Stop Eating Low-Carb (If You Care About Your Thyroid)

By |2017-06-30T11:14:55-07:00July 6th, 2015|Hypothyroidism, Nutrition|81 Comments
  • low carb thyroid dangers

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on overcoming hypothyroidism:

The myth has long since been debunked.

But unfortunately, some fads stick around long past their welcome.

I’m talking about the low-carb diet myth.

I understand the thought process and why it’s still hanging around.

Weight gain is a common symptom of hypothyroidism (yet, so is excessive weight loss).

And low-carb diets promote short term weight loss.

So, it must be healthy for your thyroid, right?

Well, you can also lose weight instantly by cutting off your left arm.

But that won’t help your thyroid either.

Don’t worry I fell for it too, many years ago.

And unfortunately I had to learn this hard way like so many others.

Long ago, I spent a couple of years following a low-carb diet. And I stuck through it because at the time the doctors and practitioners I was studying believed it was the key to health.

As I watched my health fall apart during those years, it was obvious that my thyroid took a turn for the worse.

  • My body temperature plummeted.
  • My hands and feel were always cold.
  • I crashed as soon as I walked in the door from work.
  • I couldn’t handle a bit of stress and felt overwhelmed with just about everything in life.
  • The list goes on and on…

Little did I know, my low-carb diet was ruining my thyroid.

And I’m not the only one.

Today, low-carb diets are commonly recommended for hypothyroidism sufferers.

At least half of the clients I work have either tried in the past or come to me while following a low-carb diet of some sort.

And while many do feel better initially, it’s not because of any improvement to their thyroid.

I’ll explain why this happens in just a second.

But there’s an abundance of research showing that low carb diets result in…

  • Fall in active T3 thyroid hormone.
  • Rise in thyroid blocking Reverse T3 hormone.
  • Fall in metabolic rate and energy production.

All of which only suppress your thyroid function.

Hormonal and metabolic changes induced by an isocaloric isoproteinic ketogenic diet in healthy subjects.

“A significant fall in triiodothyronine and rise in reverse triiodothyronine were observed, while thyroxine levels remained unchanged.”

Sucrose substitution in prevention and reversal of the fall in metabolic rate accompanying hypocaloric diets.

“The fall in both resting metabolic rate and triiodothyronine concentration was markedly reduced as compared with values during the carbohydrate-free diet. It is concluded that carbohydrate restriction plays an important role in mediating the fall in resting metabolic rate during hypocaloric feeding.”

Feel Better On a Low-Carb Diet? Not For Long.

It’s not uncommon to experience weight loss and even an improvement in energy when starting a low-carb diet.

But if you understand just how low-carb diets work, then you’ll also understand why these results are short lived.

When you reduce carbohydrates in your diet your blood sugar drops (also harmful for diabetics but that’s a story for another time).

As your blood sugar drops, your body compensates by overproducing stress hormones, including adrenaline.

Adrenaline (while you can produce it) makes you feel great.

If you’ve ever experienced an adrenaline rush, you know what I mean.

But it’s not sustainable.

Your body can only continue to overproduce stress hormones for so long.

Eventually your ability to produce these stress hormones becomes impaired.


Because thyroid hormone is required for the production of these stress hormones.

So, as you eat low-carb and become more hypothyroid, your need for stress hormones increases while your ability to produce them decreases.

And eventually you’ll reach the point where you can’t produce enough stress hormones to meet the demands of what your body needs in order to compensate.

That’s when the real damage happens.

When your body fails to compensate, permanent physical degeneration begins to occur.

Carbs Are Your Thyroid’s Friend

Carbs play a very important role in regulating thyroid function, especially at your liver.

As I mentioned in the previous post about “How to Heal Your Thyroid By Healing Your Liver”, using carbs to balance your blood sugar is always where we start.

But it’s also all about using the right carbs and balancing them properly.

You will learn about one of the most beneficial carbohydrates that you can use to help heal your thyroid when you download the 3 Food Triple-Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol.

The Simple 3 Food Triple Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol

This daily protocol will show you a very different side to your hypothyroidism. It’s based on real science (not modern day myths)… It’s been tested with real hypothyroidism sufferers… and it simply works.

Read this article about “How We Overcome Hypothyroidism When All Else Fails” to see how we get the results we do.

The 3 Food Triple-Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol is all about taking the first step to overcoming your hypothyroidism by fixing some of the hidden underlying issues that are holding your thyroid hostage.

If that sounds like what you need, then just download the protocol and use it for yourself.

Click here to learn more about the 3 Food Triple-Thyroid Boosting Daily Protocol.

About the Author:

Tom Brimeyer is the founder of Forefront Health and the creator of the popular Hypothyroidism Revolution program series. Specializing in thyroid and metabolism disorders, Tom's work has impacted over 50,000 people spanning more than 60 countries. Tom is also a highly sought after practitioner who runs a successful health consulting practice where he continues to help clients across the globe to take back control of their lives from their devastating health conditions.


  1. Kara July 6, 2015 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    You didn’t mention that although carbs are good for your thyroid, if you have Hashimoto’s you should avoid gluten 100% as the molecular structure of gluten is almost identical to the molecular structure of thyroid tissue and will promote the attack. What’s your opinion on that?

    • Tom Brimeyer July 6, 2015 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      There’s a little more to the story than that. But yes, gluten should always be avoided with Hashimoto’s due to the estrogen issues. But it should be avoided with any form of hypothyroidism. I’ll be writing more on that later.

