Is it possible to recover from hypothyroidism?

Before and after

Before and after

Is it possible to recover from hypothyroidism? Most people on thyroid hormone treatment need to continue this for the rest of their lives.

Here’s a story about an exception named Julia:

The Email

Hi Andreas,

I just want to let you know that I’ve recovered from hypothyroidism since starting LCHF.

I started to eat LCHF in August last year and had lost 44 lbs (20 kg) by the end of the year. After this I started to phase out my Levothyroxine medication and am now free from medication and my labs are just keep getting better and better (I draw blood every six weeks).

I hope this can inspire and give others hope, as I know that there are many people out there struggling with both hypothyroidism and obesity!

Sincerely,

Julia

Commentary

Congratulations, Julia!

This is not a common story in my experience. Most people who are treated with Levothyroxine medication (thyroid hormone) and start an LCHF diet still need to take their medication. Some may indeed need to reduce their dose considerably, but others may even have to increase it. And many stay on approximately the same dose.

But there are always exceptions.

In Julia’s case, it’s possible that the substantial weight loss contributed to a reduction in the amount of hormone needed. Perhaps the body’s own production is enough.

Or she may have had an inflammation in her thyroid, which healed after she started eating LCHF. Perhaps the diet change contributed, but it’s difficult to know for sure.

Question:

Are you on thyroid medication for hypothyroidism? Have you started an LCHF diet after being diagnosed? What happened?


Feel free to share your experience in more detail in the comments below.

More

LCHF for Beginners

How to Lose Weight

Get Your Hormones Checked and Lose Weight

More weight and health stories

New Study: Is Today’s Wheat Bad for You?

PS

Do you have a success story you want to share on this blog? Send it (photos appreciated) to andreas@dietdoctor.com, and please let me know if it’s OK to publish your photo and name or if you’d rather remain anonymous.

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70 comments

  1. Sofia
    Hi there,

    A question that I hope you'll be able to have some advice for... What might be wrong if you've previously lost a lot of weight with LCHF, and then suddenly you start gaining again despite eating the same sort of food as before?

    I lost 20 kg over two years with LCHF. Now I've gained more than half again without changing my habits (maybe being more strict now than before). Measured my THC hormones which turned out OK. Read your blog post about hormones and can't see myself in the other described conditions. Thought it might have been related to stress, but I sleep well and do not feel stressed out anymore, but still gain weight. What is going on?!?!?!?!?

    Reply: #8
  2. tess
    the more carbs you EAT the more thyroid hormone you need to produce to metabolize them. i've been "curing" my hypothyroidism with diet and supplements for a few years now, and i'm making progress too.
  3. DonnaE
    I was able to decrease my thyroid medication but I always thought it had more to do with giving up grains--including a daily dose of wheat germ. The reason I think this is that I also had a quite dramatic improvement in my condition of basal thumb arthritis. After reading a lot about wheat germ, I am completely convinced it was doing major damage to my health, including perhaps my thyroid. I will never know until there is more research on the effects of wheat germ.
  4. julianne
    Hashimotos is strongly linked to celiac disease. When some people stop eating grains - their anti-bodies reduce and their thyroid starts to heal. Stabilising blood sugar and treating insulin resistance is helped with low carb. But the auto-immune component is helped by paleo auto-immune diet food choices.
  5. Galina L.
    I didn't get cured from an under-active thyroid(Hashimodo) since starting a LC diet at 2007, but I don't need to slowly increase the strength of my prescription which was the case before.
  6. Molly
    I have Hasimotos and I have been able to halve my dosage of thyroid hormone. Its really important to wean yourself off really slowly and keep getting your bloods checked !

    Interstingly, there was this same conversation over on the Reddit Keto forum, and a number of people wrote in saying that they had started having thyroid problems since starting Keto.

    Its hard to say though, as eating cruciferous vegetables, soy protein shakes, or not getting enough calories will bring your thyroid function down, so there may be confounding factors at work here.....

