Although many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions are trying to lose weight, some people with these conditions are actually trying to gain weight, or at the very least, don’t want to lose any additional weight. This is especially true for those with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, but it’s also true for a small percentage of people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. And following an autoimmune paleo diet can make this even more of a challenge, as while the goal of following this diet isn’t to reduce calories, it still is a very restrictive diet.
So if you are following an autoimmune paleo diet and are looking to gain weight and/or maintain a healthy weight, then here are a few things you can do:
1. Decrease the thyroid hormone levels. This mainly applies to those people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, although if someone with hypothyroidism is taking too high of a dose of thyroid hormone medication then it also can apply to them as well. Either way, having high thyroid hormone levels will usually make it very difficult to gain weight. It’s not uncommon for one of my patients with hyperthyroidism to tell me how concerned they are about their weight loss, and while some of the other advice given in this blog post might help to prevent them from losing additional weight, in many cases they will need to address the thyroid hormone levels before the weight loss subsides.
This described my situation when I was dealing with Graves’ Disease, as I lost over 40 pounds. And I didn’t gain any weight until my thyroid hormone levels started to decrease. Of course some people who take antithyroid medication have the opposite problem, as the medication will make them hypothyroid and cause them to gain weight. This weight gain usually can be minimized by not taking too high of a dosage of antithyroid medication. Sometimes taking too high of a dosage of bugleweed can also cause weight gain, although it’s not as common as taking higher doses of antithyroid medication.
2. Eat nutrient dense foods. Although the autoimmune paleo diet is restrictive, it is also very nutrient dense. And while I understand the concern about not getting enough calories, it is better to consume less calories consisting of nutrient dense foods rather than eating a lot of high calorie, low nutrient dense foods. With that being said, eating a good amount of protein, along with a lot of healthy fats when following an autoimmune paleo diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, and might even cause you to gain weight.
Most people who follow such a diet focus more on the protein, as for example, they might eat meat with every meal. But don’t underestimate the benefits of eating a lot of healthy fats and oils. Avocados and coconut oil are two main sources of healthy fats to consider consuming, but other healthy fats and oils include olive oil, tallow, and coconut milk.
3. Heal the gut. Problems with digestion or absorption can cause someone to have problems gaining weight. So for example, while most people with a high TSH and low thyroid hormone levels will have problems losing weight, if you have a high TSH and low or depressed thyroid hormone levels and are losing weight, then I would suspect absorption issues. For example, if someone has inflammatory bowel disease then this can cause weight loss. Celiac disease can also result in malabsorption of nutrients, and cause weight loss.
4. Eradicate infections. Having certain infections can cause some people to lose weight. So for example, having a condition such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or a parasitic infection can cause someone to have problems losing weight. In some cases H. Pylori can cause weight loss. Certain viruses can also result in gastroenteritis and make gaining weight difficult. And so you want to make sure to eradicate any infections.
5. Do things to increase muscle mass. Another way to gain some weight is to do things to increase muscle mass. While eating a healthy diet consisting of a good amount of protein and healthy fats is important, physical activity is also important, and this includes weight bearing exercises. For example, engaging in some light weight lifting three times per week is a good way to increase muscle mass. This doesn’t necessarily mean joining a fitness club, as you can get some light weights and exercise from the comfort of your own home.
So if you are having problems gaining weight when following an autoimmune paleo diet, then hopefully some of the strategies given in this post will help you to overcome this. If you have hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease, then in many cases you will need to decrease the thyroid hormone levels before you can gain weight. But other things that can help you to gain weight include eating nutrient dense foods, doing things to heal the gut, eradicate any infections, and increase muscle mass.