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The Most Important Thing You May Not Know about Hypothyroidism

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Reviewed by Christina Graham, MSN, APRN, AGPCNP-BC

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This article is part of a special report on Thyroid Disorders. To see a comprehensive eBook on thyroid health, click here.

An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of these people are unaware of their condition. One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. The number of people suffering from thyroid disorders continues to rise each year. (1)

Hypothyroidism is one of the most common thyroid disorders. It’s estimated that nearly 5 percent of Americans age 12 and up have hypothyroidism. (2) It is characterized by mental slowing, depression, dementia, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, cold intolerance, hoarse voice, irregular menstruation, infertility, muscle stiffness and pain, and a wide range of other not-so-fun symptoms.

Every cell in the body has receptors for thyroid hormone. These hormones are responsible for the most basic aspects of body function, impacting all major systems of the body.

Thyroid hormone directly acts on the brain, the G.I. tract, the cardiovascular system, bone metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, gall bladder and liver function, steroid hormone production, glucose metabolism, lipid and cholesterol metabolism, protein metabolism and body temperature regulation. For starters.

You can think of the thyroid as the central gear in a sophisticated engine. If that gear breaks, the entire engine goes down with it.

That’s why people with hypothyroidism experience everything from weight gain and depression to infertility, bone fractures and hair loss.

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One of the biggest challenges facing those with hypothyroidism is that the standard of care for thyroid disorders in both conventional and alternative medicine is hopelessly inadequate.

The dream of patients with thyroid disorders and the practitioners who treat them is to find that single substance that will magically reverse the course of the disease. For doctors, this is either synthetic or bio-identical thyroid hormone. For the alternative types, this is iodine.

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases neither approach is effective. Patients may get relief for a short period of time, but inevitably symptoms return or the disease progresses.

So what’s the problem? Why have replacement hormones and supplemental iodine been such dismal failures?

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Because Hypothyroidism Is Caused by an Autoimmune Disease

Studies show that 90 percent of people with hypothyroidism are producing antibodies to thyroid tissue. (3) This causes the immune system to attack and destroy the thyroid, which over time causes a decline in thyroid hormone levels.

This autoimmune form of hypothyroidism is called Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is the most common autoimmune disorder in the United States. (4) While not all people with Hashimoto’s have hypothyroid symptoms, thyroid antibodies have been found to be a marker for future thyroid disease.

Most doctors know hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease. But most patients don’t. The reason doctors don’t tell their patients is simple: it doesn’t affect their treatment plan.

Conventional medicine doesn’t have effective treatments for autoimmunity. They use steroids and other medications to suppress the immune system in certain conditions with more potentially damaging effects, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

But in the case of Hashimoto’s, the consequences—i.e. side effects and complications—of using immunosuppressive drugs are believed to outweigh the potential benefits. (Thanks to conventional medicine for a relative moment of sanity here.)

So the standard of care for a Hashimoto’s patient is to simply wait until the immune system has destroyed enough thyroid tissue to classify them as hypothyroid, and then give them thyroid hormone replacement. If they start to exhibit other symptoms commonly associated with their condition, like depression or insulin resistance, they’ll get additional drugs for those problems.

The obvious shortcoming of this approach is that it doesn’t address the underlying cause of the problem, which is the immune system attacking the thyroid gland. And if the underlying cause isn’t addressed, the treatment isn’t going to work very well—or for very long.

If you’re in a leaky rowboat, bailing water will only get you so far. If you want to stop the boat from sinking, you’ve got to plug the leaks.

Extending this metaphor to Hashimoto’s disease, thyroid hormones are like bailing water. They may be a necessary part of the treatment. But unless the immune dysregulation is addressed (plugging the leaks), whoever is in that boat will be fighting a losing battle to keep it from sinking.

What the vast majority of hypothyroidism patients need to understand is that they don’t have a problem with their thyroid, they have a problem with their immune system attacking the thyroid. This is crucial to understand, because when the immune system is out of control, it’s not only the thyroid that will be affected.

