Natural Thyroid Treatment Methods
Graves' Disease & Hyperthyroidism
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Should Everyone With Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Follow an Autoimmune Paleo Diet?

Many people who have an autoimmune condition follow an autoimmune paleo diet.  This is similar to a “standard” paleo diet, with a few additional restrictions.  While a standard paleo diet allows the consumption of eggs, nuts and seeds, along with the nightshade vegetables, an autoimmune paleo diet excludes these foods.  So essentially the person is allowed to eat meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, certain coconut products, and some spices.  But is this the ideal diet for everyone with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

Before answering this question I’d first like to talk in greater detail about the similarities and differences between a “standard” paleo diet and an autoimmune paleo diet.  Here are the main foods which are allowed on a standard paleo diet:

  • Meat (beef, pork, chicken, lamb, etc.) and fish
  • Eggs
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables (including the nightshades)
  • Nuts and seeds

Foods which are excluded in a “standard” paleo diet include all grains, legumes, and dairy products.  And of course anything refined should also be avoided.  A standard paleo diet is restrictive with regards to what foods you can eat, although keep in mind that it is nutrient dense, and the goal isn’t to restrict calories.  As a result, while some people do struggle initially to follow a paleo diet, after awhile many of these people do perfectly fine and wish they had followed this sooner.  Many people do better upon avoiding the grains, legumes, and dairy products.  However, when someone also needs to avoid eating eggs, nuts and seeds, along with the nightshade vegetables, this makes it even more challenging.  And of course it’s even more challenging for a strict vegetarian or vegan to follow an autoimmune paleo diet, as they won’t be consuming any meat or fish.

Why Is An Autoimmune Paleo Diet So Restrictive?

Why are so many foods excluded from an autoimmune paleo diet?   Well, there are a few different reasons.  An autoimmune paleo diet excludes foods people with autoimmune conditions are commonly sensitive to such as gluten, dairy, eggs, and corn.  These foods can cause inflammation and/or exacerbate an existing inflammatory condition.  Gluten can directly cause an increase in intestinal permeability (a leaky gut), which is a factor in many, if not all autoimmune conditions.  Other foods such as all grains, legumes, and the nightshade vegetables are restricted because they contain antinutrients which not only affect the absorption of nutrients, but like gluten, can also have a negative effect on the gut.  So it’s not just gluten which potentially can cause a leaky gut, but other foods can potentially cause this as well.  Essentially those foods which are excluded from an autoimmune paleo diet are those foods which can cause gut inflammation and/or an increase in intestinal permeability.

I must admit that I do like the autoimmune paleo diet, and I commonly recommend this to my patients with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  However, there are a few “flaws” with this type of diet:

1) Some people do fine eating one or more of the restricted foods. A good example of this is eggs.  There are many people who are able to eat eggs without a problem, especially egg yolks.  And eggs are an excellent source of nutrients.  With regards to dairy, although I recommend for people to avoid dairy while trying to restore their health, some people with autoimmune thyroid conditions do okay when consuming dairy products.  This is especially true with raw dairy products.  I’ve also had some people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis eat small amounts of gluten free grains and still receive good results.  I’ve also had a few patients eat soaked nuts while following the protocol and do well.  The problem is that it’s difficult to predict who will do fine eating some of the restricted foods, which is why many healthcare professionals recommend for all of their patients with autoimmune thyroid conditions to avoid all of these foods.

2) It is possible to be sensitive to the “allowed” foods. Someone can be strictly following an autoimmune paleo diet and then find out that they are sensitive to another food they are eating which is permitted.  For example, they might have a sensitivity to chicken or beef, or even a vegetable or fruit they are eating on a frequent basis.  And while sometimes a person will experience negative symptoms upon eating these foods, other times there won’t be any overt symptoms.  This admittedly can be frustrating, as a person might be following a strict autoimmune paleo diet and might be feeling better from a symptomatic perspective.  But upon doing some retesting they notice their numbers aren’t improving.  For example, someone’s thyroid panel might worsen even though they are feeling better, and  while this doesn’t mean this is due to a food allergen, it is possible.  Perhaps a better example is someone who initially tests positive for an increase in intestinal permeability, and upon getting this retested a few months later the results show that their leaky gut has gotten worse.  Once again, this might not necessarily be attributed to a food sensitivity, although it very well might be.

3) Some people find the diet to be too restrictive. I find this to especially be true with those patients who have Graves’ Disease, although sometimes this will also be the case with those who have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  The problem with Graves’ Disease is that the increased metabolism usually leads to weight loss, which can be extreme in some cases.  While some people with an autoimmune hyperthyroid condition will lose a small amount of weight (i.e. 5 to 10 pounds), others will lose 20 pounds or greater.  As an example, when I was dealing with Graves’ Disease I lost over 40 pounds.  Many people find it difficult to gain weight when dealing with Graves’ Disease, and sometimes this is true with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis patients as well.

