What is Hashimoto diet?
There’s a lot of misinformation online about hypothyroidism.
Our resources and guides summarises the best recommendations from both science-based and alternative medicine.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is also referred to as slow thyroid or an underactive thyroid.
It’s the medical diagnosis given when an individual’s thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone.
Estimates show that up to 8.5% of people from Western countries have hypothyroidism. That’s around 20 million Americans (1).
It’s caused by poor function of the gland itself, or by not adequately “switching on” properly. This can occur for several reasons (2, 3):
- Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune condition that is the most common cause of hypothyroidism)
- Removal of thyroid
- Radioiodine treatment
- Diseases and conditions that affect the pituitary gland.
Management of hypothyroidism basically involves replacing low thyroid hormones with thyroid hormone medication.
Left unmanaged it can lead to numerous health problems such as weight gain, fatigue, poor memory and hair loss.
Hashimoto’s occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the thyroid gland.
This is what is known as an autoimmune disease.
Researchers still don’t understand why people develop autoimmune diseases, but it appears to be due to a range of factors.
Your genetics, environmental factors (including stress, infections or drugs), and the balance of gut bacteria (gut dysbiosis) are thought to be key triggers (4).
TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) is a hormone that controls thyroid function.
It typically fluctuates in line with the amount of thyroid hormone in your system. If thyroid hormone levels are low, then TSH secretion is increased. If high, TSH is reduced.
For this reason, TSH levels are used to make a hypothyroidism diagnosis.
It has been the gold standard diagnosis test for decades, however some believe that the references ranges are not accurate.
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TSH and So-Called “Normal” TSH Levels: A Non-Sciency Guide
How To Lose Weight With An Underactive Thyroid: Your 6-Step Guide
The Best Diet For An Underactive Thyroid: Splitting Fact From Fiction
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How to Lose Weight with Hashimoto’s Disease
Weight loss is hard enough—especially if you feel like your body is working against you.
Those with Hashimoto’s face an especially tough obstacle.
The disease is characterized by an underactive thyroid (hypothyroid), which can wreak havoc on your metabolism and lead to weight gain, fatigue and other nagging health problems.
But there are specific steps you can take to overcome this struggle.
Below, we discuss why it’s so hard to lose weight with Hashimoto’s and how exactly you can change your diet to help you start shedding those extra pounds.
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This article explains what LDN is, how it works and who could consider using it.[Discover More…]
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Synthroid is the most commonly prescribed, however some claim Armour Thyroid produces better results.
So, which is the best treatment for you?
This article looks at the evidence for both to help you decide.[Discover More…]
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Levothyroxine is the preferred medication of choice for treating an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
It’s typically taken for a long period of time, if not for life, so there are many important things you should know.
This article looks at how it works, how much you need, and your alternatives if it doesn’t seem to be working.[Discover More…]
What is T4 and T3? A Simple Guide For The Non-Scientist
[Last updated 22nd March, 2019]
T4 and T3 are important hormones produced by the thyroid gland.
Unfortunately, several thyroid conditions can cause abnormal levels in the blood.
This article will explain the actions of T4 and T3 and how to interpret test results.[Discover More…]
Is Low Carb Bad For Hypothyroidism?
[Last updated 9th January, 2019]
Hypothyroidism is becoming increasingly more common in Western countries.
One of the main symptoms of this hormone disorder is a slower metabolism and gradual weight gain.
Low carb and ketogenic diets have emerged as popular approaches to weight loss, at least in otherwise healthy individuals. But there is some controversy over the safety of these eating patterns for hypothyroidism.
This article reviews the scientific evidence available.[Discover More…]
Joe Leech, Dietitian (MSc Nutrition)
Most of us feel overwhelmed when it comes to healthy eating, especially if we have a food intolerance or medical issue.
At DietvsDisease.org we provide research-backed guides and simple meal plans so that you can enjoy food without the stress, and live your healthiest, happiest life.
