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How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: Think Fatty, Not Faddy

Post Published: 28 June 2009
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Category: How To Kick Your Thyroid's Ass
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I have this theory.   It’s pretty simple; very basic in fact.   It goes something like this: Mother Nature knows what the hell she’s doing.   You know — when humans change and alter something natural, it doesn’t work out too well for us.   Of course, I’m only talking about food here.   After all, it’s pretty evident, don’t you think?: just take a look at our grocery stores, as a prime example.   Just how much of the food sold in these stores would we consider “natural” “straight-from-the-ground.  Not much.   Many of the things we buy in grocery stores aren’t really food, so much as products created for consumption.   Now also consider the rows and rows and aisles and aisles of over-the-counter medication found in those same stores, for anything and everything that ails us (which, at this moment in time, happens to be quite alot).   Wouldn’t it be wise we make the correlation already?

If there’s anything that makes me more psychosomatic than the processed “food” we’re marketed as healthy and acceptable for consumption (and the subsequent never-ending products manufactured to suppress the negative side effects of such food), it’s a fad diet.   For one thing, fad diets seem so unnatural and completely foreign to anything our ancestors ate, and also, they also tend to be systems of exclusion.   “Systems of exclusion” meaning, the only focus is on what is not being consumed; ie: fat, calories, carbs, etc.   I’ll even take aim at gluten-free diets here.   Yep.   After all my insistence that gluten-free lifestyles are so important for us thyroidish/autoimmune people to consider, I have a serious problem with any eating plan whose sole focus is on omitting that one bad thing.   Just because a food does not contain high-calories, or carbohydrates, or salt, or gluten, or sugar, or meat does not automatically make it healthy or a positive choice.   That is because while we’re so busy focusing on what we are not consuming, we are not actually paying attention to the beneficial things we should be consuming for good health.

This most definitely holds true for fats.   I genuinely, wholeheartedly, and from the bottom of my cold black soul think low-fat diets are a load of bullshit and quite frankly, are making us sick. I don’t buy into it, and I’ll tell you why — in hopes you won’t buy into it either. (Though I realize this is a very unpopular opinion, so I can accept the fact that you may get all irritated with me, in which case, we’ll take it to the comment box).

Here’s the deal: since the 1980s, we’ve traded natural dietary fats for processed low-fat products which usually happen to be high in sugar, high in grains, high in refined carbohydrates, and contain synthetics and chemicals.   When you omit the fat, it has to be replaced with something for sake of taste and consistency.   Most often its substitute is some form of sugar.   If you recall from my Don’t Be Grainwashed article a few weeks back, you’ll remember that cane sugar is actually a grain, as is high fructose corn syrup — the two most widely used sweeteners in this country, which happen to be in alot of low-fat foods.   Grains skyrocket blood sugar, and, conversely, fats stabilize blood sugar.   Consistently uneven blood sugar can cause insulin resistance and eventually, perhaps, diabetes.   Compared to the year 1960, when Americans got nearly 45% of their calories from fats and when the type 2 diabetes rate was at 1% and obesity affected 13% of the population, today, Americans take in only about 33% of our calories from fats and we have an 8% diabetes rate with a 34% obesity rate.   Also, remember that thyroid disease and diabetes are both diseases of the endocrine system and intimately related, which alone is cause enough to not eat low-fat packaged goods.   But of course, there’s more.

Aside from the nasty things fats are replaced with in processed goods, the fact is that the body itself requires fats for proper functioning.   Our nerves, brain, joints, heart, hair and skin all require fats in order to function and thrive.   We even need fats in order for our body to process and absorb certain vitamins and minerals — those that are considered fat-soluble. The problem, really, is that few people are differentiating between “good” fats and “bad” fats.   Lumping all fats into the same category and calling us to reduce their intake collectively is like saying there is only one kind of thyroid disease and completely negating the many many kinds and varieties that deserve proper recognition and treatment.   So let’s differentiate: unsaturated fats are good.   Under the unsaturated fat umbrella are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, both of which, of course, are good.   Also, under polyunsaturated fats are Omega 3s, which are good too.   Sources of unsaturated fats include nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, sesame seeds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds), oils (flaxseed, olive, corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, walnut), and cold-water wild-caught fish (see the resources below for more information on fish choices).

Good fats like the mono- and polyunsaturated kind are known to improve cholesterol levels (high cholesterol is a hallmark of thyroid disease), stabilize the heart’s rhythm (a big deal for us thyroid peeps with the uncontrollable palpitations), ease inflammation (hello autoimmune disease), and it’s even been implicated in cancer prevention.   And as aforementioned, fats also give us shiny and healthy hair and nails, and they can help to lubricate the joints (which is good news for many thyroid/autoimmune patients who have stiff joints or pain; I know I did). ,  Those reasons alone are enough to add the good kind of fats to our diet.

