Neu 5 Gc & Hashimoto’s: Do Animal Products Make it Worse?

We know that certain foods can both make Hashimoto's worse while others can potentially improve thyroid function and antibody levels. 

But where do red meat and other animal products fit into the equation?

Is it possible that these products trigger Hashimoto's or exacerbate it?

New research has suggested that there may be a link between the two. 

Article highlights:

  • 5 Neu Gc is an animal-derived product which does not naturally occur in humans but can become incorporated into the body through diet. 
  • The body can create antibodies to this product and a very high percentage of patients with positive anti-TPO antibodies also have antibodies to 5 Neu Gc. 
  • It's possible that there is a connection between consuming animal products and the development of Hashimoto's. 
  • Correlation does not mean causation, however, as not everyone with Hashimoto's may react negatively to animal products.

More...

Hashimoto's and Your Diet

Many patients are quick to point out that there is likely a connection (probably a strong connection) between the development of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's thyroiditis and the food that you put in your mouth. 

Certain types of foods, for instance, have been shown to cause alterations in immune function, damage to the intestinal lining of the gut, and changes to healthy bacterial species found within the gut. 

And all of these changes have been associated with the potential development of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. 

New research has shed light on a product which may trigger autoimmune disease and this product is primarily found animal products. 

The implication is that a diet high in animal products, especially red meat, may trigger autoimmune disease. 

The idea that a diet heavy in animal products is not healthy (1) is not new. 

There have been many doctors pushing predominately plant-based diets for some time. 

The question is:

Does removing or reducing the amount of meat (or animal-based products in general) that you consume affect autoimmune disease in your body?

We know from studies, for instance, that removing foods such as gluten (2) and dairy (3) can positively impact certain individuals with autoimmune thyroiditis. 

Would it also make sense, therefore, that there are certain individuals who are sensitive to animal products as well? 

The answer is probably not as clear cut as you might think and that is exactly what we are going to explore today. 

And the star of the conversation is a product known as Neu 5 Gc. 

For the record, I'm not advocating a diet which is absent of red meat, I'm just exploring new research and its potential implications on the body. 

My personal experience suggests that diet is highly individualized and while it may be wise for some people to be on a plant-based diet this doesn't mean that ALL people should be on one. 

Neu 5 Gc and its Association with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

What exactly is Neu 5 Gc?

It's a product which is primarily found in animals and one in which humans don't produce.

If you have Neu 5 Gc in your body it's most likely because you've consumed animal products at some point in your life. 

Recent studies have shown a very strong (and I mean very strong) correlation between the presence of antibodies to Neu 5 Gc and the presence of TPO antibodies (4). 

I should point out, however, that the correlation between these two things does not mean that one causes the other. 

For instance:

Just because patients with TPO antibodies also show antibodies to Neu 5 Gc does not guarantee that they are related in any way. 

But, back to our story. 

You probably know about TPO antibodies because they are the antibodies which your body creates which help destroy your own thyroid gland if you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. 

If you have Hashimoto's then you've probably had your blood tested and you've seen that these antibodies were elevated. 

If you also tested blood levels of Neu 5 Gc you would find that those are most likely ALSO elevated. 

The connection between TPO antibodies and Neu 5gc antibodies is important because of the point that I just mentioned previously:

Humans don’t make this product which means the main way that we get it in our bodies is through to be through the consumption of animal-based products.

We can extrapolate further and ask this question:

Is it possible that consuming animal products may cause the creation of Neu 5gc antibodies which then triggers TPO antibodies and autoimmune thyroiditis?

Furthermore, does this mean that patients with Hashimoto’s disease should avoid animal products?  

Understanding this connection is incredibly important beyond the food we eat because there are animal-derived medications (such as Armour Thyroid, WP thyroid, NP thyroid, Nature-throid, etc.) which may theoretically exacerbate Hashimoto’s if this information were true (we are going to discuss this very topic later). 

The Connection Between TPO Antibodies and Neu 5 Gc

There are many potential explanations which may help us understand the connection between Hashimoto's and the presence of Neu 5 Gc antibodies. 

For instance:

It has been shown in studies that high concentrations of Neu 5 Gc can actually kill your cells (they are cytotoxic). 