    Reply: #7
  7. Galina L.
    Many people mistaken the reaction of their body on a weight-loss (regardless of a diet type) with thyroid problems. Human body resents loosing fat and there are several mechanisms of a counter-action, and reducing activity of their thyroid is one of them, and yes, they feel sluggish and cold.
  8. Des
    Hi Sofia,

    Your issue is extremely common in the low carb community. While initially going low carb can lead to fast weight loss, over time, it may come to a screeching halt (as you've noticed). The body gets stressed when sufficient carbohydrates are not eaten. In fact, going too low with carbs could damage the thyroid. It sounds like you need to incorporate a modest amount of safe starches in your diet. I strongly suggest you follow Paul Jaminet's Perfect Health Diet. His method of eating has cured me from obsessing over food, I'm leaner than ever and I still get to eat my white rice, potatoes and fruit. This is not a high carb diet, just an adequate carb lifestyle. My friends can't believe how lean I am with all the heavy, nutrient-dense, satisfyingly rich meals I eat. Very low carb made me a bit sleepy and a bit heavy in the gut after doing it for too long. I always felt like something was missing from my diet and craved more sugar than ever. It's not meant to be a full time thing. Especially if you're active.

    http://perfecthealthdiet.com/

    All the best,

    Des

    Replies: #9, #11
  9. murray
    I have no criticism of Jaminet's diet. However, I don't think there is any need for so-called safe starches. Judging from the comments of practitioners in this excellent panel discussion (including Jaminet), these issues might depend on how gradually one introduces LCHF.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyvlWUQAkxM
    Published on Dec 30, 2012
    Safe Starches: Are they Essential to an Ancestral Diet?

    The shift from hi-carb plainly involves upregulating and down-regulating many pathways and a change that is too abrupt might result in maladaptive "attractor states" in the dynamics. Dr. Shanahan, for example, counsels gradual conversion and she reports no issues with thyroid in any of her patients. Dr. Peter Attia is also good on managing long-term LCHF and high activity.

    I have been low carb for over a decade and very low carb for over 5 years with none of the problems you report, so plainly there are metabolic nuances to be discovered.

  10. Paul the rat
    Reply: #31
  11. Sofia
    I have never felt bad on a low carb diet though. And I have been on this sort of diet for many years now. I experienced a halt at around 70 kg and started counting calories. Lost another 6 and was satisfied. Then I started gaining, and not only those last 6 kg, but another 10. And I am still gaining. So - not halt. Gain! Tried to add more carbs, less carbs, do intermittent fasting, count calories again and nothing works. Now I'll do a one week challenge of close to 0 carbs a day and see what happens. Adding resistant starches for the sake of my body in the form of potato starch though.

    Looked around a lot and I can't see anyone else experiencing this :(

    Reply: #13
  12. PatrickP
    Sofia, do you exercise a lot? If so, try taking a break for a week and see what happens.
  13. tony
    Speaking of LCHF diet, more often than not I feel "full" after only one meal. Is it required that we eat three square meals even if you are not hungry?

    Thanks!

  14. Lori Miller
    A few ideas for troubleshooting:

    1. Hidden carbs. The ingredients in the foods you're eating might have changed. You can use Diastix to test for hidden carbs (look up Diastix and Bernstein). Also, get a blood glucose meter if you don't have one and check your blood glucose levels just before meals and one and two hours later. Dr. William Davis advises keeping post-meal blood sugars below 100.

    2. Dairy. Some dairy products are insulinogenic.

    3. Medications and supplements. Some medications (cortisone is one) raise blood sugar and can cause weight gain. There are supplements (including herbs) that lower blood sugar; if you take any supplements, see if the formula has changed.

    4. If you check these things and you're sure they're not the cause of your weight gain, I'd suggest seeing an endocrinologist.

  15. Tina
    Hi Tony, and anyone else who is not hungry in between meals,

    I had the same problem. As I started to eat LCHF, I was not hungry in the mornings anymore so I started to eat only lunch and dinner. But sometimes I was not so hungry even at lunch time, so I had only a snack in the afternoon and then, after my workout, I ate HUGE dinner. Actually, this dinner covered the whole daily caloric intake. Yet I was still loosing weight.

