Managing Hashimoto’s by Supporting T reg Cells

831 supporting t reg cells hashis

When it comes to autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, dampening inflammation and immune attacks on the thyroid is the primary goal. One of the most powerful allies in this quest is to support your regulatory T cells (T reg cells). These are immune cells that do what their name implies — they help regulate the immune system. This means they play a role in either activating or dampening inflammation. The good news is that when it comes to Hashimoto’s, we can do many things to influence the T reg cells to dampen inflammation and quell Hashimoto’s flare ups and attacks so you can have more good days.

Ways to support T reg cells to manage Hashimoto’s

Following are some proven ways we can support our T reg cells to manage Hashimoto’s.

Vitamin D (cholecalciferol). Fat soluble vitamin D is a powerful supporter of the T reg cells, especially at therapeutic doses (around 10,000 IU a day).

Vitamin D is also important because studies show many people with Hashimoto’s have a genetic defect hindering their ability to process vitamin D. Therefore, they need higher amounts of vitamin D to maintain health. This can be the case even if a blood test shows sufficient levels of serum vitamin D. That’s because the defect is at the cellular receptor site, preventing vitamin D from getting into the cells.

Omega 3 fatty acids. The EPA and DHA in fish oil support T-reg cells. It’s important to make sure you take enough; it’s estimated 80 percent of the population are deficient in essential fatty acids.

Research shows a healthy dietary intake of supplemental omga-3 is 3,500 mg if you eat 2,000 calories per day.

The average EFA capsule is 1,000 mg. Most people in the US eat between 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day and therefore should take 4 to 6 capsules of fish oil a day. Dietary sources of omega 3 include cold water fish, nuts, and seeds.

Glutathione. Glutathione, also known as the master antioxidant, supports T reg cells and is a powerful support in dampening inflammation and managing Hashimoto’s. Straight glutathione cannot be absorbed well but there are other ways to take it, including reduced glutathione, s-acetyl-glutathione, liposomal glutathione, and glutathione precursors.

Glutathione precursors make glutathione inside the cells and include n-acetyl cysteine, cordyceps, Gotu Kola, milk thistle, and alpha lipoic acid. Don’t be shy to take large amounts of glutathione support to dampen inflammation.

Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are powerful signaling compounds that influence the health of the body and brain. They are produced by healthy gut bacteria that come from eating a diet abundant in a diverse array of vegetables. The more abundant and diverse your gut bacteria the better your SCFA production.

This helps many functions in your body, including proper T reg cell function and dampening of inflammation and managing Hashimoto’s. You can also take the SCFA butyrate to support your SCFA levels, however, you’ll need to make sure you’re eating plenty of vegetables throughout the day too for this strategy to be effective.

Endorphins. Saving the best for last, did you know a powerful way to support anti-inflammatory function of T reg cells is to experience joy, happiness, love, and playfulness? All of these things produce endorphins, feel good chemicals that reduce inflammation. Methods for increasing endorphins include:

  • Socializing regularly with healthy people
  • Laughter
  • Sex
  • Healthy touch
  • Feeling love
  • Meditation and breath work
  • Massage and other forms of body work
  • Doing something playful regularly
  • Daily expression of gratitude via a journal or verbal affirmation
  • Regular exercise that gives you a “natural high” but doesn’t wear you out

These are some of the ways you can manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Ask my office for more information.

Gut Bacteria and the Heart

832 gut bacteria and the heart

Unhealthy gut bacteria are a bigger risk for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries than smoking, cholesterol levels, obesity, or diabetes. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart disease.

That’s because the root cause of heart disease is inflammation. In fact, most modern health disorders are rooted in inflammation, including arthritis, diabetes, obesity, dementia, depression, and inflammatory bowel disease. Cardiovascular disease is no exception.

So where do gut bacteria come in? Researchers have discovered an unhealthy microbiome — the term given to our inner garden of gut bacteria — is pro-inflammatory while a healthy gut microbiome is anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately, Americans have the unhealthiest gut microbiomes studied thus far.

A recent study found that women experiencing hardening of the arteries also showed less gut bacteria diversity while women with healthy arteries showed healthier gut bacteria. A diverse array of gut bacteria is linked with better health.

The study also found that in healthy subjects, diverse and healthy gut bacteria produced more indolepropionic acid (IPA), a neuroprotective antioxidant that also has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes.

The gut microbiome and high blood pressure

It turns out there is more to high blood pressure than reducing your salt intake. Researchers have found high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, can also be linked to the gut microbiome.

