4 Things Destroying Your Thyroid

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Special Thanks to my team and Nicholas Norwitz - Oxford Ketone PhD Researcher and Harvard Med Student - for working diligently on research as well!

Rapid Weight Loss

The thyroid controls basal metabolic rate. When a person is underweight, loses weight rapidly, or is hypocaloric, their thyroid hormone levels almost universally decrease. This physiological response protected our ancestors from losing protective fat too rapidly during a fast or famine.

An important caveat is that, although a decrease in active T3 thyroid hormone is likewise observed in those who lose weight on a ketogenic diet, the corresponding decrease in basal metabolic rate is not observed. This suggests that, in the ketogenic state, the body may become more sensitive to circulating T3. (read more here: https://blog.virtahealth.com/does-your-thyroid-need-dietary-carbohydrates/)


Dr. Amy Meyer proposes an appealing model based on leaky gut and “molecular mimicry,” and one brand-new study provides some interesting data that is worth presenting.

Dr. Amy Meyer speculates that gluten can contribute to thyroid dysfunction in the following three-step manner: First, gluten causes leaky gut. By triggering the production of the protein zonulin, gluten causes the tight junctions in the gut to open up. Second, microbial metabolites, toxins, and foods enter the blood stream. This causes your body’s immune system to become chronically activated, predisposing you to develop autoantibodies. Third, to add insult to injury, antibodies produced against gluten (specifically, gliadin) can cross react with thyroid tissue via a phenomenon called “molecular mimicry.” In summary, gluten causes leaky gut. Leaky gut puts your immune system on high alert. Then, antibodies are produced that cross react with gluten and thyroid tissue. It’s a plausible model; but, again, strong evidence is lacking. (https://www.amymyersmd.com/2016/08/is-gluten-to-blame-for-thyroid-dysfunction/.)

Krysiak R. et al. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes 2019 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30060266) is a brand-new study, published last month (July 2019), that found a 6-month gluten-free diet improved markers of autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) in afflicted women. In this study, 34 women with AITD were split into a gluten-free diet or a control group. Titers of antibodies against thyroglobulin (Tg) and thyroid peroxidase (TPO) (which are the precursor to thyroid hormone and the enzyme that converts that precursor into bona fide thyroid hormone, respectively) were measured at the beginning and end of the 6-month intervention. The gluten-free diet was successfully able to decrease Tg and TPO titers, as seen below (precise mechanism unclear).

Mineral Deficiencies

Iodine is needed to make T4 in the thyroid. Although iodine deficiency is rare in the developed world, great sources of iodine include kombu kelp, cod, and tuna.

Selenium is needed to activate T4 to T3 in the liver. Great sources of selenium include brazil nuts and tuna.

Zinc is also needed for the synthesis of active thyroid hormone and, some suggest, for the activation of the thyroid hormone receptor by T3. Additionally, because hypothyroidism decreases zinc absorption, hypothyroidism and/or zinc insufficiency can enter into a vicious cycle. Great sources of zinc include shellfish and meat. Oysters are the best source of zinc, with a single oyster providing half of your RDV. But be careful… oysters are a sneaky moderate source of carbs.

Hormonal Contraception

The “pill” can contribute to hypothyroidism in at least two ways. First, the pill can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including selenium deficiency, that contribute to or exacerbate hypothyroidism. Since mineral imbalances are already a potential matter of concern on keto because of the diuretic effect of having low insulin, women who are doing a ketogenic diet and who are on the pill need to be especially attentive to their mineral intake/balance.

Second, the estrogen in the pill can increase thyroxine binding globulin (TBG), which, as its name suggests, can decrease the free thyroid available in the blood and contribute to functional hypothyroidism. This phenomenon was reported by Arafah B. et al. in the New England Journal of Medicine 2001 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11396440). In this study, 36 women received estrogen therapy, which increased their TBG and decrease their free thyroid hormone.

Nicholas Norwitz - Oxford Ketone PhD Researcher and Harvard Med Student:
Keto Diet
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