Monthly Archives: July 2014

Hashimoto’s concern: Too little stomach acid often causes heartburn, not too much

411 heartburn and hypochlorhydria copy

Are you one of the 20 percent of Americans with acid reflux and heartburn? You’re probably chalking the problem up to too much stomach acid, but in many cases it’s the opposite causing the problems – too little stomach acid is the culprit behind those fiery episodes that feel like they’re burning a hole in your chest. If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, it may play a role in too little stomach acid.

How can that be possible?

The environment of the stomach is highly acidic so that it can quickly break down meats and other foods, protect you from poisoning and infection from bacteria, fungi, and other toxins, and help you better absorb minerals. Good stomach acidity also helps ensure smooth function of the rest of the digestive tract and can help relieve not only heartburn but also indigestion, belching, gas, constipation, bloating, yeast overgrowth, food allergies, and other symptoms related to compromised digestion.

Good gut health is paramount to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, and sufficient stomach acid is part of the picture.

Why is stomach acid low?

Various factors can cause insufficient stomach acid. Stress, bacterial infection, poor diet, and nutritional deficiencies can hinder the stomach’s production of hydrochloric acid (HCl), or stomach acid. The most common cause of low stomach acid is infection from H. pylori, a bacteria also linked with stomach ulcers.

Pernicious anemia, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a deficiency of zinc, B12, magnesium, or chloride can also contribute to the problem. Long-time vegetarians or vegans may be deficient in zinc and B12, as these are found in meats, and may need the support of HCl supplementation when adding meat back into their diet.

How low stomach acid causes heartburn

The stomach contents must be very acidic to trigger the release of food from the stomach into the small intestine. When stomach acid is too low it fails to trigger this release because the contents are not the right acidity to safely enter the small intestine.

As a result, the trapped food shoots back up into the esophagus. Although stomach acid is too low, it is still too acidic for the delicate tissue of the esophagus. This causes that fiery burning and pain of heartburn and acid reflux.

Why antacids and acid blockers can make the problem worse if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Antacids or acid blockers bring temporary relief but may cause long-term problems with your overall digestive function. Proper acidity of the stomach triggers the pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes and the gallbladder to secrete bile. Enzymes and bile help ensure proper nutrient absorption, fat emulsification, protection against infections and parasites, and proper functioning of the large intestine.

Chronically low stomach acid hinders the function of these organs, often leading to larger problems throughout the digestive tract. This scenario contributes to leaky gut, which is a major factor in autoimmunity and something you want to repair and avoid at all costs.

Correcting low stomach acid when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

If stomach acid is too low the most important thing to do is address the root cause, whether it is nutritional deficiency, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, or an H. pylori infection. You can also boost stomach acid by taking an HCl supplement. Just be aware that if you have gastric lesions or an autoimmune reaction to the tissue in your stomach, an HCl supplement could make you feel worse.

Ask my office for advice on whether you need supplemental HCl and how to use it safely and for the best results if you have heartburn or acid reflux. We can also help you get to the root cause of your digestive issues and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Nutritional support for sobriety when you have Hashimoto’s

nutritional support for sobriety

Headed for the donut tray at the AA meeting? It’s not uncommon for people recovering from alcoholism or other addictions to report a ravenous sweet tooth. Alcohol is essentially fermented sugar and is frequently mixed with something sweet, so the alcoholic goes into recovery with a raging sugar addiction already established. Also, addiction in general spikes blood sugar; going cold turkey can cause drops in blood sugar and symptoms of hypoglycemia. This in turn causes sugar cravings that, in the brain of an alcoholic, feels like a craving for alcohol.

The same tools that can help support your sobriety will also help manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism condition. 

Stable blood sugar vital for sobriety and thyroid health

Fortunately, you can manipulate your brain chemistry to outsmart these cravings and help ease the transition. The key is to keep your blood sugar stable. Stable blood sugar is also important to better manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism condition — unstable blood sugar can cause flares of your condition. 

