Vegetarian with Hypothyroidism (New to community)

Started taking synthroid beginning of April after labs came back:

THS 5.62 (range .36-3.74) FT4 was within the normal range .96 (range .73-1.43)

Iron 33 (Range 50-170) % Saturation Iron 8% (Range 15-50%)

Ferritin was low end of normal 12 (8-252)

HGB was just outside of normal range 11.5 (12-16)

RBC, HCT and MCHC were all barely within the normal range. Vitamin D was 31 (range 30-100)

After taking 25 mg of levo for 6 weeks my THS went to 3.99 but my symptoms didn't change. I was put on 50 mg 3 weeks ago and still haven't noticed a change. I was told to take iron as well, but it made my constipation worse so I stopped.

I was told that a vegetarian life style is not always compatible with someone who suffers from hypothyroidism. Is this true? My doctor said I didn't have to change my diet, but others on another forum suggested I cut out soy and dairy, which would be difficult because those are a staple for my protein intake. Does anyone have any advice?

In the end, I don't care what my thyroid or any other number is, I just want to feel better!

25 Replies
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Well, you're not going to feel better if your thyroid hormones are low. Hypothyroidism is a very serious disease, and is made worse by consuming unfermented soy. In fact, your soy intake could be responsible for your high TSH and low FT4 - your FT3 could be even lower, and it's low T3 that causes symptoms. And, even if you have decent levels of T3, the soy will stop it getting into the cells where it's needed. Unfermented soy is terrible stuff!

And, did you know that, although unfermented soy contains a lot of protein, human intestines can't absorb it. So, not only is your protein source making you ill, but it isn't even providing any protein.

My advice would be to stop the soy - forget about the dairy for the time being - but stop the soy and see if you feel any better. It will take a while, but I assure you it's worth it.

If you take a large dose of vit C with your iron, it will help with the constipation - say 1000 mg. Or even higher. And, you could try taking magnesium citrate to help with the constipation, too.

Your vit D is also too low, and needs supplementing. And, as you don't eat meat, you should get your vit B12 and folate tested. If they are low - as they are likely to be - that will make you feel very ill.

What is unfermented soy? Would I find that in fake meat products? I am scheduled to have my B12 tested next week.

You have iron deficiency anaemia which won't help your thyroid either so you really must get your levels up even if causes constipation. The vit C will help but taking it with porridge helps me too.

If you are taking ferrous sulphate, ferrous fumerate is easier on the stomach.

I'm sure you can be vegetarian but you will need to really evaluate what you're eating and making sure you'll get enough of everything you need :-)

Can I still have wine? :)

yes red wine

red meat especially liver

definitely no Quorn or soy of any kind as its full of aluminium

theres no way you can get well without a radical change of diet

also be very very sure that not one single piece of cookware is aluminium or non stick coated or foil

use cast iron or stainless steel or glass

It is really much harder for hypos to keep nutritional levels up so is important to ensure you are eating well enough and it's harder as a vegetarian to get adequate intake. You can use a website like cronometer which tracks every single nutrient including the micro ones to see where you're not achieving - might be useful for you as indications are that you've maybe not managed it.

It's not just the iron and B12, it's also the different amount of proteins and fats and even retinol (vit A), creatin, omega 3 and so on but I'm sure it can be done with dairy/eggs/legumes etc and a bit of effort at first to ensure a varied enough diet. Quinoa for example, has all amino acids that you have to get from your dietry intake and is a complete protein source. Buckwheat is too. B12 is the trickiest one mind you. I certainly don't believe Vegans would manage it.

If it's animal cruelty issues behind your choices, I know how you feel. I get most of my meat from a local farm that raises them in fields. I get my eggs from my a family friend whose chickens have quite a nice life and get organic milk and cheese and they at least have to have some pasture etc.

However, I mostly eat a lot of fish that I know are not farmed such as mackerel as although their last few hours might not be the best, at least they lead a free life before - it helps me feel better anyway :-(

Fermented soy is traditionally produced soy sauce, traditional miso, natto, and various other such things.

Most soy in western food is unfermented.

I really do try to eat healthy. My weight is up a few pounds and its harder to lose. But I am still in the normal/healthy range. It's just not a weight I feel comfortable at. Much of my protein comes from fake meat so I this will cause a major change in what I eat. I am willing to try it though.

It would most definitely be in fake meat, yes. Soy milk, soy protein, soy flour, soy oil, soy lecithin, tofu, it's all unfermented. Even some soy sauces are unfermented when they're supposed to be fermented, so you have to be careful with that, too.

Fermented soy is things like miso and natto. But, they are only supposed to be a condiment, not a main meal.

