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Low Iodine Diet for Radioactive Iodine Treatment

Updated on January 12, 2010

Be Prepared

If you've entered the phase of radioactive iodine treatment you have most likely gone through surgery to have your thyroid out (or at least part of it) and are now on synthetic thyroid medication. You may not have thyroid cancer, but still have to go through the treatment. Before the treatment ask your doctor if you are eligible for Thyrogen injection therapy. This therapy will allow you to stay on your synthetic thyroid medication and you will not have to go hypo and deal with all of those symptoms. Luckily, I was able to go this route and did not have any strange side effects from the thyrogen injections (some people feel a little achy 24 hours after the shots).

Once you have a start date of your low iodine diet, typically people will have to go on the diet for 2 weeks before the radioactive iodine is administered, you need to prepare for this diet. I could have been more prepared with more variety of foods that do not contain iodine. Variety is key be week 2. I think next time I would bake more muffins and snacks. Snacks are key because if you get hungry and do not have something to grab you may grab something that is not on the diet and ruin the diet.

It is also very important to talk to your doctor and see if they have a list (my doctor's office gave me a detailed list of allowable foods) of foods you are allowed to have. Not all lists are the same and there is some controversy on how effective the diet is because there are no cold hard facts on how it helps with the treatment. I do, however, believe in this diet and think it definitely helps with the uptake of radioactive iodine.

The Thyroid Cancer web site has a good cookbook, but be careful as to what ingredients they tell you to use. Depending on the list you (hopefully) get from your doctor, the cookbook may have blacklisted foods, like spinach

Trader Joe's pumpkin butter

Non-iodine foods you can find at natural food stores (and good snacks)

Salt (the non-iodized kind, no sea salt)

Westbrae stone ground mustard (with no salt)

Pumpkin butter from Trader Joe's

Raw foods bars

Nut and fruit bar

Izze natural fruit sodas

Matzo crackers (good for unsalted peanut butter and pumpkin butter "sandwiches")

Rice crackers

egg whites (not egg beaters, but actual eggs that you take the white from, most ready-made egg whites have salt in them)

Unsalted peanut butter

unsalted nuts



beans (except those on your list; pinto beans, navy beans, soy beans)

unsalted meat



This whole process will bring up emotions for you. Whether or not you are an emotional person, you will, at some point during this 2-3 week period, get emotional. It's frustrating having to eat at home and cook your own meals all the time. You can't go to restaurants (unless you know for sure you won't be getting any iodine in the food they prepare).You may have to watch your partner or family or friends eat foods that you wish you could eat, but can't have. It just keeps reminding you that you have cancer and have to deal with it. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to feel anger, sadness, or loss. Try not to let yourself wallow in it and make sure you join a support group, online or otherwise, or find a counselor or someone you can talk to about how you are feeling. This is truly important for the diet and for the treatment to be successful. Staying positive and dealing with your emotions as they come up really is helpful.

The diet itself is just one step of many towards a cancer free body. Think of it as a stepping stone and know that it won't last forever. If you do have to do the diet again, you will know what to expect next time and can improve upon your experience each time you have to go through it.


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      bridgetcrepeau 18 months ago

      Please go. I had one a year ago and having my second on Monday.

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      sherri 2 years ago


      I am getting ready for I-131 treatment and was wondering if I could ask you some questions about your experience.


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      Olivia 6 years ago