In this episode we address low energy, feeling bad all the time, anxiety and depression caused by hypothyroidism, diet changes, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and the role they play in our thyroid health, what lab tests to ask for and what they mean. We also discuss noticing our symptoms and why that is important. What supplements do you need? We also talk about why having someone other than your conventional doctor on your team is helpful.Read More
An ongoing conversation on topics that matter to you — by Stephanie Ewals
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.
There is a face of Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism. That face is your neighbor. That face is your co worker. That face is your boss. That face is the person checking you out at the store.
It is estimated that 12% of Americans have or will have a thyroid problem in their lifetime. Around 20 million Americans have either hypo or hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s or Graves disease. It is estimated that 60% of those people don’t even know they have it but I bet they probably feel like crap.
Women are more likely to have a thyroid condition compared to men.
There are something like 300 different symptoms of thyroid disease.
There are receptors in every cell of your body for thyroid hormones. The thyroid runs your metabolism. It is the breaks in your car. When you need to slow down, your thyroid puts the breaks on everything. And then you start to feel it.
I had just had a baby when my thyroid quit on me. I had a toddler and and infant and I would wake up after 8 hours of sleep and feel like I had not slept at all. I was so tired all the time. Then it became an effort to me to take care of my kids but and I still didn’t go to the doctor. I remember feeling like it was so much effort to write a check out to pay a bill. I had trouble holding the pen in my hand and using enough pressure to make it work to write. I remember how much effort it was to speak. It felt like my tongue was heavy. Finally I went to the doctor for something else and he asked if there was anything else he needed and I just mentioned how tired I was but had attributed that to having a toddler and an infant. Who wouldn’t be tired, right!? He decided to test my thyroid with a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test and sent me on my way. Turns out my TSH was around 150 when he considered normal to be around 5 so he put me on levothyroxine and tested my TSH for the next few months until he found a dose that brought my TSH to an acceptable level for him.
I thought I was going to be alright. Truthfully, I have not really felt like myself since that original diagnosis but I quit looking to feel like that old person and have embraced the challenges I have faced since being diagnosed. I went 8 years before I realized my diet played a huge role in how good I would and could feel. I also went 8 or so years before being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. Most people who are hypothyroid actually have Hashimoto’s but are not diagnosed because the standard of care does not change. You get your TSH tested. It continually rises and your medication has to be adjusted. That is it.
When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s I was actually a bit relieved because I felt like I had some control about what I could do to feel better. I went from feeling great most of the time to feeling bad most of the time. It is so frustrating to feel bad all the time. To have blood sugar regulation problems and have your adrenals not working properly so that you are exhausted after doing some laundry is really frustrating. Especially when you don’t know how to fix it. Getting that diagnosis put my health back in to my own hands and I was able to fix a lot. I changed my diet. I went gluten free first. Then I had some food sensitivity testing done and went dairy free (something I suspected I needed to do based on how terrible I felt after eating ice cream) and had to cut out some other foods as well. That was a first big step and a pretty big adjustment but I wanted so badly to feel better that it was something I was willing to do.
I also needed to get my blood sugar under control. I was a sugar lover. I needed sugar and refined carbs to get me through the day. At least that is what I told myself. Cutting out sugar was one of the best things I ever did. Managing my sugar intake also meant that my adrenals would be in better shape and so would my hormones.
I was eventually led to a more nutrient dense whole foods diet and am now experimenting with an Autoimmune protocol which eliminates nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants), eggs, nuts, and grains (I might be forgetting something). I decided to go AIP because I still didn’t feel good despite doing everything right. I think there may be some heavy metal toxicity as my root cause but have not had any testing done to find out for sure. As it goes with Hashimoto’s, there is an immune system dysfunction and something to have caused that dysfunction to occur.
Not really feeling well after five years of diet and lifestyle changes led me to realize that I needed to fix the root cause and I also needed to find a doctor that would treat my symptoms as well as my lab work. I found a happy medium with a holistic MD that takes insurance so she does not have access to some of the tests that might find my root cause but for now I am okay with that. She was willing to prescribe natural desiccated thyroid medication because they synthetic levothyroxine was not working.
My dose was recently increased and it made me feel worse. The biggest affect from the medication change for me was that I was not sleeping. I would be jolted awake 2-3 nights a week at around 3 am and never would fall back asleep. I asked my doctor to change my meds back and she wanted to wait. I had gotten just enough meds to get me through until I needed more blood work so I asked them for a bit more to get me through to the next draw. I knew in my gut that the medication was causing me to wake up but felt a little helpless to do anything about it because even my holistic doctor wouldn’t change it for me just yet. She had me taking half a dose (cutting a pill in half) in the morning and half a dose in the early afternoon. Turns out that is not a good idea either because there is no real way to make sure each half of the pill has the same amount of thyroid hormone in it. That first half dose could have little to no thyroid hormone in it while the second half had most of the thyroid hormone in it. There is just no way to know. So, the only way I was able to sleep would be to take only half a pill or no pill at all and neither of those choices were a good idea long term.
The clinic called in a prescription for me to get me through until my next blood draw and when I went to pick it up I asked to see the ingredient list for the meds. The pharmacy couldn’t find it and I asked to see the bottle so I could take a photo of it. When they showed me the bottle I told them that is not the medication I was taking previously. They told me that they had run out of that and had this one in stock and so they filled my prescription with that. I knew that pharmacies could and did do this but it never occurred to me that it would happen to me. First I was glad because the medication they switched me to was the medication I had wanted my doctor to let me try. Then I got a little angry. I thought to myself, If I am this sensitive to a medication change, I wonder how many other thyroid patients are also. I told the pharmacy they should not switch up thyroid meds like that on people because many of us are extremely sensitive to changes like that and we might not know what is causing the problem. Some people do well on a specific medication and it should never be changed on them.
If you are doing well on your medication, make sure you get the same medication EVERY time you go get your prescription. You can have your doctor make a note in the prescription they write for you to the pharmacy so that a change like that doesn’t happen to you. This particular medication that I didn’t ask for happened to be a good thing but that is not always the case. I am happy to report that I have slept really well since the change in medication even with a full dose.
If you take anything away from this story, know that you can have some control over how hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s will affect you and your body. You don’t have to feel terrible. You don’t have to be tired. You don’t have to give up and you don’t have to be a victim to this disease.
You can be happy. You can have energy. You can feel good again!
Tell me in the comments how thyroid disease has made you feel and if or what you have done to feel better.
