I often get asked what carbs are best for those with Hashimoto’s. And this question comes up often because many women link carbs with weight gain. They notice that they’ve put on weight and desperately want to lose it. Especially belly fat.
One of the many things they try in order to lose weight is ditching carbohydrates. But is that the right answer?
Learning why you feel that your body doesn’t like carbs is an important part of putting Hashimoto’s into remission. After reading this blog, you’ll finally understand why you feel that your body is rebelling against them and discover how to heal your body by enjoying low glycemic carbs instead of ditching them all.
Let’s start with talking about what carbohydrates are. They are the primary source of energy for the body. In fact, your brain and your red blood cells need carbs to function properly.
Every time you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into a single sugar molecule called glucose. All carbs go through this process. It doesn’t matter if it’s oatmeal, a sweet potato, a Snicker’s bar, or highly processed white bread…they all break down to glucose.
The problem is with the speed in which they break down. We’ll chat more on this later.
This glucose signals the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin attaches to cell receptors on fat tissue, muscle tissue, and the liver to open a gate. Once that gate is open, glucose can go into the cell to make energy.
If you don’t need energy at that moment, that glucose is sent to the liver to be stored for periods of high energy needs. Like…
- fasting overnight
- working out
- outrunning a lion
If your energy stores are full, the liver then shoots this glucose back into the bloodstream in the form of triglycerides. Triglycerides are stored in fat tissue usually around the midsection.
When you cut out all carbs or greatly reduce carbs, you feel like you’re losing weight. This is because you’re tapping into those full stores and using that excess fat to burn as energy. But it’s not about cutting carbs. Because when you cut carbs, your body feels starved. The brain fog ramps up. The fatigue doubles. And you just feel like crap overall. Because…we need carbs.
The goal is to change the types of carbs you tend to eat. Because insulin resistance can cause weight gain. More on this later.
How Insulin Resistance Develops
How your body breaks down carbs and releases insulin happens every time you eat carbs. Again, it makes no difference which type of carbs. Some carbs go through this process much faster than others.
The more glucose in the blood, the more insulin is released. And the more the process happens, the more activation of the immune system happens creating more inflammation. And inflammation is a big reason for the development of Hashimoto’s. But also something you need to focus on to put Hashimoto’s into remission.
Because this process creates inflammation, the body releases more cortisol to reduce inflammation. All that cortisol has to be metabolized through the liver. Not to mention the storage of all that excess glucose.
All that excess cortisol and toll on the liver creates fatty liver. It also plays a role in insulin resistance as well. And the constant process of releasing insulin due to high blood sugar creates insulin resistance.
TLDR: stress, fast burning carbs, and lack of physical exercise creates insulin resistance. Now, think about all sources of stress - food sensitivities, lack of sleep, emotional stress, etc.
Thyroid Function and Insulin Resistance
Now, the thyroid can play a role in insulin resistance as well. Since you have Hashimoto’s, you’ve already got high cortisol and inflammation happening. Let’s throw another wrench into the mix.
There is some correlation between low T3 levels and the development of insulin resistance. What I find interesting is they tested antibodies but didn’t disclose their role in insulin resistance.
The study found that when T3 levels were altered, insulin resistance was high. They even found this happened when T3 levels were within normal limits but were reaching subclinical hypothyroid ranges.
Balancing your thyroid is a great way to help tick off one box when working to heal insulin resistance. You can balance your thyroid in 2 ways…
- Work to put your Hashimoto’s into remission, and
- Focusing on the nutrients your thyroid needs to help boost T4 to T3 conversion
How to Heal Insulin Resistance
Alright…the question of the hour…how to heal insulin resistance.
This is a multi step process and all steps must be completed. Otherwise, success won’t happen.
- Work to ID your food triggers. If you’re a part of my Hashimoto’s Jumpstart program or my 12-week group coaching program, you know this is a major step in healing your body overall.
- Focus on healthy carbs and not no carbs. Remember, we need carbs and removing them doesn’t fix the issue. Healthy carbs are low glycemic index carbs. These are carbs that contain lots of fiber like whole grains, sweet potatoes, and beans. This study actually shows that by focusing on high fiber carbs, you can reverse insulin resistance.
- Add in strength training. When your insulin function is haywire and those cell receptors aren’t responding to insulin, strength training can open the gates to allow glucose into the cells. This is a great work around while you focus on healing the body.
- Heal the gut! This is a HUGE piece that so many people miss.
- Work to manage stress. Remember, elevated cortisol levels just make it all worse. And, can be a primary cause of insulin resistance.
- Reframe your thoughts around food! Instead of thinking of carbs as good or bad. Think of carbs as good, better, or best. Actually, you can do this with all foods! When you put certain foods in the bad category, instantly you want more of them. If you can take those foods out of the bad category, your cravings for them decrease. And they lose the power to create guilt for you. Because that guilt creates stress. And that stress creates more cortisol release. All leading to more insulin resistance.
As with everything else, start with one thing at a time. I know that healing and weight loss are 2 primary goals of most people with Hashimoto’s. But you didn’t develop Hashimoto’s overnight. And you’re not going to put it in remission overnight either. The same goes for weight. Focus on the end goal versus the immediate concern.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding as to why you feel like your body doesn’t like carbs. And I hope you’re heading in a different direction than ditching them altogether. Because, remember, you need carbs!
The first step is to focus on putting your Hashimoto’s into remission. If you’re doing that, you’re working towards healing insulin resistance as well. If you’re not sure where to go, grab my free remission checklist below to get you on the right track towards Hashimoto’s remission.