Help For Hashimoto's Episode 2

In this second episode, we talk about how our immune system is affected by gluten and why it is important to avoid it to ensure our thyroid can stay healthy. We discuss how to go gluten free, how I went gluten free and where to find hidden sources of gluten. 

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I have Hashimotos and I’m hypo. 

I’m tired of feeling bad everyday. I wake up and go to bed feeling bad. I have no energy throughout the day and I have 3 children to take care of. I’m unable to work due to my anxiety and depression. I have no support at home. 

I haven’t my house in 3 days. I feed my children whatever is quick and something I don’t have to stand over the stove and cook. I’m tired of being this way. I’m tired of being tired. It feels like I don’t belong here. I need help—-

LITTLE BY LITTLE, A LITTLE BECOMES A LOT.  I have been there. When I was first diagnosed I had a 2 year old and a baby. I remember my tongue feeling heavy and it felt really hard to talk. I remember writing a check and feeling like it was so much effort to move the pen across the paper. 

My first best guess is that you are either not on the right dose of medication or you are not able to convert the T4 in your medication to the form your cells need which is free t3. 

If you can, search for a doctor willing to test more than TSH which is a test looking at what your brain is telling your thyroid to do. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone is coming from the pituitary gland. When the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood is low, it is stimulated to send a message to the thyroid to make more hormone. When there is too much thyroid hormone in the blood it is stimulated to tell the thyroid to make less. So when you have a high TSH (mine was 150 when I was first diagnosed and then the doctor was happy with it around 5 despite the fact that I still felt terrible) it means you are in a hypothyroid state or your thyroid has been told to slow down. When your TSH is really low that means you are in a hyperthyroid state and your thyroid has been told to speed up. The reason why your number is what it is, is dependent upon your bioindividuality. TSH can vary from day to day as well so when you go in, you are getting a picture of how things are working at that moment. This is true of many blood tests.  The other problem here is the way the lab ranges were made. The “normal” range was set based on a group of healthy and sick patients. Some with thyroid conditions, and some without so the range is not necessarily based on healthy people. Most healthy folks have a range at or around 2.5. Personally, I am feeling much better at just below one. I am on compounded medication though and so that makes the TSH test result lower than normal. The problem is your doctor may have a lab range that shows 8 as normal which for most people will make you feel sluggish, tired when you wake up or need to sleep 10-12 hours or more, gain weight, lose hair, feel cold and generally not feel well. This is why it is so important to find a practitioner who will treat you based on your symptoms and not just on your labs. Take note that a normal or low TSH number doesn’t mean you don’t have low thyroid function. 

Free T3 and Free T4 measure the levels of the active hormone in your body. Free T3 is a more accurate indication that your thyroid is working properly. The free in these means they are available for your body to use. 

Depression is really common in people who are on T4 only medications. If that is the case for you, switching to a Natural Desiccated Thyroid Hormone Medication could help you out a lot. Before you even do that though, you really should take a look at your diet. If you body is not nourished it can’t do what it needs to do because certain biochemical processes in the body need certain nutrients to do their job. For example, the enzyme that makes T3 free for the cells to take up is very sensitive to things like malnutrition, inflammation and toxicity in the body and will not work as well. 

The major nutrients needed to make our thyroid work well are: iron, B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, magnesium, selenium, zinc and iodine. 

TPO Antibodies (Thyroid peroxidase)- this is an enzyme that is needed to produce thyroid hormone. 

TG Antibodies (antithyroglobulin)- this is a protein carrier for your thyroid hormone. 

These two mean your immune system has produced antibodies to attack because they perceive a problem. When these are present, it can make using the other labs useless because an unmanaged autoimmune condition can cause you to swing between hyper and hypo. 

What are your symptoms?

What I am seeing here for your symptoms are no energy, basically tired all the time, and anxiety and depression. You also state you have no support at home. I’m sorry. That makes it especially hard and I get how you feel. I didn’t have a lot of support in the beginning either. I suffered for years and my family suffered because I suffered. My kids, between toddler and early teenage years had a mom who had zero energy. who was angry all the time, who didn’t sleep at night and therefore was totally crabby. Everyone felt like they had to walk on eggshells around me and I have a lot of guilt over that. It took changing my diet without support for me to really see a change in my mood and my energy. Figuring out which foods were sucking the life out of me helped a lot. 

So, diet first. You can manage the autoimmune portion of the thyroid (the hashimoto’s) with nutrition. Start with gluten free, then dairy free and then you would want to consider an autoimmune protocol diet/elimination diet. You probably will find that the changes in diet will be life changing for you. 

You may need to take some supplements as well. Get your vitamin D checked to see if it is low and if you supplement with it, monitor your levels to make sure you don’t over do it. 

A lot of us will have iron deficiency as well. Get a full iron panel, especially ferritin. You need a ferritin level of around 75 for T4 to convert to T3. If you have a ton of inflammation you might have high levels of ferritin so as you change your diet, and reduce inflammation in the body, you should have this checked as well. 

Almost all of us are magnesium deficient. It does a lot of stuff in the body. 

We need selenium for enzyme systems in the body that help the thyroid work well. Chelated selenium is recommended at a dose of 100-200mcg a day. 

Zinc- important for us to make enough HCl to digest our food but also important in T4 to T3 conversion as well. 

It is also very important to manage your blood sugar. This can be done with diet and I often find people need support to do this but if you can do it on your own, great. 

