Five Things I Learned on the Autoimmune Protocol

Deciding to take on the Autoimmune Protocol was not easy for me. Here I am eleven months in to it though and it feels much like it did after having been gluten free for at least as long. It is sort of just second nature for me now. I have reintroduced most foods like green and red peppers, tomatoes, pepper and other spices, eggs and some grains like rice and corn (always organic, and only occasionally), legumes, peas and some seeds (only occasionally). I have not reintroduced any nuts because they had started to create an immediate reaction on my tongue and throat. 

I reintroduced eggs in the form of carob brownies. That was a big mistake. I should have reintroduced them the way suggested in all the autoimmune books out there where you take a small amount, wait 15 minutes then add a little more. I just don’t usually have the patience or the time to do such a thing so I just go with the flow. I made these brownies from a recipe I had found via google and ate half the pan in 12 hours. It was a small pan and only two eggs were in the whole recipe so I thought it would be fine. Nope. It was not. I found myself extremely irritable and really irate over little things the next day (like in the 13th and 14th hours of consuming these brownies). I flipped out on my kids over a power cord that had gone missing. I couldn’t stand to be with myself. It is hard enough to be a parent and then you throw in all this autoimmune stuff on top of it. Man, I feel sorry for my kids. So, knowing that the eggs were the only new ingredient that I had not eaten in 8 months means that they are more than likely a forever no food for me. A couple weeks later I ate some gluten free crackers with hummus. Turns out they had egg yolks in them (no wonder they were so good) which I realized after eating them when I read the package. Same thing happened again except not as intense. 

I have not yet reintroduced eggplant mostly because I only eat it once or twice a year in a Paleo lasagna dish from the Everyday Paleo Italian Cuisine cookbook by Sarah Fragoso.

I have learned a lot about myself these last eleven months. I have a strained relationship with food that goes back many many years. Doing this elimination diet has taught me a lot about that relationship and also: 

I needed to eat more vegetables and particularly greens. 

I am one of those people who uses carbohydrates for energy way better than fat. I took an Organic Acids Test with a friend who is studying with Dan Kalish and she discovered my cells can’t convert fat and protein to energy as well as they can carbohydrates. This, combined with my Hashimoto’s means I should be eating way more quality carbohydrates than I was. If I am being honest with you, most of my diet consisted of proteins, fat and sweet potatoes with a vegetable in the evenings at dinner. This here speaks volumes to my relationship with food. I know better for goodness sake, I am a Nutritional Therapist. More than half my plate at each meal, including breakfast is veggies which has helped me feel so much better, especially when it comes to the energy I am feeling. 

2. I need to practice better self care. 

I had gotten pretty good at allowing myself to sleep in when I didn't’ sleep well the night before. I didn’t worry too much about the laundry piling up and not getting folded for weeks.I let myself be okay with that or at least I tried. If I was too tired after cooking a meal or batch cooking for a few days worth of food, I just let the kitchen be dirty. I left the dishes unwashed until the next morning when I knew I would have enough energy to clean up. Sometimes my husband would take care of it if he was home. That would always be an extra bonus. I worked really hard on not feeling like a failed wife and mother if the house was a pit. I knew I had a lot on my plate and still do with three kids, a husband who travels for his job, owning my own business and all the other stuff that comes with life. What I wasn’t good at was forgiveness. Forgiving my body for being in dis-ease. Forgiving myself for getting my body to the point of dis-ease. I needed to work on just letting go. On not taking shit so personally all the time. I had to let go of wanting to control all the outcomes. Of wanting to control how my body was behaving. Letting go of my kids not being little people anymore but kids who need to grow themselves and make their own decisions and their own mistakes. I had to work on letting go of all the stuff my husband did or said that irritated me. I had to learn to respond to things, life, better. I have had to work on not sweating the small stuff. I am a work in progress. I am okay with that most days. I have started to meditate more and that has been so helpful. 

3. I need to forge and nurture friendship. 

I am an introvert. I am also a homebody. I don’t love crowded places all that much. My close friendships are few and far between with my best girlfriend living 4000 miles away. This makes it a little hard to go out for coffee (or tea for AIP) on a whim. She did just come visit me though so we are both a bit recharged for the time being. My therapist tells me that it is important for me to work on relationships so that I can remain “recharged”. 

