Am I eating enough protein? Episode 36.

Welcome to episode 36. I’m so glad you are here! I forgot to share lunch ideas in my newsletter last week so that will be going out in this weeks newsletter. You can sign up at  

It seems like a lot of people have questions about exactly what they should be eating and so I am going to share what I have been eating for the last few days. 

Breakfasts have been my breakfast soup or a vegetable beef soup I made last weekend. I had chili one morning and a protein shake one or two mornings. I have been combing Designs For Health Paleo Protein and Pea protein with ice and canned coconut milk. 

I had one of my RESTART participants ask about how much protein we should be eating and it got me thinking- Does the amount of protein we eat affect our thyroid function?  I did a little research and it turns out it does. 

Let’s get a little primer on protein. 

Protein is one of the big macro nutrients our body needs. It is second to water in our physical makeup at around 20% of our body weight. It makes up most of our muscles, skin, hair, eyes and internal organs like the heart and the brain. 

So, it is pretty important. 

Our immune system needs protein to create antibodies that help fight infection. I am pretty sure that doesn’t mean if we don’t eat protein we won’t create antibodies against our thyroid though. That is not where I am going with this. 

We have something called hemoglobin in our blood. It carries oxygen to our cells and it is a protein. When you hear someone talking about dietary protein or a protein in your body, they are made of the same thing. 

Insulin and our thyroid hormones are also proteins. 

When we eat protein we break it down in to amino acids. Some of these we can make our self but many we need to get from our diet. Some of the amino acids we can make on our own we might not be able to because of toxins in our environment or the use of prescription drugs. 

Tyrosine is one amino acid you might hear about in thyroid health. It may have been suggested that you supplement with tyrosine to help your thyroid. It is made in the body easily from phenylalanine, another amino acid. It is needed for the production of adrenaline, dopamine, and thyroid hormones. 

We need folate, niacin, vitamin C, and some other elements to make tyrosine. This is important. If your thyroid is not working right, it probably isn’t a tyrosine deficiency but a lack of those things that help make tyrosine. 

Try getting those precursors from your diet. A well balanced diet is important for everyone but most especially for those of us working on gaining our health back. 

Every food we eat, has a different mix of amino acids. Meat, dairy and eggs are the greatest sources of what is often called a complete protein. If you are a vegetarian you might combine beans and grains to get your complete proteins but for many of us with autoimmune disease, this can be a problem. 

We might have to avoid grains and legumes because they are an inflammatory food for us. For many of us trying to heal our gut and autoimmune disease, we will find better healing with animal based proteins. 

I respect anyone’s choice to eat the way the do. I am just telling you what I know to be true. 

In the last few months I have seen suggestions for protein requirements between 45 and 60 grams per day to 100 grams per day to between ½ to ¾ times your body weight. For me that calculates to around 90-135 grams per day. 

I know I need upwards of 100 grams per day to not feel starving between meals. You just kind of have to play around with this to figure out what works for you. 

Protein is first breaking down in the stomach. You need adequate stomach acid to break it down and guess what? With hypothyroidism you probably are not making enough stomach acid and therefore not breaking down the protein you are eating as well as you could. 

The problem with not having enough stomach acid- meaning there isn’t enough acidity in the stomach or the level of acid is not high enough is that the process of breaking down protein is not happening in the way it should. The enzymes needed to work with the amino acids are not able to gain access to those parts of the protein that are broken down in to amino acids. 

Other things affecting stomach acid production are chronic stress, the standard American diet and eating too much at once and age. By age 60 we are not making enough stomach acid for whatever reason. 

Our liver uses the amino acids we have broken down in the stomach or in digestion. 

Now as far as our thyroid is concerned. There have been some studies done on protein and thyroid function. 

It is clear that nutrition is very important in thyroid function. Remember thyroid hormones are proteins.  When we are not eating enough or possibly not digesting it well, the signals from the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are down regulated or slowed down. This signaling - the hypothalamus telling the pituitary to tell the thyroid to make thyroxine is affected by a lack of protein in the diet. 

Reduced protein in the diet can make our brain think we are in starvation mode and the thyroid is told to slow down. But one study showed that the restriction of energy in a low protein diet caused there to be less T3 produced but no difference in TSH, T4 and FT4. 

This is interesting because many doctors are not testing T3- the actual hormone that your cells need to function and this restricted protein diet is causing less of it to be produced, yet the other markers might look normal. 

The researchers suggest that calorie restriction and a lower carb and higher protein to carb ratio could be the cause. 

It also showed that there was in increase in Reverse T3- the hormone that binds T3 in times of stress or injury. 

Their conclusion was that adequate protein intake is needed for thyroid function. For the thyroid hormones to be produced and it is also needed for the pituitary to produce TSH. 

The big take away here is that you need protein and quality protein if you can afford it and you need to be digesting it. 

Wild caught fish and seafood

100% grass fed beef

Pastured poultry

Wild Game

Pastured eggs

are all great sources of protein. 

Another take away is that you should not restrict your caloric intake when you have thyroid problems. The weight you may have gained due to your hypothyroid condition will come off gradually with diet and lifestyle changes. 

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Until next week!