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Can the Carnivore Diet Help Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s?

Is the meat- and protein-heavy “carnivore diet” good for people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s?
Can the Carnivore Diet Help Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s?
Last updated:
1/8/2024
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The carnivore diet involves consuming only animal products and excluding all other foods, including fruits and vegetables. Fans of the diet claim benefits such as weight loss, improved mood, and blood sugar regulation, but it is also associated with various health risks, and no formal research has studied the diet. Ahead, a look at some of the pros and cons of the carnivore diet for people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism

What is the carnivore diet?

In recent years, the carnivore diet has gained popularity as a unique and controversial approach to nutrition. The carnivore diet is a highly restrictive diet that involves consuming only animal-based products, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, while eliminating all plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Proponents of this diet believe that humans are biologically designed to consume and thrive on a predominantly meat-based diet, as our ancestors did in the prehistoric era.

The recommended foods to eat on the carnivore diet include beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, fish (such as salmon, sardines, and tuna), eggs, and small amounts of low-lactose dairy products like butter, heavy cream, and hard cheese. Organ meats, bone marrow, and lard are also allowed. The diet strictly excludes fruits, vegetables, high-lactose dairy, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, alcohol, coffee, tea, and juices.

One of the claimed benefits of the carnivore diet is weight loss. By eliminating carbohydrates and sugars from the diet, the body is forced to rely on stored fat for energy, resulting in fat loss. Additionally, some individuals report improved mental clarity, reduced inflammation, and increased muscle mass due to this diet.

However, critics argue that the lack of plant-based foods in the carnivore diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Fruits and vegetables are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, gut health, and overall well-being. Studies have shown that long-term adherence to a meat-based diet may increase the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and other chronic health conditions.





What are the benefits of the carnivore diet for people with hypothyroidism? 

Hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones, can be influenced by your dietary choices. When you’re hypothyroid, a meat- and protein-heavy diet can have some potential benefits.  

  • The high amount of protein in the carnivore diet plays a critical role in converting the thyroid hormone T4 to its active form, T3. This conversion is essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism and your overall thyroid function.
  • Red meat is an excellent source of iron, zinc, and selenium, nutrients essential for thyroid hormone production and proper function.
  • Grass-fed beef, in particular, contains higher amounts of Vitamin A and other antioxidants, which are needed to activate thyroid hormone receptors and can also reduce inflammation. 
  • Some amino acids in meat proteins are essential for thyroid function and must be obtained through diet. A protein-rich diet ensures that individuals with hypothyroidism receive these necessary amino acids.
  • Protein helps build and maintain muscle mass, which is vital for people with hypothyroidism as they often struggle with a slower metabolism. Increased muscle mass can help boost metabolic rate.
  • Protein can increase satiety and help manage hunger, which is beneficial for weight control. This is particularly important for hypothyroid patients who may experience weight gain due to a slowed metabolism.

A note about Hashimoto’s: Some fans of the carnivore diet claim that it can help improve thyroid function in the context of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It’s important to note that there is currently only anecdotal evidence to support this claim, and no clinical studies have been conducted to confirm its effectiveness. While some people with Hashimoto’s have reported relief from symptoms and improved weight loss on the carnivore diet, it is not a widely recommended or scientifically supported approach. 

What are the downsides of the carnivore diet for people with hypothyroidism?

Despite the potential benefits, a meat-heavy diet like the carnivore diet has some potential risks for individuals with hypothyroidism. 

  • Certain foods, like fatty meats, may interfere with the production of thyroid hormones. 
  • Fats may also interfere with the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones, and some healthcare professionals recommend reducing the intake of fatty cuts of meat. 
  • Research shows that processed meats, often high in sodium and other unhealthy additives, can make the thyroid gland work harder and potentially lead to problems.
  • Research has also demonstrated that a diet high in red meat and low in carbohydrates could negatively impact thyroid hormone levels.
  • A diet too heavy in protein may also lead to nutritional imbalances, where other essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals are not consumed in adequate amounts. This can affect overall health and may not support optimal thyroid function.