I changed my diet six years ago. I started out being just gluten free, then dairy free, then more Paleo except I ate a ton of organic corn chips…. These changes brought about changes in relationships too. My parents quit inviting us over for dinner. My friends thought I was on some freakish health kick. They probably thought, “oh boy, here we go again..”. I lost some friends. They quit asking me to go out for girls night. Some other things happened too that broke up my core group of friends that had nothing to do with me and so I was really starting over in the friendship department and after I started looking after my health and going to school for nutrition, I just didn’t work to keep those relationships good. I found new friends who thought more like me when it came to health and wellness. I have to work to keep and maintain those friends which I am never really super good at so here is to changing that about myself! Growing and nurturing these friendships so they are stronger will be key to maintaining some sort of wellness. Community is important for everyone but most especially when you are working on getting well again. 

4. I need to learn balance. 

Being so restrictive with a diet like the autoimmune protocol can lead you down a path to disordered eating. You have to be able to find a happy medium. I found myself worrying about every little thing I ate. I stressed out over how I was going to do this or that when i could only eat these few things. First of all, I had to look at this from a whole different perspective. There really is a lot of foods you can have on the autoimmune protocol. A lot of vegetables. A lot of starches. A lot of fish. A lot of offal. I don’t like fish, seafood or organs and have no plans in the immediate future to make any of them a regular part of my diet. I know it is key to healing on AIP. I am not there. I don't’ tell my clients they have to eat it but that they should. I also tell them I don’t eat it. 

I have not had a health relationship with food. I was/am addicted to sugar. I was/am a snacker. I like junk food. I still snack and eat some junk only now junk food consits of sweet potato chips or plantain chips. I maybe snack too often still but usually it is when i am stressed or when I have not eaten enough and am still hungry. What I am working on is not feeling bad or guilty about eating something. The stress of that just makes healing take longer because your cortisol and adrenal glands get involved in stress and they contribute to my already screwed up system. We are all works in progress, right. Strive for progress, not perfection. 

The other day I went out for lunch with a colleague and friend. We ate at a really high quality restaurant that sources locally when possible. I ordered a chicken curry dish. It had peppers and rice and I ate it full well knowing that I may have some issue later but I didn’t stress about it. I enjoyed it rather than stress about what was on the menu. Sometimes I found myself in a restaurant, usually with family, where my choices were few. I look back now and see that sometimes I took it personally that there were few items on the menu for me to eat. Now I see how ridiculous that is but I am pretty sure I am not alone in that thought process. Not taking it personally any more but that doesn’t mean I don't’ get a little frustrated when the menu sucks. 

5. I will not and cannot identify as being sick or having an illness. 

I do not want to let my autoimmune diseases get in my way of living. I don’t want them to take over my life so I don’t let them have top billing. I am me first. I am a mother, a wife and a business owner. I am a Nutritional Therapist. I am living with Hashimoto’s and Psoriasis but they do not own me. They do not take over my life. Sometimes they remind me to slow down. To eat a little better and to relax but they will not be me. 

Does Being on The Autoimmune Protocol Suck?

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?

11 Things You Can do to Beat Fatigue in Hypothyroidism

Fatigue and Hypothyroidsim. It sucks, doesn't it?!  You get sick and tired of being sick and tired. I get you.  Why are we always so tired?

The struggle is real.

We all get tired from time to time but if you have hypothyroidsim or Hashimoto’s you understand dog tired fatigue that just won’t go away. I have spent the better part of the year trying to figure out why the heck I have been plagued with constant fatigue. It is depressing. Chronic illness in general is depressing. It stinks to be tired all the time. If you have kids then you have the guilt of not feeling well enough to take your kids anywhere or do anything fun with your family. I paid lots of money to a chiropractor to help me figure out why I was so tired all the time. Didn’t help much at all. I spent a good portion of the summer watching the entire series of Gilmore Girls with my ten year old because I didn’t have enough energy to do anything else. My house didn’t get cleaned much for a good 6 months. I finally figured out a few things, made some changes and now feel really pretty good and have had a bit of a pep in my step which has been a welcome change. Ask my family. They will tell you!

There are several things you can do when you have hypothyroidism to help get that pep back in your step as well. 

First of all make sure your thyroid levels are optimal. That seems like a no brainer but you need to have more than just TSH tested. I feel like a broken record with this one but so many doctors don’t test anything but TSH and you really need to be an advocate for yourself and get T3 and T4 at a minimum tested and make sure they are in what would be considered a healthy range.  Between .3 and 3.0 is what the American College of Clinical Endocrinologists suggests for TSH. 

