AIP diet and Hashimotos Thyroiditis | Integrative functional medicine blog

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AIP diet and Hashimotos Thyroiditis

We are continuing our short blog series on “food is medicine” with another study to show to powerful effects a diet can have on your health.

A recent
study showed a low-carbohydrate, whole foods diet low in inflammatory foods significantly decreases thyroid antibodies — the marker for autoimmune thyroid disease, or Hashimoto’s.

Let me make a side note and be clear about something. Even though Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is often called an autoimmune thyroid disease. It is not a disease of the thyroid. It is an immune disease that affects the thyroid. There is a difference!

Hashimoto’s occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland; it is the cause of about 90 percent of hypothyroid cases. This study is further evidence you can profoundly influence autoimmune Hashimoto’s through diet and lifestyle interventions.

In the three-week study, almost 200 people with Hashimoto’s were divided into two groups.

One group followed the low-carbohydrate study diet while the other followed a standard low-calorie diet.

The results were significant: Levels of several different thyroid antibodies that serve as markers for Hashimoto’s
dropped between 40 and almost 60 percent! This group also lost a little weight, not really the important part, but a nice side benefit.

Meanwhile, the group that followed a low-calorie diet
saw antibody levels go up between 9 to 30 percent!

What the study group ate to tame Hashimoto’s

The study designers chose a curious route for their research in having their subjects follow both a low-carbohydrate, anti-inflammatory diet as well as a diet low in goitrogens. Goitrogens are compounds that lower thyroid function and are found in raw cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), soy, and other foods. So for my patients (and others) that will only eat broccoli or cauliflower because they don’t LIKE other veggies, CUT IT OUT!

Before people understood the mechanisms of autoimmune
Hashimoto’s, it used to be the rule of thumb was to avoid goitrogenic foods.

However, through the evolution of functional medicine, we have learned most people with Hashimoto’s can safely eat normal amounts of cruciferous vegetables. In fact, they contain many beneficial nutrients as well as fiber. People with unresolved small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or genetic difficulty metabolizing sulfur may not do well with these vegetables. So we don’t know how subjects would have fared in this study had they included these vegetables.

Soy, on the other hand, has been shown to lower thyroid hormone levels in studies
and is best avoided by those with Hashimoto’s.

The study diet that improved Hashimoto’s
Here is the diet the study subjects ate that lowered their thyroid antibodies:

  • Low carbohydrate diet that was 12 to 15 percent carbohydrates, 50 to 60 percent protein, and 25 to 30 percent fats. (Most people eat a diet that is at least 50 percent carbohydrates.)
I often hear the argument, “but don’t I need to eat carbs?” That’s what the food guide pyramid says right?! pppppppfffffftttt!

  • Lots of DIFFERENT vegetables. Research shows a diet high in veggies improves immune health through its impact on beneficial gut bacteria.

  • Lean meats and fish.

  • No goitrogens: cruciferous vegetables (which, if not eaten to excess, improve beneficial gut bacteria), canola, watercress, arugula, radish, horseradish, spinach, millet, tapioca, and nitrate veggies, NOT nitrites.

  • Eggs, legumes, dairy products , bread , pasta, fruit, and rice. Remember, this is what was done in the study. This is not necessarily what I would recommend and each person is different.
  • In functional medicine we know gluten and dairy exacerbate autoimmune Hashimoto’s for the most part. Eggs, legumes, and grains are inflammatory for many people as well. People with poor blood sugar stability may need to limit their fruit intake.

This study backs up and is very similar to my previous post on the AIP diet. Check that post out too. So there you have it. More evidence that food is medicine.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be Healthy, be happy

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