Eating a diet heavy on meat, especially red and processed meats, can lead to other adverse side effects and health risks

  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers:  Regularly consuming red and processed meats has been linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, especially colorectal cancer.
  • Digestive issues due to lack of fiber: A meat-heavy diet may lead to poor digestion, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea due to the lack of fiber, which is important for digestion and overall health, especially for thyroid patients.
  • Dehydration: The high protein content in a meat-rich diet can lead to dehydration, as the body needs more water to process the protein and eliminate waste products.
  • Fatigue and meat sweats: Eating too much meat can cause fatigue, especially after large meals, and lead to the phenomenon known as “meat sweats, which involves excessive sweating some people experience after eating a protein-rich meat-based meal. 
  • Increased health risks associated with meat consumption: Epidemiological studies have shown evidence of adverse effects of meat consumption, including cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

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A note from Paloma

There’s no specific “best diet” for people with hypothyroidism. Your nutritional needs are unique and depend on your health situation and goals. Some thyroid patients thrive on an autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, which reduces inflammation. Others feel their best with a gluten-free or plant-based diet or find that Paleo or keto approaches are most effective. 

Like other highly restrictive diets, the carnivore diet is controversial. While some people with hypothyroidism may find success and improved health outcomes on this diet, it is not suitable for everyone. It is crucial to listen to your body, monitor your health biomarkers, and make informed decisions about your dietary choices. Before embarking on such a restrictive diet, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare professional – and, ideally, a nutritional expert -- to ensure that your nutritional needs are met and that your health – and thyroid function – won’t be negatively affected.

Specifically, consider scheduling a consultation with one of Paloma Health’s nutritionists, who can help you develop a personalized and customized eating plan to support your thyroid health and take into account your health challenges. You’ll get curated meal plans, recipes, and nutritional guidance tailored to your needs. Paloma’s nutritionists work in collaboration with our physicians to determine the nutritional status to ensure your optimal thyroid function. They emphasize the importance of eating whole, unprocessed foods, lean protein, and nutrient-rich foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean meats to support thyroid health. Additionally, they can help identify and address your unique sensitivities and triggers and provide recommendations for a thyroid-friendly diet, taking into account the specific dietary needs of individuals with hypothyroidism. Paloma Health’s nutritionists also offer consultations to review food journals and provide ongoing support to help you follow your eating plan and optimize your thyroid health.

References:

Landsverk G. What eating too much meat can do to your body, from dehydration to the “meat sweats.” Insider. https://www.insider.com/what-eating-too-much-meat-does-health-side-effects-2020-3

Pałkowska-Goździk E, Lachowicz K, Rosołowska-Huszcz D. Effects of Dietary Protein on Thyroid Axis Activity. Nutrients. 2017 Dec 22;10(1):5. doi: 10.3390/nu10010005. PMID: 29271877; PMCID: PMC5793233. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793233/

Ihnatowicz P, Wątor P, Gębski J, Frąckiewicz J, Drywień ME. Are Nutritional Patterns among Polish Hashimoto Thyroiditis Patients Differentiated Internally and Related to Ailments and Other Diseases? Nutrients. 2021 Oct 20;13(11):3675. doi: 10.3390/nu13113675. PMID: 34835930; PMCID: PMC8624404. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8624404/

Kaličanin D, Brčić L, Ljubetić K, et al. Differences in food consumption between patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and healthy individuals. Scientific Reports. 2020;10(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-67719-7 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-67719-7

Bellastella G, Scappaticcio L, Caiazzo F, Tomasuolo M, Carotenuto R, Caputo M, Arena S, Caruso P, Maiorino MI, Esposito K. Mediterranean Diet and Thyroid: An Interesting Alliance. Nutrients. 2022 Oct 4;14(19):4130. doi: 10.3390/nu14194130. PMID: 36235782; PMCID: PMC9571437. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9571437/

Duntas LH. Nutrition and thyroid disease. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2023 Dec 1;30(6):324-329. doi: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000831. Epub 2023 Aug 13. PMID: 37578378. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37578378/

Feng X, Chen L, Zhuang S, et al. A novel function of lamb and pork: Different effects of lamb and pork consumption on thyroid hormone levels and energy metabolism of Sprague–Dawley rats. Food Research International. 2014;58:124-131. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2013.12.026 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996913006807

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Mary Shomon

Patient Advocate

Mary Shomon is an internationally-recognized writer, award-winning patient advocate, health coach, and activist, and the New York Times bestselling author of 15 books on health and wellness, including the Thyroid Diet Revolution and Living Well With Hypothyroidism. On social media, Mary empowers and informs a community of more than a quarter million patients who have thyroid and hormonal health challenges.

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