It is 3:30ish am and I have been jolted awake in my dreams by a shot of adrenaline. I wake up and think to myself it must be 6 o’clock, time to get up. I look at the clock, nope. It is 3:23 in the morning and I am wide awake. Thank you body. Thank you Hashimoto’s. Thank you cortisol or adrenaline. Thank you.
Insomnia. It comes and goes. It is Wednesday and so far since the beginning of the week I have had one good nights sleep. I am not a spring chicken and not getting good sleep deeply affects me. Foggy thinking. Heavy head. Poor decision making. I have three kids that I take care of largely by myself. My other have travels often for work.
We have food on the table, we have shelter. We have clothes on our back. We are doing well. Except I don’t sleep. It really could be worse. Thank you thyroid.
Your thyroid is so very important to your well being. To your ability to sleep. If you have thyroid problems you have body problems. You have lots of problems.
It is the master metabolic regulator. Your metabolism depends on how well your thyroid functions and how well the cells in your body receive the thyroid hormone. Every cell in your body has a receptor for thyroid hormone. Your cells do so much work to keep you alive. It is just crazy to me.
Your thyroid does so much more than just manage the part of your metabolism that is responsible for weight gain or weight loss. It affects bone density, your risk of cardiovascular disease, how high or low your cholesterol is, hormonal functioning, depression, anxiety, SLEEP, and on and on.
Your hypothalamus (part of your brain) is responsible for putting out Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone aka Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH. Your pituitary gland (also in your brain) puts out some TSH too.
Your thyroid is responsible for putting out T4 or Thyroxine and T3, Triiodothyroxine.
T4 gets its name because it has one molecule of tyrosine and 4 molecules of iodine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that is part of most proteins and needed for the synthesis of some hormones- to synthesize means that 2 or more things need to come together to create something else.
T3 has 3 molecules of iodine for the one molecule of tyrosine.
T4 gets converted to T3 in the liver. T4 also gets bound up by a protein called thyroid binding globulin. When it gets bound up by TBG, so does T3. It remains bound up until it gets transported to where it needs to be.
If your liver is not working well or if it is busy doing other things it may not do a great job at binding T4 & T3. This would mean that you would have too much free T3 or Free T4 floating around your blood stream. When T4 and T3 are free it means they are not bound and can get in to the cells which can lead toa sort of burn out at the cellular level.
If your liver makes too much Thyroid Binding Globulin, you will bind too much hormone and you would not have enough thyroid hormone getting to the cells. This is where you may see hypothyroid symptoms occurring.
Common hypothyroid symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Chronic fatigue
- low stamina
- poor concentration
- tired upon waking
- weight gain
- poor or large appetite
- cold hands and feet
- intolerance to cold or hot
- poor immune function
- slow speech
- yeast overgrowth
- throat issues
A healthy functioning liver is critical to healthy thyroid hormone functioning.
Your liver is also responsible for converting T3 in to reverse T3 (RT3) which is a form of T3 that is useable by the body. There is an enzyme called tetraidothyronine 5’ deiodinase that removes a molecule of iodine making T3 in to reverse T3. This often happens in higher stress situations when the body feels it is time for you to slow down. This enzyme is dependent upon the mineral selenium to make this happen.
There are components of T3 called T3 sulfate and T3 Acetic acid that are turned in to useable T3 in the gut by your beneficial gut bacteria. In fact, around 20% of yoru T3 is produced by your gut bacteria.
Healing your gut and maintaining a good balance of beneficial bacteria can help tremendously if you are suffering from thyroid problems.
Your digestive symptoms could be affecting yoru thyroid!
- Gut Problems
- A Backed Up Liver
- Food Sensitivities
- Heavy Metal Burden
Any of these can end up affecting thyroid function.
If the balance of gut bacteria is off or out of balance that is called dysbiosis. When you have dysbiosis it affects the conversion of T4 to T3 in the gut.
Neurotoxins like lipopolysaccharides affect the cell receptors and their ability to accept T3 in to the cells. Lipopolysaccharides are molecules found in bacteria that stimulate the immune system and affect intestinal permeability or leaky gut. It is common in someone with gut dysbiosis to have more Lipopolysaccharides in their system. It is also thought that these neurotoxins can affect your brains ability to converse with your body which can decrease the amount of TSH secreted from they Hypothalamus.
Dysbiosis in the gut means your neurotransmitter production is affected. Neurotransmitters affect how your hypothalamus produces TSH.
Approximately 70%-80% of your immune system is in your gut or GI Tract. If there is dysbiosis in the gut there is inflammation. Inflammation also can affect how well the Hypothalamus releases TSH.
What can you do to help your body?
You can support your liver with foods that love the liver. The list is long of foods that love the liver but some of my favorites are:
- Acerola Cherries
You can also supplement with a good liver support. You need to clean up your environment of body, face, and hair care products as well as cleaning supplies, and laundry detergent.
You need to make sure you are digesting your food well. You may need digestive enzymes or hydrochloric acid.
You may need probiotics. Eating fermented foods like homemade sauerkraut is one of the best ways to get probiotics.
When you work with a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner like myself, we can help you figure out what systems in the body need to be addressed first and foremost so that ALL your body systems can be addressed.
Heart palpitations, weight loss, tremors, anxiety, slow, sluggish, weight gain, cold hands and feet.
Feel like you are going crazy?
In the early stages of Hashimoto’s you can have any of those symptoms. Your immune system is on attack. It is attacking your thyroid gland and little bits of thyroid hormone are released in to the blood stream.
This causes surges that feel like hyperthyroidsim. Once the hormone is excreted from the body you go back to having symptoms more like hypothyroidism.
The thyroid roller coaster is a good way to explain it. I remember it. I don’t want to go back to it. I remember right after my stillborn son was born I was really thin. My arms were like sticks. I was in what I call a flare. Certainly was having a surge of thyroid hormone through that pregnancy and for awhile after. The only good thing about that was that I didn’t look like I had just given birth. The day after I had him I was back in to my own jeans again. I was grateful I didn’t have to explain why I looked like I had just had a baby but there was no baby to show. Sigh.
It is my mission to help you figure out how to find your health again so you don’t have to suffer as I have.
Let’s get clear!
What are some of the biggest issues for suffers of Hashimoto’s?
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Food Sensitivities
- Poor Adrenal Health
- Infections in the Gut or Leaky Gut
- Poor Detoxification
- All of those issues put you in a vicious cycle of an autoimmune attack.
How do you fix this?
You need to fix all of those issues to eliminate symptoms and find yourself again.
What are the biggest nutrient deficiencies?