When blood sugar drops too low symptoms may include:

  • loss of appetite or nausea
  • irritability
  • feeling spacy and lightheaded
  • shaky, jittery, tremulous
  • agitated and nervous
  • depressed
  • easily upset
  • poor memory, forgetfulness
  • poor decision making
  • blurred vision
  • feeling like you’re going to black out when you stand up
  • sugar cravings

These symptoms happen because the brain is deprived of energy. It’s important to eat before these symptoms occur because low blood sugar triggers a cascade of consequences that can feed your addiction…and flare ups of your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

To keep your blood sugar stable do the following:

Eat small amounts of food frequently. Make sure these small meals are based around protein, fat, and plant fiber – not high-carb foods that will cause blood sugar to spike and plummet. Some people may need to nibble on something every hour, others can go every two to three hours. Protein for breakfast is paramount, and you may need to eat a little before bed to avoid waking at 3 or 4 a.m. Monitor your moods and energy and see what works best for you.

Avoid sugars, sodas, and high-carb foods. Sugars, desserts, sodas, coffee drinks, fruit juice, white rice, pasta, bread, pastries, etc. will crater your blood sugar, feed the addiction, and make your journey harder than it needs to be. It’s true that high-carb foods provide comfort, but only while sticking a knife in your back. Also, as far as the brain is concerned, they are just another drug. 

Avoid food intolerances. Many people today are sensitive to gluten, dairy, eggs, certain grains, soy, or other foods. Eating foods to which you are sensitive creates surges of inflammation and blood sugar that feed cravings. A comprehensive food sensitivity panel or the elimination diet can help you figure out which foods may be sabotaging your chances at success. Also, many studies show a connection between Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and gluten intolerance, making a gluten-free diet vital if you have Hashimoto’s.

Repair leaky gut. Alcohol damages the lining of the small intestine creating leaky gut — large particles of undigested foods, bacteria, and other pathogens escape through the damaged gut wall into the bloodstream. However, essential nutrients, which are smaller, cannot pass through mucous built up around inflamed gut tissue. Kicking alcohol and stabilizing blood sugar will go a long way to repairing leaky gut, but you can speed the journey with certain nutritional compounds. Repairing leaky gut will lower inflammation, enhance nutrient absorption, boost your overall energy and well being, and help you manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Don’t become a coffee junkie. Coffee spikes blood sugar and will keep you on the roller coaster of emotional and energetic highs and lows. Restrict your consumption.

Support brain chemistry while getting sober and managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Addictions of any kind skew the balance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. While the right diet will help balance brain chemistry, you may need specific support to foster sobriety. You can do this by taking supplements called amino acids. Certain herbs, vitamins, and minerals also help. B vitamins are especially important. 

Better brain chemistry will also help you manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, as a thyroid condition can additionally skew neurotransmitter balances.

When working with neurotransmitter support, it’s important to get qualified guidance so you don’t accidentally make yourself feel worse.

Neurotransmitters to be aware of when dealing with addiction include:

Dopamine. Dopamine is the “pleasure” neurotransmitter associated with addiction. Supporting dopamine may help curb the cravings. Nutrients that boost dopamine include mucuna pruriens, D, L-phenylalanine, N-acetyl L-tyrosine, and blueberry extract.

Serotonin. Serotonin helps prevent depressive moods and is supported by St. John’s Wort, SAMe, 5-HTP, and L-tryptophan.

GABA. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter that soothes anxiety and nervousness. Ingredients that promote GABA include L-taurine, valerian root, passion flower extract, L-theanine, and glycine.

A well-rounded approach to sobriety and Hashimoto’s management

These are just a few ideas to support addiction recovery. Of course, family history, childhood experiences, subconscious belief systems, and other factors are important, too. However, by understanding how addiction works on the body and the brain, you can boost your chances of success with the right support. The sooner you feel great the sooner you can make peace with lifelong sobriety. Ask my office for advice on support for sobriety and to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Defend yourself from Hashimoto’s with an antioxidant diet and glutathione

409 antioxidants and glutathione

You’ve probably seen antioxidant labels on foods and, but what does it mean exactly and how can it help you manage Hashimoto’s? Antioxidant means it prevents oxidation, a process that happens to all cells in nature, including those in the human body. Oxidation happens when oxygen interacts with cells and it’s what makes an apple turn brown, metal rust, or food go rotten. In the body oxidation is a normal part of cell turnover. However, a small minority of oxidized cells become problematic “free radicals” that set off a chain reaction of damage, causing cells to mutate and behave abnormally. Free radicals reach us through pesticides, air pollution, cigarette smoke, excess alcohol, sunburn, junk foods, etc.