If this occurs then it is possible that these damaged cells may allow for your immune system to interact with portions of cells that they wouldn’t otherwise come into contact with. 

Imagine this scenario:

Imagine you are consuming a diet which allows for unnaturally high levels of Neu 5 Gc. As these levels reach some critical threshold (which is probably different for each person) they start to damage certain cells in the body.

Among these cells which are being damaged are your thyroid cells.

As they are destroyed your immune system comes into contact with portions of thyroid cells which contain thyroid peroxidase (which is an enzyme found inside of your thyroid gland (5)).

Under normal healthy conditions, there would ever be no reason for your immune system to come into contact with these cells (6) but if these cells are destroyed or damaged (say in the presence of 5 Neu Gc) then it may be possible for your immune system to identify portions of yourself as 'foreign' and trigger an autoimmune attack.

This could result in the production of autoantibodies to TPO which then triggers thyroid damage and ultimately Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

This is one plausible explanation of how Hashimoto’s may be connected to Neu 5 Gc antibodies.

None of this has been proven, however, but it’s interesting as a thought experiment to try and potentially explain the connection between these two things.

Another theory, which may explain the connection between these two antibodies has to do with how Neu 5 Gc can enter into our cells.

Some studies show that dietary Neu 5 Gc, from sources such as red meat, can become incorporated into your cells starting from a young age (7).

It’s possible then that after years of consuming meat-based food products that this product is found within your cells and isn’t necessarily causing any issues but as your immune systems damages your cells it may be released. 

Upon release, your body may recognize it as foreign and produce antibodies to it. 

In this example, the autoimmune disease comes first which then triggers the release of 5 Neu Gc. 

This could explain the high correlation between these two antibodies while also providing a reason as to why levels of Neu 5 Gc is not clinically relevant or important.

While we have information showing there is a strong correlation between Hashimoto's and this antibody we don't completely understand the reason. 

Meaning it’s difficult to draw conclusions from the data and information until we have more to draw from.

Should you Avoid Animal Products?

The worst-case scenario for many people would be that animal products, particularly meat, may exacerbate or trigger Hashimoto's thyroiditis. 

I don’t believe that this is actually the case based on my research, personal experience, and history of treating and managing Hashimoto's in hundreds of patients. 

Instead, it’s much more likely that there are some individuals who are simply more prone to developing Hashimoto’s (or other autoimmune diseases) due to a variety of reasons including their own genetics and the foods that they eat (8).

These individuals simply can’t tolerate the same foods as others who are not in the same situation as them.

So, is it possible that consuming meat or animal products may trigger Hashimoto’s in these select individuals?

The answer is yes, it’s always possible and even probable.

The problem is trying to determine where you fit into this equation and whether or not you are someone who should avoid animal products.

The truth is that the tolerance and the amount of animal products that one should consume probably varies from person to person.

This may also explain why some people simply do not do well on diets such as the Ketogenic diet (which I've written about here) or the Carnivore diet

There are a number of individuals, including readers of this blog, who experience worsening thyroid function when they adopt a ketogenic diet.

It’s possible that some of these changes may be related to how your body interacts with foods which are high in fat (9), especially if those foods are animal based.

So, how can you use this information and apply it to your situation?

While I am not able to provide you with personal medical advice I would offer this as a guiding resource: 

If you are someone with Hashimoto’s who has tried other diets in the past without success then a good rule of thumb may be to reduce the frequency with which you consume meat.

This doesn’t mean that you have to completely eliminate meats or animal products from your diet, but reducing how frequently you consume these foods by 25 to 50% may make a difference.

As you make this change be sure to follow your thyroid lab tests, your antibody levels, your gut function, and your general symptoms. 

If you notice a positive change in these markers then you are probably heading in the right direction. 

If not, then you can try to further reduce the amount of red meat that you consume and re-evaluate. 

Reducing or eliminating red meat from your diet for a short period of time (say 3-4 months) is not likely to have any long-lasting negative effects on your body and may potentially help your situation. 

Armour Thyroid and TPO antibodies

Lastly, it's also important that we touch on thyroid medications which are animal-derived. 

