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Baby Steps to Going Gluten Free

I look at the two top reasons why, in my practice, women take on a gluten free lifestyle.  They have either realized an intolerance exists and are eager to shed the layers of inflammation, chronic pain, excess weight, acne, depression or infertility, OR, they have read a compelling article, blog post or book giving them studies and reasons why a lifestyle free of gluten is a good shift to make.

There have also been women who call me with this request, “Can you help me figure out my food thing?”.

To which I reply, “Your food thing?”

And then I hear, “Yes, my food thing.”

Upon further conversation we find that these women are making lifestyle changes left and right that aren’t rendering results worth staying committed to.  What I find is they go dairy free because a friend is doing it or they go gluten free because their mother suggests it.  A few days or weeks in they decide eliminating dairy isn’t working so they reintroduce dairy and cut sugar.  This is crazy making.

One recommendation I give to women like the above is to see a holistic practitioner who does food sensitivity testing so they have data to back up of “what’s so” with their body.  I also recommend she choose ONE THING and stick to it.  Sticktoitiveness is one thing missing in our culture of healthy lifestyle change.

 Gluten Free loaf of breads on display in a health food shop.

Some things may change right off the bat, folks, such as more energy and better sleep, and, they may not.  Change takes time.  Have you ever seen a caterpillar turn into a butterfly with the snap of a finger?  It’s the same with celebrities.  We think their fame happens over night, and that’s just not the case.

When taking on lifestyle change, going cold turkey is fine for some and others find baby steps are the path to take.

3 Different Baby Steps to Going Gluten Free

1-Begin with allowing one serving per day of gluten.

You quickly realize just how much gluten you are getting on a daily basis when you have cereal and/or toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, crackers as a snack and pasta for dinner.

Choose one time to have your gluten containing food during the day.  Maybe you have toast for breakfast, a slice of turkey wrapped around a cheese stick with veggies for lunch and rice pasta for dinner.   Or a smoothie for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and bun-less burger for dinner.

2-Substitute for Gluten Free Products

I’m not a huge fan of bringing in a substitution for everything gluten in our lives.  It’s just not a healthy way to go, AND, you have to start somewhere.  Simply eliminating the gluten from the beginning is a step in the right direction, however, when replaced with gluten free high starch replacement foods, you’ll likely find yourself with the same complains and concerns in a short period of time.

Perhaps you replace your morning Brownberry Bread with an Udi’s Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin bread, enjoy a salad for lunch and grilled chicken breast with asparagus and sweet potatoes for dinner.

If pasta is your thing a few times per week, use a quinoa/brown rice pasta as a substitute.

Initially if grabbing a bag of gluten free cookie mix meets the needs for the office day goodie tray you are responsible for on Fridays, then do it, however, because of the sugar content, you might want to bring a bag of apples next time or find a healthy gluten free cookbook that introduces you to cleaner baking and cooking such as Nourishing Meals by Tom Malterre.

3-Start with One Meal per Week

Another way to slowly change over to gluten free eating is to take one meal at a time, one week at a time.

For the first week tackle breakfast.  You can have gluten free oatmeal, scrambled eggs, smoothies, egg bakes, sausage, gluten free granola and even gluten free waffles for your morning meal.  Continue eating your lunch, dinner and snacks as usual as:

a) get familiar with eating breakfast every day and reap the myriad of health benefits that comes from that, and

b) get more comfortable with broadening your horizon with the morning meal.

Now that you’ve tackled breakfast, continue your successful work there and add your mid morning snack.  Great and easy ideas for this include nuts/seeds/dried fruit, veggies and hummus, apples and nut butter or cheese and gluten free crackers.

Once you’ve accomplished that for a week, include lunch.  You’ll soon realize you get full off a small scoop of tuna salad without the bread and fresh vegetables with an orange, or the salad bar, a stir fry or a simple yogurt and berries bowl.

You’ll continue this to include a mid afternoon snack, then move on to tackling dinner. After 5-6 weeks you will have shifted from a diet that contains gluten, likely at every stinkin’ meal, to a lifestyle of gluten free eating.

 
Photo Source

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free with Egg and Nut Free Options

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Allergen Friendly :: Natural Fertility and Wellness

(By contributing writer, Renee)

One of my favorite things about summer is berry picking! We live in a pretty perfect area for berry harvests as far as growing conditions go, and I take advantage of it!

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free with Egg and Nut Free Options
Just about every month from June until September a new harvest arrives from June strawberries to late August and September raspberries. By the time fall arrives, I have a freezer full of various berries to last us through winter.

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free with Egg and Nut Free Options
Hopefully we will start seeing strawberries pop up here soon, and besides freezer jam, dehydrating some, and freezing them for smoothies, I’m planning making a few batches of these breakfast cookies. I took my original breakfast cookie recipe and made it fit the season! They turned out so great, and they individually wrap up for the freezer so good! Perfect pull out breakfast on the go.

Happy berry season to you!

Strawberry Breakfast Cookie :: Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free with Egg and Nut Free Options
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • • 1 cup pureed strawberries, plus ⅓ cup chopped strawberries (will need a little over a pound of strawberries)
  • • ½ cup coconut flour
  • • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • • ¼ cup white rice flour (If you are grain free, use ¼ cup blanched almond flour or another ¼ cup tapioca flour)
  • • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (If you are egg free use ½ cup applesauce or banana to bind, or egg replacer)
  • • ½ cup crispy almonds, crushed (OR get blanched almonds to crush, OR use blanched almond flour. If you are nut free use crushed sunflower seeds)
  • • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
Instructions
  1. Combine everything EXCEPT the chopped strawberries in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Fold in the chopped strawberries.
  3. Make palm size balls (size of about a racquetball) and flatten into 1 inch discs on to a silpat lined baking sheet (or parchment paper lined). They don’t flatten out so make them about the size you want.
  4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

So how will you be using your strawberry harvest up this year?

