Monthly Archives: June 2015

FDA’s ban of hydrogenated oils good news for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

FDA bans hydrogenated oils

Now even the U.S. Government is on board with what health specialists have known all along: partially hydrogenated oils and the industrial trans fats they contain are not safe for human consumption. 

This is especially true if you have an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

The FDA already requires food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats in their products. It also removed trans fats from the category of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).

However, now the FDA is working to remove partially hydrogenated oils from the food supply.

Food manufacturers have three years to phase them out of use, which should make boxed, packaged, and restaurant foods safer.

Managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism requires a careful attention to diet. The ban on trans fats will make eating out a little bit safer for those working to manage autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

FDA banning trans fats to protect heart health; also good for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

The FDA cites heart disease risks for banning trans fats. Trans fats contribute to a build up of plaque in arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. The FDA says removing trans fats from the food supply will prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks each year.

Because trans fats affect the integrity of cells, this can promote inflammation, making them a bad choice for those with autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Trans fats also shrink the brain, which is bad news when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Partially hydrogenated oils also shrink the brain and increase the risk of dementia. One study found that even very small amounts of trans fats damage the brain.

This is of concern to those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, as an unmanaged autoimmune thyroid condition is very hard on the brain. People with Hashimoto’s should be working to restore and preserve brain health, not sabotage it. 

Manufacturers are not required to list trans fats on the nutrition label if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. If you see partially hydrogenated oil listed in the ingredients, then avoid that food (even if the nutrition label says 0 grams trans fat).

Hydrogenated oils are closer in structure to plastic than food and damage the brain in more than one way. They deprive the brain of oxygen by clogging arteries that bring blood to the brain.

They also become part of brain cell membranes. Cell membranes, which are comprised of fats, communicate with other cells and determine what enters and exits the cell. When hydrogenated oils in the diet become part of cell membranes, this makes them more rigid and less functional. The sheaths that insulate and protect neurons also incorporate trans fats.

This process also replaces the vital brain fats DHA and essential omega-3 fatty acid. As a result, cellular communication suffers, brain tissue degenerates, and disorders such as poor mental performance, mood disorders, memory loss, or health problems can arise.

These healthy brain fats are also vital for good immune function and the management of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Avoiding trans fats when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Always read ingredient labels and ask food servers what type of oil is used for frying when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism (as you’ll be avoiding gluten, too). Here are foods that commonly contain hydrogenated oils:

  • Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
  • Snack foods (such as some microwave popcorn)
  • Stick margarines
  • Coffee creamers
  • Refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
  • Ready-to-use frostings
  • Brain-friendly diet

Ditch trans fats and go for a brain-friendly diet that includes leafy green vegetables, seafood, eggs, olive oil, nuts, avocados, colorful fruits, nuts, and meats. To learn more about ways to eat for healthier brain function and to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, check out the leaky gut/autoimmune diet and ask my office for information.

Goodbye McDonald’s; hello to healthier eating

end of mcdonalds copy

McDonald’s is closing 700 stores this year due to poor performance. Although it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 32,000 stores worldwide, flagging sales and closing stores are a sign of changing times — customers are opting for healthier food, such as that served by Chipotle and gourmet burger chains.

In response to falling sales, McDonald’s is investigating dumping antibiotic-laced chicken and rBST (hormone) milks, adding sirloin burgers, and even introducing kale smoothies and salads.

Although we still have a long way to go as a nation, consumer habits point to an increasing consciousness of healthier eating. No doubt many of the 36 percent of Americans who are obese would rather not be, and are cutting back on fast food consumption as a result.

New technology helping Americans live healthier

Health experts also point to the increased use of smart phone apps and the rising popularity of health tracking technology  such as the FitBit  for cajoling Americans to become more interested in their diets.

For instance, some apps let you use your smart phone to scan product bar codes for nutrition information. Other apps make logging your diet and exercise easy — awareness is fundamental to healthier habits.

Apps also can plug you into a community of others on the same path to make you more accountable, to seek and offer support, and to share victories. One app (Pact) even requires a financial commitment: If you don’t meet your goals you have to pay up, and if you do, you earn money from those who haven’t.

Eating and living healthier requires simple changes

Avoiding McDonald’s and eating more healthfully doesn’t have to be a burden. It just requires simple steps. Also, unless a chronic illness requires immediate remediation, lasting dietary and lifestyle changes are best taken on bit by bit.

With that said, here are some steps you can implement to join the growing ranks of healthy eaters.

Educate yourself

Why are you eating healthier? Do you understand how it will improve your health? Even a little bit of self-education is hugely empowering and motivating.

