Health Tip #39

health-tip-39

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is an endocrine gland.  It helps to regulate metabolism and weight.  Thyroid hormones influence every cell and process in the body including growth and development.

How does it work?

The thyroid produces three types of hormones:  T3, T4, and T2.  These hormones interact with all other hormones in our bodies.  The liver converts T4 into T3 (the active form).  T3 lowers cholesterol levels, regrows hair and helps maintain body weight by controlling metabolism.  T3 can be disrupted by stress, infections, nutritional imbalances, toxins and allergens.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is and under-active thyroid, when when our bodies don’t produce enough thyroid hormone.  Many, many people have sub-clinical hypothyroidism with no obvious signs or symptoms.

  • Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

    • Some symptoms of Hypothyroidism include: tiring easily and lack of sustained energy, depression, feeling of a “heavy” head, falling asleep sitting up, weight gain, dry skin and chronic hives, hair loss, always feeling cold, low basal body temperature, stiff and popping joints, tingling and numbness.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is an over-active thyroid, when the thyroid secretes too much T4.

  • Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

    • Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism are: protruding eyes, menstrual cycle irregularities, weight loss, heartbeat irregularities, emotional instability, lack of mental focus, nervousness, restlessness, and frequent bowel movements.

Possible Causes of Thyroid Dysfunction and What to Avoid

Some possible underlying causes of thyroid dysfunction include: radiation exposure, chronic stress, nutrient debt (from eating processed foods, low HCl and malabsorption), heavy metal accumulation, pesticides, halogens (bromides, fluoride, chlorine), dysbiosis, free radical damage (low antioxidants), low iodine levels, low selenium levels, yo-yo dieting, metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) and goitrogens (in soy and cabbage family foods), Food allergies and sensitivities, and gluten sensitivity.

Testing thyroid function

Lab tests may be done to access the function of the thyroid including: TSH test, free T4 and free T3 test, and a thyroid antibody test to test for an autoimmune reaction.  A self test can be performed as an initial indicator of low thyroid by taking our temperature, with a basal body thermometer, each morning, before getting out of bed, for at least three days.  Average body temperature measurements should not be below 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 36.4 degrees Celsius.

What to Add In

Things to add in to our diets and lifestyles to nourish the thyroid include:

  • Clean”  whole foods (as opposed to processed foods) to help reduce her exposure to toxins in the diet, particularly pesticides as they interfere with iodine uptake.
  • Shop the outside perimeter of the grocery store looking for nutrient dense, unprocessed whole foods.
  • A primarily plant based diet of brightly colored vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, will provide her with plenty of fiber and antioxidants.
  • Meals including protein and healthy fats to help us feel more satisfied and support blood sugar stability.  healthy fats such as butter, coconut oil, egg yolks and omega 3 oils (like those found in cold water fish, walnuts and pecans, will not make us fat but instead nourish the thyroid and help to regulate our weight).
  • Slow down, careful chewing, avoiding or limiting convenience foods (which lead to inflammation and thyroid problems), as well as drinking between meals (not with meals) so as to not dilute HCl.
  • Drinking pure or filtered water, which does not contain any fluoride or Chlorine.
  • Sea foods and Sea vegetables, (such as: kelp flakes or mixed seaweed flakes), rich in trace minerals and iodine, have a salty flavor and can be added (undetected) to soups and stews. Note: Iodine containing foods are recommended for non-autoimmune thyroiditis only. For autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s), they should be avoided.
*For more information on Hashimoto’s and molecular mimicry, see my tip on going gluten free.

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Health Tip #38

health-tip-38

Contrary to popular belief, most of us with digestive issues, including heart burn and GERD, are suffering from too little stomach acid, rather than too much.  Many factors can contribute to having too little stomach acid including: eating too quickly and under stress, a diet too high in processed carbs and sugars which upsets the gut’s microbial balance and eating foods that we are sensitive to, such as gluten, which can cause an inflammatory response.  Some medications also reduce our natural stomach acid.

Besides removing the factors that cause reduced stomach acid,  one thing that we can do to improve digestion is to add in a hydrochloric acid (HCl) and digestive enzyme supplement.  We can test how much HCl supplement we need by adding one HCl capsule each meal time.  By increasing the number of capsules by one, each meal time, we can take note of any reactions we feel.  When a slight burning sensation is felt in the upper gastric area, we know our supplementation is having an effect and it’s time to cut back.  At this point, we reduce the dosage to that which we were taking prior to the burning sensation.

The HCl acid supplement we choose should also include digestive enzymes, particularly pepsin.  If the stomach acid is low, it will not be producing enough protein digesting enzymes either.

A caveat to this advice comes from  Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac as he warns:

Note: HCL should never be taken (and this test should not be performed) by anyone who is also using any kind of anti-inflammatory medication such as corticosteroids (e.g. predisone), aspirin, Indocin, ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin, Advil, etc.) or other NSAIDS. These drugs can damage the GI lining that supplementary HCL might aggravate, increasing the risk of gastric bleeding or ulcer.

Health Tip #13

health-tip-13

Eating slowly, calmly, and in a calm environment is crucial for digestion, health and weight loss.  When we eat too quickly or under stress, we cannot properly digest our food and assimilate its nutrients.  When we eat too fast, we don’t even get a chance to taste our food and we miss out on a process called, the cephalic phase of digestive response.  This is really just a fancy term for preparing the body for digestion by seeing the food, smelling the food, wanting and appreciating the food before it’s eaten.  This process is the beginning of digestion and if missed, we can’t digest our food properly.  If we are busy and distracted while we’re eating we miss out on this phase of digestion.  If we eat a meal without even really realizing we’ve eaten, the head still signals ‘hungry’ even though our bellies are full, and we will go looking for more to eat.  Another reason why it’s good to slow down while we’re eating is that eating quickly and under stress, sends the message to the brain that we’re not safe and activates the sympathetic nervous system.  We can’t digest in this state.

So what to do?  Slow down. Eat consciously.   Prioritize meal times.  If you can, take the time to set the table.  Light some candles.  Plate your food attractively.  Play relaxing music.  Take the time to look at and appreciate and smell your foods before you eat it.  Before you start to eat, take five to ten, long, slow, deep breaths.  This activates the parasympathetic nervous system and prepares the body for digestion. When you eat your food, try to be present to it.  Taste each bite in your mouth.  Feel its texture.  Eating can actually become a mindfulness practice.  In short, enjoy your food!

Don’t have time to cook?  Get in the habit of cooking slow by using a slow cooker to cook your meals while you’re at work.  Join the slow food movement and slow down your meal times.