Hypothyroidism is a condition that is characterized by slow functioning of the
thyroid gland which releases hormones that regulate the metabolism. There are a
number of symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, including: goiters, decreased
libido, fatigue, fluid retention, weight gain, constipation and lower heart rate. The
underlying cause of this condition may not necessarily have to do with the gland
itself but a host of other factors. Some have linked the Keto diet with lower levels
of T3, which may or may not include hypothyroidism. This does not mean that the
Keto diet is not good for those with hypothyroidism, as this article will
demonstrate, but those with any kind of pre-existing medical condition should
consult their doctor before going on the Keto diet.
The Thyroid Cycle
Many people who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism are simply given thyroid
replacement without addressing the underlying cause. However, this isn’t always
the best course of action, since the cycle the thyroid gland depends on to function
is complex and involves the balance of several organs to make sure the cycle works
properly. Several things can contribute to hypothyroidism, including issues with
adrenal gland, brain, liver and the gut.
For instance, the problem with the thyroid could actually begin the adrenal gland
which responds to stress. When you are undergoing undue stress, the adrenal gland
may suppress proper functioning of the thyroid because it can’t manage too many
things at once. If the thyroid functioning is suppressed, then the liver may suffer,
because the thyroid regulates the metabolism. When the liver slows down, it may
not be able to affect detoxification. If there are too many toxins in the body, the gut
will not operate efficiently. When the gut doesn’t work well, the adrenal perceives
that the body is under attack and will release stress hormones, which further
suppresses the thyroid, and the cycle of hypothyroidism may continue.
Keto and Thyroid
There has been some concern about whether or not the ketogenic diet is the right
choice for people with hypothyroidism. The reason for this discussion is a study
that showed the keto diet can lead to lower T3 levels. The thyroid produces
different types of hormones, often referred to as T3 and T4. One way to determine
whether or not a person has hypothyroidism is to test levels of T3. If levels of T3
or low, this could be a sign of hypothyroidism, but it could also be due to other
For instance, T3 levels often are lower if you restrict calories and restrict protein. If
you have been on a protein-rich diet, going onto keto and suddenly consuming the
majority of your calories from fat and moderate protein can affect your T3 levels,
but may not necessarily be an indication that there is a problem with the way your
thyroid functions. One reason is that T3 binds with protein, and if there is less
protein in the system, the T3 levels may fall. In addition, most diets designed for
weight loss involve a reduction in the number of calories. Fewer calories can also
cause less T3 system, but again, this may not indicate thyroid malfunctioning.
The bottom line is if your thyroid has been functioning alright up until the time you
go on the keto diet, you may not need to worry that the keto diet can cause
hypothyroidism. However, if you have a history of hypothyroidism, consult a
doctor and pay attention to how you feel on the keto diet.
Keto, The Adrenal Gland and Hypothyroidism
Another factor that should be of concern to those with a history of thyroid
problems is the effect of the ketogenic diet on the the adrenal glands. The adrenal
glands are designed to respond to stress by releasing cortisol, or stress hormones. If
you are under constant stress, you may suffer from adrenal fatigue, which means
the adrenal gland is overworked and your systems slow down. One part of the body
that is affected by this slowing down is the thyroid gland, which also functions at a
more sluggish pace. Hypothyroidism can result from adrenal fatigue.
This connects with the ketogenic diet because keto has an effect on the adrenal
gland, at least in the first phase. When you suddenly reduce your consumption of
carbohydrates, your body desperately “looks” for another energy source. This can
lead to some stress on the body, and it is not unusual for those beginning the keto
diet to have elevated levels of cortisol in the system. Although your system will
eventually get used to these changes, and in the long-term, the keto diet can have a
positive effect on the thyroid, the first phase can be tricky for people who already
are suffering from adrenal fatigue or hypothyroidism.
This does not mean that those who have issues with the adrenal gland and thyroid
should necessarily give the keto diet a miss. It is essential to get medical guidance
when starting the keto diet, and you may have to enter the diet more gradually. For
instance, you could start out with a slightly higher level of carbohydrates and
gradually cut down to put less stress on your glands and the rest of your body. If
you notice a worsening of symptoms, slow down and adjust your macros
accordingly. Once your body gets accustomed to burning fats instead of
carbohydrates as fuel, you are less likely to feel stressed, sluggish and can reap the
positive aspects of the keto diet.
The Keto diet has numerous benefits, including blood sugar regulation, decreased
likelihood of developing serious diseases, weight loss and lower inflammation. The
thyroid and adrenal glands ultimately benefit from the Keto diet, but there may be
a strain on the body in the initial phase. If you consult with your doctor and decide
the keto diet is right for you, adjust your macros accordingly to ensure the first
phase of keto isn’t too hard on your adrenal and thyroid glands. If you have no
history of hypothyroidism, the concern that the keto diet could cause it are
unfounded, since lower T3 levels are not necessarily negative, but happen in many
calorie restricted diets.