Plan your meals

Eating at McDonald’s is often a stressed-out, last-minute decision. Healthier eating requires advance planning, such as packing food or knowing where to eat out. For instance, it’s not as cheap, but health food stores such as Whole Foods can offer much healthier and still very quick meal options.

Make a grocery list

Take some time to think about your grocery list. Do some research, explore, try new things. It can make healthier eating fun.

Clear out the old temptations

Empty your house of all the junk foods so you don’t fall into bad habits. Find some new, healthier treats for those times you need a comfort food.

Cook in batches

Healthier eating requires more preparation and cooking. You can save time by chopping and storing veggies ahead of time, or cooking large meals and freezing serving sized portions for later.

Poor sleep habits linked with dementia

sleep wake cycle and dementia copy

Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you fall asleep around 2 or 3 a.m. and sleep until noon? Or do you wake up at 4 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep?

Studies show insomnia does more than make the days drag — it raises your risk of dementia later in life. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, mood disturbances, constipation, prostate cancer, and breast cancer have all been linked with poor sleep.

Poor sleep is a growing problem, as is dementia. Twenty percent of the population is estimated to sleep too little (less than 6 hours a night). Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder today, affecting 64 million people, and one in three people over 65 will die of dementia.

Researchers found a particularly strong link between poor rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and dementia. These people do not go into the deep enough REM sleep that induces paralysis. Instead, they have vivid, violent dreams that they act out through punching, kicking, screaming, and even jumping out of bed.

Sixty-three percent of people with this REM disorder develop dementia or Parkinson’s later in life.

The sleep wake cycle and dementia risk

Our circadian rhythm regulates our sleep/wake cycles — when we feel tired at night and alert in the morning. A healthy circadian rhythm is tied to daylight and darkness and governs sleeping and waking.

However, when this sleep/wake cycle becomes overly imbalanced, your risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases increases.

This is because the area of the brain that governs the circadian rhythm, the hippocampus, also plays a role in short-term memory and learning. The hippocampus is the first area of the brain to degenerate in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Constant problems with your cycles of sleeping and waking could point to problems in the hippocampus and an increased risk of dementia later in life.

The sleep-wake cycle and dementia

Researchers have found the risk of dementia was higher in older women with weak circadian rhythms, and tracking circadian rhythms over time has been shown to predict cognitive decline in older adults.

Are you at risk for dementia later in life?

How do you know if your circadian rhythm is off balance? Look at whether you suffer from any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Difficulty waking in the morning
  • Not feeling rested after sleep
  • Poor recovery from exercise
  • Drop of energy between 4 –7 p.m.

Preventing dementia by supporting sleep

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to better regulate your circadian rhythm and lower the risk for dementia. A primary tactic is to regulate cortisol, an adrenal stress hormone. Studies show high cortisol from constant physical or mental stress degenerates the hippocampus.

Stress isn’t just a lifestyle issue. Stress is also be caused by blood sugar swings, inflammation  food intolerances, hormone imbalances, and other metabolic issues. Inflammation in particular is associated with degeneration of the hippocampus. High homocysteine on a blood panel, a telltale sign of inflammation, is one way to determine whether inflammation is undermining your brain health.

Inflammation and dementia

A primary way to normalize the circadian rhythm and reduce your risk of dementia is to reduce inflammation. Your diet is the first places to start. This includes removing foods to which you are sensitive (gluten and dairy are among the more common), stabilizing your blood sugar, and eliminating processed foods.

Ask us about an anti-inflammatory diet, improving sleep, and other tools to lower the risk of dementia.

Worried about losing your memory? Eat your greens

eat greens to save memory copy

Memory loss and dementia are valid concerns for everyone these days: one in three seniors dies of Alzheimer’s or dementia and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, dementia is largely preventable with many lifestyle and dietary adjustments, one of which is including plenty of greens in your diet.

New research shows eating plenty of spinach, kale, collards, and mustard greens can help slow cognitive decline. Researchers believe the high vitamin K content in these vegetables plays a role in preserving brain health.

The study tracked almost 1,000 older adults during five years and saw significantly less cognitive decline in participants who ate leafy green vegetables.

In fact, the elders who ate one to two servings a day of leafy greens had the cognitive ability of someone 11 years younger.

Researchers credited not only the vitamin K in leafy greens for slowing cognitive decline, but also lutein and beta-carotene. Other brightly colored fruits and vegetables are also high in these vitamins.

Vitamins aren’t the only brain benefits of leafy greens — greens promote healthy gut bacteria

The vitamins in leafy greens aren’t their only benefits.

For one, leafy greens are also rich in fiber, which are good for the gut. Plenty of dietary fiber not only prevents constipation, but it also supports the healthy bacteria in your gut. People who eat diets high in plant fiber show a more beneficial composition of gut bacteria compared to those who eat a typical western diet.