- Vitamin D
- B vitamins including B12
- Stomach acid
What do you need Selenium for?
Selenium helps neutralize free radicals occuring as a result of your thyroid hormones being produced. Being deficient can allow the free radicals to possibly damage the thyroid gland. it also helps T4 be converted in to active T3. T3 is what goes in to your cells to be used by the body.
Can’t I get Vitamin D from sun exposure?
Getting your D from the sun can be more difficult. You would need to spend quite a bit of time in the sun to get enough and if you live in a Northern climate like I do then you may need to supplement. When you have low levels of vitamin D, your immune systems cells don’t develop like they should. Taking vitamin D3 is best. It is the more active form and the best one to use.
Why is B12 important?
Being deficient in B12 can mean you are really low on energy and have digestive dysfunction. Having poor digestion can be a major cause of thyroid problems. If you have Hashimoto’s you probably are low in stomach acid which means you are not digesting your food as you should. You can have low stomach acid if you have low B12 or other B vitamin deficiencies. The B’s and stomach acid work in concert together. Your iron can be low because of stomach acid or B12 deficiency.
Do you suffer from Adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue can be thrown around and used by people who truly don’t have it. Fatigue and adrenal fatigue are two different things.
I had not slept for a couple of days but maybe 4 hours a night. I was taking mid terms for my nutrition class and I was a big ball of stress. I had a 4 day intense workshop to get through plus my exam. I lost my car keys, I couldn’t think straight. By day 4 I was a complete and total disaster. I should not have been driving at all. I could barely function. I came home from class, made dinner and slept only about 6 hours. I woke up tired, exhausted really. Ate breakfast, took a classmate to the airport and came home and laid on the couch for four days. I was lucky enough to be able to do that. My kids were out of school and all able to care for themselves. I remember falling in and out of sleep for two of those four days. I knew that was the best thing for me to do. I made sure to eat well so my body had the nutrients needed to recover and I let my body heal.
I have to watch it even today. I cannot over do it or I end up on the couch for a day or two in recovery mode. My adrenals need tender loving care, probably for the rest of my life. All because of unmanaged stress.
Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys. They produce your stress hormones and once you hit menopause (or andropause for men) they produce your sex hormones as well.
Being under huge amounts of stress will cause your thyroid to actually slow down. It can also increase your intolerance to some foods causing food sensitivities. Yay!
Stress can be a trigger to thyroid problems. You can test your adrenal health with a saliva test measuring your cortisol and DHEA levels. Blood tests don’t pick up adrenal problems until they are too far gone.
Infections that have the immune system on high alert are also things that can cause problems with the adrenal glands.
Other things like emotional stress, lack of sleep, pain and then inflammation from food sensitivities or infections all play a role in causing adrenal fatigue.
You can have an infection and it may not show up in a stool sample when you have a stool test done. Those bacteria and parasites are sometimes hard to track down.
What is the cause of your Hashimoto’s?
Hard to say because the triggers are different for everyone but what we do know is that all of us have this in common
- The right genes
- The triggers of infection, stress, etc- you only need one trigger.
- Leaky gut (intestinal permeability)
Leaky gut is when particles of food or bacteria are allowed to pass between the cells in your small intestines causing an immune response to the foods flowing through your blood stream. Food particles and bacteria are not supposed to be in your blood stream. Your small intestines are supposed to absorb the nutrients from your food and keep the bad guys flowing through the digestive tract until they are excreted in your stool.
Once you heal your gut, the journey to health becomes all that much shorter.
Gluten sensitivity is common in autoimmune diseases, especially Hashimoto’s and if you have any autoimmune disease the first thing you should do is remove gluten from your diet. Big Sigh.
For some this may be the only thing they have to do. For others it may be more complicated. There may be more food sensitivities. You may need to have some IgG testing done to see what foods are causing harm. Some of the most common ones besides gluten are dairy, soy, grains in general, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), nuts or seeds.
If you don’t have IgG testing done you can do an elimination diet. This is where you eat a clean diet for three or four weeks and then reintroduce one food every three or four days. You then watch for a reaction. A reaction can be itchy skin or other skin reactions, diarrhea, constipation, joint pain, or even fatigue.
You may have had an infection that triggered Hashimoto’s such as Epstein-Barr or any of the herpes viruses. Bacterial infections, parasites or yeast can all affect the immune system to the point of irritation.
You can get tested with a practitioner for viruses or parasites. It may take a little detective work.
What supplements are important for improving thyroid health?
- Probiotics. You need a balance of good bacteria and “bad” bacteria. You can get them from supplements or from fermented foods. They can help improve symptoms of anxiety besides helping to heal the gut.
- Selenium. Many of us with Hashimoto’s are deficient in this mineral. Do you have white spots on your fingernails? That is a sure sign of a mineral deficiency which is most probably a selenium deficiency. It is important for reduction of damage to tissues and also helps to reduce anxiety.
- Betaine HCl. If you have low stomach acid you are deficient in Betaine HCl with pepsin. You need adequate stomach acid to digest the protein you consume. Not doing so can lead to food sensitivities which will mean more inflammation and issues with your immune system. Proteins are also the building blocks of the body so you need to break down your protein in to amino acids for use throughout the body. Not digesting your food can also cause fatigue because your body is using more energy to try to get it digested.
- Systemic or Proteolytic Enzymes. You take them in between meals. They can help reduce the antibodies against the thyroid. To put it very simply, they kind of help clean out all the junk in the body that is causing inflammation.
Before you decide you need all of these or other supplements, you really want to take a look at the symptoms you are experiencing. You may not need selenium or systemic enzymes. Make sure you find a practitioner to work with whether that is me or someone else. I work with people in 2 and 4 month packages which I have found brings on the best results. Need help? Let's Talk. Fill out the contact form on my website for a free strategy session.
1.) The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates around 23.5 million Americans have an autoimmune disease. It is estimated to be at least 50 million people by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. The reason for this is that the NIH statistics only include 24 of the over 100 known autoimmune diseases afflicting people. More well known autoimmune diseases are conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease, Graves disease, pernicious anemia and psoriasis.
2.) Autoimmune disease is one of the top ten leading causes of death, especially for women. Around 12 million people suffer from cancer and 25 million from heart disease. Autoimmune disease is the 3rd leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. They run in families but not all members of a family will have the same disease and women are more likely to have one than men.