      • Linda Baker August 31, 2016 at 12:54 pm - Reply

        I’ve never been comfortable with cutting out all carbohydrates, as it seems that grains seeds nuts have been a staple for Millennia for most cultures. Unfortunately I did, for about 10 years, and now I have a terrible muscular neuropathy where muscle wasting is predominant. I also have adrenal exhaustion. Now while I’m happy that Ray peat and those that follow him are coming back to sugars comma I still don’t understand why the above categories are being left out. In this video though, I think I found the reason. I’d love your take on it. I understand taking food groups out therapeutically for a short time, but in this video he makes it clear that when our stomach acid is low, carbohydrates ferment . Would that be true of sugars as well?

        • Tom Brimeyer September 2, 2016 at 12:40 pm - Reply

          Hi Linda, there are things that we do to prevent fermentation within the digestive tract, such as regulating bowel transit time.

  2. Jason July 9, 2015 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Thank you for the article & sharing your research. This information blends well with Dr. McDougall’s starch-based diet, and also the following article on how the benefits of reducing A1C begin to level off at levels higher than what most may deem healthy.

    • Tom Brimeyer July 9, 2015 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      Starch-based diets are not necessarily great with hypothyroidism. There is more often than not some degree of insulin resistance involved and starches are pure glucose, which depends entirely on insulin to be metabolized. With hypothyroidism, it’s very difficult to regulate blood sugar.

  3. KW Low July 10, 2015 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Thank you Tom on your series of articles on Hypothyroidism..
    I now understand human body functions & the relation of thyroid and liver in maintaining better health.
    Really appreciate your efforts in educating the masses.

    Best Regards.

  4. Johnson July 19, 2015 at 5:01 am - Reply

    Thanks Tom for your valuable inputs. I changed my consultant 4 times, none of them had solutions other than increasing the thyroxine intake, afterwhich my sufferings increased only. Thanks once again and expecting more on this. Johnson India

  5. Barbara July 25, 2015 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Tom, what do you think of Coconut Sugar as a sweetner in the coffee? I put butter and coconut oil in the coffee and blend it, but dont like the taste without a little something sweet. I was using Stevia until I read what you had to say about it.

  6. Donna Jones September 8, 2015 at 10:28 am - Reply

    I disagree with your comment that it’s difficult to regulate your blood sugar when you are hypothyroid. I had a difficult time regulating my blood sugar *before* I started eating low-carb. Now I don’t have any issues with my blood sugar at all. I went from years of daily bouts of reactive hypoglycemia and a fasting blood sugar pushing 120 (moving from prediabetic into diabetic) to no problems at all with hypoglycemia and a fasting blood sugar in the 80s. It’s only when I overdo it on carbs that I have any blood sugar issues. Today, I couldn’t resist a couple of bites of chocolate, and I can feel my heart fluttering from my blood sugar changing.

    I am 49 and have been hypothyroid for more than 20 years, although it took me about half of that time to be diagnosed and put on thyroid meds. Over the years, instead of treating me for hypothyroidism, numerous doctors looked at my weight and water retention tried to convince me that a low-fat diet was good for me. I nearly accidentally killed myself several times when my blood sugar plummeted after a “doctor-approved” high-carb/low-fat meal. I will be sticking to a low-carb diet from now on. Most days, I eat less than 50 grams of total carbs, and on many of those days, I eat less than 20. My current doctor is all for this because she can see the improvements in me as well as in my blood work.

    • Tom Brimeyer September 9, 2015 at 11:05 am - Reply

      Donna, I think you missed the point of the article. Using a low-carb diet forces your body to rely on cortisol to regulate your blood sugar. Yes, it will work but it is very suppressive and dangerous for thyroid health.

      Part of the problem is that you’re looking at diabetes as a blood sugar problem, which it is not. It’s a dysfunction that prevents glucose from being metabolized by your cells and we have to look at it and address it from the cell level. Reducing carbohydrates and forcing your blood sugar within reference range does not improve the underlying problem, although many would like to think this.

      Over time your blood sugar begin to rise again even on a low-carb diet because it will only further disrupt glucose metabolism. Unfortunately I see this with clients all the time. This is why we address the underlying dysfunction instead of trying to mask the problem with a low-carb diet.

    • Linda Baker August 31, 2016 at 1:01 pm - Reply

      The doctor’s answer is correct, Donna. I did low carb off and on, mostly on, for 10 years. Initially, I lost a lot of weight and felt great, but after that it was just a mystery to me. I kept thinking I wasn’t doing it good enough, so I dug my heels and did more of it. Now I have a neuropathy with muscular wasting(MMN). NOT PRETTY. I’m doing my best now to refeed my liver glycogen. This guy knows what he’s talking about.

    • Anita November 13, 2016 at 5:19 pm - Reply


      I have similar case and success story as well. I feel great and my blood panel ( thyroid, glucose, insulin, inflammation,etc.) has improved tremendously, my doc was shocked!

  7. Dottie September 10, 2015 at 7:40 am - Reply

    In general, what do you consider a low blood sugar number? Such as one that would cause stress hormones to be called on. I understand it may be person specific; however, a general range would be helpful for someone monitoring this and trying to match symptoms.