Top Labs Tests for Fertility :: Part 2

In last’s month article, we talked about the best first lab test for women trying to get pregnant.  If you missed that article, you can see it HERE.

Today we’ll discuss the best first lab test for men, the complete semen analysis.

super sperm

The quality of the semen is the end product of a healthy body and reproductive system.  Healthy sperm reflects a healthy amount of testosterone, a low degree of oxidation and an undamaged testicle.

As far as when to get a semen analysis, the decision is up to the couple, but here are some things to consider:

1.  A semen analysis is fairly inexpensive and non-invasive, and can rule male factor infertility ‘in or out’ quickly.

2.  There is no sense putting the female partner through a prolonged period of treatment without knowing if the male is also in need of treatment.

3.  It takes 3 months of treatment to fully effect the sperm.

4.  Men over 38 have a greater chance of oxidative decline of the sperm, although younger men can be effected as well.

5.  Early or repeated miscarriage is possibly due to male factor.

6.  Semen analysis tells you how the outside of the sperm looks.  This tells you a lot, but you need a SCSA test to see the internal DNA quality.

The best way to have your semen analyzed is through a reproductive medical clinic.  Your local HMO may not be able to run the complete tests, and may not have the most advanced equipment.

You don’t just want to get your sperm concentration and volume tested, you also want:
1. motility and forward progression
2. vitality
2. morphology
3. agglutination
4. white blood cell count

And then you want to get this analyzed by a practitioner such as myself.  There is a different standard used for IVF treatment than natural fertility, and you probably prefer sperm healthy enough for natural pregnancy.

Once you know if there is an issue, there is a lot you can do to improve sperm quality.

 What are your questions or insights about male factor fertility?

 

Naturally Healing the Thyroid, part four: the adrenals

Originally published March. 2014

We’ve already talked about how blood sugar balance, digestion, the liver and detoxification can affect the thyroid, but there is one glaring fact that I’ve meant to get to. Except that the last couple of weeks have been a bit more stressful than normal and I’ve been dealing with some crashes myself due to…..

Adrenal Fatigue.

If you’ve been a reader here for a couple of years, you may remember when I was actively trying to heal my adrenals. For six months I worked with my chiropractor and supplementation as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.

I saw great results and within about 6 months I was feeling a million times better, had plenty of energy, and all around felt good. That all ended a few months later as I dealt with the physical and emotional stress of a miscarriage and has carried on for over a year.

I tried my darndest to get my health back, but I just couldn’t fix myself this time. I tried everything I had tried before; desiccated adrenal supplements, vitamin C, no caffeine or sugar, lots of rest, reducing stress. Last fall I kept trying to make it in to my doctor’s office, and in November and December I took most of that time and stayed away from my computer, focusing on my health and my family, but something was still not right. I just couldn’t get over my fatigue.

And while my original lab tests (for vitamin D and B12 and a full thyroid panel) were back at an earlier date, I was just able to meet with my new holistic doctor and go over my lab results for the 24 hour adrenal saliva test. The appointment in which she told me that my adrenals suck.

 adrenals


Ok, so maybe those words are mine.

But my cortisol levels are extremely low throughout the entire day, which is the reason that some mornings take what seems to immense strength just to get out of bed. Or you know….deal with people.

So, soon we’ll be getting into a bit more about recovering from adrenal fatigue and I’ll share a bit more about what I’m doing, but today let’s just chat a bit about why the adrenals affect the thyroid.

Because sometimes the thyroid is low, or not functioning properly, and it can instead be traced to the adrenals. And most medical doctors don’t test the adrenal hormones.

In fact, mine thought it was silly that my new doctor requested the lab test and said it wouldn’t really help, so there wasn’t a lot of reasons to spend the money to get it done. (at $175.00 I was actually going to skip it, but for some reason decided on day 20 that I would. It’s a test you do on day 21 of your cycle if you want a bit more accurate results for progesterone/estrogen, etc) This is probably because adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical term, with medical doctors only looking for true adrenal shutdown, known as Addison’s. So adrenal fatigue is often called a “theory” that mostly alternative health practitioners “diagnose”.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

The adrenals are two small glands, one on top of each kidney, and they help our bodies react and deal with stress through the production of adrenaline and cortisol. They also produce other hormones that are precursors to reproductive hormones.

Dr. James L. Wilson coined the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ back in the 90’s and it is basically an issue with the adrenals, whether they produce too much cortisol or too little, and the major symptom is fatigue. The direct cause is different for everyone, but it’s brought on by frequent stress, either physical, emotional, or mental.

It’s our bodies fight or flight reactions gone awry.

On Dr. Wilson’s website AdrenalFatigue.org (a wealth of info) he states that:

“With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.”

Some of the basic symptoms listed on the AdrenalFatigue.org website:

  1. You feel tired for no reason.
  2. You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  3. You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.
  4. You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
  5. You crave salty and sweet snacks.
  6. You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.

Other symptoms that could point to adrenal fatigue:

  • weakness
  • low libido
  • everyday tasks take a lot of strength and effort
  • little annoyances can drive you bonkers
  • mild depression or anxiety
  • PMS
  • thoughts are fuzzy/hard to put them together
  • decreased memory
  • allergies
  • decreased immune response
  • insomnia

Adrenal fatigue usually begins with frequent stress and ramps up the cortisol production. “As the adrenal glands become increasingly compromised, it’s harder for them to make cortisol. Instead, extra adrenalin is produced to compensate, which can make us irritable and shaky.” (source)

Adrenal and Thyroid function begin in the brain.

