Stopping (Bad) Sugar: A Basic Start for Thyroid Health

On my journey to heal my body and gain control of my Hashimoto’s disease, I’ve really taken to dissecting my food and breaking down what’s in it so I know exactly what/how much I’m eating. If you wonder if that little dessert after dinner is going to hurt, check this out:

The innocent little dessert (from a famous restaurant I will not name) pictured above has a whopping:

  • 1,380 calories
  • 92 grams of fat
  • 696 milligrams of sodium
  • 126 grams of carbs
  • 85 grams of sugar

It’s no wonder we feel so bloated, shaky and sick after eating these over-processes sweets! During my own research, I’ve learned a lot from different medical sources about the connections and correlations between refined sugar and thyroid health, namely that eating sweets is one of the worst things you can do if you want to be healthy.

The key to helping manage Hashimoto’s is to balance your blood sugar. Blood sugar plays an important role for our health in that when levels are constantly fluctuating your body interprets it as chronic stress. I’ve already talked a little bit about chronic stress and adrenal fatigue in my post “Fighting Fatigue: An Uphill Battle“, but I thought I would elaborate a bit more to clarify some points.

When I talk about chronic stress, I’m not talking about the kind you face at work when the phone won’t stop ringing or when the kids are screaming and you’re stuck on a 4-hour car trip (though that sucks, too.) When a body stays in a certain state for a prolonged period of time, it is considered “chronic.” So for instance, you have low blood sugar because your breakfast was a sugary bowl of cereal – now you’re feeling shaky, weak, fatigued, and really hangry (hungry + angry). Your body is telling you to grab as many sweet things as possible and eat them quickly. Your body isn’t wrong, per se — it’s just trying to balance itself out. Due to the large intake of sugar for breakfast your pancreas has had to release a large volume of insulin to help combat the sugar in your bloodstream. So you grab more sweets and carbs which causes the blood sugar to spike which again causes the pancreas to release more insulin and now you’re stuck on a terrible roller coaster that just leaves you exhausted, sick, anxious, and shaking.

This is the circle that must be broken if you ever want to move forward and begin healing your body from the inside out. Those of us with autoimmune disorders, especially concerning hypothyroidism, are much more predisposed to developing diabetes because of this. Our body’s cells repair themselves with what we supply them — we literally are what we eat. You want to make sure that you’re a solid and fortified body full of proper nutrients, not a shaky sugary jelly donut.

Have you ever experienced:

  • Sugar cravings
  • Brain Fog
  • Nervousness/irritability
  • Wanting more food to get rid of fatigue
  • Absolutely MUST have dessert after meals
  • Cold extremities

These are just a few of the symptoms of low blood sugar/hypoglycemia. Constantly going through low blood sugar is not fun — and the damaging effects can compound illnesses you may already be experiencing or increasing symptoms you already have (notice how several of the symptoms of low blood sugar are the same as Hashimoto’s?) We need to balance our blood sugar so that we can stop the blood sugar spiking — this will in turn help reduce adrenal fatigue which will again in turn reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol . And reducing cortisol is key in helping lower inflammation, losing weight, as well as reducing fatigue and controlling mood swings.

I know that it’s going to be hard — I still struggle with it EVERY DAY. My office keeps open bowls of M&M’s and lots of bite size candy right in front of my face at the front desk. It’s so difficult and I’m not going to lie to you and say that I can always turn it down. There are some days where it is very stressful at the office and without being able to control myself, I get a handful of peanut M&M’s and chow down. At the very least, I can say it’s just one handful, no more than about 12-15 pieces and this isn’t an everyday thing – I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’ve consciously made the decision that I was going to eat this bad thing, I ate it, I enjoyed it, and now I’m going to move on and tell myself that I will find new and better ways to handle these situations.

The trick here is that the above scenario doesn’t happen every day. You cannot have a “cheat day” every day. You will have to cultivate a strong level of self-discipline to deal with your cravings, especially in the first two weeks. A few of my personal tricks to help avoid these sugars are:

  • Fruit — I love peaches, but you can pick your own favorite. The natural sugars in whole fruit help fight off cravings by providing sweetness and the longer you’re off processed sugars, the sweeter real food will become! Try to limit your fruit to just 2-3 pieces a day. I like to have an apple at lunch and a peach after dinner.
  • Water – drink lots of water during the day. It’s so true what they say, a lot of the time, when you’re hungry, you can satiate yourself with a big glass of fresh water. Avoid juices because they’re just pure sugar and heavily caffeinated beverages like coffee as caffeine dehydrates you even more.
  • Take a walk – if you can get our on your lunch hour and go for a 20-30 minute walk everyday, do it! You’ll feel much better after sitting at a desk. Plus, the endorphins released help combat fatigue and depression and the distraction of the walk means you may eat fewer calories during your noontime meal.
  • Find alternatives – the industry has gotten very good about creating very good substitutes. They make sugar-free chocolate chips now that taste just like the real thing! If you’re absolutely craving something and cannot put it off with fruit or exercise, make yourself a small paleo microwavable mug cake. But be warned, do not let these become an everyday occurrence, either. Some have just as many chemicals and are as highly processed as the real thing. We are trying to wean ourselves off of these types of things, so making too many of these is trading one bad thing for another.
  • Distraction with a hobby – I have found that if I can keep my hands and brain busy in the evenings, I am much less inclined to eat out of boredom and boredom eating is when I crave junk food. The TV is a huge no-no for us in our household. We do not have cable and I do not miss it at all. The commercials inspire you to constantly eat by always showing new foods and sweets. Stay away from your TV for a few days and see if you notice a big difference. Crochet became my go-to hobby for the evenings. It keeps my busy by counting stitches, it gives me almost instant gratification by creating lots of smaller, beautiful products and it keeps my hands busy working with the yarn.

It’s true what they say — it really does take about 2 weeks to break a habit. And if you fall off the wagon and end up indulging in sweets, which is SO easy to do especially around the holidays, you’re going to have to almost pick right back up from the very beginning. This is going to be a tough battle, but do not be discouraged! All of your sacrifice and hard work is going to pay off in the end and the way you will feel going off of refined sugar is going to make the biggest difference in the world.

Best of luck!


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