Looking for an all-natural way to shake off fatigue and shed stubborn pounds? Then it’s time to fire up your thyroid hormones! Turns out, “everything from a poor diet to stress and pollution can keep thyroid hormones in an inactive state,” explains Josh Axe, DNM, DC. And without lots of active thyroid hormones, metabolism tanks and the body struggles to turn calories and stored fat into energy.
Luckily, Dr. Axe has a simple hack to reverse the problem: A low-carb diet loaded with special hormone-revving fiber. Whether your prescription thyroid meds aren’t helping enough or you just want to melt fat faster, “you should start seeing and feeling results quickly,” says the functional medicine expert, co-founder of Ancient Nutrition and bestselling author of Ancient Remedies and The Keto Diet. Even thyroid patients using his basic strategy report shedding up to 10 pounds a week!
How does a thyroid-specific keto diet work?
Dr. Axe says a keto diet built around natural foods is a great place to start for thyroid health. Why? You cut carbs until your body can’t make enough blood sugar to use as fuel, “so your system begins turning excess fat into ketones. They become your new fuel,” the doc explains. Fat burns about 900 percent faster.
The thyroid benefit: As blood sugar comes down, so do levels of insulin. Excess insulin actually drives down levels of thyroid hormone, per South American research, while lowering insulin keeps levels high. For maximum benefits, just be sure to avoid the number one thyroid-stalling mistake keto dieters make.
Why does keto stall?
When thyroid hormones are first released, they’re like birthday presents that arrive uncharged and without batteries. They must be powered up to work. “About 80 percent of thyroid-hormone activation happens in the liver, and the other 20 percent happens in the gut,” Dr. Axe explains.
The problem: Keto dieters (and the rest of us!) tend to skimp on fiber-rich fare, depriving the liver and gut of compounds they need to activate thyroid hormones efficiently. The result? Inactive hormones hang around doing nothing. “This can cause symptoms of low thyroid function, such as easy weight gain, constant tiredness, thinning hair, depression, and brain fog, even if tests say your thyroid levels are normal.” Turns out, standard tests only measure inactive hormone. Luckily, there’s an easy solution, and it’s one that’s been around since cave people walked the Earth.
What kinds of fiber should you eat?
While using a keto plan, Dr. Axe urges you to include five to seven daily servings of high-fiber foods — especially options rich in inulin. He explains that inulin is a type of “prebiotic” fiber that feeds bacteria in our digestive tract crucial to gut and liver function. Research shows inulin can almost instantly make our livers and guts better at activating thyroid hormones. In several studies, inulin’s big metabolic jumpstart caused folks to shed significant weight without trying!
“All low-sugar fruit and non-starchy veggies contain inulin or similar prebiotic fiber and are good choices,” notes Dr. Axe. The top options: Asparagus, cauliflower, onions, and greens. Probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and sauerkraut are another proven way to bolster good bacteria and thus boost thyroid hormone activation.
Bonus: Beneficial bacteria also help improve cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation and much more. Layering those advantages on top of the slimming power of a keto diet and improved thyroid function “means you can truly transform your body and your health!”
What results can you expect?
With nine kids and five grandchildren, Kendra Bates is used to being tired — but as her thyroid stalled, “the fatigue was so bad, I’d sneak to my car for naps,” recalls the Georgia nursing director. Despite thyroid meds, she was exhausted, and her weight stuck at 220 pounds.
Then she found Facebook’s Grandma Keto Kitchen group and was intrigued by their whole-foods approach. Soon, she began filling up on low-carb options rich in prebiotic fiber like green smoothies and cauliflower-crust pizza. “I never felt deprived, my energy came back and my thyroid level is normal again,” says Kendra, down 64 pounds. “I show people my ‘before’ picture and say: ‘You should try this!’”
What does a fiber-filled, thyroid-healing keto diet look like?
To rev thyroid hormones Dr. Axe’s way, enjoy a plate of food at each meal with one-third protein, one-third fat, and one-third veggies. Favor options rich in inulin — especially asparagus, onions, greens, and cauliflower. Also good prebiotic sources: Artichoke, berries, garlic, green banana, jicama and herbs.
Have slow-thyroid symptoms listed above? Talk to your doctor; you may need meds to protect your health. Always get a doctor’s okay to try a new plan.
BREAKFAST: Blend one cup of frozen berries, one cup of nut milk, one cup of spinach, and optional one teaspoon of inulin powder.
LUNCH: Warm cooked chicken breast with marinated artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, and herbs.
SNACK: Enjoy sliced jicama and celery sticks with lime juice, chili powder, and salt to taste.
DINNER: Grill grass-fed steak and enjoy with sautéed asparagus, mushrooms, and onions.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.