These glands are being told what to produce and how much of it to produce by a gland in our brain called the hypothalamus. I love how WomantoWoman.com describes this action:

“Hormones are molecules released by one area of the body to carry messages to another area in the body. The thyroid’s main job is to produce the right amount of thyroid hormone to “tell” your cells how fast to burn energy and produce proteins. The adrenal glands’ primary job is to produce the right amount of stress hormones that allow you to respond to stress of a zillion kinds.”

You can also check out their info picture and description to get a better idea of how this all works.

When the body is exposed to stress of any kind, the hypothalamus sends out a signal (the corticotrophin-releasing hormone) to the pituitary for the adrenals to increase cortisol. Both the signal hormone and the cortisol can then inhibit TSH as well as block the conversion from T4 to T3, causing symptoms of low thyroid.

In some women, they may also have decreased progesterone levels due to adrenal fatigue as some sources mention that the precurser to progesterone, DHEA (dehydioepiandrosterone). DHEA is used to metabolize cholesterol and make the conversion to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, so poor adrenal function can directly affect the reproductive system.

If you have thyroid problems, most alternative practitioners recommend testing the adrenals and if they are not functioning properly, that the adrenals be properly treated before the thyroid. (of course, thyroid support is essential depending on its function – always work with a doctor or health care professional.) Because the thyroid wont’ function properly no matter the treatment if the adrenals aren’t functioning well.

The issue of adrenal fatigue is one that is, thankfully, getting more and more attention over the last few years. Here are some other resources to help you learn more:

  1. AdrenalFatigue.org
  2. Adrenal Fatigue, the 21st century stress syndrome a book by Dr. James L. Wilson
  3. How adrenals can wreak havoc – Stop the Thyroid Madness
  4. Eating to support adrenals
  5. Low metabolic energy therapies – an in-depth look at the adrenals and thyroid, the differences in symptoms, and the treatments.
  6. Adrenal Fatigue Signs and Symptoms – a metabolic chart
  7. The truth about adrenal fatigue – a look at the connection to the brain (it’s a great article, but please be aware of the scantily clad woman on the screen about halfway down…..wouldn’t want y’all to be shocked!)

I know many of you have dealt with adrenal fatigue, so I’d love it if you could share your story here in the comments of your symptoms and maybe how you began to heal! Patient wisdom is a helpful thing for everyone when we share and get new ideas to research for ourselves.

 
If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest signing up for the FREE Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.

Can’t take the time when it’s available for free? Until May 3, 2014 you can order the digital version of the entire online conference for only $49.00*! That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!

Healing the Thyroid part three: the liver and detoxification

Part of overcoming and healing thyroid disorders (as well as any other health issue) is that sometimes you see setbacks. You get better, and then for some reason you may start to feel crummy again.

For me this happened last week. I’ve felt a lot better since my lab tests right before Christmas, more energy, better frame of mind, and my thoughts and projects were much more organized. But after a couple of days of eating some indulgent foods and a couple of late nights, I again began to feel very tired and fatigued.

But I also know that my body is healing, because even after a setback, I’m bouncing back better than I had before. And as an added bonus, I’m beginning to really understand what’s going on and listen to my body. When I’m tired, I rest.

So on to the slightly delayed third part of our series on healing the thyroid. (If you’ve missed the others, you can check them all out here: Healing the Thyroid)

natural heal the thyroid

photo credit

Toxins

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you that our fallen world is a bit toxic. Well, depending on where you live it might be more than a little toxic. We’ve discussed much of that here on the blog and in my book I go into a bit more detail on some specific toxins and how they affect our bodies, so I’m sure most of you have a basic understanding of how our bodies become overloaded with toxins.

For those of you that are new to this information, we are often exposed to toxins and chemicals in our environment and they get in to our bodies. Just a few of the ways our bodies are exposed:

  • Mercury from amalgam fillings, coal plants, and sometimes fish.
  • Aluminum from personal care products and cans
  • BPA and xeno-estrogens (synthetic compounds that are similar in structure to our natural estrogen) from plastics, hygiene products and household materials.
  • Synthetic hormones, chlorine, and fluoride in our water supply
  • Pesticides from produce

Our bodies were wonderfully created and have a natural cleansing system to get rid of these things, in small amounts. We detoxify everyday through sweating, breathing, urination, and defecation. The problem comes when we’re exposed in large amounts, or our detoxification pathways aren’t working properly due to poor diet.

The liver is one of our largest organs and its main responsibility is to break down chemicals and toxins through it’s two stage detoxification process, which renders them harmless and secretes them out through our digestive system.

“When the detoxification system is overwhelmed, the liver is unable to remove these harmful substances from our body. These dangerous substances then begin to accumulate in different cells of the body. As more and more cells of the body accumulate these harmful substances, the cells begin to lose their ability to work and communicate properly.

It has been my observation that it is impossible for someone to overcome illness and achieve optimal health without optimizing their detoxification systems.” – Overcoming Thyroid Disorders by Dr. David Brownstein, MD

Dr. Brownstein also writes in his book that he finds heavy metal toxicity in a large percentage of his patients (>80%) and in the case of autoimmune disorders, that percentage is almost 100%. It’s suggested that the metal toxicity causes the immune system to malfunction.

