Are You on a Diet For Your Thyroid?

Diets.

Low fat, low carb, avoid goitrogens, paleo, primal, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Slimfast, Whole 30, starvation, blood type. The list really goes on and on and on. What kind of diet have you tried?  

What does the word diet even mean?

The dictionary defines diet as “food and drink that is regularly provided and consumed”. You don’t have to be on a “diet” to have a healthy diet. Diets, in the way that we all know and love to hate, do not work.  Most diets tell you what you cannot eat before they tell you what you can eat. I have never been able to restrict my eating without completely obsessing over what I cannot have. That has always been a struggle for me and I would guess for many of you as well. 

When you hear the words “Paleo Diet” you would tend to think the same thing you have about every other diet out there. It is restrictive and meant for you to lose weight. Isn’t that why people diet? Depending on how you look at things, any diet can be restrictive, even the Paleo Diet. 

The difference between other “diets” and a Paleo diet is that the whole premise of eating Paleo is to feed your body nutrient dense foods. It emphasizes the highest quality of food one can afford. Nose to tail, local when possible. It is a healing diet to many and it can become the food and drink that is regularly provided and consumed.

It doesn’t mean you can’t eat anything else but what eating real food does is show you just how good you really can feel when you cut out all the processed sugary foods that we are so accustomed to having whenever we want.

There are some exclusions in eating a real food diet. The foods that are excluded are more inflammatory and are cut out for specific reasons. You may find that when you cut out grains, legumes, dairy and maybe even nightshades if you have an autoimmune disease that you will feel fantastic. If you choose to keep them out for at least a month, your body had time to heal a bit, calm some inflammation you didn’t even realize was making you feel like crap. Then, if you sneak in some pizza or a donut and you feel like you have been hit by a truck, you will know why. It’s the food. 

Food is medicine and food is poison. It just depends on what kind of food you choose to consume. Your average diet doesn’t make you feel better because you may feel crappy all the way through it and you never get to have that “aha” moment of “this food really makes me feel like crud”. Get in touch with your body. Listen to it when it speaks to you. 

Look. I have been there. It took me a lot of years to listen to my body. I waited until my body was screaming at me to listen to it. Actually, it screamed at me and I didn’t listen. My baby died at 34 weeks gestation because I didn’t listen to my body and my doctor didn’t have a clue. Cut to 4 or so years later and I finally listened when it was yelling at me again.  Dry, crusty, peeling lips that were sore and felt swollen. Itching arms and chest, all the damn time. I had red scabs all over my upper chest (fancy name = decolletage) and my upper arms. I probably had this issue for a year before I got so sick and tired of it that I started to do some digging. A google search led me somewhere, I don’t remember but in my mind I was thinking, I should give up gluten and see if that helps. Well that would mean I couldn’t eat a box of organic wheat thins in one sitting at my desk at work. That meant giving up bread and the love affair I had with it. Something kept eating at me to give it up though. I couldn’t shake it no matter how hard I tried. So, I decided one day to give it up cold turkey and never looked back. Two weeks later, the rash was gone. Something else happened too. My thinking was clearer and my mood was better for a little while. The rash, however, never came back. The itching on my arms though, creeped its way back in to my life when I consumed too many other grains (corn tortilla chips became my vice).  That was a whisper to which I ignored for awhile. You would think I would have learned my lesson. 

Going gluten free led me to learning about Brittany Angell since I was trying to replace all my old favorites with gluten free versions and she had a great website for that. I went a couple of months being gluten free before my naturopathic doctor told me I needed to cut out dairy and a few other foods. This led to me finding the Paleo diet. I don’t even remember now how that happened but I do remember stumbling upon Practical Paleo at Costco and picking it up. It is a great book which is located on my Resources page (and is an affiliate link) if you wish to check it out.  I started tinkering with recipes and feeling sorry for myself because I couldn’t eat this or that. My life revolved around food and baking and eating so this whole change was tough for me. It has been five years and I am finally making peace with what is now my way of eating because it is what my body needs to be well.  I have cut out sugar and am slowly transitioning in to an autoimmune protocol which cuts out nuts, seeds, nightshades and eggs. 