The defense? Antioxidants. And our most powerful antioxidant is one the body makes called glutathione. To stay a step ahead of modern civilization we need to avoid free radicals as much as possible, eat an antioxidant-rich diet, and make sure our body is sufficient in glutathione.

The best source of antioxidants in the diet are colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. Since different plants contain different types of antioxidants, it’s important to eat a wide variety. A plant-based whole-foods diet that sustains blood sugar with sufficient protein is vital to managing Hashimoto’s.

Glutathione: The master antioxidant in managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Glutathione is such a powerful antioxidant it is called the master antioxidant. Glutathione protects cells from free radicals, is important for detoxification, and supports immune health. Many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism find plenty of glutathione is necessary to prevent or dampen autoimmune flares.

  • Low glutathione raises your risk for:
  • Autoimmune disease and autoimmune flares
  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Heavy metal sensitivities
  • Inflammatory disorders
  • Intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
  • Other immune issues

Stress lowers glutathione levels

When we are healthy, when life is mellow, and when we eat a whole foods organic diet and avoid the use of toxic products, our bodies make sufficient glutathione. However, chronic stress depletes glutathione levels. This stress can come from toxins, poor diet, lack of sleep, smoking, excess sugar, and other stressors. Glutathione levels also decrease naturally as a result of aging.

Straight glutathione is not effective taken orally. Good deliveries of glutathione include a liposomal cream, nebulizer, suppository, or IV drip. However, S-acetyl glutathione is a newer form of glutathione that can be quite effective in helping to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism when taken orally.

Glutathione recycling raises glutathione inside the cells

You can also raise glutathione levels inside the cells by taking certain precursor nutrients. This will help protect the cells’ mitochondria, which produce energy. Recycling glutathione means taking glutathione that has already been used and rebuilding it so it’s ready for action again. Good glutathione recycling will help you better manage an autoimmune disease and leaky gut.

The compounds that have been shown to support glutathione recycling include:

  • N-acetyl-cysteine
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • L-glutamine
  • Selenium
  • Cordyceps
  • Gotu kola
  • Milk thistle

Boosting your antioxidant status and glutathione levels can play a profound role in managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, inflammation, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, etc.

To learn more about how to increase your antioxidant and glutathione support, contact my office for advice.

Natural pain relief for grief and heartbreak when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

pain relief for grief and heartbreak

When someone breaks your heart, a loved one dies, or tragedy of another nature hits you, people often report the grief feels like a physical pain. That’s because your brain reacts to heartbreak or grief the way it would to an injury. Knowing this can help us put some natural pain-relieving strategies to work when grief is threatening to pull us under. I can’t promise a way out — it seems the most enduring medicine for emotional pain is still the passage of time and the support of others, but some functional medicine approaches might make each day a smidgeon more bearable.

Keeping your health in mind while you support yourself through grief will also help keep Hashimoto’s flares at bay.

Broken heart syndrome can damage the heart

Some cases of heartbreak and grief are so extreme they actually damage the heart. This is called broken heart syndrome (the more technical term is stress cardiomyopathy) and can also be caused by extreme fear, anxiety, or surprise.

Broken heart syndrome causes the adrenal glands to send a surge of stress hormones to the heart, which essentially paralyzes it and shuts it down. This is different than a heart attack, which is caused by a blockage. Most people recover with no damage, however, in severe cases it can cause heart failure. Broken heart syndrome most often occurs in women over 55 and researchers suspect low estrogen, on which the heart depends for good function, is a factor. Sufficient estrogen is also necessary to better manage autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Natural pain relief strategies for emotional pain and heartbreak when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Because physical and emotional pain are processed by the same area of the brain, pain relief remedies might offer relief. In one study, subjects who experienced social rejection and who received acetaminophen every day for three weeks reported fewer hurt feelings than the group who received the placebo. Brain scans also showed less activation in the parts of the brain that processed pain. Of course, taking pain relievers long term, whether over-the-counter or pharmaceutical, is not a safe or healthy option. It also won’t address important emotional issues that need to be acknowledged and expressed.

However, there are a few natural options you can explore to soften the blow of emotional pain on the physical body. These strategies are not only safe if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism but will also help you manage your autoimmune condition during difficult periods. 

