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gluten and thyroid copy

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 hashimoto s copy

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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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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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.

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pregnancy can trigger Hashis copy

Some women find they end their pregnancy with not only a new baby but a new hypothyroid condition as well. That’s because normal immune shifts during pregnancy can trigger an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, depending on genetics and other predisposing factors.

The immune system can be looked as having two primary roles, one that reacts immediately to an invader (such as pus surrounding a splinter), and one that reacts later to produce antibodies (such as to build immunity to a virus). The part of the immune system that reacts immediately is TH-1 while the delayed response is TH-2.

When one of these arms of the immune system becomes overly dominant it can trigger an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s disease. Researchers are increasingly finding factors that lead to immune imbalance and trigger autoimmune diseases. They can include not only a genetic predisposition, but also food sensitivities (gluten and dairy being the most common offenders), environmental chemicals (such as those found in plastics), leaky gut, viral or bacterial infections, brain injury or degeneration, and, when a woman’s immune system is already likely at the tipping point, pregnancy.

How pregnancy can trigger Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune diseases

Pregnancy and the postpartum period naturally polarizes the immune system. In the third trimester the TH-2 immune response is dominant. Postpartum the TH-1 immune reaction is stronger. If a genetically predisposed woman goes into pregnancy with an existing immune imbalance, these natural immune shifts could trigger Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune diseases.

For 90 percent of Americans with hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland, is the cause.

Pregnancy and hypothyroidism

Pregnancy can also trigger hypothyroid symptoms that are not autoimmune. A common cause of low thyroid function is chronic stress. Common stressors include leaky gut and gut infections, food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances (hypoglycemia or insulin resistance), and hormonal imbalances. These stressors can depress the pituitary gland in the brain. The pituitary gland controls hormone function in the body.

When this happens the pituitary fails to signal the thyroid to produce enough thyroid hormone. For many women this manifests not only as low thyroid function, but also postpartum depression.

Because so many women enter pregnancy dealing with immune imbalances and chronic stress, the increased demands of pregnancy overwhelm the body, which can lead to hypothyroidism. Ideally, a woman will address health and immune imbalances before conceiving to reduce her risk of hypothyroidism.

A preconception health overhaul may also lower the risk of her infant developing eczema, asthma, food allergies, and even autism, which has been found to be caused by brain autoimmunity in many cases. When the mother’s immune system is healthy and balanced, there’s a stronger possibility her baby’s will be too.

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If you check your thyroid levels in the afternoon with a blood draw, results may come back normal even though you’re hypothyroid, according to a new study. Checking your TSH in the morning can give you more accurate results.

Like other hormones in the body, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) follows a daily rhythm and is not consistent throughout the day. Researchers in the study evaluated untreated patients with subclinical hypothyroidism along with patients taking a T4 hormone. They tested the participants’ TSH before 8 a.m. and again between 2 and 4 p.m.

In both groups TSH dropped substantially during the afternoon test, which would have led to hypothyroidism not being diagnosed in about 50 percent of the untreated participants.

Their TSH was 5.83 mU/L in the morning and 3.79 mIU/L in the afternoon. In the group being treated with thyroid medication TSH was 3.27 mIU/L in the morning and 2.18 mIU/L in the afternoon.

2004 study also showed that late morning, non-fasting TSH dropped 26 percent compared to early morning, fasting TSH.

Timing of TSH test adds new ammunition to thyroid range controversy

The researchers concluded that the timing of your blood draw plays an important role in how to decipher the results of your thyroid panel.

Unfortunately, even with an early morning blood draw, many hypothyroid patients still slip through the cracks because most doctors use ranges that are too wide.

It’s still very common for doctors to diagnose hypothyroidism using a TSH range of 0.5 to 5.0 mIU/L even though the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommended years ago the range should be 0.3 to 3.0 mIU/L.

Functional medicine uses narrower ranges and more markers to identify hypothyroidism

In functional medicine we use an even narrower range of 1.8 to 3 mIU/L. We also know in functional medicine that looking at TSH alone can miss hypothyroidism.

For some, TSH may be normal but other thyroid markers are off. That’s why it’s important to order a thyroid panel that looks at a more complete thyroid picture, which can include total and free T4 and T3, reverse T3, free thyroxine index (FTI), T3 uptake, and thyroid binding globulins. Many conditions can cause poor thyroid function, including inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and chronic stress. Evaluating other thyroid markers gives insight into these imbalances.

Always screen for autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

In addition to these markers, anyone with hypothyroid symptoms should be screened for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s accounts for about 90 percent of hypothyroid cases in the United States. You screen for Hashimoto’s by checking TPO and TGB antibodies.

Although thyroid medications may be necessary to maintain thyroid function, they do not address the immune system’s relentless attack against the thyroid gland. Not managing Hashimoto’s increases the risk of developing other autoimmune diseases. These can include pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, and Type I diabetes.

Ask my office how to properly evaluate your thyroid symptoms and lab markers for appropriate thyroid management.

 

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Talk to a group of women with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, and they’ll likely all share the same frustrating story. Frequently dismissed, misdiagnosed, or ignored by doctors, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is finally getting the recognition it deserves thanks to former Baywatch beauty and Playboy cover girl Gena Nolin.

Struggling with Hashimoto’s on the Baywatch set

Nolin struggled through marathon days on the set of Baywatch in a tiny red tank while battling symptoms of Hashimoto’s: fatigue, depression, hair loss, and weight gain. According to one interview, she gained weight despite exercising and eating very little—a salad or a can of tuna a day—and her hair became dry and brittle. Exhausted and starving, she pushed on with the help of antidepressants.

Symptoms worsened after her first two pregnancies. Doctors simply pegged her problems on postpartum depression, and prescribed her antidepressants. After her third pregnancy she suffered from arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeats, a common symptom of Hashimoto’s. She visited a couple of doctors before one finally diagnosed her with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, explaining the mysterious symptoms she had been battling since the age of 18. After experimenting with different thyroid hormones, she was almost symptom-free after just three days of finding the right one.

Nolin stands apart as a hypothyroid celebrity

What separates Nolin from other celebrities with hypothyroidism—Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Osbourne, Kim Cattrall, Jillian Michaels, and Mary-Louise Parker—is that Nolin uses her notoriety to speak up for the millions of Americans with hypothyroidism who are misdiagnosed or mismanaged by the health care system.

Nolin also recognizes and promotes the fact that for 90 percent of Americans, hypothyroidism is caused by an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s, which attacks and destroys the thyroid gland (explained in the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal? by Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci.) Nolin advocates a gluten-free diet and other natural thyroid strategies outlined in Dr. Kharrazian’s book.

Imagine if Oprah Winfrey helped hypothyroid sufferers

Imagine if Oprah Winfrey had access to the same knowledge and information when publicly discussing her thyroid condition—she could have helped millions of sufferers and advanced thyroid care in this country. Faced with patient demand, doctors would have been forced to increase their knowledge and education to offer genuine help to their patients.

Nolin reaches out for those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Online thyroid communities have warmly embraced Nolin. Her Facebook page Thyroid Sexy has almost 13,000 likes, and she posts frequently and communicates with her followers. Her post I am Hashimoto’s Disease—A letter for patients, family and friends, garnered a huge response for readers.

Nolin is the first internationally known celebrity who has made it a personal mission to bring positive awareness to thyroid disease. She is co-authoring a book about her journey and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism with thyroid author Mary Shomon. Shomon is the author of the About.com Thyroid Disease blog, and the author of several best-selling thyroid books.

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