You may need fish oil and a B complex as well but I recommend working with someone to figure out just what your body needs. 

Best of luck to you on your journey. 

 

NEXT Q

Hi. My insomnia, fatigue, and short term memory problems have been really bad lately. I don't know what to do. My newest endo wants me to chase down a whole bunch of other possible reasons for my symptoms. I suppose there's always a possibility that I've developed another autoimmune disease that causes the same symptoms. But, I'm exhausted. I feel like I'm being sent down a rabbit trail that I'll never get off of. I need something that works. Tell me honestly, how much better did those symptoms in particular improve with diet and exercise? I hate always feeling this way.

Does anyone ever have issues controlling the temperature of your body? Like being too hot or too cold? Is this part of Hashi’s?

I was diagnosed with hashimotos after my daughter was born a little less than 3 years ago. My whole life I was a size 5 and now I’m a size 14 and can’t seem to lose weight. My levels seem to like to jump around a bit but currently are level.

What I want to know is what do you do about the lack of energy? I have no energy. I don’t even know where to start with diets or what to do. What are diets that have helped? Anything!!! My energy is so low that I can barely get up some days.  Also all I have currently is a family doctor. Should I be trying to get connected with another kind?

  1. Diet- yes diet helps. AIP, Paleo, gf/df, sugar free, managing blood sugar. Find a practitioner to help you.

  2. Diet will help with weight and energy

  3. Temperature issues can be related to the kind of medication you are on. Natural Desiccated Thyroid hormone can help with this. Either way you are probably not on the right dose of medication and/or it can be that your have low iron. Eating meat and liver especially is a great way to get liver from diet. Low iron is a big deal for us. I said earlier that ferritin is super important here but a full iron panel is very helpful. TIBC or total iron binding capacity is measuring the ability of transferrin to bring iron to parts of your body. This will be high when your total iron stores are too low. Serum iron measures what is circulating in blood on transferrin. Next you want to look at the percent of saturation. If this is low, supplementation may be needed. If you need to take a supplement of iron you should be monitored by your doctor as you can get too much.

    1. Another option here is that you could have an issue with your hypothalamus/pituitary axis. Working on your thyroid and adrenal health will help this a lot. Our adrenals are directly related to the HPA axis, play a big role in managing our blood sugar and also help us respond to stress. If you have any amount of chronic stress at all and consume the standard american diet then you likely will have an issue with this. Diet, again is so important here.

I see so many people struggle with making diet changes and I just want to say that you can do it. YOu have to want to be well more than you want to be sick. You have to want to let go of what is a crutch for some of us- we are not our disease, it doesn’t have us. We can manage it. 

Pork Patties with sweet potatoes recipe

Chicken Hashbrown recipe from The Healing Kitchen

Hidden Sources of Gluten in The Paleo Approach

How isolated do you feel on the autoimmune protocol?

How lonely and isolated do you feel?

I have said it before and I will say it again. The autoimmune protocol is a challenge. I hate that it makes me feel so much better than a regular paleo diet. Believe me, that was way easier to manage than AIP. I have definitely decided though that it is worth the sacrifices I am making so that I can feel good again. I am struggling a bit with sleep this week and I’m sure some of that is residual effects from the “cheat” I had with the gluten free bun and the barbecue sauce on my burger a week and a half ago. We went out for dinner again this past Sunday for my son’s birthday. We went to a chain restaurant where chicken wings are the big offering. My son’s choice. I wasn’t going to make him choose something just so I could have some decent choices on the menu so the chicken wing joint was where the party was at. 

One thing that is super helpful when you are planning an outing such as this is to go online and look at the menu before you get there so you don’t have to worry. My standby at most restaurants is a burger with out a bun but reading the allergen list for this restaurant online showed soy in the burgers. I mostly avoid soy for the principle of it and not because it is something I should avoid. Most soy in the US is genetically modified and I try really hard not to support that industry. You do what you want. That is just my “thing”.  So a burger was out. The other option was the pulled pork with no sauce and no bun. So I brought my travel size olive oil bottle with and ordered the pulled pork and a side salad with no cheese and no croutons. I took the tomatoes off the salad and put olive oil on the lettuce. Then I topped it with the pulled pork. I probably had a spice or two that would not yet be allowed on AIP but I was willing to risk that. My meal was so so. The wings looked way better and while I am not a supporter of factory farming (your shopping dollars say quite a lot when you are purchasing your food) I would have rather had the wings. 

Everyone enjoyed the night out but if I were to be completely honest, I am not over feeling like I am stuck in this rabbit hole of not being able to enjoy food like I used to. Food was my life. I used it to comfort myself. I baked because it was therapeutic and I ate because it temporarily made me feel good. To me, baking and cooking for my family was a way to show I loved them. I enjoyed going out for dinner with friends. Food in some way or another is the foundation for so many social gatherings and I can no longer participate. We are invited to a birthday party in a couple of weeks and there will be nothing for me to eat. I will have to eat ahead of time or I will have to bring my own food. I don’t have a problem with that for the most part. I guess I feel a little envious that I can’t just be normal. If I am having a little pity party for myself I would even go so far as to say it just isn’t fair that I can’t live my life like everyone else. 

