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  • Higher carbs better for hypothyroid - research?

    I've read in several peoples' posts that they are hypothyroid so need to keep their carbs a bit on the higher side to be able to lose weight and feel good. I'm wondering if there is any research I could read about this or if people are just finding this out by trial and error.

    I am hypothyroid and was undermedicated for several years before I found a new doctor. He switched me over to Armour and recently upped my dose again (yay!) to see if we can get rid of my biggest symptoms once and for all.

    Assuming I am (or will be) properly medicated, do I still need to keep my carbs up? How do I know?

  • #2
    I have thyroid issues and limit myself to 50 carbs a day or less. It doesn't seem to be bothering me.
    --Trish (Bork)
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    • #3
      Ditto. I have higher carb days (75 maybe) and lower carb days (20-ish). I have a visible nodule on my thyroid and have had hypothyroid issues. I find as long as I keep my overall calories high enough and don't IF too much, I'm fine.

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      • #4
        I don't know id there is any research or not, since 'low carb' is considered a fad diet for the most part. I know if I go too low i won't lose. I was frustrated when going bleow 50 for a few weeks and just being stuck. Went back up to about 75-100 and lost consistently.

        I suppose it is like a lot of things that it varies per individual. Also, it might be something that is a long term effect. I know that a low carb diet that is too low in cabrs can cause hormonal imbalances, which is probably why it happens.
        Meghan

        My MDA journal

        Primal Ponderings- my blog- finally added some food pron :P

        And best of all my Body Fat Makeover!!

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        • #5
          I agree with Meg that it's an individual thing.

          For example, I have a SUPER high amount of reverse T3 (up around 300, and it should be around 30). Reverse T3 is what happens when you're under stress... your body takes your T4 and converts it to ReverseT3 (which is a fat-storage hormone) instead of T3 which is the usable, gotta get things done hormone. It does this because it sees stress as needing to conserve. And your body can see low calories or low carbs as conserving for winter and therefore we need less T3 which keeps our metabolism UP, and more ReverseT3 which lowers our metabolism and stores the fat easier.

          The problem with too much Reverse T3 is that it takes up all the places where your T3 should "plug in" to your body. So you can't use the T3 you have as well. If it's still up at my next visit in April, I'm going to talk to the doctor (or my naturopathic doc) about laying off the T4 and just doing T3 in more concentrated doses for a couple-few months. Supposedly not having the T4 supplemented means you don't convert it to Reverse T3, and the RT3 begins to leave your system and the T3 replaces it. It's my last ditch effort to manipulate my thyroid hormones, but I'm giving it a few more months of my adrenals being back in order and eating right and meditating to see if I can get things situated on my own first.

          Because I had a period of super high stress (adrenals were bottomed out, etc.), I'm coming out of a period of time where my body was doing all it could to conserve for bad times. So for me... I do whatever I can not to stress my system, so it can heal, and hopefully get back to homeostasis. I've made much improvement in the past 2 years, but my body is now just super self-protective. So I do whatever I can to make it see that I'm not going to starve, nothing bad is happening and it's okay to release all that fat.

          As for research I found this in an interview with Dr. Eades:
          http://www.franmccullough.com/lowcarb/eades.php

          Q: I've read that low-carb diets reduce thyroid activity, and one blood test seems to confirm that this has occurred in my case (after one year low-carb). I'm more prone to feeling chilly at times, and am generally more sluggish. Should I reduce my carb intake further (groan), per Atkins' "critical carb level" model, or do you have any other suggestions?

          A: As to your question about thyroid activity: reduced carbohydrate diets (and reduced calorie diets) sometimes decrease the activity of the enzyme that converts T4 (the inactive form of thyroid hormone that is released from your thyroid gland) to T3, the active form. We sometimes give our own patients small amounts of T3 during the weight loss phase of the program. Micronutrients also play a role in this conversion, especially iron and magnesium, so you might want to make sure that you have adequate levels of both. (You need to check your ferritin level (the storage form of iron) before you take extra iron, because elevated ferritin levels are a consequence of excess insulin and a major risk factor for heart disease. Don't take iron if your ferritin level is up.)

