A 2016 study showed what we have long known in functional medicine — a diet that is low in carbohydrates and inflammatory tames Hashimoto’s low thyroid. The study showed it lowered thyroid antibodies, the marker for autoimmune Hashimoto’s.
Autoimmune Hashimoto’s low thyroid happens when the immune system damages and destroys the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s causes about 90 percent of hypothyroidism cases. This study adds to the ongoing evidence that the right diet can significantly tame Hashimoto’s low thyroid or put it in remission.
The three-week study involved close to 200 people with Hashimoto’s. They were segmented into two groups, one that followed a low-carbohydrate, anti-inflammatory diet and the other followed a standard low-calorie diet.
Follow-up antibody testing showed significant results: Thyroid antibody levels dropped by as much as 60 percent! This group also lost weight.
The low-calorie group, however, saw antibody levels increase by up to 30 percent!
The study diet that tamed Hashimoto’s
The researchers put the subjects on a low-carbohydrate, anti-inflammatory diet that was also low in goitrogens. Goitrogens are components in raw cruciferous vegetables, soy, and other foods that lower thyroid function.
Before the autoimmune mechanisms of Hashimoto’s were better understood, it used to be believed the way to tame Hashimoto’s was to avoid goitrogenic foods.
However, we see things differently now that we understand the autoimmune mechanisms better. Most people with Hashimoto’s can eat normal amounts of cruciferous vegetables without ill effect on the thyroid. In fact, cruciferous vegetables are loaded with many beneficial nutrients and high in fiber that promotes good gut bacteria. However, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or genetic difficulty metabolizing sulfur may make it hard to tolerate these vegetables.
In this study, we don’t know how including these vegetables would have affected lab values.
Soy has been shown to lower thyroid hormone levels in studies and those with Hashimoto’s should avoid it.
The study diet that lowered Hashimoto’s antibodies
The diet the subjects ate that lowered their thyroid antibodies was as follows:
- Low carbohydrate, 12 to 15 percent carbohydrates, 50 to 60 percent protein, and 25 to 30 percent fats.
- Plenty of different vegetables. A plant-based diet improves immune health through increasing 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, nitrates. Again, clinical practice shows this is not an issue for most people with Hashimoto’s.
- Eggs, legumes, dairy products, bread, pasta, fruit, and rice. In functional medicine we see gluten and dairy worsen Hashimoto’s low thyroid in the majority of people. Eggs, legumes, and grains are also inflammatory. People with poor blood sugar stability may need to limit their fruit intake.
We see the best results for Hashimoto’s low thyroid when people follow the autoimmune paleo diet (AIP). A recent study showed the AIP diet significantly improved autoimmune gut disorders.
Call our office to find out more about managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid or other autoimmune disease.