There are many different diet protocols that are reported to help with putting Hashimoto’s into remission. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is not one of them. If you want to put your Hashimoto’s, or any autoimmune condition for that matter, into remission you’re going to have make some major changes to how you eat.
All of the healing diets restrict gluten, dairy, artificial foods, and hydrogenated fats. Some of the diets go a step further and restrict nuts, seeds, soy, nightshade vegetables (eggplant, peppers, etc.) and other difficult to digest and inflammatory foods.
If you’re making the transition from the SAD diet you may want to start off with the least restrictive diet first and see what improvements you feel. Going gluten free is a great first step.
Gluten is a known to be a no-no for people with Hashimoto’s. Gluten is the protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye. Conventional oats are cross contaminated with gluten because of how they are processed.
It’s believed that the structure of gluten looks like thyroid tissue. Your immune system gets confused and not only attacks gluten but also thyroid tissue. If you’re eating gluten then there are more targets for the immune system to attack. By cutting gluten out of your diet you’re helping to lessen the attack on your thyroid.
Other grains can cross react with gluten containing ones. This means their structure looks enough like gluten that your immune system will attack them too. And your poor thyroid as well.
Be cautious though as the standard gluten free diets are still high in refined foods and sugar. Let’s face it gluten free white bread is no healthier than regular white bread except that it doesn’t have gluten in it. Focus on eating whole foods like vegetables, proteins, whole grains and fats instead of gluten free processed foods.
A lot of people who are gluten sensitive are also sensitive to dairy. People with celiac disease (gluten allergy) are often allergic to dairy as well. Remember you don’t need to have a true allergy to be gluten and dairy sensitive.
Healing diets are not only about what you take away but are about what you’re adding in. You want to add in nutrient density. This means getting the most nutrient packed foods that you can. Veggies, healthy fats and protein are going to be the most nutrient dense foods and are the common thread with all the healing diets.
The Paleo diet restricts grains, legumes, artificial ingredients, vegetable oils, hydrogenated fats, sodas, fast foods, dairy, white potatoes, white sugar and pseudo grains (think quinoa). So what can you eat? Lots of veggies, grass fed pastured (preferred but not an absolute) meat and eggs, seafood, and healthy fats like coconut oil.
This diet automatically restricts gluten and cross reactive foods (foods that aren’t gluten but are chemically so similar to gluten that our immune system sees it as gluten and attacks). This diet is helpful for many people with Hashimoto’s or any autoimmune disease because the foods that are restricted are highly inflammatory to our bodies and the foods that are allowed are nutrient dense.
Again, focus on whole foods and not on Paleoified muffins and treats. I made that mistake in the beginning and didn’t see the results I could have had sooner.
The Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) protocol takes the Paleo diet even further by restricting more inflammatory foods like nuts, seeds, nightshade veggies (peppers, eggplant, etc.), seed spices, eggs, and all dairy including ghee. 30 days is the minimum amount of time to follow the diet but many people follow it longer to decrease inflammation.
The most restricted form of AIP is not meant to be followed long term. If you’re not seeing improvement after several months on the diet then it’s time to look for more root causes of your Hashimoto’s. For your healing diet you want to get to the least restrictive diet while still avoiding foods that inflammatory to you.
Dr. Sarah Ballyntine, the Paleo Mom, is credited with making the AIP accessible to people by explaining complex concepts in understandable terms. She’s written several books including The Paleo Approach, The Healing Kitchen, and The Paleo Approach Cookbook which I highly recommend to anyone with any health issue. She also has a lot of great info at her website www.thepaleomom.com. She constructed a reintroduction schedule for bringing foods back into your diet based on their potential to cause a reaction.
I followed this protocol for many months and found some relief from pain in my body but it didn’t fully address my GI issues which is why I began the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). This diet was popularized by Elaine Gottschall in her book Breaking the Vicious Cycle after seeing miraculous results the diet had for her daughter who was suffering with ulcerative colitis.
The premise of the diet is that people with damaged GI systems are unable to digest complex carbohydrates. There are different types of carbohydrates; monosaccharides (single molecules), disaccharides (double molecules) and polysaccharides (multiple chain molecules). Only monosaccharides are allowed because they require the least amount of steps to digest thus being the easiest to digest.
If a food isn’t properly digested the undigested carbs can feed bacteria and yeast in the GI tract which can cause an overgrowth of them. The toxins put out by these bacteria and yeast irritates the small intestine cells which causes food absorption issues.
The SCD diet eliminates the food sources that the bacteria and yeast feed on. By restoring the gut flora to a healthy balance, the intestinal tract can start repairing itself. There are no complex carbs, lactose, sucrose or other man made ingredients on the diet which helps to promote the healing.
There are different phases to the diet. The intro phase is extremely easy to digest and close to what is called an elemental diet. It’s the simplest forms of proteins and carbs with very little fat. As you progress through the stages you add more complex foods. As your gut heals it is able to handle tougher to digest foods.
On the traditional diet fermented dairy in the form of SCD yogurt and eggs are allowed. I’ve chosen not to incorporate dairy due to its cross reactivity with gluten and I’ve taken eggs out for over a month because they are a common allergen. When I put egg whites back in I had some GI issues but wasn’t sure if it was the eggs or some other things going on at the time so I’ve been avoiding them for now but plan to reintroduce them again soon.
Some other healing diets are the Gut and Psychology diet, the Wahl’s protocol and Amy Myers Autoimmune Solution diet. There are many other healing diets as well. All of these diets aim to stop leaky gut and decrease inflammation in order to calm the immune system. The plans start off restrictive to reduce the irritants to your system but the goal is to get to the least restrictive diet you can while keeping out your irritants.
Whichever protocol you follow the ultimate goal is to come up with your specific diet. One size diet doesn’t fit all. I’m working on coming up with the Laura diet. My goal is to stay with the SCD till my GI symptoms are resolved then incorporate more starches to feed my good gut bacteria so I can optimize my health. I see my ultimate diet being paleo without the foods that are specific irritants to me.
Whatever protocol you decide to try just remember that this is a journey and we aren’t perfect. You will eat something at some time that isn’t necessarily on your plan. Know that there may be physical consequences for a bit till your body finds balance again. Accept that you did it and move on. Don’t beat yourself up.
Which diets have you tried and what was your experience?