I made this choice to begin the autoimmune protocol. I knew in my gut it was the next step in my healing but there is still something missing. I just now have to decide if I want to spend thousands of dollars to figure out what is going on. My gut, again, will tell me that it is heavy metal toxicity. I grew up with a mouth full of mercury fillings and only recently had them removed and replaced with white BPA free fillings. I have been slowly and gently detoxing the mercury over the last year with a clean diet, high doses of vitamin C, regular infrared sauna and clay baths. 

Now, I guess I just have to be patient and wait. 

What if you are doing “all the right things” and still not getting or feeling better. What do you do then?  We have to take a look at the rest of our life and see what is going on. Our cells act the way we think. I often think negatively and my cells react to that. Have you ever forced a good mood on yourself by smiling even when you don’t feel like it? Try it once. You will feel uplifted. Your cells will also respond. Our minds are powerful things and we do have some control over how we feel. Fake it til you make it. 

What about your relationships? This is a big problem for me. I am alone a lot. I have kids to care for by myself a lot. My closest and dearest friend lives 4000 miles away. Needless to say, we don’t get to spend a lot of time together. It is difficult to call her up and meet for coffee. Being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely but I often am both of these things and that has affected my health big time. When I am with people, I have more energy and I feel better. When I am teaching my nutrition classes like RESTART®, I usually come home with a little pep in my step. This is a big clue to me that I need to have more contact with the outside world. 

How about you? What has been your biggest struggle in your health journey, autoimmune protocol or not? Do you feel isolated having to restrict so many foods? What keeps you going?

I would love to hear from you. Leave your answers in the comments or shoot me an email. 

I am about nine weeks in. 

All the best to you, 

Stephanie

RIP Glen Frey

A really big reminder as to why I will continue on this frustrating autoimmune protocol. 

Glen Frey of the band the Eagles died on January 18th at the age of 67. He had rheumatoid arthritis, colitis an pneumonia. He died from complications after being treated with drugs for rheumatoid arthritis. He had RA for over 15 years. He had an autoimmune disease. The drugs he took for his disease killed him according to his friend. This reinforces why I am putting myself through this process of the autoimmune protocol so I can find out what foods are indeed f-ing up my immune system and keeping me from feeling my best. 

I think I have yet to make it through a week without cheating on this diet. I have not. I did great until Sunday when my husband and I took our youngest out for dinner. She had been sick for a week and was finally feeling better. I was sick and tired of being home with her so even though it was -15 degrees outside we ventured out to a gluten free friendly restaurant and I had a burger. I ate it with a bun and forgot to tell them not to put BBQ sauce on it and so I ate it with the sauce. Yesterday I was thinking it was all okay because I felt pretty good. Then today came and I found myself increasingly irritable. I had to question if it was actually the food or if it might be the fact that both of my teenagers were gone for the weekend and were now home and being, well, teenagers. I think it is the bun or the sauce and I am really irritated about the whole situation. I don’t know if it is food that causes mood changes. I don’t even know if there is any science to back it up. I do know that without eating a gluten free bun or BBQ sauce (grains, eggs, tomatoes, pepper) I felt a lot better than I do today. I am also just plain feeling a bit sorry for myself that I can’t just wake up and eat like a normal human being. I eat really good, filling and tasty food but some days I really miss just enjoying some crusty f-ing french bread with loads of delicious butter on it. Those moments are often but fleeting at the same time. Today I am just feeling a little extra ticked off about the whole situation. Travel is more of a challenge and so is being social in general. Do any of you feel isolated on this diet? I know I do. It doesn’t help that my husband travels for his job and so is gone quite a bit so I am alone a lot. My close friend lives very far away and as my kids got older, my group of friends dwindled. Being alone a lot makes this lifestyle difficult too. No support but that of a group of people in a support group on facebook. 

I wonder if Glen Frey ever knew he had the option to at least try to curtail some of his symptoms with his diet. Did he know and choose not to? I can totally understand going with that option. It is not easy to eat like this and anyone who tells you it is should come show me. This diet involves a lot of cooking from scratch and a lot of cleaning up of dishes and a lot of grocery shopping. It is a challenge to be social, to go out with friends, to do the holidays with family. Maybe all he thought he had for options was the medications that conventional medicine has to offer. Who knows. I do know that I am reminded that if I don’t remain on this anti inflammatory diet and figure out which foods my body is reacting to, I could end up with more than just Hashimoto’s. It is so common for autoimmune sufferers to get more than one autoimmune disease and frankly, I am good with dealing with just this one. 

I have been reading more about my Hashimoto’s and how it affects the body and the immune system today. Yesterday I was helping my ten year old daughter clean out her closet and get rid of what doesn’t fit her. In her closet I found the outfit I had bought for my baby before her to wear home from the hospital- the one that died at 34 weeks gestation. I decided to donate that outfit still on the original hanger from the store with the tags on it. I was a little sad about that and it was a reminder of how my own body betrayed me 12 years ago and maybe that is why I am a little bit irritable today. It takes all I have within me to not be perpetually angry at my own self for killing that baby boy. Every time I do some research on autoimmune diseases or Hashimoto’s it reminds me that had I known what I know now, that little guy would be here. My son would have a brother to rough house with an my husband would have another grouse hunting partner (something he has always dreamed of was taking his kids out hunting). Our oldest daughter deer hunts with him but she is not one for doing the rest. I can’t help but think I could have saved him had I known to give up gluten. If I had known I was in the middle of a thyroid storm with him I could have done something. All of these are normal things to think and I do think them every so often but I don’t let them rule my life. I have done my grieving. I felt all the feelings and will forever have a place in my heart for the baby I didn’t get to know. I have to be grateful for all that his death has taught me and brought me. I have a wonderful little ten year old daughter that I would not have had he lived. I have knew knowledge about how to live my life to the fullest and healthiest and I have a deep passion for teaching others about nutrition and helping them on their own journey to health.