If your T3 is low and your reverse T3 is high, this will affect your energy levels as well. T3 is what your cells use for energy. Every cell in your body uses that hormone for energy. If your reverse T3 is high that means your body is possibly stressed in some way so that it is converting more T3 than it should into reverse T3 which your body cannot use, therefore you may have less energy.  You can ask your doctor if they are wiling to try different medications on you and if you feel it is the meds and your doctor won’t work with you, find another doctor. Fire your doctor. 

Have your iron (including ferritin) levels checked as well as your B12 levels. All of these have an effect on your energy levels. 

Do you have any food allergies or sensitivities that are not being addressed? Often times having a sensitivity to a food can cause fatigue and those of us with Hashimoto’s usually have at least a gluten sensitivity and more often than not a dairy sensitivity as well. Trying an elimination diet is key to figuring out just what foods might be causing problems for you.  We get a particular kind of sausage made from our deer every fall and I noticed the other day after having some that I felt particularly tired afterwards. Clue number one that there may be something in that sausage that is causing problems for me. Learn to listen to your body. Here what it is trying to tell you. 

This next one is a biggie.

You absolutely must get your blood sugar under control. Not doing so will wreak havoc on your entire body. Your body makes balancing blood sugar a priority over most other things it does. Make sure you are eating protein and fat with every meal, including breakfast. Don’t starve yourself and make sure you are eating enough. Avoid starchy and refined carbohydrates. It should be okay for you to include squashes and sweet potatoes. I find I do better when I include those in my diet. Keep a food journal. You will be surprised that you just might not be eating enough food on a daily basis. 

You also need to make sure that you are digesting your food. You cannot use the amino acids in the protein you consume if you are not breaking the protein down in your stomach. You need to chew your food well and slowly and even before you start eating you need to be relaxed (in parasympathetic mode). 

Have your vitamin D checked. Optimal levels are somewhere around 60-80 ng/dl and most of us don’t get enough. You need to make sure you are getting D3 from your diet. Your vitamin D fortified orange juice and milk do not have D3 in them. 

Take good care of your adrenal glands. They help manage blood sugar, sex hormones and your fight or flight response. Put a pinch of sea salt in your water when you drink it and stay away from coffee. Coffee is not the friend of your adrenal glands. They don’t get better over night either. They take some tender loving care to get them working well again. I have been working on mine for a couple of years. 

If your liver is blocked up with all kinds of stuff it cannot do its job of eliminating toxins. This is called having a congested liver. A toxic liver can make us feel tired. 

B vitamin deficiencies have a big effect on our energy. Taking a good B6 complex in general can be helpful. 

Do you have a leaky gut?

How healthy are the bacteria in your gut? Both of these play a role in your energy levels and are important factors to consider when looking at your health. 

Gentle exercise is your friend. Going for walks, yoga, tai chi are all great things to get your body moving and helping you feel better. 

Of course, you can work with a practitioner to help you figure out exactly what is going on inside your body and get to the root of your fatigue and other symptoms of thyroid disease. You can feel better. Trust me. I live this disease and know its ups and downs. 

Empower yourself to get better and to feel better. 

In Health, 

Stephanie

Tell me in the comments about your worst day with fatigue. How about your best?

How Important is Your Thyroid?

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
  • swelling
  • 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
  • Inflammation
  • A Backed Up Liver
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Stress
  • Heavy Metal Burden
  • Fungus
  • Parasites
  • Viruses

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: 

  • Lettuce
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Avocados
  • Chicken
  • Broccoli 
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Coconut
  • Oranges
  • Acerola Cherries
  • Kale
  • Parsley

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. 

In Health, 

Stephanie

Three Things You Can Do to Combat Adrenal Fatigue with Autoimmune Disease

Just about a year ago I was in the middle of my NTP program. I had just finished midterms and a long intense weekend of learning with my classmates. I wasn’t sleeping well. When I am stressed, usually the first thing affected is my sleep. I was getting maybe 4 hours a night for 3 or 4 days. It took a toll on me. Still does anytime I don’t get good sleep or sleep long enough. After our classroom weekend was over I slept well but was in need of some major recovery. A classmate stayed at my house the night after our last class was over and then I drove her to the airport the next day. When I got home from that I slept. I laid on my couch for a week as much as I could and I faded in and out of sleep for a couple of days. I watched all the available episodes of Long Island Medium on Netflix and laid on the couch. I went to my local food co op for lunch and went home and slept. I remember thinking how serious this was. I got a little nervous about the whole situation but I knew what I had to do and that was let my body heal. Thankfully I had the ability to do that. I asked friends to help me out by keeping my kids busy so I could take care of myself. I have never felt exhaustion like that before in my life. Even when my thyroid was tanked. The thyroid kind of tired was different. I felt slower or slowed down. This was exhaustion. Where you sleep for 8 hours or more and then get up and lay on the couch and fall asleep again. 