    I was curious about the topic so I did a little research. I found out that this is actually how many people eat. Undereating during the day and controlled overeating in the evening. I experienced that when I don't eat during the day, I can focus for long periods of time (which is very useful for me as a student :)

    If you are interested in this, I strongly recommend you the book Caveman Principles. The author himself is on LCHF and eating only dinners for more than two years now. In his book he explains how to become a 21st century caveman by implementing to your lifestyle three modes - fast mode, beast mode and feast mode. If you are interested, check this book out, it helped me a lot (and still is helping, I already lost 8 kg and the weight is still going down :)

    http://cavemanprinciples.com/?hop=tinka210

  16. Marcy
    Sofia, I think a lot of women have the same problem you describe. I lost all my weight about 15 years ago with LCHF. Then came hormonal issues from ageing, I am now 63 years old. I kept eating less and less LCHF food and still the weight started creeping up. I went to a woman doctor who specializes in weight loss. She hooked me up to a bunch of machines and determined that my metabolism, due to age and other factors like genetics, at this stage of my life was so slow-- in other words I was burning so few calories that just to maintain I could only eat 1,300 calories per day. Even she admitted that was not a lot and I should, essentially, be content with a few extra pounds at my age. I don't know if this information pertains to you age-wise, but just thought I would throw in my 2 cents worth here.
    Reply: #51
  17. Whatever
    The Old Atkins Forum is Full of Stories of People Putting their Hashimotos into remission at less than 20 Carbs a day. Check it out.
  18. Sofia
    Thanks for all the advice! I think next thing to try is checking my supplements, maybe buy something to measure ketones and endocrinology sounds interesting. Tried to talk to a doctor but he suggested a dietitian which I almost laughed at. I live in Australia and the low carb diets haven't really gotten here yet so it's hard to find someone to discuss it with.
  19. Kat
    Marcy,

    Do you exercise at all?

  20. Marcy
    I do walking/jogging DVD's a couple times a week, use hand weights a few days a week, use my recumbant bike a couple times a week. What I do mostly is housework, vacuuming, etc--I am a clean freak and have 3 dogs and a cat that keep me on my feet and bending and moving most of the day every day.
  21. kristin
    I have come to the conclusion that weight loss is more complicated for some than others. Some can just eat paleo and the weight falls off. Some eat LCHF, and the weight just falls off. For others not so simple. I personally believe there are various factors that interfere with weightloss, digestive issues, parasites, hormone issues, low stomach acid, allergy foods, Lepton resistance etc. Get the diet in place first, as long as it's whole non processed foods, and definitely lchf if at risk of diabetes. Then it's that's in place, but weight loss isn't happening, and digestion isn't all it should be, look further. There's a lot of interesting info out there, GAPs diet, SCD diet, Digestive Health with Real Food book. You can eat all the best foods in the world, but if there is something interfering with your digestive system, sometimes we aren't absorbing our food properly, this can interfere with our ability to lose weight.
  22. kat
    Marcy,

    That sounds like a pretty active life! Good for you - and I do appreciate a good clean freak!!

    I wonder what would happen if you started lifting heavy weights. In her 50's my mother became a test subject in a weight lifting study performed at a major research university. They wanted to see what would happen to various subjects if they started lifting heavy weights.

    My mother was a lifelong competitive swimmer but she was also very overweight (by nearly 100 pounds at one point - and that's despite the killer cardio workouts).

    What happened to her during the study was extraordinary. She shrank! By that I mean she shed an enormous amount of fat and lost three dress sizes. The only thing she changed was that she started lifting heavy weights three days per week. There were other benefits, of course. She's a little older than you now and she's still lifting. Her workout isn't complicated oR long, but it keeps her incredibly fit - even as she severely reduced her swimming and running schedule.

    I don't know what the results of the study were and I don't know if this information is helpful, but maybe those who have not yet tried this might find some success lifting heavy weights.

