Why pregnancy can trigger Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases

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.

Do you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

CFS new name

Do you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and chronic fatigue syndrome? Although Hashimoto’s can cause fatigue, some people have both. 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a condition of severe, chronic tiredness, is a well-known term in the medical world and affects between one and four million people in the United States. However, since it was coined in 1988, considerable controversy has arisen over the term CFS. Many patients, advocacy groups, and experts believe the name trivializes the condition and leads to a lack of respect for patients within the medical community; some doctors view the illness skeptically and as a psychosomatic condition, and patients find they receive improper –- or no –- treatment for the illness.

Globally, a number of accepted names for this illness of uncertain cause are used, including Myalgic Encephalopathy (myalgic means muscle aches or pains, encephalomyelitis means inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome, and Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. In the United States, organizations and doctors recently started calling the illness ME/CFS, for Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This combined name reflects the standpoint that the illness is indeed physical as opposed to psychological.

In 2014, the US Department of Health and Human Services contracted the Institute of Medicine to review the evidence and create a clinical definition for ME/CFS, one that might also result in a newer name for the disease(s). Using both terms together in the new name is somewhat controversial since ME has an identifiable viral trigger, while CFS may not, and continues to be diagnosed solely by symptoms. Over time the research will reveal more; for now, patients are thankful that the new combined name reflects a medical basis for the illness.

The increased attention on ME/CFS may also help differentiate symptoms related to Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and ME/CFS. 

What is ME/CFS?

ME/CFS affects four times as many women as men, occurs most often in people in their 40s and 50s, and does not draw lines around race. It is a debilitating chronic illness characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Extreme Fatigue — brought on by low levels of, or no exertion. “Post-Exertional Malaise” is a hallmark.
  • Unrefreshing Sleep — disrupted and unrefreshing sleep that increases symptoms of fatigue and pain.
  • Cognitive Problems — characterized by brain fog; difficulties with concentration, attention and memory.
  • Pain — muscle, joint, and all-body pain; headaches are common.

Many patients also experience visual disturbances, gastrointestinal issues, food and chemical allergies and sensitivities, irritability, chills and night sweats, depression and weight changes. A diagnosis is made after ruling out other illnesses that can cause similar symptoms, such as: fibromyalgia, thyroid problems, anemia, Lyme disease, lupus, MS, hepatitis, sleep disorders, and depression.

The same underlying factors that contribute to ME/CFS typically play a role in Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases as well.

The Functional Medicine Approach To ME/CFS and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Functional medicine uses an individualized, multi-dimensional approach toward working with the symptoms and possible causes of this debilitating illness. While no known cure for ME/CFS exists, addressing underlying health imbalances through diet and lifestyle changes and customized supplementation and other therapies can relieve symptoms, increase function, and allow the person to engage more fully in daily activities.

The functional medicine practitioner will look at possible underlying roots of an individual’s symptoms, such as:

  • chronic inflammation
  • immune system activation (is a food, infection, or environmental chemical or metal triggering the immune system?)
  • impaired functioning in the hormone system
  • neurological system dysfunction
  • gut inflammation, leaky gut, bacterial infection or other gut dysfunction
  • problems with detoxification and methylation
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • poor glutathione activity
  • and more

By paying close attention to and working with these possible roots of ME/CFS, the practitioner can help the patient achieve a greater level of relief from debilitating symptoms, and create a lifestyle that supports ongoing health and well-being.

The same approaches that can help alleviate symptoms of ME/CFS also work to help manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. This is because various disorders can spring from the same underlying health imbalances. Ask my office for more information on addressing the underlying causes of your ME/CFS or Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Transition successfully to a special diet for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

 tips for staying special diet

Are you considering going on a special diet, such as the autoimmune Paleo diet, the leaky gut diet, the SCD diet, or the GAPS diet to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism? The thought of a major diet change can bring feelings of uncertainty and questions such as, “Can I handle this? What do I eat for breakfast?” Food powerfully impacts our emotions, and dietary changes can really “rock the boat” in daily life. However, by thinking ahead and employing some simple strategies you can ensure a successful transition and hence better health.

