This isn’t a confessional or a Dear Abby response, and when I say alone, I don’t mean by myself in a dark room watching TV. I mean without the addition of fat or protein… but please read on.
Carbohydrates have been vilified in the weight loss world since the end of the low fat diet era. It was almost like one day someone woke up and realized, when people stop eating fat, they get, well, really fat. About that same time the Atkins diet was on the rise and someone else was trying to make a few million (perhaps billion) dollars by figuring out a quick way to send every house wife in America to the health food store to purchase a wonder food called “protein powder”. This left the industry needing to find another reason to blame for everyone getting fat. In terms of macronutrients: carbohydrates were the only one left. So began the era of low carbohydrate dieting.
Now let’s get real for a minute. Who wants to live forever without pizza, pasta, bread, fruit or the countless other wonderful foods that have higher amounts of carbohydrates? When I was a young child unless a food was white and fully carbohydrate, there was no chance of me eating it. When I say white I mean: mashed potatoes, noodles (with parmesan), bread, macaroni and cheese (you are right, that is yellow), and frozen waffles. I have had a love affair with carbohydrates my entire life. I promise you, it is not about to end here and now.
As a nutrition professional what I understand now is that there really are two ways to alter your diet to induce weight loss: lower your calories OR lower your carbohydrates. The problem with these two approaches is that in most cases they are not long lasting and sustainable. Since this is the case people enjoy weight loss for a season, and then when diet habits change back over time, the weight comes back with a vengeance. Hence, Americas billion dollar industry feeding our yo-yo dieting habits.
The answer to losing weight over time and keeping it off lies not in a simplistic caloric restriction or carbohydrate restriction which are very near sighted and proven not to last. Rather the focus needs to be in speeding up your metabolism. It also lies within telling your body through hormone signals that you don’t need to store fat right now; instead you can tap your fat stores consistently when you need more energy.
Carbs are not the enemy. However, eating carbs alone is the enemy of weight loss. Let me explain why. When you eat carbohydrates alone your stomach empties it’s contents faster into your small intestine where most absorption happens. Let’s call this mostly carb meal white bread and jelly. This type of meal allows for very fast use of these carbs. In all of evolutionary time, this is a good thing, when needing to run from predators or catch a beast for dinner. However, in modern times with very processed food this makes for a huge up surge in blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is not a bad thing, but a huge spike in it is. The spike leads your pancreas to excrete a huge amount of insulin to combat the large surge. And insulin tells the rest of the cells in your body to absorb the sugar floating around in your blood. This is what it is supposed to do, however it also tells certain portions of your body to store energy as fat. When it is STORING energy as fat it is of necessity not utilizing fat for energy.
Now consider if you instead of having toast with jelly chose to have toast with peanut butter or a slice of deli meat on it. The fat and protein from the peanut butter or deli meat make your stomach do some extra work as it empties it’s contents. It blunts the effect of a quick raise in blood sugar. This slower increase over time allows your pancreas to produce less insulin. Your body still gets all the necessary signals for it to absorb blood sugar for energy, but it doesn’t send out the entire arsenal of insulin tipping the threshold and making it so your body doesn’t respond by storing fat.
This may seem like a super scientific explanation, but if you think about it you may realize there are many things you eat regularly that don’t have the added combo of protein and/or fat. Something as simple as a piece of fruit.
Carbs are not the enemy, eating carbohydrates alone will cause you to store fat, making it more difficult to lose weight. Eating simple carbohydrates and very highly refined and processed carbohydrates will do the same thing. Think about the difference in the look of a whole grain bread vs. a white bread. You can see the difference with your eyes, believe me your intestines, pancreas and liver can see the difference too. The fiber helps in slowing down the digestion and the added protein and fat from a whole grain provides the added benefit of slowing absorption.
There are foods that have high carb and high fat levels which some of you may be reasoning are still going to be okay to eat. These are foods like tortilla chips, potato chips, donuts. You are thinking, come on there is fat to slow the process down and blunt the blood sugar response. You are right, but they are still providing you little to know benefit in terms of nutrients. You are getting a whole lot of calories without any vitamins and fiber. Say no to these foods more often than you say yes. And join me in not eating carbohydrates alone. Have a handful of peanuts when you eat a piece of fruit, grab a piece of cheese if you are about to have a slice of toast, instead of eating spaghetti marinara add some meatballs to the mix.
