keto and hashimoto's
Do you know why some people experience autoimmune diseases and others do not? Have you tried to understand how changes in your diet might help an autoimmune disease? Or maybe you are worried that what you are eating is contributing to it? Perhaps, more specifically, you are someone that is suffering from Hashimoto’s disease and wonder how the ketogenic (referred to as “keto”) diet might compare to other diets in easing the symptoms. We want to assist you in choosing fuel for your body that will help you not only achieve your goals but be sustainable, and help you be successful in remedying these issues. We will learn about what autoimmune diseases are and what causes them. We will then explore keto and Hashimoto’s disease.
It is not entirely clear what causes autoimmune diseases. There are a few things being studied, that medical professionals believe may be contributing to autoimmune diseases. This includes: diet, infections, and exposure to chemicals but researchers cannot be entirely sure. Research has found that healthy people have a different combination of bacteria in their intestines than those with some of these autoimmune diseases. It is believed that the microbiome of the gut could be a key in managing them.
There are trillions of bacteria that reside within your body. Some of these bacteria are good and promote healthy digestion and others can be problematic and make your gut unhealthy. Your overall health is impacted by the bacteria in the intestines, which is also known as intestinal or gut flora. It is essential to be aware of what can contribute to autoimmune diseases and be proactive if you are having problems. Remember that what you eat nourishes all the cells and organs in your body and can play a part in the possibility of dealing with an autoimmune disease. With this plethora of information, you might be asking yourself, what things should I eat? Or perhaps, more importantly, what should I avoid eating?
Common autoimmune diseases
First, we need to understand what the immune system does. It is designed to attack bacteria and viruses that do not belong in your body to help keep you healthy. It is expected to tell the difference between foreign cells (those that don’t belong) and your own cells (ones that belong). Autoimmune diseases occur when the body is attacked by the immune system in response to something going on inside it. It is working, trying to protect you from illness but instead causes it. Some cells will be attacked in certain areas of the body and others can impact the body as a whole.
Some common autoimmune diseases:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Celiac disease
It is clear, by looking at this list, that there are several problems that can occur when your immune system decides to attack cells within your body. Some of them can be managed by diet while others need more serious medical intervention. From this list, we will be focusing on Hashimoto’s, symptoms, and keto and Hashimoto’s.
Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic autoimmune lymphocytic thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease where white blood cells and antibodies attack the cells of the thyroid. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system. It is responsible for producing, storing and using the hormones that regulate your metabolism, body temperature, muscle strength, and many other functions of the body. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid, called hypothyroidism, in the United States. If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s it is likely that your physician will recommend monitoring changes. It is possible, that if your thyroid is not producing hormones that medication will be needed.
As with many of the autoimmune diseases, the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease are not exclusive. You cannot assign symptoms specifically to Hashimoto’s as they are precursors to many other health ailments. The symptoms include: fatigue, lower body muscle weakness, feeling sluggish, thinning hair, cold intolerance, hoarse voice, high cholesterol, depression, constipation, dry and/or pale skin, irregular or heavy periods for women, problems with fertility. The symptoms may not appear right away. It is possible to have the disease for many years before experiencing any of its effects on the body. One symptom that is a signal of Hashimoto’s disease is developing an enlarged thyroid, known as a goiter. If this occurs, the front of your neck could become swollen. While it may not be painful, it could cause difficulties in swallowing. It is important to be aware of any of these symptoms and talk with your doctor should you experience them.
Like many other autoimmune diseases, the exact cause of Hashimoto’s disease is not known. Women are seven times more likely to have Hashimoto’s disease than men, but it is unknown why. It is also thought that those with a family history of other autoimmune diseases could be at a higher risk.
keto and hashimoto's
If you focus on overall body health, the risk for an autoimmune disease will likely decrease. You should eliminate foods that are highly processed and those that contain artificial ingredients. Food is very powerful in keeping your body in optimum health.
It is also advised to avoid foods that can cause or increase inflammation in the body. You could have inflammation in your gut, your joints, your digestive tract; or you may have allergies, food sensitivities, or any other chronic inflammation issue. Because inflammation of the body can happen as a result of autoimmune disease, one key is to minimize other instigators of it. Here are some common foods that cause inflammation: sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, genetically modified foods, artificial sweeteners, and processed meat. It is wise to watch consumption of these products not only to avoid inflammation but also to promote healthy gut bacteria growth.