In this article I suggest some surefire ways to help set yourself up for success on your new diet and to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Plan ahead and do your research

The most important step is to plan ahead. Why are you changing your diet? Do you understand the potential health benefits? Knowing this will help you move forward with commitment and confidence. Find reputable, current resources through your health care practitioner, at the library, or online. Even an hour of self-education will help you feel more empowered when you take on a new diet to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Menu planning

Menu planning is key to succeeding at a major diet change. Sit down with your resources, look at recipes, and write out a menu plan for at least a full week. Pick foods you know you will eat so you don’t find yourself falling into old habits. This way you will have backup when you get home late from work or fall behind helping your child with homework. Over time, your menu options will grow. Check out online menu planning services for special diets.

Make a grocery list

Make a comprehensive grocery list that fits the menu plan. Some items may need to be bought later for freshness; know what they are in advance.

Clean out the pantry

Before going to the store, empty your house of all prohibited foods. If there are foods you may test later for tolerance, put them in a location that’s not front-and-center. Grab those grocery bags, and go to the store!

Go shopping

Leave some extra time for this trip; you may be navigating new sections of the store, or finding unfamiliar foods. Ongoing, remember to stock up during sales and ask about discounts on case orders.

Batch Cooking

One of the best tools for a special diet is batch cooking. Batch cooking is preparing meals in bulk ahead of time, and refrigerating or freezing for later. Many who follow a special diet prep meals two days a week. On Sunday, you might take half a day to make a crock-pot of stew, prep a bunch of vegetables, and roast two chickens to put in the fridge or freezer. On Wednesday, you might bake fish for two meals, prepare a sweet potato dish for two meals, etc. It may seem like a lot of time to commit in one day, but soon you will come up with an efficient system where most of your food is prepped ahead of time and you save energy doing it.

Batch cooking reduces the stress of cooking every day, and when that moment comes when you might normally say, “Heck, I’m ordering a pizza!” you can reach for that tasty stew in the freezer. Success on your journey to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Sourcing local products

Some special diets require hard-to-find food items. You may have some luck at local food co-ops or farmers markets for these products, or even from the farmer directly. Buy bulk where you can.

What about the family?

One of the biggest challenges of being on a special diet to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is cooking for a family. Ideally, the whole family is on the same diet but anyone with kids knows this is wishful thinking. Depending on the age of your children, explaining why you are eating this way may help encourage acceptance. Some people cook one way for themselves, and one way for the family, but this is a lot of work. Others find they can cook most of the food to meet everyone’s needs, then throw in some extras for the kids (such as grains or potatoes).

Bring your lunch and keep snacks handy

Since you have prepped meals ahead of time, lunch can go in a container with you to work. Also, keep diet-friendly snacks handy in case you are delayed getting home or are hungry between meals. Preventing hunger is one of the best ways to be successful on your diet.

What about restaurants?

Eating at restaurants can be a challenge on a special diet, though more restaurants are becoming aware of special dietary needs. Ask questions, be firm, and don’t order if you are uncertain.

What to do when you fall off the wagon

Just about everyone “falls off the wagon” at some point during their journey to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Try not to kick yourself for it. Dust yourself off, climb back on, and remember the longer you’re on the diet, the more successfully you will stick to it. Also, when you start to enjoy the health benefits of your diet you’ll find compliance becomes easier. Many foods lose their appeal when they trigger uncomfortable or even unbearable symptoms every time you eat them.

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

How stress harms the body when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

how stress harms body

Did you know that approximately two-thirds of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related complaintsStress is the body’s reaction to any situation that is demanding or dangerous. When we experience stress, the body responds by making adrenal hormones (such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol) that help your body cope. Commonly called the “fight or flight” response, this is where your blood pressure increases, your hands sweat, and your heart rate and breathing quicken. You’ve probably felt it during that big job interview, before a first date, during an argument, or being stuck in traffic when you’re running late.

Our bodies normalize quickly after responding to short-term stressors. But problems arise with chronic stress, such as financial worries, major life changes, job stress, or an ongoing illness. Other chronic stressors are not lifestyle related but instead metabolic: gut infections, leaky gut, food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances (low blood sugar, insulin resistance, or diabetes), anemia, autoimmune disease, inflammation, and environmental toxins are examples.