  8. Rebecca September 18, 2015 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Tom, I just read your material and want to cry! Everything I have been telling my doctors for years without support was mentioned in your article. I have been suffering for 15–20 years! My daughter was also recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s at age 13. I always knew regulating blood sugar was important but no one listens when I can feel my estrogen affecting me, my body temperature is always extremely low, I can fall asleep in the middle of the speech standing up in front of a crowded room, I can out exercise my husband and gain 5 pounds while he loses 25. I am ordering your information and starting right away! I will keep you posted!! Can’t thank you enough for sharing!!

  9. keti November 1, 2015 at 1:06 am - Reply

    I’m not sure if I agree with this article. I’m a thyroid plus a pcos patient. Been for many many years. There is nothing wrong eating low carb. In general it means no gluten, no sugar, no diary products. Eat lots of vegetables , salad, fish, chicke, vegetable soup… how is this bad for my thyroid and pcos ??

  10. Jean Gititns November 19, 2015 at 7:59 am - Reply

    I had problems with my thyroid since childhood but surgery doctors did not have the knowledge to deal with it in those days, even when I was older they said the so called tests were ‘normal’. When I retired I bought a laptop and searched to find information which was when I found Dr Barry Durrant Peatfield who is based in Surrey /United Kingdom – I ended up being told I was ‘hypothyroid’ then and I was prescribed a medication called ‘Liothyronine’ which helped the condition then.
    I paid over £100 every 3 months to receive the order from the National Pharmacy in America plus customs charges. Eventually since those days I managed to get these on script from the local surgery. What I would mention was during all these years I never knew the thyroid condition could relate to a heart condition and it was in vain mentioning this to the doctors in the surgery because they knew nothing either! I had a quadruple heart bypass in 2010 and so I was lucky to return.
    Since then I have learned a great deal about B12 deficiency because once again I have been looking for answers but again the doctors in this surgery were not on the same planet – as you can imagine I am able to dive deep into what I need to understand about the subject and because the attitudes in the surgery gives me no time to explain or spell it all out for them I wrote it all down to leave it with them.
    I not going to play games so I am aware normally I would have had the B12 injections but I not need to waste time so am purchasing the B12 Methylcobalamin oral spray in batches from Amazon which makes a difference. I do feel the cold and need to wrap up more than normal. I realise it was good to start with the meds.because I already had a problem with my balance when walking , plus significant pain in the myelin sheath which has improved. I am challenging my memory which I hope will improve. I am relieved to have had the sense to read up on these things – I am aware I should have made sure I attended to the iron deficiency I had some time ago which surgery doctors do not check on a regular basis. One told me she did not know if I needed iron? I worked for doctors in a local surgery for 5 years before qualifying to become a driving instructor. I have probably bored you to tears now ?????
    Thank you for listening ‘ Jean Gittins.

  11. Eloise Bailey November 30, 2015 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Hello Jean Gittins:

    Thank you for your article. I went through some of that too, with doctors constantly telling me that my lab results were ‘normal’….always ‘normal’ yet even if there were some abnormal results…these were totally ignored.

    For several years I could feel my health slipping… for a long time no one had answers, then one doctor ran hormonal blood and saliva tests and later prescribed Bioidentical Estrogen, Progesterone and Nature-Throid.

    Well, after about six months, some values were lower than when I’d started while others had not improved. It seemed as if I were getting weaker and weaker and spending a great deal of money. So, I made the decision to get off Estrogen and Progesterone but continue with the thyroid hormone. Of course, the hot flashes returned and the weakness persisted.

    I was on the internet constantly searching for answers. Then a few months ago, I came across Tom Brimeyer’s story and the Hypothyroidism Revolution. I thanked God, because I was ‘reading’ a reflection of what I was experiencing…I spent countless hours on the internet and searching and researching…Yes, there were people out there who were feeling like I was.

    Hope abounded at that point. Then I learned something that threw me for a loop… the foods that I had been eating, though healthy by all general standards, were no longer ‘healthy’ for me, who was now experiencing hypothyroidism.

    In the Hypothyroidism Revolution, Tom has laid out, in great detail, all the information that we will need to help ourselves heal. I have come to depend on this guidance. Previously, I had given up sugar… sugar was bad for you… not healthy, so I turned to xylitol…that was healthier, Right? No! had to give that up too. Then I was so proud of myself that I could have my beverages without a sweetener added. All the time I got weaker and weaker and lost a great deal of weight. I was harming myself because I didn’t know anything about the association between sugar and the thyroid and how important sugar is to the liver.

    In mid-November, 2015 labs were drawn at the doctor’s but when I got the results…only the TSH had been checked. Oh, well! That is why we have to be our own advocates; we have to look outside the box to find people who can help us get healthy. Sometimes the usual way is not good enough or doesn’t go far enough to help us in certain areas. Take care.

    Blessings to all and thanks.

  12. Amy Sizemore January 14, 2016 at 7:06 am - Reply

    In your article, you say, “When your body fails to compensate, permanent physical degeneration begins to occur.” I am still suffering from adrenal burnout/fatigue that began about 3 years ago. I don’t have too many crashes where I have to stay in bed now, but I still am having major difficulty with liver detoxing, estrogen dominance, and adrenaline rushes. Do you believe this can be healed, or is there some damage that puts a cap on what we can achieve, healthwise, after thrashing our bodies so badly for so long? (Mine came on after many, many life-changing stressful events.)

    I love how you describe some of the things I was curious about! When your sugar drops, your adrenals make more cortisol and adrenaline? And that is what makes you feel anxiety?