It's easier to tell you what is fermented soy - narrow, miso, tempeh, basically.

This article discusses why unfermented soy isn't good for us

And says

"...... The unfermented soy category is a most problematic one. It includes soy products, such as tofu, bean curd, all soy milks, soy infant formulae, soy protein powders and soy meat alternatives, such as soy sausages/veggie burgers, made from hydrolysed soy powder........"

I was a demi-veggie, I ate fish and chicken but no other meat, but I wasn't one for fake meat, didn't see the point in that. After testing I found I was deficient in all vits and mins except B12 and I couldn't tolerate iron supplements to help raise ferritin. I still don't eat very much meat but I do now eat liver every week and that has raised my ferritin.

You need to get your ferritin to half way through it's range, in fact all your vits and mins to optimal levels for thyroid hormone to be able to work.

Assuming the unit of measurement is Ng/ml (as you are not in the UK) then that is recommended to be 40-60 according to the Vit D Council

Fake meat usually gluten and đź‘Ž Try bonsoy milk. Expensive but fermented.

yes Being vegetarian is not comensurate with Hypothyroid as levels of ferritin and B12 are so utterly vital





all MUST BE at least halfway in their ranges otherwise your body cannot convert the t4 in levothyroxine into T3 which is what every single body cell needs to function

it takes months of ferrous fumerate to raise ferritin and yours is very low

I am vegan and would not change it. It's my life. I believe dairy products and gluten cause many of our diseases.

Never give up.

Grey goose gives good info too. Soy is bad.

Clevelandgirl I'd be interested to know what your symptoms were before treatment. I too am vegetarian with hypothyroidism and feeling v dizzy and unwell. Waiting for vit level tests to come back...

Well my symptoms haven't changed since I started meds. They would include fatigue, constipation, sensitive to cold, light headedness (but I think that's because I have low blood pressure), difficulty in maintaining weight or losing a few pounds. (My weight is normal range but I REALLY watch what I eat all the time. If I go up a couple pounds it requires so much more work and time to lose them again.) Brain fog, longer menstrual cycles, decreased libido and slight depression.

I just thought I was getting old. But I went to the doctor for a check up (it had been 10 years!) and the blood work came back with low thyroid. Then it all made sense!

Hi, I think being vegan is the only thing that has kept me going, with more energy than most people my age. Sadly, I have a large multi nodular goitre which I have had since before turning vegan, and I doubt my diet, or any other diet, would have reduced it in size. I avoid soya, apart from tempeh, and gluten and recently had a full set of bloods taken at the GP. My test results came back with absolutely no issues. Like everyone should in the UK, I take vitamin D3 during the winter (when I remember), and all the plant based milks are fortified with B12. Because cows are often milked whilst pregnant, dairy products are a cocktail of hormones that are likely to interfere with the endocrine system in one way or another.

If you need info regarding nutrition on a veg/vegan diet please refer to


I have been a strict vegetarian since my early teens (a VERY long time ago), and also have Hashimoto’s, and other auto-immune conditions, and have had other health problems. I am also feeling so much better since totally changing my diet and adding T3 to my levothyroxine.

My own experience is that doctors tend not to know much about diet and being hypo, so I rarely accept any of their advice on it. My GP even thought that eating Marmite would sort out my B12 deficiency.

I wanted to change my diet, but many of the recommended diets (AIP, Paleo etc) are not really compatible with being veggie. I had given up gluten and soya to help reduce my antibodies - it certainly is possible. I get my protein mainly from pulses, nuts and seeds, I am not a fan of eggs. I have also given up all sugar, including fruit, as I have had candida and SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth); yeast and caffeine. I have not given up dairy as my diet is already so restricted – but I only have “young” cheeses (mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese), and only small amounts of cheddar (all veggie).

I have to admit that I did seek help from a private nutritionist as I was so unwell generally, and not getting any help from my GP. I had a lot of tests. I had extremely low stomach acid, and was not absorbing my nutrients, so was deficient in many things – even vitamin C, despite eating copious amount of vegetables. My GP had been happy to ignore what I now realise were mild symptoms of scurvy.

Protein is obviously a bit of a concern. I have a continuing problem with getting enough protein so, as well as ensuring that I have protein at every meal, I also use a very good protein powder which I can add to drinks or meals. I also hadn’t realised that I couldn’t just eat chick peas for instance, which I adore, as my “only” protein – it is essential to have different pulses (nuts and seeds) to ensure you get all the amino acids you need. I tend to make a lots of soups and casseroles now. I take a range of good quality supplements, including vitamin C, D3/K2, vitamin B complex, and I get B12 injections.

