In today’s episode I am talking with Danna Bowman (Thyroid Nation) and Ginny Mahar (Hypothyroid Chef) who have teamed up to create a really cool interactive program on their Thyroid Refresh® website called Thyroid 30®. We talk about how they found each other to team up and create a positive space for thyroid patients to be supported, what some of the biggest mistakes thyroid patients make, how lifestyle choices make a difference in your recovery and more. Use code TryThy30 for $5 off their program starting January 13, 2019.Read More
An ongoing conversation on topics that matter to you — by Stephanie Ewals
Today we are going to be talking about the adrenal glands. I had a question from someone asking me what the adrenal glands were so here you go!
Adrenal fatigue symptoms:
Being a night person, hard time falling asleep, slow starter in the morning:
All signs that your cortisol rhythm is out of balance causing cortisol to be high at night and low in the morning. It should be the opposite.
Do you tend to be keyed up and have trouble calming down?
This is a sign of increased adrenal output or hyperadrenalism. Having high cortisol with low DHEA can cause this. In the beginning stages of adrenal breakdown, the body’s response to stress is to increase the cortisol output from the adrenal glands. If the stress never stops, this process doesn’t stop and you will eventually have adrenal fatigue.
Do you get a headache after exercising?
This means your adrenalsRead More
Autoimmune disease comes in all different forms. I have been on the autoimmune protocol for about 11 months. I spent a whole year before going on it contemplating whether or not I should do it.
It is daunting. Overwhelming. A. Lot. Of. Work. All that cooking. I got used to it.
I had questions. What will I be able to eat? Will I be able to go out to eat? Will I be able to have any fun? What will a social situation look like? I adapted.
I have had such a love for food my whole life. It was my friend when there was no one else. It was love. It was comfort. It was my everything. It was the way I showed love or that I cared about someone. I cooked for them. I baked. I loved to bake. Bread, cake, cookies, brownies, muffins, more bread, more cake. What my kids didn’t eat I did. I love sweet things. I love chocolate. I loved sugar. None of this is allowed on the autoimmune protocol. So, you bet, I took a long damn time to decide to do this knowing what I would have to further cut from my diet. We can be positive and say, “Look at all the good stuff you CAN have.” Well. You can have a lot of stuff. Lots of vegetables. Veggies up the wazoo. You can have beef heart! And Liver! Yum! Do you hear the sarcasm? When 39 years of your life is consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD), this feels like kind of a big deal. Especially if you have emotional ties to food.
I know I am supposed to be eating those nutrient dense offal things. I am not because I can’t get past the idea of what it is. The texture even. Gah! No thanks.
When I did this. I was all in with what needed to be restricted. But I was not adding in any offal. So I didn’t and you know what? I still felt really good. My thyroid numbers got better. Then, as I started to feel better I added some foods back in. Not in the “proper” way but in a way that worked for me which was like this: You put pepper on that meat? Okay. Let’s see if I have a reaction to it…. No reaction. Okay. Pepper seems to work.
One day in August I made plantain brownies with carob. The recipe called for 2 eggs. I ate half the pan in about 12 hours and had a major reaction but it wasn’t how I expected. Not even 12 hours in to eating those brownies did I become so irritable that I could not even stand myself. I couldn’t believe it. I was raging. My poor kids. So, no eggs for me. I reinforced that idea when I mistakenly ate some gluten free crackers that had egg yolks (no wonder they were so good) as a snack before bed and the next day became increasingly irritable. That really bums me out. I liked eggs. I know that I dot’ want to live life in a state of constant rage though so I am willing to cut them out. I am not happy about it. Don’t get me wrong. I am actually a little pissed. I have a pity party every so often and do the whole “why me?” thing but then I let it go. The more I do that the worse it gets.
Now it is 11 months in and I have let some things slip. I have a vegan gluten free bread every so often and some Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers on occasion. They don’t seem to wreck my digestion and if I don’t eat them every day it seems to be fine.