So what are adrenal glands anyway?

They are little walnut sized glands that sit on top of your kidneys and they play a major role in the functioning of your body. Your adrenal glands produce a bunch of hormones too like your sex hormones and cortisol and DHEA.  Cortisol is activated for many reasons but it plays a significant role in autoimmune diseases. Cortisol as a steroid is one of the big guns in the inflammatory and immune processes in the body. It protects us in some ways but can also cause harm in the body when there is too much or too little of it. 

A lot of years ago, corticosteroid drugs were the main treatment in autoimmune disease because they were so effective. Treatment was left at that. No natural management of cortisol was ever considered in conventional medicine. 

Cortisol is the original anti inflammatory steroid hormone made in the body. We make it and use it everyday. It helps regulate immune function in the body. 

Cortisol is released to help get rid of inflammation in the body and to deal with the overall inflammatory process. 

A healthy balance of cortisol helps to keep an overactive immune system in check. It also stimulates the under active immune system most especially when you are fighting off an infection. That infection can be an obvious one you are dealing with or a hidden infection inside the body that you don’t necessarily feel the immediate effects of but can be causing problems internally. 

There are three major sources of stress we are dealing with that will cause your cortisol levels to rise. 

  1. Emotional stress: a divorce, a death or loss (especially if you don’t deal with it), or something like financial stress or problems. You get the idea. Stuff going on in your life. 
  2. Dietary stressors: Gluten being the major culprit for many people. If you are dealing with autoimmune problems, get the gluten out of your diet. It is imperative. Gluten is a potential hidden source of inflammation so it is really important to get it out of the diet. On that one you have to be diligent. You can’t just kind of take it out of your diet. You also need to get a handle on your blood sugar and maintain steady blood sugar. This probably means cutting out refined carbohydrates and sugar in general to give your adrenals time to heal. 
  3. Inflammatory stress/pain:  Things like toxic overload, chemicals in your diet, pollution, infections, physical pain or hidden inflammatory conditions like leaky gut or liver damage. Food allergies or sensitivities, pathogens or heavy metals are inflammatory as wellI

All three of these issues drive cortisol and the more of them you have the more damage you will do to your adrenal glands.  

Often the root cause of adrenal problems is inflammation and you have to be a detective with your practitioner to figure out what is causing the inflammation or what you can do to reduce it. 

When it comes to autoimmune disease and the adrenals an immune antibody in the mucosal lining of the gut called Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SIgA) plays a pretty big role. Those antibodies are regulated by cortisol. The more stress you are under (from any of the three listed above) the weaker that lining in the gut will be and the immune response will be weakened. So this is why sometimes when you get stressed you can get a cold. If the stress is chronic it can lead to autoimmune disease. Basically the SIgA become weakened and contribute to leaky gut or intestinal permeability. 

There are three important aspects to keeping autoimmunity in check.

  1. Hormones: cortisol, thyroid, the sex hormones are all affected by autoimmune disease. Also, the hormones that regulate your blood sugar are important to take care of. If you can work with a qualified practitioner that can test your hormones for you that is great. If not, I will have some general things you can do listed below. 
  2. Your Gastrointestinal Tract: go on an anti-inflammatory diet, test for and take care of pathogens. Take probiotics and eat fermented foods. Heal the gut. 
  3. Detoxification: get rid of the chemicals you put in your hair and on your skin, use safer cleaning products in your home, look at heavy metals and supporting your liver. 

All of these things will help to get your Secretory IgA levels up so you can clear out any infections that may be causing a problem.

The major players in Adrenal health for everyone are: 

  • Healing the gut
  • Changing the diet
  • Mediation
  • Sleep
  • Reducing stress
  • Exercise
  • Having a loving, supportive environment/relationship

How do you know if you have adrenal fatigue?

  1. You have stored fat. When cortisol is out of balance your body will store fat especially in and around the area of your abdomen. 
  2. You have fatigue. You are just plain tired (which can lead to thyroid problems). 
  3. You have general depression/anxiety. The kind where you are just physically exhausted and don’t feel like going out and doing anything. 
  4. Your hormones are a mess. Infertility, hot flashes, night sweats or mood swings. 
  5. Digestion is not working well. 

