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Hashimoto’s disease: could it be the underlying cause for your unexplained misery or fatigue?

Could Hashimoto’s disease secretly be causing hypothyroidism for you? And what does your thyroid do anyhow?

Let me tell you. It does a whole lot. And you need it to be healthy.

Understanding Hashimoto’s disease

The autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called lymphocytic thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease, occurs when antibodies working against your thyroid gland lead to inflammation.

The inflammation inhibits your thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones and can cause slow, chronic cell damage.

The damage then surfaces as an enlarged thyroid gland or hypothyroidism (an under-performing thyroid).

Detecting Hashimoto’s disease

What’s the big deal about your thyroid health?

depressed hashimoto's disease hypothyroidYour thyroid is like the motherboard of your body. Your pituitary gland controls your thyroid. And your thyroid controls just about everything else – your metabolic rate, energy, heart, digestion, muscles, brain development, bone maintenance and reproduction.

No symptoms are necessarily unique to Hashimoto’s disease. However, Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. (http://thyroidbook.com), yet often goes undiagnosed. If you have hypothyroidism, you may suffer from:

  • anxiety
  • cold hands and feet
  • constipation
  • depression
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • irregular or heavy periods
  • low sex drive
  • muscle aches and lowered tolerance for exercise

Doctors will use a blood test to determine if you have hypothyroidism. Be sure he or she orders the full panel, and not just the basic test. The basic thyroid test provides 1 overall level or number, which is more likely to fall in the normal range, leaving you undiagnosed.

The full panel provides your levels of all 4 thyroid components – free T3 (triiodothyronine), free T4 (thyroxine), TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and reverse T3. If you have elevated TSH and low free T4 levels, these are indicators of Hashimoto’s.

Treating Hashimoto’s disease

Traditional doctors will start you on a thyroid medicine such as Synthroid, Armour or Cytomel to help normalize your TSH. You will probably be on the medication for life, having to adjust it occasionally. The medication may help you feel better, but it doesn’t address your immune system’s imbalance.

Read a more scientific explanation of this shortfall here. Basically, the medication increases the T4 in your body, but doesn’t help you convert T4 to T3 and doesn’t address the ongoing inflammation.

So guess what holistic doctors will tell you if you have Hashimoto’s disease?

Yes – change your diet!

In Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s book, he explains in detail about why he advises thyroid patients to immediately remove gluten from their diets. Or you can read a briefer explanation in my blog post “Getting to the root of your thyroid problem and how your diet can help”.

Some doctors will ask you to eliminate dairy and soy, too. Still others will suggest the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, or another diet, to give your body a break from all potentially inflammatory foods.

You may resent the idea of having to give up some of your favorite foods, and simply want to take the medicine and move on. But then you are not really giving your body a chance to heal. In fact, if you’re eating foods your body doesn’t tolerate, you are keeping it in overdrive on an empty oil tank!

If you think you have Hashimoto’s disease or hypothyroidism, ask your doctor to order the full thyroid panel and give all thyroid components full attention. Cut gluten and dairy from your diet, and use an elimination diet to identify any other foods you should avoid.

It may be a temporary tweak, or a permanent lifestyle change. But your body has to last your entire lifetime, right? Feed it accordingly!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Getting to the root of your thyroid problem and how your diet can help

thyroid problem and solveYour thyroid is key to your health in many facets. It impacts your brain, heart, liver, kidneys and skin. It plays a part in your mood, weight, energy, sex drive and so much more.

According to ClinCalc.com, 3,450,708 prescriptions for thyroid medication were written in 2014. This doesn’t include people who haven’t been diagnosed with thyroid problems. Because lack of energy, depression and poor metabolism can be attributed to busyness, stress and genetics, for example, some people don’t realize they truly have a thyroid problem.

In some cases, taking thyroid medicine is a must. But similar to antibiotics, thyroid medication seems to be overprescribed.

What’s wrong with taking thyroid medication?

Let me repeat. Some people absolutely need thyroid medication.

But in other cases, the medication could be masking another culprit. In Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal?, Datis Kharrazian discusses how in a patient with Hashimoto’s disease, also called autoimmune thyroiditis, her immune system attacks her own cells and organs, including the thyroid gland. As the thyroid gets inflamed, it loses its ability to produce thyroid hormones, which can result in hypothyroidism.

According to thyroidbook.com, Hashimoto’s is the cause of hypothyroidism in 90% of Americans who have it. So for these patients, the root problem may remain unsolved.

Because studies have linked Hashimoto’s with gluten intolerance, Dr. Kharrazian suggests that all sufferers of hypothyroid stop eating gluten all together. Basically, when you have this autoimmune dysfunction, your body sees gluten as an enemy and attacks it. So your body could be in constant attack mode.

If you determine that gluten is your enemy, you may also want to avoid gluten cross-reactors, which are foods your body can mistake for gluten. Thepaleomom.com identifies these foods as cross-reactors: brewer’s/baker’s yeast, corn, instant coffee, millet, oats, potato, rice, sorghum, as well as casein, casomorphin, butyrophilin, whey and milk chocolate due to the dairy proteins.

