Paleo Diet and Hypothyroidism

text of paleo diet on scrabble tiles

When it comes to managing hypothyroidism, diet obviously plays a crucial role. Among various dietary protocols, the Paleo diet has gained prominence for its potential benefits. But how does it relate to thyroid health and hormonal balance, particularly in women? Let’s delve deeper. The Paleo diet, or so called the “caveman” diet, is based on the principle of eating foods that our ancestors would have consumed. This means natural, unprocessed foods that could be hunted or gathered. 

paleo diet and hypothyroidism

Allowed Foods:

  • Meats and fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy oils (like olive and coconut oil)
  • Fruits and vegetables

Excluded Foods:

  • Grains, beans & legumes
  • Dairy 
  • Refined vegetable oils
  • Refined sugars and processed foods
  • Sodas and sweetened beverages.
paleo diet and hypothyroidism

As you can already see without getting too much into details it looks like pretty restrictive diet and the question that may appear in your head is “soo.. where do I get my carbs from”?

Paleo Diet and Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism

Hashimoto’s is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism in women. There’s emerging evidence suggesting that Paleo diet can be effective in reducing thyroid antibodies. By removing inflammatory foods, especially gluten and other potential allergens, lots of women feels improvement with their symptoms and better antibody management. You can read more here on gluten and Hashimoto’s

Carbohydrates, Thyroid and Women’s Hormones 

For those with hypothyroidism not driven by Hashimoto’s, the exclusion of grains from the Paleo diet can pose unique risks or challenges. Grains are a significant source of carbohydrates, and when removed from the diet, it can increase stress on the body, particularly in women.  Adequate carbohydrate intake is essential for hormonal balance, including thyroid function! Here is another post about keto diet and its impact on underactive thyroid if you are interested in finding out more:)

How Low Carb Paleo Diet Can Exacerbate Hypothyroidism?

Quite often reduced carbohydrate intake exacerbates hypothyroid symptoms by increasing reverse T3 and lowering active T3 hormones. As a result thyroid can slow down even more. I see lots of women in my practice doing well for a period of time on low carb or keto diets (especially when trying to lose weight) but then at some point they stop seeing the benefits and start feeling worse. What even more frustrating is that they feel like no matter what they are eating and trying to do nothing really works…Anyway let’s get back to the tricky part of the Paleo diet which is “should I have grains or not”

paleo diet and hypothyroidism

Risks of Grain Free-Paleo Diet and Hypothyroidism

Relying solely on fruits for carbohydrate intake, as might happen on a typical Paleo diet, introduces one more challenge: elevated sugar consumption, especially fructose. While fruits are rich in vital nutrients and antioxidants, if they become the primary carbohydrate source, it can lead to an overconsumption of fructose. Excess fructose can also contribute to non alcoholic fatty liver, more inflammation, poor detox and difficulties in losing weight.

In terms of women’s health, excess consumption of simple sugars can also dysregulate blood sugar balance and insulin metabolism. Both are essential for maintaining hormonal balance and healthy thyroid hormone levels.   Therefore, while the Paleo diet might be beneficial for women with Hashimoto-driven hypothyroidism where the main aim in the first stage of treatment is to lower thyroid antibodies, those with other forms of hypothyroidism need to approach grain exclusion with caution and be aware of the potential ramifications on thyroid health and overall well-being.

paleo diet and hypothyroidism

Are Sweet Potatoes Healthy Type of Carbohydrates?

Apart from fruits root vegetables are another source of carbohydrates while being on pure paleo diet. However there are few things that you should be aware before you go full on with sweet potatoes and… other sugar alcohols. Sweet potatoes have lots of health benefits but they also contain sugar alcohols, which can disrupt gut microbiome in large amount as human body is not able to digest well sugar alcohols. As you may already know gut health is essential not only for hypothyroidism but also for overall health. Gut plays key role in converting your inactive T4 thyroid hormones to its active form T3.

protein bars hypothyroidism

Sugar alcohols in protein bars and other “healthy foods”.