3.) Autoimmune disease is when your immune system attacks your cells (self) instead of protecting you from invaders (non self) like it is supposed to do. What happens is that your immune system develops autoantibodies against your own cells. Antibodies are a very important part of your immune system. It is their job to attach to certain proteins in cells that are foreign to the body (non self) like viruses, parasites or bacteria. This signals other cells in the immune system that an attack should be launched. In autoimmune disease the body attacks the foreign proteins (non self) but also creates antibodies against the body’s own proteins (self). These are called autoantibodies. You can develop them and still not develop an autoimmune disease. In order for that to happen, your body needs to not have destroyed or suppressed autoantibodies like it is supposed to. Your immune system then needs to attack and there must be so much damage to your cells and tissue that symptoms of a disease have developed. Why does this happen? There are a lot of similarities (and a lot of differences but we are focusing on similarity here) between some proteins in all species and this is where the problem lies. Sometimes these triggers cause the body to make a mistake. That is it. It can really just happen by accident.
4.) You don’t have a lot of control over the genetic component to autoimmune disease. There can be inherited mutations and one person may inherit many autoimmune genes or gene mutations and someone else can inherit only a few. Whatever you inherit really is affected by whether or not your environment turns those genes on. Did you or do you have an infection? What kind of toxins are you exposed to daily? Do you have exposure from amalgam fillings? How about prescription or non prescription drugs? What about your hormones? Do you have an imbalance in your beneficial bacteria?
Removing environmental triggers that promote the production of autoantibodies is crucial. It can be a bacterial infection like those that cause pneumonia or kidney stones that will make you more susceptible to an autoimmune disease in your future. It can be consuming gluten that causes an autoimmune disease. It is, of course, the major factor in celiac disease but gluten plays a large role in many autoimmune diseases. If you have an autoimmune disease, gluten should be one of the first things you look at.
Genetics may play a role in how likely you are to get an autoimmune disease but how you live your life can determine whether or not those genes get turned on.
5.) Once you have an autoimmune disease you are more likely to develop another one. The reason for this is not fully understood but it is thought that genetic factors and/or environmental triggers play a role. After the immune system has started attacking a protein in the body it can learn much easier how to launch an attack on another one. If the immune system is overwhelmed and can’t tell the difference anymore, it will more than likely create another or different autoantibody
6.) Getting a diagnosis can be challenging. Many of the symptoms for any given autoimmune disease are so similar. They are things like headaches, muscle aches/pains, joint pain and fatigue. These kinds of symptoms can be related to stress, working too hard or lack of sleep. The other problem is that autoimmune disease affects several systems in the body and it affects everyone differently. This means that two people with the same disease can present completely different symptoms. Finding a good practitioner who knows what to do with a diagnosis of autoimmune disease is fundamental to your healing especially if you don’t know where to start.
7.) Managing inflammation in autoimmune disease is key. In many cases, treatment for managing inflammation has been done with immune suppressing drugs like corticosteroids. They can be helpful for some for a short period of time but are not without side effects like weight gain and depression. They also interrupt your bodies own mechanisms for managing inflammation.
Diet and lifestyle factors are often overlooked and play a huge role in managing inflammation. You can manage inflammation by removing inflammatory foods from your diet, taking a look at the toxins you are exposed to daily, heal your gut and manage your stress.
8.) Leaky gut is the one thing all autoimmune diseases have in common. About 80% of your immune system lies in your intestines. The lining of your intestines is a single layer of cells that protect the rest of your body from anything entering your digestive tract. The space between each cell in the lining is like a door that occasionally opens to allow communication with the environment. Our intestines have the largest amount of contact with our environment because the average adults gut when laid out measures around 3000 square feet. So, besides digesting your food, the gut is also responsible for moving molecules between the cells- but only for a moment. The cells open to allow the communication and then close right away. A protein called zonulin is what regulates the permeability of the junctions between the cells. It acts almost like a key unlocking a door so it can be opened. The two most important factors in zonulin unlocking those doors are gluten and gut bacteria. So consuming gluten based products regularly, having something like Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth,a parasite or an overgrowth of Candida can be a contributing factor to higher levels of zonulin and therefore more permeability. This permeability allows for undigested proteins to enter your blood stream and/or lymphatic system where the immune system then begins the process of developing antibodies against the foreign invader and sometimes your own cells. When you have leaky gut (intestinal permeability) your under constant attack.
9) You can heal your gut. It takes time and effort but is so worth it. Healing leaky gut is important for managing your autoimmune disease. There are many things that contribute to leaky gut and all must be considered when creating a health plan with a practitioner. How clean is your diet? Eating whole foods, and organic when possible is extremely important. I recommend going to www.ewg.org and looking at their list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen to know which foods you can buy non organic with reasonable safety.
Find the root cause or the source of your leaky gut and remove it. Doing so will calm down the immune system so your body has a chance to repair and rest. Find out if you have an infection or parasite that is wreaking havoc on your immune system. One of the most important things you can do is take a look at the role stress plays in your life. Are you in a constant state of stress? Do you have down time? Do you have any hobbies or do anything fun?
10.) There is help for you no matter your condition or autoimmune disease. Nutritional Therapy can help you on your path to wellness. We work with each patient individually and tailor a program that is just for you. You may be put on herbal therapies tailored to your bio individuality and your specific condition and your adrenal glands and nervous system will be supported with nutrients and herbs because stress plays such an important role in managing autoimmune disease. Contact us today for an appointment.
Having hypothryoidism can lead to nutrient deficiencies. When you are hypothyroid, your metabolism is slowed down. Your digestion is slowed down and so is nutrient extraction and absorption. This means your body can't get what it needs from the food you are eating. Having a hypothryroid can be frustrating but it doesn't have to take over your life. Below are some very important things to know about living with a hypothyroid and what you can do to live optimally, whatever that is for you.
1. That cold weather (or even a breeze) that makes you feel really cold is due to less thyroid hormone getting where it needs to. This also means hormones can’t be processed properly and other things are affected, like how well a cut heals.
2. You probably don’t make enough stomach acid to digest your food properly which means you are not getting the nutrients needed to thrive. Don’t have much energy? Maybe you are not digesting your meals. This leads to a whole host of issues including intestinal permeability or leaky gut. Lack of stomach acid (HCl) also means proteins are not being digested along with iron, zinc and B12. One symptom of low stomach acid is HEARTBURN. Don’t feel like eating when you get up in the morning? Could be you have not digested your evening meal yet.
3. You probably have stressed Adrenals. Adrenal fatigue is when your adrenals, located just above your kidneys, work overtime most of the time and end up leaving you dizzy when you stand up quickly, with lower than normal blood pressure or require the use of sunglasses when you go outside. They are just plain worn out.