I have decided that if I am so restrictive with my diet, I am unhappy. I do my very best most of the time and on occasion I do enjoy something off the protocol and I don’t feel bad for it. I still always eat gluten free but occasionally have some dairy. Dairy and I don’t get along so if I have it, it is usually just a tiny bit. Like a lick of ice cream or a dab of butter. I definitely feel better when I stick closer to the protocol. I have not reintroduced peppers or eggplant but have done well with some of the nightshade spices like chili powder. I am not so sure on tomatoes though. I have to do a "real" reintro to know for sure. That would mean just eating tomato instead of adding tomato in to a recipe and wondering if that is what has caused the issue. I'm not very diligent about doing a proper reintro of a food. I let life get in the way.
The real killer for me is sugar. I am addicted and I have intense cravings which are related to a yeast overgrowth which I am working on killing off. Too much sugar has resulted in me having to deal with psoriasis and this last go round with it gave me two new patches to deal with. Needless to say I got really mad when these popped up. I first got mad at myself for eating stuff I know is bad for me and then I got mad that I just can’t be normal. That is the most frustrating part for me. I just want to be like every one else sometimes and I can’t. When I look back on my life though it seems like I never have been able to be like every one else. When I try to be I find Idon’t feel like myself. So I have come to realize that my path is to take the road less traveled and see what I find. For me that is this new life of stress management, sleeping when I need to and eating so that I don’t continue to stay sick. Being well means different things for different people and my mission is to help you figure out what well means for you.
What do you do that makes you feel good?
Locally I teach a class called RESTART®. It is a five week long nutrition program with a three week sugar detox built in to it. I am a sugar addict and have been toying with the idea of giving up sugar for at least the last nine years. I used to work at a fitness center and one of the instructors there didn’t eat any sugar at all except for what was naturally occurring in fruit. None. At. All. I just could not get over how happy she was about it. It was a mystery to me at the time because sugar and sweet treats were my life. I baked almost every week and ate whatever my family didn’t finish. Muffins, cookies, cakes, bars. You name it and I baked it. Except croissants. My neighbor and friend made those and I never got around to making them before I gave up gluten. I always wanted to try to make them though. That and marshmallow’s from scratch. My husband thinks I am crazy but I find it almost meditative to bake. I loved it. Sugar became such a problem for me that I could not make any treats because I would end up eating the whole pan of whatever it was I made.
So, this idea of giving up sugar sat with me and marinated in my head for nine years. It nagged at me occasionally especially when I started to look at how diet can affect well being. When I started to see a Naturopathic Doctor for my Hashimoto’s, she told me I needed to cut sugar out of my diet. I always said I would try or that I was trying but as Yoda says, “Do or Do Not, There is No Try.”. He was right. I did not give up sugar and didn’t even really try to do it until I was put on a specific diet to heal my gut. No sugar allowed. It wasn’t even that hard to do it when I was told specifically to stay away from it. That lasted for 3 weeks and the chiropractor that put me on it said I didn’t have to be on it anymore. That was all I needed to give myself permission to indulge in something sweet. I don’t remember what it was but I know I went off the deep end and ate too much sweet because my psoriasis came back with a vengeance. When that happened I got so mad and frustrated with myself for “screwing up” that I caused a flare.
Fast forward a year and I became a RESTART® instructor leading a group of people to detox from sugar and learn about nutrition. I questioned how I could walk through a sugar detox if I didn’t give it up too.
I gave it up with my first class. I went through the whole detox with them and for me, it wasn’t so bad. I had already given up most refined sugar but was getting my fix through potatoes and a lot of fruit. Yes, you read that right. Potatoes. I replaced my need for a sugar high from sweet treats to potatoes and other starches like sweet potatoes and plantains. Sugar is sugar and your body treats all sugar the same really. It converts the sugars in potatoes and fruits in to energy just like it would a piece of candy. Of course there are nutrients in the foods I was eating so it wasn’t all bad but my body still needed a break and RESTART® gave it just the break it was looking for.
