Hypothyroidism and Glycogen Deficiency

Have you ever really questioned why people are so afraid of sugar?

Well besides all the anti-sugar propaganda designed to scare you out of your mind! So much so you literally run the opposite direction at any site of a “carbohydrate”?

We are up against a very interesting catch 22 here.

You see…our society is so afraid of sugar we avoid it like the plague and the timing could not be any worse.

Our country, let me rephrase that, our world, is in the midst of a huge hypothyroid epidemic.

So whats the catch?

People suffering with hypothyroidism are sensitive to sugar and at the same time, people suffering with hypothyroidism are going to require sugar to heal.

Where do we go from here?

Lets start by taking a good look at the role of carbohydrates in thyroid health. From here we will begin to understand the real importance of carbohydrates and that not all carbohydrates are the same.

Second, we have to accept the hard truth. Shifting to an increased carbohydrate intake over night just because carbohydrates ARE good, is a quick trip to rapid weight gain.

Third, you gotta ditch the low carb, Paleo mentality. Yes, maybe it helps you maintain weight and/or helps you lose weight, but it is not without sacrifice.

Whether you meet your threshold in 1 year, 2, 10 or sometimes even 20, practicing habits that include the elimination of 1 or more macro nutrient not only exacerbate thyroid issues, they compound them by placing a greater demand on the adrenals! In the end not only is your thyroid not functioning, your adrenals are shot and your entire body is in chaos.

So what role does sugar play in thyroid health?

A LOT!! Lets try and make some sense out of all of this…

To begin, lets keep in mind the body requires 3 key ingredients in order to produce energy at the cell level.

  • thyroid hormone (T3)
  • oxygen
  • glucose (sugar)

When these three ingredients are present in the right amounts at the right time we produce the greatest amount of energy and use the least amount of energy to do so.

In a healthy body the liver is very efficient at storing glycogen as are the muscles and brain. The body uses this stored glycogen between meals and while we sleep to assist in keeping our blood sugar from falling too low (one of the greatest stresses to the human body).

Maintaining normal blood sugar levels and preventing a hypoglycemic state is essential to the support of cellular metabolism, thyroid function and to keeping your stress hormones under control.

In a hypothyroid state the body loses its ability to store and release glycogen, which leads to glycogen deficiencies, therefore quickly developing blood sugar issues like hypoglycemia and reducing thyroid conversion in the liver.

The amount of glucose in liver cells regulates the enzyme that converts T4 to T3.

In a fasting state the livers glycogen stores will provide glucose to maintain T3 production. When the glycogen is depleted the body resorts to the release of fatty acids from the tissues, which further interrupt the use of glucose and lead to greater suppression of the thyroid gland.

When your liver cannot use T3 it can directly affect your glycogen reserves in the following ways:

  • The liver is unable to store and release glycogen
  • You are unable to regulate your blood sugar
  • Your muscles, brain and organs become easily fatigued

Every cell in the body requires sugar in the form of glucose to produce energy and survive and they receive it as glycogen.

In a survival attempt to compensate for the lack of glycogen and regulate blood sugar, the body will signal the adrenals to overproduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

Adrenaline stimulates the liver to release stored glycogen but because in hypothyroidism stored glycogen reserves are inadequate the constant surges of adrenaline further deplete an already depleted liver placing an added burden on the liver making it even more difficult to regulate your blood sugar.

When the body is completely depleted of any and all glycogen, cortisol takes over. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone and although it is essential to our survival in times of need, when the body does not have the proper resources to fuel the organs, the brain and the muscles it begins working to break down healthy muscle tissue in order to convert that protein into sugar to feed the cells. So essentially your body begins to eat itself!

And the cycle continues….and oh what a vicious cycle it is!

Whether you practice a low carbohydrate diet, skip meals, over exercise, under eat, and have poor stress management skills the long term effects of inadequate energy input will lead to the condition of thyroid hormone resistance (hypothyroidism).

The longer and more adapted the body is in this state the more difficult it will be to reintroduce carbohydrates without experiencing a period of glucose intolerance. Hence, all the “low carb” talk.