“Mercury has been shown to bind to the thyroid gland and disrupt it’s functioning. Mercury binds very tightly to fatty tissues of the body (i.e. the brain) and to cells with sulfhydryl groups. Many enzymes contain sulfhydryl groups that cause many crucial reactions to happen in the body. One of those is the enzyme that converts the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3, iodothyronine 5’deiodinase*.”Overcoming Thyroid Disorders, pg 256

This enzyme is also dependent of adequate selenium levels, but selenium is also one of the most potent chelators of mercury, meaning it binds to it to assist it’s removal from the body. Sop not only does mercury affect the thyroid directly, it may contribute to selenium deficiency and the lack of T4 to T3 conversion.

(*the book Autoimmune, the cause and the cure also mentions this specific enzyme)

So how do we help our bodies let go of toxicity?

Let me first say that heavy metal toxicity should be handled by a holistic health practitioner. This way they can test you (usually through hair and urine analysis) and observe and guide you through the process. Some doctors choose to use chelation, others may take different steps with supplements and herbs.

1. Get away from the toxins

Reducing our exposure to toxins is extremely important and one of the reasons I choose to use as many natural and homemade products as I can. This helps me to lower the amount of toxins I’m exposed to on a daily basis, because there will always be toxins around that I can not control.

So choosing natural cleaners and beauty products along with getting rid of things like non-stick pans and plastic food storage containers will help lessen the toxic load on the body.

(You can also check out the 31 Days to Cleaner Living if you need some help and/or encouragement in making changes)

2. Focus on food

It always comes down to food for me, it’s the foundation to health! If you can lower the amount of toxins you ingest in the foods you eat by choosing organic produce and meats, you’ll be leaps and bounds healthier in this aspect. But you can also use foods to help support your natural detoxification system as well.

I’ve talked about cleansing with whole foods before, but as a quick overview you can decrease the foods that are either harder to digest OR take longer to digest, (foods like grains, sugar, and animal proteins) and instead increase your consumption of foods that support the liver and bile production (foods like beets, lemon, garlic, and asparagus).

Making sure you’re eating a nutrient dense diet will also help build nutrients that are important in detoxification.

3. Work on digestion

We’ve already covered healing the digestive system, but it’s also important to note it here as well since our digestive system helps us rid the body of toxins, in probably the largest amount compared to our other outlets. When our digestive system is working properly, and we are urinating multiple times per day and having at least one or two bowel movements in the same period of time,  we can be sure that any toxins we take in are being moved out in a timely fashion.

Dr. Brownstein also recommends adequate water intake (between meals) to helps flush out toxins as well as carry nutrients into cells.

Other important aspects

  1. Sweating also allows the body to clear out toxins as well as clear the lymph system. Dr. Brownstein recommends a sauna, especially if a person doesn’t normally sweat.
  2. Herbs can also be effective at helping the body rid itself of toxins and there are multiple herbs to look into. A couple of my favorites for liver support are nettle and milk thistle, though you can also find packaged blends specific for liver cleansing.

Depending on your state of health, cleansing the body may take weeks or even months. And the sicker you are, the more you should work with a holistic health practitioner to guide you through the process.

Have ever done a specific detoxification program or been tested for toxins/heavy metals? Please share you experiences!

If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest signing up for the FREE Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.

Can’t take the time when it’s available for free? You can order the digital version of the entire online conference for only $79.00*! this week That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!

Four ways to bless an infertile friend on Mother’s Day

Four ways to bless an infertile friend on Mother's Day

(Written by contributor, Natasha)

For many years there was very little talk or thought given to those who long to have children but cannot. Around would come Mother’s Day, and those facing the silent struggle of infertility would disappear to cry out their sorrows at home, or in the women’s bathroom at church.

Thankfully, over the past few years, that has changed. With many bloggers addressing the issue, it is becoming common knowledge that those who deal with childlessness will probably struggle on the day to honor mothers.

But what can you do about it?

Just being aware is a huge help, but beyond that, here are four things that others have done for me, that helped ease my burden on Mother’s Day:

  1. Send her a card.Just saying, “Hey, thinking of/praying for you today!” can be a huge gift. One of the most difficult parts of infertility is feeling alone, so anything you can do to let us know that we’re not?—is a blessing.I still have a card that I received several years ago from a blogging friend, who, at that time, I had never met in real life. Using her amazing artistic gifts, she created a handmade card that was inscribed, “She Loved With a Mother’s Heart and God Smiled” on the front. It is, hands down, one of my most treasured possessions.Four ways to bless an infertile friend on Mother's Day
  2. Ask how she’s doing, and really listen if she wants to talk.As awareness of infertility grows, there can be a lot of people who will say (in passing), “Oh, yeah. How are you doing with Mother’s Day this year?” It’s easy to just blow them off, because an afterthought from someone usually feels like no thought at all, but if you really care?—be ready to listen. And if we don’t feel like talking about it?—don’t get offended. It might just be that we have nothing to say.
  3. Flowers are for more than just mothers.Seriously. If you send flowers to your mom, and your sister struggles with infertility—you might want to send her some too. Knowing that we matter, even if our bodies aren’t cooperating, is important.Years ago my husband started giving me Mother’s Day gifts, in honor of all the children I have loved through the years, none of which were my own. It makes the day beautiful, even if it hurts.And when someone else thoughtfully remembers me with a flower or gift, it blesses my socks off.
  4. Prayers are truly priceless.Infertility is a real battle, one that has to be fought continually. Blessing us, by praying specifically for our struggles, is worth more than any gift, any conversation, any thought.And don’t just pray that we will someday bear a child. Pray, also,  that we will be faithful. Pray that our hearts will be wholly devoted to God, and that we will continue to learn to accept-with-joy the path He has given us to travel. 

