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I've talked about the ketogenic diet extensively, but I haven't touched on the effects of Hashimoto's and ketosis together. Many people have asked me over the years if Hashimoto's and keto are compatible. The short answer is yes.
Not only is a ketogenic diet compatible, but it can also be beneficial for those with Hashimoto's. The keto diet is fantastic for your thyroid function, digestion, overall health, and weight loss. We're going to talk about this more later on.
I'm also going to go over some other remedies that are excellent for this autoimmune disorder. If you are struggling with Hashimoto's and you are considering a ketogenic diet, this article is for you. First, I want to cover these two questions: what is Hashimoto's and what is the ketogenic diet? Take a look.
What is Hashimoto's?
Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. Like all autoimmune conditions, Hashimoto's is a problem of the immune system attacking the body's healthy tissues.
This autoimmune disease attacks the thyroid gland and prevents normal thyroid function, also known as hypothyroidism. When your thyroid function is down, you can experience many adverse effects.
When your thyroid isn't functioning properly, it won't produce essential thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones, like Triiodothyronine (T3), are responsible for many different processes in the body. This includes things like metabolism, body temperature, and heart rate.
Since it affects metabolism, Hashimoto's can make weight loss an absolute nightmare. It affects your metabolic rate, which is the speed that your body can turn oxygen and calories into useable energy. Your metabolic rate can also be thrown off when the body turns too much T4 into reverse T3. Reverse T3 is the inactive version of T3. It can attach to T3 and slow down the metabolic process.
Signs of Hashimotos
Since the thyroid affects numerous different parts of the body, Hashimoto's disease can have several different symptoms. It can affect everything from your muscles to your digestive system to your mental health. Here are some of the most common symptoms of poor thyroid function due to Hashimoto's:
- Muscle aches, stiffness, or weakness
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Brain fog
- Memory issues
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Pale skin tone
- Hair loss
If you start experiencing more than one of these symptoms together, it's a good idea to have your thyroid health checked by your doctor. Though these are also symptoms of other disorders, they could hint at Hashimoto's. Most commonly, sudden sleepiness without a reason, constipation, hair loss, and dry skin occur together with Hashimoto's disease. If you suspect that you may have a thyroid issue, make sure you let your doctor know your concerns.
What Causes Hashimotos?
Most people begin by looking at the thyroid—but that's not the real cause of Hashimoto's. Hashimotos is really an immune system problem, and it often starts after a stressful event. In the last 30 years, I've worked with 10s of thousands of people. I've had a lot of people come in with all sorts of autoimmune disorders, like Hashimoto's.
I always asked my patients, when did it start, and what happened just before you developed symptoms? Nearly 100% of the time, the symptoms first occurred right after a highly stressful event—whether it was the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or a pregnancy.
Finding out what happened right before your symptoms of Hashimoto's is essential to fixing the problem. You have to deal with that stress that has built up and stayed with you—sometimes it can be years down the road, and you still have that built-up stress.
The endocrine system as a whole is very sensitive to stress. My Theory is that autoimmune disorders affect the weakest links in the body. Many things can weaken the thyroid gland. Here are a few things that can affect thyroid health:
- High Estrogen
- High Cortisol (the stress hormone)
- Nutritional Deficiencies
- Eating Junk Food (even ones marketed at health foods)
- GMOs (found in most foods contain grains)
- Radiation (including dental x-rays without protection)
What is the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low carb diet that includes a lot of healthy high-fat foods. When you think of a keto diet, you may have in mind a weight loss program. However, the ketogenic diet is so much more than that.
The goal of the ketogenic diet is to get healthy to lose weight, not to lose weight to get healthy.
How does this help with Hashimoto's? Well, if the keto diet can boost your body's overall health, this includes the health of your thyroid. Keep in mind that the health of your thyroid has a massive impact on the way you gain and lose weight. So to get your weight under control, we first have to get Hashimoto's under control.
How does the ketogenic diet work? First, let me say that keto is not a low-calorie diet. Instead, it's a low-carb diet. When you are consuming low-carb foods, this allows your body to change its fuel source from glucose (sugar) to fat, which turns into ketones. That's why the ketogenic diet is also a high-fat diet. You need plenty of healthy fats to supply your body with energy once you run out of fat reserves (AKA weight loss!).
Intermittent fasting is the next step. When you do a low-carb ketogenic diet along with intermittent fasting, you give your digestive system and metabolism a nice long break. Why is this good? Because Hashimoto's affects the thyroid, which is responsible for a large part of the metabolic process. When the thyroid isn't overworked, it has time to recover when you fast.
Another reason why a low-carb keto diet helps with Hashimoto's is that it incorporates plenty of fresh vegetables that have anti-inflammatory and thyroid-boosting properties. Vitamins and minerals are absolutely essential for normal thyroid function.
To top it off, a low-carb diet is fantastic because carbohydrate foods are filled with toxins that affect the thyroid gland. If you can lower your carb intake, you will lower your intake of GMOs, estrogen, gluten, and overall junk food.
Remedies For Hashimotos
Most often, when you have Hashimoto's, a doctor will prescribe thyroid hormone replacement therapy. However, it is possible to help increase your thyroid hormones naturally too. Let's talk about what you can do if you have this condition. You can try these home remedies for Hashimoto's disease:
Selenium is an incredibly important mineral for improving immune function. It acts as a natural antioxidant, which helps reduce free radicle damage and oxidative stress. In turn, this lowers inflammation and supports your immune system as a whole.
