How nutrition effects the thyroid
Hormonal balance is the state the body always strives for in order to function optimally. In a state of hormonal balance and homeostasis, all body systems that are affected by the hormones secreted into the body’s organs, operate in their natural state. As a result, we can enjoy the healing and building processes of the body’s cells, mental calmness, clarity of thought and a healthy and strong body. The thyroid gland is one of the most important glands in the body and in the endocrine system in particular. Its proper functioning, and its hormones it produces and secretes, is necessary for the functioning of all the different body systems that depend on It. When the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, our body will signal it to us in different and diverse ways.
Table of contents:
The thyroid functions and ways to deal with thyroid imbalance
- 1 The effect of different diets on thyroid activity
- 2 Paleolithic diet has been shown to reduce inflammation and autoimmune activity
- 3 The carnivore diet and the thyroid gland
- 4 Foods that are better to avoid when there are thyroid problems
Sometimes certain situations in life, such as extreme changes in diet or daily high stress levels, cause a disruption in the thyroid gland and it goes out of balance. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is manifested by the fact that the thyroid gland doesn’t create and release enough thyroid hormone into your bloodstream. Alternatively, hyperthyroidism (hyperactive thyroid) is manifested by the fact that the thyroid glandproduces and releases high levels of thyroid hormone. In these conditions, the other systems and organs in the body will also get affected due to this sudden change in the hormonal balance, which will lead to a change in their activities. This phenomenon will cause further imbalances of additional hormones in the body. In other words, all your hormones affect one another and work together.
Such imbalances may eventually lead to a variety of medical problems, for most of which conventional medicine does not always have an adequate solution. These medical problems may over time affect the lifestyle and the quality of life. The symptoms of these problems in the thyroid gland may manifest in a variety of ways such as: constipation and other digestive problems, excessive irritability, tremors in the body, sleep problems, sharp changes in weight, excessive sweating and other symptoms that significantly harm our health and quality of life. When conditions such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism persist for a long time without treatment, immediate intervention and a drastic change in lifestyle are often required, such as a change in the diet, managing our daily stress and sleep. If an irreversible damage in the function of the thyroid occurs it will be necessary to supplement thyroid hormones externally, and for this you should consult your doctor.
Thyroid in blood tests
In the past, when I suspected that my thyroid gland was out of balance after experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, I asked my attending physician to perform a full comprehensive hormonal profile in the blood and not only TSH. It was especially important for me to check both the active hormones Free T4 and Free T3 as well as thyroid antibodies (TPO and TgAb) which can assist in diagnosis or rule out an autoimmune disease in the thyroid gland. Based on the results, I could better understand whether it is possible to heal the thyroid and replenish my body through changing my diet, the stress in my life and sleep, or whether I should start a thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Hormonal treatment should usually be the last resort, only after discovering that it is not possible to restore the thyroid gland in natural ways.
The effect of different diets on thyroid activity
There are different strategies to balance the thyroid gland naturally. Diets low in carbohydrates and rich in fat and good quality protein are suitable for people who are interested in healthy weight loss and for people who suffer from diseases that result out of a physiological imbalance that leads to a damage to the body caused by the body’s own immune system, also known as autoimmune diseases. In these situations, carbohydrates in large amounts can be an harmful factor that only exacerbates the damage to the body and accelerate autoimmune tendencies. “Ketogenic diet” is a diet that is based on a low amount of carbohydrates and a large amount of fats. If we take type 1 diabetes as an example (also an autoimmune disease), based on my experience, I will always recommend avoiding consuming carbohydrates in excess, carbohydrates which eventually converted to glucose in the blood and raise the blood sugar concentration, which leads to an unbalanced diabetes and subsequently to further common diabetes health complications, some of which are life-threatening. You can hear more about ketogenic nutrition in my podcast “The Normal BG Podcast” in which I hosted experts in the field.
A full ketogenic diet, also called “Full Keto” with complete exclusion of carbohydrates is not necessarily recommended for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. It is recommended to consume carbohydrates from natural sources mainly from local seasonal fruits to a certain extent for those who suffer from thyroid problems. Sometimes, when you follow a diet that has no carbohydrates at all for too long, hormonal deficiencies may appear in the blood tests. The secret is to know when you better use a diet composed of 0 grams of carbohydrates and when you should add carbohydrates. I usually change my diet according to different periods of the year, changes in activity levels and exercise intensity and in different situations throughout the day such as: an important meeting, a presentation, an interview and more.
