Millions of people drink diet soda in the belief they’re better for you and are preventing weight gain, and the soda industry invests millions of dollars to perpetuate this belief. Research, however, paints a different picture — diet sodas are dangerous and can make you fat. If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, make sure to leave this modern libation out of your diet.

Diet sodas make you fatWhy? Artificial, low-calorie sweeteners used in diet sodas confuse the body and derange its ability to metabolize sugar and carbohydrates. This “confusion” increases hunger and sugar cravings.

Also, artificial sweeteners create imbalances in gut bacteria, boosting the bacteria that turn calories into body fat, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, and inflammation.

When managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you want to keep your body and your metabolism as balanced as possible. Diet sodas can work against you in this regard.

Diet sodas bring bigger risks than obesity with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

The health risks associated with diet soda are far more serious than weight gain.

The primary sweetener used in diet sodas, aspartame (which goes by the benign-sounding names Equal and NutraSweet), has been linked to numerous cardiovascular conditions, including stroke, heart failure, and heart attack.

In fact, a nine-year study of 60,000 women showed women who drank two or more cans of diet soda a day were 50 percent more likely to die of heart disease.

Moreover, aspartame overstimulates the brain chemical dopamine, which over time can result in depression, migraine headaches, and seizures.

The other FDA-approved artificial sweeteners — saccharin, neotame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium — have also been linked to increased risk for heart disease and other health conditions.

Aspartame is a controversial topic. It has been linked to myriad health conditions, some as serious as brain tumors, birth defects, cancer, and memory loss, and is behind numerous complaints to the FDA. However, industry science holds fast to its safety.

Although it is controversial, plenty of good science links it with myriad health disorders. Because the immune system and the thyroid are intricately linked with every aspect of health, you do not want to create unnecessary complications with things such as diet soda. Managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism successfully requires careful attention to diet and lifestyle and removal or reduction of factor that trigger inflammation.

Fruit juice is not a healthy substitute when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Unfortunately, fruit juice is not a healthy substitute for soda. Fructose is every bit as fattening and inflammatory as sugar or chemical sweeteners. Excessive consumption of fruit juice also puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes. Blood sugar surges and drops from things like fruit juice also can trigger flare ups of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

In contrast, eating whole fruit also has you consuming fiber, enzymes, minerals and other healthful compounds stripped away by juicing. Also, chewing tells your brain that you’ve eaten, which reduces your appetite. However, be sure not to eat too much high-glycemic fruit either, as it’s still high in sugar and can make managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism more difficult.

If you are addicted to diet sodas (as many people are), you may have to wean yourself gradually. Begin by substituting sparkling water with lemon or lime juice, or even just plain water, for some of your sweet drinks. Often when you think you want something sweet, you’re really just thirsty, and plain filtered water will do you fine.

With patience, you can develop an automatic preference for whole, healthy, unsweetened foods and drinks, largely because they make you feel better. After a while, the foods you crave most can actually be those that are best for your body. People who adopt at least a whole foods, gluten- and dairy-free diet, and create lifestyle habits that promote well being and balanced immunity, often report significant reductions in thyroid symptoms and increases in well being and function. These gains make diet soda lose its appeal.

Ask my office about transitioning to a whole foods diet so you can feel and function your best with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.