It’s no wonder adrenal stress is one of most common problems encountered by functional medical practitioners. When you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism chronic stress can exacerbate your condition and worsen your symptoms. It’s important to make stress management part of your thyroid protocol.

How stress damages the body when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

In chronic stress, the adrenal glands continually produce the hormone cortisol. Known as the “aging hormone” (ever notice how you look older when you are stressed a lot?), chronic high cortisol is linked to a variety of chronic health conditions in addition to autoimmunity such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • depression
  • insomnia
  • suppressed immunity
  • insulin resistance
  • increased belly fat (muffin top anyone?)
  • reduced libido
  • bone loss
  • low energy
  • heart problems

How do you know if you have adrenal stress? You may experience ongoing fatigue, energy crashes, difficulty recovering from long days or stressful events, headaches, difficulty falling and staying asleep, difficulty waking up, mood swings, sugar and caffeine cravings (do you need to refresh from the afternoon blahs?), irritability, lightheadedness between meals, eating to relieve fatigue, dizziness upon standing, gastric ulcers, and hypothyroid symptoms.

Adrenal adaptogens help buffer the damages of stress when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Everyone is familiar with classic stress-relief methods such as meditation, exercise, enjoying hobbies, and socializing, but there is much more you can do to support the body’s stress response when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

One of the most reliable ways to buffer the damages of stress is to take adrenal adaptogens. These are a unique class of healing plants that support healthy adrenal function and help regulate the body’s stress response. Adrenal adaptogens include panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng (eleuthero), astragalus, rhodiola, ashwagandha, licorice root, holy basil (tulsi) and schizandra.

In addition to soothing inflammation and increasing energy and brain function, these herbs can also help the body and brain cope with stress. Although they come from the plant world, adrenal adaptogens are potent medicines that should be taken under the supervision of a trained practitioner.

Other smart tools to protect you from the damage of stress

There are other tools to add to your stress-reduction program. For example, phosphatidylserine can help normalize cortisol levels and protect the brain from the damages of stress.

Of course, one should always consider lifestyle habits when addressing stress. Below are lifestyle suggestions to help support healthy adrenal function and stress response as well as help manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism:

  • Avoid or greatly minimize stimulants.
  • Eat nutrient-dense foods.
  • Avoid high carbs and sugars.
  • Avoid dietary causes of inflammation such as food allergens, high fructose corn syrup, refined foods, and especially industrial seed oils such as canola oil.
  • Have adequate intake of essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA).
  • Have proper sleep habits.

Though we may live in a world of unrelenting stress, it is possible to successfully manage the body’s response through a combination of healthy lifestyle habits and herbal adrenal support, thus better managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

For more information on how to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and adrenal stress, contact our office.

Why some people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism need to avoid nightshades

scoop on nightshades

If you’re following the strict leaky gut or autoimmune diet to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you may have noticed nightshades are on the list of foods to avoid. Many common and much-loved vegetables belong to the nightshade family, including eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet and hot peppers (but not black pepper), and chili-based spices, including paprika. What many people don’t realize is nightshades contain compounds that can contribute to their pain, digestive issues, and inflammation. Some people are sensitive to nightshades so it’s important to determine whether they might play a role in exacerbating your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

The word nightshade typically conjures images of notorious toxic plants such as jimson weed, petunias, and deadly nightshade. The nightshade family, called Solanacea, has more than 2,000 species, most of which are inedible and many of which are highly poisonous. However, many edible plants also fall into the nightshade family.

Below are some of the other less well-known nightshades:

  • Bush tomato
  • Goji berries (a.k.a. wolfberry)
  • Naranjillas
  • Pepinos
  • Pimientos
  • Tamarillos
  • Tomatillos

Why nightshades are a problem when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism?

Several natural compounds in nightshades can make them problematic: saponins, lectins, and capsaicin. These compounds make nightshades a common food sensitivity, and they can lead to leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes overly porous. A leaky gut allows unwanted pathogens into the bloodstream, leading to health issues including inflammation, allergies, and autoimmunity such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Researchers also suggest that even moderate consumption of nightshades can contribute to a variety of health conditions, arthritis in particular.

