Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Radioactive Iodine and Low-Iodine Diet

A part of my thyroid cancer treatment involves a dose of Radioactive Iodine (RAI), which is oral chemotherapy.  To prepare for this, I will have to stop taking my thyroid medicine and go on a low-iodine diet for about 5 weeks (4 weeks before, 1 week after).

Educational moment:  Thyroid tissue is the only tissue in the body that takes up iodine and iodine is actually really important for normal thyroids.  Lack of iodine in the diet is associated with goitars and other thyroid malfunctions.  For this reason, developed countries have added iodine to pretty much everything to make sure that people get enough.

The type of cancer I have likes to spread via the bloodstream to your lungs and bones, but really it can pop up anywhere in the body.  And even after a thyroidectomy, there is still some remnant thyroid tissue left in the body (around the parathyroid glands).

Since iodine is only taken up by thyroid tissue, it is the perfect mechanism for killing leftover thyroid tissue and killing any thyroid cancer cells that may be in other locations of the body.  RAI will help get rid of any cancer cells which may have spread (which hopefully none did) and help keep the cancer from coming back.

A nuclear pharmacist (like our friend, Reid) will prepare a radioactive form of the iodine (I-131).  In terms of side effects, it doesn't have many.  It is a MUCH better alternative to systemic chemotherapy.

The Low-Iodine diet will basically starve my body of Iodine so that when I get the I-131, the thyroid tissue will soak it all up.

There are quite a few restrictions on this diet.  They differ a little depending on who you talk to, but here's the jist:

-  No dairy (that includes cheese, milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt, and chocolate)
-  No egg yolks
-  No soy products
-  Basically nothing processed
-  No iodinized salt
-  Nothing from the ocean.  No fish, shellfish, sea salt, seaweed, etc.
-  No chicken plumped with brine.
-  Only 6 oz. of meat a day
-  Only 4 servings of grains a day
-  No Red #3
-  Distilled Water
-  Certain types of beans are off limits
-  Not too much spinach and broccoli
-  No canned anything (except peaches, pineapple, and one other thing I can't remember)

There's still plenty to eat, but it requires a little more planning than usual since almost EVERYTHING has to be made from scratch.  And it will be a lot of fruits and vegetables.  I am secretly hoping I will lose weight while doing this, but that isn't likely.  In addition to the restricted diet, I have to stop taking my thyroid medicine so my metabolism will be virtually non-existant.  And I'll probably feel like crap. 

But it must be done!  I can do it.  Hopefully this will be one of the last steps in this process.


  1. It really sounds tough! But glad there is a treatment with no side effects!

  2. I just stumbled upon your blog. Glad I did! I am on Day 2 of the low iodine diet. My treatment begins in January - sometime around the 21st. I am looking for meal planning ideas. I have the big cookbook from the thyca website. Just looking for some regular ideas - lunch & dinners. I am good with breakfasts. Also, I need snacks - other than fruit :) Love your site.


    1. Hi Justin! I found lunches to be the hardest part. I tended to save most of my grains and meat for dinner, so I could basically have as much of those as I wanted. And 4-5 oz. of meat and 4 servings of grains in one meal is quite filling so I think that was the best thing for me. For lunches, I usually had carrots and celery with LID Hummus with fruit. And I would just eat as much as I could. I also made some LID salsa and LID gaucamole and ate them with No-Salt White Corn Tortilla chips from Trader Joe's (you can find other No-Salt Tortilla chips at Natural food stores). I searched and searched and couldn't find anywhere on THYCA's site that said that tortilla chips were a grain.

      The other thing I had for lunch was the LID Lentil Soup from the THYCA cookbook. I have actually made that soup post-LID diet because I thought it was so good. It is no grains and no meat so you can eat as much as you can stomach of that.

      For dinner, we made the blackening seasoning from the THYCA cookbook and used that with Foster Farms chicken thigh fillets and then baked them. Each one of those was about 3 or 4 ounces. And we could saute' peeled potato cubes to go with them and I would eat those with the LID ketchup kind of like fries. And of course a bunch of steamed veggies to fill up.

      I made some of the LID Spaghetti Sauce (which is REALLY good and I need to make it again post-LID) and had that with some quinoa pasta (that was part corn and had no added salt) or some pasta I picked up from a local market that was JUST wheat (no eggs or salt).

      You could do shish kabobs too, but they seemed like too much work honestly.

      Are you getting the Thyrogen shots? Or are you just going off your thyroid meds? If you are going off your thyroid meds, I suggest making some food now ahead of time and freezing it before you start to really feel the affects of severe hypothryoidism. I didn't feel super bad, just completely unmotivated to do anything. And it was nice to have things already partially done so I could just reheat or thaw them when I needed them.

      Snacks - Fruit leathers were good. Unsalted pretzels (although they count as a grain). A lot of fruit :). A lot of veggies. Super boring.

      It is definitely a time of survival... food isn't your friend and you pretty much just eat because you have to. You can do it!! I hope this helps. E-mail me if you have any other questions.

      Good Luck!

  3. 5 weeks?! I've been worried about my LID diet and it's only 10 days before and 1 day after the RI. I start mine on the 30th. Today I baked some LID-friendly blueberry muffins and flourless dark chocolate cookies. I'm also going to make some bread and out it in the freezer. I'm having to prep a little early because we have vacation next week and my diet start date is the day we come home. My doctor has not given me any guidelines so I'm depending on the internet for my information.

  4. I have Crohn’s Disease and cannot eat too many vegetables, nor “fresh” fruits (except for a few). So, using your example, I came up with a YouTube Video to help my fellow IBD Patients who may need to go through the LID. You may post this link on your web-page, if you feel it would be helpful to other IBD patients! – Paul https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABqZPS4K8Co


Let's be friends. I hope your e-mail is attached to your profile! Then I can e-mail you back.

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