In this article we will look at some of the research behind the principles of the Hashimoto Diet.
Hopefully, this post will give you some guidance on which foods to stay well clear of, or eat in moderation, if you have an underactive thyroid.
All our information is backed up by the latest medical research too.
For all the Foods that you should be eating on the Hashimoto Diet click HERE
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
Well, quite simply the term ‘thyroiditis’ means an inflammation of the thyroid gland.
With thyroiditis, the thyroid gland struggles to produce enough of the hormone, thyroxine. This condition is called hypothyroidism.
In some cases a person can suffer from hypothyroidism because the thyroid gland is underactive and not producing enough thyroxine.
However, in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis the thyroid is not producing enough thyroxine because the body’s natural immune system begins to attack the thyroid gland causing inflammation.
In effect, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease.
A diagnosis of hypothyroidism usually follows blood tests:-
- TSH – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. This blood test actually shows how much T4 or thyroxine the thyroid gland is instructed to make. A high TSH can indicate hypothyroidism and a low TSH can indicate hyperthyroidism.
- T3 and T4 tests: These blood tests measure the amount of thyroxine in the blood.
- Anti-TPO – Serum anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies. This is a blood test that can detect if the body’s own antibodies that attack the thyroid gland are present. If so, this can indicate an autoimmune cause for thyroid dysfunctions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
In addition, your treating physician may order a thyroid ultrasound test.
This allows the doctors to see any abnormal swelling of the thyroid together with any nodules or other abnormalities.
Treatment for Hashimoto
The Hashimoto Diet
This diet is taken from a collection of research for people who have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
The Hashimoto diet is based upon the AIP dietary plan. So, AIP stands for the Autoimmune Protocol and aims to eliminate foods that play a role in inflammation.
Research studies are beginning to explore the crucial role that diet can play in helping with the symptoms and cause of autoimmune diseases.
Indeed, some studies show that not only do symptoms improve, but diet alone, particularly a gluten-free paleo style plan can reverse the disease altogether.
Foods to Avoid on the Hashimoto Diet
Interestingly, medical studies show that autoimmune thyroiditis is more common in patients with Celiac Disease, and vice versa.
Indeed, some studies suggest that all patients with autoimmune thyroid disease may benefit from screening for Celiac disease.
New medical thinking is beginning to see a link between poor gut health and digestion and thyroid disorders.
Specialists believe that ‘leaky gut’ (increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability) in particular, can play a role in autoimmune hypothyroidism.
So, leaky gut happens when the stomach lining becomes too permeable and food particles can pass into the blood stream causing antibodies to create an inflammatory response.
With a leaky gut, large molecules of gluten can pass directly into the bloodstream. In turn, the body recognises the pieces of gluten as foreign and attacks. However, this process may trigger the antibodies to attack the body’s own tissue too.
What Foods NOT to eat on a Gluten Free Diet
So, foods to avoid on a gluten-free diet are mainly grains.
One of the main culprits is the wheat grain. So, the basic first step to a gluten-free diet is to avoid all flour-based products.
However, other grains including barley, couscous, rye and oats also contain gluten.
Many of our basic pantry foods such as:-
Furthermore, there are a lot of other staple products that have hidden gluten. For example, sauces, chips, salad dressing, sausages, cereals and some medicines.
Because gluten is present in so many products it is important to check food labels carefully to avoid all traces in the diet.
Summary on Gluten Free for the Hashimoto Diet
- People with Autoimmune Thyroiditis are more likely to have Celiac disease and vice versa
- Eliminating gluten from the diet may help reduce inflammation and heal the gut. This may aid in improving inflammation and the autoimmune response
- It may be useful to ask your specialist for screening for Celiac disease if you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- You can try a gluten-free diet for 60 days and assess if your symptoms improve. A gluten-free diet may not necessarily have to be for a lifetime. However, a lot of doctors and nutritionists recommend a gluten free diet for autoimmune conditions
2) Lactose and Dairy Products
Similar to the evidence on gluten intolerance, a 2014 medical study shows that lactose intolerance occurs at a higher rate in people with autoimmune thyroiditis.
Furthermore, after an 8 week lactose restriction diet the TSH levels of those with lactose intolerance significantly improved too.
However, the main aim of the Hashimoto diet is to remove gastric irritants or allergens to promote gut healing.
Like in the case of gluten, a ‘leaky gut’ allows proteins from dairy products to seep into the bloodstream triggering inflammation and possibly an autoimmune response.
Add to that the fact that medics estimate that around 65% of people have a reduced ability to digest lactose (milk sugar) after infancy and milk is one to avoid.
Summary on Avoiding Dairy Products on the Hashimoto Diet
- If you have autoimmune Thyroiditis it may be beneficial to try a 60 day elimination trial of dairy products to assess improvements in symptoms and TSH levels
- It may be worth asking your physician for a lactose intolerance test
- Dairy Products such as fermented yoghurts and cheese may not need to be eliminated. This is because the bacteria in the fermentation process eliminates a lot of the lactose in yoghurts and cheese
- If you really can not face eliminating dairy try switching to organic goats and sheep milk which is easier to digest
- After 60 days you may wish to reintroduce dairy products and assess your symptoms and thyroxine levels
3) Canola Oil and Other Industrial Seed Oils
Well, here we go with the ever confusing topic of good fats and bad fats.
