Better Body Clinical Nutrition


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Wednesday, March 27, 2024 12:20 PM

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Photo by Alexandr Podvalny un


Another piece of dogma that continues to steer Americans’ eating habits—and thyroid health—in the wrong direction is the slow-to-go-away advice to eat a lowfat diet. (Fortunately, this advice also has just taken a major hit; an eighteen-country study published in The Lancet in November 2017 shows no association between total fat or saturated fat intake and heart disease, while pointing to a higher risk of total mortality associated with high carbohydrate intake. 

The Hormones & Balance website (authored by a holistic health coach who recovered from Graves’ Disease, Hashimoto’s and adrenal fatigue) makes the point that our bodies need good-quality fats to absorb the all-important fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K)—crucial vitamins that thyroid patients often are lacking. Secondly, the body needs fats to make hormones; when intake of healthy fats is inadequate, hormone levels “plummet” and the hormone-producing thyroid “similarly takes a hit.”  Some of the healthiest fats in this (and many other) regards include butter and ghee. As certified nutritionist Kim Schuette points out, both fats are excellent sources of butyric acid, which plays an important role in supporting delivery of thyroid hormones to receptor sites throughout the body. Others agree that “high intake of saturated and monounsaturated fat but low intake of polyunsaturated fat would seem to be optimal for thyroid function.

Schuette’s discussion of beneficial fats arises in the context of an article focusing on the problems associated with long-term avoidance of complex carbohydrates.  As healing regimens such as the ketogenic and GAPS diets have gained in popularity (alongside continued fascination with lower-carb paleo and “ancestral” diets), the role to be played by carbohydrates in a healthy diet has become “hotly contested” and “completely confusing.” 

In point of fact, both extremes can be challenging for the thyroid. On the one hand, a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes—diseases strongly correlated with thyroid disorders. On the other hand, when individuals who are understandably trying to avoid sugars and refined grains swing to a zero or very-low-carbohydrate diet, this can have the effect of blocking biologically active thyroid hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism symptoms such as fatigue, constipation and depression. As one person puts it, “When all available glucose is being conserved for your brain,” the body has no choice but to put the process of thyroid hormone conversion “on hold.” To restoke one’s “metabolic fire,” Schuette recommends including properly prepared complex carbohydrates with each meal (including starchy vegetables and soaked legumes and grains), accompanied by plentiful animal fat and/or coconut oil and Celtic sea salt to supply minerals and trace elements, including iodine.
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