• Vennessa McConkey

Thyroid Nutrition: What You NEED to Know

While thyroid disease can occur in various forms, one of the most common is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the thyroid gland and diminishes its ability to create precious hormones—ones that impact every cell of the body. Hashimoto’s is the leading cause of hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid) in the US, with women at much higher risk, being 7 to 8 times more likely than men to get it.


And did you know that because of its autoimmune component, people with Hashimoto’s are actually at a HIGHER risk of developing other autoimmune diseases as well? The good news is that the right diet and lifestyle choices can work wonders when it comes to treating and healing the thyroid.


What Is Hashimoto's?

First, what is Hashimoto’s? It sounds like some kind of Japanese dish, right? Kind of a weird name. And what is the consequences of that for people who have it, and how do we approach it?

Well, Hashimoto's, believe it or not, affects about 27 million Americans and 12% more are likely to get it every year. Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of that dysfunction, particularly hypothyroidism. And Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune process. What is autoimmunity? It’s when your body’s immune system starts making antibodies against your own tissue, and in this particular case, it’s the thyroid.


So many women who have Hashimoto's (I say women because this affects many many more women than men) do not feel better when they’re treated. They get diagnosed with hypothyroidism without ever being tested for Hashimoto’s, and the reason being is, I think, the big disconnect in conventional medicine, and that is that it’s seen as a thyroid condition, and it’s really an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid.


In conventional medicine, you just sort of let that immune response continue flaming until the thyroid is burned out. And then the person is on whatever dose of thyroid medication will get their thyroid number, their TSH, into the normal range. And that’s considered good medicine. One problem with that whole scenario (that I know SO many of you have been through!), there are a lot of women running around with a normal TSH that still feel like crap.


Raise your hand if you are one of them!


So what do you do?


Tough question to answer, but we always start with food/nutrition here. The reason why Hashimoto's is most prevalent is that there’s a strong connection between Hashimoto’s and gluten, that a large number of patients that have Hashimoto's also have genes that make them more predisposed to gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Gluten, therefore, is seen as a pretty strong trigger to Hashimoto’s.


Now, I would say, if you’re thinking about what’s the one thing that you can do if you think you have Hashimoto's, PLEASE go gluten free - basically eat more whole foods and all processed foods you eat need to be gluten free, even better...grain-free!


Why?


Well, so glad you asked! What gluten can do is it can trigger something called leaky gut. But in most cases, I would say that a person who develops a thyroid disorder, particularly Hashimoto’s, probably already has an imbalance in their gut. So they are already experiencing some level of inflammation in their gut. And if you have that inflammation, then you’re going to be disturbing the permeable membrane that’s responsible… It’s the gatekeeping system for nutrients to go in and for toxins and for the bad guys to be kept out.


Now, here's the thing...., gluten which is very prevalent in our processed foods, does one more thing. It triggers something called zonulin, which is the compound that’s responsible for opening and closing the gates that allow good nutrients and compounds to enter in and then closes to make sure we keep out bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Therefore, when you start to create a leaky gut with the gluten, it creates inflammation throughout the body, and it can attack different organs.


Some people can get rheumatoid arthritis. Some of them get psoriasis. Some people get Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.


When gluten enters in, there’s the leaky gut. Now the immune system sees it as a foreigner, and it begins making antibodies against it. Unfortunately, those antibodies are also made against the thyroid because the gluten structure is very similar to the thyroid. So you get this sort of molecular mimicry that causes the immune system to become confused, and now it’s making antibodies against your thyroid.


Want to know something incredible?


Studies have shown that people with Hashimoto’s, when they cut out gluten, their thyroid antibodies come down. Their autoimmunity gets less.

Change your diet.


You've heard it so many times, or maybe you haven't, but I'm going to say it again.


EAT WHOLE FOODS - STAY AWAY FROM PROCESSED FOODS


That is your BEST bet at staying away from gluten!


Easier said than done, right? I get it.


But we have to stop the leaky gut and stop the inflammation. Do you know the top four food groups that cause inflammation in our bodies?


  1. Gluten

  2. Dairy

  3. Sugars

  4. Highly-refined oils


To calm the immune system and turn off autoimmune attack, we make sure every patient has optimum nutrition, which means eliminating those top four for a period of time.


In addition, most people with autoimmunity are deficient in basic nutrients to regulate the immune system such as glutathione, omega 3s, and vitamin D3 can be a factor in autoimmunity. The thyroid gland needs good levels of nutrients in order to perform well, including iodine, zinc, selenium, tyrosine, and more. And many of these nutrients can be found in foods. Let's stop being the "pill-popping" society and go back to the garden days. And yes, supplements are still considered pill-popping!


While it might be frustrating at first to find what works best for you in battling your thyroid issues - especially when it comes to managing symptoms, I'm here to help guide you in learning how to live healthy, fulfilling lives, and perhaps we can reverse your conditions!

I’m an expert at the autoimmune protocol (AIP), love to geek out over all things autoimmune and chronic disease wellness, and my obsession is teaching others how to find joy and live well with autoimmunity. I love creating and sharing resources that help you live your best life! Let's work together and keep on designing the best YOU!