I have come a long way in the 13 years since my hypothyroidism diagnoses and in some ways have a long way to go. I will continue to get myself to the point where full on strict AIP will happen and I will discover just what those foods are that cause my terrible moods. Isn’t it crazy that food can affect your mood so intensely? I think so. Now if only I can figure out how to not let my teenagers affect my mood! 

Rest In Peace Glen Frey. I have always loved your music. May your family find peace. 

Please tell me in the comments what you struggle with when it comes to your diet. To food and your health. 

All the best, 

Stephanie

Week Three on AIP (Autoimmune Protocol)

I failed a bit this week. I enjoyed some chocolate and a Coconut Secret coconut bar made of chocolate, coconut, coconut sugar and mint. I really enjoyed it, twice. Plus I had a truffle. They all were good. I have not had any flares or issues except now that I think of it, I have had disturbed sleep this week. See how it pays to pay attention to your body and how it is trying to speak to you. I was unprepared and hungry with the first coconut bar and the rest is history. I am an addict and sugar is my drug. 

Over the last week I ate well aside from the coconut bar slip ups. I ate a lot of salads, I made chicken bone broth in my Instant Pot and then chicken soup which always disappoints my family because they like to have noodles and there are no noodles on AIP or Paleo. They ate it only because it was the only option and it was delicious. When the AIP cook is cooking, you get what you get. 

We tend to eat pretty simple and this week was no different. I made a couple meals for my kids while my husband was traveling that we don’t have often. They had gluten free pepperoni pizza and I made a pizza out of no mato sauce (I don’t have a link to one that I have tried and loved) and the Russ’ Flatbread recipe from The Paleo Approach Cookbook. I added artichokes, kalamata olives and onions to it and baked it until crisp. It was good but it was way too much tapioca starch for me. I ended up with a rock in my gut and a headache the next day. We also went out to eat one day and I was not sure if I would have any thing to eat so I brought along some Epic bars but they had prime rib on the menu so I had that with some veggies for dinner and it was delicious. It was not grass fed but this is one of those situations where you do the best you can with what you have, eat it, enjoy it and move on. I did just that and was quite happy afterwards. 

When on the Autoimmune Protocol we can eat a very large amount of vegetables. They are not only filling but you cannot usually over do it and there are so many different things you can do with them. They are also loaded with fiber. 

Why is fiber important?

It keeps you regular. It slows down the release of insulin and you may find your inflammation levels go down. It feeds the bugs in your digestive tract and keeps the bad bacteria or pathogens in balance. The fiber that is best for your digestive tract was talked about in Episode 12 of The Real World Paleo Podcast and it is the prebiotic fiber. This is fiber that you cannot digest but the good bacteria in your gut thrive and grow on it. This can help regulate your immune system which is what we autoimmune sufferers are after, right?

The bugs in your gut play a crucial role in your immune function. You have many different kinds of cells that work to keep you healthy. Some of these are called immune cells and more specifically things like natural killer cells, T cells and more. If your gut is off, so will be your immune cells. Your immune system launches attacks on unknown organisms or things they mistake for non self (like your thyroid which results in autoimmune thyroid issues).

According to the USDA Americans consume around 12% plant foods and about 63% processed foods. No wonder we are all sick!  Fiber comes from plants only. When you embark on the Paleo diet and then the Autoimmune Protocol you find yourself eating all kinds of new veggies and even acquiring a taste for them. I used to hate beets and squash (I prefer certain squashes over others still) and even sweet potatoes were gross to me. Now, I eat those things regularly and even have a taste for them. I prefer my beets raw and shredded on a salad or made in to a salad of its own. 

Eating foods in their whole form will keep you healthy and help reduce any risk of type 2 diabetes as well as keep cancer at bay. Fiber and whole foods help reduce your risk of heart disease too. It doesn’t matter where the fiber comes from as long as it is from vegetables and plenty of them. 

How will you get your veggies in?

I did not love veggies. I grew up eating carrot and celery sticks and canned corn and peas. Not a lot of variety on the dinner table at my house. We might have had salad on occasion too and I love salad now but it gets old eating that every day for lunch. I didn’t eat broccoli until I started dating this guy (my husband) and he made it for me. 

The options are endless

  • Brussels sprouts roasted with bacon or shredded and made in to a cole slaw like salad.
  • Cauliflower roasted, made in to soup or the ever popular caulifried rice. 
  • Butternut squash roasted with cinnamon, made in to a chili or a soup, made in to noodles. 
  • Green Beans roasted, steam sautéed, added to soups. 
  • Carrots can be shredded and put on salad, roasted, steamed, used in soups or eaten raw. 
  • Root veggies like parsnips, rutabaga and the like can be roasted, mashed, made in to “fries”, or used in soups. 
  • Greens like chard, kale, or beet greens can be sautéed, used in salads or soups. 
  • Asparagus are great roasted with olive oil and lemon. 
  • Broccoli is great roasted. 
  • Sweet potatoes can be mashed, baked, fried, sliced and baked, made in to chips or fries. 

