the introduction: Low Iodine Diet (LID) for Vegan / Vegetarians
- Low Iodine Diet is (at least) 17 days in reality, not 14
- Preparation is really important (unless you have ample time on your hands, in which case, the impact may not be as significant)
- I haven’t found a lot of resources for vegetarian/vegans that need to go on the LID — hence this series of posts, but this might be helpful generally, for anyone prepping for Radioiodine treatment
Here we go again. One year ago, I had my first experience with the Low Iodine Diet (or LID) and boy did that suck. I knew I was going to have to do it, I had been given information and links but I didn’t realize WHEN I’d have to start.
In discussing with my Dr., I thought all the appointments for my body scan and radioactive iodine treatment would be scheduled and then we would determine a LID start date that was 2 weeks earlier. But apparently these appointments weren’t so far out and they were waiting for me to hit 2-weeks low iodine in order to schedule the appointments! Pfft. So, needless to say, I started out my diet in a frenzy and wholly unprepared.
Anyone who has done LID knows it’s a pain in the ass, in particular due to the inability to rely on prepared foods. Basically anything cooked in a restaurant or pre-made foods (frozen, boxed, etc) are off limits. So, normal LID is probably hard, and LID without preparation is guaranteed hard. Layer on top of that vegetarian/vegan restrictions and nearly all dinners in the ‘helpful’ thyca.org cookbook go out the window. Normally I would mod a meat recipe with alt meat, tofu, or tempeh but on LID this is not an option.
So, here we are a year later and I’m gearing up for my 1 year body scan (fingers crossed I don’t “light up”!) and damnit if I’ll be eating black beans, matzoh crackers and nut butter for 2 weeks. Not that those things are bad, but 17 days of that is not cool. This year I’m prepping, planning, pre-cooking, and I’m going to rock my 17 days of LID.
Oh, and if you’re new to Thyroid treatments, scans or radioiodine and notice that I keep saying 17 days and not 14, it’s because in reality it is 17 days, not the “two weeks” everyone mentions. Here’s why: you need to be low iodine for two weeks (14 days) before your treatment starts. They count treatment starting at the date of your first Thyrogen shot (if this is how you are doing it). And the Thyrogen shots are the two days prior to your body scan/treatment. Then, they recommend not starting your regular diet again until 24 hours after your scan. So, counting the two days of Thyrogen shots, plus the day of the body scan, radioiodine ingestion, the minimum number of days you’ll be on LID is 17 days. Plan for that. Not 14. It probably seems trivial to the Drs and Nurses who are giving the treatment/advice and haven’t gone through it themselves, but those 3 extra days aren’t nothing.
Last year, day 17 in particular was brutal. I had to travel to a hospital over an hour away from home and had to spend nearly the whole day there, which I hadn’t expected. I hadn’t eaten much, if any, breakfast and expected the appointment to be over within an hour or so, after which I could eat again. When I finally wrapped up around 3–3:30pm I raced to the closest Burger King and had a Beyond Whopper that I scarfed in 30 seconds flat. The first fast food I had eaten in probably 10 years and it tasted so phenomenal. Not only because of how hungry I was but because it was the first “food” I had eaten in 16.5 days. It’s weird, you read everywhere that Low Iodine diet is not no salt, but throughout being on the LID, I craved what I thought was salt…and felt like I couldn’t get my food salty enough. Maybe it was iodine cravings? Since last year, I have switched to Kosher / non-iodized salt in regular life, so I’ll be curious if this time around I have the same issue.
Follow along if you are vegetarian / vegan (or just curious how one person executes LID) and want to see how this goes and get advice on preparation tips, menu ideas, and recipes!
Note: These posts supplement other resources like what can be found on thyca.org. I won’t go into details of what can/can’t be consumed since there are lots of resources that list those things out.
Post Script: In case anyone is curious, here is my general timeline.
- July 2020 — diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma
- March 2021 — total thyroidectomy and central neck dissection (with a lymph node or two removed for good measure)
- May 2021 — RadioIodine treatment
- May 2021-April 2022 — regular rounds of blood work, ultrasound scans, Dr checkups, Levothyroxine adjustments, etc
- May 2022 — Full body image scan via radioactive iodine