Paleolithic diet has been shown to reduce inflammation and autoimmune activity
For those who deal with thyroid problems, I recommend learning about the Paleolithic diet. The strict way to follow a paleolithic diet is called AIP, which stands for Autoimmune Paleo (an elimination diet) and the less strict version of AIP is simply called Paleo. It basically aims to adopt the same diet as that of our ancestors and based on the idea of the “caveman” diet, as well as to respect the physiological needs of the body in order to help it function optimally. Paleo diet is a diet rich in fat, moderate in animal protein and low to moderate in carbohydrates. In this diet, calorie counting, and portion tracking are not encouraged.
The basics of the Paleolithic diet
In the paleolithic diet it is recommended to eat generous portions of saturated fats such as coconut oil and butter. Cow’s milk and duck fat are also good options of fats but only if they come from healthy animals that have been raised properly. Cow’s milk or goat’s milk is a preferable choice than lamb or duck fat, but only if the milk has not been heated or pasteurized Olive oil, avocado and macadamia nuts are also considered good fats that you can consume in small amounts in salads
and or add on different foods in the Paleolithic diet, but they are not recommended to be cooked . The recommendation for protein intake in the paleo diet is to consume enough animal protein without restricting yourself. This includes red meat, poultry, pork, eggs, organs, sea fish and seafood. The guidelines in the paleo diet are to not be afraid of eating the fatty pieces. every protein meal should also contain fat. A great way to add fat in the Paleo diet is to learn how to cook bones in the form of bone stock or bone broth. Regarding carbohydrates in paleo diet, you can eat vegetables fresh or frozen, cooked or raw and consume them alongside some fat. Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and certain root vegetables are also an option as a natural source of carbohydrates if not consumed in excessive in amounts.
You can also eat moderate amounts of fruits and nuts in the paleo diet. It is better to stick to fruits that are low in carbohydrates and rich in antioxidants such as berries and nuts which are relatively rich in omega 3 and low in omega 6 such as macadamia nuts.
When choosing meat on the paleolithic diet, it is better to choose meat from animals that has been raised evolutionary properly on pasture and fed local grass. When there is no access to local grazing cattle, you can choose lean cuts of meat and add the fat in the form of coconut oil or butter. It is also advisable to choose organic, local and/or seasonal fruits and vegetables.
What not to consume in the paleolithic diet
An important emphasis in the paleolithic diet is to completely remove all grains and legumes from your diet. This includes wheat products, rye, barley, oats, corn, brown rice, soy, peanuts, beans and black peas, among others.
You should also stop consuming vegetable oils such as margarine, soybean oil, corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil and sunflower oil.
Of course, as part of the paleolithic diet, products with added sugar such as soft drinks, any candy or juice that comes in a package (including fruit juices) should be avoided. As a rule of thumb – if it comes in a box, don’t eat it.
It is not recommended to deliberately fast in the paleo diet. You should eat when you’re hungry and there’s nothing to stress about if you happen to skip a meal or two. You don’t have to eat a set number of meals a day, do what feels most natural and follow your satiety-hunger mechanism.
Stick to short and intense training sessions and do not train intensely every day. Don’t overtrain and choose short, intense sprint workout over a long cardio workout.
Actually some of paleo diet basic guidelines include physical activity, where in most workouts it would be recommended to reach heart rate level between 55 and 75 percent of maximum heart rate.
It is believed that our hunter-gatherer ancestors depended on burning fat, not carbohydrates. If you eat too high amounts of carbohydrates and do not incorporate physical activity there is a chance that your body and your brain depend on glucose for energy.
For those who suffer from autoimmune problems especially in the thyroid gland, it is recommended to experiment for a specified period with Paleolithic diet or the stricter version- AIP diet. By that you will be able to examine how the thyroid gland and the level of antibodies would change at the end of that specific period. It is highly recommended to work with a doctor who supports such nutritional approaches as a way of treating thyroid problems.
The carnivore diet and the thyroid gland
It is known that nutrition has a positive potential effect on inflammation in the thyroid gland. That inflammation concentrated in the thyroid area is also known as “Hashimoto’s disease”. Since nutrition is one of the factors that we can control 100%, this is a topic that concerns Hashimoto’s and thyroid patients quite a bit. In recent years, the nutritional approach called the “carnivore diet” has gained some reputation .
This diet is rich in animal products and many testified that it helped them manage and even cure autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto’s.
There are quite a few questions regarding the carnivore diet in the context of the thyroid gland. First of all, is it possible to maintain such a diet for the long term? And how exactly does it help reduce autoimmune problems?
The basics of the carnivore diet
This diet differs from the Paleo diet mainly because it aims to go for a clean daily menu of only animal products, especially beef sources, without any low carb fruits or nuts and seeds which are commonly consumed in the Paleo diet.
During the transition to the carnivore diet, it is likely that we will spend more time learning recipes and planning meals.
This diet mainly consists of: beef such as steaks, tartar, roasts, organs, bone broth, eggs, dairy products, water and salt.
