Did your grandparents have thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism? Mine sure didn’t, which is a stark comparison to the millions of Americans suffering from thyroid problems today. So why didn’t your grandparents have as many thyroid issues [specifically hypothyroidism] as we do today? It’s really quite obvious…
1. They ate the “whole animal” that included mineral rich bone broth and organ meats to get a balanced intake of amino acids that support proper liver function and detoxification.
Your body (especially the liver) needs the amino acid balance that is achieved when you eat the “whole animal.” If your liver is malnourished by not eating enough of the right kind of proteins (read: too much muscle meat, not enough anti-inflammatory proteins), it can have a detrimental effect on thyroid hormone conversion.
2. They didn’t intentionally eat less and exercise like crazy.
When you have a chronic energy deficit (fewer calories coming in than going out), over time your body starts to think food is scarce. To make an analogy, think of your body like a house. If you’re not making enough money to pay your bills, what do you do? You turn down the heat in your house to compensate, turn off the lights when you’re not in the room, and perhaps even fire your cleaning lady.
Your body operates in a similar way. When there are not enough calories coming in, your body saves energy by reducing body temperature (slowing the metabolism), turning down digestive juices (making digestion weaker), reducing the pulse, and slowing thyroid function (resulting in less energy and T3). This is a built-in survival response by the body, to help you go longer on less food as your body chooses short-term survival over long-term health. This is often induced through over-exercising and dieting.
3. They ate pro-thyroid saturated fats (like butter) and naturally avoided harmful polyunsaturated fats (like vegetable oils) that suppress thyroid function.
Everything from mayo to salad dressing, cookies, candies, and processed food is loaded with polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) these days. It’s completely unavoidable unless you cook at home from scratch most of the time; something your grandparents did much more than you probably do today.
According to Dr. Ray Peat, PhD, “Unsaturated oils block thyroid hormone secretion, its movement in the circulatory system, and the response of tissues to the hormone.” (source)
Additionally, Dr. Peat adds, “Scattered studies have found that polyunsaturated fats inhibit the proteolytic enzymes involved in the digestion of food, in the removal of clots, in the formation of thyroid hormone, and many other essential physiological processes.” (source)
If that’s not enough reason to thyroid-proof your diet with healthy fats like coconut oil, butter, and traditional fats for better thyroid health, I’m not sure what is!
4. They didn’t subsist on nuts, quinoa, GMO soy, and kale.
When you ate dinner at your grandparents’ house, did your meal consist of nuts, quinoa, GMO soy, and kale? I didn’t think so. Harder to digest foods like these often both poorly digested and irritate the gut; resulting in an increase of endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide or LPS) that suppresses thyroid function.
“Dysbosis and poor digestion prevent the body from successfully eliminating unnecessary estrogen, and toxic levels of this powerful hormone build………. Excess estrogen binds the thyroid transport proteins so that thyroid hormones cannot get to the cells to do their jobs, causing hypothyroid symptoms.” –Dr. Kharrazian
Get the un-digestable foods out of your diet, and instead focus on easy to digest foods to support thyroid function.
5. They didn’t self-induce hypothyroidism with bodily stress from dieting (particularly low-calorie and low carbohydrate diets).
Both low carbohydrate and low-calorie diets are still king in the dieting world, due to their ability to provide fairly quick, but short-term weight loss (read: endless yo-yo dieting). Unfortunately, they also slow the metabolism, directly impacting T3 (active thyroid hormone) levels, which can result in self-induced hypothyroidism. According The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, dietary carbohydrates are an important regulatory factor in T3 production.
Dr. Ray Peat, PhD, agrees: “The liver provides about 70% of our active thyroid hormone, by converting thyroxine to T3, but it can provide this active hormone only when it has adequate glucose.”
Nutrient-rich sources of sugar (read: carbohydrates) should be a mainstay in your diet. If the word “sugar” is scary to you or you’ve blacklisted it from your diet, you might want read this for some context.