In the United States the number of children with food allergies has increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007 and allergy-related hospital visits have tripled. If you or a family member suffers from food allergies you can surely attest to how scary those moments can be after taking in an offending food.
In a recent study by the Academy for Immunology and Microbiology within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) and the National Institute of Animal Science research project of Rural Development Administration, a specific probiotic strain has been shown by researchers to reduce the effects of food allergies.
In this study two different strains of bacteria commonly used in probiotics were provided to mice who were later exposed to food allergens. One strain in particular lowered the mast cell reaction responsible for allergic responses, neutralizing their ability to induce allergy symptoms. The bacteria that showed effective was B longum KACC 91563.
Other studies have also shown the benefits of probiotics in lowering food allergy and sensitivity reactions, calming the immune response.
My recommendations for best practice when it comes to taking probiotics:
1. Always buy a strain that was refrigerated.
2. Keep it in the fridge when you get home.
3. Always take with a meal.
4. Start taking them slowly, every other day.
5. Mix up the brands/strains you purchase. If you can afford two different bottles at one time, every other day change which brand/strains you are taking to keep a robust and varying profile introduced to your gut.
Institute for Basic Science. "Protein from bacteria alleviates food allergy symptoms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160316085011.htm>.
Most people have tried diet after diet, some success here, a little success there, some major fails. Over and over I hear the same story people experience some amount of weight loss followed by weight gain, usually more than was originally lost. Have you ever said, “and then I gained an extra 10 pounds” when describing a diet experience.
Most people weigh 5 to 10 pounds more than their ideal body weight for every diet they have tried in their life. The sad truth is that the diet industry (a multi-billion dollar industry - this alone should tell you something - they are in it for the money) is very good at providing a solution that will work for a while but, will inevitably stop. The industry plans on it, depends on it, and defrauds you in the process.
If a client comes to me after dieting without success time and time again, I start by assuming your metabolism is already broken, and needs fixing. How did it break? Any diet you were ever on, no matter how long ago or for how long contributed to a slower metabolism. Don’t worry though, you can HEAL your metabolism, with the right actions. I do want you to commit to never "dieting" every again, and never fall prey to a vicious yo-yo dieting cycle in the future.
What the diet industry isn’t telling you is that there are really only two effective ways to lose weight:
1) limit your calories OR
2) limit your carbohydrates
In either case, you can and will lose weight. However, if you keep your body in a state of calorie or carb restriction for too long, you will damage your metabolism. So what the diet industry really isn’t telling you is this:
If you restrict your calories or carbohydrate intake for too long you will slow your metabolism and make it extremely difficult to continue losing weight, you will also be in danger of gaining back everything you have lost, even if you do not increase your intake to what it was before.
Why? Your body and your metabolism have been programmed to keep you alive. So for a time when you restrict, you enjoy the benefits of pulling from fat and lean muscle stores and weight is lost, but eventually that will stop. It will stop because your body is concerned it is not receiving enough fuel, so it will shift everything it can to a slower pace. Simply put, it slows your metabolism because you have been eating less. This is actually quite miraculous. It is evolution at it’s best! The point is to preserve you alive. However in our modern day, most of us don’t really NEED to starve ourselves, so when we do, we do it not because food is scarce, but because we’d like our love handles to become scarce.
The impending problem is that when you lost weight in the early part of your diet you didn’t just lose fat. You lost lean muscle tissue too. But, after a period of starvation, your body will have shifted priorities, so when extra food is available it will start storing this food as fat. It is guarding in case you are starved again. Almost any diet will leave you in worse shape than when you started. You lost fat and lean body mass. You gained back mostly fat, and your body is now programmed that you might starve it – so it is burning calories very slowly.
WARNING: Any diet that cuts out carbs completely or drops you below 1200 calories is going to harm your metabolism and cause extreme weight gain later.
If you feel like your metabolism is damaged and would describe it as slow, you would benefit from working with someone trained in metabolic rehabilitation or what I like to call metabolic healing. There are strategies you can do to increase your metabolism so you don't have to cut carbs and calories forever. So that you can lose weight and be burning more calories once you reach your goal.
