Monthly Archives: February 2015

Artificial food colorings: What you need to know if you have Hashimoto’s hypthyroidism

artificial colors

If you’re like most people, you probably have a vague notion artificial food coloring is “bad.” You’ve also probably heard it makes some kids hyperactive. But did you know the science on artificial food dyes is so thorough and damning that they are banned in two European countries, require warning labels throughout the European Union (and are hence little used), and that Wal-Mart, Coca Cola, and Kraft in Britain don’t use them? If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you will want to avoid food colorings, mainly because they provoke inflammation and autoimmunity.

What do Europeans know that we don’t? Actually, they have access to the same science we do, only apparently they take it more seriously. The good news is that, thanks to pressure from consumers in the know, food giant Nestle is leading the way by voluntarily removing food dyes from its chocolate candies by the end of 2015.

So what’s the big deal with food coloring? Are the risks for real or is it just a bunch of hype?

Immunologist Aristo Vojdani, PhD, outlines the various health risks and disorders associated with food colorings in one of his many published papers, and in his upcoming book, When Food Turns Against You.

Following is a list of ways artificial food colorings have been found to be harmful. If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism please avoid worsening your condition by avoiding artificial food colors:

  • Food coloring is linked to hyperactivity and ADHD  This is one of the most commonly known health consequences associated with food dyes.
  • The caramel coloring used in soft drinks has been found to pose a cancer risk.
  • Many people, children especially, consume far more food coloring than has been measured for safety. A bowl of colored cereal exceeds the amount of food coloring that has been found to cause behavioral issues in some children.
  • Artificial food coloring binds to proteins in foods it is added to. Human digestive enzymes cannot break down many of these proteins once they are bound to food coloring. This creates intestinal inflammation and damage, leading to leaky gut.
  • Food coloring also binds to human tissue and proteins in the blood. This is what turns kids’ lips and tongues bright colors after they eat a lollipop or snow cone. Human autopsies have revealed entire colons dyed blue or green due to food coloring. The problem is the immune system does not recognize human tissue once it is bound to food coloring and it may begin to attack the tissue. This can lead to permanent autoimmunity to that organ or tissue. Also, once these colors are bound to cells in the body, those cells can no longer function properly.
  • Food coloring causes allergic reactions in some people, causing a runny nose, hives, welts, and neurological reactions.
  • Food coloring can lead to a breakdown in oral tolerance, or the ability of the immune system to tell friend from foe. This can result in increased food and chemical sensitivities.

These are just some of the ways artificial food colorings, which are made from petroleum, adversely affect human health. Although food manufacturers prefer artificial colors over natural ones because they mix easily, are cheaper, and more stable, they are just not worth the cost to your health, especially if you are trying to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Food dyes are not just in obvious things such as candies and sodas. They lurk in salad dressings, pickles, crackers, meats (particularly tandoori chicken), desserts, medications, soaps, cosmetics, lotions, toothpastes, and other products.

A vitally important step as you transition to a whole foods diet to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is to eliminate all artificial colorings and other additives from your diet and from the products you use on your body.

Journey through the gut — the Hashimoto’s guide

digestion north to south

We live in a time of unprecedented abundance of food and medical advances yet we are sicker than ever. It is common now to suffer from Hashimoto’s, PMS, depression, chronic pain, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, and so on. But in reality these are our bodies’ warning signs that something is wrong.

“All disease begins in the gut,” said Hippocrates. Understanding digestion helps you understand why you stay well or get sick.

From north to south — the Hashimoto’s guide

Because so much of the immune system resides in the gut, a healthy digestive tract is paramount to managing Hashimoto’s.

Good digestion starts in the brain. When your brain gets the message you’re about to eat, it turns on the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system to prepare the organs. When we eat while distracted, busy, or anxious our saliva won’t be as rich in digestive enzymes, our stomach won’t be sufficiently acidic, and our pancreas will not secrete enough digestive juices.

The mouth and the stomach — important for thyroid health

The majority of our digestion takes place in the mouth, where, ideally, we chew each bite thoroughly, allowing the enzyme-rich saliva to begin breaking down our food, signaling the nervous system to rest and digest, and alerting the rest of the digestive tract that it’s time to work.