A side note about the thyroid and adrenal problems. They go hand in hand. Inflammation affects thyroid hormones and adrenal hormones at the same time. During any kind of stress, when cortisol goes up the ability of your body to convert T4 to active T3 is immediately affected. When you have adrenal fatigue the level of active thyroid hormone in your body decreases. When cortisol levels go up, thyroid function goes down.  When autoimmune thyroid is the case, you have to think about the gut as well. If the gut isn’t healed, then the rest doesn’t matter as much. 

If you think you have thyroid problems but have not been tested or you have been tested (usually TSH only) but your doctor tells you everything is within the normal lab ranges, then maybe take a look at your adrenal glands and how well they are doing. The Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire I run on my clients gives a pretty good indication as to where you are with adrenal fatigue and is a great place to start, especially if you don’t want to do a cortisol saliva test or can’t find a practitioner or doctor to do one on you. 

What can you do on your own to combat Adrenal Fatigue?

  1. Deal with the emotional stress in your life. Do one thing to improve your emotional well being. Are you not fully dealing with a loss in your life? Are you in a bad relationship or no relationship at all? This is a big deal and plays a huge role in your adrenal health but also in your overall well being. 
  2. Make some dietary changes as talked about above. Eliminate gluten (at least for a while if you are not autoimmune). If you really want to make an impact on the situation you can go grain free and eliminate soy. Manage your blood sugar. Cut out the refined carbohydrates and sugar so your body has less stress. 
  3. Deal with the inflammation in your body. Support your liver with things like turmeric or silymarin. Take a high quality fish oil and probiotic. Digestive enzymes can be helpful too. 

 

General supplements you can take that are helpful for the adrenal glands are: 

  • Ginseng
  • Rhodiola
  • Ashwaghanda
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B6

If you don’t think you can or don’t want to do it on your own, fill out the contact form here and we can work on it together. 

Live Well, 

Stephanie

The Three Biggest Factors That Influence Good Sleep

For many years I had a love hate relationship with sleep. I wanted to sleep through the night but just was not able to. First it was newborn babies- while they are just about the best thing in the world to have, they are a sure fire way to make sure you don’t get much sleep at all. Sleeping has always been one of my favorite things to do. Having babies really messed that up for me. Once they slept through the night I was back to my blessed eight hours a night and happy once again until there was some sort of stressful situation. I don’t manage stress well- it takes some real practice on my part. When I don’t manage stress well I don’t sleep well. When I was working, managing 3 kids and having a husband that traveled a lot while going through my nutrition program I was having regular, nightly, nightmares. Waking up with a racing heart and having to take about 2 hours to fall back asleep. That on top of sleeping with someone who snores meant I did what ever it took to get good sleep aside from taking sleeping pills. I was a complete bear to be around and what little sleep I was getting affected my ability to learn. I had to read things several times for them to stick and my health really declined. 

What role does sleep play in Autoimmune Disease?   

SLEEP IS HUGELY IMPORTANT!

  • Sleep is huge in regulating cortisol which is key to stress management
  • Sleep is huge in helping the body detoxify
  • Sleep is huge in allowing the body to heal itself

Circadian Rhythms: both sleeping and being awake are circadian rhythms. A circadian rhythym is a repeatable 24 hour process. We evolved with a cycle revolving around the 24 hours in a day. Our bodies are adapted to to they cycle. 

This cycle influences behaviors at specific times of the day

  • when you wake up
  • when you get tired
  • when you are hungry
  • how cold or hot you feel
  • the growth of cells and cell repair

You have cells in your retina that respond to light. Not only the ones that help you actually see but there are cells that affect your internal clock. There are cells in the brain that work with the cycle of your environment (when it gets light and dark). Staying on your electronic devices after the sun goes down, watching television or even having a light on at night can tell your brain that it is not time to go to sleep yet. So while your body is probably very ready for some rest and repair your brain thinks it should be awake still. Getting these rhythms off can have hormone levels higher during the night and lower during the day. It can explain bouts of lower energy, feeling groggy in the morning, etc.  All of this can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, increased risk for heart disease and diabetes, cancer, inflammation and autoimmune disease. 

If you have an autoimmune disease you can be certain that sleep or lack thereof plays an important role in how well you are doing.  It can be the cause of an issue or a contributing factor in your health or the worsening of it. Having your clock be off basically leads to inflammation.