What foods are best to eat while I’m pregnant? I've had this question come up a few times recently with patients. So let's get into it.
Eat as much nutrient rich, whole foods as possible. Eat a wide variety of foods. Make sure you are choosing foods from all food groups: fruit, vegetables, grains, meats, beans, dairy, and healthy fats and oils. A growing baby will need food from all of these food groups. One thing is for certain, even though you are eating for 2, you don't need to double your calories. In fact, through the first trimester you don't need to eat any more than what you are currently used to. In the second and third trimesters, you can increase calories by about 300 and 450 calories respectively. But, what to eat. Let's break it down for you.
Nutrients in Food
Protein - In the 1st trimester eat 5 1/2 ounces per day and in the 2nd & 3rd trimesters 6 ½ ounces per day. Here are examples of 1 ounce of protein.
Good sources of protein include lean meat (chicken, turkey, fish), low-fat dairy products (eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt), beans, nuts, nut butters.
Eat about 12 ounces of fish per week. Choose types of fish that are low in mercury content (tuna or salmon). Avoid fish high in mercury (swordfish, shark, king mackerel, albacore tuna). To learn more about what fish are safest to eat, visit www.doh.wa.gov/communityandenvironment/food/fish/healthyfishguide.aspx.
If fish is not appealing to you choose other dietary sources of DHA like: walnuts, wheat germ or omega-3 enriched eggs.
YOUR BABY NEEDS FAT. Eating low or no fat during pregnancy is not recommended. Choosing healthy fats is important for your overall health and for your baby. Choose fats like: olive oil, fatty fish (salmon), avocados, seeds, nuts, nut butters.
Read food labels and avoid anything with ‘hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat’. These contain trans fat.
Dairy is another great source of fat. Aim for 3 cups of dairy per day. A 1 cup serving equals:
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are GREAT and very healthy sources of carbohydrate. Choose dark and brightly colored fruits and vegetables – they are great sources of vitamins and minerals. Eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.
Aim for 2 1/2 cups vegetables per day and 2 cups of fruit. Eating a wide variety, and lots of different colors is best!
Choose whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, barley, quinoa, bulgar, millet, and kasha. Limit refined carbohydrates like: sweets, cookies, sodas, instant oatmeal, and instant rice.
Aim for 6 ounces in your first trimester and 8 ounces in your 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
1 ounce =
Drink enough water so that you never feel thirsty and so that your urine is light in color. Many pregnant women carry a water bottle with them to make sure they are drinking enough water.
Limit intake of juice and other sweetened beverages.
Do not drink any alcohol.
Limit intake of caffeine to 200 milligrams (about 1 cup of coffee) per day. If you are currently drinking more than that, cut back slowly.
Food Safety Considerations
During pregnancy, you have a higher chance of getting infections and illnesses from certain foods. Some basic food safety practices can greatly reduce your chance of becoming ill. Remember to:
~Eggs and meat (including pork) to 160° F
~Poultry breast to 170° F
~Whole poultry to 180° F
For more regarding food safety while you are pregnant, visit:
Nausea and Vomiting
Pregnancy is not the time to lose weight. Talk with your pregnancy care provider if you are: vomiting, lose your appetite, lose weight.
If you do lose your appetite, do NOT stop eating. Try these tips:
Changes in hormones during pregnancy can cause food aversions (a strong dislike for a certain food) and cravings. If food aversions are keeping you from being able to eat the food you need, try:
Some women have cravings for nonfood items like clay, dirt, paper, laundry starch or ice. This is called pica. Tell your pregnancy care provider if you are craving these non-food items.
As your baby grows, you will feel full from less food, when you need more calories. To avoid discomfort, try to eat smaller meals more often.
Activity and Exercise
Exercise is good for you and your baby. It can help ease stress, aches and pains, improve circulation, and prepare you for a healthy delivery.
Try to get 30 minutes of activity every day, even if it is just walking to a nearby park.
It is usually safe to keep doing your normal exercise early in pregnancy. Drink plenty of water and if you are questioning if something is safe check in with your pregnancy care provider.
It may be harder to exercise later in pregnancy due to discomfort. Do what is comfortable without excess strain.