 

 Do you have other ideas—ways that you’ve been blessed or have blessed someone else? Share them in the comments! 

Naturally Healing the Thyroid part two: digestion

Originally published Feb. 4, 2013.

One of my favorite health quotes is from Hippocrates –

“All disease begins in the gut.”

It seems that no matter the health issue someone is suffering from, that their digestion may be a probable cause or at least making it worse. It’s where we absorb the necessary nutrients that allow our body to function, and when we can’t absorb what we need, often times disease and disorder begin to show.

Now this doesn’t happen overnight, or quickly by any means. This is something that happens over a long time, many times from birth.

Our intestines are extremely important, and one post barely serves it justice. Our guts contain billions and trillions of bacteria that form 80% of our immune system. They also form a shield against toxins and undigested food proteins as well as digest our food and absorb large amounts of nutrients.

But on average our digestive health is very poor. We live in a country where laxatives and antacids are commonplace and most people don’t poop as they should. (yes….I totally said poop.)

Did you know that you’re supposed to have multiple bowel movements a day? Food should be spending about 18-24 hours in the digestive system, and since you eat more than once per day, so should you be using the bathroom.

The following chart isn’t the most fun thing to look at, but I do think it’s really important for people to know what’s supposed to be going on in the land of digestion.

digestion and thyroid health

And hopefully no one was in the midst of eating lunch just now……

But it’s said that your bowels should be a 3 or 4, preferably a 4.

The thing is – if you have chronic digestive problems, your body is not getting what it needs.

How it Happens

So how do most of us have issues with digesting our food and absorbing nutrients? It can start as young as the newborn stage, with not only formula, but also from breastmilk that is lacking in beneficial bacteria as well. Often times women and babies are given doses of antibiotics during labor and delivery as well as after the birth, which often leaves the mother’s body with a major lack of good bacteria,. When this happens, often times she may be placed on antibiotics multiple times during the babies first couple of years to fight illnesses and mastitis.

Antibiotic use also starts very young with many babies placed on them for ear infections as well as other illnesses during their childhood. Coupled with a standard American diet that is high in refined sugar and processed foods, all while lacking beneficial probiotic foods, the damage to our guts has begun. Most of us never getting better as we age; we keep the same diets and many times eat far worse.

We also do no do what we should to replace the beneficial bacteria after any antibiotic use.

The connection to the thyroid

There is also a direct connection from your gut to your thyroid health, and that is because the healthy bacteria in your gut convert approximately 20% of the inactive T4 hormone your thyroid produces to the active T3. So if you do not have enough healthy bacteria in your digestive system, you could be losing out on a bit of T3.

Your gut also absorbs nutrients that your thyroid needs, like selenium, zinc, and vitamins A and D.

When your digestion is either too fast or too slow, it also can not eliminate toxins and waste efficiently.

Poor Estrogen Elimination

“Dysbosis and poor digestion prevent the body from successfully eliminating unessesary estrogen, and toxic levels of this powerful hormone build………. Excess estrogen binds the thyroid transport proteins so that thyroid hormones cannot get to the cells to do their jobs, causing hypothyroid symptoms.” -Dr. Kharrazian

The Autoimmune Connection

There is also a large connection from your digestive system to autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s. You see, your intestines have these little things called villi in them that absorb nutrients; most people liken them to shag carpeting. And when you have a lack of beneficial bacteria, or are eating a diet high in refined foods or foods that you’re intolerant to, these little villi get worn down. Instead of shag, you have berber. And the more they get worn down, the less they are able to absorb.

(important side note here - zinc, which is really important for male fertility, is one of the first things the body can’t absorb)

As the villi get more and more worn down, we become nutrient deficient because the part of the villi that absorbs that nutrient is no longer there, or it can not absorb all that we need. It also leads to what is known as “leaky gut” syndrome, where small (miniscule) particles of food that have not been efficiently broken down, get into our blood stream. These particles get deposited in different areas of the body and our immune system begins attacking them.

In the case of Hashimoto’s, a protein found in gluten looks very similar to our thyroid.

And remember, 90% of hypothyroidism cases are due to an autoimmune problem.

How to Fix Your Digestion

So as not to get to carried away, I’ll jut cover some of the most basic steps to healing your gut and helping your body digest its food properly.

1. Eat fermented foods

There is no other way around it. You and I both need to eat fermented foods a lot more often than we do. Properly prepared ferments can contain trillions of beneficial bacteria to help boost your immune system and break down the foods you eat.

Probiotics can be helpful, but as I’ve found out, they are no substitute for the real thing.

Fermented foods are things like kombucha, yogurt, dairy kefir, water kefir, and sauerkraut among many, many others. And I don’t know about you, but I sure haven’t been getting enough of them in my diet. The nutrient deficiencies in my lab test show this clear as day! In order to help my body I’m eating something fermented with every meal. Even if I don’t like it.

2013 shall be known as the year of fermented foods!

I’ve already begun working on a gluten-free sourdough starter as well as sauerkraut, with many more recipes that I look forward to trying.

2. Cleanse

You can also do a simple whole foods cleanse to give your digestive system a break every once in a while. This will also give your body more energy to focus on cleansing toxins.

There are also herbs that may help cleanse the digestive system like black walnut hull (especially useful for parasites – and yes you have them, most people do), and cascara sagrada. It’s most helpful (and safest) if you work with a holistic health care professional so that you can learn how to use the herbs correctly and in the right amounts for your body.

