The Effects of the Paleo Diet on Autoimmune Thyroid Disease: A Mixed Methods Review

J Am Nutr Assoc. 2023 Nov-Dec;42(8):727-736. doi: 10.1080/27697061.2022.2159570. Epub 2023 Jan 4.


The aim of this systematic review was to examine the characteristics of Paleolithic diet (PD) interventions designed for adult patients with autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) in order to determine if diet elements have the potential to successfully reduce thyroid antibodies (Ab) such as thyroglobulin (Tg), thyroid peroxidase (TPO), and thyroid stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR), and improve thyroid hormones (thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)) or resolve AITD pathogenesis. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with an adult population of 18 years and older, diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) or Graves' disease (GD) (Basedow's), who were placed on a diet of Paleolithic or ancestral nature, and achieved reduction of AITD Abs, improvement of thyroid hormones, and, or resolution of AITD were searched. Various electronic databases were used. Bias was assessed using critical appraisal tools from the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) and Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI). Studies were excluded according to exclusion criteria and results analyzed. One randomized controlled trial (RCT), a pilot study, and six case studies were found. In total, eight AITD studies focusing on Paleolithic or ancestral interventions were located. In highlight, females were the predominant gender. Case studies solely focused on AITD with protocols ranging from 8-60 weeks. All studies showed clinical improvements, one had significant improvement, two showed AITD resolution. After structured evaluation of nutritional interventions utilizing the PD on the effects of AITD, it was concluded foods of ancestral nature along with the addition of specific supplements, food components, exercise and mindfulness meditation, and exclusion of modern day foods have a considerable impact on thyroid Ab and hormones. The relevant studies suggest while this dietary protocol can be useful in clinical practice, larger-scale studies need to be conducted. Key teaching pointsThere are currently no dietary interventions recommended for the treatment of autoimmune thyroid disease. The Paleo diet has been documented to improve AITD antibodies and thyroid hormones in both Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease.The Paleo diet can provide a natural source of nutrients similar to supplemental nutrients that have shown positive results on AITD.The paleo diet provides specific macronutrient percentages that may be beneficial in reducing AITD antibodies, while improving thyroid hormones.Methylation supplementation may be useful in AITD cases.

Keywords: Basedow’s; Graves’; Hashimoto’s; Paleo diet; Paleolithic; ancestral; autoimmune thyroid disease; caveman; diet; dietary intervention; hunter-gatherer; stone age; thyroiditis.