Nutrition guide for Hashimoto’s disease series
Inflammation is a part of the body’s natural defence system that protects against infections, trauma, chemicals, allergens and other foreign substances. Both under- or overreaction of the immune system is followed by a hidden inflammation that most people could not feel and which is the root cause of all chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune and heart diseases.
Autoimmune disease always involves inflammation that occurs because of two main reasons:
- Organs or tissues are targeted and affected by autoimmune process
- When the anti-inflammatory response of the body is impaired due to autoimmune disease the body has difficulties controlling infections such as gum disease, recurrent bladder infections, candidas etc. creating a state of low-grade chronic inflammation.
It is important to find the cause and stop the inflammation from progressing as it creates a vicious circle. The real health problems arise when the inflammation becomes chronic which often occurs without any symptoms.
Foods have both pro- and anti-inflammatory properties making the right food choices critical for management of autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto’s. The basics of the anti-inflammatory diet are to eat foods that reduce inflammation and avoid foods that cause it.
The most common cause contributing to systemic inflammation is our modern diet which is based on sugar, hydrogenated and trans fats and processed food. The high-glycemic diet most Americans are eating has been shown to significantly increase inflammation. Other factors include environmental and food allergens (particularly gluten), mold, hidden infections such as parasites, bacteria or viruses, stress, toxins and lack of exercise. All of them though may not result in immediate and obvious symptoms.
If you have confirmed blood sugar issues with a lab blood test or a home glucose tolerance test the following 9 basics of anti-inflammatory diet can help to balance immune system, lose weight and improve blood sugar metabolism:
1. Cut out refined foods and sugar. Eat whole fresh real foods, unprocessed and unrefined.
In our modern times most people became dependent on using prepared foods such as microwavable frozen meals, cereals and sweet bakery goods that contain a lot of sugar and contribute to weight gain and inflammation.
You want to minimize or completely eliminate refined carbohydrates, process foods and sugars from your diet, they spike up blood sugar and cause surges of insulin. Refined carbohydrates include bakery and flour products, pastas, sweets, pastry and other sugar containing foods.
A common response to a diet high in carbohydrates is that blood sugar levels fall too low after a spike of insulin. It in turn causes adrenal glands to release cortisol needed to bring the high blood sugar down. Eating this way will constantly put stress on the endocrine system depleting the adrenal glands and leading to adrenal fatigue as well as other medical conditions such as PCOS and cause inevitable weight gain.
If you eat carbohydrates chose from a low glycemic index complex carbohydrates that gradually release glucose into the blood stream. Unrefined carbohydrates are found in fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole non-glutenous grains, seeds and nuts.
Unsweetened yogurt (if tolerated)
Lean non-medicated chicken
Lean and extra lean non-medicated ground beef
Cold water fish
Sauerkraut and other fermented foods
Leafy green vegetables
Fruit and sugary drinks, sodas
Black tea, coffee, commercial cacao mixes
Cookies, cakes and pastry
Deep fried chicken
Commercial hamburgers and pizzas
Sugar, added salt
Other salad oils
Hypothyroidism slows down digestion and how the body processes carbohydrates and proteins making people with underactive thyroid predisposed to develop insulin resistance.
To avoid the blood sugar spike it is especially beneficial for those with hypothyroidism always to start their meals with a high quality protein. Proteins slow down blood sugar release into the blood stream from the digestion of carbohydrates that you may consume later on during the meal.
Starting the meal with carbohydrates or sugar containing foods would disrupt metabolism and increase appetite. Because of this reason some restaurants put a complimentary basket of white bread on the table before serving dinner to make you eat more.
2. Eat the good fats and avoid the bad ones.
It has been found that both types and amounts of fat in the diet influence immune function and can have a profound effect on the manifestation and progression of autoimmune diseases. A pro-inflammatory fat such as trans-, hydrogenated and unsaturated fats have a greater suppressive effect on the cell mediated immunity than do saturated fats.
Autoimmune diseases that are triggered by viruses appear to worsen by high-fat diets with a large proportion of vegetable oils which are high in omega-6 fatty acids. These omega-6 fatty acids if are not balanced with omega-3 fats could intensify the symptoms of autoimmune disease by increasing the formation of free-radicals and decreasing the levels of anti-oxidant enzymes, thus further lowering of the immune function by inhibiting the development of anti-inflammatory agents.
Healthy fats found in olive oil, nuts and omega-3 fats from wild salmon and small fish such as sardines and herrings are shown to support immune system and have anti-inflammatory properties.
3. Plant foods have anti-inflammatory properties due to high content of phytonutrients.Whole fruits, berries and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that can prevent and reduce inflammation. Berries and non-starchy vegetables are especially favorable for those with blood sugar issues.
4. Elimination of foods you are allergic to helps to reduce inflammation, fluid retention in the body and lose weight. One of easy and inexpensive ways to find out what foods you are allergic or sensitive to, is Elimination Diet.
Gluten intolerance is one of most common undiagnosed causes of inflammation and also can trigger Hashimoto’s disease.
Some Hashimoto’s patients feel just a bit better or even do not see any significant improvements of their symptoms being on the gluten-free diet. It can be due to the following 6 reasons:
- The body could need between 6 and 12 months to clear the system from gluten. If you were following a gluten-free diet for less it may not be enough time for your body to recover.