Hashimoto’s often manifests as a “polyendocrine autoimmune pattern.” This means that in addition to having antibodies to thyroid tissue, it’s not uncommon for Hashimoto’s patients to have antibodies to other tissues or enzymes as well. The most common are transglutaminase (Celiac disease), the cerebellum (neurological disorders), intrinsic factor (pernicious anemia), glutamic acid decarboxylase (anxiety/panic attacks and late onset type 1 diabetes).

For more on how to balance the immune system and treat Hashimoto’s, check out this article.

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655 Comments

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  1. I would be curious to know if autoimmune thyroid issues could be a secondary result of other autoimmune conditions. I have had severe rheumatoid arthritis since I was 16 (28 years) and in the last couple of years have had rapid weight gain, extreme menstrual irregularities, and hair loss. According to my doctors, my thyroid is normal. Yet, nothing else seems to account for all of these symptoms.
    I get the brush off when I try to press for more in-depth diagnosis. The GYN blames my medication, the rheumatologist blames my diet (low-carb and < 1000 calories per day), the thyroid specialist found a nodule on the thyroid, but says everything else is normal and since the node has shrunk over the past year, everything is fine.
    Why is it so hard to get anyone to pay attention? I’m hardly a hypochondriac. Having a chronic condition has left me very in tune with my body, so I know when things are minor and can be ignored and also when they’re just not right. It seems like the doctors’ eyes start to glaze over the minute I mention hair loss and weight gain. So frustrating…
     

    • The short answer is yes. Hashimoto’s is often part of a polyendocrine immune disorder involving multiple tissues. The same is true for other autoimmune conditions. The way to figure it out would be to find a health care practitioner willing to test for antibodies to other tissues commonly attacked by antibodies. Also, as I’ll explain in a future article, many people with autoimmune diseases are gluten intolerant. If you’re not already gluten free, I would highly recommend it.

      • From what I’ve read on some sites, sometimes a low-carb diet mimics starvation and then the body goes into hibernation mode to slow down metabolism. It does that by converting some T4 into Reverse T3 intead of T3. It is possible to have Reverse T3 measured in some laboratories. I think for us here in New Zealand, we have to send our blood samples to Australia. We can do this via the internet, thank goodness.

  2. The idea that bio-identical thyroid products like Armour have unreliable doses is a myth. Armour has a standardized dose of 4.22:1 T4:T3.  It has been tested and confirmed over and over again.

    In fact, as you may be aware, Synthroid was pulled from the market because of unreliable doses and was only re-approved in 2004 I believe.

    • I absolutely agree…..I have taken synthroid for 37 years and I have taken perscriptions back after a week because my body told me that it was inferior. Then the pharmacist told me that I had been given a generic form and that I would have to pay more for the snythroid. Imagine…they made the choice to fill out my prescription with generic without even notifying me……I have heard that this goes on more often than not….

  3. One thing about natural thyroid, according to the doctors, is that the dose is unreliable. Then an odd thing happened. The local pharmacy used to give me enough synthroid  for three months, but then they discovered that it was degrading on the shelf. That is, the old stuff wasn’t as powerful as the new. All of which leads me to think that the synthroid dose is also unreliable.  I really like that thrytrophin. It comes from a company called Standard Process. My dentist gets it for me,

  4. I’ve had hypothyroidism for fifty five years, treated with Synthroid. I’ve never been diagnosed with Hashimotos. I don’t think I’ve ever been tested for antibodies. My lab results over the past three years have been 0.01 TSH, free T4 1.39, free T3 2.1. The T4 and T3 have varied a little, but normal. So my endocrinologist is letting me stay on the Synthroid 137 mcg, until I show signs of hyperthyroidism. I went through four doctors trying to find one that wouldn’t lower my Synthroid dosage. I can’t tolerate a lower dosage, I tried about four years ago. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a doctor in this area who will try natural thyroid.  

    One doctor told me I’ve been on synthetic hormones for so long, that I no longer produce any thyroid hormones at all. About six years ago, I was on 150 mcg, and I felt best on that dosage. Before that, my dosage at one time was as high as 250 mcg. I guess the synthetic dampened down my ability to produce my own hormones. I wish I understood my own situation better.

