Friday, February 5, 2016


Well, DUH.  Any diet can, if it's effective enough to make you, ya know, like, LOSE WEIGHT.

The accusation which one has heard a lot through the years by people who hate LC is that it "destroys" the thyroid.  One particularly virulent hater, who actually had good luck with it before the mating-call of the wild truffle lured her back to orthodoxy, not only claimed her thyroid was fried but accused LC of bringing on premature menopause.  GOK what she must have been doing, to upset her hormones that much!  But she wasn't alone -- the gym-rats also chimed in agreement:  "the thyroid NEEEEEDS carbs," they scream.  "Just look at my lab test!"  Those guys must spend half their disposable income getting blood drawn and analyzed.

The ironic thing is that in replacement of the classic Atkins regimen, the people under discussion advocate the very thing GUARANTEED to wreck your metabolism:  that tired old ELMM routine, which Dr. Fung excoriates HERE.

Repeat after me:  anything that makes the body fear starvation is going to lower metabolism to preserve body-resources including fat.  The means of doing so are via the thyroid;  increasing rT3 is a mechanism the body uses to MAKE you feel tired so you won't waste fuel or dilute your healing-energy.  We heal while we rest and sleep, and surgery-patients need to concentrate their bodies' resources on reknitting tissues and fighting infections -- that's why their thyroid levels dip.  If your body thinks that starvation is imminent, it's going to let your hands and feet get cold, rather than squander precious resources just so you'll be comfortable.

Of course, this does NOT mean your thyroid is "destroyed" -- not even close.

The bro's point to their lab-test numbers, but don't experience classic hypothyroidism SYMPTOMS.  The LC dieters -- AND ELMM dieters -- wave their chilly fingers in your face, but feed them ONE sufficient-energy meal and they're all-of-a-sudden warm and cozy again.  You can believe me on this:  i know my hypo symptoms, and they're not only exceptionally diverse, but also brought on by lots of different causes.

I know i've said it a myriad of times, but it won't hurt to point out just once more:  lower T3 in a low-carber is not hypothyroidism -- it doesn't coexist with higher TSH, and if that's "normal" the body doesn't perceive a requirement for more T.  The body requires active thyroid-hormone to process carbohydrates in the diet;  if they're not there, the body produces less of T3 and TSH, because it doesn't NEED as much.

Hell, I can tell a difference in my body's performance, depending on whether I've had enough sat-fat in my diet, or too much PUFA on a particular day.  The body reacts to some really "minor" stuff -- in the case of fats, it's not conversion but cell receptors.

As Dr. Rosedale is fond of pointing out, a higher baseline thyroid reading is NOT a good thing in a euthyroid individual -- it means the body is "running hot" and in danger of "burning out" sooner.  His schtick is longevity, and has made it a point to learn that centenarians tend to run on the low end of the normal range.

Dr. Donaldson, in "Strong Medicine," makes a point of discussing thyroid hormone in weight loss, debunking a popular myth:
At times thyroid extract can increase the cooking flame in the body, just as new sparkplugs may increase the efficiency of an automobile engine. It used to be thought that feeding it in small quantities might help to burn off excess body weight. With the exception of about four per cent, that happened regularly to people with the disease called exophthalmic goiter. They would usually melt away under the load of too much thyroid hormone in the blood. But it didn't work in simple obesity. Because so many thousands of fat people still uselessly take thyroid extract to lose weight, the subject needs to be more generally under stood."
Prescribing unnecessary thyroid supplements used to be a tweak for weight-loss, but it fell out of favor because it's HARMFUL.  I remember Muhammed Ali using the stuff in the course of his career.  The practice was replaced by prescribing "diet pills" -- uppers -- instead....

"Excess weight" is just another subject on which Nature and Society don't mesh.  Nature seems to favor a little bit, as being a kind of life-insurance policy, whereas our modern world looks on it as nothing but bad, ugly, and indicative of an inferior character.  Too bad:  as we age -- which is when Nature schemes to make us gain weight -- a little extra adiposity can mean the difference between surviving an illness or injury, and succumbing to it.  If we look at it in the traditionally-sentimental way, Nature wants us to put on fat in the autumn of our lives, so that in winter we can hang on just a little longer.

Many different causes are responsible for thyroid-hormone fluctuations in a perfectly-healthy individual.  We should look on them as feedback for what we're doing to ourselves, not panic and scream "this diet DESTROYED my thyroid!"


  1. I think that a thyroid hormone substitute should be given to patients based on their blood test. When TSH is too close to a high normal, too many things are off, not only weight. What if TSH is high due to a weight loss? How it would be determined? In my experience doctors never look for a reason of a hypothyroidism (mostly because it doesn't affect treatment).

    After reading diet and weight loss blogs for years, I formed an opinion that a successful weight loss is an abnormal physiological state, especially for the people who were morbidly obese, and they may be in need of a complex treatment, even hormonal therapy to stay at reasonable weight.

    1. You've got some very good points there! REAL hypothyroidism, revealed by symptoms as well as lab numbers, requires REAL treatment.