          Interestingly, it also looks like insulin resistance can affect conversion of T4 to T3....

          Not everybody works the same way.
          sigpic "Boy I got vision and the rest of the world is wearing bifocals" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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          • #6
            Originally posted by NutMeg View Post
            I don't know id there is any research or not, since 'low carb' is considered a fad diet for the most part. I know if I go too low i won't lose. I was frustrated when going bleow 50 for a few weeks and just being stuck. Went back up to about 75-100 and lost consistently.

            I suppose it is like a lot of things that it varies per individual. Also, it might be something that is a long term effect. I know that a low carb diet that is too low in cabrs can cause hormonal imbalances, which is probably why it happens.
            This is great information. I have very slight hypothyroid issues (not recognized by my fam doc but my naturopath caught it). I've been keeping my carbs under 50 and losing extremely slowly. I thought my body would do the ketosis thing but no luck so far. I have 30 lbs to lose. Should I up my carbs then?

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            • #7
              Thyroid function is complicated. There are 2 main hormones, T4 and T3. T4 is considered primarily as the storage hormone. T3 is primarily considered the active hormone. A great deal of T3 is made through T4 conversion.

              Problems with T4 to T3 conversion can happen for many reasons--stress, illness, starvation, deficiencies in selenium and Vitamin D.... Thyroidmanager.org states that insufficient carbs can impede thyroid function.

              http://www.thyroidmanager.org/Chapter5/chapter5a.html
              Scroll down to "nutrition"
              http://www.thyroidmanager.org/Chapter4/ch01s02.html
              Scroll down to "TSH in Pathophysiological States"

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              • #8
                Originally posted by jesslikesstuff View Post
                This is great information. I have very slight hypothyroid issues (not recognized by my fam doc but my naturopath caught it). I've been keeping my carbs under 50 and losing extremely slowly. I thought my body would do the ketosis thing but no luck so far. I have 30 lbs to lose. Should I up my carbs then?
                If it isn't working, change it. add more carbs in the form of non-starchy veggies and see if it helps. It surely can't hurt.
                Meghan

                My MDA journal

                Primal Ponderings- my blog- finally added some food pron :P

                And best of all my Body Fat Makeover!!

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                • #9
                  I think we are forgetting that we evolved to eat a low carb if not very low carb diet. No "fad diet" here.

                  I've never had my thyroid checked, but it doesn't make any logical sense to me that low carb by itself would be affecting thyroid function long-term.

                  And even if you eating vlc (like me) you still need a calorie deficit to lose body fat. I do and I am losing belly fat at age 47, female.

                  I think some folks may be confusing lower energy and other body symptoms of keto-adaptation (which can take months) with thyroid issues.

                  From Kurt Harris' PaNu blog:
                  My own view on the ratio of carbs in the diet should be pretty clear by now.

                  1) I think a wide range is tolerable for those with normal metabolism. For those about to ask "how wide" - OK, let's say 5% to 40% or even more if you can tolerate it and the rest of your food is very high quality. If your metabolism is damaged (you know who you are - type II or obesity prone) or you don't tolerate starches well like me, you should probably stay on the low end of carb intake.

                  2) I think the paleolithic principle itself argues against LC and VLC being damaging the same way it argues against plants and all carbs as being poison. It just makes no sense, as it implies that humans in any given econiche, even one rich in a huge variety of animal foods, would have been at risk of metabolic damage from being in long term mild ketosis if they were not able to find enough starchy tubers and fruit in season. (We've agreed that grains like white rice are a recent food, I hope).

                  Enough nonstarchy greens to choke a gorilla with an otherwise all animal diet will not keep you totally out of ketosis, I guarantee. If it did, I wouldn't want to share your bathroom.
                  Last edited by Dragonfly; 01-26-2011, 12:24 PM.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dragonfly View Post
                    I think we are forgetting that we evolved to eat a low carb if not very low carb diet. No "fad diet" here.