    • Tom Brimeyer January 14, 2016 at 8:01 am - Reply

      Hi Amy, it’s never too late to address adrenal insufficiency, however it’s important to understand that the adrenal glands don’t fatigue as I discuss in part of this article:

      When adrenaline rises high enough it tends to increase anxiety. Also, thyroid hormone (T3) makes you more sensitive to adrenaline, so too much thyroid hormone when adrenaline is high can increase anxiety as well.

  13. silvia February 25, 2016 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    love your way of thinking !!…I’m studying Naturopathic Nutrition,and you can bet this important information isn’t taught even in ”naturopathic circles”…I love doing my own research,and came across Ray Peat’s work ,which is incredibly informative..thank you Tom.

  14. Virginia Ingram March 4, 2016 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    I’m 52 Hashimoto thyroid .menopause
    Was tak8my armour thyroid .
    Switched back to levothyroxin.
    What specifically should I ask my PCP in regards to blood work should I have ?
    Thank you in advance

  15. Mary March 9, 2016 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    This is such important information. I know when I try low carb, my mood suffers terribly. This is a helpful read! Just wrote a post called “Why You Need to Stop Hating On These 3 Food Groups” and linked to your post. Check it out & share if you enjoy it:

  16. Liz March 11, 2016 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    I am new to this all…I have been diagnosed with a multi nodular goiter, but all my blood tests some back normal. Would your protocol work for what I have been diagnosed with?

    • Tom Brimeyer March 14, 2016 at 6:37 am - Reply

      Hi Liz, goiters today are generally caused by estrogen dominance and its effect on blocking the thyroid gland. So, yes everything we discuss would apply.

  17. Adam March 22, 2016 at 9:31 am - Reply

    I’m a 42 year old male, 6′, 225lbs. I used to be energetic and could just go and go. For the past few years I’ve had a lot of stress, with my work, wife’s health (Crohn’s) and daughter’s health (POTS). I have gradually cut back on the amount of working/hobbies that I used to do all the time. For the past few years I’ve progressively had extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, brain fog, memory loss, sores on my waste & armpit area, thinning eyebrows, lack of interest in my hobbies and sometimes no interest in anything at all.

    I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s after I begged my Dr. to check my antibodies (my TSH 3.24 (range 0.4 – 5.1), Free T3 3.5 (range 2.3 -4.2), Free T4 .9 (range 0.7 – 1.6) & Total T3 129 (range 50 – 170) were in the ‘normal’ range and they said it was a waste of time and money to check antibodies). My TPO Ab was 365, range is <=59. They have now put me on 50mcg of levothyroxine. I've been on that for 2 weeks and I've noticed the fatigue/weakness in my arms is subsiding. And my digestive system has went from slow to kind of normal.

    I've also be on TRT since last February (was 224), going from patches to stronger patches, to shots – from tri-weekly to bi-weekly to weekly. When they did the more thorough check of my thyroid a few weeks ago, they also checked estradiol. It's @ 47 pg/ml, range <=53. My Dr. says this in the normal range, my endo says this is fine, I went to a TRT specialist and they say it's too high, but I don't feel comfortable switching to them. I have had problems with my fingers and knees swelling for no apparent reason that comes and goes.

    I've quit: smoking, drinking, junk food, diet soda, and have been getting more sleep. I'm about 40 pounds overweight and can't seem to lose any weight. If I go too long without a meal I feel extremely weak and nauseated.

    The TRT shots have helped the complete exhaustion but going to weekly (they moved me to this because my # wasn't high enough, it's now 600) is making me wake up hourly after a 2-3 hours of sleep, causing me to be tired again. My alkaline phosphatase number has been on the low side for several years, recently 30 during a fasting blood test, range 33-138, which I read somewhere is a sign of hypothyroid. I've also read thyroid problems can cause the low T.

    I have so many questions: Do I need to do something about the estradiol number? or will the diet your showing here work for that? How will I know if my T will come back up if I'm taking a replacement that shuts your body off from producing its own? My current Dr. says it's 2 separate issues but I having doubts about that. My Dr. said when they recheck after 5 weeks they'll check my TSH & Free T4 #'s only and there's no need to recheck antibody numbers. Also since my numbers were in the 'normal' range before, what numbers should they try to get me to? I don't think they know what they're trying to ge to. What tests should be used when rechecking? Or where do I find a Dr around where I live that knows what's going on with thyroid issues? Thanks!

    • Tom Brimeyer March 23, 2016 at 11:16 am - Reply

      Hi Adam, you are a classic case of hypothyroidism. And don’t let those thyroid lab reference ranges fool you. We don’t go by the reference ranges because they are highly inaccurate and can’t tell you the most important information you really need to know. And with the presence of antibodies, estrogen is always a factor.

      As for your testosterone, there are a number of potential causes with hypothyroidism. Without adequate T3, cholesterol, and vitamin A you’re production of all protective steroidal hormones will be inhibited. But when we see low testosterone and elevated estrogen, that can be a sign of increased aromatization where your aromatase enzyme are converting the testosterone into estrogen. The problem with this is that simply supplementing testosterone without understanding the underlying cause of the problem can contribute to even more estrogen production.

      This is something that we work to improve in the HR Program as it’s a common problem today.