  5. Fascinating! I am hoping you can help with a question I have that I can’t seem to find an answer too. It seems easy enough for someone with thyroid knowledge though. I am pretty sure I haven’t had an enlarged goiter, and I have high TSH, with low T4 and T3. All of the writings I have read on Hashimoto’s say goiter and low T4, with no mention of T3, nor stating that you can have Hashimoto’s without an enlarged goiter. Would Hashimoto’s be something I may have (I know you aren’t a physician, but I am just curious if an enlarged goiter and only T4 issues are a must for this autoimmune disorder), or is there another type of thyroid disorder that I may be overlooking.

    It just seems like I will have a better chance to naturally treat this issue and get off of medication if I know the cause. I am otherwise of good health and fitness aside from allergies. Thanks!

  6. Chris,
     
    I know that most recent population-based studies demonstrate that iodinization increased Hashimoto incidence, including here, in Brazil. That’s a fact. But the level of iodine in these populations are very low, compared to what it used to be, and not very long ago. And Hashimoto incidence is higher than it was when iodine level in those populations was higher.
     
    If iodine was that problematic, Japan would have a much higher incidence of Hashimoto and much worse outcome than they have. Japanese have had allways a very high level of iodine, because of high consumption of algaes, as probably many populations that consumed a diet high in sea food.
     
    The fact is that bromine, fluorine and chlorine compete with iodine. And we ALL are full of this halides these days. The fact that a little iodine increase in some populations is increasing Hashimoto incidence probably is reflecting this fact with iodine displacing these halides and increasing autoimmune flare.
     
    Other possibility is that those populations are low in selenium. As you probably know, there are studies that show that populations low in both selenium and iodine, that supplement either one show a high incidence of hypothyroidism.
     
    Another possibility is that these populations are low in salt. Salt along with iodine is know to increase halide excretion. But, nowadays many people are restricting salt.
     
    Anyway, what I really know is that Dr. Abraham has been researching this for a long time, Dr. Brownstein has sucessfully treated more than 4.000 people (including him and his father), there are many sucessfully anecdotal testemonies on iodine yahoo group and all these facts made me try iodine, with great success.
     
    One last thing, if you know a better way of get rid of halides wihout iodine and without moving to live outside of modern civilization, please let me know!
     
     

  7. Mario,

    I read the full-text of the China follow-up study Dr. Abraham linked to.  Their conclusion is that excess iodine doesn’t increase the incidence of Graves’ disease.  They didn’t say anything about whether rates of Hashimoto’s increased.

    In any event, there are several other population-based studies that demonstrate this effect, as I’ll share in my next article.

  8. Many years ago, I was diagnosed as hypothroid and prescribed Synthroid. I seemed to have an opposite reaction to the expected one. I gained weight, my hair started to fall out etc. I found a doctor who prescribed something called “thytrophin” .That seemed to work better, so I’ve been taking both for many years. (One to satisfy the doctors and one to feel better.)
    I also had a growth in my thyroid gland and 1/2 of it was removed. The growth was benign and at that point the doctor said that i had Hashimoto’s disease. Now, reading your article I’m wondering how to find out more.
    Are there treatments for autoimmune disease? Are there studies that might clarify some of these things?

    • Stay tuned. I’ll be addressing your questions in the coming articles. Have you read the second one in the series yet?

  9. I had my thyroid removed in 1968 because of thyroid cancer. for years they had me on armor thyroid, 4 mgs, or something. about twenty five years ago they changed me to synthroid. I have never felt great since the change, the doc’s do not seem to want to change me back to armor, they say synthroid is just as good or better. any thoughts about this.

    • The statement “synthroid is as good or better” than Armour reveals a shallow understanding of thyroid physiology and metabolism. For someone who has problems converting T4 to T3, Synthroid is a terrible choice because it only contains T4. For someone without any conversion problems, Armour may cause hyperthyroid symptoms because it has pre-formed T3. There is no single drug that’s right for everyone.

      There are several considerations when choosing a thyroid medication. I will cover these in detail in a future post. Please stay tuned.

