Did you know that insomnia, food cravings, fatigue and inability to stick long-term with low carb no sugar diets are the most common effects of hypothyroidism?
I am not surprised because I struggled with all of them too until I discovered that all these four major hypothyroid symptoms can be resolved by correcting one underlying problem.
The number one root cause of all these symptoms is much deeper than you may think and 99% of doctors and practitioners focus on the wrong thing when they are trying to treat it.
There are many people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s who suffer from insomnia, food cravings, exercise intolerance and debilitating fatigue that limit their daily activities and significantly impairs their quality of life.
So today I wrote an in-depth article on why this is happening to you and what you need to focus on to solve all of these issues once and for all.
While the underlying cause is complex it has a simple solution that doesn’t require any medication, supplements or a weird diet.
If you tried low carb no sugar diets in the past including Paleo diet and Autoimmune Paleo Protocol but at some point felt awful I will tell you why and based on my personal experience how to make them work.
The #1 Root Cause Of Your Hypothyroid Symptoms Is Much Deeper Than You Think
Did you know that hypothyroidism makes you predisposed to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia?
In healthy people liver stores an adequate amount of sugar in the form of glycogen in the liver, muscles and brain. Liver glycogen is used primarily as a source of fuel in between of your meals and when you sleep.
During these times we rely on the liver glycogen to keep our blood sugar from falling too low and to prevent a hypoglycemic state which is essential to support cellular metabolism, thyroid function, regulate blood sugar and keep your stress hormones under control.
The problem is that hypothyroid patients lose the ability to store and produce glycogen and are prone to a glycogen deficiency and therefore can quickly develop blood sugar issues like hypoglycemia.
The main reason for this is that glycogen storage and release are regulated by active T3 thyroid hormone. When you become hypothyroid, your T3 is low or when your liver can’t use T3 it can directly affect your glycogen in the following three ways:
- Your liver can’t store or release glycogen
- You can’t properly regulate your blood sugar
- Your muscles, brain and organs become easily fatigued
Every cell of your body requires sugar in the form of glucose to produce energy and survive and they receive it as a glycogen. However, hypothyroidism impairs this mechanism from working properly. It was found that both hypothyroidism and diabetes quickly cause harmful changes in the lipid metabolism of the heart muscle and liver and noticeably reduces the glycogen reserve in the liver.
In an attempt to compensate for the lack of glycogen your pituitary gland sends a signal to the adrenal glands to overproduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline stimulates liver to release stored glycogen to prevent a drop in the blood sugar.
Since hypothyroid patients don’t have adequate glycogen reserves these constant surges of adrenaline deplete very quickly your liver glycogen that your body manages to store. This puts an extra demand on the liver and makes it even more difficult to regulate your blood sugar.
When at some point adrenaline fails to raise your blood sugar because you are not storing any liver glycogen the hormone cortisol takes over. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone by nature and its primary purpose is fight-or-flight response at the moments of danger and to break down healthy muscle tissues in order to convert that protein into sugar to feed your cells.
This means that if you don’t consume enough carbohydrates and sugar your body will start to break down healthy muscle tissue into sugar in order to survive.
4 Negative Effects Of Glycogen Deficiency
1.You feel awful on a low carbohydrate no sugar diets.
This may not happen right away but certainly with time. Many hypothyroid patients report initially feeling good on the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol, Paleo and low carb diets and even having more energy and losing some weight.
However, after 4 to 6 months into these diets they notice that their health starts to worsen and more symptoms appear as a result of the suppressed thyroid function, adrenaline surges and further liver glycogen depletion.
If you are hypothyroid, stop using low carbohydrate diets as a long-term solution for weight loss. Lost pounds are a short term effect which is reached at the expense of your health, loss of a lean muscle mass and a negative feedback cycle when a suppressed thyroid function causes even more stress response.
Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way like so many others who tried Paleo diet and Autoimmune Paleo Protocol. If you follow these diets your healing plan needs a course correction or at some point your body is going to send you a negative feedback. For people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease these diets work long-term only if you add sugars and starches that you can tolerate and don’t go lower than 100g of carbohydrates per day.
While the lowest amount of carbohydrate intake is well established there are no general recommendations for an optimal or maximum amount of sugar and carbohydrates for people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s since everyone has a different carbohydrate tolerance and it has to be determined individually.
In case you want to learn how you can find out your optimal sugar intake and learn about one of the most beneficial type of carbohydrates that you can use to help heal your thyroid and how to use it to restore your liver glycogen, you might want to take a look at this hypothyroidism treatment program that covers everything you need to know in detail.
2.You have sugar cravings
You cannot fool your body, it doesn’t matter how hard you try. It would just make sense to start listening to what it is trying to tell you. Don’t be mistaken when it comes to sugar cravings because it means that they are coming from the need for more sugar.
“Any craving is a good starting point, because we have several biological mechanisms for correcting specific nutritional deficiencies. When something is interfering with your ability to use sugar, you crave it because if you don’t eat it you will waste protein to make it”
by Dr. Ray Peat, PhD
When your sugar intake doesn’t meet your energy expenditure demands your body tries to get glycogen from your liver but in people with hypothyroidism glycogen reserves are low and get depleted very quickly.
When this process fails your body starts a catabolic process of breaking down proteins from your diet, muscles and tissues and then converting it into sugar (glucose). The best way to go about it is to stop ignoring and suppressing your cravings, try to understand them and give your body what it needs.