Saponins in nightshades

Saponins are compounds that have detergent-like properties and are designed to protect plants from microbes and insects. When consumed by humans, saponins can create holes in the gut wall, increasing leaky gut and allowing pathogens and toxins into the bloodstream. Saponins also have properties that can encourage the immune system to make inflammatory messengers that cause inflammation in the body.

Peppers are high in saponins. Ripe tomatoes have low levels of saponins, while green tomatoes and hot-house tomatoes (those that are harvested before they are ripe), are exceedingly high in saponins.

Lectins in nightshades

Another compound found in nightshades that can be problematic for some people is lectin. Lectins are a concern because they resist digestion, are able to withstand the heat of cooking (which means they are intact when you eat them), and help create a leaky gut. They can penetrate the protective mucus of the small intestine where they promote cell division at the wrong time and even cause cell death. Lectins can also perforate the intestinal wall, and trick the immune system into thinking there’s an intruder, causing an allergic reaction or a flare up of autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism symptoms.

Tomato lectin is known to enter the blood stream relatively quickly in humans, while potato lectins have been found to irritate the immune system and produce symptoms of food hypersensitivity in both allergenic and non-allergenic patients.

Capsaicin in nightshades

Capsaicin is a stimulant found in chili peppers that helps give them their heat. While a variety of health benefits have been attributed to capsaicin, it is also a potent irritant to mucous membranes and may contribute to leaky gut as well.

Yams and sweet potatoes are not nightshades

Yams are in the same family as sweet potatoes; true yams are not very common in the United States. Fortunately, sweet potatoes and true yams are not part of the nightshade family despite their names, and do not exhibit the same tendencies as nightshades toward promoting leaky gut and inflammation in the body. This makes them safe to eat when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Anyone wishing to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and improve digestive health may want to consider drastically reducing or even eliminating their consumption of nightshades to determine whether they are a problem. Ask my office for more information about Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and the leaky gut, or autoimmune, diet.

Valentine’s gift ideas for a loved one with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

valentines day gifts chronic illness

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, have you thought about how to express your love for your partner with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism? Chronic illnesses such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism are at an all-time high in the United States, with 75 percent of our health care dollars going to treat such chronic illnesses as heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s. Because Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is invisible to others, living with the symptoms of pain, fatigue, depression, and inflammation can be very stressful.

Chocolates not a good idea for Hashimoto’s patient

The traditional gift of chocolate may not be the best idea; many chocolates are made in factories where they become cross-contaminated with gluten and other food allergens, and the sugar and caffeine in chocolate can exacerbate hypothyroid symptoms.

Be wary of Valentine’s Day dinner with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

In fact, it’s best to avoid gifts that involve food; many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism have sensitivities to a variety of foods. You don’t want that special dinner out to make your sweetheart sick. Also, Hashimoto’s can cause constant exhaustion and your loved one may be more worn out more than she or he lets on. Play it safe and give something that is nurturing and relaxing. The best gift you can give may be one that offers a chance to slow down, be pampered or have time to do absolutely nothing.

Healthy and nurturing Valentine’s Day gifts for the person with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Below is a list of gift ideas that will let your sweetheart feel special, while helping to reduce the stress of living with autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and support health.

Give your loved one a spa day. The pampering can do wonders for stress levels. Take it up a notch and enjoy a spa with her. Many couples do!

A therapeutic massage can help relieve stress and support health. If your loved one has recently committed to a new workout routine, massage will be a welcome relief from sore muscles!

Gift certificates to do a chore that fatigues him or her, such as washing dishes, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, or childcare. Make sure to follow through!

Gift baskets make a fabulous Valentine’s gift. Fill it with things that support relaxation and support health, such as all-natural bath products.

A coupon for gentle yoga classes to help reduce stress.

A membership at the gym—for both of you—to support workout and health goals together. This is only for those who will take such a gift with a smile; it’s not a hint that they need to lose weight!

Hand-written coupons for letting her sleep in while you get the kids out of bed and take them to an event until noon. And don’t feed them a bunch of sugar while you’re out; the results when you return home will trump all the relaxation she had!