The key is in a compound called propionate, one of several short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced by healthy gut bacteria. Scientists are learning that SCFAs such as propionate and butyrate are instrumental to the health of the brain and body in many ways, with propionate being specific to the cardiovascular system.

How to foster a heart-healthy gut microbiome

Although taking propionate may help, it won’t do much good if it’s battling a minefield of infectious and inflammatory gut bacteria. Just as healthy gut bacteria produce SCFAs that are good for us, bad bacteria produce the highly inflammatory compound lipopolysaccharide (LPS).

The key to a heart-healthy gut microbiome is to eat about 25–30 grams of fiber a day via a very diverse array of vegetables and modest amounts of fruit (fruits are high in sugar and too much sugar is inflammatory).

It’s the diversity of vegetables that matters most, with research increasingly confirming that a diverse gut microbiome is what lies behind good health and a lower risk of disease.

Switch up the vegetables you eat regularly and shop at world markets unfamiliar to you to try new types of produce. Even a teaspoon of different new veggies each day is enough to help colonize the friendly bacteria that will work to keep your heart healthy.

In this fiber-rich environment, supplementing with SCFAs such as butyrate and propionate can help boost your gut bacteria to produce even more of their own SCFAs.

Additionally, make sure to keep your blood sugar stable by eliminating sugars, sweeteners, and processed carbohydrates, avoid foods that cause an immune reaction in you (for example, gluten and dairy do for many people), avoid toxin chemicals in your foods and body products that can kill good bacteria, and exercise daily — exercise has been shown to positively influence your gut microbiome.

Ask my office for more advice on how to cultivate an optimal gut microbiome and detoxify bad bacteria.

Effects of trauma and harm passed on for generations

830 epigenetics intergeneational

The notion that genes dictate our destiny has been solidly debunked in favor of epigenetics, the study of external or internal mechanisms that switch genes on and off. Exciting new research shows epigenetic memory can span multiple generations.

Studies have linked epigenetics to cognitive dysfunction, autoimmunity, reproductive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and nearly all cancers.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that genetics are responsible for a mere 10 percent of disease, while the remaining 90 percent is due to environmental variables.

Consider these research findings:

In rats, maternal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals caused infertility in male offspring that was passed down to 90 percent of males in four subsequent generations.

Adaptations to traumatic experiences can also be passed down multiple generations as a way to inform offspring about methods for survival.

For example, mice who learned to fear a scent associated with a negative experience passed the response down two generations, despite the offspring never having experienced the same situation.

A similar transfer of responses has been observed in humans:

Exposure to starvation during pregnancy is associated with poor health outcomes for offspring such as:

  • Lower self-reported mental health and quality of life
  • Major mood disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Decreased intracranial volume
  • Congenital abnormalities of the central nervous system
  • Enhanced incidence of cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity

Descendants of people who survived the Holocaust show abnormal stress hormone profiles, in particular low cortisol production. Because of altered stress response, children of Holocaust survivors can be at increased risk for PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

Children of women exposed to intimate partner violence during pregnancy have higher predisposition to mental illness, behavioral problems, and psychological abnormalities due to transgenerational epigenetic programming of genes acting in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), a complex communication pathway between glands involved in our stress response.

Classic genetic theory states that genetic change occurs over a time scale of hundreds to millions of years.

Epigenetics explains how our lifestyle, diet, environment, and experiences affect the expression of our genes over multiple generations, but it does not account for actual changes to our genetic code.

How do genetics and epigenetics relate?

Via epigenetics our genes can be influenced by factors such as:

  • Diet
  • Sleep habits
  • Where you live
  • Who you interact with
  • Exercise habits
  • Smoking
  • Environmental toxins
  • Heavy metals
  • Stress level
  • Social support (or lack of it)
  • Medications
  • Method of birth (cesarean vs. vaginal)
  • And more

We inherit one variant of each gene from each parent. Epigenetics can turn off one of these two gene variants (this is called “imprinting”).

This can result in a negative health outcome if the other, still-active variant is defective or increases our susceptibility to toxins or infections.

The cumulative impacts of our lives on our genes

Related to epigenetics is the exposome, the cumulative measure of all the exposures of an individual in a lifetime — starting at conception — and how they relate to our health. Some consider the exposome the environmental equivalent of the human genome.

