The evidence keeps piling up… eating whole foods that are low in carbohydrates is helping people with many different problems, especially autoimmune conditions, like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
A recent study showed a low-carbohydrate, whole foods diet - low in inflammatory foods - significantly decreases thyroid antibodies, which are the marker for autoimmune thyroid disease, or Hashimoto’s. This condition occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland - it’s the cause of about 90% of hypothyroid cases! This study is further evidence you can profoundly influence autoimmune conditions through diet and lifestyle interventions.
In the three-week study, almost 200 people with Hashimoto’s were divided into two groups. One group followed the low-carbohydrate diet, while the other followed a standard low-calorie diet.
The results were significant - levels of several different thyroid antibodies that serve as markers for Hashimoto’s dropped between 40-60%! This first group also lost weight. Meanwhile, the group that followed a low-calorie diet saw antibody levels go UP between 9-30%!
What Did Group 1 Eat?
The study designers chose a curious route for their research in having their subjects follow both a low-carbohydrate, anti-inflammatory diet as well as a diet low in goitrogens. Goitrogens are compounds that lower thyroid function and are found in RAW cruciferous vegetables - like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.
Before people understood the mechanisms of autoimmune Hashimoto’s, it used to be the rule of thumb to avoid goitrogenic foods.However, through the evolution of functional medicine, we have learned that most people with Hashimoto’s can safely eat normal amounts of cruciferous vegetables. In fact, they contain many beneficial nutrients as well as fiber. However, people with unresolved small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or genetic difficulty metabolizing sulfur may not do well with these vegetables. So we don’t know how subjects would have fared in this study had they included these vegetables.
Here is the actual diet the study subjects ate that led to lowered thyroid antibodies:
In functional medicine, we know gluten and dairy exacerbate autoimmune Hashimoto’s for the most part. Eggs, legumes, and grains are inflammatory for many people as well. Also, people with poor blood sugar stability may need to limit their fruit intake.
In functional medicine, we see the best results with a diet very similar to this one called the autoimmune paleo diet (AIP). In fact, a recent study showed the AIP diet significantly improved autoimmune gut disorders.
Feel free to reach out for more advice on managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or other autoimmune diseases.