Now here’s where it gets really interesting.   Some fats that are naturally in fruits and vegetables are actually known to stimulate thyroid function for those of us who are hypothyroid; specifically avocados and coconut oil.   Though I can’t say anyone has a monopoly on the exact amount of these foods needed to be consumed everyday to help stimulate the thyroid, I think it’s worth mentioning because adding them to any diet is healthy simply for their fat content.   Though, conversely, for hyper ladies and gents, limiting your daily intake of such foods is important so that you don’t over-stimulate the gland.

Coconut oil deserves its own little explanation because it’s a bit controversial.   Coconut oil is a fat yes.   It is also said to stimulate thyroid function (which also can equal weight loss).   However, this fat is considered a saturated fat — the bad kind — and therefore many health practitioners call for us to limit our intake.   Recently, however, researchers have started taking a second look at saturated fats, and have found that not all saturated fats are created equal.   Specifically, when it comes to plant-based saturated fats, evidence is mounting that they may actually be beneficial to our health, much the way unsaturated fats are. And also, coconut oil has amazing antibacterial properties, which, if you remember, speaks to the first installment of How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: This is Not (Necessarily) About Vaginas.

Oh you people know I could go on forever about this stuff, and really, there is so much more we need to know.   So please make the most of the resources I’ve laid out for you below to jumpstart your own research and come to your own conclusion about natural, plant-based dietary fats.

Until Next Week,

Love Always,

Liz

Resources:

Have a question, comment, story, love letter, or rant/rave to send me?: Liz@DearThyroid.com

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7 Responses to “How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: Think Fatty, Not Faddy”

  1. Alexia says:

    I use coconut oil.. unrefined..raw..

  2. Marie says:

    The eighties fad of fat phobia always had me a little confused. I was a teenager and worried about my weight and so I obsessively counted calories and fat grams. But what didn’t make sense to me was that I never felt satiated when I ate low fat and fat free and in fact, I noticed that I was actually eating more often and thinking about food constantly. But I trusted the “experts” and eventually began to suffer from symptoms hypoglycemia and later on a myriad of other problems.

    So I don’t really blame my thyroid for any of this, I blame fanatical health experts extolling these so called inalienable truths to a gullible public (including myself!) so disenfranchised from the needs of our own bodies that we rely on these “truths” for direction in our own lives. Lesson learned, damage done…

    Or is it? The past few years I have been slowly and painstakingly undoing the indoctrination of my teen years and the subsequent and extensive damage done to my poor endocrine system, my body and as an extension of this, the direction my life has taken. In this process I have come to deeply trust my instincts and follow my gut (metaphorically and literally) as it tells me exactly what I need to know about what I should and should not be eating.

    In the end, the inkling I had as a teenager has become my all consuming truth. All of your articles humorously articulate in an accessible manner what I have had to learn on my own through years of trial and error. Thanks for putting it out there like this. I have been forwarding your stuff to my friends and family saying, “see? I told you! I’m not the only one who has figured this stuff out!”

    Most of my family and friends still see my strict food rules as ridiculous limitations, but I see them as my ticket to freedom on that long and arduous road towards reclaiming my body.

    I’m so glad to see the roots of autoimmune disease and hypo/hyper-thyroidism being discussed because (as most of us have probably noticed by now) the doctors that claim to be able to heal us are certainly not going to do it for us.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Cyndi Woodruff says:

    Marie,

    First, I’d like to compliment your writing! Beautiful use of words….

    I was the same way….believe it or not, I was working at an endocrinology office (as fate would have it, I am now a patient there!) and following a low fat diet. I do remember one mid-morning, I fainted at the nurses station! Of course, all 6 of the doctors I worked for came out….concerned. They checked my blood sugar and it was down in the mid 40’s.
    I was extensively lectured by the docs. None of them believed in the low fat trend or fad. They made me promise that I would change my diet. They said that I wasn’t getting enough protein, relied too much on carbs, and definitely needed more fat. I don’t even know why I was doing what I was doing!! I’m 5’5″…..at that time I weighed a whole 125lbs. Wore a size 2 or 4.
    Oy….What I wouldn’t give to be there now.

  4. Marie says:

    Thank you for the complement!

    Yeah. I was a perfect size and didn’t see that either. I did go through puberty a few years before everyone else and I mistook my new curves for being fat because I was technically bigger than all my prepubescent friends. Ugh. But even after everyone else caught up with me, I was too focused on weight loss and not health.

    Now I’d give anything to be back in those size fives, or be able to bike across town or jog three miles without stopping or any of the other stuff that didn’t seem good enough at the time but now feels a total pipe dream.

    *sigh*

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