Keto diet for thyroid health? Not, if you want to have a healthy functioning thyroid.
Carbohydrates are scary for so many people and many people avoid carbohydrates in general due to their fear of gluten causing their thyroid disorder to be worse. However, what if I told you they're necessary for a healthy thyroid and better metabolism? What if gluten wasn't the issue but your gut health?
Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred energy source. Between 40-60% of our calories should be coming from carbohydrates or better known as carbs. However, the problem is carbs have gotten a bad reputation and many people I encounter have once or are currently reducing their carb intake in attempt to lose weight or decrease blood sugars.
When carb intake is drastically reduced, conversion of T3 from T4 declines. T3 is the active thyroid hormone. This shows us that the body needs a steady blood glucose levels to have readily available tools for the thyroid to do it's job (blood glucose: blood sugars made from carbohydrates in the foods we eat).
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH is a glycorprotein. Glyco means glucose or sugar. To make the proper thyroid hormones, the body needs glucose. Without adequate carbohydrates, the body can not make the proper amount of hormones or will not be able to make them at all. This will lead to a cascading affect and have a negative impact on more than just thyroid hormones.
YES! Carbs are great for thyroid health when done right!
I have seen so many people have more energy and even lose weight by incorporating more carbs into their day. The mid day exhaustion goes away when the body receives it's fuel.
The goal is to keep a steady intake of carbohydrates throughout the day. This can be achieved by:
1. Eating mostly complex carbohydrates: Complex carbs contain fiber. Source of complex carbohydrates but are not limited to: oats, quinoa, sweet potato, berries, wild rice, squash, apples, pears, potatoes, bananas, kiwi, beets, turmeric, beans, papaya, tomato and carrot.
2. Aiming to eat within 2 hours of waking up: This helps stabilize blood sugars by replenishing your body after you fasted all night long. If you go too long without eating after waking up, this can cause a drastic dip in your blood sugars. Then the body uses stored blood sugars, called glycogen, to replenish your levels. When this happens, blood sugars sky rocket and will be higher than if you could eat just a small snack. If you can only eat a handful of berries and some walnuts or seeds- that's a great start towards eating for your metabolism/thyroid),
3. Eating carbs consistently throughout the day: I frequently notice people skipping meals or eating just a salad without any carbohydrates. Some people may benefit from a larger portion of carbs at breakfast (i.e. 1 cup cooked oats), then smaller portion at lunch (i.e. 1/2 cup cooked quinoa), and the smallest carbohydrate portion at dinner (1/4 cup rice).
4. Pairing foods is a must: If carbs are eaten alone without any other food, your body will digest them fast and you'll have a decently high spike in your blood sugars, even if you're eating just an apple. To help stabilize blood sugars, pair your carbohydrate with a protein or fat source. This can look like an apple with a handful of almonds, berries with pumpkin seeds, or sugar snap peas with hummus.
- See graphic below to view how to plate a balanced meal.
5. Minimize refined sugars: Refined sugars are lacking fiber. Fiber helps slow down the release of sugars into the blood stream, in addition to being a big component in gut health. Refined sugar foods include desserts, refined white breads, white rice, chips, etc.
Carbs are not inherently bad. They can cause inflammation if those five steps above are not followed but if you follow them, you're setting yourself up for success. What if you want to eat French fries or have dessert? Eat them! I like to follow the 80/20 rule or at times the 90/10 rule. This is a general guidance system that has you focused on making choices that help you feel better and this allows for a little wiggle room of foods that "light up your soul". This does not mean you get a "cheat day" because all foods fit. Going out to get ice cream with the family after a hot day or enjoying fries with your burger, is OKAY! They're not "BAD" in small amounts, so please stop labeling them bad because that means you're doing something wrong when you do eat them. You're not. You are living life and enjoying yourself in the moment.
How sustainable is it to try to do low carb or avoid carbs altogether? It's difficult. A low carb diet can easily turn into another diet that's unrealistic to stick to long term. Focus on the 5 main key points above to help make living with a thyroid disorder easier.
For those avoiding gluten without having celiac or a gluten sensitivity, are making your life so much more complicated and it may even backfire. Many of the gluten free foods have refined rice as their carb source and lack fiber. This can have such a negative impact on blood sugars and digestive health.
When people say, "I get bloated when I eat gluten" I challenge them to repair their gut health first before committing to the gluten free way. I find that so many thyroid warriors need gut health TLC and what they're noticing with the bloating is bad bacteria and lack of integrity of the gut wall lining. Lack of fiber in diet can lead to gut discomfort and gluten free foods tend to be low in fiber. Learn more about how to improve your gut health inside the Mind Your Gut Self Paced Program.
It is possible to feel good with a thyroid disorder. The best tip I can leave you with is to focus on the little things that are working well for you, those little things matter. It takes time to heal and there are so many more factors to living a healthy life with a thyroid disorder. I've compiled everything for you in my new book, The Healthy Thyroid Guide, and will be available on Amazon mid September 2021.