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Thread: Low Carb and Thyroid Function

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  1. #1
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    Low Carb and Thyroid Function

    Chris Masterjohn and Chris Kresser say there is ample evidence that restricting carbohydrates can adversely affect thyroid function which in turn can down regulate LDL receptor activity. Kresser says he has had patients who were low carber's and exhibited the classic symptoms of hair falling out, etc. Symptoms usualy resolved when carbs were added back to the diet.

    I am curious if any of you VLCarber's have suffered from decreased thyroid function? If yes, how did you know you had a problem and what did you do about it? Thanks.

  2. #2
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    I've posted about this a lot, so I'm sure everyone already knows what I'm going to say.

    I've had hypothyroid symtoms for a long time (around a decade), but when I went low carb paleo/primal my symptoms got significantly worse.

    1) In the shower, I started losing handfuls of hair.
    2) I developed a chronic low grade depression with periods of extreme mood instability and anxiety attacks
    3) My cold sensitivity got worse
    4) I developed an extreme fatigue that made normal daily chores impossible
    5) My normally low body temperature got so low that I was practically a corpse
    6) I gained extra fat while eating very few carbs and restricting calories to 1,200-1,400/day

    I'm sure there was more, but those are the symptoms that come to mind immediately. Supplementing with iodine, taking vitamin D and cod liver oil and liver did nothing.

    I switched my diet to be more in line with the Perfect Health Diet, which is also an ancestral diet but promotes eating higher levels of healthy starches + carbs, and added a few Ray Peat tweaks (more organic sugars, salt, and less muscle meat, pregnenalone and DHEA supplementation) and Cold Thermogenesis (cold showers, ice baths, spot icing).

    My hypothyroid symptoms started improving pretty quickly after making these changes, and I continue to steadily improve. I test my body temperature almost daily, and it is slowly increasing.My fatigue has been decreasing so that I'm now able to do yoga and walk 1-2 hours daily, and I'm not losing handfuls of hair in the shower anymore and there is quite a bit of new hair growth. I overall feel better, and I'm actually slowly losing the extra fat I gained by eating primal high fat/low carb.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by BestBetter View Post
    I've posted about this a lot, so I'm sure everyone already knows what I'm going to say.

    I've had hypothyroid symtoms for a long time (around a decade), but when I went low carb paleo/primal my symptoms got significantly worse.

    1) In the shower, I started losing handfuls of hair.
    2) I developed a chronic low grade depression with periods of extreme mood instability and anxiety attacks
    3) My cold sensitivity got worse
    4) I developed an extreme fatigue that made normal daily chores impossible
    5) My normally low body temperature got so low that I was practically a corpse
    6) I gained extra fat while eating very few carbs and restricting calories to 1,200-1,400/day

    I'm sure there was more, but those are the symptoms that come to mind immediately. Supplementing with iodine, taking vitamin D and cod liver oil and liver did nothing.

    I switched my diet to be more in line with the Perfect Health Diet, which is also an ancestral diet but promotes eating higher levels of healthy starches + carbs, and added a few Ray Peat tweaks (more organic sugars, salt, and less muscle meat, pregnenalone and DHEA supplementation) and Cold Thermogenesis (cold showers, ice baths, spot icing).

    My hypothyroid symptoms started improving pretty quickly after making these changes, and I continue to steadily improve. I test my body temperature almost daily, and it is slowly increasing.My fatigue has been decreasing so that I'm now able to do yoga and walk 1-2 hours daily, and I'm not losing handfuls of hair in the shower anymore and there is quite a bit of new hair growth. I overall feel better, and I'm actually slowly losing the extra fat I gained by eating primal high fat/low carb.

    Thanks and I am glad you are doing better. How many carbs were you eating when you had symptoms and how many are you eating now daily? Kresser says everyone is different so I know your carb numbers will not translate to me but it would be helpful to know as a reference point. I assume you do not have to worry about high blood sugar? I am in a box because I can not eat more than 8-10 grams of carbs without having my 1 hour BG exceed 140.

  4. #4
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    I was generally eating about 75-100 grams of carbs daily (Some days I likely hit 125g) all of which came from fruit and veggies only. I spent a few weeks at almost zero carbs when I was doing an elimination diet to test for FODMAPS issues to heal my IBS, and then a few more weeks under 50g as I slowly added things back to my diet.