  23. Marcy
    Kat, thanks for the information about your mom and the good results from using heavy weights. I think this is certainly something I can try. I have some heavier weights that I will start using tonight. I hope I get half the good results your mother got! Again, thanks.
  24. Caylee
    A new study finds a 3% higher intake of animal protein was associated with a 15% higher risk of bladder cancer where as a 2% increase of plant protein was associated with a 23% lower risk! Keep chewing down you're greasy bacon and eggs people :(
    Replies: #27, #29, #30, #55
  25. Paul the rat
    Thanks Caylee. We are all stupid here and we do need your guidance.
    Can I have some ice-cream please, can I, can I, please ?
  26. Sophie
    Caylee,

    A study led by the University of the Internet shows that a 5% increase in unreferenced studies claiming random findings was associated with a 90% increased in being mocked on this forum.

  27. François
    I am answering that idiotic comment not to feed the troll but rather for the sake of new people reading this blog and clarify the issue.

    I'll be citing here T Colin Campbell himself (citation out of Denise Minger's blog, Raw Food SOS, a great blog by the way)...

    Essentially, plant protein seem to protect against cancer because they are incomplete protein, lacking essential amino acids. As soon as these amino acids are added to the diet (and they must), this supposed advantage disappears.

    Specifically: legumes lack tryptophane and methionine - grains lack lysine, isoleucine and threonine, nuts and seeds lack lysine and isoleucine. So sure, you may get somewhat of a protection from cancer by eating only one type of plant protein - but you will have growth issues and a number of very significant problems because of this lack of essential amino acids. If you eat complete plant proteins by combining plant types, you lose this advantage. Completely.

    From Mr China study "plant proteins are so great, animal proteins are evil" himself (:In his 2009 response to a critique by Joseph Mercola):

    "The adverse effects of animal protein, as illustrated in our laboratory by the effects of casein, are related to their amino acid composition. … There have been many different kinds of studies for well over a half century showing that the nutritional responses of different proteins are attributed to their differing amino acid compositions. … These differences in nutritional response disappear when any limiting amino acids are restored.

    Wheat protein, unlike casein for example, did not stimulate cancer development but when its limiting amino acid, lysine, was restored, it acted just like casein. There have been literally thousands of studies going back many decades showing a similar effect on body growth and other events associated with body growth—all resulting from differences in amino acid composition of different proteins."

    High complete protein (of whatever source) may indeed stimulate IGF-1 (less than carbs, but still), thus stimulating every cell's growth, including cancer cells. But this is not what this diet is about: it is a LOW carb, MODERATE protein and HIGH fat., for MINIMAL stimulation of IGF-1.

    And by the way, thank you Paul for all the great references to complete articles!

  28. Murray
    Thanks, Paul. This is useful, as always, although not easy to follow in the details. The more primordial role of insulin suggests that pushing insulin levels to regulate transient blood glucose may distort the more primordial homeostasis. This becomes even more interesting in light of Cynthia Kenyon's work on partially knocking out insulin sensitivity of cells and how this slows down signs of aging and increases lifespan in nematodes. Her work suggests that the more primordial function of insulin is to push metabolism, trading longevity for current growth and reproductive goals: high insulin being the grow, be aggressive and reproduce mode, low insulin being the repair, conserve and chill out mode. One begins to see the metabolic advantages of reducing insulin expression as one gets beyond the grow and reproduce stage. Perhaps as we seem seasonally adapted for occasion blood sugar surges with fruit in season, there may be stage of life variations in adaptive insulin levels.
  29. Kat
    I'm finding impossible to take seriously anyone who doesn't know the difference between "you're" and "your".

    Marcy, you're welcome. I do hope that helps. My mother's program was designed by the researchers, so it was pretty comprehensive and she was taught how to lift. If you aren't getting the results you want you might consider consulting a good trainer just to show you how to do it. Time and/or financial constraints may not always allow all of us to indulge in regular training sessions. If nothing else, with lifting heavy weights a few times a week you won't be frail as you get older :)!!!

    Reply: #35
  30. LeonRover
    It is possible to recover from any condition except

    Death & Taxes.

