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Gluten is the first thing to go with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism diagnosis

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Hypothyroidism has received a lot of attention online since the publication of Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Datis Kharrazian in 2009. While many facets should be addressed in managing hypothyroidism, one of the most important continues to be a gluten-free diet.

Research shows ninety percent of hypothyroidism cases are due to an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. This disease is called Hashimoto’s.

Most doctors do not test for Hashimoto’s because it does not change treatment, which is thyroid medication. Also, many cases of hypothyroidism go undiagnosed because Hashimoto’s can cause the lab marker TSH to fluctuate.

Where does gluten fit in with this? Numerous studies have linked an immune reaction to gluten with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Whether it’s a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, gluten triggers an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland in many people. Most of these people do not even know they are sensitive to gluten.

Going off gluten is the first step with Hashimoto’s

Studies, clinical observation, and patient stories make a very strong case for the benefits of going gluten-free to better manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism symptoms.

A number of studies for several countries show a link between Hashimoto’s and gluten. This is because the protein structure of gluten closely resembles that of thyroid tissue. When your immune system reacts to gluten, it may start erroneously reacting to thyroid tissue as well. This will cause the immune system to attack and destroy thyroid tissue in a case of mistaken identity.

Studies also show patients improve on a strict gluten-free diet. One study showed as many as 71 percent of subjects resolved their hypothyroid symptoms after following a strict gluten-free diet for one year.

Why you may need to stop eating other foods too

Sorry to say, going gluten-free alone doesn’t always work. Many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism also need to go dairy-free. Dairy, whether it’s cow, goat, or sheep, is the second biggest problem food for people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Many people simply have an immune intolerance to dairy and aren’t aware of it until they stop consuming it. However, in an immune sensitive individual, the body may also mistake dairy for gluten and trigger an immune reaction that ultimately ends up targeting the thyroid.

For those serious about managing their Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a gluten-free and dairy-free diet frequently results in profound alleviation of symptoms, if not total remission.

Many find they may need to eliminate additional foods, such as certain grains, eggs, or soy. An elimination/provocation diet can help you figure out what your immune system reacts to, or a comprehensive food sensitivity test from Cyrex Labs.

What is there left to eat?

If you’re used to eating without restrictions, eliminating gluten, dairy, and possibly other foods to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroid symptoms may seem overwhelming and too restrictive. Many people are left wondering, what is left to eat?

Rest assured there is more than enough to eat. Most people fare well on a paleo diet that is primarily vegetables (a diverse array of plenty of vegetables helps create the healthy gut bacteria that improve immunity.)

More importantly, symptoms and general health improves so dramatically that people come to love their new diet and despise the way they feel after they cheat.

Ask my office for more information about implementing a gluten- and dairy-free diet.

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Star Trek’s Zoe Saldano needs better Hashimoto’s info

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Star Trek’s Zoe Saldano recently revealed she has Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a thyroid disease affecting millions of women that causes weight gain, fatigue, depression, cold hands and feet, brain fog, constipation, and many other symptoms.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid disease. Autoimmunity is a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, in this case the thyroid gland. It is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting an estimated more than 23 million people.

The thyroid gland governs metabolism in the body and produces thyroid hormones, which are needed by every cell in the body, including brain cells.

This is why a thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s causes a person to gradually lose function, feel run down, lose brain function, and find it impossible to lose weight (although not in Saldano’s case.)

Saldano’s unusual explanation for Hashimoto’s

When asked about her Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism diagnosis, Saldano said, “Your body doesn’t have the energy it needs to filter toxins, causing it to believe that it has an infection, so it’s always inflamed.”

This is an unusual and narrow explanation for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s.

Research shows multiple factors play into the development of an autoimmune disease, including:

  • Genetic susceptibility (Saldano’s family members have Hashimoto’s)
  • Imbalanced immunity
  • Inflammation from food sensitivities
  • Environmental toxins
  • Leaky gut
  • Chronic stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Gender (autoimmunity primarily affects women)
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Viral or bacterial infection

In a nutshell, rarely can we point to one defining trigger of autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Typically, a person experiences a number of chronic health issues that go undiagnosed until the overburdened immune system tips into an over zealous attack on the body.

What Saldano is doing right for Hashimoto’s

Although her explanation for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism may be a bit off base, Saldano otherwise puts forth some good lifestyle examples.

For starters, she follows a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Studies link these foods with autoimmunity, including Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

She also talks about the stress reducing techniques of not being too hard on herself and surrounding herself with the support of loved ones.

How to find out if you have Hashimoto’s

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism often goes undiagnosed in the conventional health care model. This is because doctors often only test for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to prescribe medication.

