Hashimoto’s disease is a common autoimmune condition affecting the thyroid gland. Antibodies begin to attack the delicate tissues of the thyroid, causing an initial release of thyroid hormone in large numbers. This can cause anxiety, insomnia, and even weight loss. The thyroid gland is eventually destroyed by this immune attack and ceases to function altogether. In this phase, people suffer fatigue, depression, weight gain, and a wide variety of negative symptoms.
Modern medicine has very few answers for this devastating illness. Most people are left to live with the symptoms until their thyroid levels fall low enough to warrant taking thyroid hormone replacement. What if there was a way to stop the damage from occurring in the earliest stages? According to some experts, a special Hashimoto s diet can help.
What Is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet has become a health craze in the past few years. However, doctors and medical researchers alike are noting that there are several remarkable health benefits to eating like a caveman.
In long past times, humans lived on high nutrient, readily available foods. Although they often died from infections or attacks from wild animals, the people who survived these factors did not suffer from the chronic diseases and autoimmune syndromes that plague modern people. This health and vigor may have been partially caused by their diet.
The Paleo diet is low on processed foods that were not available to early humans, such as white flour, white rice, and processed sugars. It is also low on legumes and beans, which took so long to cook that they were not accessible to ancient humans. Instead, our ancestors lived mainly on fresh unprocessed meat, whole vegetables and fruits, and other readily available foods. Many people use this diet for weight loss because it is filling, satisfying, high in nutrients, and low in empty calories. Eating high amounts of grain and empty calories only occurred in famines. When we eat these things, our bodies assume we are in famine and begin to act erratically, developing syndromes such as Hashimoto’s disease.
In addition, ancient humans did not eat GMOs, pesticides, or other modern toxins. Their food was organic and clean because there was no alternative. Genetically modified or chemical-laden foods may cause inflammation and irritation that leads to illness and inflammation over time.
Hashimoto’s Disease and Food: New Connections
Although there is no conclusive evidence on why some people develop Hashimoto’s disease, there appear to be a few common issues. People who have this disease often have food sensitivities, nutrient and vitamin deficiencies, high stress, impaired immune response, and inflammation. Addressing these underlying issues can reduce or eliminate the effects of the resulting autoimmune disease.
Physical and psychological stress both trigger the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism. These tell the body that it is under attack. Over time, the body responds with immune activation. If there is no bacteria or virus to attack, the immune system may turn instead on the body’s own tissues. This is one possible cause of Hashimoto’s disease. However, these issues all can be reduced or eliminated with a diet that supplies high nutrients, reduces inflammation, and does not trigger the immune system.
How Can A Paleo Diet Help Hashimoto’s Disease?
Eating more like a caveman is part of the Hashimoto diet for several reasons. First, this diet is low on processed grain and high in nutrients, giving the body what it needs to work optimally so it does not believe it is in stress or famine.
Second, the Paleo diet eliminates toxins and other inflammatory foods that can cause Hashimoto’s disease or worsen it. Instead, an ideal Hashimoto s diet should be made of fresh vegetables, fresh unprocessed meat, and other foods that calm inflammation.
The Paleo diet also is high in omega 3 fatty acids as well as fiber. Both of these are essential in reducing inflammation and keeping the body running efficiently.
This diet also tends to be low in iodine, which is important for people with Hashimoto disease. Iodine can exacerbate thyroid activity, causing more autoimmune activity. Iodized salt and dairy products, both absent from a Paleo diet, are our main sources of iodine. People with Hashimoto’s disease will get the required amounts of iodine without excess from simply eating meat or fish. Low or moderate iodine is an important part of the Hashimoto s diet.
Last, the Paleo diet is filling and satisfying, which reduces mental stress. Managing emotions and psychological stress is an important part of managing autoimmune diseases. Your body has to be free of both physical and psychological stress in order to stop attacking itself.
Developing Your Own Hashimoto’s Diet
Everybody, and every autoimmune disease, are unique. Thus, it will take some experimentation to find the diet that is right for you.
Most experts recommend following a strict elimination diet, in which you eat only the most strictly Paleo and anti-inflammatory foods. After several weeks on this diet, foods can be re-introduced at a rate of one new food per week. This will allow you to identify problem foods.
The first few weeks of an elimination can be very difficult. Many people have strong food cravings and do not feel well. This is often due to food addictions. Some of the substances in modern foods, such as white sugar, can be addictive over long periods of time. Giving these up will cause you to temporarily feel bad. Wait until these feelings have passed to begin re-introducing foods.
Making the Leap to a Healthier Diet
If you are ready to find out if a Hashimoto diet can help to manage your disease, the only way to find out is to try it! First, remove all foods from your diet that are not fresh meat and fish, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruit. If possible, these should be organic and GMO-free.
In addition, processed foods should not be allowed in a Hashimoto s diet. These foods contain additives that can cause a great deal of inflammation. If you are not sure whether to include any food, just ask yourself whether cavemen would have eaten it.
Most people maintain a strict diet for two weeks to a month before they begin to overcome cravings and withdrawal symptoms. In this time, you also should see an improvement in your autoimmune illness. Once the cravings are gone and your Hashimoto’s disease is gone, you can begin adding foods back to your diet. Make sure to add them at a rate of one a week, so you can see if the food causes symptoms.
If the food worsens your Hashimoto’s disease, you should avoid it as much as possible in the future. If it does not cause any exacerbation, you can enjoy it in moderation. Over time, you will develop your own unique Hashimoto s diet that treats your disease with the fewest restrictions possible.
Hashimoto’s disease can be an immense health challenge. However, there is no need to live with the symptoms of this disease. In many cases, the illness can be managed with diet and other lifestyle choices. Although it may take effort to develop the right Hashimoto s diet, the effort will pay off in better lifelong health and less dependence on medications.