  18. Laura April 14, 2016 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Wow, again. Estrogen mentioned in the comments in regard to gluten and Hashimotos. A few years ago my Estrogen tested at fertility treatment levels and the doctor never batted an eye. It was nearly 300 points above the max it should have been. I was just retested (don’t have the results yet), six months post complete hysterectomy and now I’m very curious.

    • Tom Brimeyer April 14, 2016 at 10:08 am - Reply

      Hi Laura, keep in mind that even after a complete hysterectomy estrogen will likely decrease based on lab tests but the problem is that progesterone will decrease even further perpetuating the estrogen dominance. And your body will continue producing estrogen via aromatization. If your blood labs showed very elevated estrogen then you know there’s a big problem because estrogen tends to accumulate in the tissue (not in the blood). So labs tend to under-report true estrogen levels.

      • Laura April 15, 2016 at 9:23 am - Reply

        Thanks, Tom. I have read that about Estrogen, I had forgotten it though.

  19. rachelle April 14, 2016 at 10:29 am - Reply

    I was diagnosed with hashimitos and i am on HRT is this a bad idea?

  20. Debbie April 18, 2016 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Diagnosed with Graves Disease/hyperthyroid 18 months ago. With a tsh 0.01. Enforcement put me on the death drug Methimazole. After two months on 15 mg (she thought I was taking 20mg) she sent me hypo. Tsh 18.0. Never went back again. Everything was good until Mama died a year ago. Since then heart rate climbing and glucose climbing. I want to control this my diet. Do you think low carb could reset my hormones ?? I have cut out all caffeine. And watch iodine intake. Eats lots of veggies like broccoli cabbage etc. I could use any help you can give me. THANKYOU
    By the way I am 56 and post menopause six years

  21. Karen May 11, 2016 at 10:34 am - Reply

    After I lost an ovary due to a very large cyst I started having all the symptoms of hypothyroidism (although I didn’t know it at the time). I was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycaemia and had a two week detox to rid my liver of insulin and then put on a high fat, low carb diet for life. I did feel much better for a while but the symptoms are creeping back again. I’m currently taking NDT and progesterone to help, but should I come off my high fat, low carb diet which is meant to be helping with my reactive hypoglycaemia?

    • Tom Brimeyer May 13, 2016 at 10:01 am - Reply

      Hi Karen, low-carb diets work by depleting your glycogen stores and forcing blood sugar low while overproducing cortisol to prevent your blood sugar from dropping dangerously too low. This is an easy way to get yourself in trouble as it also promotes diabetes along with hypothyroidism. There’s a difference between this and regulating your blood sugar through proper methods.

      • Karen Rowsell May 14, 2016 at 8:40 am - Reply

        Hi Tom, thanks for your response.

        It is so difficult to know what to do. My Doctor recommended the high fat, low carb diet as the reactive hypoglycaemia means I overproduce insulin and eating lowered carbs moderates the insulin response and as we know high insulin is not a good thing as it makes you fat and can lead to diabetes. Your recommendations suggest the complete opposite, although you are coming at this from a hypothyroidism standpoint.

        I’ll try your 3 food daily protocol as the orange juice is the only food I would not normally have due to the sugar content and see how I go with that. If it helps, I could then try to include more fruit and veggies – I guess it will be trial and error to see how my body reacts. Thanks again.

        • Tom Brimeyer May 19, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

          Hi Karen, it’s important to understand that on a low-carb diet you’re depending on stress hormones to stabilize your blood sugar. This does work for a while but it’s also extremely thyroid suppressive. And low-carb diets will actually cause diabetes themselves. I’ve written about that here:

  22. Sharona May 29, 2016 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    Hi , I always followed a low carb diet . I retain fluid with carbs . I’m hypo and on armour. What is the reason behind this and how can it be corrected .

    • Tom Brimeyer May 31, 2016 at 6:22 am - Reply

      Hi Sharona, something we say all the time, “you don’t try to solve one problem only to create an even bigger one in the process.”

  23. eileen June 2, 2016 at 6:28 am - Reply

    I was diagnosed with hypothyroid in the early 90s… numbers were finally held steady, using synthroid. However, I moved out of state in 2006, and had to find a new doctor…the new doctor believed that I was taking the wrong Rx and the wrong dose….and made it sound like I was in dire need of a new regimen. So, I was put on Armour 30mg…5 tablets a day.
    I do not over eat….I don’t have cookies, cakes, pies and ice cream in the house, except for special occasions, and it is shared with company. I eat fruits and veggies…I have tried smoothies, including flax and chia seed and whatever else someone has told me to ingest, for a ‘good diet’ …better health…etc…However, I have gained weight, continually, since this whole nightmare began. I have gained 60 pounds!
    So, I guess my question is….as I am searching for some way to counter the weight gain, I am reaching out for ANY WAY possible to stop this vicious cycle. Do I take tablets with Iodine, Selenium, and whatever is suggested WHILE STILL taking the prescribed meds? Oh!!!! And now I have been diagnosed with NAFLD. I don’t drink….so, they say it is thyroid related.

    Any suggestions??