It is safe to continue sexual activity.
Avoid hot tubs and saunas.
When having a massage or pedicure tell the professional working with you that you are pregnant there are some pressure points that can induce labor for them to avoid.
Consider stress relieving activities like yoga and stretching with breathing exercises, this will help with increased circulation.
Coffee and tea are okay to drink during pregnancy, but limit to 1 cup per day.
Try to include carbohydrates, protein and fat at all of your meals, here are some examples.
Well-cooked egg or peanut butter with whole grain toast and a piece of fruit.
Granola or whole grain cereal with milk or plain yogurt, added berries or banana.
Whole grain pancakes with cottage cheese and fruit.
Plain yogurt with fruit.
Hummus and carrots.
Apple with nut butter.
Sandwich on whole grain bread with grilled chicken breast and vegetables.
Rice and beans with cheese and tomatoes; an apple; small green salad.
Turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomatoe on whole grain bread; milk; an apple.
Cheese or hard boiled egg; whole grain crackers.
Small handful of trail mix.
Peanut butter on whole grain toast.
Tortilla with rice, beans, cheese, bell pepper and onion; melon cubes.
Lean beef cubes over noodles with cooked green beans; ½ an orange.
Chicken and potato casserole with broccoli and onions; raw carrot and cabbage slaw.
Fish with sweet potato; cooked cauliflower and green salad.
Stir fry vegetables with brown rice; glass of milk
Cheese and fruit.
Small bowl of low sugar cereal and milk.
An egg, carrot sticks.
Do I need to take vitamins?
A prenatal vitamin can help ensure that you and your baby are getting the nutrients that you need. Buy a prenatal vitamin that contains the following:
I recommend taking Douglas Laboratories Prenatal (retail is $24.40 per month and serving size is 2 caps per day) or Thorne Basic Prenatal (retail $24.61 per month and serving size is 3 caps).
Many prenatals do not include enough DHA so it will be necessary to also supplement with a high quality fish oil. I recommend Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA (retail $19.3 per month and serving size is 2 caps).
I have photos below of my top picks, if you need assistance sourcing these supplements, or any supplements I have a direct distributor where you can receive 10% off any supplements and have them delivered straight to your door.
When to start supplementation?
Ideally, start taking prenatal vitamins before conception. It is generally recommended women of reproductive age to regularly take prenatal vitamins. However, you should begin taking, if you have not already, as soon as you discover you are pregnant.
How long do I take them?
You should take prenatal vitamins throughout your entire pregnancy and continue after the baby is born, especially while breast-feeding.
Do prenatal vitamins have any side effects?
Some women feel quesy after taking prenatal vitamins. If this happens to you, you’re your prenatal vitamin with a meal or right before bed. The iron in prenatal vitamins contributes to constipation. To prevent this make sure you are drinking plenty of water, you have adequate fiber intake and are remaining physically active (at least a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes daily).
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.
I am offering an educational weight loss program in the month of January. It will include a weekly educational seminar on weight loss with tips on what to change, how to eat, and lifestyle modifications for lasting weight loss and maintenance. Each session will be 45 minutes to 1 hour long. These sessions will be presented live with an option to listen to a recorded version at any time in the month. The sessions will offer a few small changes to work on for the week, and each session will build upon the last.
The program will also include a login to a food journaling website and smartphone app where you can journal in real time with photos of your food and receive a weekly feedback summary from ME (a registered dietitian nutritionist)!
Most people can expect to lose between .5 and 2 pounds per week. It will be slow sustained weight loss with real life patterns set for you to lose the weight and keep it off.
This program is less expensive than most of my other offerings because it does not include any 1 on 1 counseling or coaching sessions. It is meant for those motivated to listen to the seminars, photo food journal and implement electronic feedback. Just $55 dollars for the entire program. I will only be taking on 20 individuals in the program, so purchase quick if you would like to secure yourself a spot!
I will be selling this package until January 15th. You may begin at any time between now and then. The sessions will all be presented on Wednesdays or Thursdays with the first session being presented this Wednesday at 10 am. All sessions will be available all month long and will be recorded.
If you are interested, purchase here. You will create an account and can then search on your smart phone for the 'get healthie' app. Please begin photo food journaling at any time.