Reduce inflammation: Grief, heartbreak, loss, etc. all raise stress hormones and can trigger inflammation. Try and avoid the tendency to fall back on comfort foods that are also inflammatory –- sugars, processed foods, sodas, desserts, and junk food. Not only are they inflammatory but they also will cause your blood sugar to plummet, which will only intensify your grief or heartache. Even if you don’t feel like eating, keep blood sugar stable and inflammation low with plenty of vegetables and enough high quality protein and fat to prevent those plunges into despair. Sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet is especially important to keep your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism from flaring.

Natural pain and stress relief: Natural compounds that can act on pain and inflammation are therapeutic doses of emulsified resveratrol and curcumin, plenty of vitamin D, and a good quality fish oil and other essential fatty acids. White willow bark is an herb that has long been used for pain relief. Herbal adrenal adaptogens can also help buffer your body from the effects of stress.

Be extra gentle on your body: Remember, as far as your body is concerned, you are wounded. This means you need to heal and recover. Now is not a good time to work extra hours, drink too much, over exercise, or engage in other forms of avoidance activities that will only prolong your suffering while abusing your body. As the ancient poet Rumi said, “The only cure for pain is the pain.” In other words, you must work your way through your grief while taking care of yourself in order to emerge intact. This is especially important if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

In functional medicine we don’t just work with physical problems. If grief or heartache has you suffering, contact my office for guidance on how we can support your body and mind through your grieving process. We also offer support in properly managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Why getting high on life will help manage your Hashimoto’s

407 endorphins and immunity

We all like things that make us high on life — that feel-good rush after exercising, a good belly laugh, playful activities with friends, meditation, a good massage, or a loved one’s touch. These are examples of things that release endorphins, the body’s chemicals that give us a natural high. But endorphins do more that make us feel good; endorphins are necessary for proper immune function. In fact, some studies suggest people with chronic illness suffer from low endorphins. If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, chronic pain, or chronic illness, boosting your endorphins could help you better manage your health.

We are an endorphin-deprived society, what with our emphasis on being busy. Not only does this result in less happiness, but it also predisposes the immune system to malfunction so that one is more apt to develop chronic pain or illness, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Most immune cells have receptors for endorphins and need endorphins to function properly. Studies suggest low endorphins play a role in autoimmunity, when the immune system erroneously attacks and destroys tissue in the body, such as the thyroid gland (Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism), the pancreas (Type 1 diabetes), or the nervous system (multiple sclerosis).

Although many factors are linked with autoimmunity, including environmental toxins and poor diet, endorphins are not to be overlooked. Some research shows people with chronic illness have low endorphins. Low endorphin production is caused by alcohol fetal exposure, alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety, depression, and chronic psychological stress, factors that can tip the immune system out of balance.

One way to help manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, chronic illness, or chronic pain is to work to boost the production of endorphins. Here are some endorphin-boosting tips:

  • Strenuous exercise (the intensity varies from person to person; be careful not to over exercise as that will cause inflammation)
  • Acupuncture or massage therapy
  • Sex
  • Meditation
  • Laughter
  • Healthy socialization
  • Play
  • Low-dose naltrexone therapy (this is a therapy using low doses of the opiate-blocking drug naltrexone to stimulate the body’s own production of endorphins)

Managing autoimmunity and chronic illness is a multi-faceted approach

Endorphins are but one factor to consider when managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or another chronic condition. Other things to consider include gluten sensitivity, food intolerances, chemical intolerances, quality of diet, leaky gut, inflammation, nutritional status, brain health, and more.

For more information about managing your autoimmune or chronic condition, contact my office.

8 Healthy Habits to Manage Adrenal Fatigue When You Have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism

good adrenal habits

Do you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and always feel tired in the afternoon, wake up groggy, or feel flattened by exercise? You might suffer from a common condition called adrenal fatigue, in which the body can’t respond properly to life’s stresses. Some other signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Insomnia, especially between 2 and 4 a.m.
  • The afternoon ‘blahs’
  • Cravings for salt, sugar or stimulants, especially in the afternoon
  • Lightheadedness upon standing
  • Chronic low blood pressure
  • Irritability and jitters when hungry

Thankfully, certain lifestyle habits are highly effective in helping restore your energy and healthy adrenal function.