It allowed me to regain control of that demon I had been dealing with my whole entire life.
If you are wondering if the program is right for you, then keep reading. On the RESTART® program, you will be cutting out all forms of sugar including most fruits. Preparation will be key to your success. You will be prepping all of your meals for the 3 weeks you are cutting out sugar. There is no way to do this while eating processed junk foods or convenience foods with some exceptions that we discuss in class. You will be given a list of what is allowed and what is not allowed on the plan. We will also share ideas of how to plan our meals so we aren’t left in a jam where we are starving and there is nothing to eat.
A great tip to remain successful is to tell your friends and family about what you are doing so you can have lots of support. Better yet, enlist a friend to do it with you so you can support each other and be accountable to one another. You will also have the support of the other class participants each week as well as my private Facebook group that is just for RESTARTers.
The RESTART® program is about adding lots of real whole foods to your diet and replacing all the processed foods in your life. We all have our go to’s and we can all give them up for 3 weeks.
I am an emotional eater. When I am feeling down or stressed I want to sooth myself with a treat. It might even be a coping mechanism for me. This program forced me to take a look at the reasons I turned to certain foods like sweets. The RESTART® program has helped me learn and to develop a new relationship to food and my reasons for turning to sugar. It is an uncomfortable place to be at times but I came out okay on the other side.
I have regained control of my sugar addiction.
Treat yourself in ways that don’t involve food. Hikes or walks, relaxing baths, massages or a yoga class. All of these things can make you feel just as good as a pint of ice cream (better in the long run) without the guilt that usually follows.
When you cut sugar out of your diet, you will likely experience the “sugar flu” or detox symptoms. It usually happens within the first two weeks and lasts for a couple of days. Mood swings, depression, issues with digestion, skin rashes, muscle or joint aches, less energy. This is the result of toxins leaving your body. You will feel so much better in the end.
You will also find that things that didn’t seem so sweet before will taste sweet enough to you after the three weeks are up. I had a private client recently who I put on this diet and she did not like green apples. She refused to eat them while on the program because they were too sour. I encouraged her at the end to just try one before she had a naturally sweeter apple. She found that the green apple was significantly less sour to her after the three weeks and she actually enjoyed it. Most of us consume things that are extremely sweet and when we give those things up, our taste buds have a chance to reset and we are able to really taste our food. This reset allows our brain to reset too. It won’t crave the crazy sweet stuff like it used to.
Real whole foods will be enough.
We all slip up. It’s okay. There is no guilt in RESTART® about slipping up. Just move on. it doesn’t mean you have to start over. Be kind to yourself. Nobody is perfect. Our motto is “Whatever I eat, I choose it consciously, I enjoy it thoroughly and then I let it go.”
You will see positive changes. Everyone is different but you may experience weight loss, more energy, improved digestion, clearer skin and a clear mind. You just won’t believe how negatively sugar was impacting your whole body. By the end you will feel so great about how you have impacted your health for the good. All in only five weeks.
Are you feeling ready to give your health a RESTART®? Classes do run regularly but sign up for my newsletter here to stay on top of when the next class is. You can even host one in your home or we can do one via the web. Contact me for more information.
Did you know there can be many causes or should I say triggers for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s?
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism after my second child, a boy, was born. He was born in January 2002 and I went to the doctor in early summer for nerve pain which I thought was from sitting all the time while nursing him. I told my doctor how tired I was and he decided to test my thyroid. My TSH was at 150 when conventional lab normal range is not above around 5.5. So he put me on Levothyroixine. He said it is common for women to get pregnancy induced thyroid problems and that was probably the case for me. That, and my mother all of her siblings have thyroid problems and my grandmother had them too. One of my Aunts and my uncle have Graves Disease. My mom has never been diagnosed but she probably has Hashimoto’s like me.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s by a Naturopathic Doctor. She was also the only one to test my Free T4, free T3, and reverse T3 along with the TPO test to check for autoimmune anti bodies. I switched to NatureThroid a couple of years ago and feel much better because of it. When I don’t manage my stress or diet very well I do pay for it though with irregular sleep patterns and mood swings. Can you relate?