    Blood sugar has never been an issue for me.

    When I first decided to start tweaking my diet, I basically was low carb for 6 days a week with one day as a carb reload day. That led to some amazing gains in the gym, but didn't seem to do much for my thyroid issues. Then, after a few months, I started having some starches with my meals more often. I think I was so deep down the rabbit hole that those minor changes weren't enough, and it wasn't until I did ALL of those things I mentioned and drastically upped my carbs that I started seeing improvements.

    Now I'm probably averaging something like 250-300 g/carbs daily, with most of it coming from sugars and starches (organic cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, tubers, white rice, some fruit).

    When I first made the switch in my diet, I ate very high carb and low fat. Once my hypo symptoms started improving, I started slowly adding back some more saturated fat and reducing my carbs a little, so some days I might be closer to 200-250 grams a day.

    I'm not a blood sugar expert. From what I've read, it seems that if you eat some fat with starches the rise in blood sugar is blunted. And I've read that adding certain things like cinnamon and lemon juice also helps to stabilize blood sugar. I don't know how true this is. Do you think you'd have trouble if you slowly added a little potato and cut back fat a tiny bit? Maybe making some little changes slowly would make a difference?
    Last edited by BestBetter; 11-12-2012 at 05:07 PM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artbuc View Post
    Thanks and I am glad you are doing better. How many carbs were you eating when you had symptoms and how many are you eating now daily? Kresser says everyone is different so I know your carb numbers will not translate to me but it would be helpful to know as a reference point. I assume you do not have to worry about high blood sugar? I am in a box because I can not eat more than 8-10 grams of carbs without having my 1 hour BG exceed 140.
    I also stay LC, even VLC for medical reasons... though mine are different from yours (neurological).

    Doing so has helped me immensely, and I have suffered none of the negative side effects that others have noted... and that is even though I have also often eaten at very low caloric levels as well. (I avoid eating chronically low calorie by adding fat, but my caloric intake is still low enough for slow steady weight loss.)
    No hair loss at all.

    I'm sometimes cold, and had some real trouble with fatigue for a while, but those are both specific side effects of a medication I take (serious potassium/mineral depletion)... and the fatigue has decreased as I have been able to decrease the dosage due to healing from following my diet properly.

    I do not track/count my Carbs strictly, but I am familiar enough with amounts in food to assure you that most days I definitely fall into VLC range.
    Others are certainly LC... even on a "treat" day when I'm having a HUGE splurge (read: a slice of real cheesecake or a small premium ice cream/frozen custard) of carbs most people would probably still consider me LC... Well >100gm per day.

    Fatty meats an vegetables are my mainstays.
    Leaner meats make appearances some days, and I add fat. Always.
    I have one piece of fresh, raw, fruit a couple of days a week as a treat.
    About the starchiest vegetable I will consume is winter squash or pumpkin.

    From what I have read on hair loss issues in regards to LC and weight loss in general... there is a higher correlation between LF/LC weightloss and hairloss issues than LC and hairloss.

    It seems that since the issue shows up in all weight loss circles blaming it on a specific LC mechanism is a bit silly. It's more of a caloric issue than anything else.
    For people with an existing thyroid issue this my not hold true however... people are complicated things.


    The only person I have ever known actually who experienced hair loss from dieting was doing LF/LC and chronic cardio. Yeah, she crashed a bunch of weight off. Her hair fell out in clumps, and she ended up crashing her gallbladder too... she ended up in the hospital and had it removed.
    She has since regained a good deal of weight... aren't "crash diets" great.
    “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
    ~Friedrich Nietzsche
    And that's why I'm here eating HFLC Primal/Paleo.


  6. #6
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    I'm hypothyroid (Hashimoto's), and I find all the misinformation about carbs/thyroid to be incredibly annoying.

    First of all, hypo 'symptoms' can be symptoms of many, many other things in a person. No individual gets all the symptoms, and someone with an array of 'thyroid' symptoms can have a very healthy thyroid. For example, often women who are 'dieting' will suffer hair loss because they fail to eat sufficient protein. And a person who is 'tired a lot' or 'can't lose weight' doesn't necessarily have thyroid problems. If you are actually hypothyroid (thyroid isn't producing sufficient hormones), eating carbs isn't going to 'cure' you. But if you have some other dysfunction that's causing the symptoms, it's certainly possible for a dietary change to effect improvement in symptoms.