By helping your digestive system eliminate harmful substances it can then work more efficiently.

3. Repair the leaky gut

Often times this can take a matter of a year or more depending on your health. The repair that needs to be done may also specify what type of healing diet needs to be done. For those of us with very minimal food intolerances, or a digestive system that seems to work fairly normally, sticking to a diet that is focused on meat, vegetables, some fruit, bone broths, and of course fermented foods may be all that it needed. For others with multiple health issues, it may be wise to research something like the GAPS diet or SCD diet to help you eliminate foods that are harder to digest.

For those who have tried GAPS or SCD and aren’t finding the healing you desire or need, please be aware that those are not end all be all “leaky gut fixers”. They can both be very helpful, but only if you also stay away from foods you may be sensitive to.

Which leads me to – finding out what your food sensitivities are. You may very well be eating something very often that your body can not currently tolerate. Even things like carrots, chicken, and eggs. Many times it’s the foods that you eat daily or almost daily. You can find out what foods your body does not like by having either an IgG lab test done, or by having a holistic health practitioner so some muscle response testing.

4. Go gluten free

Most people get very upset with me when I mention that they may want to look in to going gluten-free. But gluten is one of the most aggravating foods to the digestive system as our modern wheat contains much more gluten than it used to and we don’t properly prepare it through sprouting and fermenting.

And this doesn’t mean that you will always have to be gluten free, but I do recommend trying it out for at least six to eight weeks to give your digestive system a time to heal AND so that you can see if some of your symptoms disappear during this time frame.

side note – Many people who are lactose intolerant are actually gluten intolerant as the gluten damages the intestines so that they no longer produce the enzymes needed to break down dairy products. This has been the case for Todd, who, after going gluten free, his gut has healed enough to be able to tolerate dairy again.

Also interesting to note:

“The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have an autoimmune thyroid disorder and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.” Chris Kresser

What you also have to remember is that if you are in fact intolerant to gluten, it takes three months from the moment of consumption for the inflammatory response to die down. And unless you take proactive measures to reduce that inflammation, it remains. Dr. O’Bryan did a great job of explaining this in our podcast; he likened the inflammation to a fire. This fire does not go out without adding things to the diet like fish oils or reducing and eliminating inflammatory foods for  a time.

And if you think that your digestion is rock solid (and I’m not talking about the contents) you may want to think again. I never in a million years thought I had issues with digestion as everything seems to function as it should, thank you very much. But the thing is, I have nutrient deficiencies even though I consume enough of those nutrients.

It’s not so much about the foods you eat as it is the nutrients you absorb!

There is not one person I can imagine that doesn’t need to work on their digestion at least a little bit.

So what about you? How are you working on increasing your body’s ability to digest foods and absorb nutrients?

If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest signing up for the FREE Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.

Can’t take the time when it’s available for free? You can order the digital version of the entire online conference for only $79.00* if you order before the conference is over. That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!

Still Healing :: Mother’s Day After a Miscarriage

(By contributing writer Jessica)

It doesn’t seem like it was nine months ago, more like yesterday. I was shockingly surprised when I saw two pink lines show up on a pregnancy test. I think I must have stared at it for a half an hour before I wandered around the house looking for my husband. I remember my hands were actually shaking as I showed him the test.

Now, nine months later, a time when I thought I’d be snuggling with a sweet newborn, I’m left with an aching heart of longing for a new baby to hold and love.

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This was my third loss,  but somehow, this time, it has taken longer to heal. As Mother’s day is swiftly making its way towards me, it makes my heart pound. Why does it still sting so much?

More than that, why do I feel the need to have my heart not long for that little one? When did I put a time frame on my grief? 

That sweet baby was a part of me. I loved him with all my heart before I even saw the positive result. I had already pictured the part he would take in our family. In my mind I could  picture him in soft baby sleepers or wrapped up in a hooded towel after his bath. I could feel his soft weight that would have been in my arms.

My mind plays the ‘what if’ game constantly. I shrugged it off for too long but right now, I need to dig through all of the images and thoughts so that I can tuck them away and patch up this hole in my heart.

Grief has a funny way of showing up when we aren’t looking for it, the uninvited house guest. However, I’ve learned to roll with it, even if I have tears streaming down my face for what appears to be no apparent reason. Grief that drops me to my knees to hand all the pain over to God. A place where I can hide myself in Him. 

I’ve stopped asking ‘why’ and have come to a place of trust. I trust He knows what is best for me. I trust that when I look back at this valley that I’ll be able to understand. I know that understanding may not come in my life time and I am at peace with that.

I’ve lived long enough to know that some of my greatest pains and losses have brought me to where I am.

This Mother’s Day my heart aches, it’s sore…but it is healing.

What has helped your heart heal after a loss? 

Naturally Healing the Thyroid, part one: getting blood sugar under control

Originally published Jan. 30, 2013.
heal the thyroid naturally

WHY?!?!

Why does every health issue in my life necessitate cutting out and cutting back on sugar? Heh.Years ago I told a coworker of mine that I wouldn’t cut back on sweets and sugar unless someone told me that I’d die if I didn’t. And while I won’t die tomorrow, due to eating sugar, it was slowly destroying my body.

I don’t eat near as much sugar as I used to, but I could definitely focus a bit more time on making sure my meals are well-rounded, so as not to give me problems with my blood sugar balance. Because of my many, many years of too much sugar consumption, this area of my body is weak and very sensitive to a lot of sweets and refined carbs.

