The Diet that Helped Significantly Improve my Thyroid Symptoms
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
The Autoimmune Paleo Diet, or AIP, is a specialized version of the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet with a specific focus on high nutrients and strict guidelines for which foods should be included and eliminated.
Why would someone need to be so restrictive in their food choices?
In order to truly understand the benefits we have to bring it back to Autoimmune disease. The majority of people in North American suffering from hypothyroid have an underlying Autoimmune Disease known as Hashimoto’s that causes their thyroid dysfunction. If you are unsure if your thyroid condition is due to autoimmune disease, I encourage you to have your thyroid antibodies tested. If they are positive, reducing inflammation via diet can significantly help to improve thyroid symptoms.
One of the most recent notions of autoimmunity suggests that a “leaky gut” (also referred to as intestinal permeability) is a main component in the development and progression of autoimmune diseases. When a person has leaky gut, teeny tiny particles such as food and bacteria from inside of the intestines can escape through the intestinal lining and activate the immune system to produce inflammation. If the leaky gut never heals, the inflammation becomes ‘chronic’, and can eventually result in tissue damage and autoimmune disease.
18 years ago, scientists discovered a chemical called “zonulin” that is released by the intestinal wall to control its own permeability. Zonulin opens up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal lining. This happens in a normal and healthy intestine, in order for nutrients and other molecules to get in and out of the gut. The body naturally needs to open up the intestinal wall for a short period of time but most of the time the intestinal wall should remain closed and just select nutrients should be allowed to pass from the gut into the body.
However, if too much of the substance zonulin is released, the intestinal wall spends most of its time open, increasing the chances that the body begins to develop an inflammatory response that can lead to autoimmunity.
According to the research, gluten and certain bacteria are the main triggers to increase larger amounts of zonulin to be released, increasing the probability of leaky gut. Research has also shown that other grains, not just gluten, can affect intestinal permeability as well as sugars, alcohol, processed food and substances known as lectins. Lectins are found in various foods including wheat, rice, spelt and soy. Milk intolerance has also been shown to cause leaky gut.
The rationale for the AIP diet is to eat a diet high in nutrients and to avoid all food and additives that could cause leaky gut and/or be pro-inflammatory. Despite the lack to evidence on the AIP diet, it has been shown clinically to provide benefit to many suffers of Autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto’s and Grave’s Disease.
Foods to Avoid on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet
Grains: wheat, corn, spelt, kamut and all gluten free grains including oats, amaranth, teff etc
Dairy: All forms of cows, sheep’s, goat’s and buffalo dairy including the yogurt, cheese, ice cream etc from these milks
Nuts and Seeds: This includes products made from nuts and seeds such as chocolate, coffee and nut/seed milks
Legumes: Including peanuts, peanut butter, hummus etc
Nightshade Vegetables: All potatoes (except for sweet potatoes and yams), eggplant, tomatoes, peppers (including fresh peppers and also spices such as cayenne and black pepper), goji berries
Most Oils: Except for organic unrefined avocado, coconut, and olive oil
Refined Sugars and Sweeteners
Packaged foods, food additives, food chemicals
Foods to Include on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet
Vegetables: All veggies except nightshade vegetables
Fats: Avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil and animal fats
Roots: Beets, carrots, parsnips, radish, rutabaga, sweet potato, yam etc
Meats & Fish: Chicken, beef, bison, lamb, fish, turkey, duck, venison, rabbit, salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies etc
Offal: Bone broth and other animal offal
Fruit: apple, apricot, coconuts, grapefruits, lemons, limes, orange, nectarines, plums, pineapples, watermelon etc etc!
Herbs & Spices: Everything except for pepper based spices*.
Small Amounts of Natural Sweeteners: Maple syrup, honey, dates, dried fruit, honey, molasses
Other: Apple cider vinegar, coconut aminos, coconut flakes, coconut vinegar, coconut flour
* Many followers of the AIP diet also remove Seed Based Spices and Fruit Based Spices. These spices include: allspice, anise, annatto, caraway, cardamom, cumin, celery seed, coriander, cumin, dill seed, fennel seed, fenugreek, juniper berry, mustard seed, nutmeg, poppy seed, sesame and vanilla bean. I personally have found that because the AIP diet can already feel restrictive, and spices are used in such small quantities, it isn’t really necessary to remove all of these spices. That said, if you have to follow your “gut” and do what feels right for you.
The Autoimmune Paleo Diet contains foods that are very nutrient dense. These vitamins and minerals include:
Vitamin A, B, C, D, E and K
Minerals: Calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and zinc
Other nutrients such as Carotenoids, essential fatty acids and sulfur
The Autoimmune Paleo diet has personally helped me and many patients in the past especially when thyroid symptoms are elevated or extreme. I generally find that following the AIP diet for somewhere between 6 weeks and 6 months can make a huge difference in energy, weight and overall symptom improvement.
After following the AIP diet for a period of time, slowly adding back foods into the diet is recommended WHILE GAUGING YOUR SYMPTOMS.
If you want to learn about practical ways to change your diet and lifestyle for the better, check out The Thyroid Truths Diet Guide. This e-book provides guidance for eating right and includes tons of information on how diet can impact your thyroid. Not only does it walk you through nutritional guidelines to improve thyroid symptoms, but it includes over 30 recipes that are AIP friendly, and both gluten and dairy free.
I would love to hear your thoughts! Have you had success following an Autoimmune Paleo Diet?
Leave your comments below :)