      • how do you know if you have problems converting T4 to T3? All I know for sure is that my levels are low and i need the synthroid (I have had a thyroid lobectomy). Even when the tests are normal, they have to be at a certain level within the range for me to feel ok, and I occasionally start feeling the symptoms of mroe hunger/etc and ask for my med to be increased slightly, which the docs are generally willing to do as long as the levels stay within the “normal” range after they adjust the meds.

        • If your T4 levels are normal and your T3 levels are low, that indicates a conversion problem.

      • I am very interested in what you will have to say about Armour and Naturthroid. I recently found that Armour has gluten in it and so switched to Naturthroid. I willbe having followup bloodtests in n few weeks. And my hot flashes have not abated.

      • Dear Chris,

        Thank you for your article. I am especially looking forward to your post concerning thyroid meds. I am a 45 year old female who has been on Synthroid 112 mcg for 18 years due to Hashimoto’s. While it was managing my symptoms OK, I still couldn’t exercise without feeling like I had the flu for a week after. Eight months ago, my doctor changed my prescription to Armour Thyroid 45mg plus 25mcg Synthroid. While we had to adjust the dose a few times, my numbers finally read well at T3=3.6, T4=1.21 and TSH=1.3. However, in the last eight weeks, an all over itch has begun (pruritus) and my hair is falling out like crazy. He doesn’t believe I’m hyperthyroid, however, due to my numbers. Therefore, has me slated for allergy testing. I’d really like to know your take on Synthroid vs Armour!

    • Keep trying. Find a Doctor that will switch you back. I went through 2 doctors already and am now with a third. I’ll see what happens. Just remember this…it’s your body!

  10. Just received diagnosis of thyroid auto-immune disease. Longterm stress? Adrenals can no longer react properly? Throat chakra-energy centre-Yes Sara! I am not so into chakra thing but the basic background, premises I find to be good starting points: at some point, some time the person who is dis-eased has had to keep their mouth shut, their spirit shut down.
    The doctor started me on 25 mcg of thyroid. Been taking it for one month. I have found that even that little bit helped me get my energy back and stop thinking that I was losing my mind. But I know this is only a bandage. I have got to work with the stress. Diet. Coffee still tastes good but it doesn’t feel good. Habit makes me want to drink it. So now I just am going to leave it out. Even now I notice that liquorice is a no-no. Going to try it again this weekend to double check reaction.
    Everyone is so different but I think one thing we are all the same on and that is a requirement, a need to have some sort of spiritual life…whatever it is. Diet: elimination diet? I don’t think I am going to get much help from the doctors except for thyroid medicine checks so I go to diet. Leave different foods out of diet for a couple of weeks and reintroduce to see what happens. Any one with experience? advice?
    Anybody have any experience with acupuncture?
    I am glad to find this site. I want to understand better what is going on inside this body that feels like it was falling apart at the seams.

    • I’ll be addressing nutritional strategies for regulating the immune system and reducing inflammation in a future post.

  11. Studies show that 90% of people with hypothyroidism are producing antibodies to thyroid tissue.”

    So that is why in my clinic I treat all thryoid and thyroid like patients with sophisticaltd techniqui of Immunology from the Ling Shu, revealed by Dr Nguyen Van Nghi. (search <satas.be>)

  12. This is a great article thank you.  I am hypothyroid and have Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I take LDN (low dose naltrexone) to help with my RA autoimmune disease and am so glad to hear others say it helps with Hashi’s. Chris I look forward to your future articles on thyroid disease.