Having autoimmune issues such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue feeds in to the vicious cycle of sleep. A little bit of pain can disrupt your sleep and the poor sleep increases your pain. If you have brain fog or have trouble concentrating it can be because your body is working hard to fight off infection. Certain immune cells will actually make you feel tired. 

You may feel tired but your sleep quality is not great which again, feeds in to the vicious cycle. 

There is a lot to learn in the scientific field of sleep. One thing science knows for sure is that sleep helps you process all that you did during the day and getting your body and brain ready for doing what it needs to do the following day. If you are not getting the sleep you need at night you are keeping your body from being able to process all that happens in a day and get you ready for the day to come. 

Not getting enough sleep compromise your behavior leading to accidents, lower coordination, decreased reaction to things and bad balance. Several studies  at Stanford University show that having more sleep time or just more time in bed leads to better accuracy and performance in a sport. All positive benefits. 

There are three factors that make a difference when it comes to the sleep you are getting: 

When are you sleeping?

  • do you go to sleep around the same time every night? Having a regularly scheduled bedtime and sticking to it the best you can allows for your body to establish the proper rhythm for good health. Binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix until midnight is just what you don’t want to do. Just say no to one more episode. Why is that so darn hard to do? It is so very important to your health to learn to say no. That episode will be there tomorrow. 

How long are you sleeping?

  • Are you getting at least eight hours a night?

Is your sleep restorative?

making sure you get good quality sleep means your body can repair itself. If you are constantly stressed you will be sure that your body will be awake for at least some portion of the time you should be sleeping. If you don’t manage your blood sugar you can be woken in the night by cortisol as it tries to help manage your blood sugar. 

  • Are you waking up in the middle of the night? Is your room too hot or too noisy?
  • Getting outside and exposing yourself to the light for at least 30 minutes and doing some sort of activity play a role in your quality of sleep. Indoor light at night will change your circadian rhythms if you don’t do this. The great part is, it doesn’t have to be 30 minutes all at once, it can be 30 minutes total. 

What can you do to ensure your sleep quality is better?

  • Manage your stress through exercise, meditation or even therapy.
  • Get amber light bulbs- they filter out the blue light that tricks your brain in to thinking it is daytime. 
  • Make sure your room is void of any type of light. Get black out curtains if you know you need complete darkness to sleep well.  You could also get a sleep mask which would be a heck of a lot cheaper than black out curtains. 
  • Wake up without an alarm clock if you can. It is best to let your body wake up when it is ready. If you are getting optimal sleep, you probably won’t need it. This means going to bed on time and the earlier the better. 
  • You can wear blue blocking glasses to watch television in the evening or for looking at an electronic device. You can find them inexpensively on Amazon.com. You can also install something on your computer called f.lux which will gradually remove the blue light from the screen as it gets darker outside. 

The important thing to take away is to know that having good sleep is good for your health. Try changing up what you do for two to three weeks and see if you notice a difference in how you feel and how well you perform during the day. 

Tell me in the comments below what kind of sleep issues you struggle with. 

Sleep well. 

In health, 

Stephanie 

 

20 Ways to Tell Your Blood Sugar Needs Balancing

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?

  1. You crave sweets
  2. You wake up soon after falling asleep and have a hard time getting back to sleep
  3. You have binge type eating patterns
  4. You have an appetite that won’t quit
  5. You get irritable, jittery or hangry
  6. You get headaches that temporarily feel better after eating
  7. You crave coffee or sugar in the afternoon
  8. You are sleepy in the afternoon
  9. You get shaky if you miss a meal or eat later than normal
  10. You have a family history of diabetes
  11. You are thirsty a lot
  12. You have to pee a lot
  13. You crave bread, pasta or other refined grains
  14. You have poor concentration
  15. You have night sweats
  16. You struggle to lose weight even though you are eating a low fat diet
  17. You are frequently tired
  18. You get a boost of energy from eating
  19. You have anxiety or panic attacks
  20. 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
  •     fatigue
  •     dizziness
  •     headaches
  •     depression
  •     irritability
  •     cravings for sugar
  •     hunger

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:

  1. Have some protein at every meal (see this post for learning all about protein)
  2. 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
  3. Don’t have any sugar before bed
  4. 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)
  5. Don’t eat any grains or dairy 
  6. Eat breakfast within an hour of getting up
  7. Avoid all sweeteners including artificial ones (limit your fruits to 1 serving a day at most)
  8. Keep the carbs to a minimum eating only complex carbs
  9. 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. 

In health, 

Stephanie