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 is necessary for the functioning of all the different body systems that depend on it and the hormones it produces and secretes. When the thyroid gland is functioning in a deficiency, our body will signal it to us in different and diverse ways.
- 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
Thyroid function and ways to deal with thyroid imbalance
Sometimes in certain situations throughout life, such as sharp changes in diet or daily stress levels, the thyroid gland goes out of balance. Hypothyroidism is manifested by the fact that the thyroid gland secretes too few hormones or, alternatively, hyperthyroidism manifests itself by the fact that the thyroid gland secretes too many hormones. In these situations, the other systems and organs in the body will react according to the imbalance and change their activity – which will lead to an imbalance of additional hormones in the body. Such an imbalance 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 damage the lifestyle and 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, increased sweating and other symptoms that significantly harm 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 changing the food we eat, our daily stress management and our sleep. If irreversible damage is caused to the thyroid gland, it is possible that it will be necessary to supplement the thyroid hormones externally, and for this you should consult the attending physician.
Thyroid in my blood tests
In the past, when I suspected that my thyroid gland was out of balance after symptoms of hypothyroidism appeared, I asked the attending physician to perform a comprehensive hormonal profile in the blood tests and not just TSH. It was especially important for me to check both the active hormones Free T4 and Free T3 as well as antibodies to the thyroid gland TPO and TgAb which aim to diagnose or rule out an autoimmune disease in the thyroid gland. Depending on the results, I could better understand whether it is possible to heal the thyroid gland and restore the body with a drastic change in food, stress in my life and sleep or whether I should start hormone replacement therapy. Hormonal treatment is the last option after realizing that it is not possible to restore balance to the thyroid gland in natural ways.
The effect of different diets on thyroid activity
There are ways to balance the thyroid gland naturally. Diets low in carbohydrates and rich in fat and quality protein are suitable for people who are interested in healthy weight loss and for people who suffer from diseases that result from a physiological imbalance caused by damage to the body’s own immune system, also called autoimmune diseases. In these situations, carbohydrates in large quantities are a harmful factor that only exacerbates the damage to the body and the autoimmune disease. “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 always recommend avoiding excessive consumption of carbohydrates which are converted to glucose in the blood and raise the blood sugar concentration, which leads to unbalanced diabetes and subsequently to diabetes complications, some of which are even life-threatening. You can hear more about ketogenic nutrition in the podcast “The very point” in which I hosted experts from all over the country and I also talked about ketogenic nutrition myself, why this name can be misleading and other low-carb nutrition approaches.
A full ketogenic diet, the so-called “Full Keto” without carbohydrates at all, is not necessarily recommended for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s. It is recommended to consume carbohydrates from natural sources mainly from local seasonal fruits to a certain extent for those who suffer from thyroid balance 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 should use a diet of 0 grams of carbohydrates and when you should add carbohydrates. I usually change my diet according to periods of the year, activity level and 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 thyroid patients and autoimmune thyroid problems, I recommend learning in depth about Paleolithic diet. The more strict approach is called AIP, which stands for Autoimmune Paleo and the less strict version of AIP is simply called Paleo. This diet is based on the idea of the “cavemen” diet.
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 fats but only if they come from healthy animals that have been raised correctly. Cow’s milk or goat’s milk is a better choice than lamb or duck fat, if it is milk products that have not been heated and not too much external intervention (which is more difficult to obtain in the State of Israel). Olive oil, avocado and macadamia nuts are considered good fats to use in small amounts in salads and sprinkled on food in the Paleolithic diet, but they are not intended for cooking.
The recommendation for paleo protein is to consume good amounts of animal protein. This includes red meat, poultry, pork, eggs, offal, sea fish and seafood. The guideline in paleo is not to be afraid to eat the fatty pieces when every protein meal should also contain fat. A great way to add fat in Paleo is to learn to cook bones in the form of bone stock or bone broth.
Regarding carbohydrates in paleo, 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 they are not 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 that are relatively rich in omega 3 and low in omega 6 such as macadamia nuts.
When choosing meat for a paleolithic diet, it is better to choose meat that is raised on pasture and fed on locally grown grass from ranchers who are highly aware of the environment. 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 eat 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 to us in a package (including fruit juices) must be removed. 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 and you have to do what feels most natural.
“Paleolithic” physical activity
Keep to short and intense training sessions and do not train intensely every day. Don’t overtrain and choose short, intense sprint workouts instead of long cardio workouts.
Some of the approach guidelines of the paleo diet also include physical activity, where in most training it is recommended to reach a heart rate between 55 and 75 percent of maximum heart rate.
According to the Paleolithic approach 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 in the thyroid gland, it is recommended to experiment for a specified period with a normal Paleolithic diet or the stricter version AIP and examine how the thyroid gland and the level of antibodies have changed at the end of that period. You should work with a doctor who supports such nutritional approaches as a tool for treating thyroid problems.
The carnivore diet and the thyroid gland
It is known that nutrition has the potential to have a positive effect on inflammation in the thyroid gland, on that inflammatory process also called “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 momentum.
This diet was 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
During the transition to the carnivore diet it is likely that we will spend more time learning recipes and planning meals in the future.
This diet mainly consists of: beef such as steaks, tartar, roasts, internal 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. It is important to note that due to sensitivity to dairy products in quite a few people, the majority will prefer to add the dairy products at a later date after the transition to the diet.
What not to eat in the carnivore diet
In the carnivore diet we are supposed to avoid all other foods, drinks, spices, alcohol and everything that is not carnivore in general. Of course, among the foods that are not included in the diet are also the “cross-linking” and goitrogenic ones, which I will detail later, and by simply avoiding them, we already greatly improve the potential of our thyroid function.
Even in the carnivorous diet as in paleo, our goal is to eat until we swear and eat only when we are hungry.
In this way we let our metabolism and appetite signals 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 blanketly for anyone suffering from Hashimoto’s, 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 Check 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 use, 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 who have found significant relief through the carnivore diet. The relief comes in the form of weight loss and relief of symptoms which may indicate that the functioning of the thyroid gland has improved (improvement in symptoms such as: increased hair growth, more efficient metabolism and so on). It is actually not clear how this diet directly affects thyroid activity, but it cannot be denied that some people on the carnivore diet find significant relief.
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 our intestinal system and the gut microbiome.
This is because it has been studied a lot in recent years: the development of Hashimoto’s (and other autoimmune diseases) and intestinal imbalance.
Foods that are better to avoid when there are thyroid problems
Vegetables and fruits known as “goitrogenic” or “cruciferous”. Those foods contain substances that may prevent the absorption of iodine in the amount required for normal functioning of the thyroid gland. When we eat the same foods in excessive quantity, they may interfere with the natural functioning of our thyroid gland and thus they may worsen the underactivity of the thyroid gland or even increase the likelihood of developing a goiter, hence the origin of the word – goitro, genes.
There are foods that are recommended to 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 quantify precisely because the right amount varies for each person, but in principle these are foods that can be consumed but it is not recommended to consume them 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 smaller quantities. 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 consumer products that may have a “goitrogenic effect” on thyroid function and they include: amiodarone, carbamazepine, euphanic 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 get off their thyroid balancing pills, but for many of them it probably didn’t really help. There are still quite a few patients who managed to completely stop the hormones they took to balance the thyroid gland after using the iodine protocol. Sometimes if we catch the development of hypothyroidism early enough, we can prevent taking hormones to balance the thyroid in advance. Before starting treatment with iodine supplementation, you should study the protocols that exist today and consult with the attending physician. Supplementing with iodine may also be dangerous in certain situations.
*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.