      My purpose in writing the above is about the claims that LC is particularly bad for thyroid function, whereas it's perfectly normal for ANY effective weight-loss technique to lower blood-content of thyroid hormones and produce some symptoms. LC is just more visible in this regard because weight-loss tends to be more impressive than with LF.

    2. I absolutely agree with main point of your blog post, Tess. I keep rolling my eyes up reading about thyroid being destroyed with LCarbing.
      I just wanted to add that doctors never even try to find reasons why TSH is high. What if it is abnormal for some healthy people due to a weight loss, not because of some pathological medical condition? Do you think they should be prescribed a thyroid hormone substitute?

    3. Good question.... I think -- as a non-professional! -- that one can use a re-feed meal to see if it's "starvation" which causes sluggish thyroid activity, but it WILL be confounded by leptin.

      I also suspect that one can say "it's an underlying condition" if giving a good-quality supplement which supplies both T4 and T3 first makes a person feel better then within a month they feel bad again. If giving T3 alone makes them feel better, i would tend to suspect there's an underlying problem of CONVERSION. If giving T4 alone and no improvement is seen, ditto!

      Of course, these observations of mine are on a par with other armchair-quarterback-style musings -- i haven't the ability to test my hypotheses. I can only extrapolate what i find through my own experience. I believe we call all safely say that EVERYONE'S mileage will vary!

    4. My own non-profeccional guess - people should be given T3 and T4 when TSH is too high regardless of the reason why their thyroid is underperforming. May be I am wrong. The subject is very complicated.

  2. Everyone wants somebody or something to blame. For me Hashimoto's in '97, goiter, miss-diagnosis- (only 3 months, but hellish), etc. sealed the deal. It was normal for my family- Dad had graves, grandma had thyroid cancer, great grandma had a great big goiter.

    And earlier menopause- 42-48 was also the family norm. 10-15 pounds was the only extra weight from the thyroid, I was still a solid 50-60 pounds over weight during the late 90's.

    Now in over 2-3 years of weight maintenance I'd say I'm carrying an extra 5 pounds or so as I settle into long term menopause. Good glucose control. Good thyroid levels (TSH under 3 or I feel like crap).

    And cruciferous veggies, LCHF, VLC all work great for me. People can point to what they want as causes, but at some point we all have to pick and choose how to fuel and feed ourselves that results in the best outcome.

    If they are destroyed, there is likely a genetic basis for it anyway- IMO.

    1. [nodding] The treatment HAS to be individualized! So many different things can cause the body to down-shift -- hidden infections being yet another -- it's crucially important to identify the root-cause, and treat THAT, before settling into a supplementation habit that isn't going to fluctuate wildly.

      I constantly read people's individual experiences: "i finally talked my doctor into increasing my dose, and i felt better for a little while, and then felt worse".... I believe that to be because they're forcing the body to rev up when the body has a very good reason not to. Especially where T4 is concerned -- the body simply converts it to rT3, so the patient feels T4-only supplements "aren't working." In these cases, they're working as nature intended. Their bodies feel the need to be in rest-and-heal mode, and they won't let them.

  3. I can tell my thyroid functioning has been slowly decreasing for about 4 years. Supplement with 150mg or less depending on what I plan to eat. I have tested positive for antibodies. If I have my thyroid checked without using potassium the TSH is 3.0-3.2. If I go without the supplement for over a week it rises to 3.6-4.2. Then when I go to have it checked by the physician it comes out within just a few tenths away from normal so it is considered normal. In the meantime everything is covered in hair and my eyes are swollen. Can't eat raw cruciferous vegetables because they make me fall asleep. I have other hypothyroid symptoms too that are keep tolerable as long as I supplement and eat fish or seafood 5 days a week.

    1. Very interesting -- everyone knows potassium is important, but i've never seen anyone mention its specific impact on thyroid funtion! Thanks!

  4. Should have said potassium iodide.

  5. I recently started a liquid iodide supplement myself; even though my T4 is "high normal" (on Synthroid) w/TSH semi-suppressed I still suffer from hypo-T symptoms. My endocrinologist has rolled his eyes at me for YEARS as I've complained of low energy, cold intolerance, etc - but dammit, I'm not just content to be ALIVE, I'd like to feel WELL & HIGH FUNCTIONING!
    So I'll let you know if this "hack" helps...

    1. Val, my symptoms didn't go anywhere when I supplemented only T4. My doctor in Russia told me not to supplement iodine for Hashimoto because it would put too much stress on already straggling organ. In my case only armour dessicated thyroid helped with symptoms, but it was necessary to devide the pill in half. The Armour thyroid is not a slow-release form.

    2. Val, if i may suggest a tweak, in your place i would concentrate on supplementing -- in isolation -- the nutrients which help convert 4 to 3. Make sure to get lots of magnesium, because it's used in a staggering number of enzymatic processes. Take selenium during the day, and zinc at bedtime too. Also remember that retinol is essential in the energy pathways -- some pre-formed vitamin A is crucial in the production of ATP. I also encourage extra inositol, when one is doing VLC Good luck!

    3. Thanks Tess - I'm already taking a mixed feed bag o' supplements, including Mg & Zn... Trying to get my Se from brazil nuts but will definitely add the inositol.