Are you concerned that you might be doing unintentional damage to your thyroid? A diet that is high in fats, and low in carbs, could have disastrous implications for your health. Today, I want to go through the ways in which a high fat, low carb diet might actually be harming your thyroid. Let’s put together a Hashimoto’s disease diet plan that works with your health in mind.It’s funny how times change. In the 80’s and 90’s, I actually argued against high-carb low-fat diets. Now, we’re dealing with the opposite. This has me wondering if, in another decade or so, I might find myself reusing the same articles that were going against low-fat diet plans.
This idea of history is important to consider. Many have claimed that the low-fat diet “craze” of the 80’s inadvertently led to today’s obesity epidemic. This simply is not what happened. Even though low-fat diets were advocated across the board, the general population did not truly adhere to them (1). The diets themselves were simply not popular enough to lead to the problems we’re facing today
Dieting for Your Thyroid
When it comes down to it, the proper diet for our thyroid is one that relies on balance. We need to constantly be incorporating a healthy amount of the three major sources of macronutrients:
The mix here is important, and later on I’m going to tell you exactly how you should be working each into your diet so that you can diet with your health in mind. The main thing to remember is that your diet is only ever going to total 100% of these three sources. When you go high-fat, or low-carb, you are tipping the scales and offsetting the other two sources. This is where we run into problems.
Top 9 Ways A Low-Carb Diet Can Harm Your Health
Today, let’s look at the ways in which a low-carb diet can actually have a negative effect on your health. Keeping in mind that when we are low on carbs, we are going to be higher on fats – this is important to remember.
Let’s take a look…
When the amount of protein that you are getting is too low, or when the fat you consume gets too high, your thyroid antibodies tend to worsen.
Dietary research has shown that there is a diet that is low in fat, and high in protein, which has lowered antibodies in certain subjects (2). It is important to keep in mind, though, that this diet might not be particularly effective long-term. It was too low in fibre diversity and food variety to be recommended in earnest, but could have benefits for a few months with those who have particularly high thyroid antibodies.
Bottom Line: A tricky diet not built for long-term health, but research has shown that a diet low in fat, and high in protein, has lowered thyroid antibodies caused by a diet that is too low in carbohydrates.
Dysbiosis is a term for when the microbial balance in your gut is off-set (3). This can lead to inflammatory issues, and issues for your long-term autoimmune health.
A diet that is low in carbohydrates can also be low in bifidobacteria. This type of bacteria plays a very important role in your digestive health, and you do not want to run the risk of losing them. At the same time, low-carb diets can be high in bacteroidetes (4). This can also lead to gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel disorder (IBD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).
Bottom Line: Avoid the dangers of dysbiosis, and manage your gut’s microbial balance. Low-carb diets are too risky when it comes to the dangers of low bifidobacteria and high bacteroidetes, so cut them out.
When you are low on carbs, but high on fats, you risk increasing your cortisol levels (5). I have talked about cortisol before, as the hormone in our brains that is released when we are stressed out. When this happens, we tend to binge eat and to indulge in foods that are not good for our health at all (sugars and other snack foods).
High cortisol is not only bad for your immediate body weight, but it is also harsh on chronic diseases. The less cortisol your body produces, the better you are going to feel.
Key Insight: Cortisol is damaging to your health, both in the near and long-term, so you need to enjoy a diet that will not ratchet up your cortisol levels to the point where they are causing damage.
Serotonin is important for our bodies (6). As a neurotransmitter, it helps keep our bodies running properly. We actually need carbs in order to keep our serotonin levels where they need to be – carbs actually help release this important hormone into our bodies.
When we get more serotonin, the benefits are very clear:
- We experience reduced pain and depression
- Our mood improves
- Brain cell regeneration in our bodies is encouraged
What’s not to love about serotonin? Keeping carbs out of our diet really hurts the important functions that this hormone carries out in our body. We ache more, we are more likely to feel down in the dumps, and that is definitely not the way we want to feel!
Key Insight: Serotonin does so much for our bodies, why would we want low amounts? To keep these hormone levels where they need to be, you need to be getting the right amount of carbs into your diet – not cutting them out.
How are you sleeping at night? Melatonin is the hormone that allows us to get a good night’s rest, and we all know how important sleep is for our overall health. We just finished talking about serotonin, and both of these hormones share a very close relationship (7).
Therefore, when our bodies are not producing serotonin, melatonin levels are suffering at the same time. When that happens, our sleep suffers – and so do our bodies. This means that a diet that is low in carbs can actually lead to insomnia in some patients (8).
Bottom Line: Your serotonin levels and your melatonin levels share a very special relationship. Cutting down on your carbs can keep you from the good night’s rest that your body needs and deserves.
Studies have shown the relationship between muscular pain and a low-carb diet. Cyclists, in particular, have been studied to prove this point. Studies with cyclists have shown that those with low-glycogen levels endured more muscle damage than those without (9).
What this tells us is that carbs play an important role in helping our muscles heal, and helping them properly “rebound” from strenuous exercise (10).
Bottom Line: Muscular pain is a real problem, especially for those who like to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. A low-carb diet can hurt your muscles, not help them.
Studies have shown that if we are getting more grain fibre into our diets, we reduce the risk of infertility – by 44% (9). All it takes is an intake of cereal fibre, 10 grams per day, to provide less risk for ovulatory infertility. It was this high intake of processed carbohydrates that reduced this risk, so the benefits are clear when it comes to battling infertility.
Key Insight: Yes, bad carbs can be really bad for your overall health. At the same time, we simply cannot discount the benefits of good carbs.
Research has shown that diets which are high in fat actually deny the benefits of exercise (10). When we exercise, we help give our bodies so much of what it needs – it would be an awful thing to waste, if you ask me!
Key Insight: There are so many different benefits to exercise, you are going to want to make sure that you are on a diet that optimizes the times you do get out and go. A diet that is low in carbs does the opposite.
Diets that are too high in fat can actually block your body from making t4 into the active hormone t3 (11). This means that you could potentially be harming your thyroid gland, and placing it into a suppressed state (12). When we are talking about our overall health, hypothyroidism is something we want to avoid entirely.
Key Insight: Looking to avoid hypothyroidism? When your diets are too high in fat, they can block your body from turning t4 into t3. This is not a good mix, and can lead to large problems down the road for your thyroid.
Your Diet and Your Health
It’s time to discuss the perfect mix that I mentioned earlier. Now that we know our diets are all about balance, we need to learn how we can eat for our thyroid. Fats are an essential part of our diets. Low-fat diets go too far, but high-fat diets are also not the answer.
Most do best when they have this mix:
- Fats around 20-35% of total calories
- Protein around 25-35% of total calories
- Carbs from 30-55% of total calories
Is this the kind of diet you are currently enjoying? If not, you should consider the ways that you can change your diet to benefit your life (13). There are so many options, and they are easy to implement. Sometimes all it takes is a little push, and some delicious recipes (14).
Bottom Line: Your diet and your overall health go hand-in-hand. The things you put into your system turn into the energy that you need to take on the day. When your diet lacks balance, your body also lacks balance. Eat for your health, and incorporate all three macronutrients properly.
How well do you know your thyroid?
Have you found yourself on a low-carb high-fat diet? Do you feel like you are not sleeping as well as you used to, or that you feel more depressed than ever. You might be doing damage to your thyroid, as well as your entire body. Break that cycle today, and learn more about your thyroid health.
Are you concerned about your thyroid? Do you feel like it’s operating the way it should? Take a minute, think about your diet, and take this very quick quiz to learn more about your thyroid. Answer honestly, and figure out how you can put yourself on a path to wellness today.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, cure diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.