8 lifestyle habits to manage adrenal fatigue when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Below are eight lifestyle habits that can go a long way in supporting adrenal health when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

1. Sleep. Regular, plentiful sleep is one of the best supporters of adrenal health. Even if you experience midnight insomnia or trouble falling asleep, it’s possible to create better sleep by sticking to these good habits:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night, no later than 10 p.m.
  • Try to get 9–11 hours of sleep every night; do it on weekends if it’s not possible on weekdays.
  • Avoid computer, TV, and phone screens for the hour before bed; this allows the brain waves to shift gears in preparation for sleep. (If that’s impossible wear orange glasses that block the blue lights these screens emits. Blue light suppresses sleep hormones and can cause insomnia and a disrupted sleep cycle.)
  • Eat a small snack just before bed that is strong in protein and healthy fat and low in carbs.
  • Avoid sugar, stimulants, and high-carb foods before bed.

2. Relaxation Exercises. Think relaxation exercises are ineffective? Think again! Create at least ten minutes of quiet, stress-relieving activity for yourself every day, such as lying with your feet up, meditating, or breathing slowly. In addition, when you feel tired, respect the message your body is trying to send, and lay down for a few minutes.

3. Avoid junk food and excess sugar. Whether donuts or fruit, junk foods and excess sugar put the adrenal glands in overdrive, effectively sending them into energetic bankruptcy.

4. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. Yes, that means coffee. Stimulants are one of your adrenals’ worst enemies! Like sugars, they drive the adrenals to work too hard, driving you into deeper exhaustion.

5. Gentle exercise only. With adrenal fatigue, prolonged, rigorous exercise will only drive you deeper into exhaustion. Try gentle exercise such as walking, yoga, or swimming. No matter what, avoid prolonged aerobic exercise. Caution: If you are exhausted after your workout, you overdid it.

6. Eat a breakfast strong in protein and fat, with no sugar or stimulants. Adrenal function, blood sugar, and energy levels are closely related. Eating a breakfast strong in protein and fat while avoiding sugars and stimulants allows the adrenals to get a strong start and remain steadier throughout the day. This can help you avoid the afternoon blahs and sleep better, too!

7. Take the stress out. Take a close look at what causes you stress, whether complaining friends, nagging bosses, or a crazy schedule. What stressors can you eliminate or minimize? Reducing stress is a huge factor in adrenal healing.

8. Avoid sugars and stimulants when you’re tired. When you hit the afternoon blahs, the first thing you might think of is a frothy cappuccino. However, that only serves to further bankrupt your adrenals. Instead, nourish your body with protein, healthy fats, and minimal carbs to support healthy blood sugar and brain function, which is what you really need to kick the blahs. Be prepared by having a healthy snack ready to go for the afternoon.

The bigger picture when you have adrenal fatigue and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Adrenal fatigue typically happens secondary to another issue, such as anemia, poor diet, hormone imbalance, autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, inflammation, or micronutrient deficiencies. It’s important to determine the cause of your adrenal fatigue and include these lifestyle habits as part of your adrenal treatment plan –- with them, you will move much faster toward optimum health and energy.

Pain meds linked to hearing loss; get to the root cause instead

hearing loss and pain meds

Do you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and also struggle with chronic pain? When the body hurts, people reach for over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers to ease their suffering; they are the most frequently used medications in the United States. Although they offer easy-access pain relief, they have been linked to hearing loss and you may want to be careful about using them on a regular basis.

A Harvard-affiliated study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that frequent use of the painkillers ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) may contribute to hearing loss. The study tracked more than 60,000 women during 14 years and found a 13 percent increased risk of hearing loss in those who took pain relievers two to three days per week, while the risk increased to up to 24 percent in those using it six to seven days per week. The findings are similar to another study that found aspirin to be a risk factor for hearing loss in men.

Why do these medications affect hearing loss? Researchers say ibuprofen can reduce blood flow to the cochlea, the auditory portion of the inner ear, which could result in cellular damage and cell death. Also, acetaminophen may deplete the antioxidant glutathione, which protects the cochlea from damage.

Does this mean you should avoid OTC painkillers such as Advil and Tylenol? Although they can offer effective pain relief for many people, the study’s author says their use should be limited as much as possible and that people should instead explore alternatives.

Rooting out the Source of Chronic Pain When You Have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism

If your chronic pain compels you to take painkillers on a regular basis, consider bypassing the conventional band aid approach of simply treating symptoms and look for the root cause of the problem. The same goes true for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Because at its root it’s an immune issue, you want to address that. Many strategies that work for chronic pain can also help you manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Conventional pain management relies on pharmacological applications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), narcotics, and antidepressant pain modifiers, yet these approaches can build dependencies –- and potential hearing loss. While they relieve symptoms, they are a temporary fix for a chronic problem.