You can learn more about us here.
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What Is Hashimoto’s Diet: An Overview
Hashimoto’s diet is best known for relieving inflammation, but we’re going to cover an overview of Hashimoto’s diet. You may have discovered that you have Hashimoto’s disease because the usual diets just don’t work for you. Weight gain, constipation, fatigue, dry skin and depression are some symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition that leads to an underactive thyroid.
Conventional thyroid hormone replacement therapy can be effective in managing Hashimoto’s disease. However, it doesn’t affect the underlying causes, it may not be as beneficial as you hoped, or your condition may not be severe enough to get a prescription. Or, perhaps you want to treat it as naturally as possible. That’s where Hashimoto’s diet comes in.
Let’s look at how the Hashimoto diet works, and how to make it work for you.
Why Try Hashimoto’s Diet?
The basic principle of Hashimoto’s diet is to relieve inflammation, particularly that directed at the thyroid. Immune cells take up residence in the thyroid gland despite there is no infection or injury, as they are “confused” into thinking it is a threat. Then, they generate antibodies against the thyroid peroxidase enzyme (TPOAb) and thyroglobulin (TgAb), which prevents the hormonal pathways from working. This also leads to inflammation throughout the body. As inflammation affects neurotransmitter pathways, including serotonin, depression is a common consequence of Hashimoto’s disease even if your thyroid function isn’t impaired enough for medication.
Foods to Avoid on Hashimoto’s Diet
One version of the Hashimoto diet is a modified version of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), which eliminates foods linked to inflammation, at least among people with autoimmune diseases.
Off-limits foods are grains, dairy, added and refined sugar, food additives, alcohol, legumes, nightshade vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant), nuts and seeds, eggs, oils and coffee.
On the other hand, another study found that animal fats were the most inflammatory foods, and most likely to contribute to thyroid antibody production. Muesli, fruit and nuts were some of the food groups linked to lower levels of inflammation directed at the thyroid. Gluten-free grains and anti-inflammatory oils, such as coconut and olive oil, were permitted. The exception to the rule was fish, thanks to its anti-inflammatory omega-3 content.
In either case, grains containing gluten appear to be one of the worst things you can eat if you have Hashimoto’s disease. Even just eliminating gluten was enough to significantly reduce anti-thyroid antibody levels in women with Hashimoto’s disease in one study. After six months, TPOAb levels fell from 925 to 705 units/mL, while they slightly worsened in the control group from 891 to 920 units. Their TgAb fell from 832 to 629 units, compared to another slight worsening for women who kept eating gluten. It is possible that impaired absorption of vitamin D and selenium were behind gluten’s damaging effects, alongside directly increasing inflammation.
What Can You Eat on Hashimoto’s Diet?
The Autoimmune Protocol is very similar to the Paleo diet. Hashimoto’s diet emphasizes nutrient-dense whole foods, including vegetables, fermented foods, fruit, non-processed meats, bone broth and fish. A clinical study of 16 women with Hashimoto’s disease found that following the AIP led to often dramatic improvements in overall health. General health improved from 40 to 70 out of 100, for example. Physical functioning scores rose from an average of 25 to a perfect 100, but much of this was driven by one woman with an extremely low initial score. Their inflammatory markers, immune cell counts and thyroid antibodies all somewhat fell, too.
If your doctor, functional medicine practitioner or nutritionist decide with you that the standard anti-inflammatory diet is best, then all fruits and vegetables, seafood and poultry, gluten-free grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and fermented dairy are all allowed. Unless, of course, you are genetically intolerant to one or more of these foods.
Specific Nutrients for Thyroid Health
Key nutrients for thyroid health include selenium, zinc, magnesium, and curcumin (non-essential, but important). The best food source of selenium is the Brazil nut, which is technically off-limits in the AIP, but you only need one or two nuts to meet the recommended daily intake. Supplementation is likely your best bet in chronic illness, with seleno-methionine as the recommended formulation for reducing TPO antibodies.
