I quit sugar to manage my autoimmune disease. And after almost five years of being off the sweet stuff, I can say this: Quitting sugar had the biggest impact on my disease (Hashimotos) more so than any other medical “fix”.

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Today I’m able to hike and bike and travel and function normally most days.

I have zero thyroid antibodies now, am on the minimum dosage of thyroxin and my hormone levels have fallen back into the right range. My doctors and endocrinologist confirm that the concerted changes I’ve made to my diet are the most probable cause. Which is high praise indeed (you’d know what I mean if you have an endo in your life!).

So will quitting sugar help you if you have an autoimmune disease? I can confidently say, yes.

Mostly because since doing the experiment for myself, I’ve looked into the science behind it all. It goes a little something like this…

Sugar mucks up your gut

Blood sugar imbalances inflame the digestive tract, causing leaky gut (literally, a perforated gut lining). In turn, leaky gut triggers the development of AI. Toxins are able to pass through the perforations into the bloodstream triggering an autoimmune reaction as our antibodies head out to attack the foreign invaders. These little antibody soldiers can then get confused and head off to attack parts of our bodies, such as the thyroid.

Sugar causes inflammation

The process above obviously creates inflammation, which compromises immune function. In addition, sugar compromises the ability of our white cells to destroy toxins. This effect begins within 30 minutes of eating the stuff and lasts for five hours.

Plus, insulin spikes destroy the thyroid gland

As many of you know, sugar causes our pancreas to secrete insulin to move excess sugar from the blood into our cells where glucose is used to produce energy. But over time, the cells lose the ability to respond to insulin. Our poor little pancreas responds by pumping out even more insulin, leading to insulin resistance. Studies have shown that these repeated insulin surges increase the destruction of the thyroid gland.

Flipside, a bung thyroid can then cause insulin issues

How’s this work? Our thyroid function depends on blood sugar being kept in a normal range, and keeping our blood sugar in a normal range depends on healthy thyroid function.

How so? Low thyroid function slows down the way we process sugar – in our cells, guts, the insulin response and the clearance of insulin. Which means…

We might actually have normal levels of glucose in our blood, but because we’re slow to respond to it, and to absorb it, we very easily get hypoglycemic (and thus clutch at sugar). Oh dear…

Upshot? You have to break the clusterf*cky cycle… yourself

It’s been shown an increased frequency of thyroid disorders in diabetics, and a higher prevalence of obesity and metabolic syndrome in people with wonky thyroids. It’s hard to say which comes first, metabolic issues or bung thyroids. But does it really matter? At the end of the day, my friends, it all comes down to sugar. And the solution really is to quit it.

Sound familiar? If you suffer from autoimmune disease or thyroid disease and want to quit sugar, sign up for the October round of the 8-Week-Program. 

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Jane Hayes

    Sarah I hope you don’t mind me asking but have you ever used Armour for your thyroid?

  • Sonya

    I am curious about this also as I remember you mentioning in an earlier post that you took Armour. Have you gone back to Thyroxin?

  • Louise

    One thing that confuses me: in the above points mentioning insulin/blood glucose spikes – both of those will happen just as much/even more so when ingesting straight glucose vs fructose – which iqs advocates. I would agree if the program was encouraging people to quit all sugar (no, I don’t mean carbs)…. Thoughts?

  • lara

    can I ask when you say you haven’t eaten sugar in 5 years does that mean no sugar or fruit even dark chocolate ever or do you keep to a limit each day? Does the 8 week program mean no sugar but what do you do after that?

  • Bc Bernice Marks

    Look up the new info on Leaky Gut Syndrome and auto immune disease. Sugar is a huge part of this and improving the intestinal tract may be a huge answer. Diet is a great answer to this problem.

  • Ava

    oh this is so wrong. you cannot “quit sugar”. this is only a fad. you would die without sugar. so i know that you for sure eat it here and there. read books written by M.Ds who actually know what they are talking about because they provide you with scientific data. and when you are about to follow somebody’s advise always look at them first and ask yourself “is that person looking healthy for me?” read books by doctor Neal Barnard, John McDougall and China Study book- the biggest research study ever done. email me if you have any questions at [email protected]

  • Bec Irving

    Thanks for this post Sarah 🙂 Inflammation is so crucial to understanding and tackling auto-immune. From first hand experience living with MS eliminating refined sugar and limiting fructose has had such a positive impact. It is where I started in getting back to simple basic living through tackling underlying inflammation & gut health. Keep sharing your message beautiful lady x

  • CJ

    Sarah, I am curious if you have experienced hives/anxiety due to your hashimotos disease? Or anyone else on this forum. I have come to experience that being in a stressful corporate job, that I often induce and experience hives in stressful situations. I never had this happen prior to being diagnosed. Any advice?

    • Ayesha

      I suffered from severe hives after I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Turned out it was due to a newly developed gluten intolerance. As soon as I went off gluten, the hives stopped completely. I’m a filmmaker, so my stress levels are off the charts. But I’ve been gluten-free and hive-free for a year now.

    • Jacki

      6 months after i was diagnosed i had dreadful hives, although i went to so many GPs and allergists and it took them forever to tell me what it was. Apparently it’s normal approx 3 months before or after diagnosis. It took about 2 years to go (although it was only really bad in winter) and what helped for me was avoiding food like chilli and onion. But eventually i think my body adjusted and it went away. I did try a lot of elimination diets too but they were so hard i couldn’t tell you what else worked for me.

  • olivia

    I’m so glad i read this!! have been suffering with hashimotos for eight years, it can be pretty debilitating! definitely going to give this a try xx