You can take just about any veggie you want and put it on a salad. 

As I have said before your options are endless with this diet and vegetables. You can include Acorn squash (great stuffed with pork and spices), beets, plantains, taro, yams, cassava, tapioca, yucca. These are all what you might call more dense because they are starchier. You may do well with some and not so well with others. 

  • Any greens like arugula are great options to add to salads. Basil is another good addition. 
  • Onions, leeks, shallot, green onions or scallions and garlic all all flavor enhancers. 
  • Artichokes, avocados, fennel, zucchini, radishes.  
  • Bok choy, cabbage, celery, chicory, cucumbers, water chestnuts, kohlrabi and many many more. 

So with that, I leave you with a recipe for my beet salad that I have adapted from my NTA instructor. It is delicious and I dare you to give it a try. It is fantastic for your liver and gallbladder. 

Beet Salad also known as Liver Gallbladder Salad

  • 1 large beet shredded (in a food processor is easiest)
  • 2-3 med carrots shredded
  • 1 bunch of dandelion greens or cilantro chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt

Combine shredded beets, carrots and either cilantro or dandelion greens in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine dressing ingredients (oil, acv, lemon juice) and mix well. Add to bowl of veggies tossing until combined and sprinkle with salt taste. 

This gets better after a couple days in the fridge.

In health, 

Stephanie

Tell me in the comments what your favorite vegetable is and how you like to cook it. 

Why is Sugar So BAD For Us?

I have been doing a sugar detox with my RESTART students. It has been nine months since my last detox which went off with out a hitch. This time around it feels like it is taking forever to get over with and it has only been a week. I am also on the Autoimmune protocol which eliminates the nightshade veggies and nuts and seeds so I don’t have my good old stash of nuts to fall back on. I was already pretty well sugar free except for a treat here and there and my fair share of fruits. 

Grapes are in season and boy are they ever good (and sugary!). I miss grapes. I miss lasagna. I was at my daughters high school sports banquet last night and they served lasagna. It smelled so good and seemed so comforting. 

Comfort food. I miss comfort food. I brought a salad. I had a salad for lunch and veggies and meat for breakfast. Plus a protein shake because I am f’ing hungry all the time even with eating a lot of fat every day. At least one avocado plus 1/4 to half a can of full fat coconut milk.  

Clearly I am not eating enough. That has been an issue for me for a few months. With my thyroid not being optimal right now, that leaves me with less energy to do some good prep work to ensure I don’t run out of good things to eat. I keep forgetting to take meat out of the freezer and end up eating a salad. It could be worse I tell myself. It always could be worse. 

Sugar is everywhere and it is in everything.

It takes some diligence to keep it out of your diet and off of your mind. The holidays are coming up and that means holiday parties and treats galore. It is a good time to be mindful of the affects sugar can have on our bodies. 

The problem I seem to have and maybe you too if you suffer from thyroid problems is that even carbohydrates are an issue for me. I was virtually sugar free except for fruits and starches like I mentioned before and those also cause your body to release insulin just like plain old sugar does. The refined sugars like candy or sweets cause a bigger release in insulin than do the complex carbs in veggies which cause a much slower release of insulin. 

What happens when insulin is released? It triggers tryptophan (an amino acid) which further leads to serotonin (an neurotransmitter) to be released. This here is your pain killer, stress reliever and booster of moods. Your body gets the signal that life is great, for a short while. 

Don’t forget about all the positive reinforcement you get from sweets all throughout your life. Celebrations like birthdays or holidays. Don’t forget about all those incentives we received as kids for being good. I was just witness to it in the coffee shop I am working from today. I overheard a mom say to her toddler, “If you eat some of your sandwich, I will get you some candy.”

So you get that high from your sugar or your candy and that lasts for maybe a half an hour.  Your high is now a low making you feel really tired, maybe cranky and possibly blue (maybe green too if you ate too much candy). Your body tells you to fuel it again. Give it more. Feed the demon. This cycle is on repeat for, well, forever if you let it or until you have a system breakdown.  There are long term effects of eating lots of refined carbs and sugar over your life. 

You get nothing nutritionally from it. No vitamins, minerals or macronutrients. Nothing. It does, however, negatively affect your cells and how well they function.  Our kids are consuming more than ten times the amount of sugar they did in 1915 much of which is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  HFCS is the largest source of our calorie intake in the United States. It is a by-product of the corn industry. It is extracted from the corn stalk, chemically changed and processed at a high heat. It is also cheap to produce which makes food industry profits all that much higher. 

What is so bad about high fructose corn syrup?

The fructose and glucose are unbound which means your body doesn’t have to break it down. It gets absorbed in your liver and is converted to fat. The fructose in your HFCS drink, candy or sweet treat messes with your hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body you are hungry and leptin is the hormone that tells you that you are full. The suppression of ghrelin leads to miscommunication with leptin so you can keep eating the stuff which can lead you down the road of insulin resistance. 

Insulin resistance is when your cells are closing their doors to the glucose being delivered to them by insulin. This causes your pancreas to release even more insulin to get the glucose to your cells. It is a vicious cycle. Once your pancreas wears out (because it can and it will) you will then have diabetes. 

What are you supposed to do to break the sugar habit/addiction?

I have been struggling with this for years. What has kept me accountable this time around is doing a detox such as the RESTART detox in a group. I don’t want to let them down. That right there is more powerful for me than anything else. 