    Since one aspect of Hashimoto's that I suffer from is flawed conversion of T4 to T3, the notion that we need carbs for that is ludicrous. Yes. the body uses glucose during the conversion process, but that's because the body functions on glucose to maintain itself. The conversion of T4 to T3 is like any other bodily function, and the body will use part of its energy source to accomplish that conversion. No one has to eat a 'special' diet to enable the conversion.

    I happen to be a person who is extremely carb sensitive, and I do best at about 20g carbs or fewer. Because of my age and metabolic situation, I also have to eat very low calorie ("low' by standard measurements, but sufficient for my own body). My endo knows this and, if fact, applauds my WOE. Since he does a full blood panel every 4 months, it's apparent that my low-carb eating is very healthy for my particular body. At age 71, the only Rx I take are my supplemental thyroid hormones. My BP and blood glucose are all excellent.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by emmie View Post
    I'm hypothyroid (Hashimoto's), and I find all the misinformation about carbs/thyroid to be incredibly annoying.

    First of all, hypo 'symptoms' can be symptoms of many, many other things in a person. No individual gets all the symptoms, and someone with an array of 'thyroid' symptoms can have a very healthy thyroid. For example, often women who are 'dieting' will suffer hair loss because they fail to eat sufficient protein. And a person who is 'tired a lot' or 'can't lose weight' doesn't necessarily have thyroid problems. If you are actually hypothyroid (thyroid isn't producing sufficient hormones), eating carbs isn't going to 'cure' you. But if you have some other dysfunction that's causing the symptoms, it's certainly possible for a dietary change to effect improvement in symptoms.

    Since one aspect of Hashimoto's that I suffer from is flawed conversion of T4 to T3, the notion that we need carbs for that is ludicrous. Yes. the body uses glucose during the conversion process, but that's because the body functions on glucose to maintain itself. The conversion of T4 to T3 is like any other bodily function, and the body will use part of its energy source to accomplish that conversion. No one has to eat a 'special' diet to enable the conversion.

    I happen to be a person who is extremely carb sensitive, and I do best at about 20g carbs or fewer. Because of my age and metabolic situation, I also have to eat very low calorie ("low' by standard measurements, but sufficient for my own body). My endo knows this and, if fact, applauds my WOE. Since he does a full blood panel every 4 months, it's apparent that my low-carb eating is very healthy for my particular body. At age 71, the only Rx I take are my supplemental thyroid hormones. My BP and blood glucose are all excellent.
    Great points.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by emmie View Post
    I'm hypothyroid (Hashimoto's), and I find all the misinformation about carbs/thyroid to be incredibly annoying.

    First of all, hypo 'symptoms' can be symptoms of many, many other things in a person. No individual gets all the symptoms, and someone with an array of 'thyroid' symptoms can have a very healthy thyroid. For example, often women who are 'dieting' will suffer hair loss because they fail to eat sufficient protein. And a person who is 'tired a lot' or 'can't lose weight' doesn't necessarily have thyroid problems. If you are actually hypothyroid (thyroid isn't producing sufficient hormones), eating carbs isn't going to 'cure' you. But if you have some other dysfunction that's causing the symptoms, it's certainly possible for a dietary change to effect improvement in symptoms. [Yes, it's like putting some duct tape over the illuminated "check engine" light and thinking you have fixed the car]

    Since one aspect of Hashimoto's that I suffer from is flawed conversion of T4 to T3, the notion that we need carbs for that is ludicrous. Yes. the body uses glucose during the conversion process, but that's because the body functions on glucose to maintain itself. The conversion of T4 to T3 is like any other bodily function, and the body will use part of its energy source to accomplish that conversion. No one has to eat a 'special' diet to enable the conversion.

