Is a high-protein diet good for your thyroid?
Well, that’s a difficult question to answer, because it really depends on what else you’re eating with all that protein.
If you’re eating one of those high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, then I’m sorry to say, but your diet is definitely suppressing your thyroid.
Yet, even if you’re eating carbohydrates but practicing something such as “food combining”, where you can’t eat protein with fruits or starches, then you’re likely still suppressing your thyroid.
You see, eating protein and carbohydrates together is very important for proper thyroid function and I want to show you why.
How Eating Protein Alone Can Drive You Into “Thyroid Debt”
In order to maintain proper thyroid function, you have to maintain adequate blood sugar levels, which involves the important blood sugar regulating hormone, insulin.
I think the fundamental problem with many of these fad diets out there is that, when you get down to it, they don’t understand and account for how insulin actually works.
Insulin’s job in your body is to transport sugar from your bloodstream into every cell of your body so that your cells can produce energy and maintain healthy cell function.
(NOTE: Insulin resistance (diabetes) is also commonly caused by hypothyroidism as covered in this post on “Hypothyroidism and Diabetes: How to Reverse It and Why Sugar Is NOT the Problem”.)
Now, most relate insulin production directly to the consumption of carbohydrates.
You eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar rises, and insulin is produced to transport that sugar to where it is needed in your body.
Yet, few understand that protein also stimulates insulin production.
So, if you eat protein alone and stimulate insulin without carbohydrates, blood sugar is still transported to your cells, which can cause your blood sugar to drop too low.
If you eat a low-carbohydrate diet, or you regularly consume protein without carbohydrates, this can lead to chronic low blood sugar.
This has very thyroid-suppressive effects.
It’s like balancing your checkbook…
…if you keep writing checks (i.e., eating protein alone) without depositing more money (eating carbohydrates), eventually you’ll run out of money in your account (develop low blood sugar).
When your blood sugar drops, this triggers a stress response in your body, elevating the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, in order to raise your blood sugar levels back to normal.
This happens because adrenaline stimulates your liver to secrete stored sugar (glycogen) to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Yet, as a hypothyroid sufferer, your liver can’t store much glycogen, causing this system to fail.
When that fails, cortisol is then secreted to break down your muscle protein and convert that into sugar as another means to raise your blood sugar.
This is all part of a survival system designed to prevent your blood sugar from dropping dangerously low, which would eventually cause your brain to shut down and stop working.
It’s actually kind of amazing that our bodies have these survival mechanisms in place.
Yet, it’s also dangerous if your diet is needlessly triggering this life-or-death survival response, especially if you’re hypothyroid.
You see, here’s the problem with this situation.
Both adrenaline and cortisol inhibit your thyroid function by preventing your liver from converting the inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) in to the active, usable for of thyroid hormone (T3).
Glucocorticoids decrease in conversion of thyroxine into 3, 5, 3′-tri-iodothyronine by isolated rat renal tubules.
“In long-term (16 h) experiments, cortisol and dexamethasone inhibited T4 to T3 conversion by the tubules at concentrations of 1 X 10-12 mol/l and above. In addition, physiological concentrations of corticosterone (1 X 10-8 mol/l) were able to decrease T3 generation from T4.”
The effect of adrenaline pretreatment on the in vitro generation of 3,5,3′-triiodothyronine and 3,3′,5′-triiodothyronine (reverse T3) in rat liver preparation.
“The pretreatment with A [Adrenaline] led to hyperglycemia and the “low T3 syndrome”. Neogenesis of T3 from T4 in medium containing liver microsomes of P pretreated rats was 5.49 +/- 0.25 pmol of T3/mg protein/min and decreased in A pretreated rats to 3.82 +/- 0.17, 3.12 +/- 0.27 and 3.06 +/- 0.11 pmol of T3/mg of protein/min.”
Getting back to your checkbook analogy, when you have to resort to relying on adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) to maintain your blood sugar, it’s like assuming “thyroid debt”.
You keep borrowing more and more money (i.e. over-producing stress hormones), taking on tons of debt (ruining your thyroid health), until you eventually become bankrupt (your thyroid function and stress response fail).
Trust me, you don’t want to fall into “thyroid debt”.
Keep in mind that the insulin- and blood sugar- lowering effects of protein depend on the type of protein consumed.
Some sources of protein are better than others.
For example, muscle meats (the most widely consumed protein) tend to create a higher insulin response, causing a greater drop in blood sugar.
However, the amino acids in collagen protein don’t stimulate insulin, making it a great choice for replacing some of the muscle meat in your diet.
Additionally, when collagen protein is used with carbohydrate, it enhances the blood sugar regulating effects of insulin, which is one great benefit and reason why we use it with our clients.
What About Indigenous People Who Eat Little To No Carbohydrates?
We often get questions like this one, which are often very misunderstood.
Take the Inuit tribes of North America and Greenland, who live in climates where fruits and starches (plant carbohydrates) are not readily available.
Because of this, many assume that in the past they didn’t consume much, if any, carbohydrates.
Yet their diet consisted largely of raw meat, which contains significant amounts of sugar in the storage form of glycogen.
So, they actually consumed much more carbohydrate (eaten together with protein, I might add), than many people realize.
You Don’t Have to Sacrifice Your Thyroid Health – Do This Instead
A balanced diet is absolutely necessary to restore normal thyroid function.
This means that protein and carbohydrates (plus fat) should be eaten together so that your body has a steady supply of all the nutrients it needs to support your thyroid function and maintain good health.
Neglecting your diet or relying on thyroid-suppressive dietary advice can easily counteract other positive things you might be doing to help your thyroid.
If you want a quick and easy way to start boosting your thyroid health, rather than suppressing it, then download our 3 Food Triple Thyroid-Boosting Daily Protocol right now.
It’s a super simple protocol we start all of our clients on.
It will show you three thyroid-boosting foods, that, when used together as regular part of your diet, will help give your thyroid the boost it needs, so you can start feeling more like your real self again.
You can get all the details about this triple-thyroid-boosting protocol right here.