Zinc not only regulates the immune system, but it also assists in thyroid hormone production. Its effects can be seen throughout the thyroid hormone pathways, from the hypothalamus, down to the pituitary and then to the thyroid. The best sources of zinc are beef, oysters and some types of crab, but supplementation is important when you have a thyroid condition.
As a mineral involved in over 300 biochemical reactions, we feel like we’re constantly talking about magnesium. Yes, we need it for thyroid health too! Research shows that lower levels of magnesium are linked with higher rates of overall low thyroid function and Hashimoto’s disease too. Food sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables and cacao, as well as pumpkin and sesame seeds, which are unfortunately off-limits in the standard AIP. Even if you supplement with magnesium, speak to your doctor or holistic health practitioner about whether nuts and seeds should be part of your Hashimoto diet.
Curcumin may not be an essential nutrient, but it can feel that way if you have an inflammatory condition. Multiple clinical studies show that curcumin, the most-researched active phytochemical in turmeric, can reduce the severity of inflammatory diseases including osteoarthritis, diabetes and ulcerative colitis.
The Importance of Detoxification
Foods that support detoxification may be helpful in cases of Hashimoto’s disease too. These include cruciferous vegetables (they must be cooked to remove goitrogens, which impair the thyroid); the sulphur-containing garlic and onions; and chlorella, a super-green you can add to smoothies and raw desserts if you want a bright green colour.
Research shows that exposure to higher levels of environmental toxins is linked to a far higher risk of developing thyroid conditions, and antibodies to the thyroid gland. In an area surrounding a petrochemical plant, residents were 2.53 times more likely to have thyroid inflammation than those living further away. Some petrochemicals, including dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may disrupt immune signalling, causing white blood cells to see our own bodies as a “threat”.
What’s the Best Way to Start This Diet?
When changing your diet, the first step is to start collecting recipes. If you’re unsure of whether you need the AIP or a standard anti-inflammatory diet, there are some recipes that are compatible with both:
- AIP Flatbread, made with coconut and cassava flour.
- Coconut shrimp and grits, with coconut substituting for corn grits.
- Passionfruit coconut yoghurt parfait; hold the nuts and seeds if you’re going full AIP.
- Chicken lettuce wraps, with iceberg lettuce in place of bread
- Mango chicken salad, with coconut Cesar dressing
- Salmon patties, which you can enjoy as a burger bowl, or with a side of vegetables
- Mini zucchini burgers; switch beef for chicken or fish for these cute mini-burgers if you’re on the standard anti-inflammatory diet
- Sauerkraut oyster soup, for something a little more unusual. If you like the strong flavors, it’s great for a collagen boost.
The Hashimoto diet may not be as restrictive for everyone. It can be AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) which is the more “standard” anti-inflammatory diet, or your version of this diet could lie somewhere in between. However, you can significantly reduce your thyroid antibody counts and enjoy better overall health if you try it.
The right diet for you greatly depends on your DNA, which is why you should take a CircleDNA test to gain insight on the diet that might suit you best based on your genetics.
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Diets Decoded: The Hashimoto Diet
Is the Hashimoto Diet Healthy? Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that usually leads to an under-active thyroid, also called hypothyroidism. The Hashimoto Diet is an eating plan designed to combat the symptoms of a sluggish thyroid.
What is Hashimoto’s Diet?
First, let’s back up a little bit and talk about Hashimoto’s disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, Hashimoto’s affects about 5% of the population and is at least eight times more likely to occur in women than men. Supermodel Gigi Hadid has Hashimoto’s, which she famously discussed on social media back in 2018 in response to body-shamers.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that leads to damage and inflammation of your thyroid, a small but mighty gland that sits at the base of your neck and secretes important thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate energy metabolism, which means they affect nearly every organ and play a large role in your weight, heart rate, digestion, nervous system and more.