Write a sweet note reminding him or her that you are committed, regardless of the health struggles she is going through.

Buy the best book you can find about his health condition and commit to reading so you can better understand how to support your loved one’s journey and discuss it with him. Again, make sure to follow through.

Tickets to a local comedy showlaughter is scientifically proven to be one of the best stress-relievers!

Buy passes for you both to have a leisurely afternoon at your favorite museum or event. If you have kids, hire a babysitter to watch the kids all day.

Make a list of 20, 30, even 50 things you love about him or her, roll it up and wrap it with a nice ribbon and place it next to the morning tea. What a way to start the day!

A love letter or poem. Nobody has to be Shakespeare to write about love and devotion.

Give a lovely plant to represent your growing relationship; unlike flowers that wilt in two days, a plant will be a lasting reminder of your love.

Handwritten coupons for walks together in a nearby park or a trail in the woods.

Whisk her away for a surprise, like a balloon ride or a romantic boat tour down the river.

Take your sweetie to the place you met, or where you fell in love. Make sure to plan ahead for factors like weather and healthy food along the way.

Create a handmade scrapbook of your good times together, and leave room at the end for more photos!

Hand make a gift. Are you a great woodworker? Do you knit? Make a scarf for him to wear like a hug, or a lovely little box for her to keep her special jewelry in.

How gluten can cause depression, anxiety, brain fog when yo have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

gluten depression anxiety brain fog

Do you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, brain fog, memory loss, or other brain-based issues? While conventional medicine turns to drug treatments, recent research points to poor gut health as the root of mental illness. This is because inflammation in the gut triggers inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain, bringing on depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss and other neurological symptoms. Although many factors affect gut health—and hence brain health—one of the more profound is a sensitivity to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other wheat-like grains. In fact, a gluten sensitivity has been found to affect brain and nerve tissue more than any other tissue in the body.

Gluten sensitivity once was thought to be limited to celiac disease, an autoimmune response to gluten that damages the digestive tract and is linked to depression. However, newer research has confirmed the validity of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, an immune response to gluten that causes many symptoms, including digestive problems, skin rashes, joint pain, and neurological and psychiatric diseases. Recent research shows gluten degenerates brain and nervous tissue in a significant portion of those with gluten sensitivity.

A gluten-free diet is important for those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism as a number of studies show a link between gluten sensitivity and Hashimoto’s, as well as other autoimmune reactions.

How Does Gluten Affect Mental Health?

Beyond exacerbating Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, gluten can affect mental health in a variety of ways.

For instance, gluten sensitivity can lead to depression, anxiety, brain fog and other brain symptoms by irritating the lining of the small intestine, resulting in “leaky gut,” a condition in which the intestinal wall becomes overly porous. This allows undigested food, toxins and bacteria into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation throughout the body and brain. Also, certain harmful bacteria that travel through a leaky gut into the bloodstream release toxic molecules (lipopolysaccharides) that are linked to depression and various psychiatric disorders.

Another way gluten can trigger depression is through gluten cross-reactivity. Because gluten is similar in structure to brain tissue, when the immune system attacks gluten in the blood, it can confuse brain tissue with gluten and accidentally attack brain and nerve tissue as well.

Gluten is also known to disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract. There is a relationship between gut bacteria and the brain, and an imbalance in gut bacteria has been linked with psychiatric disorders.

The gut damage caused by a gluten sensitivity can also prevent the absorption of nutrients essential for brain health, especially zinc, tryptophan, and B vitamins. These nutrients are critical for the synthesis of brain chemicals that prevent depression, anxiety and other brain-based disorders.

What Steps Can You Take When You Have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism?

If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, or other unresolved brain-based issues, testing for gluten sensitivity can be a valuable tool in knowing how best to manage it. Addressing leaky gut is also paramount.

Ask my office for more information on leaky gut and the connection between gluten and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, and other brain-based disorders.

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and weight loss: How gut bacteria make you thin or fat

thin and fat bacteria

As anyone with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism knows, weight loss can be a battle even when you do everything right. Although managing your autoimmune Hashimoto’s thyroid condition is the most important strategy, turns out your gut bacteria also play a role in weight.

