A butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck that controls metabolism, the thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which makes the hormones that play a role in so many of our bodies’ processes. Thyroid cancer is often treated with radioactive iodine treatment.
To make treatment more effective, thyroid cancer experts may recommend that patients follow a low-iodine diet for one to two weeks leading up to treatment. This depletes the body’s levels of iodine, which may make the tests more accurate and effective.
Iodine is contained in many foods that we enjoy daily so cutting it out of your diet, even for a few weeks, can be difficult. Foods banned during a low iodine diet include dairy (including chocolate), any foods with iodized salt, seafood, egg yolks or any foods containing whole eggs, soybeans and soy products, beans, rhubarb, potato skins, baked products, and any food with red food dye #3.
Whew! It can seem as though there are no foods left to eat! There are variations about what is allowed or not allowed for your particular situation so be sure to ask your care team for a thorough list, and if possible, speak with a registered dietitian.
We know that going through treatment is hard enough, without having to stress about your diet, but undertaking a low-iodine diet can be the perfect springboard into a life of healthy eating. It forces you to get into the kitchen and cook, plus it’s also a great time to get more familiar with a healthy and balanced diet.
Tips to follow:
- Avoid processed food such as baked goods, processed meats, and canned vegetables, as these often contain salt. While salt itself is not an issue, iodized salt is – and there is no way of determining which type of salt, regular vs iodized, was used in the making of those food products. Iodized salt is simply regular salt that has had the potassium iodate added to it. The addition of iodine in trace amounts is needed to maintain normal health, but something to be avoided for thyroid cancer patients leading up to treatment, as we stated above. Cooking at home will help you avoid iodized salt.
- Empty the salt shaker at home, and fill it with non-iodized salt. Avoid spice mixes that contain salt, as this may be iodized.
- Read labels of products. Any mention of salt or iodine (for example iodized dough in bread) means you should avoid it.
- Avoid any food supplement which contains iodine – read the back of the label to check.
The key to the low-iodine diet is preparation. Cooking low-iodine meals in advance and freezing them means that you are well prepared. Many patients are battling symptoms of hypothyroidism at the same time as their low-iodine diet, which makes things more difficult.
Here are some low-iodine recipes to cook and store in your fridge or freezer to prepare you for your low iodine weeks.
For more information on following a low iodine diet, check out the Thyroid Cancer Survivor Association, who have in-depth advice to make following the diet a breeze.
The Low Iodine Diet group also contains information about foods that are safe to eat.