How should you treat a thyroid problem?

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, constipation, dry skin, increased sensitivity to cold, unexplained weight gain, a puffy face, hoarseness, muscle weakness, elevated blood cholesterol levels, muscles aches, joint pain and/or swelling, irregular periods, thinning hair, slowed heart rate, depression and poor memory.

Symptoms of hyperthyroid include irritability, muscle weakness, sleeping problems, rapid heartbeat, heat intolerance, diarrhea and weight loss.

First, if you have these symptoms regularly, ask your doctor to have your thyroid tested using the full panel that identifies levels of all four hormones (reverse T3, free T3, free T4 and TSH). The typical thyroid test only gives you one general level, which often falls into the normal range, leaving your thyroid problem undiagnosed.

Second, give up gluten. Giving up gluten may or may not be a replacement for medication. But even if you need medication, giving up gluten could allow your immune system a much-needed break. The following foods contain gluten:

  • wheat
  • rye
  • barley
  • bulgur
  • couscous
  • durum
  • einkorn
  • emmer
  • farina
  • faro
  • graham
  • matzo
  • semolina
  • wheat germ
  • wheat starch
  • some caramel color
  • stabilizers
  • some flavors
  • colors
  • bouillon
  • many sauces, condiments and soups some lunch meats

For flours and starches, consider using amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, chestnut, Job’s tears, nut flours, quinoa, taro, teff or yucca. For starchier sides, think beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

Note that some doctors, especially in our western part of the world, do not necessarily link gluten to thyroid issues just yet. If yours does not, you may want to consult one who does, at least for a second opinion.

It’s difficult to deny. Trends in both numbers of health problems and people intolerant to gluten have skyrocketed in recent years. Whether it’s the gluten or the GMOs typically used in producing gluten that are so harmful, we can only speculate for now.

If you have or suspect a thyroid problem, work with a doctor to get a full thyroid panel done, change your diet and determine the best mode of treatment based on your findings. It’s just another example of how changing your diet can be a life-changer!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Dealing with leaky gut syndrome

Is leaky gut syndrome a real thing or just a catch phrase for all those intestinal issues doctors can’t seem to explain?

leaky gut syndromeAccording to the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, gastrointestinal dysfunctions are the most overlooked and common disorders today, affecting about 70 million Americans and accounting for billions of dollars in annual sales of over-the-counter digestive aids. That total doesn’t even include prescription medicines.

That’s a lot of people with GI problems and it’s hard to say how many antacids and prescription meds – enough to fill a large lake or five? That’s just digestive aids, never mind the ibuprofen and other drugs we take to alleviate the ambiguous symptoms that could be related to leaky gut syndrome. And all these drugs may be contributing to the problem!

What is leaky gut syndrome?

Leaky gut syndrome has been accepted as a real condition, but is still a mystery to healthcare professionals. Put in simple terms, leaky gut syndrome is when your intestines develop tiny holes in them.

The holes allow food particles to enter your blood stream, which is no place for food to be! Your body sees the food particles in your blood stream as “enemies”, putting your immune system into constant overdrive and possibly wearing your body down.

Symptoms may include gas, bloating, cramps, food sensitivities and others that can be mistaken for other conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid issues, autoimmune disorders, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and even autism could be symptomatic of a leaky gut.

Traditional medical tests often fail to reveal a definite cause of these symptoms, which can leave people without a diagnosis and, therefore, untreated, according to this webMD.com article.

However, Dr. Axe presents a more sophisticated explanation of leaky gut, as well as alternative tests for it in this article.

Though traditional and holistic doctors may not all agree yet, we can heed these factors thought to contribute to leaky gut and make lifestyle changes accordingly.

  • eating poorly
  • taking medications (especially antibiotics) that can cause an imbalance in your digestive flora
  • stress

Note that when doctors used to blame my allergies and chronic sinus issues on “stress”, I thought it was a cop-out and got angry. But now it makes more sense knowing that in traditional Chinese medicine, worry and anxiety (and overanalyzing) are emotions connected to your stomach and spleen. So yes, we all experience stress, but we don’t all handle it the same.

How can you help leaky gut syndrome?

Though it’s not well researched and documented throughout the medical industry as a whole just yet, many naturopaths have successfully treated enough patients with leaky gut syndrome that they have adopted programs for diagnosing and treating it.

Many of the treatment programs include:

  1. Adjusting your diet (for several months or longer). Avoid foods such as dairy, gluten and nightshades, known to commonly cause inflammation. Consider the GAPs diet, a paleo diet or another diet designed to reduce inflammation.
  2. Taking natural supplements to help heal your digestive system while avoiding the foods that irritate it. This could involve products with L-glutamine, probiotics or other natural products.
  3. Doing both with advice from your doctor. If your doctor is unfamiliar with leaky gut, visit one who is.

Everything starts in your intestines. If they are irritated and inflamed, you are likely to experience inflammation elsewhere in your body (sinuses for me). That’s why digestive health is so important. And that’s why you should have a healthcare professional help you troubleshoot rather than do it alone.

For more information on the subtle symptoms foods can cause, other foods that can cause inflammation and how to eat healthier, read Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.