4. Your liver might not be working properly. If your liver can't do all the things it is supposed to, you may not be making enough bile or adequate bile to digest fats. Fats like the essential fatty acids in fish oils are important for managing inflammation in the body.
5. You are more likely to have Celiac Disease than the average person and most assuredly, if not Celiac Disease, you are probably gluten intolerant. You are more likely to be unable to tolerate dairy products, eggs and soy as well.
Here is what you can do about it.
1. Make sure you have found a doctor or naturopath who will test you for not only TSH but Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, TPO Antibodies and Thryoglobulin Antibodies. It is not only important that they test you for those but that they know how to interpret the results.
2. Get food intolerance testing or use and elimination diet to figure out what foods are negatively affecting you. The best way to find out what foods are not working for you (causing inflammation) is to do an elimination diet. If you have signed up for my newsletter you will be set with 4 weeks of meals and recipes to get you off to a good start in lowering inflammation and figuring out which foods are your kryptonite.
3. Have your Vitamin D levels checked and monitored.
4. Support your adrenals with things like a pinch of sea salt in your water, adrenal adaptogens (you really should be in the care of practitioner before taking any supplementation), and managing your blood sugar (like cutting out sugar completely for a time period to give your body systems a break). Another great way to support your adrenals is to manage your stress.
5. Be checked for infections with a stool test or be tested to see if you have developed antibodies to any virus or parasite.
6. Do a simple test with Hydrochloric Acid to see how much stomach acid you need to take with each meal. OR you can take digestive bitters, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice before meals (although you might need more than that to get you started).
7. You could be lacking in certain nutrients that are needed for your thyroid to function properly. According to Izabella Wentz, The thyroid pharmacist, it is very common for people to be deficient in Selenium, iron, vitamins A & E, B vitamins and a few others. You may require supplementation but again I would work with a practitioner before supplementing yourself.
8. Have your Ferritin levels checked. You need ferritin to transport T3 to the cells. If you are losing your hair even with stable thyroid levels, it could be that you are low in ferritin.
9. Take a high quality probiotic and eat fermented foods every day. If you have ever been on antibiotics you probably have an imbalance of bacteria in your gut and taking probiotics can help. Eating fermented foods is a much cheaper and fun way to get your probiotics in. Things like sauerkraut and homemade yogurt are great sources of fermented foods.
It is very important, as I stated before that you don’t put yourself on a supplementation program but that you consult a health practitioner first. When you take the Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire through me we will be able to determine just where your body needs the most support. The information provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. I do not diagnose or treat disease but help you find balance so your body can find balance too. Sometimes it is about meeting you where you are at. Baby steps.
Feel free to contact me with any questions. Also, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. I just sent another Breakfast Hash recipe only for my subscribers.
The regulation of our blood sugar is so important to our adrenal health. The two things really go hand in hand. If blood sugar regulation is not working well then you cannot achieve health. It is THAT important. Blood sugar dysregulation leads to oxidative stress. Basically what this means is that there is more free radical damage in our bodies because we don’t have enough anti oxidants to neutralize the free radicals created in our body. It also leads to something called glycation which is when proteins in your body become sugared over and can’t communicate with other cells in your body. Blood sugar dysregulation also messes with the energy output in your cells. Your cells create energy with glucose which is a form of sugar. Our body is continually monitoring the levels of glucose in our bloodstream to make sure it stays balanced. Having too much or too little triggers hormones to be released to keep the glucose levels normal. We were designed to use unrefined carbohydrates as well as quality fats and proteins as our best sources of fuel. We are not designed to run on carbohydrates alone, especially refined and processed ones.
So how do you know if you have some issues with blood sugar imbalance?
- You crave sweets
- You wake up soon after falling asleep and have a hard time getting back to sleep
- You have binge type eating patterns
- You have an appetite that won’t quit
- You get irritable, jittery or hangry
- You get headaches that temporarily feel better after eating
- You crave coffee or sugar in the afternoon
- You are sleepy in the afternoon
- You get shaky if you miss a meal or eat later than normal
- You have a family history of diabetes
- You are thirsty a lot
- You have to pee a lot
- You crave bread, pasta or other refined grains
- You have poor concentration
- You have night sweats
- You struggle to lose weight even though you are eating a low fat diet
- You are frequently tired
- You get a boost of energy from eating
- You have anxiety or panic attacks
- You have spikes and dips in your energy levels throughout the day
If any one of these describes you then you are most certainly assured to have some issues with your blood sugar and probably your adrenals too. You see, the main organs involved in your blood sugar regulation are the Pancreas, the Liver and the Adrenal Glands. They each have a very important role in blood sugar. If they are constantly busy managing your blood sugar because you ate too many cookies or a huge bowl of ice cream or a box of crackers at work then they can’t do all the other things they need to do in a day, in a moment to keep you alive.
Refined sugar is a recent invention compared to how long man has been around. We only have one hormone that lowers blood sugar and that is insulin. It wasn’t supposed to have the job of lowering blood sugar but to bring glucose to the cells. The hormones cortisol, epinephrine (or adrenaline) and glucagon are all there to raise our blood sugar when needed. It used to be that is what we needed- to raise blood sugar so that our brain, nerves and red blood cells got the glucose they needed. Today, we overload our bodies with sugar at around 200 pounds per person per year.
So why do we love it so much?
Well frankly, sugar makes us feel good. It literally raises your endorphins but it also crashes and makes you feel worse after a short time. This is called the blood sugar roller coaster. It is addictive. So addictive in fact that in one study, mice chose sugar over cocaine.
Our taste buds love it but our bodies do not. It is really hard on your body to be managing your blood sugar day in and day out. Your pancreas releases the hormone insulin which is just supposed to transport glucose to your cells from your blood so that it can be used for energy. When you overwhelm your body with sugar the pancreas will eventually wear out which leads to things like insulin resistance and then type II diabetes. Your adrenal glands will be exhausted from having to deal with managing blood sugar on top of all the other stressors in your life such as your emotional stressors, not sleeping or your every day frustrating commute to work. It will also depress your immune system. Your liver can end up having a hard time converting stored glucose back in to glucose for energy and you can end up with a fatty liver.
You can develop something called insulin resistance where your cells decide they have had enough of insulin knocking at their door to deliver them some glucose and they just don’t answer the door anymore. This is when your blood sugar levels will be higher on a blood test. You could have insulin resistance if you are tired all the time, can’t lose weight, you have joint problems, are depressed, have thyroid or fertility issues.
Insulin resistance has a huge impact on female hormone issues like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, irregular periods and PMS.