The trend of no sugar added or low sugar snacks is on the rise. However what happens quite often the regular sugar is just replaced with sweeteners or… sugar alcohols. Common sugar alcohols are xylitol, Erythritol, malitol or sorbitol 

Animal Protein and Gut Health:

A distinguishing feature of the Paleo diet is the emphasis on animal products and animal protein. While animal protein provides women with essential amino acids, zinc, copper and carnitine (all very important for hormonal balance), it can be taxing on the digestive system. Women with hypothyroidism often experience pretty slow gut motility. That means that when going 100% Paleo diet, extra care must be taken to ensure these proteins don’t exacerbate digestive issues. Supporting the pancreas, liver, and overall digestive health becomes paramount.

paleo diet and gut health

Tyrosine and Hypothyroidism

Thyroid hormones are made from amino acid called tyrosine among others so consuming quality protein in adequate amount is crucial. Especially when you work a lot and want to stay healthy and productive. Tyrosine competes with stress hormones and dopamine amongst others which is the “motivation molecule” that helps us focus, concentrate, plan ahead and resist distractions. Those hormones are made by your adrenal glands and released into the body in response to physical or emotional stress or even…. when you are busy or workout a lot! Therefore, for women invested in thyroid health and overall wellbeing, the quality and source of protein in your diet is very important to ensure you get enough amino acids to make both thyroid hormones and also your stress and motivation hormones:)

Not All Animal Products Are Healthy – How To Choose Healthy Meat

Consuming large amounts of non-organic meats can, in fact, be more detrimental than beneficial. Non-organic meats may contain a higher load of antibiotics, hormones, and other chemical residues. These compounds can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance in women, and given that the thyroid plays a crucial role in regulating hormones, such disruptions can exacerbate hypothyroidism.

Best to choose organic grass fed meats and small fish as they are less contaminated comparing to large ones lie tuna or salmon. Click here for the full list of highly contaminated fish and which are fine to eat in moderation.

risks of paleo diet for treating hypothyroidism
risks of paleo diet for treating hypothyroidism

Paleo diet, endotoxins and hypothyroidism

There is one more aspect of paleo diet and hypothyroidism. It’s essential to understand the broader digestive implications of consuming meat or other animal protein on paleo diet. If meat is not adequately digested, it can lead to the production of endotoxins. These toxins can impair gut health, leading to inflammation and other digestive challenges. Given that the gut and liver are pivotal sites for the conversion of thyroid hormones, especially the conversion of T4 to the more active T3, an overload of endotoxins can hamper this vital process. When the gut and liver are compromised, it can further impede thyroid function and make hypothyroidism symptoms worse.

Therefore, when embracing a paleo diet rich in animal products, it’s important to choose locally sourced or organic products. The less harmful additives the better. Additionally supporting pancreas, levels of stomach acid and the body’s digestive processes is crucial!

Is paleo diet good for hypothyroidsim
Is paleo diet good for hypothyroidsim

Key takeaways

The Paleo diet, with its emphasis on natural and unprocessed foods, undoubtedly offers a good framework that can inspire healthier eating habits. However, like any diet trend, it shouldn’t be followed dogmatically without considering your personal and unique needs as well as health conditions. When addressing hypothyroidism naturally, it’s paramount to pinpoint and treat the root causes, replenish any missing essential nutrients, and address the multifaceted factors that may have contributed to the onset of hypothyroidism.

In my practice, I advocate for what I term as an “adjusted Paleo” approach. This method allows for the incorporation of the beneficial aspects of the Paleo diet while ensuring flexibility to cater to individual requirements. By doing so, we can provide everything your body needs for optimal function and healing, and simultaneously exclude elements that might hinder your recovery journey. Remember, the best diet is one tailored to you, championing both your well-being and your personal journey to health.

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