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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 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 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.
Tags: Allergies, antioxidants, Depression, Dieting, Dysbiosis, Fat, Food Sensitivities, Gluten, HCl, Hyperthyroid, Hypothyroid, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, Pesticides, Processed Foods, Sea Vegetables, Seafood, Slow Down, Stress, Stress-Hormones, Thyroid, Vegetables, Water, Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Wellness Journal, Whole Foods
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.
Tags: Anti-inflammatory, Digestive Enzymes, Elimination Diet, Environment, Enzymes, GERD, Gluten, HCl, Heart Burn, Hydrochloric Acid, Low-Carb, Microbiome, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, Pepsin, Probiotics, Relax, Simple Carbohydrates, Slow Down, Stress
Bathing In Nature
Being outdoors in nature brings about a feeling of peace and restores our equilibrium. I love being in the forest here on the Pacific North West Coast, surrounded by big trees, or walking along the beach, with the waves crashing on the shore. I always feel better after spending time in nature. “Shinrin-yoku,” is a Japanese healing practice of “forest bathing”. It means spending time in a forest, to improve mental and physical health by inhaling negative ions, essential oils and even beneficial bacteria from the forest air.
Health Benefits of Negative Ions
When we are in nature, near mountains, waterfalls, and beaches, we are exposed to negative ions. There is evidence to show that negative ions produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood enhancing chemicals which in turn help to relieve depression and stress, and give us an energy boost. This may be one of the reasons why being outdoors in nature has been shown to decrease stress, increase creativity, improve mood and self-esteem and improve SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder).
Touch The Earth
As I am writing this post in January, it may seem a little impractical, but one of the best ways to expose ourselves to negative ions is through grounding, or touching our bare skin to the earth, such as walking barefoot on the beach.
Nature Offers Better Air Quality
Another good reason for spending at least some time each day, outdoors in nature, is that indoor air quality is usually far worse than outdoors. This is due to off gassing of building materials, paints, carpeting and furniture and the build up of dust and mold.
As we mentioned in the post about sleep, getting out in natural sunlight helps set our internal clock and helps us sleep better at night.
Exercising outdoors in nature or green exercise can be very energizing and has the added benefit of adding variety and intensity to our workout as we move through the wind, weather and changing terrain. Exercising outdoors has also shown to lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone).
Those who have little contact with nature have been shown to to be more likely to suffer from certain mental disorders.
And as a final note, the next time you’re outdoors in nature, why not try doing it mindfully. Turn off the noise (music players, cell phones…) and be fully present, for at least a few moments, to the nature around you, moving in time with your breath and sensing the moment. Truly be in nature.
Tags: Air Quality, Depression, Exercise, Forest Bathing, Forests, Green Exercise, Grounding, Inspiration, Meditation, Mindfulness, Nature, Negative Ions, Oceans, Outdoors, Seasonal Affected Disorder, Stress, Stress-Hormones, Walking Meditation
We Need Our Sleep
Sleep is not merely a waste of productive time. Sleep is a necessary part of your overall health. We need 8 hours of sleep each night for optimal health. Lack of proper sleep can lead to a decline in mental and physical health including: reduced cognitive function, memory loss, weight gain, obesity, depression, headaches, anxiety, accidents, diabetes, decreased immune function, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and lack of emotional control. A lack of sleep also exacerbates chronic illnesses already present.
While we sleep, our body goes into a detox, repair and mental and immunological integration faze. Without sleep we miss out on all of these processes.
Sleep For Better Brain Health
Sleep makes you smarter. While we sleep, and as we dream, our brain sews together (integrates) the pieces of our experiences into memories, discovers the rules for our lives and fosters insight. Studies have shown that students performed better on problem solving and memory and recall tests when given a chance to sleep on it. Our brain strategizes and figures out answers to our problems and possible paths of action and the meaning of our lives while we sleep. A lack of this process can lead to lack of mental health including depression.
In order to get good sleep we need complete darkness. Light at night disrupts our anti-cancer, melatonin production. It is for this reason that shift work is listed as a possible carcinogen. Blue light emitted from fluorescent and LED lights are not healthy for us during the night. Using blue-light blockers on technology, blue light blocker glasses and incandescent lights at night will help with this.
Stay In Sync With The Sun
Ideally to synchronize our biological clocks, we should be rising with the sun, being exposed to natural sunlight during the day and darkness at night. Spending daylight hours outdoors will help with this, especially at high noon, so taking a walk on our lunch break is a great idea. Not only that, but spending time outdoors in nature also helps with good quality sleep.
Shutting off all electronics and stopping work 1 or 2 hours before bed can help with a good nights sleep. Doing activities that help you to relax and wind down will also help you sleep. Have a hot bath, listen to relaxation recordings, read something uplifting or write in your gratitude journal and have a good nights sleep.
Hello and welcome to my Health Tips!
Many of the tips you’ll find in this collection are ones you have probably heard before. It often takes us hearing something several times and presented in different ways before we are ready to take action on the information we’ve heard. Think of this collection as gentle reminders to do the best for yourself. I am hoping to present the information to you in very easy and do-able steps. We will start out with the most basic tips and gradually increase in complexity. We will even spiral back on some of the tips we’ve mentioned earlier, adding depth each time around.
Some of the tips will resonate with you and some won’t. Don’t worry about the ones that don’t. Do what works for you and leave the rest. Guilt free!
What I am hoping most to impress upon you is the need to just relax and enjoy the steps you are taking toward better health. You absolutely cannot stress yourself into better health.
I want to start out the new year with really just getting back to basics because if you’ve got the basics you’re well on your way to a healthier you. Things like just remembering to eat real food, drink pure water, focus on the good, let go of what hasn’t been so good, take time to just breathe, get good sleep, and don’t take it all too seriously.
Remember through this process to praise yourself often for all the good things you do to care for yourself. The fact that you’re reading this right now means you are making positive steps toward better self-care.
Consistency is the key. Aristotle is quoted as saying, “…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.” Choose just one, two or eventually a handful of tips to integrate into your lifestyle and do those things with consistency.
I wish you all the best on your health journey!
Click here for the first of my health tips.
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.