As you can see, the carnivore diet focuses heavily on meat but allows a small amount of dairy products.
What not to eat in the carnivore diet
In the carnivore diet we are supposed to avoid all other foods, drinks, spices and alcohol. Of course, among the foods that are not included in the diet are also the goitrogenic ones, which I will detail later, and by simply avoiding them, we can greatly improve our thyroid function. In the carnivore diet as in the paleo diet, our goal is to eat until we feel full and to start eating only when we are hungry.
In this way we let our metabolism and appetite signals naturally guide our way of eating.
Does the carnivore diet help Hashimoto’s?
Personally, I believe that there should be a certain amount of research before we can recommend a certain diet for anyone suffering from Hashimoto’s disease, but I am fully aware of the fact that certain things simply will not be studied in an accurate way that reflects the efficacy of this diet due to various interests and technical difficulties in having high-quality and accurate studies that look at a specific diet over a long period of time. While the carnivore diet doesn’t have a large amount of scientific evidence to support its effectiveness, that doesn’t mean it should be completely ignored. Right now, we have the anecdotal evidence to work with for better or for worse.There are quite a few people with Hashimoto’s disease who have found significant relief through the carnivore diet and even healed their thyroid completely.
The relief comes in the form of weight loss and relief of symptoms which may indicate that the thyroid got back to function (improvement in symptoms such as: increased hair growth, a more efficient metabolism and so on). It is not clear how this diet directly affects the thyroid activity, but it cannot be denied that some people on the carnivore diet find see this diet as cure for their sluggish thyroid. It is possible that one of the reasons why this diet was found to be beneficial for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s is the fact that one of the main areas in which this diet causes a significant change is in our intestinal system and the gut microbiome. This is a field that has been studied a lot in the recent years: the development of Hashimoto’s (and other autoimmune diseases) and imbalanced gut bacteria.
Foods that are better to avoid when there are thyroid problems
Vegetables and fruits that some of them also known as “goitrogenic” or “cruciferous” contain substances that may prevent the absorption of iodine in the amount that is required for normal function of the thyroid. When we eat goitrogenic foods in excessive quantity, it might interfere with the natural functioning of our thyroid gland and thus they may worsen hypothyroidism and even increase the likelihood of developing a goiter, hence the origin of the word- goitro+genes.
There are goitrogenic foods that can actually be consumed in small amounts. Most of them revolve around products and ingredients that contain soybeans as well as certain cruciferous vegetables, nuts and certain fruits. The goal is to know the need for them in moderation and not to abstain from them completely. Among these foods you can find: bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, mustard flowers, radishes, soy, soy milk, soy oil, soy lecithin, tofu, turnip and more.
The following vegetables and plants are considered goitrogenic but at a level that can be consumed in larger quantities: millet, peaches, peanuts, pears, pine nuts, spinach, strawberries and sweet potatoes.
How much of the cruciferous and goitrogens can be consumed and in what way?
It is difficult to measure the exact amount for each individual because the right amount varies for each person, but in principle these are foods that shouldn’t be consumed in excess.
Cooking appears to help minimize or even neutralize the goitrogenic compounds found in these foods because they are heat sensitive. If we eat these foods in their uncooked form it does not necessarily mean that we will have problems, we just need to make sure to consume them in small portions. Sometimes it is difficult to completely avoid adding soy to certain products, especially when we eat out.
Chemicals from other sources that interfere with thyroid function
There are certain chemicals found in care and cleaning products and other beauty products that may have a “goitrogenic effect” on thyroid function and they include: amiodarone, carbamazepine, euphonic acid, lithium, phenobarbitone, phenytoin, potassium perchlorate, propylthiouracil, rifampin, sulfadimethoxine, SSRIs such as Celexa and more.
Iodine and the thyroid gland:
Some hypothyroid patients may have heard before that iodine might help them to get off their thyroid hormone supplement, but for many of them it probably didn’t really help. There are still quite a few patients who managed to completely stop taking hormones replacement after using the iodine protocol. Sometimes if we catch the development of hypothyroidism early enough, we can prevent in advance taking thyroid hormones externally. Before starting treatment with iodine, you should study the known protocols and consult with your attending physician. Keep in mind that supplementing with iodine may also be dangerous in certain situations and in some amounts. Talk to your doctor before deciding on any thyroid treatment.
*The information on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The said information is intended for informational purposes only and stems from personal experience. The text is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any specific disease or medical condition. Reviews and testimonials about nutrition, training and various health approaches represent individual experiences and what is stated on the site does not guarantee any results for your specific situation. Any choice of a specific way of eating or medical treatment according to a given situation should be made under the guidance of professionals qualified to do so.