About 95 percent of hypothyroid cases are due to Hashimoto’s. It’s important to check for TPO and TGB antibodies  which tell you if you have autoimmunity. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to balance and regulate the immune system so it stops attacking the body.

For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, contact my office.


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Still have hypothyroidism despite normal lab results?

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Your doctor says your hypothyroid condition has been treated, but do you still suffer from symptoms of low thyroid function?

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Cold hands and feet

If so, you may suffer from Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid bland.

Hypothyroidism is usually caused by Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease

Hypothyroidism means your thyroid gland is under functioning and not producing enough thyroid hormone. This is bad news because every cell in the body depends on thyroid hormones. Including brain cells. This explains why people with untreated or poorly managed hypothyroidism are at higher risk for rapid brain decline.

Hypothyroidism affects millions of Americans, many of them whom continue to suffer from worsening health despite treatment. What’s more, 90 percent of hypothyroid cases are caused by autoimmune Hashimoto’s. As Hashimoto’s gradually destroys the thyroid gland, this lowers thyroid function, causing myriad symptoms.

Lab tests can identify Hashimoto’s by testing for TPO and TGB antibodies. If positive, these markers indicate an autoimmune disease is attacking the thyroid gland. It’s vital to dampen the inflammatory autoimmune attacks against the thyroid and balance the immune system.

However, thyroid hormone medication may still be necessary if damage is already extensive.

How to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is rarely a quick fix. Instead, it involves a multi-faceted approach to diet and lifestyle to reduce inflammation and autoimmune flares against the thyroid. Strategies include:

Adopt a strict gluten-free diet. Numerous studies show a strong link between Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and gluten  In fact, people with a gluten intolerance are genetically more prone to Hashimoto’s disease. Gluten sensitivity also promotes inflammation and leaky gut, which flares autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Adopt an autoimmune diet. For many people, going gluten-free is not enough to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. You may need to go deeper with an anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates common inflammatory foods, such as dairy, eggs, grains, legumes, and other foods. A whole-foods, Paleo-based diet that emphasizes plenty of produce and eliminates processed foods is important to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Repairing a leaky gut. Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, typically plays a primary role in Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases. In leaky gut the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed, damaged, and porous, allowing undigested foods, bacteria, fungus, and other foreign invaders into the sterile environment of the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation and autoimmunity.

Stabilize blood sugar. Stabilizing blood sugar is vital to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. A diet high in sugars and refined carbohydrates (such as breads, pastas, pastries, and desserts) spikes inflammation, skews hormones, and flares autoimmunity. Energy crashes, fatigue after meals, excess belly fat, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, and sleep issues are all signs you may have low blood sugar or high blood sugar (insulin resistance).

These are just a few of the basics of autoimmune management for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Ask my office for more information.


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Concussions triple suicide risk

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While concussions have gained attention for their link to dementia, did you know they also increase the risk for suicide? Just one concussion can triple the long-term risk of suicide in otherwise healthy people.

Although brain-injured football players have been receiving all the attention lately, the typical concussion patient is a middle-aged adult. Most concussions happen during traffic accidents, falls at home, and in other everyday situations.

study looked at a quarter-million subjects who had been diagnosed with a mild concussion during the last 20 years. Researchers found suicide occurred at three times the norm in this population. They also found that on average suicide occurred nearly six years after the concussion. Also, the risk increased with additional concussions.

Why does a concussion increase suicide risk? 

In functional medicine we know a concussion causes brain inflammation, from which the patient may never fully recover. Unlike the body’s immune system, the brain’s immune system does not shut off once triggered. As a result, unchecked brain inflammation damages and destroys healthy brain cells.

Brain inflammation is tied to various brain-based disorders, including depression and mental illness. In fact, a 2014 study concluded that sustaining a head injury leads to a greater risk of mental illness later in life.

When patients fail to employ strategies to dampen brain inflammation, post-concussive inflammation continues its crawl through the brain like a slow-burning fire, consuming neurons in its path. This can go on for years after the concussion, impacting mood, memory, and general function.

What’s more, thanks to intimate communication between the brain and the gut, a concussion often impacts gut health and function. Many people report the onset of digestive issues after a concussion.

This is bad news because research shows an inflamed and unhealthy gut is directly linked to depression, giving post-concussive patients a double whammy of depression-inducing inflammation that travels back and forth between the gut and the brain.

Functional medicine strategies for concussions 

For every person who dies from suicide, many others think about it or suffer from chronic depression. 

This study shows a clear need for better long-term care of patients with concussion.