6. They didn’t have as much exposure to fluoride from their water supply.
Fluoride was widely used in the water supply by 1960 when fluorinated water reached approximately 50 million Americans to help prevent dental caries. Recent studies however, show fluorinated water can double the risk of hypothyroidism! This risk makes it a great time to invest in a good water filtration system (like this). Read more about all the reasons you want to reduce your exposure to fluoride here.
7. They weren’t overly reliant on “medicine” to fix things that should be fixed with common sense.
Imagine for a minute you are Jane Doe. You feel tired, fatigued, and have no energy–all the time. You go to your doctor and he discovers that you have low thyroid function, and he puts you on Cytomel (T3) or some combination of T4 and T3. You feel better initially, because T3 is the body’s form of energy- so in a sense you are taking an “easy button” to get more energy. With this increase in energy, you start working out, doing more around the house, and all those things you were unable to do previously. You feel a lot better at first, but then you start feeling worse because you didn’t change your diet and lifestyle habits and you did not back up that energy production with a nutrient dense diet. You then make the decision to go back to your doctor and he ups your dose…
What is the problem here? If you take thyroid medication without addressing the root cause behind it, which is most often a nutrient and cellular energy deficiency, then you are essentially purchasing that “increased energy” with a credit card! If your body doesn’t have the nutritional stores to pay for that energy, that thyroid medication could be digging you into deeper and deeper nutritional debt.
8. They didn’t overload on calcium or vitamin D3.
The average American today gets far too much calcium relative to potassium from fruits and vegetables. Typically, one isn’t taking in too much calcium from food sources per say, but instead from calcium supplements, calcium fortified food, and/or they have increased calcium absorption from taking high dose vitamin D3. Part of vitamin D’s job is to tell your body to absorb more calcium from your food, pushing calcium levels even higher in the body, and pushing potassium levels lower.
According to Naturopathic Doctor Garrett Smith, “The calcium-to-potassium ratio in hair mineral analysis shows us how well your own (or supplemented) thyroid hormones are able to function. A high ratio = lower function. Low potassium levels would drive this ratio higher, worsening thyroid-type symptoms. One might also say that really high potassium would make the thyroid hormones work even better (possibly to excess)…this could be seen as a bad thing in the case of vegans or fruitarians…excessive potassium intake would make one overly skinny if it accelerates their own thyroid hormones’ function too much (combined with the muscular atrophy from lack of dietary protein).”
It’s not a life sentence, it’s your habits
Thyroid problems (specifically hypothyroidism) are often a consequence of your diet and lifestyle. Adopt a nutrition plan that gives you enough food and calories to support your body’s cellular metabolism and energy production before jumping on the prescription solution bandwagon for your hypothyroidism.
What do you think- did your hypothyroidism occur after heavy bodily stress like childbirth, excessive exercise, or weight loss efforts? Please share in the comments!
Loucks, Anne B., and Edward M. Heath. “Induction of low-T~ 3 syndrome in exercising women occurs at a threshold of energy availability.” American Journal of Physiology 266 (1994): R817-R817.
Peat, Raymond, PhD. Unsaturated Vegetable Oils: Toxic. Retrieved from http://www.raypeat.com/articles/articles/unsaturated-oils.shtml
Spaulding, Stephen W., et al. “Effect of caloric restriction and dietary composition on serum T3 and reverse T3 in man.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 42.1 (1976): 197-200.
Spaulding SW, Chopra IJ, Sherwin RS, Lyall SS. “Effect of caloric restriction and dietary composition of serum T3 and reverse T3 in man.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1976 Jan;42(1):197-200.
S Peckham, D Lowery, and S Spencer. Are fluoride levels in drinking water associated with hypothyroidism prevalence in England? A large observational study of GP practice data and fluoride levels in drinking water. J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech-2014-204971
Prof. Dr. Andro. Thyroid Issues? Low Energy Intake Triggers Low T3 / High rT3 Syndrome in Exercising Women >19kcal/kg LBM Avail. Energy Required. Low Carbing Worsens the Impact of ED. Retrieved from http://suppversity.blogspot.com/2014/10/thyroid-issues-low-energy-intake.html
Wikipedia.com. History of water fluoridation. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_water_fluoridation
Dr. Garrett Smith via Facebook
Photo Credit: By Bryson Jack, Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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