We are often found talking about the thyroid, also known as the butterfly gland because it is shaped as such.
If you think you have a thyroid problem, thoughts of it fill your days as you wrestle to get it fixed so you can. just. feel. better. already.
Yet, according to so many presenters at the Thyroid Sessions these past two weeks, it is the gut that is the root cause and real problem behind thyroid dysfunction.
Not the thyroid at all
But guts are messy, ugly things. Even the word is horrid and ugly on the ear. It’s associated with poop, and bacteria and depression and pain. And, if you’re like me, fermented food (ugh).
Butterflies or bacteria, you choose
And so perhaps it isn’t surprising that the thyroid, with its wonderful imagery captures our attention.
But as someone once told me as I was balking at drinking my first attempt at a green smoothie (it was grey!), “never let aesthetics get in the way of health”.
So let’s dive in to this incredibly detailed presentation from Andrea Nakayama in her Thyroid Session, Heal Your Gut, Heal Your Thyroid and find out what really is necessary to heal your thyroid.
Andrea’s was the second most voted for presentation by readers so I know there is a lot of interested parties out there. Please share because I guarantee you know someone who needs to know this information. You can find buttons to your left and below at the end of this post.
This is one of the final block of presentations from the Thyroid Sessions. It has been a fantastic series.
I bought my All-Access pass today and I’m so glad I did. I now have all this valuable information at my fingertips and can plan my next steps to health.
I know that with more energy, I could earn the cost of the package inside an hour or two so it easily pays for itself.
If you’d like to purchase an All-Access pass, you can do so here or click the image above to find out more.
Over to Andrea…
- The biggest misconception about thyroid health is that thyroid issues are limited to the thyroid.
- 90% of American who have thyroid issues have Hashimoto’s, a multi-system autoimmune hypothyroid disease.
- Pregnancy is a huge tipping point for the development of thyroid issues, as is stress.
- Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s book, Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests are Normal is a great book.
- When looking at thyroid issues you need to start with the brain. There are three main endocrine glands in the brain: hypothalamus, pineal and pituitary. The hypothalamus acts like a puppeteer. It looks down on the action going on with the endocrine glands, making sure everything is happening as it should. If there is not enough happening it will kick out some hormone and will stop production if there is too much.
- We measure the wrong thing. The hypothalamus kicks out TRH to the pituitary which produces TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). TSH is often the only thyroid hormone tested but when we do that, we are measuring the function of the brain, not the function of the thyroid.
- The brain must be healthy if the thyroid is to work properly. If we consider that the brain is the control center of the thyroid, it has to be healthy, there needs to be no inflammation anywhere in the body, including the gut.
- Key nutrients are necessary for the production of T4 and T3. TSH stimulates the thyroid to produce T4 and T3, mostly T4. Doing this successfully depends on key nutrients being present: iodine, iron, selenium, zinc, cofactors from vitamins A, C and E, and tyrosine.
- Ferritin (iron) markers should be above 60.
- Get a a full thyroid test panel to determine where the problem lies before supplementing or eating foods rich in these nutrients. The body may not be properly using the nutrients from a good whole foods diet.
- Iodine is tricky. You can have thyroid issues if you have too little iodine but you will also have thyroid issues if you have too much.
- Tyrosine is the backbone of the thyroid hormone. You might have enough but you may not be converting properly. This is why you need a full workup.
- The conversion of T4 to T3 is dependent on the function of the liver and the kidneys. They need to be functioning properly or there will be problems with that conversion.
- Andrea looks at a full thyroid workup, CBC with differentials looking at white and red blood cell functions. She doesn’t look at nutrient function but more at the state of the gut and creating a good diet for that person.
- You need to make sure the conversion of T3 from T4 goes in the right direction. The appropriate ratio of T3 and rT3 needs to be present. rT3 in inactive and if too much T4 goes in this direction, you will have too little T3 available to the cells. Stress, inflammation, radiation, fluoride and other toxins can affect this process and shunt too much T4 to rT3.
- Most of the stress and toxins we get which, in turn, stress the liver, come from the gut.
- Eating is a stress on the body. Metabolizing food puts a load on the body. You need to make sure you can metabolize your food and that substances that are toxic for you are not brought into your system.
- We should be able to deal with a little bit of toxic exposure. However, we are so overloaded we need to think about what we put on our skin, what we’re drinking, air and chemicals we are exposed to.
- Gentle liver detoxification is best through a low-inflammatory diet and by supporting digestion.
- Some people have genetic polymorphisms that make it difficult to detoxify. It can get complicated. In these situations, individual programs need to be designed. What can be a minor toxic burden to some people will be a major problem for others.
- Liver detoxification supports. Glutathione supports cysteine production and helps deal with air pollution. You can get this from grass-fed, denatured whey. Other foods that help with detoxification are cilantro, lemon peel, green tea, turmeric.
- The three horsemen for autoimmunity are genetics, leaky gut, and makeup of the population of bacteria in the gut.