    • Karen,

      I don’t know whether this is your case or not – but I would like to tell you what helped me. My father had hypothyroidism – and was diagnosed with RA. He was put on steroids and they didn’t help at all. I too am hypothyroid – and about ten years ago my joints started to swell and ache. I could barely stand up straight. I was trying to lose weight and tried the Atkins diet – what surprised me was that the pain in my joints (hips, back, legs, hands…) hurt less. Long story short I finally figured out that I am intolerent to all grains – wheat, rice, corn etc. When I omit them the inflammation in my joints disappears completely. I am pain free. Occasionally, I cheat – and it takes about 3 days and the symptoms return in full force – and it takes about 3 days after stopping for the symptoms to disappear. I am firmly convinced I would be diagnosed with RA if I didn’t know… (Warning – when trying to quit – the cravings – especially to bread – are wicked). Hope this helps…

  13. It is true that the endocrine system is a very complex and if I may say, from my frame for reference, very interesting.  I also find it astounding (and maybe inaccurate) to say 9 out of 10 people with hypothyroid have the autoimmune Hashimoto’s.  This just can’t be!!  But then again, autoimmune dis-ease is so rampant in our society.
    I am an herbalist and cannot disregard that fact the most of these sufferers are women and women have myriad Throat Chakra issues….this should not be excluded.  The emotional variable to any dis-ease should never be left out of the conversation.  With that said, there is also the fact that women are most likely to wear make-up and spray perfumes all over there body, and where else…the neck!!  All these chemicals (endocrine disruptors) in the system are directly correlated to disfunction.  In addition, one cannot ignore the role adrenals play in this situation, with Syndrome X, insulin resistance etc (I know this is another topic altogether).  Diet plays such a huge role, Hashimoto’s or not.  With no antibodies, one MUST look at diet and emotional issues.  And in reading a couple of these posts, it would seem these imbalances are past onto the next generation, which tells me there is not only some learned behavior there, but endocrine system issues from the start. And finally, it’s not only the chemicals we put in and on our bodies that contribute to this, but the deplorable condition of the digestive system and the key role this plays in all our immune functions. I cannot emphasis enough that most every body is deficient in prebiotics AND probiotics and supplementation is crucial. Lastly, mineral deficiencies.  Magnesium, potassium….etc etc.  The SAD diet provides little if any minerals and even if someone eats well (which is relative) assimilation is inefficient due to the digestive flora issues, coated small intestine, and liver/kidney stress do to toxin load.

  14. Given the discussion in the comments on the efficacy of the blood type diet, I thought this recent commentary by Prof Loren Cordain.
    The History And Characterization Of Blood Type Diets

    Blood type diets were first popularized by Peter D’Adamo, a naturopathic physician, in his best selling 1996 book, Eat Right 4 Your Type1. The inspiration for Dr. D’Adamo’s book came from subjective clinical impressions of his father, James D’Adamo; also a naturopathic physician who first proposed this concept in his book, One Man’s Food is Someone Else’s Poison 16 years earlier in 19802. As a member of Bastyr College’s first graduating class of naturopathic physicians in 1982, Peter became interested in attempting to validate his father’s subjective and personal observations from reviews of the scientific and medical literature – thus the fundamental reason for Peter writing his hugely successful diet book.

    The underlying premise for Peter’s dietary ideas is that ABO blood type is the most important issue in determining healthful diets. He advocates separate diets for people with one of the four most common blood types (A, B, O or AB), and has further subdivided his dietary recommendations into three arbitrary ancestral categories: “African, Caucasian and Asian.” Hence 12 subgroups (4 blood types x 3 ancestral categories) exist – each with differing dietary recommendations. Each blood type diet includes 16 food groups which are divided into three categories: 1) highly beneficial, 2) neutral and 3) avoid. For each of the 12 subgroups differing recommendations exist for the three food categories. If these nutritional recommendations sound somewhat complex to you, I had to re-read them about a dozen times to get the drift myself. Although I don’t want to get ahead of the game, for the observant reader, you may be curious to know how Dr. D’Adamo dreamed up this complex dietary system and if a long trail of experimental human clinical trials exist to support Peter’s recommendations? I, too, had to ask myself these same questions.

    Before we get into the science or lack thereof of the blood type diet, I’ve got to flesh out a few more of the underlying concepts. Dr. D’Adamo believes that blood group O (“O for Old”) was the earliest human blood type and that all humans at one time maintained this blood group before the subsequent evolutionary appearance of blood types A, B and AB (reference 1, pp. 6-13). Accordingly, Peter believes that people with the O blood type had ancestors who were skillful hunters and whose diets were high in meat and animal proteins. For modern people with the O blood type he advocates a high meat, low carbohydrate “hunter” diet, with virtually no wheat, few grains or legumes and limited dairy products. Do these dietary recommendations ring a bell for you, or sound vaguely familiar? Keep this thought in mind, as it may well explain the lasting popularity of Peter’s first book.