Carbohydrates are essential to healing and omitting them from the diet will only continue to exacerbate an already faulty metabolism and possibly place you at risk for other health conditions including type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

The strategy behind restoring glycogen reserves

You must use your food to do for you what you are unable to do for yourself.

  1. Food frequency is king!

If your liver requires thyroid hormone to store and release glycogen and without glycogen you are unable to regulate your blood sugar, then it makes sense to feed your body metabolic digestible carbohydrates frequently and in small amounts throughout the day.

A common concern we hear quite frequently: “I feel awful on a low carb diet…” OR “I’m deathly afraid of gaining weight!”

Please realize this is for all the reasons discussed above. Your body has lost its ability to efficiently metabolize carbohydrates because of the hypothyroid state your body is in. Thyroid hormones have a HUGE impact on glucose metabolism.

When introducing carbohydrates you MUST GO SLOW! Everyone has a different tolerance and must be determined individually.

If you are interested in learning more about how to safely add carbohydrates back into your diet, click here.

  1. Manage your stress. The body cannot heal in chaos.

Remember stress and the effects of stress on the body directly affect the function of the thyroid and the livers ability to store glycogen.

Your nutrition is going to play a key role in helping you accomplish this goal but the bottom line is no diet alone is going to trump poor habits and decision-making.

  1. Exercise smarter not harder.

Exercise is a stress. It can be a good stress or a bad stress.

For a body already in an energy deficit (low thyroid function) due to low and/or depleted glycogen reserves exercise is a recipe for disaster!

Does this mean you have to stop exercising?

Not at all.

It just means you may have to make some modifications for a period of time to assist in reducing the over all burden, induce better recovery and rebuild and restore your exercise resiliency.

  1. Breathe

When our cells are “breathing” properly (thyroid + glucose + oxygen) they are making large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and ATP energy.

The efficiency of this system provides a continuous release of oxygen allowing for continued cellular respiration within our cells, organs and tissues.

When our cells are not breathing properly this leads to sharp decreases in CO2 production and decreased oxygen (O2) production.

Low levels of O2 interrupt cellular respiration shifting the cells energy production away from CO2 and towards producing lactic acid.

Lactic acid is a huge metabolic burden, inflammatory and causes the liver to use up stored glycogen. The very thing we are trying to correct!

Learning to breathe properly can have a significant effect on CO2 production by helping to down regulate the sympathetic nervous system therefore inhibiting stress and inflammation, making oxygen more available to the tissues and promoting efficient use of glucose.

Summary

When you give the body what it needs it is not forced to compensate by stealing from Peter to pay Paul.

In a hypothyroid state the resources to produce energy are deficient placing the body into a vicious cycle of stress and inflammation.

To restore balance it is essential to slowly begin to build back up glycogen reserves with the proper nutrition while taking steps to reduce the stress causing the deficiencies in the first place.

Just in taking the time to tune into your nutrition you are provided an opportunity to tune in to your life, your body, how you feel, what you need, what affects you positively, what affects you negatively, and from there you can slowly begin to create something more supportive for and to you in your life.

Trust us, we do it every day with people all over the world.

Yes, it takes time but once you got it, you got it! You can finally get back to life and the more important stuff like being fully present with your family, enjoying a hobby or pastime, having energy at the end of the day to enjoy a hobby or favorite pastime :), building the business you’ve always dreamed of or whatever it may be for you.

P.S. Please feel free to share a  comment below. We would love to hear from you! 

Josh and Jeanne

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Share Your Thoughts





  1. Dottie Minor

    What you say makes so much sense!! Can this work with a ketogenic diet?

    June 13, 2017 • 8:44 am •
  2. East West Healing

    Hi Dottie,

    Yes it can all be very confusing but the truth is ketones cannot be present without cortisol, which is very catabolic and actually contributes and exacerbates glucose deficiency (and therefore hypothyroidism) as a result of the continuous surges of adrenaline and cortisol. Often people feel the need to be on a ketogenic diet to avoid the rapid blood sugar fluctuations resulting from glucose deficiency. In other words, most diets are designed and do serve a purpose (ketogenic diet for epilepsy) but in most cases are not long term solutions and all too often are being used to side step an underlying glucose intolerance brought on by glucose deficits.