NDT medications, such as Armour Thyroid (also included in this list would be NP thyroid, Nature-throid, and WP thyroid) are often considered as 'natural' medications even though they are derived from an animal source and not by a human source

If it is true that animal products contain 5 Neu Gc and that this is potentially harmful to your body then we also have to consider the class of medications known as Natural Desiccated Thyroid which are typically porcine-derived. 

If it's possible that food can contain this product then it's also possible that NDT medications can contain it as well (and likely do). 

If this were true, however, then we would probably see that some people with Hashimoto's would not be able to tolerate this type of medication and may experience a worsening in their symptoms. 

T3 conversion booster results

We generally do not see that, however, and I'm speaking as someone who has given countless patients with Hashimoto's NDT. 

I have, however, seen robust negative reactions in certain individuals (very few to date) who start with NDT medications who also have Hashimoto's. 

These patients often react negatively with a 'storm' of negative symptoms, an abrupt increase in serum antibody levels, and a negative change to their thyroid function lab tests. 

It's not clear what is causing this reaction, but it's been suspected by me (and by other physicians) that this type of reaction may be related to immune system response to the animal-derived medication. 

So it's hard to say with any degree of certainty whether there is a correlation between negative reactions to NDT and 5 Neu Gc levels. 

Conclusion

As always, I will be following the research as it comes out to determine if there is something more to it but at this point, I don’t believe that we can make any definitive claims or suggestions.

It is, however, a reasonable approach to adjust your diet (at least temporarily) to reduce your exposure to Neu 5 Gc products if you’ve already tried other dietary approaches with little success.

Altering up your diet is always a good idea as it provides more variety to the foods that you consume and it will help provide you with a different array of nutrients and vitamins.

Just be sure to incorporate essential nutrients into your diet in the form of supplements if you take this route as meat does provide high levels of certain nutrients that can be difficult to get in plant-based products.

Now I want to hear from you:

Do you believe there is a connection between animal products and Hashimoto’s?

Have you tried vegetarian or vegan diets in the past?

Did they work well for you? Why or why not?

Leave your questions or comments below!

References (Click to Expand)

Dr. Westin Childs

Dr. Westin Childs is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. He provides well-researched actionable information about hormone-related disorders and formulates supplements to treat these disorders.He is trained in Internal Medicine, Functional Medicine, and Integrative Medicine. His focus is on managing thyroid disorders, weight loss resistance, and other sex hormone imbalances.You can read more about his own personal journey here.

15 thoughts on “Neu 5 Gc & Hashimoto’s: Do Animal Products Make it Worse?”

  1. My TPO antibodies were elevated until I went on Thyroid medication, a slew of antioxidants and LDN. However, I will say that while I have Hashimoto’s ‘under control’, any time I eat too much meat (more than 3-4 oz per meal) I feel worse, I get a strange pain in my shoulder blades. I don’t have any intolerance to meat per se per IGG Food testing, but this was a very interesting article.

      • Thanks for the suggestion! I just looked into that because coincidentally this shoulder blade pain and tiredness after eating higher amounts of meat started after I went on the keto diet last year. I’ve eaten meat most of my life and never experienced this before. I’ll have to ask my doctor look into this, I’ve just been cutting back on meat to not have to go through it, but if there is a problem developing, I’d rather address it.

  2. I so desperately need your help Dr Childs. I have insulin resistance, thyroid resistance, leptin resistance, pcos, mthfr mutations. Etc
    I cannot find a specialist to guide me through your protocols let alone write prescriptions for these items. Oh please help me.

  3. [email protected]
    Previous to the hashimotos diagnosis I ate a low carb diet. My predominant symptom has been palpitations. A endocrinologist tested my thyroid antibodies when tests for my heart showed nothing wrong. He declared I had hashimotos. I had been treated with radiation and chemo therapy 4 yes previous so the assumption is that is where it is derived from since this does not run in my family. That was 3 yes ago, I have been gluten free, dairy free, soy free , red meat, chicken and pork free and sugar free nothing changes that from time to time I get crazy palpitations. I’m asking myself is it possible to have high thyroid anti bodies and NOT have Hashimotos?

