Is the Keto Diet Good for Hashimoto’s Disease? Short Answer. Not really.
The Long Answer is that while some people with Hashimoto’s disease or Hypothyroidism may find relief on the trendy Keto diet, many will not. Remember that not everyone’s body is built the same. Foods that cause inflammation in your body may not cause inflammation in others and vice versa. In fact, the Keto diet may set you back, completely spinning your symptoms out of control. Read more below to see why.
The Keto Diet and Disease Prevention
The Keto Diet has been touted as the diet that reduces the risk of cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and certain autoimmune conditions affecting the central nervous system like Multiple Sclerosis. In my opinion, much of the risk reduction in chronic disease is essentially due to the removal of sugar, a key driver of inflammation. However, the Keto diet may not be wise if you have Hashimoto’s disease or other autoimmune conditions. If you have learned anything about Hashimoto’s disease already, you know that it is a complex, interwoven and multilayered autoimmune condition. The removal of refined sugar is only one of many necessary tools needed in the arsenal when defending your thyroid. Hashimoto’s disease has numerous causes which manifest with numerous symptoms. Read more about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis here.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. The following are my own opinions and are not a substitute for medical advice. Always seek guidance from your physician when making dietary changes.
Here is Why I Do Not Like Keto for Hashimoto’s
Dairy is highly controversial for people with Hashimoto’s. Most integrative and functional medicine doctors will tell you that it should be eliminated, at least, for a period of time. Many keep it off their plates indefinitely. Conventional dairy, apart from being loaded with hormones, can cause your immune system to become reactive to the proteins found in dairy products. Those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are more likely to have food sensitivity to dairy proteins. This dairy sensitivity and then subsequent dairy consumption can lead to inflammation, which we know is linked to chronic disease and a host of health problems.
Another reason is lactose intolerance, the inability to produce adequate amounts of lactase, the digestive enzyme which allows for the break down of lactose. It turns out that patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have a higher propensity toward lactose intolerance which can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. Lactose intolerance can also lead to the malabsorption of essential nutrients and vitamins as well as medications. So, if you are taking thyroid hormone medication, eating dairy may very well keep you from absorbing it fully.
Whilst goat’s milk kefir and sugar free probiotic yogurt can be beneficial for the gut, I believe staying away from dairy is more beneficial when you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. A modified Keto diet to exclude dairy can perhaps be beneficial but dairy alone is not my only problem with “Going Keto.”
No Carb and Too Low Carb Diets Restrict Thyroid Hormone!
Are you one of those weird people that don’t lose weight on low carb diets? Guess what, it may be because that diet is restricting your thyroid hormone, which is essential for a well functioning metabolism. Ironic, right. Another strike against the Keto Diet for people with Hashimoto’s disease. T3 is the usable form of thyroid hormone. It is essential for many system processes in your body. Some complex carbohydrates are necessary in order for your body to use it properly. I’m not recommending refined sugar or pasta here, rather a small portion of starchy/root vegetables and low glycemic fruits.
Inflammatory and Processed Foods Are Allowed on the Keto Diet
Omega 6 Fatty Acids
This one might be confusing. There was a time when all Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids were thought to be beneficial. Turns out your body needs a healthy ratio of Omega 6s to Omega 3s to be healthy. The Standard American Diet (SAD) has way too many Omega 6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. Guess what, the Keto Diet allows for these inflammatory fatty acids. Yes, you need some Omega 6 but not as much as you may be consuming. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in low quality oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable oils; mayonnaise; and many salad dressings.
The quality of your meat is so important, I can’t keep stressing it enough. It is especially true for people with Hashimoto’s disease. Bacon with nitrates is not okay. Conventional meat with growth hormone is not okay. Factory farmed meat is not okay. Animals fed GMO corn and grain is not okay. It all has an effect on your system. It all leads to inflammation.
Another item which is incredibly detrimental for your thyroid, even “natural” Stevia. It’s a known endocrine disruptor and has been linked to a reduction in fertility in studies of both male and female rats.
The Keto Diet Can Send You Into An Adrenal Tailspin
Your adrenal glands which produce and regulate cortisol in the body tend to be compromised when you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Something known as Adrenal Fatigue is quite common. Very low carbohydrate diets compromise them even further. Weight loss is virtually impossible when cortisol production is off. Your sleep is affected too. This can lead to the onset of what we refer to as a thyroid storm in the Hashimoto’s world, exacerbating symptoms like brain fog, bloating, fatigue, anxiety. etc.
Read more about Adrenal Fatigue here.
The Keto Diet Can Be Taxing on Your Liver and Kidneys
People with Type I or Type II diabetes should not follow the keto diet without a doctor’s supervision as the diet may trigger ketoacidosis. This is a state when the body stores excess ketones and your blood becomes too acidic. Ketones are chemicals your liver makes when you don’t have enough insulin in your body to turn sugar into energy. The result is that your body uses fat instead. Your liver turns fat into ketones, an acid, and sends them into your bloodstream so your muscles and other tissues can then use them. People with diabetes can store too many ketones. This can damage the liver and kidneys and even be fatal. Ketoacidosis has also been reported in people without diabetes although it is rare. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include dry mouth, frequent urination, nausea, bad breath, and breathing difficulties.
Nevertheless, doing the keto diet puts added pressure on both your liver and kidneys. Proper functioning of the liver and even liver detox are essential for people with Hashimoto’s disease.
The Keto Diet Is Not Sustainable Resulting in Weight Gain
Do you think it’s possible to give up most carbohydrates indefinitely, even unrefined ones from fruit and vegetables? I don’t think so. The minute you go off keto, the weight comes right back on and then some. It’s the same with all other diets. That’s even if you managed to lose weight in the first place given its negative effect on thyroid hormone. This is not a long term or sustainable way of eating in my opinion.
May inhibit diversity in your gut microbiome
It’s not conclusive yet, but studies are pointing to the Keto diet fostering unhealthy gut bacteria, specifically ones related to inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease. Another study showed damaged gut microbiome composition of those following the keto diet compared with a control group. Again, more studies need to be done and others are conflicting. It’s good to do your own research and be informed.
Last but Not Least, Who Wants Keto breath? Not me!
I’m sure you’ve heard people mention bad breath as an unfortunate side effect of going Keto. That, in and of itself, is a sign that something is not right with your gut. Bad breath stems from an unhealthy balance in gut bacteria. You should be weary of any diet that causes bad breath. Bad breath can also be attributed to added pressure on the liver.
So What Diet Works Best for Hashimoto’s Disease?
The best solution for Hashimoto’s Disease is a proper elimination diet of all inflammatory foods for a period of 30 days to several months. After that, reintroductions should be done in a controlled manner to pinpoint which foods trigger symptoms, all while giving your gut proper time to heal. Here is my short and no nonsense guide to the AutoImmune Protocol.
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Since writing about my experience with Hashimoto’s disease, over 300,000 of you have read my articles related to the topic. Many have reached out to me for further information and advice. It propelled me to pursue my certification in Integrative Health and Nutrition. If you would like help with autoimmune/chronic disease or to hear more about how I put Hashimoto’s into remission, I offer one to one virtual sessions and programs. Here is the link to my one month recovery program on my new site, Integrative Thyroid, a site dedicated solely to thyroid and immune health. One Month Thyroid Recovery Program.
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