In this program you are avoiding all sweeteners for three weeks. High fructose corn syrup, white sugar, sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners. By the end we are talking about how to enjoy a treat here and there without the sugar taking over our life again. 

 

Moderation. That is the goal. 

 

Below is a list of sweeteners I would recommend in moderation

  • Honey- raw and organic is full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes beneficial to health. Insulin isn’t released as quickly compared to table sugar. 
  • Maple syrup- this is basically boiled tree sap. 
  • Molasses- a by-product of the sugar industry. It is where all the vitamins and minerals that were in what is now white sugar remain. 
  • Coconut sugar- again, boiled liquids from the coconut. 
  • Date sugar- dried and ground dates

I don’t recommend you go hog wild with any of these sweeteners but if you want to make a treat for a special occasion, these are your better choices. These are less refined than others and are best choices in the world of sweeteners. Choosing the least refined options are best. 

You can find a RESTART class near you by going here

In Health, 

Stephanie

 

 

Blood Sugar, Thyroid and How They Relate

I have loved sugar my whole life. Who hasn’t really. I grew up having dessert after every dinner we had. We had a steady rotation of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake (lovingly called crazy cake), apple, cherry and blueberry crisp (made from canned fruit). Standard fare in the 80’s. I became addicted to sugar at a very young age and still struggle with it well in to my 40’s. I don’t very often eat sugar anymore mostly because my body just doesn’t tolerate it. I have come a long way. 

Thyroid problems and blood sugar are connected. It seems out of balance blood sugar can really mess things up. 

Here is why. 

Every part of your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy to be made in your cells. No glucose means lower energy levels in general. 

When blood sugar is low, your thyroid won’t have the energy it needs and may be sluggish. 

When blood sugar gets too hight, over time you can run in to something called insulin resistance which is common in thyroid patients. 

Anytime you eat a lot of refined carbohydrates like pasta, breads, sweets and processed foods in general they are converted to glucose in your body. They provide a quick source of energy. They also cause your blood sugar to go up quickly. Blood sugar means the amount of glucose floating through your blood stream. Glucose and sugar are pretty much the same thing. Then your body says, “There is too much sugar in the blood stream, that can damage us.” So it releases the hormone insulin to carry that sugar to the cells for use. When your cells stop taking in the sugar, that is called resistance. What your body doesn’t realize is that the cells are full. They can’t take on any more sugar. There is no mechanism within the body to tell the brain to stop producing insulin. Al it knows is that there is all this sugar in the blood and it has to do something so it keeps pumping out the insulin. 

You end up with too much sugar and too much insulin in the blood. some of that will be stored as fat. Before it is stored as fat it goes around damaging your blood vessels and your organs, including the thyroid. This is called inflammation. 

When you have too much sugar in the blood and too much insulin trying to get the sugar to the cells and the cells refusing to take it in you end up with insulin resistance which is a stepping stone to type 2 diabetes. Your cells cannot get the energy they need because they are resisting letting the glucose in for use as energy. This means your thyroid cells don’t have energy either. Then your thyroid cannot work effectively for you so you will have elevated TSH because your brain thinks it needs to be stimulated. 

When tissues in the body get inflamed, they cannot do their job. That includes the thyroid. 

When they thyroid is inflamed you will have less production of thyroid hormone and like stated above, a higher production of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH. Increased production of TSH means further damage to your cells perpetuating the vicious cycle of insulin resistance. 

When T4 and T3 are not working well, you are also not able to maintain your blood sugar levels. The more out of control your blood sugar gets, the less your thyroid will function properly. 

What is the solution?

If out of balance blood sugar is the reason your thyroid isn’t working well then the main thing you have to do is to maintain stable and healthy levels of blood sugar. You may want to go to the doctor and have your blood sugar tested.  Blood sugar imbalances might not be your main problem when it comes to your thyroid problems but the following information can benefit everyone. 

  • Get enough sleep and get quality sleep. If you don’t get quality sleep there is no time for your body to repair itself. Other hormones like cortisol will be screwed up contributing further to your insulin resistance. 
  • Get some exercise. You don’t have to work yourself to death at the gym 3 days a week. Just get moving to start with. It is hard to get up and get moving when you don’t have the energy, especially if you are hypothyroid. Believe me, I get it. Just do something even on the days when it is hard to get the laundry done. You have to start somewhere because staying on the couch is easy and getting better from thyroid problems isn’t always easy. Movement allows your muscles to use up some of the glucose in your blood so there is less floating around waiting to get in to your cells. 
  • Get a standing desk to work at or for at home. The less sitting you do, the better. A treadmill desk would be ideal. (I don’t have one but sure would like to- they are not always in the budget!)
  • Manage your stress. This is a big one. Your body cannot tell the difference between physical stress, emotional stress and even a fight you are having with someone in your head. Biologically, your body responds the same. If your body is constantly dealing with stress then your pituitary (part of your brain) gland is too busy too deal with the thyroid properly and it gets put on the back burner. When you are stressed, your cortisol levels shoot up. Your body then creates glucose from your lean muscle and puts that out in to your blood stream causing insulin levels to rise, your cells become further resistant to the glucose and then the glucose gets stored as fat. You got it. Your body takes energy from the muscles, converts it to sugar, your body cannot use it so it stores it as fat. Chronic stress will cause your thyroid to slow down and cortisol keeps T4 from doing its job. 
  • Eat some protein in the morning within two hours of waking. That will give your body something to convert to energy right away. 
  • Avoid snacking if you can or change your snacks to quality fat and protein if you are not ready to give them up. Here is why you should give them up- Regular snacking keeps the insulin pumping all day long. Your pancreas never gets a break, your cells continue to resist the glucose that insulin has brought them. Every single time you eat, insulin gets secreted in to the blood. Protein, fats and complex carbohydrates like vegetables cause that spike in insulin to be just a little less. Giving your body a break will give it time to burn some stored fat. 