Next stop is the stomach, which uses its powerful muscles to further mash the food while liquefying it with hydrochloric acid (HCl). The proper acidity digests the food for optimal nutrient absorption; sterilizes it by killing bacteria and other pathogens; and alerts the small intestine to open the pyloric valve and allow it in. Once there, the pancreas secretes enzymes and the gallbladder secretes bile to further digest the food.

Unfortunately, about 90 percent of Americans are deficient in stomach HCl due to stress, poor nutrition, bacterial overgrowth, poor thyroid function, and advancing age.

When the stomach environment is not acidic enough, the small intestine is not triggered to allow the food in, so it sits in the stomach, where it begins to ferment and putrefy. Eventually it may shoot back up into the esophagus, burning the tender tissue there and causing heartburn, or acid reflux.

This breakdown is the first step to causing poor gut health that can trigger or exacerbate conditions such as Hashimoto’s.

The small intestine

Eventually the small intestine must accept the fermenting food. Because it is not the right acidity, the pancreas and gallbladder are not sufficiently triggered to release enzymes and bile.

This is problematic for several reasons: Improperly digested fat irritates the rest of the digestive tract; nutrient absorption is poor, and an inactive gallbladder is more prone to forming gallstones. Because it is the avenue through which the liver excretes toxins, a congested gallbladder results in a congested, overburdened liver unable to detoxify the blood properly.

As this rotting mess makes its way through the intestines, it causes inflammation and damage that leads to intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut.” Leaky gut allows undigested food proteins to escape into the bloodstream, where the immune system attacks them, causing inflammation. Because undigested foods are the target of attack, food intolerances and autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s develop.

The colon

Our colons host 3 to 4 pounds of friendly bacteria, or gut flora. These bacteria break down foods and produce nutrients. However, breakdowns further north foster an overgrowth of bad bacteria, causing an inflamed, poorly functioning colon.

New research is showing gut flora play an important role in virtually all aspects of health, including in thyroid health and autoimmunity. A healthy balance of gut bacteria is vital to managing Hashimoto’s.

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism can begin in the gut

Although general gut health is vital to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, it’s also important to note that about 20 percent of thyroid hormones are converted to the active form you’re body is able to use in the gut. If you suffer from poor gut health, your body may not be getting enough of the thyroid hormone it needs for optimal function.

While various drugs offer quick fixes for digestive complaints, they allow us to ignore the red flags the gastrointestinal tract is waving to gain our attention. Poor digestion underlies just about every disease known to man, including Hashimoto’s in many cases. This is a topic to which functional medicine practitioners devote their careers.

Ask my office how we can better support your gut health and manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Got Hashimoto’s and burn out? Look at adrenal health

adrenal basics copy

The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys and that can make the different between being bouncy and energetic or run down and burned out. This is because they release stress hormones and the hormone cortisol, which, among other things, gives us energy.

Although Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism can cause low energy, so can adrenal problems.

Unfortunately, the adrenal glands are under siege by our stressed-out modern lives. In addition to stress, blood sugar swings, gut infections, food intolerances, chronic viruses, environmental toxins, and autoimmune conditions tax the adrenal glands. The body interprets all of these as threats, causing the adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones to raise blood sugar to meet the demands of the stress. What should be an occasional mechanism is a daily thing for most.

Symptoms of adrenal stress include fatigue, weak immunity, allergies, low blood sugar, being groggy in the mornings, crashing in the afternoon, sleep problems, and more.

Adrenal imbalances are one the most common health problems we see in functional medicine thanks to high-stress lifestyles, high-carb diets, and a toxic environment.

It’s important to support you adrenal health when working to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Adrenal problems always secondary to something else

Adrenal health is always secondary to something else. Blood sugar imbalances are a very common cause of adrenal problems. The adrenal hormone cortisol raises blood sugar when it drops too low, which, when it happens repeatedly, exhausts the adrenal glands, as well as the brain’s control center over these functions. Constant cortisol production weakens the lining of the intestines tract, making it more susceptible to bad bacteria, inflammation, and leaky gut.

Other factors that can contribute to adrenal problems include autoimmune disease, food intolerances, chronic infection, chemical sensitivities, and hormonal imbalances.

Lab tests to assess adrenal health

We can measure adrenal function with a salivary panel. The most important thing to know about the panel is that one test is not worth much. It is the follow-up test that shows whether a protocol is improving your health. If it’s not, we dig deeper.