Of course everyone is different, and many of my patients with Graves’ Disease do fine when following an autoimmune paleo diet.  On the other hand, others struggle with the restrictive diet.  Although I try to encourage my patients to stick with the diet, if someone is about to break the diet due to the fear of losing even more weight, I’d much rather them eat some “forbidden” yet healthy foods (i.e. eggs, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, etc.) than completely ruin their diet by eating junk food.  And so there are times when I’m fine with people reintroducing one or more of the excluded foods and see how they do.  When taking this approach I will always have them reintroduce one food at a time for three consecutive days.  For example, if someone wants to reintroduce nuts, I’d have them start with almonds, and preferably soak them overnight to help reduce the antinutrients.  Then I would have them eat some almonds for three consecutive days and to pay close attention to any symptoms they might experience.

Who Should Follow An Autoimmune Paleo Diet?

I currently recommend an autoimmune paleo diet to just about all of my patients with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  However, as I just mentioned, I will make modifications if necessary.  Plus, one needs to consider that autoimmune thyroid conditions are a little bit different than many other autoimmune conditions.  For example, there is the concern of goitrogenic foods, which in my opinion isn’t a huge concern in people with hypothyroid conditions.  But it’s still something to be aware of, and I have discussed this in other articles.  Eating foods rich in iodine such as seafood and sea vegetables is commonly recommended with other autoimmune conditions.  And while many people with autoimmune thyroid conditions do fine eating these foods, some people get worse when eating foods rich in iodine.  I’ll soon be releasing an article which talks about the impact of seafood and sea vegetables on thyroid health.

With regards to the restrictive diet, I’m open to patients reintroducing egg yolks after one month if they’re struggling on the diet.  And while I prefer for patients to avoid grains, if adding a few servings of gluten free grains each week will make someone more compliant with the other recommendations then I’m usually fine with them trying this.  The same thing applies with properly prepared nuts.  This doesn’t mean that everyone will do fine eating these foods, but if they are going to stray from the diet I’d rather them eat a small bowl of rice than a bowl of whole wheat pasta or a slice of pizza. Obviously there are certain foods I won’t allow under any circumstances, although just because I recommend avoiding a specific food doesn’t always mean the patient will follow my recommendations while trying to restore their health.  It’s not uncommon for me to receive an email from a patient who ate something they weren’t supposed to, and sometimes it can be challenging for them to  get back on track with the diet.  Just remember that while you want to continue eating well even after you have restored your health back to normal, you won’t necessarily have to follow a strict autoimmune paleo diet on a permanent basis.

In summary, an autoimmune paleo diet is recommended by many natural healthcare professionals to those people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, as well as those with other types of autoimmune conditions.  Although I commonly recommend this type of diet to my patients with autoimmune thyroid conditions, some people do fine eating some of the restricted foods, and it’s possible to be sensitive to foods which are permitted.  In addition, some people find this diet to be too restrictive and therefore have a difficult time sticking to it.  As a result, there are times when I will make modifications to this diet if necessary, although I do encourage people to try to stick as close to the diet as possible for optimal results.


 

13 Comments

  1. Jo says:

    Thank you for this article. I have Hashimoto’s and I’m vegan. This makes adjusting my diet extremely difficult. I simply cannot make do without any GF grains or nuts. Any suggestions?
    Thank you.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Jo,

      I have other vegan patients, and following an autoimmune paleo diet definitely is more challenging for them. Some are okay without gluten free grains, but eliminating both GF grains and nuts and seeds is extremely tough. As I mentioned in the post, some people do fine eating a small amount of gluten free grains and/or soaked nuts and seeds, but it really does depend on the person. So you can always try to eat these foods and as long as your health improves then of course that’s great. On the other hand, if your health doesn’t improve then you will need to consider avoiding these.

  2. Raphaele says:

    I havé been on the autoimmune paleo diet for almost three weeks. I still eat eggs though as a nutritionist I talked to suggested I could continue including them till it becomes clear I shouldn’t eat them because I am breastfeeding. It hasn’t been as hard as the other diets I had tried before. Mostly I find that there is still plenty of things to eat, and I haven’t felt hungry or deprived – so far. When I am hungry I eat. I like that we don’t have to watch portions… And now that I’ve passed the first couple of weeks, I feel like I am not obsessed by the fear of being hungry and I have adjusted my portions. Sure, it takes some planning… I am also being more adventurous with vegetables and foods I hadn’t eaten in years (such as liver). And I enjoy looking up new recipes… It is worth trying in any case even though the restrictions may seem huge at first.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Raphaele,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with others, as I’m glad all is going well with the autoimmune paleo diet. I agree that planning definitely makes it easier to follow.

  3. Sally says:

    Thank you for the article. I have Grave’s and have lost 25 pounds and while I am maintaining my current weight, I have been unable to gain weight back. I am on a sugar free, gluten free diet. I am confused by symptoms from eating a restricted food. If I eat gluten, what would a bad reaction feel like? Would it only show up on blood work? As I’m sure you know, you can now do a blood test to test for a gluten insensitivity/intolerance. Would this test tell you anything about how gluten affects your autoimmune disorder? I look forward to you reply!