Fortunately, functional medicine offers many strategies to reduce brain inflammation and lower the risk of mood disorders such as depression after a concussion:

  • Stabilizing blood sugar
  • Removing inflammatory triggers from the diet (such as gluten) or the environment (such as synthetic scents or toxic cleaning products)
  • Improving gut health and gut bacteria diversity
  • Identifying and addressing autoimmune diseases, situations where the body’s immune system attacks body tissue, creating chronic inflammation. Autoimmune reactions in the brain are more common than people realize.
  • Addressing chronic infections.
  • Improving blood flow and oxygenation flow in the brain.
  • Stabilizing hormones.
  • Using nutritional compounds to reduce inflammation in the brain.

These are among the foundations of functional medicine that can make the difference between a post-concussive downward spiral or be the springboard to a more brain-healthy way of living. 

If life hasn’t been the same since your concussion, ask my office how functional medicine strategies can help.


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Generosity and volunteering proven good for health

generosity good for health

While volunteering is good for those in need, the giver cashes in big on generosity, too. Studies show the benefits of generosity and volunteering include a heightened sense of well-being, increased self-worth, and improved emotional and physical health. 

How generosity makes you happier

Generosity and volunteering produce hormones that relieve stress, promote happiness, cause a natural high (endorphins), and promote bonding and tranquility.

Being generous makes us feel better about ourselves  It builds confidence, and encourages us to focus toward the world rather than ourselves.

When we improve someone else’s life, empowerment grows and we are better able to deal with life’s hardships.

Volunteering can help you feel better 

Generosity and volunteering also lower mortality rates, reduce cardiovascular risk, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve sleep. 

In fact, one study showed adults who volunteered at least four hours a week for one year were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to non-volunteers.

Another study of teens found those who spent an hour a week helping children in after-school programs had lower levels of cholesterol and inflammation than their non-volunteering peers.

Generosity must be genuine to benefit health

Don’t volunteer or be generous simply out of obligation in order to improve your health.

If you want to enjoy the health benefits of generosity and volunteering, it must be genuine. Make sure you’re focused on helping others and not just looking good.

2012 study found that older volunteers had a lower risk of dying in a four-year period than non-volunteers, as long as their volunteerism was for altruistic and not self-oriented reasons.

Tips for volunteering to improve your health

  • Offer to do something your enjoy.
  • Help with a cause you’re passionate about.
  • Be realistic about your schedule so you don’t stress out.
  • Volunteer with others so it’s socially beneficial.
  • Don’t give up if your first attempt is a bad match.

Receive generosity with grace so others can benefit as well

Remember, generosity and volunteering are good for everyone. Others may have chronic health conditions they are working to manage.

If someone is generous to you, don’t brush it off or feel undeserving — receive their kindness with sincerity and grace. This will bring you closer to the person and allow them reap the benefits of giving as well.


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Hashimoto’s and autoimmunity linked to autism

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Managing your hypothyroidism isn’t just about losing weight and having warm hands and feet. If you’re a woman who could get pregnant, it could play a role in whether you have a child with autism. A 2015 Finnish study that looked at risk factors associated with autism found that women who tested positive for autoimmune hypothyroidism, or Hashimoto’s, were more 80 percent more likely to give birth to a child who developed autism than women who did not.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system destroys the thyroid. But Hashimoto’s is only one of many autoimmune diseases. Autoimmunity means the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the very thing it was designed to protect — you. Which organ, gland, tissue, or chemical the immune system attacks depends on different factors, such as genetic predisposition and what triggered the autoimmunity. For instance, certain foods or chemicals are linked with certain autoimmune conditions. Rates of autoimmune disease are skyrocketing and many people go undiagnosed for years or a lifetime despite symptoms.

Similar studies have also made correlations between autoimmune diseases in the mother and increased risk of autism in their offspring. For instance, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel conditions have also been suggested as links to autism.

Why maternal autoimmunity can cause autism

Why can maternal autoimmunity cause autism in a child? Immune cells, called antibodies, that coordinate attack of the mother’s body in autoimmunity can be passed to the child. This can cause the child to be born with an autoimmune reaction already taking place in his or her body. In some case of autism, they are finding that these children are born with autoimmune attacks happening in the brain.

Evidence of this was demonstrated in a startling way when scientists injected one group of pregnant monkeys with antibodies taken from human mothers with autistic children. Another group of pregnant monkeys was injected with antibodies taken from mothers of neurotypical children. Compared to the control group, the monkeys who received the antibodies from mothers of autistic children gave birth to monkeys who grew to demonstrate atypical social behavior.

Manage autoimmunity before pregnancy

If you’re a woman who would like to get pregnant, it’s important to screen for and appropriately manage any autoimmune condition you may have. For instance, if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, it’s not enough to just take thyroid hormone. If you leave the autoimmune component of your thyroid condition unchecked, it could lead to more autoimmune diseases and you are at risk of passing the autoimmune antibodies to your child.