What helps keep your blood sugar balanced?

  • The obvious answer here is to change your diet. Cut out sugar, processed foods and refined carbs. Join a RESTART class which is a five week class to help you learn about how food affects your body and includes a three week sugar detox. 
  • Chromium (polynictinate) has the job of helping glucose get in to the cell. It helps restore insulin sensitivity or allow insulin to drop glucose at your cells so your cells can take them in. You can supplement with it to help your body deal with your blood sugar.  
  • Take magnesium. Most people are deficient. It helps with many processes in the body and in managing blood sugar its job is to help chromium do its job. Try magnesium citrate if tolerated or magnesium glycinate. 
  • Stay away from artificial sweeteners, always. Some people think it is okay to use stevia either the green powder or in liquid form. Give it a try and see how it works for you. I personally am not a fan. 
  • I would encourage you to avoid all sweeteners for at least 3 weeks like in the RESTART sugar detox to give your body time to reset and learn how to burn fat for energy. 

There are many more things you could do here to manage your blood sugar but these are the big ones. Getting your blood sugar under control is a sure way to give your thyroid some tender loving care that it needs to function properly for you. 

Tell me in the comments below how much of a struggle you have had with blood sugar. 

In health, 

Stephanie

The Top Supplements for Thyroid Health

Heart palpitations, weight loss, tremors, anxiety, slow, sluggish, weight gain, cold hands and feet. 

Sound familiar?

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?

  • Selenium
  • Vitamin D
  • B vitamins including B12
  • Stomach acid
  • Iron

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?

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 

In Health, 

Stephanie

What is the Cause of Your Thyroid Problems and What do you do About it?

Did you know there can be many causes or should I say triggers for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s?  

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism after my second child, a boy, was born. He was born in January 2002 and I went to the doctor in early summer for nerve pain which I thought was from sitting all the time while nursing him. I told my doctor how tired I was and he decided to test my thyroid. My TSH was at 150 when conventional lab normal range is not above around 5.5. So he put me on Levothyroixine. He said it is common for women to get pregnancy induced thyroid problems and that was probably the case for me. That, and my mother all of her siblings have thyroid problems and my grandmother had them too. One of my Aunts and my uncle have Graves Disease. My mom has never been diagnosed but she probably has Hashimoto’s like me.  

It wasn’t until 2010 that I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s by a Naturopathic Doctor. She was also the only one to test my Free T4, free T3, and reverse T3 along with the TPO test to check for autoimmune anti bodies. I switched to NatureThroid a couple of years ago and feel much better because of it. When I don’t manage my stress or diet very well I do pay for it though with irregular sleep patterns and mood swings. Can you relate?

Medication, while needed for some with thyroid problems is not always the answer for everyone. Not everyone needs the hormone replacement therapy. Yes, thyroid meds are hormones. You are replacing the hormone because your body doesn’t make enough of it. Sometimes your thyroid is slowing down because it is trying to tell you something. Maybe you need to slow down perhaps?

So what are the causes or triggers for people with hypothyroidism?

You can be born with thyroid problems like congenital hypothyroidism. Maybe your mother had hypothyroidism or just low thyroid function and it got passed on to you in utero. If you are pregnant and have thyroid problems but are on medication and everything is balanced out then you have no worries. It would be a situation where your thyroid is not working properly and you are untreated while pregnant. 

Your thyroid can go wonky after surgery or radiation treatment (Your thyroid is like a magnet for radiation.) or you could have a problem with your brain (hypothalamus) where it just isn’t communicating right about getting the hormones out in to the body. 

If you are low in iodine there can be low thyroid function. Take caution about adding it to your diet though. If you have Hashimoto’s you want to be careful because it can make your condition worse. Somewhere around 80% of hypothyroid patients also have Hashimoto’s and as much as 60% of those people are not aware. Standard of care in conventional medicine doesn’t change so people are often not tested. You also need to make sure you are getting just enough iodine. Too much or too little can be problematic. 

You can have a hormone imbalance (women would suffer from this more than men). If you don’t have enough estrogen it can really mess things up. 

Your thyroid condition could be triggered by a virus, a parasite, mold, heavy metals,  trauma, chronic stress or even poor diet. 

How do you go about treating your thyroid condition?

First and foremost you want to find a doctor that will listen to you. One that will treat your symptoms and not just your labs. One that will order more than a TSH test for you. If you can find one that will help you figure out what the cause of your hypothyroidism is that is really an ideal situation. You can google “functional medicine doctors” in your area and you will find a list. Some of them even take insurance! 

I used a nauturopathic doctor to help me with my symptoms but still needed a medical doctor to write me a prescription and it was a bit of search to find one that would even write me a prescription for my natural desiccated thyroid hormone. A lot of doctors think that the T3 in natural thyroid hormones will cause problems with your heart, making it palpitate or beat too fast. For some that may be the case. For me, it wasn’t. They have to be willing to try out a few things to see what makes you feel best. 

