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Try An Elimination Diet For Hashimoto's Disease

Identify dietary triggers to improve symptoms and antibody levels.
Try An Elimination Diet For Hashimoto's Disease

The more dietary stress you put on yourself, the more likely you are to experience inflammation that can worsen your autoimmune reactions or interfere with your thyroid function.

Dietary triggers can lead to increased gastrointestinal (GI) distress, chronic inflammation, and a possible elevation in thyroid antibodies that indicate the presence of Hashimoto's disease. Exposure to reactive food may cause symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, acid reflux, gas, or cramping in the GI tract. You may also experience respiratory, muscular, or skin symptoms.

Using an elimination diet may help to identify these dietary triggers. 

What is an elimination diet?

When we eat how we always eat, it can be hard to connect the dots between specific foods and uncomfortable symptoms. Something may be wrong, but it seems too overwhelming or confusing to pinpoint the trigger. The more you eat the problematic food, the body's ability to protect itself weakens, and the reactions become less specific, more chronic. 

An elimination diet is a short-term process that helps identify foods your body can't tolerate well to remove them from your diet. This process involves two stages: removing potential food triggers and then carefully reintroducing them into your diet to determine whether they're to blame for your reactions.

Overall, the process takes about two months. First, you eliminate antigenic foods - that is, foods that induce an immune response in the body - for a few days to a few weeks. Then, when you reintroduce the reactive food(s), the body will produce a stronger or more specific reaction to those that are particular triggers for you. This process helps identify which food or foods may be problematic. 

An elimination diet, when done correctly, requires planning and monitoring by a professional.

How does an elimination diet work?

The most common antigenic foods are gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, nuts, shellfish, and preservatives. For the first three weeks of this diet, you should eat a diet free of these reactive foods. You can eat gluten-free grains, except those made of corn. 

After three weeks, introduce these foods back into your diet one by one. Start with nuts, and follow with corn, eggs, soy, dairy, and then gluten. Allow three days between each reintroduction.

Keep a journal to identify which foods cause which symptoms. For instance, perhaps dairy causes joint pain, or eggs cause gas and bloating. This log helps locate your dietary triggers.  

Some symptoms to watch for include:

  • Rashes and skin changes
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in breathing
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain or cramps
  • Changes in bowel habits

It may take a few days to see a reaction from a particular food. However, if after a few days, no symptoms appear, you can assume that the food group is safe to eat and move onto the next group. 

If you experience adverse symptoms, you can assume this is a trigger food and remove it from your diet. 

What you can't eat on an elimination diet

As mentioned, an elimination diet involves removing grains, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, nuts, shellfish, and preservatives. You may also try to eliminate or limit other possible food culprits like nightshades, caffeine, alcohol, legumes, citrus fruits, fructose, grains, and potatoes. The more foods comprehensive your list of foods to eliminate, the more likely you are to discover the primary offenders. 

Foods you should cut out on the elimination diet: 

  • Gluten
  • Dairy products
  • Beans/legumes - including all beans like kidney, pinto, black, and soy in all its forms
  • Eggs
  • Grains - including corn, wheat, millet, buckwheat, rice, sorghum, amaranth, rye, spelt, teff, kamut, and oats
  • Nuts - including nut oils like walnut and sesame seed oils
  • Seeds - including flax, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and culinary herb seeds like cumin and coriander
  • Shellfish
  • Gums - like guar gum, tara gum, gellan gum, gum arabic
  • Dried or citrus fruits
  • Nightshade vegetables - including tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, paprika, and mustard seeds
  • Culinary herbs from seeds - including mustard, cumin, coriander, fennel, cardamom, fenugreek, caraway, nutmeg, and dill seed
  • Alternative sweeteners - like xylitol, stevia, mannitol
  • Caffeine, alcohol, chocolate

Of course, you want to work with your doctor to make sure you still get enough nutrients and eat a balanced diet. 

What you can eat on an elimination diet

So far, this elimination process may sound very restrictive or daunting. Fear not! There is still enough variety to make healthy, balanced, and delicious meals.

Foods you can include on the elimination diet: 

  • Meat and fish - try lamb, wild game, cold-water fish like salmon, and highly nutritious liver meats
  • Most vegetables - excluding nightshades
  • Most fruits - excluding citrus fruits; limit to 15-20 grams fructose/day
  • Coconut products including coconut oil, manna, creamed coconut, coconut aminos, canned coconut milk (no coconut sugar or nectar)
  • Fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, cultured ghee
  • Fermented foods like coconut yogurt, kombucha, kefir, fermented vegetables
  • Bone and meat broths
  • Vinegars like apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic (no added sugar)
  • Occasional and sparse use of honey and maple syrup
  • Load up on fresh and non-seed herbs like basil, tarragon, thyme, mint, oregano, rosemary, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon

List of foods that are and are not allowed on the elimination diet

List of ingredients to look for one nutrition labels during elimination diet

Try experimenting with new recipes and meals during this phase! Plenty of resources out there like these recipes that are elimination diet-friendly.

Risks of an elimination diet

If followed for too long, an elimination diet can reduce the intake of essential nutrients needed for general health and thyroid health. An elimination diet should only be followed for a short time, between one to two months. Any longer than this and this diet could cause nutrient deficiencies, which can worsen symptoms or prevent thyroid medication from doing its job. 

If you have a known or suspected allergy, you should be under the supervision of a trusted professional while you go through the elimination process. 

Difference between food sensitivity and food allergy

Food intolerance is very different from a food allergy. Different parts of the immune system regulate the two. 

An allergy causes an immune system reaction that may affect several organs in the body. An allergic reaction typically shows up right away and could be severe or life-threatening. 

A food intolerance, on the other hand, is generally less dangerous, though it may cause uncomfortable symptoms. An intolerance can take longer to emerge after you've been eating a type of food for a continued time. 

Immunoglobulins are proteins that are produced by the immune system in response to a perceived threat. The body makes different immunoglobulins to combat different antigens.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is associated with allergic responses. When an allergic person exposes to an allergen, the body produces IgE specially targeted against that allergen. These antibodies bind to white blood cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. 

Immunoglobulin A (IgA) has high concentrations in the body's mucous membranes, specifically the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. When you eat a food to which you have an intolerance, IgA causes irritation or inflammation in the respiratory and digestive systems. These foods, then, may cause IBS, gas nausea, skin rashes or acne, asthma, or headache.

Next steps with thyroid specialist

If you experience no change in your symptoms during the elimination phase, this may mean that the foods you removed are not the primary cause of your symptoms. Alternatively, if you find relief during the elimination phase, and then notice reactions or symptoms during the reintroduction phase, you'll know to remove that food or foods from your diet. In either case, take this information to your thyroid specialist to develop a plan that addresses that food or foods impact on your thyroid function.

A note from Paloma Health

Many nutritional factors play a role in optimizing thyroid function. Paloma Health offers you the opportunity to work with a nutritionist in collaboration with a physician to determine nutritional status for optimal thyroid health.

Is Paloma Right For Me?

Hypothyroidism is a long-term commitment and we’re committed to you. Schedule a free, no-obligation phone consultation with one of our intake specialists to find out more.

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