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Can Diet Reverse Thyroid Disease?

thyroid diet

For decades I’d wished that the answer was yes but I never saw any convincing evidence. I’m going to explain to you why I’ve changed my mind.

Sure, I’d heard stories of a person here or there who felt that diet cured them. Yet for any given diet, I heard more stories of failure than success.

How could that be? Maybe the diet worked for some and not others, maybe it was just a coincidence. You see, some people get better from thyroid disease just by chance. It was possible that the isolated stories of improvement were from people who may have gotten better by luck regardless of their diet.

Some say to take the isolated stories at face value and assume people are different. They advise people to just keep trying until they find something that works.

Perhaps, but the problem is that there are many different diets to try and it is hard for any person to know for sure if it is helping.

Let’s ignore that for a moment. It would likely take 6 months at least to give a diet a fair chance. Let’s say you want to try some popular diets like vegan, gluten-free, paleo, autoimmune paleo, low goitrogen, or ketogenic. Those six alone will take three years to work through. And that is ignoring the fact that other things will also affect your thyroid over those three years. Among them are thyroid medication, supplements, stress levels, testing issues.

Now you know why I would not feel I was doing someone a favor if I told them to try different diets and see which work for them. Now you understand why I’ve been waiting for evidence.

To know for sure that diet helped, it would take controlled studies. Ideally, the studies would be controlled. They would see if diet helped but they would also track a similar group to see how often thyroid function changed by chance.

There have been a few studies that compare past dietary habits with rates of thyroid disease in a group. Such studies have shown that some food categories elevate thyroid antibodies more than others like foods high in animal fat. Other studies like this show that vegans have lower rates of developing thyroid disease.

These are called epidemiologic studies and they are helpful for finding patterns, but hard for proving causation.

That requires taking people with thyroid disease, having them change their diets in specific ways, and watching for a change in their thyroid function. These are called interventional trials.

At the time of this writing, the only diets studied in this fashion include one study on a gluten-free diet, one on the autoimmune paleo diet, and four on the Thyroid Reset iodine reduction plan.

The one gluten-free study showed that TPO antibodies lowered by several percent, but there were no changes in TSH, free T4, or free T3. No one saw their thyroid function improve. The study was a little suspect because it claimed to represent people who did not have celiac disease. One could fairly assume that those with celiac could respond differently to a gluten-free diet than those without celiac. Even if people with celiac disease saw their health improve by going gluten-free, those same results would not be expected in those who did not have it.

Yet this study in question only accepted participants who had positive anti-glutaminase antibodies – the ones that are present in celiac disease. You read that right – weird, eh? They claimed to have tested the diet on those without celiac disease but they only accepted participants who had the antibodies present with celiac disease. I don’t believe the results from this study can be applied to those without celiac.

Those in the autoimmune paleo study did show improvements in scores of overall well-being. They did feel better. However, they saw no change in thyroid antibodies, TSH, T4, or T3. No one saw improved thyroid function.

If their thyroid function did not get better, why did they feel better? Many reasons are possible. Many likely ended up on less processed food. They could have increased their protein intake.

There is a well-known phenomenon called the Hawthorne effect. Basically, it is the observation that people tend to feel better when they participate in studies and have others monitor them. If this study had a control group, the Hawthorne effect could have been accounted for, but it did not have a control group.

Here is the thing. There is nothing wrong with these diets. Many people go gluten-free or autoimmune paleo and they feel better. That’s fine, I have no reason to dissuade them.

But if someone asks me how likely these diets are to help them cure their thyroid disease – I have to tell them the odds don’t look good.

Here is what the evidence tells about the Thyroid Reset Diet. There have been several studies and the results were dramatic.

Nearly everyone’s thyroid function improved and most people were completely cured of thyroid disease, just from the diet.

Three of the studies were done on people with advanced thyroid disease but who were not on thyroid medication. Most had it for 4 or more years and many had TSH scores well over 20.

Most people in these studies went completely into remission. They regained perfectly normal thyroid function within 2-3 months. The specific rate of complete remission ranged from 60 – 78.3%.

Of those who did not get better, nearly all showed TSH scores lowering by 50% or more. They improved dramatically but were not yet in the normal range at the end of the study. Fewer than 3% failed to respond. Over 95% of participants saw a dramatic, measurable improvement to their thyroid function, and the vast majority were cured.

The remaining study was of those who were already on thyroid medication. In it, researchers asked the participants to try to avoid iodine, stop their medication, and see what happened.