As Americans (and you Canadians and other international readers that live in ‘modern’ countries) we are addicted to sugar. My (free) Sugar Detox Challenge is insanely popular this time of year as people try to tame their sweet tooth yet again. And I won’t lie and say I don’t have a taste for the stuff, I still very much enjoy some of my old favorite treats; when they’re around it can be extremely difficult to keep my hand out of the bowl.

Dr. Kharrazian  has an entire chapter in his book about taming the sugar beast, and states.

“My experience shows that attempts at successfully managing a person with hashimoto’s or functional hypothyroidism are futile as long as he or she indulges in a sugar-laden high-carbohydrate diet.”

Come to find out, an increase in the consumption of sweets not only directly affects the production of our reproductive hormones, but also affects the production of thyroid hormones. Because the endocrine system works as a whole, and not separate from each other.

One of the problems is when we do indulge, our pancreas secretes insulin into the blood stream to deal with rising glucose levels. Once this happens the glucose level drops, causing low blood sugar, which then causes the adrenals to go in to their “fight or flight” mode. The adrenal hormones help to bring the blood sugar back up to normal levels, and these hormones cause stress in the body.

When all of this is happening in the body, because it’s important for our survival, the rest of the hormone production takes a back seat.

“Dysglycemia is a condition loses the ability to keep blood sugar stable………….it’s effects on adrenal function are at the heart of numerous health imbalances that frequently end in hypothyroidism: Dysglycemia weakens and inflames the digestive tract, weakens the immune barriers of the gut, lungs, and brain, drives the adrenal glands into exhuastion, sets the stage for hormonal imbalance (PMS, PCOS, miserable transition into menopause), clogs the body’s attempts at detoxification, impairs fatty acid metabolism, and fatigues metabolism.” – Dr. Kharrazian.

Low blood sugar, or reactive hypoglycemia (reacting to foods consumed), hypoglycemia, and insulin resistance all affect the adrenals, and therefore the thyroid as well.

So how do you begin to control and balance your blood sugar?

  1. Cut out all refined sugar and severely limit sweets. It’s best to cut out all sweets entirely until you’ve been able to control your cravings. (if you’re having a tough time cutting out sugar, you can download the Sugar Detox challenge for free once you subscribe to the newsletter)
  2. Start your day out on the right foot; with a protein rich breakfast. Skip the cereals and coffee, instead focusing on a healthy protein source like pastured eggs or grass-fed sausage. Carbohydrates are important of course, they are an essential nutrient, but have them as a small side instead of the main dish. I also find that eating a breakfast like this ensures that my hunger doesn’t come back ravenous in just a couple of hours.
  3. Stop drinking coffee. Whether or not the actual caffeine in black coffee affects your blood sugar levels, I know from personal experience that it plants the seed for craving sweets as the day goes on. Plus, caffeinated drinks are hard on your adrenals.
  4. Include quality protein, fiber, and good fats in every meal or snack always and along with any carbohydrate consumed. People who have issues with their blood sugar regulation may find that eating a small amount of protein every few hours is very helpful at first.
  5. Do you ever get tired after you eat? I do sometimes! And it’s not because you ate too much turkey, it’s because you ate over your carbohydrate limit. Each of us have a set amount of carbohydrates that our bodies can handle and it’s really important to listen to the cues of our body and pay attention to how much is too much for us. Because all the dietary advice in the world (low-carb, high-carb) isn’t going to help until we can figure out what our bodies need. So if you feel fine before and while you’re eating, but get very tired about an hour later, you may have consumed to many carbs. Make a note of what meals make you sleepy and after a couple of weeks you should be able to figure out your carbohydrate limit. (as a side note – food sensitivities also show up as sleepiness and lethargy after eating, so if you ate a lower carb meal and are still tired, figure out what ingredients were in that meal and try cutting them out for a week before reintroducing. Common sensitivities are dairy, eggs, wheat, and soy)
  6. Do not eat sweets before bed! Dr. Kharrazian mentions that this is one of the worst thing you can do, and it makes complete sense. When you eat a high carbohydrate meal, or indulge in desserts, your insulin level will rise to counteract the blood glucose level, which will then drop to low. When this happens you still have hours to go before your next meal, so the adrenals have no choice other than to begin producing hormones to help fix the problem. (3am wakenings or restless sleep is often tied to blood sugar and insulin issues)

In his book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?” Dr. Kharrazian has a fast for unwinding insulin resistance that you may find beneficial if you have a bad case of insulin resistance. Magdalena’s Thyroid Detox Program also addresses the blood sugar issue.

But otherwise focusing on making sure your meals consist of vegetables, meats, and some fruit will go a long way in helping your body learn to better control your blood glucose levels.
If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest signing up for the FREE Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.

Can’t take the time when it’s available for free? You can order the digital version of the entire online conference today for only $49.00*! That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!

The Thyroid Tests You Need to Ask Your Doctor For

Originally published Jan 24, 2013
thyroid testsAfter all of this research on how to heal the thyroid naturally, I keep coming across the idea that most doctors don’t order the tests that you really need. I’d been having a hard time believing that, I mean…….MOST doctors don’t know what lab tests to run?

Hmmmmm.

But as I kept reading, I’ve found out that it’s because it doesn’t matter what some of the other numbers are. All the treatment options are the same; medication until the organ completely stops working. And then more medication for life. Or until your diet and lifestyle help heal your thyroid and the medication is no longer needed.

I’ve also had many, many conversations with all of you through email and facebook, frustrated because you also feel like junk, but either your lab tests are “normal” or because you’re not feeling better even under the care of a physician. And in those conversations I’ve found that what I’m reading is true! (I’ve even had multiple people tell that that their doctors told them to stop coming back over the issue because there was nothing wrong with them!) Many doctors aren’t testing the thyroid the way it needs to be tested.