Let me know if you have any questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a weight loss and healthy eating seminar with associated food tracking, it is not medical nutrition therapy, it is not meant to treat any disease or chronic illness.
It is new years eve day and the dawn of a new year is quickly approaching. As humans we approach newness with a sense of hope and excitement. It is an opportunity to begin untarnished with fresh beginnings. We quickly build visions of where we wish to be a few months from now or at this same moment in twelve months time, having accomplished so much and nearer our goals and hopes than we have ever been before. Perhaps you sit there now looking back at last year, reflecting on what you may have accomplished, mountains you have climbed or seas you have crossed. Perhaps you see other peaks that had the best of you and still you didn’t reach the pinnacle. It is often a nostalgic day and the end to a very busy holiday season.
Soon the days will feel longer with more sunlight to light each step. Soon the snow will melt and the flowers will bloom. Soon it will be March and then June. We sit here on new years eve looking into the next 365 days and ask ourselves, what will we do, who will we become? I love the hope this time brings. It feels similar to sitting on a ship looking for a light house in the pitch dark, and the rays starting to become evident in the distance, land!
We tend to mark time and seasons and we set goals. Goals for health, goals for business, goals for the family and relationships, and retirement. As we reach to these goals, if we are not making the deadlines that we have set for ourselves, discouragement often creeps in. I would like to encourage all my readers to approach each day of this new year with the same hope and enthusiasm as they feel at this moment. Every day gives you opportunity to reach, to make decisions, to commit. Every day is a fresh slate, clean and untarnished. Every day affords you the opportunity to make decisions that support your goals, whatever they may be.
Set some goals. Then ask yourself, “will this action support my goals”. If your goal is weight loss, it will help you to stop and ask yourself “will this action support my goals” as you sit down to a huge bowl of tortilla chips and salsa or the desserts hiding in your pantry. You will clearly be able to say, “no”. Then stop and respect yourself enough to make a different decision. If the goal is to get out of credit card debt, it will help you to stop and ask yourself the question “will this movie be just as fun to watch on my couch in six months when I have no more revolving debt instead of paying $15 bucks a ticket and seeing it tonight with friends”. The answer will be clear. Set some goals, stop and ask yourself the hard questions, answer honestly, slow down your decision making, and reflect on the hope you feel right now, at the dawn of a new year, remember this feeling, and you will be more successful making these small changes that support your major life goals.
Most Americans don't eat anywhere near the amount of fiber they should. Let's change that! Fiber is critical for many organ systems from your heart to your bowels. It can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and is great for weight loss efforts. It's actually pretty easy to add into your diet. Check out the suggestions below:
1. Eat more fruits and veggies!
Try to add a piece of fruit to your breakfast routine, and choose fruit as an option for a morning snack. Make sure you inculde at least 1-2 vegetables in your lunch and evening meal. Eat the skins and peels of fruits and vegetables.
2. Choose whole grains whenever possible.
Look for "whole grains" on the packaging. If something says wheat flour, it isn;t the same as whole wheat flour. Choosing whole grains means that you get the whole or entire grain. You are getting the roughage in addition to the sweet tasty white carbohydrate parts we all love. It usually helps incorporate a fun nutty flavor.
3. Add legumes to your diet.
When making dishes look for opportunities to add in beans or lentils. I like to add black beans to enchiladas, garbanzo beans to shepards pie, kidney beans to italian soups, and hummus to sandwiches.
4. Make my recipe below to add a natural fiber mix to your oatmeal or drink it in some luke warm water right before dinner. This fiber mix will help even out your blood sugar throughout the day, improve your bowel habits and help you feel more full.
Natural Fiber Mix
Mix together equal parts of the following:
Ground Flax Seed
Ground Chia Seeds
Store in a tupperware, plastic bag or mason jar and keep in the fridge. It is good to limit the amount of air that touches (so a plastic bag is GREAT) it will limit oxidation frmo the ground flax seeds and chia seeds. I would start with just one teaspoon per day and gradually increase to two heaping tablespoons.
My favorite way to take this mix is in 6 oz of hot water about 10 minutes before dinner. I recommend having this drink right before dinner, it will help bind extra fats. It also will help you feel super full - this is great for portion control.