    Peter now goes on to explain to us that blood group A (“A is for Agrarian”) “appeared somewhere in Asia or the Middle East between 25,000 and 15,000 B.C.” . . . and “allowed them to better tolerate and absorb cultivated grains and other agricultural products” (reference 1, p. 8). For type A’s, Dr. D’Adamo recommends a mainly vegetarian diet – the diet that he personally follows. However, more importantly he recommends that blood type A’s also avoid wheat and dairy (do these recommendations also sound familiar?) and replace meats with some “highly beneficial” fish and seafood – Hmm, lots of fresh fruits and veggies for type A’s, little wheat or dairy and fish instead of meat? Keep these recommendations in mind.

    Peter next tells us that blood type B, “developed sometime between 10,000 and 15,000 B.C. in the area of the Himalayan highlands – now part of present-day Pakistan and India (reference 1, p. 10). Peter suggests that type B’s have evolved the most varied diet and can include both meats and dairy in their daily menu, but again should avoid wheat. Before we move on to the final blood type (AB) it should be noted that Dr. D’Adamo generally eschews highly processed foods (chips, pastries, candy, ice cream, snack food, fast food, etc.) for all blood groups – once again, does this not sound like another familiar dietary suggestion?

    From Peter’s diagram on page 6 of his book, he indicates that blood type AB appeared first in humans sometime between 500 B.C. and 900 A.D. He characterizes “AB is for Modern” and states “Until ten or twelve centuries ago, there was no Type AB blood.” (reference 1, p. 13). Peter indicates that AB’s are a conglomeration of type A and type B blood types, and consequently their diets should reflect a mixture of the recommendations he makes for these blood groups. AB’s are therefore advised to eat meats, seafood and dairy, and to once again avoid wheat.

    The Reality And The Science Of Blood Type Diets

    The reality of Dr. D’Adamo’s book, Eat Right 4 Your Type, is that it has overwhelmingly become one of the sustained, best selling diet books of the past two decades, and continues to sell well on Amazon and other retail outlets – 14 years after its initial release in 1996. Unfortunately, as I will shortly demonstrate, Dr. D’Adamo’s explanations for the health-promoting effects of his diet have little or nothing to do with ABO blood groups. His claims about the origins of human blood types and the dietary selective pressures which elicited the four common blood types are completely incorrect and have no basis in the current scientific literature. By critically examining the faulty concepts and evidence underlying this book, it becomes almost comical how Peter’s series of errors, incorrect assumptions and conclusions actually ended up with dietary recommendations that may have therapeutic value for about 60% or more of the world’s population. The paradoxical nature of this book (bad science, pretty good dietary recommendations) helps to explain its lasting commercial success.

    Actual Origins of Human Blood Types

    Peter’s suggestion that O is the original human blood type is incorrect. Studies in humans, chimpanzees and bonobos (a specific type of chimpanzee) show that alleles (different versions of genes) coding for the A blood type was actually the most ancient version of the ABO blood group, and was shared prior to the evolutionary split between chimpanzees and hominids five to six million years ago3-5. Hence, Peter’s suggestion that blood type A appeared 15,000 to 25,000 years B.C. in response to dietary changes brought about by the new foods (i.e. grains) of the agricultural revolution is not only incorrect, but off base by about five million years. Now, let’s play a little game of logic and apply the correct data to Peter’s reasoning that “the original ancestral human blood type should be eating a high protein meat based diet.” Since type A is the actual ancestral human blood type (rather than O), if we use Peter’s logic then he – himself a type A – should not be following a vegetarian diet, but rather a high protein meat based diet. These kinds of games of logic – although fun to play – more importantly underscore the fundamental and incorrect assumptions upon which Peter’s book is based.