    June 13, 2017 • 10:13 am •
  3. Kelly

    I was introduced to you guys about 4 months ago and started following on insta and listening to your recordings . I could not sleep ! I had anxiety and panic attacks for no apparent reason . Despite the fact that i am an outgoing love ppl type of person when i would socialize even in the simplest settings , i would have severe anxiety after! It was terrible! Now i was convinced that sugar was the enemy! So after following and paying attention to what you have to say i started eating fruit and potatoes , mostly sweet pot and squash. I try tohave protein and fat with my carbs and im getting there! My sleepis much better , i will have a week of issues – still working that out- my social anxiety is almost completly gone! And anxiety and pa are almost gone ! I do still take gaba on occasion but its been a huge improvement! I say all this to say thank you! Im kinda mad that i did low carb all those years as im convinced its what put me in that state BUT im happier i have found some solutions thanks to you guys! Keep up the good work!

    June 13, 2017 • 8:53 am •
  4. East West Healing

    Awesome Kelly!!! It is mind blowing (but not really:)) how responsive the body is when it is receiving what it needs to thrive. In the earlier phases of healing it is very important we get strategic with our food to assist the body in doing what it cannot do for itself quite yet. Over time and with consistency the body becomes more and more efficient at storing and producing energy which means you are regulating your blood sugar, taking your body out of inflammation and building your overall resiliency.

    Great work! Would love to hear if you are doing any logging?? I am also curious to know whether there is a pattern that might correlate with the week of issues you do still experience?

    June 13, 2017 • 10:19 am •
  5. Frankie

    Hi. Thanks for the info. What about being ‘fat adapted’? Aren’t we supposed to run on fat? There’s so much confusing info out there. No one else is really talking about eating sugar anymore. As a result it’s hard to know where to turn orvwhat to believe. Do you see? Even the ‘fiunctional medicine’ people will come up with their own theories if you really have a health issue you’re trying to recover from. And they will probably hate you for disagreeing with THEM. It’s hard trying to figure this all out. Being ‘open’ seems to eventually result in being confused. Just bouncing this off you as I’m trying to fine one path following ‘adrenal’ fatigue which now is called something else. But you get my drift!!
    Frankie

    June 13, 2017 • 8:54 am •
  6. EastWest Healing

    No unfortunately that is what most people teach but it is not true. Most teach it cause the main goal for most is fat loss. BUT, teaching your body to use fat for energy is not efficient, use more resources to make and in the end goes against how the body works. The body uses glucose to make energy via converting thyroid hormone. Its not a theory, its just basic science, physiology and how the body works. Yes there is so much out there but we are trying to get people to understand how the body works. If we do, which we talked about in this 1 blog, then you will understand the only way to heal is to work with the body. Low carb, keto, adrenal supplements will not heal adrenal issues. Adrenal issues are from not enough energy coming in and not regulating blood sugar which puts more of a burden on them. So, if we eat the right foods in the right food frequency and regulate our blood sugar…we thus take the burden off the adrenal glands giving them time to recover. Like you said, everyone has a theory, but we dont promote theories. WE promote function, health and how the body works;)

    June 13, 2017 • 12:00 pm •
  7. Dante

    Are there tests (labwork) that can be run to see if a person has a glycogen deficiency? Are there any other symptoms?

    Thanks,

    June 13, 2017 • 9:30 am •
  8. Toni

    Great article, and goes against all the keto and low carb diets that are so popular right now. I hit adrenal fatigue after 3 years of bulletproof coffee and morning intermittent fasting. Thought I was doing good for my body, just didn’t work in the long run. Trouble connecting…If you are interested in learning more about how to safely add carbohydrates back into your diet, click here.

    There is no link to the here…

    Otherwise thanks keep up the good work!

    June 13, 2017 • 10:43 am •
  9. Michele

    Hi! I agree with Toni– I wrecked my body with coffee, dieting, & low carb There was just something that appealed to plain ol’ common sense in what the Rubin’s put out there! Yes! Real nutriton the way your body was meant to work This is not PC according to what’s trendy now, but it was exactly what I was always subconsciosly trying to get the ND’s and nutritionists to tell me..

