Diet

Is Your Thyroid Blocking Your Keto Diet Success? Here’s How to Fix It

An Emory University-trained doctor has uncovered the frustrating reason so many of us feel fat, foggy and fatigued. The good news? 10 days is all it takes to reboot the thyroid and supercharge metabolism. 

Chances are, you’ve already tried the keto diet (or thought about starting it) in an effort to jump-start your weight loss and reboot your energy. Maybe you lost a few pounds at fist, but if you’re like many women born before 1974, your scale didn’t move much and you got sick of feeling like your engine was constantly running on empty — not to mention the nausea and bloat that can accompany the trendy diet plan. 

Why is the keto diet so hard to get right? 

While the ultra-low carb diet puts you in a state of ketosis, which makes it easier for your body to burn through stored fat, high-fat keto staples like processed meat and full-fat dairy are also broken down into acidic compounds by the body — and this hampers slimming, asserts osteopathic physician Anna Cabeca, DO, author of The Hormone Fix: Burn Fat Naturally, Boost Energy, Sleep Better, and Stop Hot Flashes, the Keto-Green Way ($14.17, Amazon). “Overloading on these types of foods creates too much acidity in the body, resulting in a condition called chronic low-grade acidosis,” she explains. The body can process high levels of acids, but not without scavenging acid-neutralizing minerals that are crucial for optimal metabolism, such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. The result: Weight loss stalls.

What’s worse, an acidic keto diet can wreak havoc on your thyroid, making weight gain impossible to avoid. “When the body is grappling with acid overload, it becomes a welcoming environment for the overgrowth of harmful yeasts, fungi, and bacteria, as well as dormant viruses that damage the thyroid gland and cause it to malfunction,” explains weight-loss expert Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, author of 60 Seconds to Slim: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Burn Fat Fast! ($18.40, Amazon). This is especially harmful for women over 45, as 80 percent of us already struggle with thyroid slowdown caused by toxic stress that saps the gland. Without a healthy thyroid pumping out plenty of thyroid hormones to keep your metabolism humming, you begin to experience low energy and a pileup of excess pounds — exactly what you were hoping to avoid by starting the keto diet in the first place.

The older you are, the better this works!

This is a conundrum that Dr. Cabeca is intimately familiar with. “When menopause hit, the pounds just piled onto my frame. I thought a ketogenic diet might work for me,” she shares. “While I was trying to figure out what was going on, I noticed that my urine tested very acidic. I didn’t connect the acidity with the keto diet at first, but within just days of changing my habits to make my body more alkaline, I noticed I had improved energy and clarity, plus the weight started peeling off and my thyroid function normalized. I’d solved my keto problem!” All told, Cabeca lost 80 pounds following her new plan.

This led Cabeca to develop a 10-day plant-based keto-alkaline cleanse to heal the thyroid and power off stubborn pounds. Indeed, loading your plate with healthy fats, instead of the bacon, cheese, and burgers that keto diets are known for, supplies the body with the raw materials needed to restore thyroid function and produce active thyroid hormones — the ones that instruct the body to boost metabolism and energy, asserts Kent Holtorf, MD, medical group director of the Holtorf Medical Group in Los Angeles and founder of the National Academy of Hypothyroidism. “Eating the good-for-you fats found in foods such as avocado, fatty fish, and olive oil helps boost your thyroid by reducing inflammation so the gland can optimally produce hormones,” he explains. Meanwhile, studies show that consuming alkalinizing foods lowers the body’s overall acid level by as much as 68 percent — and according to researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, as the body’s acid levels come down, the function of the thyroid improves to speed up metabolism and fire up energy. Proof it works: Women who FIRST spoke with report losing up to 22 pounds in just nine days on a keto-alkaline plan, and 95 percent of the 500 women who tested Cabeca’s plan reported significantly improved energy levels. 

Weight loss, thyroid healing, and improved energy are just the beginning. “Over the next 10 days, you’ll give your body a break — a real rest and reset that will build a foundation of disease prevention for the rest of your life, asserts Cabeca. “You’ll experience dramatically improved focus, memory, and motivation, as well as better sleep. You’ll notice more beautiful skin and a youthful appearance.” Plus, studies show that alkaline diet improves bone density and boosts the body’s defenses against everything from the common cold to cardiovascular disease.

10 Day Keto-Alkaline Cleanse

Days 1-5: Heal the thyroid with alkalinizing meals

The first five days of this 10-day thyroid-healing cleanse are focused on eliminating acid-producing foods while loading up on alkalinizing minerals that neutralize the acids damaging the thyroid. Simply follow these to-do’s from Cabeca to soothe and heal your thyroid — and triple your energy.

