Every now and then I’ll have someone ask me if I followed an autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet when I was dealing with Graves’ Disease. The reason I get asked this question at times is because I commonly recommend for my patients with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to initially follow an AIP diet. And so they want to know if I followed a similar diet when I was taking a natural treatment approach.
I’m assuming most people reading this know what an autoimmune paleo diet includes. But just to play it safe I’ll briefly distinguish between a “standard” paleo diet and an “autoimmune” paleo diet. A standard paleo diet allows the following foods to be consumed:
Meat (i.e. beef, pork, poultry)
Nuts and seeds
Green tea and herbal teas
So a “standard” paleo diet excludes foods such as dairy, grains, and legumes. And of course it also restricts refined sugars and oils, fast food, etc. Without question it’s a restrictive diet, and while some people struggle following a standard paleo diet, for many people it’s not difficult at all. As for an autoimmune paleo diet, this is even more restrictive than a standard paleo diet, as an autoimmune paleo diet also excludes eggs, nuts and seeds, and the nightshade family of vegetables, which includes tomatoes, eggplant, white potatoes, and peppers.
But why are these foods excluded? Well, the reason why eggs, nightshades, and nuts and seeds are excluded from an autoimmune paleo diet is because they include compounds which can potentially increase the permeability of the gut. And some theorize that a leaky gut is a factor in all autoimmune conditions. I spoke about this in greater detail in a past blog post I wrote entitled “Is a Leaky Gut Present In All Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions?”
Do I Have All Of My Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Patients Follow an AIP Diet?
Initially I recommend for all of my patients with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to follow an autoimmune paleo diet for at least the first 30 days. This isn’t to suggest that some people won’t need to follow this diet for a longer period of time. But I don’t think that there is a “one size fits all” diet, and I spoke about this in a past blog post entitled “Should Everyone With Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Follow an Autoimmune Paleo Diet?”. Although I do think the AIP diet is a good starting point for those with autoimmune thyroid conditions, not everyone needs to follow this diet for a prolonged period time, and not everyone with an autoimmune condition does well on this type of diet.
What Diet Did I Follow When I Was Diagnosed With Graves’ Disease?
So let’s go back to the original question, which asked if I followed an AIP diet when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. First of all, when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease I’m pretty sure there wasn’t an official “autoimmune paleo diet”. Back then it was referred to as a “gut repair diet”. Just as a reminder, when I was treating my Graves’ Disease condition naturally I was working with a natural healthcare professional who had experience working with endocrine conditions. And initially she recommended for me to follow a standard paleo diet, and not an AIP/gut repair diet.
As a result I didn’t eliminate the eggs, nightshades, nuts and seeds from my diet. While I was progressing well, on my first saliva test my secretory IgA was depressed, and this marker didn’t improve when doing a retest (although my cortisol and DHEA levels did show some great changes). As a result, the natural healthcare professional I was working with suggested for me to follow a strict gut repair diet, which I did. I don’t remember if this involved giving up eggs. Truth to be told, I’ve never been a big consumer of eggs, as I usually add a couple of raw egg yolks to my smoothies a few times per week, but I usually don’t eat eggs for breakfast on a regular basis like many people do. On the other hand, giving up nuts and seeds was a big challenge for me, as I’ve always loved eating all types of nuts and seeds.
A few months after following the gut repair diet I had another saliva retest, and my secretory IgA had greatly improved. Was following the AIP/gut repair diet responsible for this improvement? I’d like to think so, although I will admit that I’ve had some patients with a depressed secretory IgA not give up nuts and seeds and a few months later this value improved. The truth is that everyone is different, and what works for one person doesn’t always work for the another person with the same condition. In addition, those following a natural treatment protocol are almost always doing multiple things to help improve their health, and so sometimes it can be challenging to know if a specific factor was responsible for the person’s improvement.
Should YOU Follow An Autoimmune Paleo Diet?
If you have Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (or any other type of autoimmune condition), then you might be wondering if you should follow an AIP diet. As I mentioned earlier, I currently recommend for all of my patients with autoimmune thyroid conditions to at least follow an AIP diet initially. Then after 30 days if they are struggling with the diet I’m open to them reintroducing other foods. Of course some people don’t follow an AIP diet at all, even for the initial 30 days. And some of these people still end up receiving good results, while others don’t progress well.
Even though one can make the argument that not everyone with an autoimmune condition needs to follow a strict AIP diet, it is impossible to know who will progress well without following such a diet. And so if you have Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis you have a few different options, but I’m going to focus on two options here. The first option, which as you now know is the one I recommend, is to play it safe and strictly follow the AIP diet. A second option is not to follow an AIP diet, but to still eat whole healthy foods, avoid refined foods, and see how you progress.
If you choose not to follow a strict AIP diet I would at least encourage you to follow a standard paleo diet for awhile. If you don’t follow an AIP diet and your symptoms, blood tests, and other tests continue to improve then you probably are fine following the current diet. On the other hand, if your health doesn’t improve when following a standard paleo diet then it probably is best to try following a strict AIP/gut repair diet for at least a month or two. Sure, perhaps there are other factors responsible for the lack of progress, but since one’s diet can definitely play a role I think eating well is essential to receive optimal results, even if there are other factors to consider.
In summary, I usually recommend for my patients with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to follow an autoimmune paleo diet initially. However, when I was dealing with Graves’ Disease I initially followed more of a standard paleo diet, although I eventually made the transition to an AIP/gut repair diet due to the secretory IgA remaining depressed. While some people with autoimmune thyroid conditions don’t need to follow a strict AIP diet, it’s impossible to know who will do well and who won’t do well when not following such a diet. As a result, I think it’s a good idea to try to be as strict as possible initially, and then as your health improves you should eventually be able to reintroduce other foods.