When it comes to addressing hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, certain nutritional and herbal compounds are invaluable. All the supplements in the world, however, will fall short if you fail to make the necessary dietary changes to support your condition.
Americans are infatuated with pills, thanks to decades of conditioning from the pharmaceutical industry. It doesn’t matter whether they come from the pharmacy or the health food store, we have a cultural fixation with finding that magic bullet. It’s no wonder—making genuine, lasting changes to your health takes hard work and discipline, the two last things you’ll see advertised on commercials during your favorite television show.
If you want to continue feeling sick, then continue eating the Standard American Diet (SAD). If you want to feel better and you have autoimmune Hashimoto’s, you’ll need to say a permanent goodbye to gluten. Someone emailed recently saying she had Hashimoto’s and wasn’t feeling better even though she was 90 percent gluten-free. When you have Hashimoto’s that’s like being 90 percent pregnant, you need to commit to a 100 percent gluten-free diet, which, thanks to an exploding gluten-free market, is getting easier every day.
You’ll need to repair a leaky gut by removing the foods to which you are intolerant. The worse your leaky gut the longer this list of foods could be. Also, I and many other practitioners are increasingly finding many patients require a diet free of grains, starchy vegetables, and sweets, and need to follow something akin to the GAPS or Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). Newer research shows that healing of the small intestine, the seat of digestion and absorption as well as food intolerances, requires a lengthy abstinence from these foods. I use this diet here.
To support all these efforts you also have to balance your blood sugar imbalances with a diet that is significantly lower in carbohydrates than most Americans are accustomed to, and ditch the unfounded fear of healthy fats.
Going gluten-free is vital first step
Removing gluten is a vital first step if you have Hashimoto’s. Even if you don’t have Hashimoto’s, chances are removing this ubiquitous toxin from your diet will help you greatly. Numerous studies from several countries show a strong link between gluten intolerance and Hashimoto’s. When immune antibodies tag gluten for removal from the bloodstream, where it landed thanks to a leaky gut, this stimulates production of antibodies against the thyroid gland as well. In other words, every time you eat gluten, your immune system launches an attack not only against gluten but also against the thyroid gland. This immune response to gluten can last up to six months each time it’s ingested. It’s just not worth it. Also, as I continue my research and practice in neurology, I never cease to be amazed at how profoundly one’s brain health, a concern for all those struggling with hypothyroidism, can be impacted by removing gluten from the diet.
When gluten-free isn’t enough
Some people with Hashimoto’s give up gluten and feel only marginally better. Many practitioners have found in these cases a diet free of grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, and most sweeteners may be necessary. This type of diet, called a monosaccharide (single sugar) diet, is more commonly known today as the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). It is based on consuming a diet free of foods that contain disaccharides or polysaccharides, more complex sugars and carbohydrates, such as those in all grains, most beans, and most sweeteners. These complex sugars feed harmful bacteria in the small intestine that prevent its repair or proper function.
For details click here.
People become so accustomed to eating certain foods that they don’t realize those foods are harming them. Instead they think a foggy brain, skin rashes or rosacea, chronic respiratory issues, joint pain, water retention, a distended belly, chronic digestive issues, and more are a normal part of life. Foods that most commonly trigger these reactions are gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, and yeast. Sometimes nuts are a problem. Technically a person can develop an intolerance to any food, especially one that is eaten repeatedly when a leaky gut is an issue.
In the book I outline how to undergo the Elimination/Provocation diet. Basically you eliminate the foods I just mentioned for two to three weeks, then reintroduce each food, one at a time, every 72 hours. Monitor yourself closely for reactions, which can be physical, psychological, or emotional. If you react, then you know that is a food you need to remove from your daily diet. After undergoing the monosaccharide diet or a protocol for leaky gut, you later may be able to add back in one of the formerly offending foods (except for gluten of course). I go over a protocol for repairing leaky gut in the book.
Balancing blood sugar
Gut health is dependent on balanced blood sugar—blood sugar imbalances create stress, which in turn inflames the digestive tract. The nice thing about the monosaccharide diet (GAPS, SCD) is that its low-carb nature automatically makes it conducive to both balancing blood sugar and repairing the digestive tract. Outside of that diet, plenty of books and websites are devoted to low-carb diets and how they can balance blood sugar. The average American diet and even the USDA food pyramid are simply too high in carbohydrates, which is not conducive to good hormonal health. I do not advise people to eat a specific amount of carbohydrates as everyone’s needs are different. Instead I ask you to monitor whether you feel sleepy or crave sugar after a meal. If so, you just ate too many carbs for your system. Other tell tale signs can include insomnia or waking up at 3 or 4 a.m., an energy crash in the late afternoon, feeling spacey, irritable or light-headed if you go too long without eating, constant hunger, constant craving for sweets, and difficulty losing weight. If you have any of these symptoms you may have hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, or a combination of the two.
Putting diet to work
One practitioner, Yolanda Loafer, DC, emailed our website to report back on her success with a patient in Romania with whom she had been working long distance. (We get emails from around the world, but only have trained practitioners in the United States.) Because this woman is not able to get any U.S. supplements through Romanian customs, Dr. Loafer worked with her on diet alone and the patient quickly noticed significant improvements. For my upcoming book on brain chemistry I have also received a number of stories on how changing the diet radically improves brain health.
I realize making drastic dietary changes takes a re-education, negotiating meal times with your family, and a sorrowful goodbye to some old favorites. Many people balk at the idea of giving up gluten because they cannot imagine life without toast or delivered pizza. However once they take the plunge, they also realize it’s not nearly as hard as they thought it would be. More limited diets, such as the monosaccharide diet, can mean even more severe changes to your lifestyle and your pantry. So what keeps people going? The huge benefits they reap. I know people whose suicidal tendencies disappeared on a gluten-free diet, or whose chronically distended, upset bellies flattened and quieted on a monosaccharide diet. If compliance is an issue, you may benefit from an online or in-person support group, hypnotherapy, counseling, or some other method to motivate you to stick to your diet and better your health. You’re worth it.
It can be difficult to stick to a thyroid-healthy diet when practically every television commercial, every billboard, and every person around you is tempting you with starchy, processed junk foods. But when people complain they want to eat like a normal person, I say fine, then you will be sick like a normal person.