Over time, the persistent inflammation leads to an underactive thyroid gland. As a result, those with Hashimoto’s may experience a variety of not-so-fun symptoms, including fatigue, unexplained weight gain, heavy or irregular menstrual periods, hair loss, dry skin, constipation, muscle aches, joint pain and depression.
While Hashimoto’s is often treated with synthetic hormones, diet may also help improve symptoms. You might find a variety of diets recommended for Hashimoto’s including:
- the autoimmune protocol diet
- gluten- and grain-free diets
- dairy-free diets
- or anti-inflammatory plant-based diets
There’s no one specific diet recommended for Hashimoto’s, but all suggested diets aim to reduce inflammation, alleviate symptoms, and reduce the risk of conditions that are often linked to Hashimoto’s such as other autoimmune diseases , high cholesterol , obesity and diabetes .
What You Eat
With Hashimoto’s, it’s all about nutrient-dense whole foods such as fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains, lean protein such as chicken, turkey, eggs and tofu, and sources of healthy fats like fatty fish, nuts and seeds. These foods help reduce inflammation and the risk of related illnesses. Plus, prioritizing nutritious, whole foods will help keep your weight in check.
You’ll also want to be sure you’re getting enough vitamin D as studies have found that most Hashimoto’s patients are deficient. In addition, the trace mineral selenium is essential for proper thyroid function and has been beneficial in the treatment of Hashimoto’s, so it’s typically recommended to include healthful sources of selenium—such as Brazil nuts, fish, brown rice and eggs—into your diet.
What You Don’t Eat
This part is going to depend on your personal needs. However, most diets recommend avoiding foods that could contribute to inflammation or an immune response. As an autoimmune disease, some suggest following the autoimmune protocol diet . This phased elimination diet closely resembles a paleo diet and removes potentially problematic foods like grains, dairy, added sugar, coffee, legumes, eggs, alcohol and food additives.
Even if you don’t follow the autoimmune protocol diet, you might come across advice to specifically remove gluten and grains from the diet. Those with Hashimoto’s have a higher likelihood of celiac disease , in which case a gluten-free diet is necessary. While you may not need to avoid gluten if you don’t have celiac, some people report feeling better after following a gluten-free or even a grain-free diet. Similarly, many with Hashimoto’s may also be lactose intolerant , so avoiding dairy would be helpful in this case.
Goitrogens should be limited and avoided in the diet as well. These substances are found in cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), soy, cassava and sweet potatoes, and interfere with thyroid hormone production. Goitrogens in these foods can also contribute to the development of goiters. A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland due to increased levels of TSH (which stimulate growth of the thyroid gland).
Pros and Cons
You can’t go wrong prioritizing nutritious, whole foods that not only contribute to an overall healthful diet, but also have research to back up their association with reduced inflammation and risk of chronic disease . That being said, there’s not a lot of research on whether eating these foods will directly relieve symptoms of Hashimoto’s.
In the same way, it won’t hurt to reduce your intake of inflammatory processed foods or refined grains, but the research supporting an autoimmune protocol diet or a gluten- or grain-free diet outside of diagnosed intolerances or allergies is still very preliminary. In a recent pilot study in 34 women with Hashimoto’s disease, those assigned to a gluten-free diet had improved thyroid function and vitamin D levels. In addition, another pilot study of 16 women with Hashimoto’s found that the autoimmune protocol diet reduced symptoms and markers of inflammation over the course of the intervention. Still, it’s important to remember these interventions had very small sample sizes and more studies are needed.
The Bottom Line
There is no specific diet recommended for Hashimoto’s disease and a diet alone isn’t going to treat or reverse the condition. More research is needed to determine how diet specifically affects Hashimoto’s, but we’re all for any diet that’s loaded with nutrient dense whole foods and low in processed or refined foods. You’ll just want to make sure you aren’t avoiding any foods unnecessarily and work with your endocrinologist or a registered dietitian to develop diet modifications that will help you better manage the disease.