Alternatively, functional medicine addresses the root cause of pain, taking into account genetic, medical, environmental, and lifestyle factors that contribute to chronic pain and the inflammation associated with it. This offers a sustainable solution by getting to the root of the problem with chronic pain and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

A Personal Plan That’s an Alternative to Chronic Pain and Will Help Manage Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism

Depending on your unique needs, your pain management and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism plan may involve the following changes, all of which can have a profound effect on chronic pain and inflammation:

  • Herbal and nutritional compounds
  • Therapeutic body work
  • Meditation
  • Breathing techniques
  • Dietary changes (especially going gluten-free as gluten is linked with pain, inflammation, and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism)
  • Exercise adjustments
  • Strategies to improve sleep quality
  • Stress management

The Takeaway: Take the Pain Away and Manage Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism!

While OTC pain meds offer instant relief, they ignore the root of the problem, pose unnecessary risks, and only offer temporary relief. However, a pain management program that addresses the underlying cause of pain can offer a long-lasting, healthy, and sustainable way to free yourself from pain. The same plan can also help you better manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Nobody likes to live with chronic pain, whether it’s a mild headache or debilitating back aches. I am trained to look at the underlying causes of your chronic pain and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Don’t wait another day to get to the root of the problem!

Hashimoto’s moms: Gut bacteria linked to autism

gut bacteria autism

The digestive tract is home to more than 100 trillion microorganisms. That’s ten times the number of cells in the human body! Although humans can survive without these tiny guests, they perform a host of useful functions, such as fermenting unused food, preventing growth of harmful bacteria, producing vitamins, and training the immune system. But did you know the bacteria in your gut can affect your brain, too? In fact, recent research on the gut has found some interesting links between the gut microbiome — the complex and unique microbiological community within the gut –- and autistic behavior in children.

This is of interest to women with Hashimoto’s as one-third of autism cases are the result of an inflammatory disease that began in the womb, thanks to the mother’s imbalanced immune system. Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism have been shown to play a role, as it is the mother’s immune imbalance that determines risk.

One study of 700,000 births found that a mother’s rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or Type 1 diabetes more than doubles the risk of autism in her child. Other research has connected additional autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, with an increased risk of giving birth to a child who develops autism.

As parents well know, children with autism have a high rate of problems with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. The resulting discomfort can worsen behaviors and interfere with their ability to participate in, and benefit from, activities of daily life, education, and therapeutic activities.

On a related note, it has been known for some time that children with autism tend to have abnormal and less diverse communities of gut bacteria than children without autism. Recent research on children with autism has revealed these interesting facts:

  • Their intestinal cells show abnormalities in how they break down and transport carbohydrates, which can affect the amount and type of nutrients these cells provide to intestinal bacteria. This in turn may alter the makeup of the intestine’s normal community of digestive bacteria — with ill result.
  • Their intestines are home to abnormal amounts of certain digestive bacteria that contribute to digestive problems, intestinal inflammation, and more severe autism symptoms.
  • There are lower levels of three important gut bacteria; Prevotella, Coprococcus, and Veillonellaceae.

Theory has it that the community of bacteria in the gut affects the immune system, which then sends messages to the brain. This may explain why parents of children with autism report that special diets and probiotics (nutritional supplements containing “good” bacteria) improve their children’s digestion as well as their behavior.

The Gut-to-Brain Connection

The most recent research on the connection between the gut and autism explores how the gut microbiome affects the autistic brain. Researchers at Arizona State University found that concentrations of metabolites (byproducts) from seven specific bacteria are more prevalent in autistic children’s fecal samples. According to study author Dae-Wook Kang, “Most of the seven metabolites could play a role in the brain … We suspect that gut microbes may … affect gut-to-brain communication and/or alter brain function.”

Of the seven metabolites that were noticed, three warrant special note for their apparent relation to brain function, thereby behavior:

  • Homovanillate was present at lower levels in children with autism; it is normally produced when dopamine (an important brain neurotransmitter involved in many aspects of mood and behavior) is broken down.
  • N,N-dimethylglycine was found at lower levels; it has been used before to decrease autism symptoms.
  • The ratio of glutamine to glutamate was higher: these are metabolized into GABA, a vital inhibitory neurotransmitter associated with relaxation. An imbalance between glutamate and GABA transmission has been associated with autistic-spectrum type behaviors such as hyper-excitation.

