Losing Weight with Graves' Disease

Dieting for a person with Graves' disease presents some special challenges. Graves' disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism and affects the auto-immune system. For some reason, the body sees the thyroid as a foreign element and sets out to destroy it. As a defence the thyroid swells and produces too many of its hormones.

Hyperthyroidism is the name given to the over-production of hormones produced by the thyroid. The thyroid gland is situated in the neck. It is essential to the well-being of the nervous, reproductive and digestive systems. Thyroid hormones also have an effect on the skin, lungs, hair, eyes, bones and muscles so an excess affects almost all parts of the body.

Symptoms of Graves' disease include the enlargement of the thyroid gland and a forward protrusion (exophthalmos) of the eye (Graves' ophthalmopathy). Corrective eye surgery may be necessary.

Those suffering from Graves' disease also have a resistance to insulin so it is very important to drink plenty of water.

Factors causing the disease are not fully understood. Increased levels of iodine have been observed and there may be a genetic link.

VegetablesCredit: By Biswarup Ganguly (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) via Wikimedia Commons

Choice of diet can play a part in managing and even reducing the symptoms and effects of hyperthyroidism. Iodine has already been mentioned. Those suffering from Graves' disease should avoid foods with a high iodine content. Kelp, shellfish, some other seafoods, beef liver, turkey, chicken and red meats have relatively high levels of iodine. Soy products should be avoided as they may inhibit thyroid function.

The news is not all bad however. Fresh and dried fruits, fresh vegetables, oatmeal, fresh lean meat, grain pasta and decaffeinated drinks can all be eaten without restriction. Check the iodine content of whole grains before purchase.

If you have Graves' disease and wish to lose weight, keep your doctor informed in case there is a need for supplements. Whole grains and complex carbohydrates are a good choice. Unprocessed foods are much to be preferred to processed foods. Refined carbohydrates such as white sugar and white flour should be restricted. Read the labels on dairy products to ascertain their iodine level and avoid red dye #3.

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High fibre foods will help you feel satisfied. It takes more energy to digest high fibre foods and thus more calories are burnt.

While fresh fruit and vegetables are generally a good choice, some vegetables may have high levels of iodine. Those of the Brassica genus are all suspect, especially if eaten raw. Go easy on broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohl rabi and Brussels sprouts.

Choose lean meats and steer away from frying as a cooking method. Steam or bake meat if possible. Lean meat is a good source of protein and helps give a satisfied feeling and extra energy.

Limit your caffeine intake and alcohol consumption. This is good advice for everyone but particularly so for those with Graves' disease. Try to cut down on the number of serves of complex carbohydrates. Don't cut them out altogether but replace some portions with extra vegetables and fruit.

By following these few simple rules, you will be able to keep your condition under control.