You also want to look at making some lifestyle changes. Sleep is really important for everyone but especially those of us with thyroid problems. Ideal is 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Diet changes are a huge help for you as well. That is where nutritional therapy can really help. I did all my own research and made diet changes on my own. Some people don’t even know where to begin. Don’t worry, I can help you with that!

You will want to make sure you are eating enough and eating real whole foods that nourish your body. So many women, myself included, don’t eat enough. I actually didn’t have that problem while I ate the Standard American Diet because I filled up on bread and baked goods every day, all day long. Now that those are gone from my life, I eat a little less because it is more work to prepare food. If you have hypothyroid symptoms of fatigue you know the feeling. Anything that is too much work usually doesn’t happen unless I am feeling really good or really motivated. 

Don’t over exercise. I joined a really cool gym in Minneapolis for three weeks. Just lifting weights two days a week for those three weeks was enough to push my hormones over the edge. I pushed myself too hard that last day I was there and ended up on the couch the next day for the whole day. Gah! How frustrating. So, I do yoga one day a week and try really hard to get out and go for a walk a couple times a week too. 

If your cause is iodine deficiency, work with a practitioner to figure out how much you need to take. You don’t want to just guess on that. It can really make things worse. If you have autoimmune thyroid problems like Hashimoto’s you need to work with someone who knows what they are doing. I wouldn’t take any iodine at all to start. It is a possibility after some healing has occurred and I would not recommend doing it alone. 

What kind of medication should you or can you take for your thyroid?

Everyone should always try to make the lifestyle changes but if you actually need medication you have two choices. I am not telling you one way or the other to take or not take a medication. That is for you and your doctor to decide. 

Synthetic thyroid hormones like Synththroid or Levothyroxine and a few others or Natural Desiccated Thyroid Hormones like Nature-Throid or Armour. 

Levothyroxine (actually levothyroxine sodium is the generic name for it). This is just a T4 medication. Your body has to convert the T4 in to T3 in order for your cells to get the hormone.

The only difference between all the synthetic brands are the fillers that they have. 

Let’s take a look. 

Levothroid (brand #1). It has cellulose in it (basically wood shavings- your shredded cheese has it too). It has magnesium and calcium in it too. Funny because calcium keeps your body from absorbing thyroid hormones. It is in the pill in a small amount but it’s there. 

Levoxyl is another T4 only medication. This has the same ingredients as Levothroid with the addition of some iodine. Not a good plan to take if you have Hashimoto’s. Synthroid also has iodine in it so you really want to ask to read the package insert on the drugs. Your pharmacist will be happy to help you with that. 

You can also get something called Tirosint which is a T4 only medication (levothyroxine sodium) that comes in a gel like capsule so there are no dyes and is a great choice for those of you who are sensitive to dyes and other ingredients. You may find this one won’t absorb in to your body as well though. 

Natural desiccated thyroid medications come from either cows or pigs. Armour is a popular one that many people use. It too has fillers like dextrose and cellulose (the formula changed in 2008) and the cellulose can make it hard to absorb so you can chew it. It also has lactose in it so if you have a dairy sensitivity you may want to look at something else. 

Nature-Throid and Westhroid are two other natural desiccated medications. They don’t have any dyes or food colorings but Nature-Throid has lactose in it so if you are sensitive to dairy, you may want to try Westhroid. 

You should also be aware that unless your doctor writes “dispense as written” on your prescription then the pharmacy is free to give you what they have (especially with the synthetics). One month you may get Synthroid and the next month you may get Levothyroid. This can be a problem if you do well on one formulation and not another. It is something good for you to check in to. 

You can take medication and still not make the conversion of the T4 to T3. Some other things in the body need to be working well in order for the conversion to happen. You need to make sure you are not deficient in selenium or zinc (and iodine) and that your cortisol from your adrenal glands is not constantly in use. 

This means you need to make sure you are managing stress and blood sugar so your adrenals are not always working overtime. 

You also want to make sure you don’t take your thyroid meds with calcium (think antacid over the counter meds) and you should always take it away from iron. Iron will keep your body from absorbing the thyroid hormones. Fiber will also keep your meds from being absorbed. You want to take your meds anywhere from 2-4 hours away from food to make sure you get the most out of the meds. 

If you are on a T3 only medication you should consider splitting the dose*** since T3 because it goes through your system so quickly. ***This is not medical advice. I am sharing with you what I have learned through my own research. You consult with your doctor before changing the way you take your medication.

How do you know which is best for you?

If you have Hashimoto’s (and remember most of the hypothyroid cases are Hashimoto’s). If you are lactose intolerant you may want to avoid the meds with lactose. Synthetic meds are a good one if you often forget to take your meds because they stay in your body longer than the natural meds. If you are willing to go through a trial and error phase, try a few to see what makes you feel the best. 

If you are on cholesterol lowering medications, birth control pills, take insulin, or antidepressants then you may have lots of thyroid hormone floating around your system being bound to proteins and not free to be used by the body.  If you are on those medications, make sure to monitor your thyroid closely especially the thyroid binding globulin (a test you can ask for). 

Bottom line here is that you need to do your research and be your own health advocate. Find a doctor that will listen and is open to trying new things. Work with a practitioner to help you change your diet and lifestyle. 

Most importantly, be well. 

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