                    I've never had my thyroid checked, but it doesn't make any logical sense to me that low carb by itself would be affecting thyroid function long-term.

                    And even if you eating vlc (like me) you still need a calorie deficit to lose body fat. I do and I am losing belly fat at age 47, female.

                    I think some folks may be confusing lower energy and other body symptoms of keto-adaptation (which can take months) with thyroid issues.

                    From Kurt Harris' PaNu blog:
                    My own view on the ratio of carbs in the diet should be pretty clear by now.

                    1) I think a wide range is tolerable for those with normal metabolism. For those about to ask "how wide" - OK, let's say 5% to 40% or even more if you can tolerate it and the rest of your food is very high quality. If your metabolism is damaged (you know who you are - type II or obesity prone) or you don't tolerate starches well like me, you should probably stay on the low end of carb intake.

                    2) I think the paleolithic principle itself argues against LC and VLC being damaging the same way it argues against plants and all carbs as being poison. It just makes no sense, as it implies that humans in any given econiche, even one rich in a huge variety of animal foods, would have been at risk of metabolic damage from being in long term mild ketosis if they were not able to find enough starchy tubers and fruit in season. (We've agreed that grains like white rice are a recent food, I hope).

                    Enough nonstarchy greens to choke a gorilla with an otherwise all animal diet will not keep you totally out of ketosis, I guarantee. If it did, I wouldn't want to share your bathroom.
                    The problem is that people with thyroid dysfunction do NOT have a normal metabolism. So it is a totally different animal. He is talking about normal metabolism, not disordered metabolisms. Most people, not all, but most also have other metabolic issues.
                    Meghan

                    My MDA journal

                    Primal Ponderings- my blog- finally added some food pron :P

                    And best of all my Body Fat Makeover!!

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                    • #11
                      I'm an experiment of one, so take that for what it's worth but.....I have no pituitary gland/function so by default I'm hypothyroid. Eating lots of carbs or zero carbs has no affect on my weight what so ever. It's all about calories for me. Just to maintain my weight I can't go over 1500 calories a day. I wish going primal would've had the affect it does on most, i.e. weight loss, but it just doesn't work for me. I do it for the other benefits. I'm on a ever lasting search to find some thing that will help me lose weight with no luck.

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                      • #12
                        There is someone on another board who constantly cites 'research' by Dr. Broda Barnes that 'proves' those who are hypothyroid need at least 1500 cal and 30g of carbs or higher to maintain thyroid function. However, she never gives a reference, so I don't know how reliable this information is. What was the nature of the study? The methodology? Etc.

                        I have Hashi's. When I first did Atkins many years ago, I learned that I am extremely sensitive to carbs and needed to stay at 20g or fewer. In addition, when I began my weight loss in recent years (have gone from 340 to 157), I was post-menopausal and hypothyroid, and needed to eat <1000 cal daily to lose. My endo agreed and approved and has monitored me throughout this process. With one exception, my meds have remained stable, suggesting that my low calorie/low carb eating was not affecting my thyroid. However, a few years ago, my T3 suddenly 'tanked' (was too low to register on the lab report), and my endo added Cytomel. I asked him at that time if I had caused this by my WOE, and he said, "No." He said that the failure to convert is characteristic of Hashi's, and he was expecting it to happen at some point. Once I added enough Cytomel to optimize my T3, it has remained stable for more than a year, again suggesting that my eating so low calorie and carb is not hurting my thyroid.

                        Personally, although I tend to eat about 20-30g of carbs, I don't do well on zero carbs, so I think this is mainly an individual issue. I plan to begin raising my carbs to see if I can maintain at about 50g. Since I don't eat grains, dairy, or fruit, I think 50g is reasonable.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dragonfly View Post
                          I think we are forgetting that we evolved to eat a low carb if not very low carb diet. No "fad diet" here.

                          I've never had my thyroid checked, but it doesn't make any logical sense to me that low carb by itself would be affecting thyroid function long-term.