3.You get fatigued very quickly and it prevents you from exercising and for some people even doing normal daily tasks
In hypothyroidism low thyroid function can compromise your physical abilities, affect your exercise tolerance and decrease quality of life through its known effects on glycogen metabolism.
According to a systematic review of 38 studies with 1,379 patients about the impact of clinical and subclinical hypothyroidism on exercise tolerance, multiple body systems are involved and contribute to the physical limitations. The cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, musculoskeletal, neuromuscular and cellular metabolic systems were found to be affected the most.
One of the findings was that exercise intolerance in hypothyroid patients is not always reversible with a thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Despite normal thyroid levels, a significant group of treated patients continued to experience exercise intolerance and were suffering from limitations in daily and sport activities as well as an impaired quality of life.
Other studies show that in hypothyroidism inadequate cardiovascular support appears to be the principal factor involved in exercise intolerance. Low blood flow through skeletal muscle compromises the ability to exercise due to reduced oxygen delivery and endurance through decreased delivery of blood-borne substrates. The latter effect results in increased dependence on intramuscular glycogen reserves.
A combination of a greater reliance on muscle glycogen and reduced ability to store glycogen appear to be the primary reason for decreased endurance and exercise intolerance in people with hypothyroidism.
When you’re hypothyroid and already have a problem storing sugar in your liver and muscles any intense workouts requires you to use large amounts of sugar very quickly. And when this sugar isn’t available, then your body starts to break down and fatigue sets in. For some people this happens even when they are following their normal daily activities and this is the sign that you have a glycogen depletion.
If you have hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease and want to experience benefits of exercise you need to optimize your thyroid function, restore your glycogen reserves and choose the right type of exercise. Without doing so you may be doing more harm than good to your body and the thyroid.
4.You have insomnia or wake up around 1 am to 2 am at night and cannot go back to sleep
When you are already struggling with fatigue and lack of energy you know how debilitating insomnia can be. All you want is to get a good quality sleep but when you go to bed you just can’t sleep.
Many hypothyroidism sufferers compensate for the lack of thyroid hormone by overproducing adrenaline. This means that when your body is producing adrenaline it prevents you from relaxing and having a good night sleep.
As I explained before the overproduction of adrenaline has to do with poor blood sugar regulation and your depleted glycogen reserves.
When you sleep you are going without eating for 8 or more hours and your blood sugar tends to drop at night. When this happens your body produces adrenaline to stimulate your liver to release glycogen to keep your blood sugar from falling down too low.
When you have hypothyroidism your liver loses its ability to respond efficiently due to low glycogen reserves and your adrenaline levels can continue to rise causing an increase in cortisol. This often happens around 1 am to 2 am at night and is the reason why so many people with hypothyroidism can fall asleep but then suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep.
Now you see that focusing only on your cortisol levels and reducing stress as most doctors and practitioners suggest doesn’t work. There is a reason why your cortisol levels are rising at night and this is a part of your body’s survival mechanism to supply you with more energy.
The key is not to try to reduce your night cortisol when it becomes high but prevent it from increasing in the first place by addressing the underlying glycogen deficiency. In this situation avoiding surges of adrenaline and restoring your glycogen reserves is the best strategy to help improve your sleep.
The Best Way To Correct Glycogen Deficiency
When your liver becomes dysfunctional the only way to deal with it is to compensate with a diet which also means to add the right type of sugar.
A functional medicine practitioner Tom Brimeyer made an extensive research on this subject and what types of carbohydrates and sugar are the best to compensate negative effects of adrenaline and cortisol on the liver glycogen in people with hypothyroidism.
He found that a certain type of sugar found in some fruits can protect you from the glycogen deficiency, help to metabolize sugar and get it to the cells more efficiently and restore liver glycogen. It makes these foods ideal for diabetics and people with hypothyroidism who are prone to hypoglycemia.
Tom Brimeyer uses this knowledge and principles in his hypothyroidism treatment program and has a great success record with his hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s clients.
If you tried to treat hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease with thyroid medication alone and didn’t get satisfactory results you know how frustrating it can be and you are not alone. There are millions of people worldwide who continue to struggle with some hypothyroid symptoms, never get better or just don’t feel 100% again.
A Functional medicine practitioner Tom Brimeyer calls it an “iceberg effect”:
The obvious aspects of hypothyroidism that everybody is focusing on is only the tip of the iceberg. However, there are bigger root causes of your hypothyroid symptoms that are often hidden, are deeper than you may think and 99% of doctors and practitioners don’t even know that they exist.
Most hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s patients spend years focusing only on the tip of the iceberg and struggling with hypothyroid symptoms before they realize that it will never work or at some point even giving up.
That’s why Tom Brimeyer has taken this complete and comprehensive approach and broken it down into a simple step-by-step full program, where he covers everything you need to know in detail. Click here to learn more or watch a video presentation
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3. Impact of overt and subclinical hypothyroidism on exercise tolerance: a systematic review. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2014 Sep;85(3):365-89. doi: 10.1080/02701367.2014.930405.
4. Maximum acute exercise tolerance in hyperthyroid and hypothyroid rats subjected to forced swimming. Horm Metab Res. 2008 Apr;40(4):276-80. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1046799.
5. Thyroid status and exercise tolerance. Cardiovascular and metabolic considerations. Sports Med. 1995 Sep;20(3):189-98.