    Sláinte

  31. 1 comment removed
  32. Rita
    Kat! I love it! It's like you're reading my mind - first, we are in complete agreement about the importance of weight training. Body by Science provides an excellent, science-based explanation for using weight-lifting to improve body composition and overall health. Second, the whole "your" "you're" thing is a dead give-away for a questionable thinker.
  33. Lisa
    How about a candida issue, even if on lchf, can there still be a touch of candida lingering? Can some fermented foods assist?
    Reply: #37
  34. Paul the rat
    @ Lisa

    Coconut oil and goat milk (I use goat butter rather than cow butter for consumption) are rich in capric, caprylic and lauric acids. These acids suppress growth of C. albicans.

    Med Mycol J. 2012;53(4):255-61.

    [Inhibition of Candida mycelia growth by a medium chain fatty acids, capric acid in vitro and its therapeutic efficacy in murine oral candidiasis].

    [Article in Japanese]
    Takahashi M1, Inoue S, Hayama K, Ninomiya K, Abe S.
    Author information

    Abstract
    We assessed anti-C. albicans activities of the 4 fatty acids : caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid and lauric acid in vitro. All four inhibited not only the mycelial but also the yeast-form growth of Candida albicans. In particular, capric acid and caprylic acid inhibited Candida mycelia growth at very low concentrations. The effects of treatment of these two fatty acids on oral candidiasis were examined using a murine model. When 50 µl of capric acid (more than 48.8 µM) was administered three times into the oral cavity of Candida-infected mice, symptom scores of tongues of the mice were significantly improved. Histological studies of the capric acid-treated animals indicated that the fatty acid suppressed mycelial growth of the fungus on the tongue surface. These results suggest that all four fatty acids, and especially capric acid, have potential as substances supporting anti-Candida treatment.