  24. Tricia June 3, 2016 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    I have been fighting a systemic candida infection for years now. Over the years I have developed more and more intolerances to foods to the point of only being able to eat a handful of foods, loss of hair, itchy scalp, bloated, constipated, and on and on… The only relief I received was to go low carb, but still did not get rid of yeast problems for good. And immediately flares up if I deviate from the very strict diet I have been on. Just recently I have started having additional symptoms:low body temp, slow heart rate (40bpm), headaches, fatigue, muscle weakness, chest tightness, feeling overall horrible. I went to my naturopath and had my thyroid checked to find out I have REaLLy low T3’s. I feel like I’m in a catch 22. If I eat carbs or sugar, my yeast flares up, but I can’t keep feeling like this with my thyroid messed up. My doctor has given me a hormone supplement to start using and plans to do some nutrient testing after 6 weeks on the supplement. As far as diet though I don’t know how to add more foods into my diet without having some yeast flaring up and start itching all over. Any suggestions would be great….

  25. Michele July 9, 2016 at 7:05 am - Reply

    The term “low carb” has many interpretations. Some think low carb means no starches or fruit, some think it’s total carb grams for those who track. I used to compete in fitness competitions which is when everything went south for me. My coaches definition of “low carb” was a daily intake of carbs under 100 grams. What is your definition of someone who eats a “low carb” diet?

    • Tom Brimeyer July 10, 2016 at 5:28 am - Reply

      Hypothyroid people are prone to hypoglycemia, which is why carbohydrate consumption is typically even more important. And it will vary from person to person, which is why we use tools to determine this on the individual level and fine-tune diet accordingly. But this means any amount of carbohydrates that doesn’t meet one’s metabolic needs and does not replenish liver glycogen, which is essential for blood sugar regulation.

  26. Kaley July 22, 2016 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    This confirms what I have thought is part of the puzzle in why I am now suffering with hypothyroidism. I followed a very low carb diet for months and months at a time along with lots of long distance road biking and distance walking. I could feel my body being completely drained but at the same time felt good in some kind of wired energy way, which i now know was the adrenaline production phenomenon you speak of above. I was always in flight mode. I’m enjoying these articles. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I need this help.

  27. Viviane O'Keefe July 23, 2016 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Tom
    I have been tested for Thyroid and my tests have come back as normal. However, I have been suffering a variety of symptoms for the past two years and in reading on the internet, I came to the conclusion, that I have symptoms of thyroid, low iron, low blood pressure, some allergy, some skin irritations, slow healing, eczema, psoriasis, joint pain, weight gain and inability to lose weight, insomnia, shortness or breath, rushing noise in the ears, etc. It seems that I could be having adrenal fatigue as I have been under extreme stress for a good number of years. I have been taking a variety of supplements to give me support and I have seen some improvement. I am wondering if I follow your ultimate thyroid diet, if it would help even though, technically, I do not have a thyroid problem, just symptoms that mimic an under-active thryroid?

  28. Carolyn King July 24, 2016 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    I have poorly treated hypothyroidism and I was also experiencing really bad intestinal gas, bloating, overeating, binge eating, sugar cravings where I could not stop with one chocolate bar, went low carb. Yes the thyroid problems are still there but with low carb the gas etc went. I am even more depressed reading this because I am going to lose the one thing that relieved some of my problems. And believe me it is not a food intolerance causing the gas, it was carbohydrates, I would eat brown rice, quinoa, gluten free, still bloated. It took every scrap of will power every day not to over eat, now I eat normally and feel full. I need to lose weight to take pressure from my joints as well.

  29. jennie July 25, 2016 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    very interested in your comment earlier in the thread regarding cortisol levels and t3. “When adrenaline rises high enough it tends to increase anxiety. Also, thyroid hormone (T3) makes you more sensitive to adrenaline, so too much thyroid hormone when adrenaline is high can increase anxiety as well”.

    I have 4 highs and my anxiety/panic/nausea is so severe for most of the day and only started adding t3 (as I don’t convert) about 4 weeks ago. Started on 5mcg and then 11 days later went onto 10mcg. I am ready to up by 5mcg again and was thinking of taking it in the morning (as I take my Levo and t3 at bedtime) BUT haven’t been able to find a definitive answer anywhere as to whether taking it in the morning will stimulate my adrenals to throw out more cortisol. I can’t deal with any more anxiety as it has already made me suicidal. I also have Hashi’s.

    As I am on a low dose could that additional 5mcg in the morning affect my anxiety more by pumping out more cortisol. Please can you advise I don’t know what to do 🙁

    • Tom Brimeyer July 26, 2016 at 9:40 am - Reply

      Hi Jennie, T3 doesn’t activate the adrenals/cortisol. It actually helps to lower ACTH and cortisol/adrenaline as long as nutrition is adequate. T3 should ideally be multidosed through the day instead of taking it all at once due to its shorter half-life. This can also help to prevent becoming more sensitive to adrenaline.

  30. Shane Steinmetz July 30, 2016 at 2:11 am - Reply

    Hi Tom,

    I tried a ketogenic diet back in 2009 and am about to give it another try. The main difference between then and now – however – is that I now know that I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. At the moment, I’m not currently taking medication for it (but will be in a couple of months) due to financial difficulties.

    I thought I would give the information surrounding ketogenic diets another look since I’m approaching it again under different circumstances. I read your article and looked at the two studies you linked. From what I’ve read, the other side of the argument points to calorie restriction as the root cause of those experiencing new or worsened hypothyroid symptoms.

    Granted, it can actually be harder to eat a reasonable amount of calories on a low carb or ketogenic diet because of the appetite-suppressing nature of this way of eating. But, how do you feel about the idea that the issue at stake here is caloric restriction itself rather than carbohydrate restriction?