- The cephallic phase of digestion is important. This means how we think about food, are we producing enough saliva, are we making time for food preparation and consumption, chewing, swallowing. These all matter.
- Stomach acid is a huge issue. Lack of stomach acid allows unbroken down proteins into the gut and potentially into the blood stream, but also pathogens may get through too because they are not being killed on contact.
- We start to produce less stomach acid at around ages 30-40. However, we can have low stomach acid at any age.
- The small intestine is the seat of digestion, absorption and immunity. Over 70% of our immune system is located in our gut. To resolve many of our problems we have to look at building and repairing the gut.
- Probiotic-rich food and probiotic supplements are essential. The more we expose ourselves to bacterium, the healthier we are.
- H.pylori only occasionally needs treating with prescription medication. Gut flora can be brought back into balance by building stomach acid levels and a good gut flora balance.
- To heal the gut, you have to achieve two things. You need to build the digestive mucus system all the way through the gut and build up the bacteria that acts as the barrier between food and toxins in your stomach and your blood. In this way you will ensure that your system distributes what it needs for conversion into energy and keeps out, and keeps moving out, the toxins and waste.
- Nutrients to repair the gut: aloe, higher dose/shorter term glutamine, probiotics, slippery elm, meat and bone broths.
- You have to be careful with glutamine as there is new evidence about its relationship to cancer.
- Sometimes you have to bring in certain species of bacteria depending on an individual’s signs, symptoms or diagnosis. Need to work with a trusted practitioner to identify if this is necessary and which bacteria to introduce.
- Coconut yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut help with gut culture. Kombucha is good when it is homemade and on the sour side, not sweet.
- If you have leaky gut the immune system will tag food, even healthy food, as “other” and fight it to clear it out of the system. This sets up an inflammatory response.
- IgG antibody tests will show which foods you are sensitive to.
- When an immune system is overwhelmed, it will become so confused that it will start tagging parts and systems of the body as “other” and start attacking them. This is what is happening in Hasimoto’s. The body’s immune system is attacking the thyroid.
- Leaky gut and autoimmune disease always coexist.
- Most people in our culture do have leaky gut to some degree.
- There should always be an elimination diet contained within a client’s protocol. It can be difficult to identify correlation because of a possible delayed response and build-up issues. Tests can help in these cases.
- Top food allergens: dairy, soy, sugar, peanuts, gluten, eggs, corn.
- Secondary causes of leaky gut: c-sections, antibiotics, immunizations. When we take antibiotics and have immunizations, we are killing good bacteria, not just bad bacteria. The population and bacteria balance becomes depleted. We don’t eat cultured foods that will reinforce the bacteria populations.
- Any pharmaceutical is going to wreak havoc on the gut and deplete the good bacteria. Even (especially?) those that are taken habitually like birth control pills and anti-depressants.
- Gluten will widen the gap junctions in the intestinal wall making it permeable. Certain constituents, like zonulins in gluten, will force those junctions apart. The tight gap junctions will then get looser in the gut when they need to be close together and sealed with a good bacteria lining to prevent permeability.
- Without question, people who have Hashimoto’s need to work on their guts.
- There are phases of autoimmunity. Phase one is when you don’t know it is happening – you have a leaky gut but you’re not experiencing any symptoms. even though you’re starting to produce antibodies. Phase two is when your thyroid numbers look normal but your antibodies are starting to go higher. Unless you are testing for Hashimoto’s you won’t know about it, and it goes unchecked. In phase three you start to see more disruption with the thyroid – it isn’t functioning well and you’re presenting with all the symptoms.
- Thyroid medication is often prescribed but it won’t solve the problem. This is because it isn’t getting to the root cause.
- TPO and TAA are the two thyroid antibody tests for Hashimoto’s. From a functional practitioner’s standpoint, numbers above 2 are out of normal range . A number close to 2 might indicate early stage Hashimoto’s and will need addressing before it becomes too much of a problem. You need to ask your doctor for these tests.
- Two minerals that are really critical for good thyroid function are zinc and selenium. Selenium is easy to get through brazil nuts. 2-4 a day in the morning is a good way to get that. Zinc can be accessed through wild meats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, oysters.
- Vitamin A is also important. Animal fats, fermented cod liver oil are good sources for that.
- Andrea has a number of handouts on the thyroid to help you. Please go to this page and sign up to get them.
This was impressive information. I went out and bought some sauerkraut after I wrote this. And I hate sauerkraut.
Don’t forget to share and remember, you can get lifetime access to this presentation, to all the other Thyroid Sessions, transcripts, and lots of other goodies, by getting an all-access pass to the Thyroid Sessions.)
Andrea Nakayama is a Functional Nutritionist, Educator and Speaker practicing Whole-Foods Nutrition to people around the globe from her home in Portland, Oregon. She has been featured in Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine, as well as other publications and serves as the in-house Nutrition Expert for several organizations.
*Photo Credit: Jon Sullivan (butterfly pic)