diet plan | 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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HA! I knew we were right about the AIP diet!

A recent study confirmed what functional medicine practitioners, like myself, have long since known —
the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet is HIGHLY successful for
managing chronic health disorders.

first-of-its-kind study showed the majority of participants quickly achieved and maintained remission of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis on the AIP diet. A number of participants were even able to discontinue drug therapies. That’s pretty powerful and big news!

It also happens to be news some people don’t want to hear.

Many people follow the AIP diet to manage not just Crohn’s but also chronic pain, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, IBD (irritable bowel syndrome), skin rashes such as eczema or psoriasis, high blood pressure,
depression, anxiety, brain-based disorders such as Alzheimer and Parkinsons, diabetes, autoimmune diseases in general, and other chronic health problems.

So this type of diet is proving to be a very powerful health tool.

People are surprised to find that not only do their symptoms fade but also they enjoy more energy, better sleep, weight loss, increased libido (woohoo!), less stress, and a general overall improvement of their well being.

Just goes to show you that a little sacrifice and work
with something as simple as your diet can go a loooooong way.

A primary reason the diet is so effective is because it helps repair leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes inflamed and porous, allowing inflammatory compounds, toxins and proteins into the bloodstream that normally shouldn’t be there. This creates inflammation throughout the body and brain and leads to a wide variety of chronic gut, metabolic, and autoimmune disorders.

Check out my gut health webinar series I have recorded on my youtube channel.
It’s also posted on my website under the videos section.

Anti-inflammatory is the key to the AIP diet

An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole foods and is free of inflammatory foods, additives, fillers, and artificial colors. It includes an accompanying protocol of appropriate sleep, physical activity, rest, and positive socialization and self-treatment. Certain nutritional compounds that gently cleanse and detoxify the body will boost the success of the diet, and are often necessary to fully heal and restore a leaky gut. Again, Check out my webinar series on healing the gut.

There are tons of articles and website on the AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) diet, but here are basics:

  • Eliminate all processed foods, fast foods, desserts, coffee drinks, sodas, etc. Your anti-inflammatory diet should consist of whole foods found in the produce and meat sections of the grocery store, with an emphasis on plenty of vegetables, not just fruits. Also eliminate processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils and stick with natural oils.

  • Eliminate common inflammatory foods, the most common culprit being gluten. Many ï people’s symptoms resolve simply on a gluten-free diet. However, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, grain, and nightshades are commonly immune reactive as well, but it all depends on each individual person. So it’s not always necessary to eliminate all of them. Try eliminating these foods for about six weeks to see whether you react upon reintroducing them one at a time. Again, this isn’t the end all, be all to see if you are reacting to a certain food. Sometimes a food sensitivity test is required.
  • Eliminate sweets. On the anti-inflammatory diet you should avoid ALL sweeteners. This helps curb cravings, stabilize blood sugar, lower inflammation, and lose excess fat. Enjoy low-sugar fruits instead, such as berries.

  • Eat lots of vegetables. Not only do plenty of veggies load you up with vital nutrients and fiber, new research shows they create a healthy gut microbiome (no surprise there) – the bacteria in your gut that profoundly influence your immune and brain health. A diet based around veggies creates an abundant and diverse gut microbiome and thus better health.

  • Get enough sleep and exercise. Sufficient sleep is a major inflammation-buster, as is regular physical activity. Overtraining, however, can cause inflammation so watch out for that.

Boost success with gut repair and detoxification
Adding in specific nutritional compounds can help repair a damaged gut, lower inflammation, support the liver, and detoxify the system. Ask my office for more information about a detoxification and gut-repair program using the AIP diet.

I have included some links to help with some of the above mentioned issues.

Repair damaged gut - Only take this if you have done the necessary steps before.
Lowering inflammation
Liver support
Detoxification - Glutathione

TIP: Use this code Practitioner Amazon Code: DFH28841 to get an extra 10%
off Designs for health products through Amazon.

Or, order direct through
and use code FIRST25 to get 25% off your first order.

So go eat your way to better health.

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

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When would an Autoimmune Paleo diet make you feel worse?

paleo diet

There are many diets available for lots of different conditions, people, and goals. One of those diets is called the autoimmune paleo diet, or more commonly known as the A.I.P. diet.

Although the autoimmune diet is a well known foundation for managing chronic health issues, some people are dismayed to find embarking on it makes them feel worse.
What gives? The sudden change in diet can temporarily upset your chemistry and reveal hidden health problems.