    The next blood type that appeared in the human lineage was B – which split from A – about 3.5 million years ago3-5, not the recent 10,000 to 15,000 years B.C. origin that Peter has proposed. The O blood type split from A about 2.5 million years ago3-5 and consequently does not represent the oldest blood type as claimed by Peter. The only fact that Peter correctly deduced about the origin of human blood types was that AB was the youngest, but once again he completely missed the correct date, as it was actually about 260,000 years ago3 – not the mere 1,500 years ago that he has proposed.

    So Peter has got all of his blood group origins messed up, his dates wrong, and the evolutionary splits incorrect. Why does this matter and how does it affect his dietary theories? To begin with, even if we were to believe in Peter’s underlying assumptions that diets should be prescribed upon blood types, he would have to completely revamp his original recommendations. Type A’s should be eating a high protein, meat-based diet rather than the vegetarian fare he suggests. But what about type O’s? With the correct evolutionary information, should they now be eating a vegetarian menu? And what about type B’s and type AB’s – what should they now be eating? Most telling of the logical failings of Peter’s blood type diet is the observation that all four of the major blood types had evolved almost 250,000 years before the coming of the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago. Yet Peter would have us convinced that three of the four major blood groups only came into existence slightly before or after the Agricultural Revolution, and as a direct result from dietary selective pressures wrought by Neolithic food introductions.

    So, why has Peter’s book become one of the best selling diet books in the past two decades? Because it works – but only for about 44-62% of the people who adopt it. Remember that for blood type O, Peter advocates a high meat, low carbohydrate “hunter” diet; with virtually no wheat, few grains or legumes and limited dairy products. If we look at the frequencies of the four major blood types for the entire world population, blood type O is by far the most frequently occurring version. It is found in 62% of all the world’s people, followed by A (21%), B (16%) and AB (1-3%)6. In the United States, the four blood type frequencies are O (44%), A (42%), B (10%) and AB (4%)7. So you can see that Peter has essentially advocated a diet similar to the Paleo Diet for between 44 and 62% of his readers. Quite simply, Peter’s diet works for about 44 to 62% of the people who adopt it – not because of their blood type, but because it emulates the same diet that natural selection has designed for us all.

    References:
    1.D’Adamo, P. with Whitney, C. Eat Right 4 your Type: The Individualized Diet Solution to Staying Healthy, Living Longer & Achieving Your Ideal Weight. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1996.
    2.D’Adamo, J. One man’s food–is someone else’s poison. R. Marek Publisher, 1980.
    3.Calafell F, Roubinet F, Ramírez-Soriano A, Saitou N, Bertranpetit J, Blancher A. Evolutionary dynamics of the human ABO gene. Hum Genet. 2008 Sep;124(2):123-35.
    4.Saitou N, Yamamoto F. Evolution of primate ABO blood group genes and their homologous genes. Mol Biol Evol. 1997 Apr;14(4):399-411.
    5.Lalueza-Fox C, Gigli E, de la Rasilla M, Fortea J, Rosas A, Bertranpetit J, Krause J. Genetic characterization of the ABO blood group in Neandertals. BMC Evol Biol. 2008 Dec 24;8:342.
    6.Mourant AE, Kopec AC, Domaniewska-Sobczak K. The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups and other Polymorphisms. Oxford University Press, London, 1976, p. 6.
    7.Stanford School of Medicine, Blood Center.

     

  15. This is great, now hurry up with the follow-up articles, ‘k?  😉  No, really, I am dying to hear what you have to say.  I recently went off synthroid b/c I didn’t want to be on meds.  My TSH went back up but T3 and T4 held steady (I hope i have the right hormone terms there) and my doc said it means my body is fighting hard.  I have been having trouble losing weight, even though I’m exercising regularly and writing down everything I eat and trying to stay away from carbs and sugar.  It’s very frustrating.  I have energy though, so I hate to go back on the meds.  I hope you will have a better solution for me.
     

  16. If I remember correctly, for the blood type diet, types O, A, and B (which is almost everybody), wheat should be cut out of the diet.  If a lot of people cut out wheat, it would not surprise me if a lot of them felt better.  Most people do better without wheat, regardless of blood type. 