Basically, literature seems to agree that the cooking oils to be avoided when suffering with hypothyroidism (and in general) include:-
- canola oil (rapeseed oil)
- peanut oil
- corn oil
- soy bean oil
- grape seed oil
- sunflower oil
- generic ‘vegetable oil’
Now to fully understand the polyunsaturated fats we need to look at Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
It is the balance between these two fats that is important. Importantly, Omega 6 fatty acids promote inflammation, whilst Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory.
Examples of Foods rich in Omega-3 include:-
- Mackerel, Salmon and Herring
- Fortified Juices
Examples of Foods rich in Omega-6 include:-
- Most processed and fast foods
- Vegetable Oils
- Flaxseed seed and Oils
- Hemp Oil
Whilst both Omega-3 and Omega-6 are important to health, the over abundance of Omega-6 fatty acids in the modern diet is a problem.
The vegetable oils listed above are high in Omega-6 fatty acids and could therefore add to the inflammatory response in autoimmune disorders.
Furthermore, it is the chemical processing of these oils that make them harmful. Indeed they may contain residues of chemical solvents and trans-fats.
Healthier Oils for Dressings and Cooking
Modern research and nnutritionists recommend to substitute the following healthy oils for cooking and general dietary use.
Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil
Most research and experts agree that olive oil is the way forward. The most important factors to remember when choosing an olive oil for health benefits are the words ‘Extra Virgin’ and ‘Organic’
‘Extra Virgin’ means that the olive oil has not undergone the refining process. You may need to check the label carefully.
Olive oil does not have a very high smoke point, so low or medium heat only for cooking. You do not want any oil to be smoking as it releases harmful free radicals.
However, olive oil is great for adding to foods and dressings.
Coconut oil is a much healthier option for cooking foods at high temperatures, as it is more stable than some of the other oils.
Again, try and look for ‘organic’ ‘cold pressed’ and ‘virgin’ on the label.
For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis coconut oil may be beneficial because it reduces inflammation and is a natural antiseptic and antibiotic.
Remember, though, that coconut oil is very rich in saturated fats, so use in moderation.
If the coconut taste is too much for everyday use you can also consider ghee as an alternative.
For a full discussion of coconut oil and the scientific research behind it click HERE.
Summary on Oils and Omega-6 Fats in the Hashimoto Diet
- Avoid ALL refined and highly processed vegetable oils
- Stay away from foods very high in Omega-6, particularly processed foods, drinks and sources that have low nutritional value too
- Substitute organic, cold-pressed or virgin oils in the place of refined vegetable oils. Olive oil, coconut oil and ghee are all recommended
- Include foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Aim for a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
4) Raw Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are packed with nutrients including carotenoids, minerals, folate and Vitamins C, E and K. Furthermore, these vegetables are a great source of fibre.
However, for hypothyroidism, cruciferous vegetables do contain goitrogens. Foods high in goitrogen can disrupt thyroid function and iodine uptake.
You may read that, for this reason cruciferous vegetables should be avoided on the Hashimoto Diet.
What are Cruciferous Vegetables?
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
However, cooking cruciferous vegetables reduces goitrogenic chemicals by up to 80%. So small amounts of cooked vegetables should be okay for those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Medical research is not consistent on cruciferous vegetables and hypothyroidism. However, one study concludes that eating greens, sprouts and kale represents a ‘minimal risk’ only.
There is, in fact, very little scientific evidence that supports the fact that leafy greens are bad for your thyroid.
Indeed, the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables may well outweigh the risks for those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Cruciferous vegetables
- Have Anti-inflammatory properties
- Support liver function
- Reduce the risk of certain cancers
- Benefit good Bacteria
Summary on Cruciferous Vegetables in the Hashimoto Diet
- Avoid Raw Cruciferous Vegetables – always steam or boil them
- If your hypothyroidism is due to low iodine avoid crucifers
- Do not over indulge on cruciferous vegetables. Eat a tablespoon size serving
- The health benefits of cruciferous vegetables may well outweight the small risk
5) Soy Products
Specialists usually recommend avoiding ALL soy products on the Hashimoto diet and there are a few reasons for this advice.
Like cruciferous vegetables above, soy products contain goitrogen chemicals that may further inhibit thyroid function in Hashimoto Thyroiditis. In addition, in the case of soy products these goitrogens are not destroyed by cooking.
Although, again, research is mixed with some studies claiming that the risk of soy is ‘minimal’ to those with hypothyroidism. A 2011 study, however, shows that in pre-clinical hypothyroidism patients the risk of developing hypothyroidism increases three fold with a soy phytoestrogen supplement.
Furthermore, studies show that phytic acid or phytates in soy may affect the body’s ability to absorb iron and calcium.
Finally, soy products are often genetically modified and can also be allergens.
Thus, when we look at all the above, it is probably best to avoid soy products on a Hashimoto diet.
Summary on Soy and Soy Products in the Hashimoto Diet
- As the aim of the Hashimoto diet is to heal the gut and avoid inflammation, in the initial stages avoid soy and soy products altogether
- After 60 days, if you really want to you can try and reintroduce soy and soy products to your diet. However, keep an eye on your TSH levels and symptoms
For all the Foods that you should be eating on the Hashimoto Diet click HERE
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