Medication, while needed for some with thyroid problems is not always the answer for everyone. Not everyone needs the hormone replacement therapy. Yes, thyroid meds are hormones. You are replacing the hormone because your body doesn’t make enough of it. Sometimes your thyroid is slowing down because it is trying to tell you something. Maybe you need to slow down perhaps?
So what are the causes or triggers for people with hypothyroidism?
You can be born with thyroid problems like congenital hypothyroidism. Maybe your mother had hypothyroidism or just low thyroid function and it got passed on to you in utero. If you are pregnant and have thyroid problems but are on medication and everything is balanced out then you have no worries. It would be a situation where your thyroid is not working properly and you are untreated while pregnant.
Your thyroid can go wonky after surgery or radiation treatment (Your thyroid is like a magnet for radiation.) or you could have a problem with your brain (hypothalamus) where it just isn’t communicating right about getting the hormones out in to the body.
If you are low in iodine there can be low thyroid function. Take caution about adding it to your diet though. If you have Hashimoto’s you want to be careful because it can make your condition worse. Somewhere around 80% of hypothyroid patients also have Hashimoto’s and as much as 60% of those people are not aware. Standard of care in conventional medicine doesn’t change so people are often not tested. You also need to make sure you are getting just enough iodine. Too much or too little can be problematic.
You can have a hormone imbalance (women would suffer from this more than men). If you don’t have enough estrogen it can really mess things up.
Your thyroid condition could be triggered by a virus, a parasite, mold, heavy metals, trauma, chronic stress or even poor diet.
How do you go about treating your thyroid condition?
First and foremost you want to find a doctor that will listen to you. One that will treat your symptoms and not just your labs. One that will order more than a TSH test for you. If you can find one that will help you figure out what the cause of your hypothyroidism is that is really an ideal situation. You can google “functional medicine doctors” in your area and you will find a list. Some of them even take insurance!
I used a nauturopathic doctor to help me with my symptoms but still needed a medical doctor to write me a prescription and it was a bit of search to find one that would even write me a prescription for my natural desiccated thyroid hormone. A lot of doctors think that the T3 in natural thyroid hormones will cause problems with your heart, making it palpitate or beat too fast. For some that may be the case. For me, it wasn’t. They have to be willing to try out a few things to see what makes you feel best.
You also want to look at making some lifestyle changes. Sleep is really important for everyone but especially those of us with thyroid problems. Ideal is 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Diet changes are a huge help for you as well. That is where nutritional therapy can really help. I did all my own research and made diet changes on my own. Some people don’t even know where to begin. Don’t worry, I can help you with that!
You will want to make sure you are eating enough and eating real whole foods that nourish your body. So many women, myself included, don’t eat enough. I actually didn’t have that problem while I ate the Standard American Diet because I filled up on bread and baked goods every day, all day long. Now that those are gone from my life, I eat a little less because it is more work to prepare food. If you have hypothyroid symptoms of fatigue you know the feeling. Anything that is too much work usually doesn’t happen unless I am feeling really good or really motivated.
Don’t over exercise. I joined a really cool gym in Minneapolis for three weeks. Just lifting weights two days a week for those three weeks was enough to push my hormones over the edge. I pushed myself too hard that last day I was there and ended up on the couch the next day for the whole day. Gah! How frustrating. So, I do yoga one day a week and try really hard to get out and go for a walk a couple times a week too.
If your cause is iodine deficiency, work with a practitioner to figure out how much you need to take. You don’t want to just guess on that. It can really make things worse. If you have autoimmune thyroid problems like Hashimoto’s you need to work with someone who knows what they are doing. I wouldn’t take any iodine at all to start. It is a possibility after some healing has occurred and I would not recommend doing it alone.