    As a type A blood type, I am supposed to avoid meat and tomatoes because my supposed ‘weak stomach’ can’t handle them, but in reality, I feel weak and suffer from anemia if I don’t eat lots of meat.  In fact, I can eat tons of meat with zero digestion probs. I can also eat hoards of tomatoes all at once with zero ill effects.  The only thing I can’t digest is corn, although it does not make me sick, just simply does not digest at all (comes out in the EXACT same form as came in which is kinda creepy!)   The blood type diet totally does not apply to me.  Ironically, my physiology works well with what they say type Os should eat.  I would not be surprised if many of the type Os who ate the type O diet did well on the diet by avoiding all those grains.  But I suspect that other blood types would also do much better if they ate like a type O.
       

    • That’s exactly my experience with the blood type diet (both personally and with my patients). It works for Type O’s, but not for the other types. That makes sense, because the Type O plan is closest to our evolutionary diet.

  17. I would also like to know how Acetyl L-Carnitine effects the thyroid hormones, if you know, Chris. I read something about it. I was taking that and started feeling fatigued, so stopped, and not fatigued now. I was using it to improve my aging mental abilities.

  18. I wish I had read through the other comments here because blood type was discussed. I’m type B, so no correlation there.

  19. I’m 80 years old. Unfortunately, I’ve had hypothyroidism since early twenties, so I’ve taken the artificial hormone, Synthroid, for so long that it’s the only thing I can count on. I can’t fight the disease by better health alone, which is where the author of this series is going to take it. But, it is a good thing to know for young people, so they don’t ruin their health with an autoimmune disease. This is especially true if it runs in families, such as mine. It can take different forms.

    My great grandmother was hyperthyroid with a large goiter. I wish I had her energy without the other hyperthyroid symptoms.

    • you really would not want what your grandmother has i wouldnt wish that on anyone as i almost died from hyperthyroid 3 and a half weeks ago ive been over active for 20 years and the probs that come with it is just to much for one person let alone my family as i have 2 young kids 12 yr and 2 yr and im still in shock that my life almost came to an end because the thyroid doctor took me off my meds 3 years ago after telling me the meds im on are not life long and that was that untill the 10th of april 2013 thank god i was staying with my mum when i passed out on her bathroom floor my hole body shut down before i got to A&E and died many times on the way to hospital i was in I.C.U for over a week and when i woke up i didnt no what was going on all i wanted was my kids

      • I shutter to think of how many practicing physicians , not specialist, are reading minimal testing done for suspected thyroid problems and treating or NOT treating because of being ok with the patient living at the LOW end of the scale on the thyroid chart. I wonder , what would they treat themselves with , if the realized they had hypothyroidism or just as bad ,hyper-thyroidism. Hmmm…..makes you wonder a bit.

  20. I was diagnosed with an underperforming thyroid when I was 12 and was never treated. I have now a thyroid that is the size of a 7 year old child. I complained about digestive issues, weak immune system and depression and lethargy. I am taking levothyroxine and have never felt better. Now if this shortens my life so be it but I fell alive .
    I would like to add that I had a grandmother that suffered from hypothyroidism, she had a goiter, she was menopaused before the age of 40 and lived unmedicated a couple month short of 100 years old. She didn’t suffer from dementia and was physically able. I don’t care to live as long and she actually didn’t either.
    So I deducted from that that hypothyroidism doesn’t kill you but makes your life miserable.
    I am skeptical about the thyroxine but I know it made a difference for me.
     
     

    • No reason to be skeptical about thyroxine. It can be an essential part of successfully treating hypothyroidism. However, if the underlying immune imbalance isn’t addressed, thyroxine won’t be enough for most people. Or it will be for a short time, but it will stop working and the dose will need to be raised. See the other comments for examples of what I mean.

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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/the-most-important-thing-you-may-not-know-about-hypothyroidism/comment-page-2/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='784' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Heartburn/GERD' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Heartburn%2FGERD' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_5" name="ak_js" value="163"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_5" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
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