Scientists have increasingly been discovering how vital beneficial gut bacteria are to brain health. For instance, healthy gut bacteria promote the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, the lining that protects the brain.

Gut bacteria have also been shown to influence depression, anxiety, learning, and memory. This is because the gut and the brain communicate closely with one another through the vagus nerve, a large nerve that runs between the brain and the organs.

Eating greens is usually part of a healthy brain lifestyle

Another factor to consider with this study is that people who eat greens every day are typically more conscious of their health. Someone who is taking the time to shop for and prepare greens every day is probably eating a healthier, whole foods diet and avoiding dementia-promoting junk foods, sodas, and sugars.

Exercise is the golden bullet to lasting brain health

People who eat healthier also tend to exercise more regularly, whether it’s just taking a daily walk or hitting the gym every day. Both strength training and aerobic exercise have been shown protect neuron health, ensure better blood flow to the brain, and protect the brain from the damaging proteins that cause Alzheimer’s.

One study that followed more than 600 people ages 70 and older found those who engaged in the most physical activity showed the least amount of brain shrinkage.

Another study found that older adults who walked as little as 30 to 45 minutes three days a week increased the volume of the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

So although eating your greens is a great way to boost brain health (and gut health), if you eat your greens AND exercise every day, you drastically reduce your chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. Considering there is no cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s — the neurons that die in these conditions cannot be recovered — the best approach is a preventive one.

Ask my office for more details on lowering your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Fight underlying causes of allergies for lasting relief when you have Hashimoto’s

underlying causes allergies

The end of winter seems like a good thing until your allergies go haywire. If you’re tired of allergy meds and always feeling stuffed up and zonked out, consider lasting relief by healing your gut to balance your immune system. The good news is that if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, the same approaches will help you better manage your thyroid condition.

It’s hard to believe your digestive tract can affect your sinuses, but both systems are similar as they serve as the body’s defense from the outside world. Plus, the digestive tract serves as a hub for the immune system. When you’ve got allergies, it’s worth investigating gut health. The same goes with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

One of the most common links to allergies is leaky gut  also known as intestinal permeability. Leaky gut is like it sounds — the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed, damaged, and leaky, allowing undigested foods, bacteria, yeasts, and other toxins into the bloodstream.

Whenever this happens, which can be with every meal, the immune system attacks these invaders. This causes inflammation and an over zealous immune state that plays a role in triggering or exacerbating seasonal allergies or autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Some people get seasonal allergies, but others get other inflammatory disorders, such as joint pain, skin problems, digestive complaints  autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, issues with brain function, fatigue, chronic pain, and more.

How do you know if you have leaky gut? Sometimes you don’t, as you may not have any digestive complaints.

For some, leaky gut can cause bloating, heartburn, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or pain. Others see a link between leaky gut and skin problems, joint pain, brain fog, or sinus symptoms and allergies. For instance, some people notice when they eat certain foods they get brain fog, a runny nose, aching joints, or other immune issues such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Causes of leaky gut

Chronic stress, certain medications, and excessive alcohol consumption can cause leaky gut.

One of the most common causes of leaky gut is gluten  For some people, a gluten-free diet allows the gut to heal, thus profoundly relieving allergy symptoms. Gluten has also been linked in studies with Hashimoto’s.

Because leaky gut leads to food intolerances and food allergies  many people need to eliminate other foods, such as dairy, eggs, soy, or other grains. Many allergy sufferers have found significant relief following an anti-inflammatory diet  You can also ask my office about a lab test to screen for food sensitivities.

Imbalanced gut bacteria and seasonal allergies

We all have three to four pounds of bacteria in our digestive tract. These bacteria profoundly influence immune health, digestive health, and even respiratory and sinus health. After all, the sinuses and respiratory tract are lined with bacteria, too. Poor diet and lifestyle stressors can cause too many bad bacteria to grow, crowding out the good bacteria and setting the stage for infection, leaky gut, and autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s. Probiotics and fermented foods can help populate your system with healthy bacteria.

Fix your allergies by fixing your gut

Leaky gut repair is based primarily on diet and lifestyle changes. Avoid processed foods, junk foods, sugars, and other industrialized foods. In other words, stick to a simple whole foods diet with plenty of vegetables (they nourish your good gut bacteria).

Certain supplements and nutritional compounds can help soothe and repair the lining of the digestive tract and calm inflammation in the sinuses and respiratory system.

Seasonal allergies are a red flag that your body needs care and attention. By addressing the underlying causes of your seasonal allergies you may also prevent the development of more serious conditions, such as autoimmune disease, depression, anxiety, or neurological disease.

Ask my office for more information on addressing the underlying causes of your seasonal allergies and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.