What kind of medication should you or can you take for your thyroid?
Everyone should always try to make the lifestyle changes but if you actually need medication you have two choices. I am not telling you one way or the other to take or not take a medication. That is for you and your doctor to decide.
Synthetic thyroid hormones like Synththroid or Levothyroxine and a few others or Natural Desiccated Thyroid Hormones like Nature-Throid or Armour.
Levothyroxine (actually levothyroxine sodium is the generic name for it). This is just a T4 medication. Your body has to convert the T4 in to T3 in order for your cells to get the hormone.
The only difference between all the synthetic brands are the fillers that they have.
Let’s take a look.
Levothroid (brand #1). It has cellulose in it (basically wood shavings- your shredded cheese has it too). It has magnesium and calcium in it too. Funny because calcium keeps your body from absorbing thyroid hormones. It is in the pill in a small amount but it’s there.
Levoxyl is another T4 only medication. This has the same ingredients as Levothroid with the addition of some iodine. Not a good plan to take if you have Hashimoto’s. Synthroid also has iodine in it so you really want to ask to read the package insert on the drugs. Your pharmacist will be happy to help you with that.
You can also get something called Tirosint which is a T4 only medication (levothyroxine sodium) that comes in a gel like capsule so there are no dyes and is a great choice for those of you who are sensitive to dyes and other ingredients. You may find this one won’t absorb in to your body as well though.
Natural desiccated thyroid medications come from either cows or pigs. Armour is a popular one that many people use. It too has fillers like dextrose and cellulose (the formula changed in 2008) and the cellulose can make it hard to absorb so you can chew it. It also has lactose in it so if you have a dairy sensitivity you may want to look at something else.
Nature-Throid and Westhroid are two other natural desiccated medications. They don’t have any dyes or food colorings but Nature-Throid has lactose in it so if you are sensitive to dairy, you may want to try Westhroid.
You should also be aware that unless your doctor writes “dispense as written” on your prescription then the pharmacy is free to give you what they have (especially with the synthetics). One month you may get Synthroid and the next month you may get Levothyroid. This can be a problem if you do well on one formulation and not another. It is something good for you to check in to.
You can take medication and still not make the conversion of the T4 to T3. Some other things in the body need to be working well in order for the conversion to happen. You need to make sure you are not deficient in selenium or zinc (and iodine) and that your cortisol from your adrenal glands is not constantly in use.
This means you need to make sure you are managing stress and blood sugar so your adrenals are not always working overtime.
You also want to make sure you don’t take your thyroid meds with calcium (think antacid over the counter meds) and you should always take it away from iron. Iron will keep your body from absorbing the thyroid hormones. Fiber will also keep your meds from being absorbed. You want to take your meds anywhere from 2-4 hours away from food to make sure you get the most out of the meds.
If you are on a T3 only medication you should consider splitting the dose*** since T3 because it goes through your system so quickly. ***This is not medical advice. I am sharing with you what I have learned through my own research. You consult with your doctor before changing the way you take your medication.
How do you know which is best for you?
If you have Hashimoto’s (and remember most of the hypothyroid cases are Hashimoto’s). If you are lactose intolerant you may want to avoid the meds with lactose. Synthetic meds are a good one if you often forget to take your meds because they stay in your body longer than the natural meds. If you are willing to go through a trial and error phase, try a few to see what makes you feel the best.
If you are on cholesterol lowering medications, birth control pills, take insulin, or antidepressants then you may have lots of thyroid hormone floating around your system being bound to proteins and not free to be used by the body. If you are on those medications, make sure to monitor your thyroid closely especially the thyroid binding globulin (a test you can ask for).
Bottom line here is that you need to do your research and be your own health advocate. Find a doctor that will listen and is open to trying new things. Work with a practitioner to help you change your diet and lifestyle.
Most importantly, be well.