Consuming large amounts of sugar can mean you are what we call a sugar burner. This means your body is able to burn sugar or glucose rather than fat for energy. This here is key to weight loss for many people and if you have weight gain due to hypothyroidsim or Hashimoto’s, converting from a sugar burner to a fat burner can be ultra helpful in dropping some of those pesky pounds. Other signs you are a sugar burner are:
- you are less satisfied after eating
- you are hungry all the time
- you can’t use fat for energy
- you crave carbohydrates and you eat them
Reducing the amount of sugar you consume on a daily basis can turn this around and you can teach your body how to burn fat for energy. All that extra sugar you have consumed in a day that your cells can’t use gets stored as fat. You can teach your body how to use it.
Let’s talk more about how the adrenal glands and your adrenal health is affected by blood sugar imbalances.
If you have Hashimoto’s you may not tolerate carbohydrates as well as other folks. Your blood sugar can rise quickly after eating carbs which can lead to too much insulin being released which can end up causing low blood sugar and make you feel anxious, nervous and tired. This also stresses your adrenal glands because cortisol is released when your adrenals are working overtime. Every time your blood sugar gets low epinephrine is released to help restore it to normal levels. This can also mess with your immune system.
Here are some general symptoms of low blood sugar:
- brain fog
- blurred vision
- hard time sleeping
- heart palpitations
- cravings for sugar
How do you avoid blood sugar imbalances?
Look at your diet. Look at your lifestyle.
Do you eat a large amount of refined carbohydrates in the form of breads or cereals for breakfast? Do you skip breakfast? Do you eat things like pasta salad or a sandwich for lunch? Do you eat all the “good for you” yogurt you see in the grocery store? Have a look at the sugar content of your standard grocery store yogurt. It is pretty high.
Are you running all the time with no time for rest and relaxation?
Here are some generally good ideas for balancing your blood sugar:
- Have some protein at every meal (see this post for learning all about protein)
- When you first start to balance your blood sugar, eating more often is better- try having a snack between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just something small like a few nuts or a piece of cheese
- Don’t have any sugar before bed
- Keep your caffeine intake to a minimum (really would be a good idea to take it out of your diet while you balance your blood sugar)
- Don’t eat any grains or dairy
- Eat breakfast within an hour of getting up
- Avoid all sweeteners including artificial ones (limit your fruits to 1 serving a day at most)
- Keep the carbs to a minimum eating only complex carbs
- Consume high quality healthy fats
You would want to do this for about two weeks and then slowly add back things like full fat dairy and continuing to limit grains if you tolerate them. If you have Hashimoto’s you will want eliminate gluten containing grains for good. Eventually you may be able to tolerate some other grains once in awhile. I would not recommend switching your glutenful products with gluten free ones. They will react the same in your body as far as blood sugar is concerned. Staying low carb is not beneficial for everyone. I find I have much more energy when I consume more starchy carbs regularly like sweet potatoes and veggies. I feel my best when consuming a significant amount of veggies daily. If you feel exhausted after awhile of being low carb it is a sign you will do better with more complex carbs in your diet and that is okay.
You can try this on your own or you can come to me for help. I have a special plan just to convert you from a sugar burner to a fat burner that helps keep your blood sugar balanced which will help in the recovery of your adrenals as well. Send me an email and we can chat about it!
Thanks so much for reading. I sincerely appreciate your time. Please tell me in the comments what symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar you might have. I look forward to hearing from you.
If you have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s you probably have had some experience with brain fog. It is one of those things that make you think you might be a little crazy sometimes. Do you ever ask yourself, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I remember anything?”.
Here is what people are saying about what brain fog feels like for them:
“Brain fog means not being able to remember things like a friend's name or what I went to the store for when I only needed two things. I completely forget what I was about to say and what I was talking about. I read a book and the next day can't remember what it was about or who the characters were. I can't concentrate. I'm 45 years old and don't have Alzheimer’s.”
“Knowing what word I want to say and either nothing comes out or the wrong word comes out.”
“I used to be very articulate and now I also know what word I want, but I can't grab onto it.”
“Slow thinking, can't quite get the words, lose focus, forget what I was doing, leave the stove on...feels like Alzheimer’s.”
“Not being able to come up with simple words to complete my sentences (ones that were familiar, yet my brain couldn't come up with them). My 2-year old was completing my sentences.”
“Feels like your thinking and trying to remembering through oatmeal or sludge.”
“Like trying to muddle through pea soup. Knowing that there is something you need to retrieve from your brain but you just can't quite get to it.”
“Walking through life in a cloud. Everything feels fuzzy and I am very forgetful. We just checked out of a hotel today and I left all of my jewelry in a drawer. It didn't come to me until I felt my neck and realized something was missing several hours later.”
“I had a very hard time following a conversation, felt like I was losing my mind. Couldn't remember things, but mostly felt completely confused! Very scary.”
“Saying a word close in sound but nowhere close in meaning from the one I am looking for. Feeling sleepy like Dorothy in the poppy field.”
“Not knowing where you are going, what you are doing, feeling like you can't connect your brain to your thoughts. People talk to you and you don't know what they said. Having issues with regular things, like driving or cooking.”
“I just can't think straight. I get things mixed up, start to tell a joke or story and can't remember how it goes, I read something but can't comprehend what I'm reading. My eyes feel very heavy and tired and I have a heavy feeling in my forehead and behind my eyes. Even the simplest tasks take too much mental effort.”
“I feel disconnected. I'm in there somewhere but I just can't grasp it and hold on. I can't get my mind to stay focused nor remember anything during brain fog spells (which is usually always). It's the feeling you get when you're running on very little sleep.”
“Saying crazy things like: go mow your bedroom floor. I meant vacuum!!!”
“A total disconnect from how you would normally be articulate... The thought process and words just don't come out as planned..an all day feeling like you haven't slept in days.. forgetful and confused at times.”
“Like I couldn't get my brain to engage...randomly losing words, thinking through mud, my critical thinking skills were completely gone. Definitely forgetful and confused.”
“Everything being slow to process is a good description. And working too hard mentally to do easy things.”
“I cant tell you what I did this morning let alone last week. I can be in the middle of a conversation and forget what we were talking about. I can be in the middle of a sentence and stop dead because I cant remember the next word I need.”
“Very lethargic. Can't focus, concentrate, and feeling like I can't fully wake up.”
“You walk to a room to grab something and forget on the way what it was...you may never remember...starting a question to someone but forgetting the second half of the question before you finish saying "have you ever...uh..."? Also just feeling dumb...like, man today is so hard! i can't remember, i can't multi task like i'm used to...it takes longer to compute and comprehend people's sentences…a feeling that you just wish you could crawl back into bed and try again tomorrow.”