Saucy Saturday: Let’s Talk Bone Broth
Is this hype or truly healthy? Is it a super-food or a super-trend? Bone broth has had a place in the typical human diet for ages. It’s been in your grandma’s repertoire for health and healing and there is certainly something to be said regarding those tried and true methods to nurse us back to health. With modern scientific influence looking at components in food rather than the food as a whole item, we now know more about why certain foods (or rather, certain nutrients) are so good for us. I would conclude that bone broth is a super-food and though it is super trendy right now, it’s a bandwagon worth jumping on, and here is why:
Bone broth is very nourishing and tolerated by almost everyone. So how do you make it?
I like to save the carcass from a chicken or turkey in the freezer in a large ziplock bag until I am ready to make my broth. You don’t need to make it the same day/night or even the next day from the roast chicken you made. Save two carcasses even and make a large batch. I also like to save the extra nibs, bits and peels of vegetables over a few weeks. As I cook dinner I will store the carrot tops and ends of celery, ribs from bell peppers, etc and I throw them into a big zip lock back and let the collection grow. Once I have a nice collection of bones and vegetables I know I’m ready to start a batch of broth.
You can also go talk to your butcher and get bones that may otherwise be thrown away. It is a super cheap way to source bones to make some broth. You can use beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, venison, fish, really most bones can make bone broth. It’s good if you can source some chicken feet and neck to increase the gelatin in the broth. But beware, adding a lot of chicken feet and forgetting you put them in the pot can make for a horror movie scene when you go to check on your broth. Okay let's get started:
1: Get out a large pot for the stovetop or uncover your crockpot. Place bones in to the pot or crockpot and cover with water. If you are making a lamb or beef broth, it’s nice to brown the meat/bones before starting the broth. Throw in the vegetables you would like to add (you can also add half way through cooking) Add some extra water over the bones, to allow for evaporation. Don't worry so much about how much meat, water and veggies, just get it in the pot and add some water. You can't mess this up.
2: Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to water prior to cooking. This is so important to pull minerals and nutrients from the bones.
3: Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for at least 6 hours. Skim the fat off the top as it rises. I recommend cooking for 16-20 hours for optimal nutrients. You can cook longer, many people say low and slow… however, if you cook too long you can have high levels of glutamate which is not optimal. So low and moderately slow.
4: Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Discard solids and strain the remainder through a colander, I also like to strain through a cheese cloth to get all the floaty bits out.
5: Let broth cool to room temperature, cover and chill. Use within a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
You can sip this broth, but I like to also use it to cook and incorporate in meals for my whole family (not everyone is willing to sip a mug of broth every day). I like to add the broth to cook my grains like quinoa, rice, barley, and spelt. I use it as a base for soup or to make a gravy. I use it in curries and noodle bowls like a pho knock off.
The thyroid gland is a 2-inch butterfly shaped organ located at the front of the neck. This is often times the gland a physician is checking during an exam when they are touching your neck. It is small in size compared to other organs, however it is a major command center in terms of hormone health and metabolic health. It affects nearly every organ in the body. It helps to regular fat and carbohydrate metabolism, breathing, body temperature, brain development, blood calcium levels, menstrual cycles, skin, integrity, cholesterol levels, and MORE.
The thyroid gland is often one of the big players wreaking havoc in my patients’ bodies as an underactive thyroid has a profound impact on the ability to lose weight. It is an important organ to pay attention to as those with underactive thyroids are at an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. 27 million americans have one form or another of thyroid disease. The most common condition being hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. In the US this is most commonly caused by an autoimmune response known as Hashimoto’s disease. Essentially, your body creates antibodies that target the thyroid and decrease thyroid function significantly. Other conditions include hyperthyroidism (overactive), goiters (not enough iodine intake), or thyroid cancers. Since hypothyroidism is the most common we will focus on lifestyle and nutrition factors that can help an individual with hypothyroidism.
How do I know if I have an underactive thyroid?