    • Hi Margie,

      Yes, it is possible to have high antibodies and not have Hashimoto’s. There are conditions which result in temporary increases in these antibody levels which do not seem to negatively impact the thyroid. Thyroid antibodies are also associated with an increased risk of certain cancers such as breast cancer.

  4. I am one of those people who respond negatively to a high fat diet. I’ve had low T3 for a few years but never had elevated TPO before. After doing strict keto for over a year, where I was mostly carnivore for 4 of them, I now have tested positive for antibodies (also had a lot of other symptoms indicating that things were not moving in the right direction). I’ve been gluten and dairy free for the entire time, and eat a whole food based diet (meat and veg). I have the impression that’s it’s more the very low carb/high fat that is causing me problems and not the meat in itself but will maybe try decreasing my intake of red meat to see what happens.

    • Hi Pia,

      Thanks for sharing! The macromolecules themselves also play a role in hormone/thyroid regulation, so you may be right in your assumption. But it could also be a combination of both things.

  5. I have had repeated tests for Hashimoto’s. I’m one of the people with hypothyroidism that doesn’t have Hashimoto’s. I do take NDT and Cytomel. I know NDT is porcine, but the way I eat probably contributes to my stellar health. I eat a low fat, vegan, whole food, plant-based diet. I had a celiac diagnosis in 1998, so I also don’t eat gluten. I reversed chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, “leaky gut,” my seasonal allergies, and have maintained my ideal weight since 2014. I am working on preventing the diseases of affluence like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease which all run in my family. Oh wait, maybe it’s diets that run in families? 🙂 Eating animal products isn’t necessary and they are often inflammatory. Plus, they aren’t ideal for our planet. Yes, I went there. If one digs deep enough into the scientific literature, there is all kinds of data that shows eating a whole food, plant-based diet helps many health conditions. I don’t trust studies paid for by Big Dairy or Big Meat or the like.

    • Hi Lisa,

      You are so smart!!! I have a similar story just haven’t totally gone WFPB however I think you post has made me really rethink:) Thanks so much for sharing!!!

      All the best,
      Wishing you abundant health…

      Susan xo

  6. I have had Hypothyroidism for 30 yrs ( postpartum) just a year ago told its Hashimotos as evidence by my thyroid scan ( was told it’s seronegative) never shown antibodies throughout the 30 yrs. I have always taken Synthroid NDT gave me a weird reaction on day 3 of trying it. I am allergic to casein and beef so don’t eat red meat or pork nor gluten nor dairy, though I do eat organic chicken, turkey, wild fish and occasionally eggs. Would these animal proteins be the same as red meat? I do have a few small nodules on my thyroid, one is now at 9 mm. Should this be biopsied as of yet? Thank you for all your amazing work and research so very appreciated.

  7. Since being diagnosed I’ve also developed food allergies. Example Celiac disease. I’ve cut out grains, sugar and high carb foods and feel a lot better. I feel better eating meat, fish, and most proteins and good fats.

  8. I have had Thyroid cancer twice since 1972, and told by docs that I wouldn’t live past “middle” age. I have seen Naturpathic Docs over the years, along with other alternative/complementary therapies such as Feinberg’s Neuromodulation Technique, Body Code and Emotion Code, and Tapping. I am almost totally Vegannow. Once I was told by an MD, “I don’t know that I wouldn’t go see that Kavorkian guy…” I was shocked at firs, but then realized he was more afraid of cancer than I was. I have studied the Gerson Diet. I am on Levothyroxine, but for several years I was on Armour Thyroid and then another form of this through an NMD. I had to have the total Thyroidectomy in 2014, with a diagnosis of types of cancer, one hurthel cell and the other follicular. My symptoms were very much textbook Hashimotos. The Armour Thyroid like supplements did exacerbate the growth of the tumor as the thyroid stimulating hormone was very elevated and is an indicator of tumor growth. So I think if you have had thyroid cancer, one should be working closely with a competent doctor. I would love to try your products, Dr. Westin, but I don’t feel I can at this time. Warm regards. (PS I had cancer first at age 22 and I’m 69 now…I think it is prayer, good diet, using the best of the medical and holistic world, and good docs!)

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