If you have been accustomed to eating gluten, dairy, grains, sugars, and processed foods, going cold turkey off those foods is a radical shift and sometimes the body doesn’t like those changes even when they are good for you. Think of an addict going off of whatever their vise is.

Likewise, adding in lots of vegetables can also shock a digestive system unaccustomed to ample plant fiber. Your body can go through withdrawals and sometimes experience what is known as a herxheimer reaction. Not very pleasant but usually fairly short lived. More on this below.

Most people feel significantly better on the autoimmune diet. If you’re not one of them, however, don’t give up on the diet. Instead, look for the underlying reason why. Here are some common reasons you should be looking at:

#1 Low blood sugar.

Symptoms of low blood sugar and adrenal fatigue can worsen on this diet. This is usually caused by not eating enough or frequently enough. The general recommendation is to eat every two to three hours, however, some people may initially need a bite or two every hour until blood sugar stabilizes and they can go longer without eating. Avoid sugary fruits and investigate what else may be taxing your adrenal function, such as brain-based issues, autoimmunity, or chronic infection. Adrenal function is a huge factor in how our hormones are functioning so be careful.

#2 New food sensitivities.

When gut damage is bad and inflammation high, it’s possible to develop food sensitivities to new foods on the autoimmune diet. This is many times due to what many people know as leaky gut. This is very frustrating for people as the diet is already so limited. This can be a complex situation that requires concerted effort to tame inflammation and repair the gut. In this situation I really recommend getting tested to see what your sensitivities are and come up with a food rotation diet in order to reduce the amount of food sensitivities you may get.

#3 Opioid withdrawal reactions.

Opioids are morphine-like chemicals made by the body that reduce pain and create a feeling of euphoria and well-being. Some people become dependent on foods that release opioids in the brain, namely gluten and dairy. They can initially experience depression, anger, lethargy, and agitation on the autoimmune diet. For those with serious opioid addictions to gluten and dairy, withdrawal can be intense. This is fun for neither the “addict” or the family and friends in the near vicinity.

#4 Brain chemical imbalance.

A diet high in processed carbohydrates affects brain chemicals that influence our mood, particularly serotonin and dopamine. Depending on which neurotransmitter we are talking about 60-90% of neurotransmitters are produced in the gut. Suddenly switching to a lower carbohydrate diet can disrupt the balance of brain chemicals and cause temporary changes in mood, behavior, and personality. You may need to gradually lower carbohydrate consumption if so. I always have patients go low and go slow. Better safe than sorry.

#5 Insomnia and anxiety.

Some people report irresolvable insomnia and anxiety if carbohydrate consumption is too low. If these symptoms persist long after an adjustment period, you may simply need to use trial and error to find the carbohydrate “sweet spot” that lets you sleep but also keeps blood sugar in check. The body, or more importantly the brain does need some carbohydrates to function. If your system is not quite balanced you may need to keep some carbs in the diet for a little while longer. But only a little.

#6 Difficulty digesting fiber.

The autoimmune diet is heavy on vegetables. For those with compromised digestive function, this can overwhelm the gut. Concerted gut repair nutritional therapy can ease you into a higher fiber diet. This is often linked to the health of your gut.
Click here for more info on gut health.

#7 Histamine intolerance.

This is a reaction to aged or fermented foods that causes myriad symptoms, including rashes, runny nose, or headaches. Avoiding these foods for a while can help the gut heal so you can eat them later. There are certain foods that tend to be higher in natural histamine levels. If you have allergies it might be a good idea to look these up and test the waters with these particular foods just to make sure they don’t make things worse.

#8 Yeast and bacteria die-off reactions.

Going cold turkey off processed carbs, gluten, and dairy can cause a sudden and uncomfortable die off of harmful yeast and bacteria in your gut.
Remember the herxheimer reaction? This is especially true in the case of poor liver detoxification and constipation. Supporting the body’s pathways of elimination can help. Check out my page on detoxification. Also, I would like to point out that the last step of detoxification is elimination (pooping). If your digestion isn’t functioning properly then you cannot detoxify properly.

These are a few of the issues that can arise when you switch to the autoimmune diet. Don't forget to consider the grief and anger you may feel about missing your favorite foods. However, if you weather the transition and ferret out sources of discomfort, your newfound health will more than make up for the rough legs of the journey.

Be healthy, be happy,
Dr. Craig Mortensen

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