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Sally,

      The problem with gluten is that not everyone will experience overt symptoms when reacting to it. While some people do experience bloating, gas, and other gastrointestinal symptoms, others will experience fatigue, headaches, and other symptoms not related to the GI tract, while some people who are sensitive won’t experience any symptoms. Yes, there is testing available, although most labs will test for Celiac disease, but someone can have a non-autoimmune gluten sensitivity. Cyrex Labs has a more comprehensive test for gluten, but it’s very expensive, and I usually just have my patients avoid gluten and save the money. Here is an article I’ve written which talks about Celiac disease and non-autoimmune gluten sensitivities:

      http://www.naturalendocrinesolutions.com/articles/celiac-disease-thyroid-health/

    • Debra says:

      Sally I am on a gluten free, dairy free, nightshade free , corn free and potatoe free diet. I hardly eat anything with sugar. There are other foods I don’t eat also due to my tests coming back that I have certain food intolerances. When I eat gluten I don’t feel or see an immediate reaction, but I may get a migraine a day or two later. If I eat dairy I immediately get sinus congestion. If I eat corn for two days I get achy all over. Potatoes make me lethargic. My dr told me gluten was affecting my thyroid. I have Graves. She also told me to have all my fillings removed. I did. She said the mercury was affecting my thyroid. Since the diet restrictions I started in 2014 and herbal supplements I have more energy but I have days I am exhausted even when I haven’t eaten anything I’m not suppose to. I have lost 25 pounds and I am keeping it off.

  4. suryabhan says:

    My son having an autoimmune thyroidistis we know this september 2014.so since for our child we go gluten free and dairy free diet.and after 3 months of this diet his antitpo from 260 to become 66 so reduce al most 200.

    We make sure his iodine in a day not exceed 100mcg.

    My son age now 5years.

    And we started NAET TREATMENT also we completed 15 basics,and some other like t4,egg+heat, means totzl 17 treatment.

    From Sept to December we gave him gluten and dairy free diet.

    From jan we start introducing half egg with yolk and curd once a weak.
    BY DOING THIS ITS SURE THAT HIS TSH AND ANTITPO WILL REMAIN IN NORMAL RANGE.

    So i do anything new.

    I regular read ur articles.

    Thanks and regards

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hello,

      It sounds like you’re doing a great job of having your son eat well, which in turn is helping with his condition. I’m not sure if you meant to ask a question when you stated “by doing this it’s sure that his TSH and anti-tpo antibodies will remain in the normal range”, as it depends on whether the autoimmune trigger has been removed. Obviously if gluten and/or dairy were triggers, if your son continues to avoid these foods then he should be fine. As long as his health continues to improve I would of course recommend to try having him continue to avoid the gluten and dairy.

  5. Jeanette says:

    Hi, I’ve been experimenting with a paleo and Low Fodmap diet (Whole30), but wondering if I should try the AI protocol on top of this. I had Graves’ about 10 years ago followed by a thyroidectomy. Currently, following a Low FODMAP diet to control IBS. Any thoughts? Thinking of doing it with maybe eggs added in. Could I still have the antibodies even after the thyroidectomy?

    Many thanks,
    J

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Jeanette,

      It definitely is something worth considering, as while the thyroidectomy addressed the hyperthyroidism, it of course doesn’t do anything for the autoimmune component. So it is is still possible that you have elevated antibodies. I know you are following the low FODMAP diet to help with the IBS, but if you haven’t tested for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) then this is also something you might want to consider doing.

  6. Anand says:

    Hello Dr. Eric,

    I am Anand , male 27 years old and diagnosed with Graves disease 18 months ago and have been taking Thimazole (20mg) till now. The blood levels were stable upto first 12 months and my doctor decided to see by stopping the medication. But it reoccurred again and after taking medicine again for 6 months it was stable again and the doctor tried to stop the medication again . But the spike in T4 levels occured again and TSH reduced 0.01 after 1 month without any medication.

    The doctor is suggesting me Radioactive Iodine Therapy, but I really don’t want to do it. I was planning on taking the same approach as you mentioned by taking medications along with natural therapy to heal my Auto Immune condition.

    I am planning to follow the strict auto-immune Paelo diet and would like to get in touch with you also about it. I have ordered your book about Graves disease from amazon and waiting for it to arrive.

    I am non-vegetarian, so what would be the options for me if I plan to drop eggs completely can you please suggest what else can I substitute for it ?

    Thanks and Best Regards,

    Anand

    • Mo says:

      Hi

      I recommend accupuncture and Chinese medicine (herbs) to treat Graves disease rather than RAI or surgery! I have had amazing results.. slow but steady improvement!

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Get Your Free Guide Entitled
“The 6 Steps On How To Reverse Graves' Disease & Hashimoto's Through Natural Methods”
You will also receive email
updates on any future webinars
on natural thyroid health.
 

"We respect your privacy"
 
Free Webinars on
Natural Thyroid Health


Click Here For More Information

 
 
 
Natural Treatment Methods:
Graves Disease Treatment
Hypothyroidism Treatment
Hyperthyroidism Treatment
Natural Thyroid treatment


Conventional Treatment
Methods:
Radioactive Iodine
Thyroid Hormone