    June 13, 2017 • 1:27 pm •
  10. East West Healing

    Hi Michele,

    You got it! The human body requires food to thrive and what we have learned is how to use food strategically to affect the physiology. As we do this we take the body out of compensation (a.k.a. Inflammation/stress) and provide a more conducive environment for healing. Its all about meeting your body where it is. As you do this and over time your resiliency builds and as your metabolism heals you require less food energy to produce energy as your systems are storing and producing with much greater efficiency.

    Just like you said..plain ol’ common sense:) Thank you!!

    June 14, 2017 • 9:58 am •
  11. Anne

    I have hypothyroidism and often hypoglycemia, hypogabbaglobulimia- but my Endocrinologist has me on levothyroxine and wanted to do ACTH test, but I’ve just been off predisone which I hate ( no sleep in 2 weeks ) and already sleep deprived chronically over 6 years getting maybe 2 hours sleep a night/ am by then from pain meds. So because I had steroid shots in toes.shes treating adrenal insufficiency with hydrocortisone 2 x day and my concern is will this lead to further lack of sleep? I have extremely low BP- 76/50 years and another dr wrote BP meds to help but can’t take together. Today is first day taking and I feel terrible with headache and hot face. Usually cold from raynauds. I said I’d give it a week and now wish I hadn’t filled rx. Thank you.

    June 13, 2017 • 9:06 pm •
  12. East West Healing

    Hi Anne,

    It sounds as though you are going through alot right now. In moments like these its important to be reminded of how in control you can be. As Diane Schwarzbein says, “your hormones control your metabolism and you control your hormones.”

    Your nutrition is key right now and can assist you in a gazillion ways!! If you have not already, please spend some time on our vlog, you tube page and join us on social media. In these places you are going to find a ton of information to help inform you and support your healing process.

    June 14, 2017 • 10:48 am •
  13. Ruba

    One of your best articles, I finally get it 🙂 thank you

    June 14, 2017 • 4:17 am •
  14. East West Healing

    Whoohoo!!! Love when it all clicks!

    June 14, 2017 • 10:41 am •
  15. Jen

    I can say this much- your approach sounds more friendly to my mind and my body compared to only eating meat, fat, and vegetables. People weren’t meant to eat that way. I would love to learn more about your approach!

    June 14, 2017 • 5:23 am •
  16. East West Healing

    Hi Jen,

    We could not agree more! Our philosophy really does take us back to the idea of eating food in balance and moderation. Too much of one thing or not enough of another leads to excesses and/or deficiencies. The only difference is how we get there. The body cannot heal in chaos so the earlier phases of healing sometimes need to get a little more specific depending on the sensitivity level of the body. Our food selection, balance and frequency must all align with where the body is physiologically to avoid adding yet another burden to an already burdened system.

    We would love to share more about our philosophy with you so please be sure to take advantage of our free 15 minute consultation. Just click the Free Consult button at the top of this page:)

    June 14, 2017 • 10:40 am •
  17. Kelly

    I am not doing any logging although i know i need to and plan on starting , i think i was eating too many processed foods that my body was out of whack

    June 14, 2017 • 5:43 pm •
  18. Terese S

    This is a great article! I’ve just been diagnosed with moderate Sleep Apnea, and can now see from your post here that I’m missing the oxygen piece of the equation – been working with different doctors for years trying to figure out why I am so fatigued – tried every supplement out there to no avail. Do you have any breathing exercises that you recommend?

    June 19, 2017 • 5:47 pm •
  19. EastWest Healing

    Well, it is 2 sided…co2 that is produced at the cell level and that is retained from breathing. We teach both, which is a win win for sleep apnea. If you are interested, you can sign up for a free consultation on our site. Exercises, well, the best thing you can do to start is….try to nose breath as much as you can throughout the day, if you go on walks, etc. That means no mouth. Then when you get comfortable with that, sleeping at night and only nose breathing is key.

    June 19, 2017 • 9:00 pm •
  20. Jenee Sherrell

    Appreciate this information.
    What do you suggest to take for hypothyroidism ? Will not take drugs?
    Thank you.

    June 27, 2017 • 2:55 pm •
  21. EastWest Healing

    Well….our philosophy 🙂

    June 30, 2017 • 1:15 pm •
  22. Can this plan of action help with Hashimoto’s – even if you are not experiencing hypothyroid symptoms?