    I happen to be a person who is extremely carb sensitive, and I do best at about 20g carbs or fewer. Because of my age and metabolic situation, I also have to eat very low calorie ("low' by standard measurements, but sufficient for my own body). My endo knows this and, if fact, applauds my WOE. Since he does a full blood panel every 4 months, it's apparent that my low-carb eating is very healthy for my particular body. At age 71, the only Rx I take are my supplemental thyroid hormones. My BP and blood glucose are all excellent.
    Thank you, Emmie.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by BestBetter View Post
    I've posted about this a lot, so I'm sure everyone already knows what I'm going to say.

    I've had hypothyroid symtoms for a long time (around a decade), but when I went low carb paleo/primal my symptoms got significantly worse.

    1) In the shower, I started losing handfuls of hair.
    2) I developed a chronic low grade depression with periods of extreme mood instability and anxiety attacks
    3) My cold sensitivity got worse
    4) I developed an extreme fatigue that made normal daily chores impossible
    5) My normally low body temperature got so low that I was practically a corpse
    6) I gained extra fat while eating very few carbs and restricting calories to 1,200-1,400/day

    I'm sure there was more, but those are the symptoms that come to mind immediately. Supplementing with iodine, taking vitamin D and cod liver oil and liver did nothing.

    I switched my diet to be more in line with the Perfect Health Diet, which is also an ancestral diet but promotes eating higher levels of healthy starches + carbs, and added a few Ray Peat tweaks (more organic sugars, salt, and less muscle meat, pregnenalone and DHEA supplementation) and Cold Thermogenesis (cold showers, ice baths, spot icing).

    My hypothyroid symptoms started improving pretty quickly after making these changes, and I continue to steadily improve. I test my body temperature almost daily, and it is slowly increasing.My fatigue has been decreasing so that I'm now able to do yoga and walk 1-2 hours daily, and I'm not losing handfuls of hair in the shower anymore and there is quite a bit of new hair growth. I overall feel better, and I'm actually slowly losing the extra fat I gained by eating primal high fat/low carb.
    I have been following a paleo diet for about a year now. My carb intake has probably been between 30 to 50 grams per day. I started noticing that my body temp was getting no higher than 97.5 F at any point during the day. My temp has always been a rock solid 98.8, my whole life, before starting paleo. I just just had my wellness examine through my employer and noticed that my LDL numbers are still rather high and my blood pressure is rather low.

    Capture.PNG

    I am beginning to think that the limited carb intake may be the issue. I also found the Perfect Health Diet and plan on upping my carb intake to between 75 an 100 grams through potatoes, white rice, fruit, and starchy tubers.
    Last edited by antharr; 01-15-2013 at 11:50 AM.

  10. #10
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    Welcome to the club. You've seen the light. You'll never convince the naysayers, who'll argue 1+1=3. Just ignore the low carb cult and do PHD. It's that simple.

    Actually, I missed your blood lab portion of the post. Here's the issue. The LDL skyrocketing could be due to your low FT3 or your ApoE4 genes. If your temp is low, you've lost significant weight, then it's obvious that your FT3 would be low-normal. Get it tested. That could be an issue, because it could come back up in response to higher carbs or it may not.

    Second, I see that your LDL rose in response to being high fat and so did your HDL. You could be homo or hetero ApoE4 and, if so, then you need to go easy on Sataruated Fat. Yes, saturated fat. There are no sacred cows in dieting; every damn person is so different. About 25% of the population is ApoE4 and your story is so damn common that if I got a buck after reading about LDL and high TC after starting high fat or low-carbing, I'd be richer than Jeff Bezos.

    If you want, get 23andme tested. But no need. You need to do high-carb/lower fat Paleo. Not low fat, just lower fat. You could comparatively increase the MUFA portion but that would be somewhat difficult. You need to go from muscle meat, cream and butter to yams, sweet potatoes, and white rice. In other words, PHD, like you said. That will solve your problem in either case -- whether it's your genes or your thyroid. Your lipids reacted so quickly to fat, it probably is more ApoE4 than thyroid. But you're right, it's time to get off the low-carb bandwagon.

    Quote Originally Posted by antharr View Post
    I am beginning to think that the limited carb intake may be the issue. I also found the Perfect Health Diet and plan on upping my carb intake to between 75 an 100 grams through potatoes, white rice, fruit, and starchy tubers.
    Last edited by choppedliver; 08-25-2013 at 12:24 PM.

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