Start with greens: Wake up each morning with Cabeca’s favorite keto-alkaline smoothie, which is chock-full of alkalinizing greens. To make: In a blender, combine 1 scoop of protein powder. Pick a blend with at least 25 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of sugar per serving, like Garden of Life Raw Organic Fit ($39.87, Amazon). Then add 1 Tbs. of coconut oil, a handful of kale, one-quarter of an avocado, and 8 oz. of water.

Fill up on alkalinizing foods: At lunch and dinner, vegetables (especially leafy greens and tomatoes) should make up about 75% of your plate. They will help your body flush thyroid-harming acids. Alongside your veggies, add a serving of protein about the size of your palm. While most protein picks are acidic, if you fill your plate with organic beef, organic poultry, wild-caught white fish, shellfish, or eggs, you’ll be making smart, low-acid choices. Experts at Yale University recommend leaning especially on eggs and seafood, which are rich in nutrients that work synergistically to boost thyroid function. 

You’ll top meals with 1/4 cup of healthy alkalinizing fats from avocados, nuts (especially almonds, pistachios and walnuts), ghee, or avocado, coconut, walnut or olive oils. Cabeca also suggests skipping the most acidic foods during the 10-day cleanse, including grains, sugars, processed fats, pasta, and processed meats (like deli meats and hot dogs), artificial sweeteners (except stevia), and all soda and fried foods.

Drink up — except at meals: It’s important to stay hydrated while following the keto-alkaline plan because water helps the body filter out acidifying toxins and burn fat, asserts Cabeca. That’s why she suggests drinking half your body weight in ounces of filtered water or herbal tea each day. Why filtered? Tap water can contain fluoride, a mineral that blocks the body’s ability to absorb minerals needed for optimal thyroid function. Just make sure you take your sips between meals, not during them: “When we eat, digestive juices flow into our stomach; if we dilute them with beverages, it can impede digestion,” explains Cabeca. For best results, stop drinking 20 minutes before your meal.

Get Plenty of Zzzs: “When you’re sleep-deprived, your body produces more acidifying stress hormones, which stalls weight loss,” explains Cabeca. But when you log at least seven hours of sleep each night, the body produces fewer acidifying hormones, helping the body stay alkaline and giving the thyroid time to heal while you sleep. 

Days 6-10: Fire up fat burn  

For the second half of the cleanse, you’ll add healthy fats and incorporate a mini smoothie fast to improve thyroid function and weight loss. Just follow these easy strategies while maintaining the recommendations from the first five days. 

Switch up breakfast: Making a change to your morning meal helps prevent dieting fatigue and provides the body with additional thyroid-boosting nutrients, Cabeca explains. Try an omelet stuffed with smoked salmon or a cup of coconut yogurt topped with nuts. 

Focus on fats: Cabeca suggests adding medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil to your meals. “This oil is easily burned for energy, so it’s very useful for boosting metabolism,” she says. Look for a brand that contains about 5.5 grams of caprylic acid, like Bulletproof XCT Oil ($14.73, Amazon), which is easy for the body to metabolize, says Cabeca. Use the odorless, tasteless oil in salad dressings, drizzle it over vegetables, or blend 1 Tbs. into coffee and smoothies. 

Ward off hunger: “Grazing on snacks throughout the day increases the production of fat-storage hormones,” explains Cabeca. It’s unlikely you’ll feel hungry while following the plan, but if you feel the urge to nosh between meals, sip a cup of bone broth — its unique blend of fatty acids and amino acids helps dampen hunger hormones and boosts fat burning. If you still find yourself hungry, add an additional 1 Tbs. of healthy fat to your next meal. 

Sip yourself slim: Cabeca recommends a one-day smoothie fast between days 8 and 9. “This will push the body to burn fat faster,” she explains. To get the benefits, enjoy a thyroid-healing keto-alkaline smoothie for lunch and dinner on day 8 and for breakfast on day 9. Between smoothies, fill up on as much bone broth, water, and herbal tea as you’d like. 

Day 11 and Beyond: Slim to your happy weight

Once you’ve completed the 10-day cleanse, Cabeca recommends shifting into a less restrictive keto-alkaline lifestyle. To that end, she advises keeping your plate loaded with alkaline veggies and healthy fats, but adding small amounts of high-carb veggies (like peas and potatoes) and fruit (such as berries and melon). “Your success with this new way of eating will motivate you to keep it up,” Dr. Cabeca says. After the cleanse, you’ll naturally crave healthy, nutritious fare instead of processed food, so it will be easy to maintain your weight loss, she promises. 

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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