This requires blood testing and is a diagnosis your physician will provide for you. Often physicians will check TSH (thyroid stimulating horomone), T3 and T4 levels. I always recommend a patient ask their physician to also check for the thyroid antibodies such as TPO antibody, Anti thyroid globulin antibodies and thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin. Often times if the thyroid is underperforming, there is a link to adrenal function so checking DHEA-S and cortisol levels is helpful. If your physician is ordering labs, ask them to include these adrenal markers as well.
What symptoms accompany an underactive thyroid?
Potential causes of hypothyroidism
Inflammation that goes haywire causing an immune response that leads to an attack on your bodies own organ.
Leaky gut syndrome
Pregnancy (causes postpartum thyroiditis)
Certain medication interactions
High levels of stress (persistent)
Toxic burden (heavy metals)
What medications will a physician prescribe?
Typically the first line of treatment is with a synthetic drug called synthroid. This supplies only T4. Many, many people are on this drug and see some benefits in symptoms and ability to lose weight, increased energy levels, etc. There are more “natural” forms of medication, the most popular is called Armour, it is sourced from porcine (pig) thyroid glands. It contains both T4 and T3 in a ratio more similar to what a human produces. It is worth asking your physician why they prescribe one over the other. Most will not even consider Armour.
Lifestyle and diet are two of the biggest factors that contribute to healing your thyroid, and if healing it is no longer available, we can support it allowing the most optimal functioning.
Let’s consider lifestyle factors first.
SLEEP MORE, aim for at least 8 hours of sleep at night. I know this sounds like a lot, but your body needs it when your thyroid is underperforming. It will allow for optimal healing.
AVOID STIMULANTS, caffeine in any form is best to be avoided. If you can’t avoid it, I recommend choosing a green tea, so that you get the antioxidant benefits.
MOVE YOUR BODY, but not too much. Choose gentle exercise activities until your medication and stress levels are lowered. Try longer low impact walks or an activity like yoga.
Be patient with yourself and inform your family members what you are dealing with so they can be patient and understanding with you too.
Food and Nutrition
You can do a lot in terms of supporting your thyroid with the right food. Let’s get down to it.
AVOID EXCESS SUGAR. I am serious. Your body doesn’t need it, and your immune system most importantly, doesn’t need it. Cut out cakes, cookies, candy, soda, sugary coffee beverages, etc. A little maple syrup in the oatmeal is fine, but really, take this seriously. It’s the most important food choice to help you recover.
COOK CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES (goitrogenic foods). Your body needs iodine for optimal thyroid function, however these vegetables in the raw form have an incredible ability to block iodine from being absorbed. To combat that, cook these vegetables. Broccoli, Kale, Cauliflower, Brusell sprouts, Bok Choy, Kohlrabi, Mustard and Mustard greens, Cabbage. If you are one to add greens to your smoothie, choose something other than Kale, like spinach or arugula.
ADD SEA VEGETABLES OR NATURAL SEA SALT. This will help increase your mineral and iodine intake.
CHOOSE ORGANIC PRODUCE WHEN POSSIBLE. These have higher levels of trace minerals and significantly lower levels of pesticides, which are known endocrine disruptors.
INCORPORATE FOODS RICH IN TRACE MINERALS AND VITAMINS YOUR THRYOID NEEDS TO CREATE THRYOID HORMONE AND CONVERT FROM T4 to T3.
ZINC: red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood
VIT E: liver, eggs, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes and avocados
B2, B3, B6: meat, seafood, green vegetables, mushrooms, eggs, almonds
Selenium: brazil nuts
Vit C: veggies and citrus
STICK TO WHOLE FOODS. Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Choose fruits and vegetables as snacks throughout the day with a handful of nuts.
What about supplementation?
There are some antioxidants that research has shown improve thyroid function, they include vit C, vit E, turmeric(curcumin) and glutathione. There is a place for supplementation with thyroid issues. However, it’s important to seek the help of a qualified professional. For instance, if you have Hashimoto’s you do not want to supplement with iodine, it can increase the rate of thyroid destruction. This is not the condition to play around with, I would not consult the vitamin clerk at your local healthfood store, speak with a physician or dietitian to get evidence based, proven solutions.
If you suspect Hashimoto’s you most likely have leaky gut and would benefit from food sensitivity testing and an immunocalm diet. You would also consider as a first line of defense, decreasing gluten in your diet as it has been shown to affect hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
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