    July 15, 2017 • 11:40 am •
  23. EastWest Healing

    yes it can 100%!

    July 17, 2017 • 9:19 pm •
  24. Ann

    Thanks for this info! I have started to refuel myself according to your philosophy, and am getting some interesting results with regards to my high blood pressure. Have always in my life measured high bp, and have been on four types of strong blood pressure meds for 10 years due to numbers around 220/110, have tried to get off them many times but not succeded, but have now been off them for a few days in a last kind of attempt. Now when I’m focusing on balancing my blood sugar through food frequency, I notice that my bp goes down when I refuel, and also that as soon as my body temp goes down, my pulse/bp goes up!!

    I experienced early childhood (0-1,5 years) trauma around not being fed/left alone, so I basically think that I have always had an underfunctioning metabolism due to stress freezing syndrome, and have after that never learnt how to properly feed myself (am 54 now). Interestingly, not a single doctor, alternative practicioner, therapist etc have told me to simply eat well and often enough 🙂 Thanks to the internet I have found you guys and others that think alike.

    So essentially, my layman theory here is that my body has been struggling to send energy and nutrion to my cells, which has resulted in a high bp. Bp meds have worsened this through suppresing my metabolic speed even worse, in a never ending viscous cycle. But now I finally feel that I KNOW how to take care of myself, and as you say, health is not a destination, it is a process to me embrazed. Thanks to your excellent info and deep knowledge about this I feel both supported and deeply grateful. Many thanks.

    July 31, 2017 • 11:08 pm •
  25. East West Healing

    What a cool story and thank you for sharing!

    I think as a society we have a tendency to overlook the true power of food when used in alignment with our story/history/individuality. It can be used very strategically to manipulate the physiology, meet the body where it is and do for it what the body has lost its ability to do until it can. Over time with consistency and understanding we can use food to reverse dis-ease.

    In addition and as you are well aware of, elevated BP/hypertension is heavily related to hypothyroidism due to the compensations necessary under glucose deficits.

    August 2, 2017 • 12:35 pm •
  26. […] Low blood sugar leads to low thyroid which forces the body into  survival mode which then leads to decreased enzymes that regulate bacteria. […]

    August 2, 2017 • 2:33 pm •
  27. Ann

    Thanks! It sure is an adventure 🙂 One of my biggest challenges at the moment is the bloating and stomach discomfort I seem to get from adding more carbs (mainly OJ, apple juice, potatoes, carrots and beets) and also eating more frequently (basically when I hear that high bp pulse/sound going off in my ear). The flatter and not distended stomach really was a plus with the lower carb eating 3 times a day. Plus I find it hard to find a good balance, I notice that my refeeding easily pushes me into a somewhat overstimulated jittery phase.

    August 3, 2017 • 6:48 am •
  28. East West Healing

    Hi Ann,
    I am curious how quickly or slowly you titrated carbs into your diet based on your current symptoms. Are you currently logging your foods and body temperature and pulse? SUPER highly recommended as it sounds as though you could be overloading your system where with a little more awareness and attention you could be much more effective in how you are meeting your body where it can handle the shift. We have to realize because we are working at the deepest level, the entire biochemistry of the body is shifting and needs time to slowly adapt to metabolizing carbohydrates, especially when the diet has been void.

    Have you ever considered scheduling a 15 minute consultation with us?

    August 6, 2017 • 3:00 pm •
  29. […] Hypothyroid people store very little to no glycogen so when this natural fluctuation begins to occur adrenaline and cortisol are released in excess. […]

    December 5, 2017 • 4:21 pm •
  30. Sonia

    What breathing do you recommend?

    December 7, 2017 • 1:09 pm •
  31. EastWest Healing

    Metabolic_breathing on IG

    March 26, 2018 • 9:09 am •
  32. David

    I did everything in this post but viceversa jaj. Once i knew i was Hipo, i started a keto diet, intermitant fasting and doing crossfit at 6am. Also using metfomin to help ketosis.

    Well i was on ketosis all the time, lose weight but my endurance in crossfit reduced a lot. my oxigen couldt was out of control, air hunger and fatigue very fast.

    Now that i know the problem, what would be the correct macros % in my diet?

    March 12, 2018 • 11:01 am •