    I would like to quote an article from “Livin La Vida Low Carb.” Obviously that site has a slant in favor of this way of eating, but I just wanted to get your thoughts on the argument since I don’t see that it has been raised here yet.


    If you’ve been paying attention in the low-carb and/or Paleo communities over the past year or so, then no doubt you’ve heard the popular meme promoted by certain Paleo diet advocates that zero-carb and very low-carb diets (ketogenic) lead to lower thyroid function, among other issues. They claim that this leads to a diminished capacity for T4 to be converted into T3 thyroid hormone because of the lack of glucose consumed by low-carb dieters. This concept has been heavily promoted by highly-respected practioners like Chris Kresser who sees patients from what he describes as “the dark side of Paleo and low-carb” dealing with hair loss, cold extremities, feeling horrible and other such negative manifestations of experiencing a low thyroid function.

    However, two of the top low-carb nutritional health researchers in the world — Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek — say this phenomenon with low thyroid while on a low-carbohydrate diet promoted by people in the Paleo community like Kresser and Paul Jaminet is “a myth” and has not manifested itself in any of the research subjects in their numerous studies of people who are properly following a well-formulated low-carb diet with adequate calories over the past three decades. Dr. Phinney believes the primary point of contention revolves around consuming an adequate amount of calories with your low-carbohydrate nutritional intake in order to normalize thyroid and metabolic function without the necessity for consuming added sources of dietary glucose. Dr. Volek concurs stating that it’s calorie-restriction that brings on this low thyroid effect, not limiting carbohydrates.

    • Tom Brimeyer August 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Shane, it really boils down to this… Low-carb diets cause elevated cortisol, which is required for the breakdown of protein into sugar in order to supply the brain/body with glucose when it’s deficient in the diet. And cortisol is known to directly inhibit the deiodination enzymes responsible for converting T4 into T3. Studies show that carbohydrates (frequency not quantity) suppress cortisol for the same reason. Dr. Broda Barnes also experimented with low-carb diets long ago and found that his requirement for thyroid hormone increased significantly while eating low-carb. I can also say the same from my own low-carb experiments (which was not low calorie) more than a decade ago. I also work with a lot of clients and see the same time and time again.

  31. Laura August 20, 2016 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Wow–this is the mother load of information for me. I’ve hit rock bottom on a Keto diet as insomnia is wrecking me. I’ve had hashimotos for 2 decades, thyroid cancer and removal -0 years ago. (Turns out there’s a sliver of thyroid tissue left behind from u/s–maybe a good thing after all?)I workout and have always stayed thin but turned to Keto as an anti-cancer diet. My grandmother died at 51 from breast cancer, my mother got breast cancer at 50–I turned 51 and wanted to ramp up my health a few more notches with diet.

    I can’t sleep for weeks now– my Tsh is .038 and I thought perimenopause was antagonizing things. I’ve started adding carbs and am using herbs for calmness (holy basil, passionflower)

    I’m confused why my tsh is so low from what you write it should be higher? I’ve been steadily adding more fiber on my own (flax seeds) and eat kale salads daily.

    It seems I need to get excess estrogen out of my system but what else could I be doing to restore my thyroid and adrenals back to health–with the ultimate goal of getting some rem sleep? Appreciate any suggestions you have, Laura

    • Tom Brimeyer August 22, 2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      Hi Laura, a Keto diet will force very high stress hormones. And stress hormones will suppress TSH over the long-term. So, that is what’s driving your low TSH. Often, this is misinterpreted as a good sign, when it’s very much the opposite.

  32. Lynn Keel September 27, 2016 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    Hi Tom. Can you comment please.. 20 odd years ago I had nodules on my thyroid. In my early 20’s I didn’t do anything about them as the doctor told me to avoid wheat and stress and all should be good. The nodules flared up from time to time (stress related) over the years and I didn’t take much notice of them. 26 months ago I went LCHF, mostly following a Ketogenic lifestyle, keeping nett carbs at about 20g a day. No grains no sugars. So 4 months ago I started to rapidly gain weight…..10kg’s in 4 months to be exact. But…..all these symptoms too: heart palpitations, terrible sleep patterns, muscle loss (i still exercise the same amount I have for years), loss of libido, cold hands and feet, carpal tunnel pain in wrist, hair loss, dry skin and brittle nails. No mojo to get out and do things – possibly because of being embarrassed by weight gain, irritability, change in stool. I took myself off to the GP who just laughed at me and told me there was nothing wrong with me and that I should just exercise more and eat less…..I consume under 1500cal a day….he must be joking…….I also exercise 4-5 times a week. Anyway….Here are my test results and lab ranges. I would appreciate any advice. Thanks.

    TSH 2.8 mU/L (0.40 – 4.00)

    fT4 14 pmol/L (10-20)

    fT3 4.2 pmol/L (2.8-6.8)

    Anti-Thyroglobulin Ab 15 U/mL (<60)

    Anti-Throid Peroxidase Ab <15 U/mL (<60)

    Reverse T3 335 (170-450)

    • Tom Brimeyer September 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      Hi Lynn, your symptoms worsened because your diet (and potential over-exercising) are severely thyroid-suppressive. Without adequate carbs to regulate blood sugar, adrenaline rises (worsens the heart palpitations, sleep, etc.) followed by cortisol (muscle wasting caused by cortisol breaking down muscle tissue to convert into glucose), and then estrogen/prolactin (carpal tunnel, hair loss, etc.)