Selenium also directly affects the health of your thyroid gland. In fact, the thyroid contains more selenium than any other organ in the body. It's essential that you are not deficient in selenium to support thyroid health.
Cruciferous vegetables and very nutrient-dense. These nutrients can help balance the body's immune function and assist in the production of thyroid hormones. Cruciferous vegetables also help detoxify certain chemicals in the body that contribute to thyroid problems and poor immune function.
One thing you should keep in mind is that cruciferous vegetables contain something called glutathione. This compound helps rebuild your immune system. Why not get plenty of this nutrient in your diet by consuming lots of vegetables? Brussels sprouts contain the highest levels of glutathione of any vegetables, so this may be a good vegetable to add to your diet.
You might have been wondering if cruciferous vegetables will make your thyroid worse because they can lower your iodine levels. Keep in mind that Hashimoto's is an immune problem, not just a thyroid issue. While it's true that cruciferous vegetables can lower your iodine levels, they are way too important to eliminate in your diet!
Slight drops in iodine due to cruciferous vegetable consumption is an easy problem to counter. How? You can use organic sea kelp. Sea kelp is packed full of vital nutrients, including high levels of iodine. This will counter any potential problems you may have with cruciferous vegetables
Keep in mind that too much iodine is also problematic for the thyroid. Way too much iodine can lead to thyroid inflammation, which can further contribute to hypothyroidism. Make sure you don't overdo it on iodine. If you're not sure how much to take, it's a good idea to ask your doctor. They can help to figure out how much you should take to keep your thyroid healthy. Generally, healthy adults want to stay at or under 1,100 mcg of iodine per day.
Healthy Ketogenic Diet + Intermittent Fasting
Healthy keto and intermittent fasting are great ways to help support your thyroid function. Healthy Keto is my healthy version of the keto diet. Unlike other forms of keto, you want to consume many vegetables—even if they contribute a small number of carbs to your diet. This includes vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, and cauliflower.
Having these nutrients will be massive support for your thyroid and immune system function. Moreover, healthy keto and intermittent fasting help reduce your cortisol levels. This is vital because cortisol is known as the stress hormone. Not only does cortisol leave your body tense, but it also interferes with your hormone balance and causes your immune function to plummet.
While you are doing healthy keto and intermittent fasting, you can work your way down to one meal a day because your metabolism may be severely affected. Hashimoto's can cause your metabolism to slow down to a crawl. Intermittent fasting gives your body plenty of time to digest food before your next meal. It also gives your digestive system time to rejuvenate between meals.
As you do keto and intermittent fasting, you should make sure you take advantage of the next three remedies.
Low vitamin A is known to depress your overall thyroid function. Vitamin A is essential for the activation of thyroid hormone receptors. Low vitamin A may also cause problems with the thyroid indirectly by affecting things further upstream within the pituitary gland.
Insufficient vitamin A can even reduce your thyroid's intake of iodine. As I mentioned before, iodine is vital for proper thyroid function. You can get vitamin A in your diet by consuming more fatty fish and egg yolk or taking cod liver oil and supplements daily. Start by using natural sources of vitamin A first—try your best to avoid synthetic versions because they may have side effects down the line.
Vitamin D is also an extremely important nutrient you need to have for a healthy thyroid. Keep in mind that most people are low in vitamin D—especially those who live in cooler climates and those who spend all or most of their time inside.
If you work in an office space without natural light, there's a good chance you have low vitamin D. The best way to increase your vitamin D is, of course, to get more direct sunlight. Even 20 minutes a day can make a significant difference.
Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel), beef liver, cheese, mushrooms, and egg yolks can help increase vitamin D. If you need to take supplements, make sure you take vitamin D3—this is the most bioavailable and effective form of vitamin D. I also recommend using K2 along with D3. This helps keep calcium away from your arteries and prevent blockages.
Purified Bile Salts
Bile salts help speed up the thyroid because it helps convert T4 into T3. Though T4 and T3 are similar, T3 is far more potent and active. This means that you want to increase your T3 levels as much as possible if you have an issue with hypothyroidism (low thyroid function).
Bile salts also help because of the fact that the liver uses bile to transport extra T4 and T3 back into the gut. Bile salts boost your bile, which is particularly helpful if you have a problem with your liver or gallbladder.
In summary, Hashimoto's is an autoimmune condition that causes hypothyroidism. For most people, Hashimoto's starts after a major stressful event. Until you handle that stress, you may continue to have problems with Hashimoto's because of the increased levels of cortisol. If there was a stress event that happened right before Hashimoto's symptoms, there might still be stress built up in the body that needs to be released.
Hashimoto's causes the thyroid to slow down. The thyroid's primary function is to produce hormones to regulate your body's metabolism. When the thyroid isn't functioning correctly, you can experience a wide range of side effects, including weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, brain fog, and muscle weakness.
Hashimoto's and ketosis are not only compatible, but keto can also help boost your thyroid function. Keto is when your body switches from using sugar for energy to using fat, which turns into ketones. Intermittent fasting helps boost the effects of a low-carb ketogenic diet by giving your digestive system and metabolism a break.
Along with keto and intermittent fasting, there are several home remedies that can help. This includes selenium, cruciferous vegetables, sea kelp, vitamin A, vitamin D, and purified bile salts.
I hope this information on Hashimoto's and ketosis has answered any questions you have. Try out these remedies and see if they work for you.
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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.