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Functional Medicine

Thyroid Health – Signs and Symptoms of Lowered Functioning

It’s a good thing that the thyroid has been getting more attention in general lately.  For too long it has been overlooked and misdiagnosed.  While medication is sometimes needed to manage a poorly functioning thyroid, and is used to replace a missing thyroid, Chinese Medicine also treats the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction and can help boost functioning naturally.

 

When Your Thyroid Function is Low

I want to share with you a list of symptoms that may indicate a problem with your thyroid.  While there are two main problems that can occur with the thyroid – hypo-functioning aka Hypothyroidism, and hyper-functioning aka Hyperthyroidism, in this article we will focus on hypothyroidism and it’s most common form which is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

Untreated Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism can cause:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Weight gain, and with it increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease
  • High cholesterol due to the role of the thyroid in fat metabolism
  • Depression – as many as 15% of women on antidepressants have an undetected thyroid problem as the cause of their depression – but their thyroid problem hasn’t been diagnosed so they are being misdiagnosed and mistreated. That’s one reason that antidepressants don’t help a subset of women.
  • Anxiety also often accompanies thyroid problems.
  • Decreased cognitive function – aka brain fog – the thyroid is responsible for helping us maintain brain health, and even slight thyroid dysfunction can impair memory and concentration. Studies of women in their 60s have shown that even marginally slow thyroid function can cause dementia-like symptoms, and that treatment can dramatically improve cognitive function and have a brain-protective effect.
  • Increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias and congestive heart failure due to the regulatory control of the thyroid on heart rate and rhythm.
  • Difficulty adapting body temperature – feel cold all the time? Could be a sign that the thyroid is not working optimally since one of its jobs is to regulate body temperature.

the thyroid is often called the butterfly gland
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the throat.

 

What Should You Do if You Suspect a Thyroid Problem?

 

  1. I recommend ordering a complete Thyroid Blood Panel that includes:

TSH

Free T4

Free T3

Reverse T3

TPO Antibodies

TG Antibodies

 

This gives a broader picture of thyroid and pituitary function and if there’s an autoimmune aspect. A knowledgeable functional medicine doctor or holistic endocrinologist can interpret the lab test results.

2.  Try a gluten free, soy free, dairy free diet for at least 1 month.  Studies have found that these three proteins cross-react with thyroid tissue, which means your immune system gets activated when you eat those proteins and also attacks the thyroid tissue.

3.  Get out of sleep deficit!  Your body needs to rest deeply in order to repair and restore.  If you are not getting quality sleep or enough for your personal needs, you are constantly digging yourself deeper.  Make sleep a priority.

4 . Cut back on caffeine – too much caffeine can increase cortisol and upset your hormonal balance even more than without it, and this in turn affects the thyroid.

5.  Add holistic healthcare to your health maintenance plan! Acupuncture is very valuable in helping your body get out of stress overload and into healing mode.

 

Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine for Thyroid Health and Healing

 

In my practice, I’m often helping women on thyroid medication or those who haven’t yet started medication with many of the symptoms listed above. When we’re talking about hormones, including those made by the thyroid and pituitary, which is the gland that stimulates and regulates the thyroid, we’re talking about subtle energies that control metabolism and many major functions including our mental health.  Sometimes we need to address that subtle energetic layer, in addition to the chemical layer that the replacement hormones address.

Herbal therapy and acupuncture help hypothyroid by:

  • Reducing Inflammation
  • Promoting natural healing hormone release
  • Allowing the body to heal itself by releasing blocked energy
  • Boosting your body’s own natural energy production
  • Calming the entire nervous system
  • Balancing your body’s hormonal chemistry
  • Regulate body temperature

 

Call us today to start healing your thyroid, balancing your endocrine system, and feel more like yourself! 630-335-1069

What’s the deal with gluten-free and who should give it a try?

Are you tired of seeing the term gluten-free everywhere these days? Isn’t it just for those with Celiac Disease? Isn’t that a rare condition?

So what’s the deal? Even 10 years ago a person following a gluten free diet could not eat out at most restaurants, and now the awareness of this ubiquitous protein is well, ubiquitous!  Let’s delve into some of the questions surrounding this topic.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease (CD) is an autoimmune condition in which a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, called gluten, creates a response by the immune system and this attacks the villi of the small intestine lining. The villi are the small finger-like projections where nutrient absorption takes place.  Only some people with Celiac actually have GI symptoms.  The only treatment is to avoid foods containing the gluten protein 100% of the time for life.

Who should be tested for Celiac?