The instructions were basic. People were only told about the most obvious sources of iodine such as sea vegetables, iodine supplements, and iodized salt. Most Americans receive 80% of their iodine from dairy and processed grains – these were not even mentioned.

Nonetheless, over 40% of participants were able to stop their medication without developing symptoms and without any negative changes to their thyroid function.

They were completely cured. They no longer needed their medication and they felt fine.

How the Thyroid Reset Diet is More than a Low Iodine Diet

I saw these studies and I knew there was something there. They did not cure everyone but they helped just about everyone. Even thyroid medication only helps about 1/2 of people feel better from thyroid disease. This diet is more effective than medication.

Yet I knew the basic low iodine diets needed to be improved on.

One problem is that the low iodine recommendations did not consider many hidden sources of iodine. We now know it can come from cosmetics, medications, and several foods you would never expect like prune juice or frozen cantaloupe.

Another problem was that they were only designed for short-term use. There was no thought put into overall diet quality or nutritional requirements past iodine reduction.

Since some people in studies improved in 3 months but were not yet totally better, I knew the diet had to be healthy enough to follow for more than just a few months.

Finally, none of the low iodine diets had options for those on special diets. So many are vegan, gluten-free, or paleo for reasons beyond thyroid function. I wanted anyone on any of these diets to be able to easily control their iodine without sacrificing the principles that were important to them. I wanted them to have tasty recipes that followed their guidelines.

When I first saw the studies, I shared the idea with patients. I still did all the other things I would have done anyway. I knew the diet change would not hurt and it might help.

The results I’ve seen have been consistent with the studies.

Most people with thyroid disease who are not yet medicated can see their thyroid levels go back to normal.

Of those who are on medication – some can come off it and do fine. Most can at least see their symptoms get better and can lower their dosage. Even those who lack a thyroid tend to feel better, some of them end up needing less medication.

The plan is pretty easy because I created the world’s largest database on iodine levels in foods. I was able to find many low-iodine options for each food category, There are tons of substitutions and nearly any dish can be made low in iodine.

Now that the book has been out for a few months I’ve heard tons of stories of how it has helped people. When your thyroid works better weight loss can be easier, energy gets better, hair loss can stop. I’ve been surprised to see how quickly some of these changes happen. Many people start to feel better in just a few weeks.

How to use the Thyroid Reset Diet

These are common results for those on the Thyroid Reset Diet and I’d love for them to happen to you. I’m going to walk you through how to get started.

The best source of guidance on the diet is the book, The Thyroid Reset Diet. Here is how to get started. The reset phase is for when you wish to improve your thyroid. Once it has gotten better, the maintenance phase will give you more options and still keep your thyroid stable.

First, compare the iodine ingredient lists in the book against the ingredients in your cosmetics, supplements, and medications. Second, select an iodine-free version of salt. Food is the third step. Here are two ways to adjust your diet.

If you want to have everything taken care of for you, just follow the book’s 28-day meal plan. It has menus, shopping lists, and recipes. After the first 28 days, feel free to repeat or focus on your favorite recipes.

On the other hand, let’s say your current diet works well for you in every other way. You enjoy your food, your weight is good, and you have no digestive issues. In a case like this, you may wish to change as little about your diet as possible.

This can apply if you are vegan, gluten-free, AIP, or have food preferences for other reasons. To get going, just jump right to the food lists in Chapter 7. If any of your current foods are on the Yellow or Red light lists, look for substitutes on the Green light list. There are plenty! The book even helps list out the most popular substitutions for higher iodine foods.

In either case, plan for a month on the reset phase for every year you’ve had thyroid disease. Once your thyroid is at a better new-normal, you are welcome to add back some of the healthy yellow light foods as recommended. Some of my top suggestions include salmon, egg yolks, and unflavored yogurt.

For many, it can be that easy

Imagine that in the next few weeks you started to feel better. Your weight started to come down, you didn’t feel as tired in the afternoon. Maybe you didn’t see as much hair in the shower drain. Let’s say that your thyroid tests started to change. Your doctor is surprised because suddenly you need less medication. All the times they had to raise your dose, now it is going the other way.

Change like this is possible more often than not. Never give up and never settle for anything less than your best health.

Here is to your next steps,
Dr. C

P.S. Whenever you are ready, here is how I can help you now:

1. Schedule a Thyroid Second Opinion with me, Dr. C, Click Here for Details
2. Download and use my Favorite Recipes Cookbook Here
3. Check out my podcast Medical Myths, Legends, and Fairytales Here

Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet, The Metabolism Reset Diet and The Thyroid Reset Diet.

Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.