  33. Anne November 2, 2016 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Hi Tom,
    I’ve been on keto for 10 weeks. Have not lost any weight. Once I went through the first week of carb withdrawal, I felt great…for awhile, which is why I kept doing it. Other people were losing weight like crazy but not me, so I thought I was doing something wrong so I kept at it. Within the last month, I’ve been getting a ‘pins and needles’ sensation in my extremities, along with a gradual decrease in energy. Within the last week, I have had what I call thyroid ‘symptoms’-sluggish, foggy. Today I started eating carbs again; had some berries with my eggs and some apple slices at lunch. I am anal about my diet; everything organic, and I am constantly educating myself. So my question is this; have I ruined my thyroid levels permanently or will eating carbs again bring them back to normal? Also, because I’ve been doing keto, my fat intake is obviously higher, but I only do good fats, like Coconut oil, avocados, olive oil. It definitely helps with satiety. Can I still eat higher fat, but incorporate more carbs? All so confusing!

    • Tom Brimeyer November 14, 2016 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      Hi Anne, I wouldn’t say that you ruined your thyroid levels permanently. However, eating this way creates a perpetual thyroid-suppressive cycle that can be difficult to break. For most it’s not quite as simple as stopping their low-carb diet and re-introducing carbohydrates.

  34. ssur November 8, 2016 at 9:02 am - Reply

    witch grains and legumes good for hypothyroid ?

  35. Iwona Golojuch March 4, 2017 at 11:41 am - Reply

    I also have a question about the coffee. Is it not interfering with fertility? I’m in my ealry 30’s and every doctor recommends to stop drinking coffee if I’m thinking about getting pregnant soon. Thanks again!

    • Tom Brimeyer March 9, 2017 at 10:55 am - Reply

      It can if used improperly… i.e. large amounts are consumed (often black) without adequate sugar/carbohydrate to protect fetal growth. When used correctly, it’s very protective.

  36. Iwona Golojuch March 9, 2017 at 10:18 am - Reply

    One last thing 🙂 If i use a coconut milk (with no guar or any other gums of course) that doesn’t contain calcium, like cow milk for example, do I have to consume addition calcium? Supplements?
    I started your meal plan and I have to say I feel brand new, now buying your book! Thank you so much

  37. Iwona Golojuch March 9, 2017 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    This is truly illuminating! thank you for your answers.
    I used to fear sugar a lot, also because media says how much is dangerous and that it causes cancer, but it really gave me a lot of energy in as little as 2 days of sticking to your meal plan. Also with the low carb diets my body fat was reduces so I hope with switching to the regular carbs intake I won’t gain it again.
    How can I get the customized meal plan?
    thank you again

  38. Jennifer April 4, 2017 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    I had my thyroid eradicated in 2008. I am dependent on synthroid. Considering I am without a thyroid at all, does your theory still apply?

  39. Mary April 6, 2017 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for all of your information. I have been diagnosed with hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue. Before I found you someone told me to do the orange juice and after 2 weeks I feel it helping me. I am wondering if there is a way to shrink a goiter? I only have half of my thyroid due to a goiter and dont want to lose the other half since they have now found another one. After 2 biopsies they cant get a reading if its cancerous.


    • Tom Brimeyer April 6, 2017 at 1:55 pm - Reply

      Yes, it’s possible to shrink a goiter but the process is a bit complex to discuss over a blog comment.

  40. Michelle July 3, 2017 at 4:59 am - Reply

    Hi Tom. Very interesting read and I like that finally someone is adjusting the low carb diet. I have a question for you. I did low carb about 10 years and exercised a lot. Now since two years I eat a lot of complex carbs and also reduced my exercise regime. However, I just got my blood tests back and my thyroid is quit low (just at the edge of hypothyroidism). I got prescribed euthyrox, but I am not sure, that my thyroid gland is really the issue.
    Do you have any insights on long term effects of low carb diets on liver? I also suffer from estrogene dominance, where I got a progesterone creme prescribed. No doctor believes my symptoms and they all say everything is just fine. But I am super lethargic all the time and have big sugar cravings as well as super dry skin.

    Thanks for any insights.

  41. Debbie November 27, 2017 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    I have been on a Ketogenic diet since May 2017 and have lost a nice amount of weight and felt great for the first few months. My sister and husband joined in on the diet and have both lost MUCH more weight than I have and still seem to feel great too. The weight loss has slowed a lot and my overall hypothyroid symptoms have returned completely. My TSH levels have been going higher from 3.56 in 5/17 which is at the higher end of normal to 4.55 in 8/17 and then the latest at 6.76 in 10/17. I also am taking VIT D because it is low as well and a regular daily vitamin. The thyroid doctor I went to is the one who suggested this diet to me. I have concerns that maybe it is not working well regarding my thyroid. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Tom Brimeyer November 28, 2017 at 8:04 am - Reply

      Hi Debbie, you’re experiencing the very thing we are warning about in this article. A ketogenic diet is very thyroid-suppressive.

  42. Dante November 28, 2017 at 1:52 am - Reply

    If I have intestinal Candida and hypothyroidism caused by chronic stress along with an overall imbalance, what should I do? I started eating low carb and I have a huge improvement of my gut and a reduction of Candida. However my TSH skyrocketed from 5 to 9. Now I’m eating moreover carbs and although I feel better as for my hypothyroid symptoms, candida is going back. I don’t know what else to do at this point.

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