To give you a picture of what Celiac Disease can look like, I’ve taken a quote from Dr. Alessio Fassino, the pioneering researcher and expert on this topic, during an interview by Chris Kresser:

“Celiac disease is a clinical chameleon, and the symptoms can really affect any organ or tissue in your body, but also they are very unspecific.  It can go from a stomachache to fatigue to anemia to the tingling of your fingertips and so on and so forth, so you can imagine how many people will have these kinds of symptoms and how many of these people have been told:  You know, there is nothing wrong with you if you have chronic fatigue.  We’ll look into the reason why you have anemia, but we can’t find anything wrong, and you need just to take an iron supplement.  When they start to learn that celiac disease can do that, they ask themselves maybe this is what is the problem.  Some of these people, indeed, turn out to have celiac disease, and therefore are diagnosed and resolve the problem and so on and so forth.  Some people eventually fail to be diagnosed with celiac disease because they don’t fit the criteria, but because they were desperate because nothing else explained their symptoms, they decide, despite the negative results, to try the diet no matter what.  And some of them, sure enough, had their symptoms improved or completely resolved.”

If you talk to people who have been diagnosed with Celiac, then you will find that many of them did not have GI distress and their symptoms ranged all over the board.

 

What is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity?

So here I want to let you know that it’s a fact that avoiding gluten is not just for CD patients.  Rather, according to Dr. Alessio Fassano, Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is “a different form of immune reaction that will create a minimal inflammation without damage of the intestine.  And that caused the symptoms intestinally and extraintestinal that these people may eventually experience when ingesting gluten.”

According to some sources, NCGS is about 6 times more common than Celiac Disease.

 

Other Ailments that Benefit from Going Gluten-free

I won’t get into this topic too much but I do want to mention one autoimmune condition for whom the majority of sufferers find relief from going GF – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Isabella Wentz wrote a book and has a blog and does interviews within the wellness community, and she surveyed over 2,000 Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis patients.  She discovered that about 80% of those surveyed found substantial relief from their symptoms by eliminating gluten from their diets.  She goes further to share that diary and soy are also majorly reactive for these autoimmune hypothyroid patients.

Is Gluten the only Problem with Wheat?

More and more research is coming out about the effects of a common pesticide on our health called glyphosate.  This is the main component of Round-Up which incidentally is sprayed on wheat shortly before harvest.  Scientists are trying to figure out if it’s the glyphosate or the gluten that so many people are reacting to.  Tests have shown this chemical in high levels in almost every one tested.

 

Final Thoughts

Should we all jump on the GF bandwagon? How do you know if you have a problem with wheat or gluten? If I have a patient who’s feeling awful and who eats wheat every single day without a break, I do suggest eliminating gluten for a minimum of 30 days, and then just seeing how they feel.  If there’s no relief, then fine, eat it.  After all, if someone is so reliant on this one food that they cannot stop eating it for a month, then it could likely be causing at least some contribution to their symptom picture.  I know for me it was a matter of drug dependence and independence, Crohn’s Disease and remission. I believe going gluten-free was a huge part of that. Tons of practitioners out there, not just me, have observed this change in our patients who go gluten-free.

I’d love to hear if going gluten-free made a positive difference for you! Please send me a message!

An Obsession or a Preoccupation?

You may have noticed from my posts that I love to cook.  I love to eat.  I love to share my passion for healthy eating!  I know how daunting it can be to change the way you eat.  Trust me, I’ve been through it all.  Over the years of changing my habits and striving for better health, I’ve learned a few things.

One thing I’ve learned over the years, is that food is not the only thing we consume.  We eat attitudes, words, thoughts, emotions, and the ambience surrounding our food.   It may seem abstract but it’s fundamental biology that if we are tense or in fight or flight, then the digestive system shuts down to shunt its energy to our muscles, etc.  So that’s one thing you can do right now today.  I recommend getting a book about mindful eating at the library.  Thich Nat Hanh has one, and there is Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein.

Another thing I’ve learned is that big changes like what and how we eat is not an overnight thing.  That change is most likely to be successful if we have support – whether it’s a professional, friend, or family member to hold you accountable and be a cheerleader for you.  We sometimes want reassurance that the sacrifice is worth it, that we’re making a choice that will have a positive impact.  If you know someone else struggling with their health you can see if they’ll partner with you so you are not doing it alone. Ideally the people you live with support this, but we can’t control anyone but ourselves so you cannot count on that.  I am always glad to provide that support as your coach, as well.

So be patient with yourself, try new foods, relax, and have fun! I never knew 20 years ago the foods I’d be loving now!

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