The exposome is divided into three overlapping categories:

The environment inside our bodies that affects our cells:

  • Hormones and other cell messengers
  • Oxidative stress (excess highly reactive and damaging molecules)
  • Inflammation
  • Lipid peroxidation (damage to cell membranes and other molecules containing fats)
  • Body shape
  • Gut microbiota
  • Aging
  • Biochemical stress

The external environment to which we expose our bodies:

  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Occupational factors
  • Pathogens and toxins
  • Radiation
  • Medical interventions

The general external environment, including broader sociocultural and ecological factors:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Geopolitical factors
  • Psychological stress
  • Education status
  • Urban or rural residence
  • Climate

Using epigenetics to positively impact the future

Epigenetic processes are natural and essential to many bodily functions. But if they go wrong they can negatively impacts not only our health but the health of our children. Researchers feel the ability for these changes to be passed down has significant implications regarding evolutionary biology and disease causation.

There are factors we have no control over such as certain environmental toxins, method of birth, and exposure to some level of stress. The good news is we can affect change in many areas that can powerfully affect our epigenetics:

  • Anti-inflammatory diet
  • Daily exercise
  • Stress-relief activities
  • Good sleep habits
  • Who we interact with
  • Antioxidant status
  • Not smoking
  • Social support
  • Addressing food intolerances
  • Mediating autoimmunity

Functional medicine offers many avenues to support healthy epigenetic expression. If you seek ways to help your body express its genes in the best ways possible, contact my office for help.

Berberine rivals metformin for high blood sugar

829 berberine for high blood sugar

In functional medicine one of the most common causes we see for many health disorders is imbalanced blood sugar. The good news is it is also one of the easiest things to remedy. A powerful tool in this process is a botanical compound called berberine.

An epidemic of blood sugar imbalances

According to the CDC, nearly 84 million American adults — more than one out of three — have prediabetes, or metabolic syndrome, a serious health condition in which blood sugar levels are too high but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

Ninety percent of people with prediabetes don’t even know they have it. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of type 2 diabetesheart disease, stroke, obesity, autoimmunity, infertility, dementia, and other disorders.

In fact, high blood sugar is so clearly linked to Alzheimer’s that researchers refer to the disease as “Type 3 diabetes.”

Berberine for high blood sugar and diabetes

A natural plant compound, berberine is found within the stems, bark, roots, and rhizomes (root-like subterranean stems) of numerous plants such as barberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape, tree turmeric, and Chinese goldthread.

Berberine is generally well tolerated and has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat digestive issues and infections. The extract has a deep yellow color and is also commonly used as a dye.

Recently, berberine has become known for its ability to reduce high blood glucose. By working at a cellular level, it helps move glucose (sugar) from your blood into your cells where it’s most needed.

Berberine also promotes healthy blood sugar levels that are already in normal range.

Berberine works by activating AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase), an enzyme that that regulates how the body produces and uses energy.

AMPK senses and responds to changes in energy metabolism on both the cellular and whole-body level. It regulates biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose, and energy imbalances.

Metabolic syndrome happens when AMPK-regulated pathways are turned off. This triggers fat storage and burning abnormalities, high blood sugar, diabetes, and energy imbalances.

Depleted energy activates AMPK while excess energy inhibits it. In other words, high blood sugar inhibits AMPK while exercise and calorie restriction activates it.

Berberine’s effect is similar to what you’d see in someone who increased exercise while restricting calorie intake because it activates AMPK, making it a useful tool in the management of type 2 diabetes.

Berberine as effective as metformin

Other known AMPK activators include resveratrol and the diabetes drug metformin. Berberine is so effective at balancing blood sugar that both animal and human studies compare it to metformin in its effectiveness.

Berberine has also been shown to be as effective in treating other conditions that respond positively to metformin, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the reduction of weight gain triggered by antipsychotics, and potentially cancer.

Berberine’s many qualities

While berberine is most commonly considered for metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and cancer, its potentially helpful for a long list of other disorders, including high cholesterol, obesity, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), leaky gut, lung inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease due to these actions.

Below are additional functions of berberine:

  • Supports healthy blood cholesterol levels.
  • Has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.
  • Has a moderate weight-loss effect.
  • Exhibits antibacterial qualities.
  • Reduces the effects of tobacco smoke-induced lung inflammation.
  • Inhibits growth and proliferation of cancer cells.
  • Enhances neuro-protective factors.
  • Stimulates the release of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that relaxes arteries, increases blood flow, and protects against atherosclerosis.
  • Stimulates bile secretion and bilirubin discharge.
  • Reduces dysfunction of the intestinal mucosal barrier.

How much berberine should I take?

For diabetes and blood sugar support, the recommended dose is 500 mg two or three times a day. It’s important to spread your dose out throughout the day because berberine has a short half-life in the body and taking it all at once might rob you of the full benefits. Make sure to take berberine prior to or with a meal.