                          And even if you eating vlc (like me) you still need a calorie deficit to lose body fat. I do and I am losing belly fat at age 47, female.

                          I think some folks may be confusing lower energy and other body symptoms of keto-adaptation (which can take months) with thyroid issues.

                          From Kurt Harris' PaNu blog:
                          My own view on the ratio of carbs in the diet should be pretty clear by now.

                          1) I think a wide range is tolerable for those with normal metabolism. For those about to ask "how wide" - OK, let's say 5% to 40% or even more if you can tolerate it and the rest of your food is very high quality. If your metabolism is damaged (you know who you are - type II or obesity prone) or you don't tolerate starches well like me, you should probably stay on the low end of carb intake.

                          2) I think the paleolithic principle itself argues against LC and VLC being damaging the same way it argues against plants and all carbs as being poison. It just makes no sense, as it implies that humans in any given econiche, even one rich in a huge variety of animal foods, would have been at risk of metabolic damage from being in long term mild ketosis if they were not able to find enough starchy tubers and fruit in season. (We've agreed that grains like white rice are a recent food, I hope).

                          Enough nonstarchy greens to choke a gorilla with an otherwise all animal diet will not keep you totally out of ketosis, I guarantee. If it did, I wouldn't want to share your bathroom.
                          I think it is an individual thing. Some people will naturally convert thyroid hormones even under difficult circumstances. Other people will have conversion issues regardless of dietary and lifestyle compliance.

                          I believe knowledge is power. It is important to know that the possibility exists for thyroid function to be hampered by the choices we make.

                          If you (general) begin to exhibit symptoms thyroid function disruption- fatigue, being cold, achiness, weight gain or trouble losing, etc, then I suggest looking at choices first:
                          1. Am I getting 50 grams/carbs a day?
                          2. Am I getting 200 mcg of selenium/day?
                          3. How's my vitamin D level? Ferritin?
                          4. Am I fasting and if so how often?
                          5. Am I overtraining?

                          Testing would come next-- TSH, FT4, FT3. If you (general) have low normal TSH, midrange+ FT4 but low to low normal FT3 then conversion issues or Non-thyroidal Sick Syndrome may be at play and the 5 things listed above are important to at least consider.

                          Finally, as someone who has suffered from thyroid disease for years, I would much rather eat more carbs and carry a few more pounds than impede my thyroid function through the choices I make.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by NutMeg View Post
                            The problem is that people with thyroid dysfunction do NOT have a normal metabolism. So it is a totally different animal. He is talking about normal metabolism, not disordered metabolisms. Most people, not all, but most also have other metabolic issues.
                            Exactly. The issue with thyroid is that it impairs your metabolism. Add in some insulin resistance and adrenal issues, then hormonal issues and it becomes a big 'ol mess. Add in the fact that there are a myriad of different reasons for thyroid not functioning properly, and the way to "fix" each one is going to be different. It's not one size fits all no matter what the doctors try to tell you.

                            The fact that I was regularly eating 1150-1300 calories of whole foods a day, walking 1 hour 5 days a week and lifting weights and GAINING fat should illustrate that it's not always as easy as calorie deficit and/or low carbs and/or right medications and/or lower amounts of stress and/or gluten intolerance and/or insulin resistance. It's a mixture of all of the above, and the mix is different for everybody.
                            sigpic "Boy I got vision and the rest of the world is wearing bifocals" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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                            • #15
                              If you (general) begin to exhibit symptoms thyroid function disruption- fatigue, being cold, achiness, weight gain or trouble losing, etc, then I suggest looking at choices first:
                              1. Am I getting 50 grams/carbs a day?
                              2. Am I getting 200 mcg of selenium/day?
                              3. How's my vitamin D level? Ferritin?
                              4. Am I fasting and if so how often?
                              5. Am I overtraining?
                              I agree. Though I would put Vitamin D level at the top. Nothing I have read has convinced me that low carb contributes to poor thyroid function, but I can see that low thyroid function plus low carb may not work for some.
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