You take the test kit home and collect samples of your saliva in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, and at bedtime to measure cortisol at each time. It should be highest in the morning so you feel alert and lowest at night so you feel tired for bed. This is called your circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Chronic stress eventually disrupts the circadian rhythm. An abnormal circadian rhythm can cause high cortisol at night and insomnia, or low cortisol in the morning, which makes it hard to wake up.

Adrenal problems can cause hormone problems

When adrenal stress is high, the body steals a hormone called pregnenolone from cholesterol to make more cortisol — a phenomenon known as pregnenolone steal. Normally, the body uses pregnenolone to make sex hormones such as progesterone and testosterone. As a result, pregnenolone steal causes hormonal imbalances such as PMS, infertility, male menopause, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Avoid adrenal Stimulators

If you are serious about restoring your adrenal health, avoid the things that tax it, such as sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, foods to which are you sensitive, lack of sleep, over exercising, over working, bad relationships, and other stressors.

Avoiding these things can also help manage your autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Stabilize blood sugar to support adrenals

Stabilizing blood sugar is paramount to supporting the adrenals. This is especially true for those with low blood sugar who get irritable, shaky, or lightheaded if they go too long without eating. Eat a protein breakfast and then eat small meals frequently to keep your blood sugar from crashing. Avoid relying on caffeine or sugar for energy, and do not skip meals.

Stabilizing blood sugar is paramount to managing Hashimoto’s.

Schedule relaxing things

Find ways to relieve stress and remain calm. Learn some relaxation techniques, take yoga, walk daily, take time off, socialize, and other things that support your well being in a positive and healthy way. Just knowing you have something fun and relaxing planned is half the battle to lowering stress.

Ask my office for help in supporting your adrenal health and managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Salt not that fearsome if you have Hashimoto’s

437 salt not to be feared

Aging people have long since been resigned to living out their latter years avoiding salt and eating a bland, tasteless diet. But new research shows the risks of salt may be overblown. Also, if you have low blood pressure, salt can actually serve as a boost to your health. It’s important to boost low blood pressure if you have Hashimoto’s as that will improve blood flow.

Salt has been recognized as a precious commodity throughout human history, even serving as a form of legal currency. Not only is it vital to our health, it also preserves foods and, as anyone who has accidentally cooked a meal without salt can attest, it is vital to making food taste good.

However, salt came to be overused in the industrialization of food. This led to concern over a link between increasing rates of high blood pressure and a higher rate of heart disease risk.

However, new research suggests we don’t have to abandon this ancient culinary delight. A study of almost 3,000 older people in their 70s found no significant risk for cardiovascular disease, heart failure, or death in those who consumed about a teaspoon of salt a day versus those who didn’t. Current health guidelines call for consuming no more than 1,500 mg of salt a day for those over 50, and 2,300 mg (about a teaspoon) for those under 50. The average American consumes almost 3,500 mg, thanks to our fast-food culture.

Of course, if you have high blood pressure, this is not license to eat lots of salt as that can worsen the situation. It’s important to also consider the role of potassium, which lessens the effects of salt. The recommended daily intake of potassium is 4,700 mg a day. Foods high in potassium include sweet potatoes, greens, bananas, citrus fruits, and more. Also, when it comes to blood pressure, other important factors are exercise and reducing sugar and carbohydrate intake if you have insulin resistance.

High blood pressure or not, it’s important not to over consume the heavily salted processed foods that contain chemically laden industrialized salt. These foods contain other harmful ingredients that will work against you if you are trying to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, including gluten, hydrogenated oils, and artificial additives.

Salt is beneficial if you have low blood pressure and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Natural salt has benefits that include trace minerals and being free of chemical additives found in conventional salt. If you have low blood pressure, eating plenty of salt is especially important to boost blood flow to your tissues and brain. A blood pressure of 120/80 is considered healthy and if the upper or lower number deviates by 10 your blood pressure is in an abnormal range.

Low blood pressure is associated with adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands produce stress hormones and help regulate blood pressure. Many people today have fatigued adrenal glands thanks to chronic stress, poor diets, chronic inflammation, and more. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include constant tiredness, low blood sugar, and low blood pressure. Adrenal fatigue and low blood pressure are common in many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. If you don’t work to manage these conditions, it will be more difficult to manage your thyroid condition as well.

In addition to salt, certain nutritional compounds support adrenal function and thus healthy blood pressure. Ask my office for more information on how to support healthy blood pressure.