- Many common foods contain gluten and there are a lot of hidden sources of gluten. If you are not careful with your choice of foods it is easy to eat food contaminated with gluten by mistake.
- Many patients assume that all gluten-free foods are healthy just because it does not contain gluten. The bulk of the gluten-free foods you can find in the supermarkets are typically cakes, breads, cookies, processed cereals, crackers, etc. All of them have high carbohydrate content that promotes blood sugar irregularities and are unhealthy foods.
- Based on results of two recent research studies, between 34% and 80% of celiac disease patients have failed to heal the damage to their intestines while being on the gluten-free diet. According to Dr. Peter Osborn, this substantial portion of patients do not feel better by eliminating gluten containing grains such as wheat, rye and barley alone. There are many other types of proteins structurally similar to gluten that can be found in other grains and particularly in corn that can cause intestinal damage in patients with gluten intolerance. Dr. Osborn uses True Gluten-Free Diet protocol to help those who do not have positive results following a traditional gluten-free diet.
- According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, if a patient does not improve using the gluten-free approach this person may feel better on the monosaccharide (single sugar) diet which is also called Gut and Psychology Syndrome GAPS diet or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet or SCD diet. It does not include any foods that contain disaccharides or polysaccharides which are a more complex sugars and carbohydrates such as those in all grains, most beans and most sweeteners. These complex sugars were found to feed harmful bacteria located in the small intestine and prevent gut repair and its function.
- Gluten has been shown to have a crossreactivity with 24 other common foods such as dairy, amaranth, yeast, chocolate, potatoes, sesame seeds and coffee. It means that those with gluten sensitivity can also react to these foods as they react to gluten.
5. Avoid additives, preservatives, nitrates and pesticides
Labels on the packages like “gluten-free”, “natural” or “organic” are useless if the product has high amounts of simple carbohydrates and sugar (organic or not) or contains highly processed ingredients, additives, nitrates, pesticides and/or preservatives. Many health issues and unexplained symptoms are are in fact caused by consumption of foods that contain additives, flavor enhancers, artificial colors, pesticides and nitrates. These chemicals can accumulate in the body with time and cause an array of different reactions, destabilize the immune system and increase the toxic load on the body.
The best strategy to ensure that the food is healthy is to learn to read labels and fine print on the back of the product you would like to purchase and learn to understand the ingredient lists. Try and avoid the following chemicals in your food and water if you are looking for better health:
- All artificial flavors
- All pesticides that can be found in fruits, vegetables and drinking water by switching to organic produce and using a filtered water
- Flavor enhancers such as Glutamates, MSG 620-625, Ribonucleotides 635, Disodium guanylate 627, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (HVP), Disodium inosinate 631
- Preservatives such as Sorbates 200-203, Nitrates, nitrites 249-252, Propionates 280-283, Benzoates 210-213, Sulphites 220-228
- Artificial colors 102, 107, 110, 122-129, 132, 133, 142, 151, 155, 160b (annatto)
- Whey powder in bread antioxidants such as Gallates 310-312, TBHQ, BHA, BHT 319-321
6. Do not skip breakfast.
Many people do not feel like eating when they wake up in the morning which is most likely a sign that the endocrine system is dysfunctional. Starting with high quality protein for breakfast on a daily basis even if it is a small meal can help to restore metabolism. If you cannot eat a lean piece of chicken in the morning then a protein shake can be a healthy and a delicious alternative to start your day.
7. Have a small balanced meal every 3-4 hours.
It will support optimal blood sugar levels that help to lose weight and balance other hormones especially in women with PCOS. Going without eating for a long time or having large meals can cause the blood sugar levels to drop excessively. The body will try to compensate by making the adrenals secrete more cortisol to raise the blood sugar up to normal levels.
If it happens on a daily basis over a period of months or years it would stress out the adrenal glands leading to adrenal fatigue and hypoglycemia. People with hypoglycemia have such common symptoms as low blood sugar, insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, sweets and carbohydrates cravings. Hypoglycemic diet is based on eating small meals and healthy snacks throughout the day as it will help to keep the blood sugar levels steady.
8. Eat enough good quality food.
You shouldn’t feel hungry. Skipping meals deprives the body of needed energy and sets up for overeating at the next meal. In addition, cortisol has a tendency to rise when you feel hungry, on a strict diet or skip a meal. The best way to adjust to your new diet and ensure that you incorporate right foods to support your thyroid function and heal inflammation is to use Thyroid Meal Planning guide.
9. Stay hydrated.
Dehydration is a common cause of fatigue. Make sure you are drinking adequate amounts of good quality water during the day, especially during hot weather, exercise or sauna visits.
If you got here from Twitter or a link from a friend, why not pick up the whole series? This is one of the lessons in a free eCourse Hypothyroidism Diet Guide. You can find out more about it and sign up here.
The autoimmune connection: Essential information for women on diagnosis, treatment, and getting on with your life by R. Baron-Faust, J.P.Buyon, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2004
Foods that heal by Dr B. Jensen, Penguin, 1993
Dr. Jensen’s nutrition handbook: A daily regimen for healthy living by Dr B. Jensen, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2000