This is Part 3 in a 3-part series on thyroid disorder by Erin.
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series we discussed the basics of the most common thyroid disorder, the most common cause of low thyroid function, how to determine if you have Hashimoto’s, and preliminary steps to take once diagnosed. Today’s post will discuss specific changes you can make to calm your immune system and tame the attack on your thyroid.
As mentioned previously, it is very important to get assistance from a medical professional with experience treating autoimmune disorders. I recommend reading Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When MyLab Tests Are Normal? by Datis Kharrazian for a fuller understanding of this topic.
Most people with Hashimoto’s have an imbalance in the 2 immune pathways.
These pathways are known as TH-1 and TH-2. In most cases, one of these pathways has become dominant, allowing the immune system to become imbalanced. It’s important to figure out which pathway is dominant so that you can take measures to support the weaker pathway and restore balance.
Once the immune system has been balanced, Hashimoto’s can be managed with diet and lifestyle changes (hello, Real Food!), often without the need for any thyroid hormone replacement.
If caught early, there will probably be enough healthy thyroid tissue remaining that can manufacture its own hormones. The most important changes to make involve removing gluten, stabilizing your blood sugar levels, decreasing stress, and getting adequate sleep.
If you have Hashimoto’s it is imperative that you go off gluten.
Going gluten-free is not a fad for someone with Hashimoto’s. The gluten molecule and your thyroid tissue look the same to your immune system. So when you eat even a tiny amount gluten, your overzealous immune system destroys your thyroid. In addition, gluten can stay in your system for 6 to 10 months, provoking attacks on your thyroid tissue that entire time.
Iodine supplementation for Hashimoto’s is quite controversial.
Many practitioners, even alternative ones, will frequently recommend iodine supplementation for thyroid health. Unfortunately, that recommendation is based off research done by Dr. Broda Barnes (also the creator of the basal body temperature test for thyroid function) in the 1960s when iodine deficiency was the #1 cause of low thyroid dysfunction. Hashimoto’s is now the #1 cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. Current research shows that iodine supplementation may actually trigger Hashimoto’s. Read more here. If you choose to supplement with iodine, watch your thyroid antibodies closely.
Normal consumption of cruciferous vegetables (aka goitrogens) is perfectly safe, even if you have thyroid dysfunction.
I have told friends with thyroid problems to avoid cruciferous vegetables in the past, but I’ve recently learned that that recommendation is based on a faulty theory (read here). Cruciferous vegetables include kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and mustard greens (fyi… strawberries and peaches are also goitrogens). Be aware that juicing these vegetables frequently would not be considered “normal consumption.”
As you may have guessed, there is a diet for people with Hashimoto’s.
It’s called the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (a.k.a. Autoimmune Paleo or AIP). This is a Real Food, elimination-style diet where you remove possible offending foods and slowly re-introduce them after 30 days to watch for reactions.
A few resources for the AIP diet include:
I am currently on the AIP diet. I started out sugar-free, then went gluten-free, then grain-free, and now AIP over the course of 5 years. I didn’t know AIP existed until a few months ago. I can honestly say that I am not going hungry on this diet. I’m greatly enjoying trying out new things like plantains and leeks. The biggest adjustment has been avoiding nightshades since this includes white and red potatoes (not sweet potatoes, though!), tomatoes, and paprika, a spice that seems to be in almost every prepared food. J
With the way medical science is advancing, I expect to continue learning more about my condition and tweaking my approach. I hope you’ve been encouraged to do the same for yourself or someone you care about.