  35. Richard
    I've been a type 1 diabetic since I was ten months old. I was always told to just dose for my food. That was one hell of a plan for failure. It took me until I was 25 to find low carb/high fat. I lost 50+ pounds, a few inches off my waist, a couple shirt sizes, a majority of my insulin needs, and completely got off my levothyroxine as well. I am in the mid-high of the normal range on TSH and other hormones now. It is indeed quite possible for lifestyle changes to allow enough healing that your body can do it's thing.
  36. Carolyn
    I have been autoimmune hypothyroid for 11 years and on 240mg of Armour thyroid now. I started a ketogenic diet a few months ago. I haven't lost a lot of weight yet. Perhaps I should try taking the dairy out of my plan and incorporate weight training. I haven't done the fasting type diet because my job is very physically demanding.So, I have kept my meals at 3 small meals. I do use my elliptical and with lchf, I am able to reduce my cardio to several HIT minutes a day to keep blood sugar in check and then do water exercise in my pool. On a high carb diet before I had to do long gruelling session s on elliptical just to maintain. So lchf has benefited me and I will not give up. Also this is gross but I had gotten a fungus on one of my big toes form being AI when a pedicurist put my feet in cold water and nothing would cure it even Lamasil prescribed. But now on lchf plus coconut oil the nail is almost completely cured and is unnoticeable .Plus my skin and my brain thrives on lchf.
    I appreciate anyones input.
    Reply: #49
  37. Carolyn
    I didnt mean to report my own comment. I was trying to review my edit when I accidentally hit that report icon.
  38. Qui
    I am on Thyroxine due to total thyroidectomy 18 months ago for Follicular Carcinoma.
    TSH is supposed to be kept suppressed. When I last saw specialist in Oct 2014, my levels were FT4 18.9 (range 9.8-18.8 pmol/L), TSH 0.033 (range 0.30-4.00mU/L). As I was feeling fine and had no symptoms of being hyper, I was advised it was ok to stay on current dose which was 200mcg x 3 days, and 150mcg x 4 days, but to advise if I started having hyper symptoms.
    End of Mar 2015, I had a new test, with T4 being 21.7 and TSH 0.009. Was advised to reduce dose to 150mcg per day, every day. Retested end of May 2015 and T4 had increased to 24.7 and TSH was 0.011. Dose has again been reduced and now taking 100mcg per day, and will have a new test in July. I have not had symptoms of being hyper. I started LCHF start of January 2015. Could it be possible that it is the reduction in carbs that has caused my body to need less Thyroxine? I am surprised that T4 had gone up with the reduction in dose, and have been searching "Dr Google" to find an explanation. By the way, my cholesterol has reduced and is fine, and I have lost 6kgs.
    Reply: #52
  39. Debbie
    When I gave up grains/gluten, I was able to stop thyroid medications.
  40. LOUISA
    Sofia - i see this is an old post but thought I would let you know you are not alone - I lost weight on LCHF only to gain it back eating the exact same way! Now I was not very overweight to start with but I had problems - IR, PCOS, hypoglycemia which is why I went LCHF. I don't know why I regained - my thyroid tested ok but the tests here are terribly basic. Eventually I gave up - I hope you find some answers!
    Reply: #45
  41. Apicius
    A couple of thoughts for you Louisa...
    Are you sure carbs did not creep in? Sometimes people don't realize this.
    Another issue is insulin dynamics in your body. Have you looked at fasting protocols as described by Dr Fung on this website? Fasting can improve insulin sensitivity and metabolism. Good luck.
  42. LOUISA
    yes I never tried fasting it is true. It always seemed like starving yourself for however long every day was not a good idea to me - maybe I am wrong about that. I always just ate to appetite - it was odd that I lost all my weight and then regained - I for sure didn't have IR once I lost the weight as I was quite lean and not hungry much. I was always very strict with carbs - I ate meat, fats, some dairy, LC veggies and a few nuts. I dropped the nuts and nothing happened. I dropped dairy completely for over a year and again no change - maybe a bit less water retention. I wish this phenomenon of regain without changing diet would be recognized a bit more - seems like I am not the only one. Having said all that I could be obese right now if I'd never found out about LC and also whole food gluten free diets. But I think there is a lot more to physiology then just getting the carbs out - long term anyway, for some of us.
    Reply: #47
  43. Apicius
    For me, intermittent fasting helped reset my metabolism and insulin control (ie blood sugar regulation). After a lifetime of following asinine advice from "experts", like eating low fat diet and counting calories, it really screwed up my body. My metabolism got really out of whack. Using Dr Fung's fasting protocols, in conjunction with LCHF, helped bring me back to normal. The beauty of LCHF is that it suppresses my hunger that I really don't miss food during the fasting durations. It's amazing! In the past, on a low fat diet, I'd be wanting to eat my arm within a few hours of no food.
  44. Vivien Harris
    Carolyn I also find my nails are very much improved after eating lchf. I used to have very soft weak nails but since going lchf they grow quickly and are very strong. I also find I dont' catch the viruses my kids have anymore (they are sick but I am not) which is rather good. My kids are eating partly lchf but finding it hard to find an alternative to the sandwich for school lunchs but also notice their nails are growing faster or are harder lasting longer (if that makes sense). As to the authors post I find I naturally lead into fasting plus lchf. Sofia has your waist and bust size increased with this weight gain? I ask because my weight is unchanged for 4 months on lchf but I am shrinking noticeable in that people ask how much weight I have lost and I tell them nothing in last 3 months but I can wear a skirt now I could not do up 3 months ago.
  45. Vivien Harris
    Carolyn I have found my nails are amazing after being lchf. So long and hard versus soft and breaking all the time which was all my life. And my kids are partially on lchf and I see the same thing with them harder longer nails. They still eat sandwichs so not completely grain free but its hard in tropical climate to find an alternative that can cope with such high temps.
  46. Kathy Rogers
    One of the things that helped relieve my hypothyroidism wan to increase my protein consumption.
    Protein transports thyroid hormone to all your tissues. Eating a bit of protein with every meal can help normalize thyroid function.
    You can get protein from nut and nut butters, quinoa, legumes, and hormone and antibiotic-free animal products.
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