimed at lowering the activity of the thyroid gland. Thyroid hormone levels in the blood will then decrease, and the body responds by lowering the rate at which fuel is consumed (metabolism). When recovery from hyperthyroidism occurs and the metabolism becomes normal, the total amount of food needed will decrease.

Appetite control, unfortunately, often lags behind the body’s metabolic adjustments. Therefore, appetite and food intake frequently may continue as before and be greater than the body’s actual new requirement. The result may be a tendency to gain weight. This weight gain is not an inevitable result of the cure of hyperthyroidism but simply a temporary mismatch between the appetite, food intake, and metabolic rate. Appetite is hard to control, and recovering patients may need to take action in limiting their food intake.

As treatment of hyperthyroidism takes effect and symptoms are relieved — and this happens gradually — sensible intake will help minimize any tendency to gain weight. Decreasing sugar and fat while eating more high fiber carbohydrate foods (for example, whole grain products, including breads, cereals, and potatoes) will help control the tendency to gain weight. Protein should be an important part of at least two meals each day. The usual semi-sedentary person should keep intake to about 1000 to 1500 calories, at least until the hyperthyroidism is completely cured and weight stabilizes. Protein should be about 12 percent of this total. Check your weight weekly to keep alert to any tendencies to gain.

The above is part of the instructions given to patients undergoing treatment for hyperthyroidism in an effort to help them stabilize their weight and avoid weight gain as they get well.

It has been adapted from “Dietary Intake in Thyrotoxicosis Before and After Adequate Carbimazole Therapy: The Impact of Dietary Advice.” Alton, S. And O’Malley, B.P. Clinical Endocrinology (1985) 23:517520.


(Often associated with thyroid problems)(*)

Fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, drowsiness. Mood changes, hair loss, emotional instability. Change in hair texture, loss of hair, symptoms of eye disease. Sudden sensitivity to heat or cold. Changes in appearance of fingernails, toenails. Shortness of breath, dyspnea (labored breath). Sudden, severe weight loss, thirst, excess urination. Altered menstrual periods. Muscle weakness, difficulty in swallowing. Hoarseness. Thyroid exposure to x-rays, radiation. Use of medications that are anti-thyroid (sulfonylurea: hypoglycemia). Use of estrogen-containing compounds, Dilantin, aspirin. Protruding eyes. Diarrhea episodes, tremors, hyperactivity. Fever, rapid heartbeat.


The publishers of Nutrition Health Review would like to thank the Tyroid Foundation of America (TFA) for granting permission to excerpt and reproduce material from the following articles that appeared in the TFA newsletter, The Bridge:

“Dietary Advice for Hyperthyroid Patients Undergoing Treatment,” 1990, 5(1).

“How to Choose a Thyroid Surgeon,” 1989, 4(1).

“WARNING: Do Not Take This Medication If You Have Thyroid Disease,” 1988, 3(2).

For more information about the Thyroid Foundation of America, contact:

The Thyroid Foundation of America, Inc.

Ruth Sleeper Hall-RSL 350

40 Parkman Street

Boston, MA 02114-2698

The toll-free number is 1-800-832-8321.

(*) These symptoms are not always indicative of thyroid disease. They can also be characteristic of other diseases.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Vegetus Publications

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group