Managing autoimmunity is a comprehensive dietary and lifestyle approach designed to regulate an overzealous immune system so it does not attack the body. People with unchecked autoimmunity tend to be in very inflammatory states. Autoimmune management involves a comprehensive diet to reduce this inflammation.

Sometimes chemicals or metals can trigger or exacerbate autoimmunity, so it’s good to screen for that as well with the Cyrex Array 11 Chemical Immune Reactivity Screen  This doesn’t tell you the quantity of chemicals or metals in your body like other tests, but rather whether your immune system is reacting to them. This is vital information when you have autoimmunity.

Lifestyle factors such as chronic stress, too little sleep, an unhealthy relationship, a job you hate, and other negative influences can also raise inflammation and provoke autoimmunity. These are important factors to consider as well when managing an autoimmune disease.

It’s vital to shore up your health, balance your immune system, and manage any known or undiagnosed autoimmune reactions before getting pregnant. This will increase the likelihood of having a neurologically healthy child. Ask my office for more pre-conception advice.


Hashimoto’s not improving? Here are 10 reasons why

10 reasons hashis not better

For some, managing autoimmune Hashimoto’s is as easy as going gluten-free. For others, it requires trial and error to find the triggers. And for those with severe or multiple autoimmune disorders, symptom management requires a conscious, lifelong approach to diet and lifestyle.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses immune function.

If you are not getting the results you want, see if any of the factors is getting in the way:

1. Not caring about your thyroid care. If you leave your thyroid care to the standard health care model, you may never see optimal results. The conventional model is based on lowering TSH into lab ranges with T4 medication. The Hashimoto’s patient needs to invest in self-education for the best results. The guidance of an experienced practitioner may still be necessary, but in functional medicine, patient participation is integral to success.

2. Skipping meals. When blood sugar drops too low it triggers autoimmune flare-ups. Symptoms of low blood sugar include shakiness, blurred vision, irritability, being spaced out, fatigue, and loss of function. If you feel more energetic after eating it means your blood sugar was too low. Skipping meals promotes Hashimoto’s flare-ups.

3. Ignoring blood sugar stability. The blood sugar and insulin surges from eating sweets and starchy foods trigger autoimmune flare-ups. Symptoms include fatigue, energy crashes, sugar cravings after eating, insomnia, and waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. If you are not keeping your blood sugar stable it will be difficult to manage Hashimoto’s.

4. Ignoring brain health. Hashimoto’s is hard on the brain, causing symptoms that overlap with Hashimoto’s, such as brain fog, depression, and memory loss, and accelerating brain degeneration. It’s vital to support your brain health as part of your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism plan.

5. Not truly gluten-free. Being gluten-free is like being pregnant. You either are or you aren’t. Gluten is a significant trigger for most people with Hashimoto’s. If you are cheating on your gluten-free diet, not being careful, or eating foods that cross-react with gluten  you may be sabotaging your recovery process.

6. Eating foods that cross react with gluten. If you eat foods that cross react with gluten, then you may not have success managing your Hashimoto’s. Gluten cross-reactive foods are structurally similar to gluten and can trigger reactions. The most common cross-reactive foods are milk (casein), followed by rice, corn, sesame, and gluten-free oats.

7. Too much stress. Stress is a potent inflammatory trigger, as many have learned through experience. Bad relationships, an unhealthy work environment, not enough down time, and even a persistent negative attitude are chronic stressors. It’s important to mitigate stressors as much as possible and schedule regular time off.

8. Not looking past thyroid meds. Many patients are looking for the perfect thyroid medication  Although finding the right med can make a huge difference, meds alone don’t always go the distance. Hashimoto’s is a complex autoimmune disorder that requires nutritional therapy and lifestyle approaches. If you’re still eating foods that flare your immune system, meds can’t do their job.

9. You are taking supplements that stimulate your immune system. Some supplements can make your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism worse or better, depending on your immune system. Echinacea, green tea, acai, Astragalus, licorice, and others can either help or aggravate autoimmunity, depending on whether you have TH-1 or TH-2 dominance. It’s very important to be aware of this. Please refer to Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? for more information.

10. You react to fillers in your thyroid meds. Many thyroid meds and supplements contain fillers you may react to. Some capsules can contain gluten, and some whole-food supplements may contain gluten or be contaminated with gluten. You need to make sure your thyroid hormones are gluten-free and free of corn starch if you react to corn. Investigate the filler ingredients in your medication or supplements in case they are causing a reaction.