“Feels like you're physically there, but can't mentally process everything that's happening. things go in one ear and dissolve completely before even having a chance to process. I often say it's like feeling "dumber" and "number" than usual.”
“For me it’s confusion. Almost like a wire shorting out.”
Does any of this sound like you?
Brain fog can come in varying degrees and is different for everyone. Often you just feel so alone because no one understands. Right?
What can you do about it?
Brain fog is something you can control. Whatever it looks like for you there are some things you can do about it.
First of all, having a practitioner that listens to you and believes you is key. Treating your symptoms and not just your labs is also very important.
Second of all, what you put in to your body is of utmost important. Not only your diet, but supplementation and toxins as well.
Eating wheat and gluten makes Hashimoto’s and the symptoms that come with it much much worse. Processed foods and foods of convenience are one of the biggest things that contribute to your symptoms getting worse or remaining terrible. The reason for this is that the structure of gluten in your body resembles that of your thyroid gland and your immune system can easily mistake the gluten proteins you consumed for the thyroid gland itself. Gluten is also one of the causes of increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut which puts your immune system on high alert.
You must balance your blood sugar. How do you know if your blood sugar needs balancing? Do you crave sugar? Do you feel tired after a meal? Do you have that afternoon slump? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you probably need to have some tweaking done to your diet. Maybe you are not digesting fat well and your body is overwhelmed with carbohydrates. It is helpful to have someone analyze your diet by completing a food journal for three days to a week. Your brain needs glucose (sugar) to run but it is the kind of glucose you give it that makes a difference. It can use the sugars in vegetables for energy too which is more beneficial to your body as a whole.
You may need to repair your gut. If you have increased intestinal permeability then you more than likely have some inflammation going on in your system. Removing other inflammatory foods is a great start to gut repair. You kind of have to be your own food detective here. You can have food sensitivity testing done but if you are on a budget, do an elimination diet like the Autoimmune Protocol and gradually add back in to your diet one food at a time until you figure out which ones you react to. If you react, you know you should not eat that food again. You may also want to take some nutritional supplementation to help your body heal.
What is your stress level like? How are your adrenal glands? Anyone who suffers from inflammation will have adrenal stress. Taking adaptogenic herbs are often quite helpful in helping your body heal from adrenal fatigue along with getting good rest and reducing that which stresses not only your body but your mind too. Did you know your nervous system doesn’t really know the difference between physical and emotional stress. It is all stress and your hormones act the same either way. The adrenals are heavily involved in your brains chemistry. If they are busy working on inflammation or balancing your blood sugar then they cannot help your brain work properly.
What is your digestion like? Most people that are hypothyroid or have Hashimoto’s usually are not making enough stomach acid. This is significant because if you don’t have enough stomach acid in your stomach is affects digestion through the rest of your digestive tract. You won’t be absorbing nutrients like B12, iron and calcium. You can then have inflammation or infections in your intestines. You can also become protein deficient when you don’t have enough stomach acid. If your digestion is not optimal you can be deficient in fats as well which are important for brain function and health.
You may be having trouble detoxifying chemicals and toxins in your body. Most detoxification happens in the liver. The liver is also a player in blood sugar regulation. It cannot work to detoxify chemicals or even hormones if it is busy working on blood sugar. Take a look at the cleaning products you use. Are they “clean”? Do you use air fresheners? Hair care products and make up are full of chemicals too. It only takes about 22 second for chemicals on your skin to be absorbed in to your blood stream. All of those things need to be detoxified by your liver.
Brain fog can be a sign that you are not getting enough nutrients and oxygen to your brain. One way to increase blood flow to the brain is to get some exercise. You don’t have to go crazy with exercise here. Don’t start running or anything like that. Go for a walk. Regularly. Go for a bike ride. Hang out in nature. Just get moving. It may seem like the last thing you want to do but you will feel so good. Walking is healing for your adrenal glands too. You will find you start to feel better all around if you get out and move.
Getting good sleep is super important to brain fog. If you’re not sleeping good or for at least seven to eight hours a night then you may experience regular brain fog. What can you do to help yourself sleep better? You can make sure you are digesting your food, especially your protein. You also may not be eating enough. You will wake up if your body is in need of glucose for energy. Your melatonin production can be delayed if you expose yourself to the blue lights in computers, cell phones and televisions at night. Getting blue blocking glasses like these help if you are not willing to step away from electronics when it gets dark outside.
Share this post with anyone you know that is suffering from brain fog or contact me today for help finding what your body needs to find balance.
Thyroid problems affect around 27 million people in the United States. It is possible that you can have problems with your thyroid even if your doctor has tested you and the results came out “normal”. Your thyroid is your body’s engine and it decides how fast or slow your internal systems work.
When it is doing its job you feel great. When your thyroid decides it’s time to hit the brakes you feel the weight creeping on, no matter how hard you try to keep it off. You are tired ALL OF THE TIME no matter how much sleep you get. You can’t remember things or think clearly anymore and you think it’s just a part of getting older or busier with life. You’re not able to go to the bathroom regularly possibly and no matter the weather you are always freaking cold.
Possible signs your thyroid is off (hypo):
- morning headaches that wear off as the day progresses
- sensitive to cold weather
- poor circulation in your hands and feet
- muscle cramps
- easily catch colds or viruses and recovering takes longer
- your cuts heal slowly
- you don’t have enough stomach acid affecting digestion
- your skin itches and is dry
- you retain water (edema)
- the outer 1/3 of your eyebrows are either gone or are thinning
You may have one or several of these symptoms all pointing to hypothyroidism and your TSH tested by your doctor can show normal. The thing with the lab ranges in conventional medicine are that they are based on the labs taken in prior years from sick and healthy patients. So all those people who went in for a thyroid test and had “normal” labs but left their doctors office still feeling like crap and for all those who had slightly elevated TSH levels but not high enough for the doctor to decide to put them on medication, your levels are compared to theirs.
So here’s the thing, testing just TSH is not enough. I will explain more in a bit but first let’s look at the way things are supposed to work.
- Your thyroid produces T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothryronine)- only about 7% of what is produced is T3.
- Thyroid hormones travel through the blood stream bound to proteins that take them to your cells.
- Once they are dropped off at your cells where they do their work they are called “free”
- T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone used by the body
- T4 is supposed to be converted in to T3. This mostly happens in the liver but the conversion takes place in other cells like nerve cells and muscle tissue like your heart.