Studies show that gut bacteria play an important role in transforming berberine into its usable form. Therefore, supporting microbiome diversity and abundance is a smart way to increase its effectiveness. Make sure to eat varied and plentiful produce (go easy on the sugary fruits) and consider supplementing short chain fatty acid supplementation (SCFA) to help your gut bacteria thrive.

How long should I take berberine?

Continual use of berberine can impact cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes in the liver which may affect drug-to-drug interactions. Therefore, it’s recommended to use it in a pulsed 8-week cycle with two to four weeks off, then starting again if symptoms have not resolved.

Research has shown that combining berberine with cinnamon may increase its bioavailability. What’s more, cinnamon has also been shown to support insulin sensitivity.

Berberine cautions

While berberine is highly recommended for high blood sugar issues, it does come with some cautions:

  • Berberine is considered UNSAFE for pregnant women and nursing mothers. It may cross the placenta during pregnancy, and some newborns exposed to berberine developed a type of brain damage. It also can be transferred to babies through breast milk.
  • Berberine can interact with a number of medications, increasing the risk of adverse reactions.
  • Taking berberine when you are on medications that reduce blood sugar can push your blood glucose levels too low.
  • Berberine can lower blood pressure, so it should be used with caution by anyone who already has low blood pressure. 

If you are concerned about your blood sugar status and want to discuss non-medical methods for helping regulate your blood sugar, contact my office.

Weight training offers the most benefits for seniors

827 weight training best for seniors

Weight training is not the first exercise choice that comes to mind for seniors. Instead we think of chair yoga, walking, dancing, or aqua aerobics. However, science shows weight training is one of the best types of exercise for aging whether you’ve been doing it your whole life or have never touched a barbell in 60-plus years.

Of the 57 million deaths worldwide in 2008, more than 5 million were caused by lack of physical activity. Roughly 80 percent of adults fail to meet recommended guidelines for physical activity.

For seniors in particular inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are dangerous, increasing the risk of health conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Cholesterol issues
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Depression

There is a common misperception that the elderly should stay away from strenuous activity. It is important to use safe equipment, focus on correct form, and warm up and cool down properly, but using your muscles as you age isn’t inherently dangerous.

In fact, studies show that lifting weights — whether heavy or light — helps us in many ways as we age.

Weight training reduces the risk of falling by maintaining or even increasing muscle mass and helping maintain bone density. This makes the elderly much less susceptible to age-related and disabling bone breaks from falls or accidents.

This also helps stave off loss of independence, one of the greatest worries around aging.

Strength training can promote mobility and function and even help combat depression and cognitive decline.

An analysis of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) database found that adults 65 and older who strength trained twice a week had a 46 percent lower mortality rate. He also found strength training reduces all causes of death, including cancer and cardiac death.

Drawing from the data, the analysis outlined 78 science-backed benefits for seniors who lift weights. The main categories include:

  • Combat age-related muscle loss and sarcopenia
  • Burn fat and increase muscle mass
  • Support functional independence
  • Improve quality of life
  • Improve osteoarthritis and bone health
  • Increase cardiovascular health
  • Improve mental health and cognitive functioning
  • Reduce mortality risk
  • Fight Type 2 diabetes
  • Improve quality of sleep
  • Recover from hip fractures

The study showed that those who had lifted regularly for some time were protected against numerous age-related health issues related to neuromuscular functioning, sarcopenia, muscle force-generating capacity, cognitive functioning, overall functional capability and performance, and mitochondrial impairment.

Is weight lifting riskier in old age?

Lifting weights risks at any age, however, hundreds of studies have shown weight training to be safe, enjoyable, and beneficial as we get older.

Anyone can get injured when working out, so knowing how to safely use equipment, warming up and cooling down properly, and using proper form will keep you in action.

Before starting, have a medical checkup or ask your doctor for clearance. This is especially true if you haven’t exercised before or have taken a long break from physical activity.

What type of weight training is best?

Weight training is an activity anyone can start regardless of age. It doesn’t take lifting like a competitor to gain major benefits, and many of the benefits are immediate. As you train, your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness will improve, thus helping you to prevent injuries as you progress.

Whether you train using your body weight, dumbbells, systems weights, full Olympic style, or with some other style, focus on gradually increasing intensity and power.

A personal trainer can help you meet your goals with a form that works for you, plus teach you how and when to safely increase your challenges. Finding a weight training style you like will motivate you so you keep showing up for workouts — whether it’s at the gym or in your living room.

Before starting any exercise program, be sure to consult with your health care practitioner, and if you are uncertain where to begin, reach out to a local certified personal trainer who can guide you.