I enjoy my food, and get seriously fed-up with not being able to eat what I want, but my health has improved immeasurably since I addressed it all properly. I have had some lapses (with sugar!) and I really pay the price for it, and suffer the consequences for weeks.

I did not make all the changes in one go. I had given up gluten after reading advice on here years ago. I then gave up soya quite a while later. The other changes I made over a year ago after consulting my nutritionist, but are not written in stone and I will be able to introduce some of my “banned” foods.

I really do feel that diet is so important for everyone, but particularly for those of us battling chronic illness. Yes, it is really really hard, but maybe just make small changes to start with.

Thank you for sharing. Sometimes all the advice, as helpful as it is, can become overwhelming. I am writing everything down and trying to analyze it. Now I just have to decide what I start with. Problem is I love the foods that everyone is telling me I should avoid. I love bread. Toast with peanut butter is a staple in my diet. I love cheese and pizza. I couldn't fathom giving up sugar because that would mean no chocolate or fruit... or wine. Soy is in almost every meat substitute product on the market. Overall, I eat fairly healthy. I have no problem with cutting back on some of the foods, but elimination of them all would make me sad.

It is very daunting to see how many changes people recommend that we make to our diets, I scare people when I tell them what I’ve given up. Not everything suits everyone either, which is why I haven’t given up dairy. However, I didn’t just wake up one morning and do it all in one go. I’d been reading advice on this forum, read information elsewhere (when the brain fog allowed), and gradually realised I HAD to do something. The whole thing was a relatively slow process.

I was so unwell, I couldn’t continue as I was. The nausea, pain and general “unwellness” was trashing my life … actually, I had no life. I was gaining weight, didn’t socialise, was mentally and physically exhausted. Something had to change.

And you can still eat pizza! I do! You can even eat out and eat pizza, as many chain establishments cater well for gluten-free diets. I still eat cheddar and mozzarella. I’ve never had meat substitute meals as I never wanted anything that was supposed to resemble meat, so I guess that’s more of a problem for you. However, I make my own veggie burgers, which even the carnivores in my family enjoy. I use pulses and vegetables to make lasagne, shepherd’s pie, chilli etc.

You can still have bread, just make sure it’s gluten-free. Or maybe try making your own. I can’t have yeast as I am extremely unwell if I eat it, but I make soda bread (packed with seeds too), and it’s yummy. No, it isn’t the crusty white baguette that I would rather have, but it doesn’t make me sick.

I only gave up sugar as I had candida and the gut infections. It isn’t something you would have to do. Having said that, I would opt for decent quality chocolate, or even raw chocolate, rather than the extremely processed stuff (but that’s because I bang on about processed foods these days).

Gluten and soya are the two things that most of us would advise stopping. So maybe just try it for a month. You can always start eating it again. Some people advise giving up nightshades – I haven’t because it would limit my diet too much, and they don’t make me ill anyway; it’s the same with dairy, I have chosen not to give it up. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to really :)

I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. I will ease into dietary changes like you recommended. By the way, what are night shades? (I'm from the U.S so some of your lingo is new to me :) )

Nightshades are potatoes (sweet potatoes are OK), peppers, sweet peppers, aubergines and tomatoes, and also any dried spices from those foods. I don’t have a reaction to them, and have not excluded them from my diet as I would end up running out of things to eat!

Yes, in the ideal world, we would all have these amazingly healthy diets, but it isn’t always practically possible. I felt so unwell that I had to make changes, so I guess you need to get your head around which changes you can incorporate into your life. It IS hard work!!

(I guessed where you were from because of your name :) )

Check out AIP re foods groups and Sarah Ballentyne Paleo Mum. Nightshades are potatoes, peppers, chilli, tomatoes and I think aubergine. Might have forgotten something as these are definately off the menu for me. Lots of us react badly to this group but to be sure see the 4 food groups that can cause issues and the exclusion phase of AIP.

The AIP and Paleo diets are really not compatible with a vegetarian diet – nuts, seeds and pulses aren’t allowed, and that is where we need to get our protein from. It's a bit of a nightmare! Thankfully, my amazing nutritionist incorporates my choices into a diet that suits me :)

Hello Cleveland Girl. I have a underactive thryoid. I am on 125mg of Levothryoxine. I am a vegetarian and dairy free. My condition has been stable nearly a year. Soya products don't seem to be affecting my thryoid. I take it last thing at night so food doesn't interfere with it. If I listened to the experts I would drink nothing and eat nothing. I am perfectly healthy. Due to my medication and lack of vegan products I can't be a vegan. The important thing is to not take throyxine near food and drinks, except plain water.

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