So here you have it. Eating Paleo is not a diet, it is a lifestyle. It was never meant to be a short term fix for anything and even long term this way of eating isn’t a panacea but it sure can make a world of difference in your life, especially if you are consuming the Standard American Diet of processed and fast foods.

I was at the store today getting some things for Thanksgiving and came across a whole section of the store for your Thanksgiving table. Stove Top stuffing was there. I used to love that stuff. We ate it regularly when my kids were little and everyone gobbled it up. I read the ingredients. It has MSG listed on the label two different times with two different names. They call MSG a flavor enhancer because it makes crappy lifeless food taste better. Stay away from the boxes of “food”. Real food doesn’t usually come in a package. 

How can you make a lifestyle like this work for you?

If it works for you, you can create a food journal (at least for awhile). It is your best tool to help you figure out how something has made you feel and what it might do to your digestion. Write down each meal, snack and drink each day for a month. Write how each of those meals made you feel and what your digestion and eliminations look like. You will be able to make a correlation to which foods upset your system and which foods work for you. Another reason it is good to make a food journal is you will be able to tell immediately if you are eating enough and what you might be eating too little or too much of.  This is not for everyone (me included) but I can attest to how useful it is for me when working with clients to help them figure out what changes need to be made and what they are doing right. 

Drop the D word from your vocabulary. No more dieting. Just eat real food. 

Now, if you have Hashimoto’s like I do the Autoimmune Protocol is probably something you should look at. It took me a long time to admit that this is where I needed to be. I didn’t want to give up potatoes, peppers and especially tomatoes. I love all of those things. Sometimes though, those things you love and crave are because when you eat them, your body releases dopamine as a protective mechanism against the harm those foods are causing you. That really sucks, doesn’t it?!  I woke up with an aching hip one day in August of this year and I knew I had to seriously consider doing AIP. Still it was two more months before I bit the bullet and went for it. At the same time I went AIP, I went sugar free too. I have slipped up and consumed a pepper or a tomato here and there and honestly, have paid for it with my digestion being screwed up and the ache in my hip creeping back in. I also relied too heavily on nuts over the last year and now have a mouth reaction (swelling, burning sensation) and the feeling like influenza is about to hit when I consume any nuts. This happens when you have autoimmune disease and leaky gut. You can almost assuredly create new food sensitivities for yourself by consuming too much of one thing for too long. So, it was AIP or bust. I feel pretty good both physically and emotionally after cutting out even more and I can even look at my way of eating and really be thankful for what I can have. 

Don’t diet for your thyroid. Don’t diet to lose weight (especially if you have thyroid problems). Don’t diet to get healthy. 

Just eat real food. And love yourself no matter what. 

In health, 

Stephanie

The Importance of Sleep in Chronic Illness

I have been having lots of trouble sleeping over the last couple of months due to a change in my thyroid medication. It has been so frustrating for me but also for my entire family. You know the old saying, “If Mom isn’t happy, then no one is happy”. That could not have been more true for me over the last couple of months. One can only go so long without sleep. I was averaging two nights a week of only about 4 hours of sleep a night. Not enough for anyone to function properly on, that’s for sure! I become irrational and downright awful to be around when I don’t get enough sleep and it takes me a couple days to recover from a night like that. Once I am starting to recover it would happen all over again. It has been a never ending cycle of misery for everyone. 

I have slept well the last week or so and really feel like a totally different person. I attribute this feeling to a few things. First, I was sleeping through the night, duh. Second, I started the Autoimmune Protocol about 6 weeks ago and last, I went on a sugar detox with my RESTART class so I have not had any sugar for the last two weeks (only a green banana, half a grapefruit or a green apple for fruit each day). So I have been sleeping really good for the last week. I am so grateful. 

Since I was having issues with my sleep and I know lots of people with Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s also have problems sleeping I thought I would dive in to the subject for you. 

Most people are not sleeping enough. That includes everyone, not just those of us with thyroid problems. The average amount a person sleeps per night has gone down around 2 hours from 50 years ago. 

Adequate sleep is imperative to avoid chronic illness. It is more important than your diet, exercise and stress. Sleep also helps you heal when you are sick. There are studies to show the role sleep plays in healing from breast cancer- you need to sleep when fighting such an illness. 