While obesity has long been blamed on laziness and lack of will power, but exciting new research shows the composition of your gut bacteria, which may have been set since birth, can play a deciding role in whether you’re thin or fat. In mice studies, mice that received bacteria from an obese person became obese. What’s more exciting is mice studies show that transplanting bacteria from thin humans into obese mice causes the obese mice to lose weight. This is a promising discovery for those who cannot lose weight despite diet and exercise.

It is promising for those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism who need allies in their corner to avoid weight gain.

It appears these bacteria affect the mechanisms that promote leanness, one of the more notable being insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is typical in obese people. The most common culprit is a diet high in sweets, soda, and starches (breads, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes, etc.) This diet consistently raises blood sugar levels, which in turn requires the body to secrete high levels of insulin to lower blood sugar. Eventually these insulin surges exhaust the body’s cells and they refuse entry to insulin. Insulin resistance promotes chronic hunger, obesity, inflammation, and a host of other health disorders.

Managing insulin resistance and blood sugar in general is an important strategy for managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism as blood sugar disorders promote autoimmune flare ups.

It also appears the gut bacteria in obese people are more efficient at breaking down and absorbing food, particularly fat, so that obese people obtain more calories from their food and put on fat more easily. Likewise, eating more calories promotes the growth of these particular bacteria. Obese people also have fewer bacteria that promote an anti-inflammatory effect than do thin people.

Compared to lean people, obese people show fewer bacteria from the Bacteroidetes group and more from the Actinobacteria group. Studies show Bacteroidetes numbers rise in obese people who lose weight. Obese people also show less diversity in gut bacteria than thin people.

In studies the bacterial switcheroo is performed through fecal transplants, an approach that has also proven beneficial in treating Clostridium difficile infections. However, scientists are working to identify and isolate the specific bacteria that affect weight so that fecal transplants, the idea of which makes most people squeamish, are not necessary.

The weight-loss effect of transplanting thin bacteria was shown to work only when accompanied by a high-fiber, lower-fat diet  which affects bacterial composition in the gut. It has also been shown a healthy, whole foods diet based on plant fiber—vegetables primarily—can help promote the growth of “thin” bacteria in humans as well.

Eating a plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables not only provides more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but these studies show it also fosters the composition of gut bacteria to promote leanness and prevent obesity.

For more information on managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and adopting a diet that fosters a thin-promoting ratio of gut bacteria, contact my office. 

How to prevent chemical sensitivities, or TILT, when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

337 loss of chemical tolerance

Have you noticed signs banning the wearing of perfumes or heavy fragrance in some places? Or perhaps you yourself have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and experience unpleasant or even debilitating symptoms when exposed to perfumes, scented products, gasoline fumes, car exhaust, or other chemical odors. A growing number of people suffer migraines, rashes, fatigue, mood changes, autoimmune flare ups, or more when exposed to chemical-based scents or fumes. Even formerly pleasurable products, such as scented dryer sheets, can tip some people into a tailspin. 

Multiple chemical sensitivities is now called TILT

If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you need to be aware of chemical sensitivities as they can trigger a flare up of symptoms. 

Although these synthetic scents and fumes are unhealthy for both people and the environment, those who react negatively to them are experiencing TILT, or toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, a condition in which the body loses the ability to tolerate these environmental compounds. Once referred to as multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), TILT can affect anyone, including children.

For those with TILT and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, even minimal exposures can be a nightmare.

Almost any chemical or artificial compound can trigger reactions. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Artificial chemicals and preservatives in food
  • Manufactured scents such as gas fumes/exhaust, scented body products, industrial and residential cleaners, laundry products, new carpeting, the new car smell, pesticides and fertilizers
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Heavy metal exposure, including even the wearing of jewelry.

TILT chemical sensitivity reactions can be debilitating

The list of possible reactions is a varied as the triggers and includes a flare up of your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, asthma, migraines, depression, fibromyalgia, fatigue, Gulf War syndrome, brain fog, memory loss, incontinence, neurological dysfunction, rashes, and such emotional issues as depression, anxiety, and lethargy. 