Not MD’s, not OBs, and not even RE’s.

That doesn’t mean that your doctor wouldn’t think to run them – it just means that there are doctors out there who don’t.You can also ask your doctor to run specific tests and any good, patient-minded doctor, should be more than willing to help you get to the bottom of your issues.

After our first post in this series, I hope you’ve called your doctor’s office and gotten your lab test results and written them down, because today we’re going to talk about WHAT you need tested. And if it hasn’t been done, it’s time to call them back and ask for more labs. We’ll also look at what the functional ranges for each are, as most doctors look only at a pathological range. (meaning that you could be within a range where you aren’t totally diseased, but also not feeling well)

Five tests for thyroid function

1. TSH

The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone is released from the pituitary gland when the levels of T4 drop. It’s one of the most sensitive markers for thyroid function and is commonly the only one tested. Though since it’s the pituitary gland that secretes TSH, it’s more of a marker on pituitary function, and how the pituitary is reacting to overall health. From many women I’ve heard from, by the time their TSH was enough out of range to get treated medically, they were in really bad shape.

Functional Range – 1.8 – 3.0 mU/L

Typical Lab Range – 0.5 – 5.5 mU/L

Most laboratories also give different ranges, as they all take an average of the tests from other people that come to their lab. So if you live in an area where hypothyroid is quite common (like here in Michigan!) the ranges could be quite wide. My labs range was actually .35 – 4.94. I have noticed though that many doctors are starting to look more at the functional ranges, which is a good thing. But again, just testing TSH is a poor indicator of overall thyroid health.

2. Free T3

This tests for the available T3 in the body, and since it is active thyroid hormone, is a good marker for how much of the hormone is accessible to your body and its cells. “Free” refers to the hormone in it’s unbound state, instead of when it is bound to proteins and being transferred through the body.

Functional Range – 300 – 450 mU/L

Typical Lab Range – 3.0-4.0 pg/ml

3. Free T4

Again, this tests for the unbound T4 in the body. While inactive, this hormone is converted by the body into the usable T3 hormone.

Functional Range – 1.0-1.5 ng/dl

Typical Lab Range – 0.7 – 1.53 ng/dl

4. Reverse T3

This lab test checks for any reverse T3 that the body produces; this can take place because of extreme stress or trauma.

Functional Range – 90 – 350 pg/ml

Typical Lab Range – 90 – 350 pg/ml

You can then figure out the ratio of free T3 to reverse T3 at Stop the Thyroid Madness. This way you can make sure that even if your labs show up as “normal”, that everything is functioning as it should.

5. Antibodies

Usually checking for multiple antibodies TPO (thyroid peroxidase) TGB (thyroglobulin). Sometimes a lab is run for thyroid stimulating hormone antibodies if Graves disease is suspected.

An antibodies check is HUGE. Why?

Because if it shows positive, you have a confirmed auto-immune disease. Your body is attacking itself and causing major damage to the thyroid. And some experts state that up to 90% of all cases of hypothyroidism are due to Hashimotos. Dr. Kharrazian also mentions that he will test a person twice (especially if they are on a gluten free diet already) if he suspects Hashimoto’s because the immune system fluctuates.

Other Important Labs

Thyroid labs: There are a few other thyroid labs that Dr. Kharrazian lists in his book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?”, though the ones listed above are a really good start.

Adrenal Cortisol Levels: done by a saliva test, not a blood test.

Vitamin B12: B12 is a vitamin which has a key role in red blood cell metabolism of your entire body, giving you energy, sharpness in your brain, and healthy nervous system functioning. (source) Functional ranges in the US are from about 200 – 900, but other countries use 500-600 as a minimum. (mine was 380 and my DO wants to see it at 700)

Vitamin D3 (25-hydroxyvitamin D lab test…): We’ve talked a little bit about the role of Vitamin D in fertility and this is an overall good thing to check for everyone. Especially those who live in the mid to upper states or spend most of their days indoors. Functional ranges are 50-100, with most people feeling better around 75.

You can also find a few more recommended lab tests at Stop the Thyroid Madness.

Finding a lab

Many of us have decent medical insurance where many, if not all, of these lab tests are fully covered. Or at least covered with a copay. Not me, I have to pay for diagnostic tests. And I’m sure many of you may have issues paying for all of these lab tests too!

One of the online groups I’m part of mentioned a private lab, located throughout the states, that will run lab tests without a doctor’s prescription. Here’s a list of labs you can check with – make sure to call as I found out there were more locations than stated on a couple of these sites! Another bonus is that most of the time these labs are much cheaper than the laboratories your doctor may send you to.

HealthCheck USA – 1-800-929-2044

This was one I was referred to and they had a location closer to me than listed. While I didn’t use them (over an hour and a half away, I may use them when I want to get everything rechecked in a few months to save some money)

They have labwork specifically designed for readers of Stop the Thyroid Madness, as noted by STTM before the test name. Click here and find a discount code on STTM!

My Med Lab

You have to sign up to view the site, but comes recommended by STTM. Also has STTM specific lab tests.

Direct Lab

A discount lab where you can view your results online. Again, has STTM tests.

 

So for those of you who have your test results – did you have the proper tests done? And if so, how do your numbers look on the functional range guidelines compared to the pathological/typical lab ranges?

If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest signing up for the FREE Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.

Can’t take the time when it’s available for free? Until May 3, 2014 you can order the digital version of the entire online conference for only $49.00*! That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!

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