While you are sleeping, your body, including your brain, is detoxifying. While you sleep, your brain cells get smaller to increase the space between them so the toxins can easily be flushed in to the blood and filtered through the liver and kidneys. If you are not sleeping long enough or deep enough this waste can build up effecting your brain health and function. 

You might remember from science class the five stages of sleep that go in a cycle. We start at stage one when we first fall asleep and also when you can wake up really easily. You then move on the stage two which is a deeper sleep where your brainwaves slow down. Next you fall in to deep sleep with slower brain waves. Stage four is similar to stage three but has only slow brain waves. Stages three and four are the hardest to wake someone up in. Lastly, you have REM sleep and your brain waves get faster, almost as if you were awake. This is when you are dreaming. This cycle continues through the night. 

How do you ensure a good nights sleep?

Listen to your body. Your brain has a clock (circadian clock) which controls hormones in your body that tell you it’s time for you to go to bed. Those electronics and tv shows you have on while its dark out mess with those hormones that tell you it’s time to go to bed. It is time to get in tune to your body. 

How much sleep do you need if you have an autoimmune disease?

Probably more than you think. The average adult needs seven to nine hours per night. If you have an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s you may need nine or ten. I have been getting seven to eight hours and feeling pretty good although, too many days of that I am dragging. I have always needed at least 8 hours of sleep. With chronic illness, it is probably more like nine or ten. I don’t make for a good late night date. That’s for sure. 

How do you know if you are not getting enough sleep?

  • you need to set an alarm to get up in the morning
  • you may have to force yourself to get up after the alarm goes off
  • you sleep in on the weekends or when you get a chance
  • you get less than 7 hours of sleep a couple times per week.

If you are getting a half hour less each night than your body needs, it can affect your weight and your metabolism. 

Not getting enough sleep affects your cravings, insulin resistance, mood and your overall health.  It affects your ability to think clearly, remember things, make good decisions or any decisions, and eat more among other things. 

The biggest issue for Hashimoto’s sufferers is how lack of sleep screws up your immune system and can make things worse. That could mean your antibodies remain high or get higher rather than reducing when your diet and lifestyle are otherwise perfect. That is how important it is that you get to sleep. 

Your body also cannot repair itself like it needs to when you are not getting enough sleep. Tissue repair happens during sleep and your regulatory T cells (cells that help regulate your immune system and fight off autoimmune disease) can work on keeping you healthy. If you are not getting enough sleep, you don’t have enough of these cells to keep autoimmune disease in check. 

If you have an autoimmune disease, you need to make sleep a priority. 

  • Sleep in a dark, cool room (65 degrees is ideal)
  • Use a white noise machine
  • Get a alarm clock that wakes you with light
  • Try sleeping on your back with your head and knees supported
  • Wear blue blocking glasses when the sun goes down 
  • Re-evaluate how much time you spend on social media at night
  • Do something relaxing before bed rather than watch tv such as talking to someone at home, read a book, take a bath
  • Develop a nighttime routine made for rest and relaxation
  • Go to bed early and wake up early. This is ideal. 
  • If you are doing everything right and you still can’t sleep, you may want to re evaluate what you are doing.  

Take a look at your diet. Are you eating enough? Having low blood sugar in the middle of the night will play a role in your waking up and not being able to fall back asleep. 

How is the stress in your life? If you are like me, you are stressed out because you are not sleeping enough! Stress also screws with your immune system so it is imperative to manage it which is a whole other blog post. 

  • Are you exercising at all?  It will help you sleep better. Get out and go for a walk at the very least. 
  • Meditate. Listen to Episode 9 of my Real World Paleo Podcast to learn about how to meditate. 
  • Cut the caffeine out for a few weeks to see if that helps
  • Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of protein, fat and whole food carbohydrates by eating real whole foods and cut out the processed foods. 

I hope you are all sleeping well. Working with me, we can discover what you need to do to get the best nights sleep you can. Fill out the contact form on my website and I will contact you within a day or two about what we can do together. 

Sleep well. 

In Health, 

Stephanie