When reactions are severe, those afflicted are often forced into a complete overhaul of their lifestyle, which in some cases can destroy relationships and careers as they must relocate to a less toxic location and often go on disability.

TILT chemical sensitivity reactions depends on your body’s antioxidant system

Why are some people affected by TILT and others not, and what can be done to prevent TILT?

According to more recent studies, TILT is not necessarily related to the amount of chemicals in your body as once thought, but rather how well your body can buffer itself from those chemicals and eliminate them.

Research shows a primary cause for the development of TILT is the depletion or poor absorption of a particular antioxidant: glutathione, also known as the “mother of all antioxidants.” Everyday levels of an environmental compound do not necessarily trigger symptoms if the body’s glutathione levels are at healthy levels.

Other factors associated with loss of chemical tolerance include:

  • Poor diet
  • Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid deficiency
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Constant and/or sudden influx of high amounts of stress

Keeping glutathione levels sufficient is easier than you think, and you can start at your next meal. Foods that improve levels are those rich in sulfur, such as broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, garlic, onions, and scallions.

These strategies also help manage autoimmune diseases Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. 

Safeguard glutathione levels to prevent TILT

Two other important safeguards are vigorous exercise (although not too vigorous as the stress of overtraining will deplete glutathione) and supplementation. Nutrients that support glutathione activity include N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha lipoic acid, selenium, milk thistle (silymarin), cordyceps, gotu kola, and S-acetyl-glutathione (a stabilized, more absorbable form of glutathione). You cannot gain much from taking straight glutathione as it is not absorbed well when taken orally. 

We live in a sea of synthetic chemicals these days—they’re in our air, water, food, dwellings, daily products, etc.—and an increasing number of studies links many of these compounds to a laundry list of diseases and disorders, including TILT. Keeping your immune system strong and fortified with an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet and glutathione support can keep that obnoxious cologne in the “unpleasant smell” category versus throwing you into full TILT.

Ask my office for strategies to prevent TILT and manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. 

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism: Drugs that can cause leaky gut

drugs that cause leaky gut

Repairing leaky gut is foundational to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism as leaky gut causes inflammation and can exacerbate autoimmune conditions.

Although diet plays a role in leaky gut, so do other factors, such as high blood sugar, chronic stress, and hormonal imbalances. However, it’s important not to overlook the impact of seemingly innocuous over-the-counter (OTC) medications, as well as some prescription ones.

Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is a condition in which the walls of the small intestine become inflamed, damaged, and porous, allowing undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream. Once these pathogens escape the confines of the intestines and hit the bloodstream, they trigger inflammation in the body and brain. Leaky gut is associated with chronic disease, autoimmunity such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, depression, and more. Common symptoms include joint pain, skin conditions, gut problems, fatigue, and depression and other brain-based disorders.

In addition to following a leaky gut diet, you can repair your gut and lower inflammation by eating a diet that stabilizes your blood sugar, taking measures to reduce physical and mental stress, and being aware of which medications could be making your leaky gut worse. This goes a long way to managing inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

When you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, medications that can cause leaky gut

Corticosteroids: Steroid drugs such as prednisone suppress the immune system and dampen inflammation. While they may be life saving or necessary, they also can contribute to leaky gut. This is because they raise cortisol, which in high doses breaks down the gut lining. This is why chronic stress, which also raises cortisol, contributes to leaky gut as well.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin have been shown to increase intestinal permeability within 24 hours of use and long-term use can contribute to a leaky gut condition.

Antibiotics: Antibiotics wipe out the beneficial gut flora, which can lead to leaky gut. It’s important to always follow up antibiotic use with probiotics to reinoculate the gut.

Chemotherapy drugs: Chemotherapy drugs can lead to leaky gut by degrading the intestinal barrier.

All of these drugs have their purpose and you should not put yourself or a child in danger by avoiding a lifesaving drug in order to prevent leaky gut. However, if they’re necessary, you may want to consider following their use with a leaky gut protocol to restore the intestinal lining and prevent a worsening of your health.

Ask my office for more information on how to repair leaky gut and manage autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.