In a ketogenic diet you will be eliminating the carbohydrates that your body burns first for energy. In doing this, your body will begin to burn fat for energy. This is known as ketosis which is a metabolic process where your body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. The basis of the keto diet is to devise an eating plan that helps your body reach ketosis. More simply put, it is a low carbohydrate and high fat diet. It consists of very little carbohydrates, moderate protein and focuses on healthy fats. Fats will constitute approximately 60-80 percent of your daily calories. Most of the foods that cause inflammation will be removed or dramatically reduced if you are following a ketogenic diet. Therefore, you will naturally experience a decrease in inflammation in your body which could promote a healthy intestinal tract. The following foods are recommended to improve your gut health, they are also on the suggested food list when following a ketogenic diet:
- Vegetables: Broccoli, arugula, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini.
- Fermented vegetables: Kimchi, sauerkraut.
- Fruit: Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.
- Sprouted seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds.
- Healthy fats: Avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil.
- Fish: Salmon, mackerel, trout, herring.
- Meats and eggs: Chicken, lamb, turkey, eggs.
- Beverages: Bone broth, teas, kombucha, water.
- Nuts: Pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts.
Remember that inflammation and a healthy gut are connected. If you have a healthy gut, there will likely be less inflammation in your body. With that being said, there are also many foods that can negatively impact the healthy bacteria in your body. They include: wheat based products, grains with gluten, baked goods, junk food (chips, candy, fast food, etc.), and artificial sweeteners. Most of these foods will also be removed or dramatically cut if you are following a ketogenic diet. Therefore, you will be promoting healthy bacteria in your intestines. Reducing inflammation and promoting this healthy bacteria growth will lessen your risk of an autoimmune disease including Hashimoto’s disease.
Keto and Hashimoto’s
Note that if you are taking medication for Hashimoto’s disease it is not recommended to eat food for 1 to 2 hours to improve absorption in the body. A few nutrients that are recommended to help maintain a healthy thyroid are:
- Iodine – is a mineral that is necessary for hormone production in the thyroid. You can get iodine into your diet through eggs, table salt and seafood.
- Zinc – is an essential element that is necessary for hormone production in the thyroid. You can get zinc into your diet through chicken, beef, oysters and shellfish.
- Selenium – your thyroid contains most of the selenium found in your body. Data shows that individuals with more selenium in their diet see a decrease in the antibodies attacking their thyroid. You can get selenium into your diet through eggs, tuna, sardines, beef, and chicken.
We discussed avoiding inflammatory foods but there are a few other recommendations that may help you manage Hashimoto’s disease symptoms. It is suggested to avoid:
- Gluten – studies suggest that gluten intolerance could be attributed to all autoimmune disorders.
- Goitrogens – are pollutants that can impact the thyroid. It is suggested to keep these at a low level in your diet. Goitrogens are common in vegetables including: bok choy, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. You do not need to avoid these entirely, just be aware of how much you are eating so you can evade symptoms.
What else can you do to prevent an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s? As with any issue your body faces, including chronic illnesses, it is imperative to make sure you remove things that negatively impact your overall health. It is just as significant to make sure you move your body as often as possible, allow enough time for your body to rest and repair itself as well as supplement your nutrition if it is in any way lacking. Most diets today are lacking some nutritional value. It is important to make sure that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals into your body. Sometimes it is hard to find all of it in your diet, so supplements aid in making up the difference. These are a few other things that you can do to reduce inflammation and encourage healthy bacteria growth:
- Take a probiotic supplement
- Reduce stress
- Avoid smoking
- Sleep more
Most of these seem obvious in helping you find good health. Probiotics are the helpful bacteria that can help keep your gut healthy. Reducing stress, improving diet and getting enough rest can all improve the health of your body, which then lowers the risk of autoimmune disease.
A lot of work goes into finding a sustainable diet that will produce results. Everyone’s body will respond differently, and it is up to you to make changes until you find the plan that works the best for you. It can be overwhelming and for many people it is, at times, very frustrating.
A major factor to evaluate is finding a plan where whole foods, particularly ones that you enjoy consuming, can be incorporated. A lot of focus should be put on the quality of food consumed. Other lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity and improving sleep can also contribute and improve overall health. Remember that regardless of your diet choice, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking water. It is also suggested to avoid soda, drinks with added sugars, and alcoholic beverages.
We know that the benefits to finding a healthy, balanced diet are great and that the decision is one that needs to be made based on your health history, overall goals and in consultation with your primary care physician. Our goal here is to assess your options regarding keto and Hashimoto’s disease so that you can make an educated decision regarding your health journey. In knowing the potential causes and issues it triggers within your body, you can take steps to minimize the possibility of being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.