- Your body uses about 60% of the T4 produced. Some of the T4 is changed in to rT3 (reverse T3) making it unusable. Another 20% or so becomes active in the gut by your healthy bacteria. Your thyroid function depends on the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Here is why TSH is not enough to know if your thyroid is working properly. TSH stands for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. It is a hormone released by your pituitary gland (your brain). This should not be the only test looked at to measure a functioning thyroid.
Let’s look at the possible tests that can measure thyroid function.
- TSH as talked about above.
- Total thyroxine (TT4) measures the level bound with proteins and the levels not bound with proteins. This one doesn’t tell you much unless you measure the amount of T3 taken up by the cells or T3 uptake.
- Free Thyroxine Index (FTI) tells you how much thyroid hormone is free or not bound with a protein.
- Free Thyroxine (FT4) measures the amount of active T4 in the blood. This will be low if you are hypothyroid.
- Resin T3 Uptake (T3RU) measures how many proteins are in the blood for binding to the thyroid hormone
- Free Triiodothyroxine (FT3) measures what is not bound to proteins and available for use by the cells.
- Reverse T3 (rT3) measures the amount of inactive T3. More T3 becomes inactive when we are facing stressful situations both emotionally and physically.
- Thyroid Binding Globulin (TGB) measure the amount of proteins in our blood bringing thyroid hormones to the cells.
- Thyroid Antibodies (TPO Ab and TGB Ab) will measure whether or not your immune system has produced antibodies against your thyroid indicating Hashimoto’s or Grave’s Disease.
If you have Hashimoto’s, in addition to the symptoms listed above you may also have the following:
- heart palpitations
- inward trembling
- increased pulse rate even when sedentary
- feeling nervous or emotionally stressed
- night sweats
- trouble gaining weight
Your inability to stay warm, chronic constipation, irregular periods or weight you can’t get rid of- these are signs from your body that something isn’t right. The systems within your body are speaking to you, maybe even yelling at you. When your thyroid slows down, so does everything else. It is not all in your head.
In Hashimoto’s the body attacks and destroys its own thyroid gland. Your immune system is running the show, not your thyroid. It is called Autoimmune Disease. Dr.’s generally don’t test you for it because it doesn’t change how they will care for you. They are going to give you your prescription and monitor the slow decline of your thyroid and adjust your medication accordingly. That is the standard practice. It is what they are taught.
What they are not usually taught is that you can manage your symptoms very well nutritionally because when you have Hashimoto’s you can do things to calm your immunes system the heck down.
Around one in five people suffer from an autoimmune disease and it is estimated that around 30 million of those are women. The most common autoimmune diseases are thyroid related. That is around 7% or the U.S. population.
If you suspect you may have Hashimoto’s you can ask your doctor to test your antibodies. If he or she won’t do it, find a doctor who will. It may take some leg work depending on where you live but you can find one.
The test can show up as negative if your not having a flare up because your immune system can swing. If this happens, ask to have it tested again in a month or two.
Your thyroid can go from over active to under active from week to week or month to month. It can be because of a trigger such as a stressful event or even for no reason at all. Every time thyroid tissue is damaged the hormones stored there are released in to the blood stream causing a flood of hormone which will speed things up making you feel hyperthyroid.
Having this happen along with being gluten intolerant (you probably are), having celiac disease or being diagnosed with pernicious anemia is a sure fire sign you have autoimmunity.
If you have Hashimoto’s then there is a good chance some of your thyroid has been destroyed so you will probably have to take your medication for the rest of your life. I lived with hyperthyroidism for ten years before being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s so I am one of those people.
Everyone is different so how your body decides to react will not be the same as someone else.
Most cases of hypothyroidism are also Hashimoto’s cases. The reason for this is not clear but it is clear what you can do to help prevent further flare ups.
Like I said earlier, there is a good chance you are gluten intolerant. Every time you consume gluten you are causing an immune response in the body. The gluten molecules are very close in molecular structure to those of the thyroid gland. So close that your immune system has trouble knowing which one is which.
How in the world does this happen?
If you have an Autoimmune disease you have increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut. Around 80% of Americans are genetically susceptible to gluten intolerance where gluten will damage the intestinal tract causing little openings where the undigested gluten can reach the blood stream. Some of us have the ability to repair that damage better than others. If you are one of those who can’t repair the damage as well then you end up with an autoimmune disease.
When your immune system defines gluten as the enemy, your time with bread is over. Every time you consume anything with gluten in it, your immune system is on high alert. You will be inflamed and your thyroid tissue is attacked. This inflammation can show up in a variety of ways like achy joints, rashes, respiratory issues etc. Again, it is all depending on how your body wants to react. Everyone is different.
Gluten isn’t the only big player in Hashimoto’s but it is a pretty big one. Some other things you will need to look at are:
- blood sugar imbalances
- your stress level- lifestyle is huge for managing this and any autoimmune disease
- vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- how toxic your environment is- your liver plays a role in converting thyroid hormones which it can’t do if it is over burdened with toxins and sugar
- whether or not you are on birth control pills or your hormone production in general
- besides gluten, what does your diet look like
- are you making enough stomach acid
- do you take or do you need probiotics
If any one of the above is out of balance you have work to do. Getting these things in balance is key to managing autoimmune disease.
Managing your blood sugar is important for more than just thyroid function. Most of us have too much sugar in our diets which affect our thyroid and other hormones including those that manage stress such as cortisol.
Cortisol is a key player in your stress management too. Do you take time for yourself? Do you exercise to manage stress? Do you do yoga or meditate?
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies play a role in how well your body can do the things it needs to do for good health. If you are not digesting your food because of low stomach acid or eating the Standard American Diet you are deficient in not only vitamins and minerals but in nourishment in general.
We live in a toxic world. Your liver must be the one to clean up all the crap we take in through what we breathe, eat and put on our body.
Birth control pills create too much estrogen in the body which makes your pituitary (brain) tired and creates too many proteins for your thyroid hormones to bind to. This means you won’t have enough thyroid hormone floating through the blood to do its job.
Remember that some 20% of thyroid hormone becomes active in the gut in the presence of healthy bacteria there. If your gut flora is out of balance which is the case for many people, then you will have less active hormone to work with. You will also have the possibility of digestive issues of all kinds.
You may be one of the 27 million Americans with thyroid problems but you don’t have to be one who is suffering through it. Or maybe you know someone who has hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s and they don’t know what to do.
Share this article with someone you care about. There is help out there and there is someone who genuinely cares that can help them.