These connections offer insight into possible link between the gut biome and the behaviors seen in autistic children. Researchers say they would like to conduct a clinical study using fecal transplants from healthy donors to see if normalizing an individual’s community of gut bacteria would reduce autism symptoms.

Although the study was small, it adds to the growing body of research that tells us the gut is closely tied to the brain.

Should you avoid gluten if you have Hashimoto’s but not celiac disease?

403 gluten sensitivity debunked response

Recent health headlines proclaimed gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist, fueling a backlash against the gluten-free diet as a baseless fad. These stories point to a recent study questioning the relationship between non-celiac gluten sensitivity and digestive symptoms. Sadly, they mislead the public by glossing over major points of research and cherry-picking information to debunk gluten sensitivity. You may find this confusing if you avoid gluten to manage your Hashimoto’s. Keep up with the diet. Studies also show a clear link between Hashimoto’s and gluten.

The study looked at how people with gluten sensitivity reacted to varying levels of gluten. Significant to the study was the elimination of FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, and Monosaccharides, and Polyols), carbohydrates in many common foods known to exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Foods high in FODMAPS include garlic, onion, beans, many fruits, yogurt, and more. Researchers removed FODMAPS to rule them out as a source of digestive symptoms, clearing the slate to determine whether gluten was to blame.

Study’s view is too narrow

The study concluded gluten had no effect on patients with gluten sensitivity who were placed on a low FODMAP diet, causing journalists to declare gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist. However, the paper doesn’t actually suggest that. Instead, the authors give nod to other factors that may have affected their results, such as the possibility that FODMAPS and gluten might work together to cause gastrointestinal symptoms. They acknowledged the results were markedly different from a previous study, and point out the need for further exploration on the topic.

The problem is this study only looked at digestive symptoms and not its effect on autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Gluten sensitivity does not cause digestive symptoms in most people — affects immune function and other parts of the body

More importantly, the study did not look at symptoms outside of the digestive tract. Other research shows gluten causes digestive symptoms in only about one third of those with gluten sensitivity. In fact, gluten sensitivity destroys the brain and nervous tissue more than any other tissues in the body, and symptoms can be ambiguous for years and difficult to connect with gluten. Symptoms of a gluten sensitivity can also manifest in the skin, joints, bones and teeth; gluten has been associated with more than 55 diseases so far, most of them autoimmune (including Hashimoto’s).

While this recent study looks at digestive symptoms in response to gluten, it does not consider other symptoms commonly associated with gluten sensitivity, such as depression (research here), muscle pains, inflammation, neurological issues  and changes in mental function.

The study also does not consider other important facets of gluten sensitivity, such as gluten cross-reactivity seen with autoimmunity (when the immune system mistakenly attacks body tissue, such as the thyroid gland or the brain, because it so closely resembles the gluten protein), leaky gut, other foods that cross-react with gluten and cause gluten sensitivity symptoms (such as dairy), and more. These other factors need to be incorporated into a more comprehensive understanding of gluten.

So does gluten sensitivity exist?

Although there is no verified biomarker for non-celiac gluten sensitivity, researchers at the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment say they are close to determining one. Also, this recent study is but one of many in the field of gluten research and other research shows very clear evidence of gluten sensitivity. Studies also link gluten with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Should you abandon your gluten-free diet?

While this new study asks valuable questions, does it mean non-celiacs who experience symptoms from gluten should continue eating it? Of course not! While this study raises new questions in relation to FODMAPS, millions of people with gluten sensitivity worldwide experience relief from their symptoms and progression of chronic disease, including Hashimoto’s, on a gluten-free diet. Functional medicine practitioners have especially seen the beneficial effect of a gluten-free diet on myriad conditions.

The body always knows best. When we learn to listen to the body, the wisdom it shares leads us to make solid choices for greater health and wellness.

Coffee enemas for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

402 coffee enemas

When most people hear the term “coffee enema” they think, “Oh, gross!” But before you click the back button, consider the following; coffee enemas have been known to:

  • greatly relieve chronic pain
  • help boost energy levels
  • relieve depression
  • improve mental clarity and sluggishness
  • ease die-off symptoms during cleanse regimens
  • aid elimination of parasites and sludgy buildup from years of slow intestinal action 
  • help improve digestion

The health benefits of coffee enemas can make them a useful adjunct to your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism management protocol.

Enemas have been a regular part of medical treatment around the world since at least 1500 BC. Coffee enemas are believed to have been created in the 1920s; in fact, they were listed as a standard of care in the Merck Manual until 1977, when they were removed due to lack of room. Coffee enemas are an integral part of the renowned Gerson cancer therapy, and the National Institutes of Health recently allocated $1.4 million for research on the use of coffee enemas and dietary therapy for treating pancreatic cancer.

Why Do Coffee Enemas When You Have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism?

As anyone who has taken on managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism knows, the modern environment is hard on our bodies. We cope with environmental toxins in our air, water, food, and the many products we use each day. It’s simply impossible to avoid all toxins. The liver is one of the main organs in charge of detoxification, metabolizing many toxins and escorting them via bile to the gallbladder, where they are then sent to the colon for removal. The catch: bile is reused up to ten times. In the past when our environment was cleaner, this recycling system worked fine. Today, however, the toxic burden is so great that it may overwhelm this system, increasing the body’s toxic load and hence the risk for disease.

The Most Powerful Benefit of the Coffee Enema: Detoxification!

In addition to the long list of benefits above, coffee enemas are known to be a powerful tool for detoxification:

  • Liver Detoxification: The caffeine in coffee dilates the liver’s bile ducts, facilitating elimination of toxins trapped in the liver.
  • Blood Purification: The lower colon is designed to re-absorb liquids from waste. Here, two palmitic acids in coffee — kahweol and cafestol palmitate — are absorbed into the portal vein system, which leads directly to your liver. These palmitic acids boost one of the body’s most powerful detoxifier, the glutathione s-transferase (GST) enzyme system, by up to 700 percent! GST captures and metabolizes toxins and binds them with reduced glutathione (the body’s master antioxidant) in the liver and escorts them out of the body via the colon. All of your blood passes through the liver every three minutes. Because a coffee enema is typically held for 15 minutes, it facilitates the elimination of toxins, purifies the blood, and prevents the reabsorption and recycling of toxic bile. Who wouldn’t want that?
  • Improves Tone and Motility of the Colon: It is believed the theophylline compound in coffee causes blood vessels in the colon to dilate, enhancing blood flow and improving muscle tone and motility. In addition, the enemas help neutralize common toxins in liver and intestinal tissue, supporting repair and regeneration and improving function.
These benefits can facilitate the management of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

I Don’t Drink Coffee … Will I Get A Coffee Buzz?

Only the palmitic acid and other valuable compounds are carried to the liver from a coffee enema. The coffee itself remains in the lower colon until it is eliminated. A coffee enema engages different metabolic pathways than drinking it. Most people who don’t tolerate coffee have no problem with coffee enemas, and, in fact, many say they produce a calm, clear mind.

If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and your health is very fragile or you are very sensitive, you may want to start with a very diluted coffee solution in case the detox overstimulates your system.

Coffee Enema Cautions and Tips When You Have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism

Potential risks can be averted with common sense and attention:

  • No hot coffee: The rectum has no nerves after ¾ inch, so each time you prepare an enema, make sure to dip your entire hand into the water for a full 5 seconds to test the temperature. The water should be warm, not hot.
  • Physical damage to the rectum: The tissues in the rectum are delicate. Use a rounded enema tip, move slowly, and use plenty of lubricant. Only insert the tip as far as your little finger’s length, or less.
  • Consider minerals: When doing coffee enemas regularly, you are not recycling bile salts (minerals) as much as before. Increase mineral rich foods and consider mineral supplements.
  • Choose organic coffee: Many countries still grow coffee using chemicals banned in the U.S.. Additionally, instant coffee can be contaminated with gluten. Use organic coffee only. Look for coffees that have higher levels of the beneficial active compounds.
  • Use a non-toxic setup: Use a metal bucket or silicone bag and silicone tubing. The acidity of coffee can leach toxins from a rubber or plastic enema bag or tubing. Seeking Health offers non-toxic stainless steel and silicone enema kits.

Okay, So How Do I Do a Coffee Enema?

Ask my office for detailed directions on how to perform a coffee enema. Some guidance will help make the experience less awkward and more successful. And who knows? You may find yourself becoming an advocate of this time-tested health remedy.

For support on managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, contact my office.