New Study Shows Processed Foods Shorten Your Life

838 processed foods shorten life

A new study shows regularly eating processed foods — the staple of most western diets — can shorten your life. In functional medicine, we know from the published research that a diet based on processed foods also will significantly increase your chances of suffering from chronic disease. Common chronic diseases tied to diet include diabetes, obesity, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

The study was conducted in France and published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal. It tracked almost 45,000 adults, most of them in their late 50s at the start of the study. Researchers followed the health and the diet of the subjects over a period of eight years.

On average, the subjects derived about a third of their calories from processed foods. The processed foods researchers looked at included the following:

  • Instant noodles
  • Instant soups
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Energy bars and drinks
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Ready-made meals and snacks
  • Packaged snack foods
  • Any foods made using industrial processing

During the course of the study, more than 600 subjects died, primarily from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In looking at the deaths, the researchers adjusted for general health, socioeconomic status, and influencing behaviors, and compliance with a healthy diet.

However, even after all that, they still found that every 10 percent increase in consuming processed foods was linked with a 14 percent higher chance of early death.

Why eating a lot of processed foods leads to chronic disease and earlier death

In considering the link of processed foods to risk of earlier death, the authors suggest the following possibilities:

High-temperature processing may form contaminants. High-heat food processing can alter protein structures so that the body sees them as inflammatory. In functional medicine we know that high temperatures also make industrial oils used in food processing toxic to the brain and body.

Additives may be carcinogenic. Food additives are synthetic chemicals that are foreign to the human body. Chemical food additives bind with food proteins to create new molecules that the immune system recognizes as an invader. Many synthetic chemicals are also simply difficult for the body to metabolize and eliminate, thus raising inflammation and the toxic burden. Many additives have also been linked to brain-based symptoms and disorder. Simply put, food is no place for synthetic chemicals that have little safety vetting.

Packaging of prepared foods can lead to contamination. The industrial nature of the packaging process can introduce harmful toxins into the food itself. Also, if you are gluten-free, eating packaged foods is always a crap shoot as they are most likely contaminated with gluten due to multiple foods being processed on the same equipment.

What we know about processed foods in functional medicine

Those were the concerns listed by the researchers. In functional medicine we are aware of other reasons processed foods cause chronic disease and raise the risk of an early death.

Industrial oils. The brain is made of primarily fat and the fats you eat determine the health of your brain. The oils used in food processing are industrial seed oils that are generally rancid due to their very unstable molecular structure. These oils contribute to poor neuron structure and integrity and thus cause overall brain health to suffer. They are also generally inflammatory. Additionally, processed foods that contain hydrogenated fats are especially problematic for the brain and body and linked with cognitive decline, heart disease, and inflammation.

Poor fatty acid ratio. The oils used in processed foods are very high in omega 6 fatty acids. Human health requires a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids (such as from nuts and cold-water fish) of at least 4:1 though 1:1 is even better. Sadly, most Americans eat a ratio of 25:1 thanks to processed foods. In other words, way too much omega 6. This puts the body in an inflammatory state that promotes obesity and chronic disease.

Too many processed carbohydrates. One of the biggest promoters of chronic disease and dementia is unstable blood sugar from eating a diet too high in processed carbohydrates. Processed and packaged foods are predominantly grain-based and/or sugary and very high in carbs. This sends blood sugar on a tail spin every time you eat them, promoting inflammation and the chronic disease process.

Gluten. Most packaged and processed foods are wheat-based and thus loaded with gluten. Many people have undiagnosed gluten sensitivity or celiac disease that keeps their body in a constant state of inflammation, thus promoting chronic disease. Gluten is linked with 55 diseases so far, most of them autoimmune.

Eating a whole foods diet with basic real-food ingredients is one of the best things you can do to turn your health around. For more advice on a whole foods diet, please contact my office.

Gut Bacteria Play a Role in Anorexia and Other Eating Disorders

837 anorexia and gut microbiome

People with eating disorders such as anorexia simply do not experience hunger and satiety in the same way people who have a healthy relationship with food do. New research suggests that the composition of gut bacteria, or the gut microbiome, may play a role in the behavioral aspects of anorexia and eating disorders. For instance, previous research shows a connection between mood disorders such as depression and poor gut microbiome diversity. Less than half of people with eating disorders fully recover, showing that conventional treatments are failing untold numbers of people, the vast majority of them women.

The study showed that patients with anorexia had lower diversity of gut bacteria than healthy individuals. They also found that the less diverse the gut microbiome was the more depression and anxiety patients suffered. The researchers also found that as a patient with anorexia began eating again their gut bacteria diversity was partially restored, which in itself aided in recovery.

Alterations in the gut microbiome can affect how a person’s body functions, how they think, feel, and behave, and how they interact with others.

The gut microbiome is critical not only to regulating mood and behavior, it also plays a vital role in regulating metabolic function, appetite control, and weight.

A better understanding of the role of the gut microbiome in anorexia can help researchers forge new directions in treatment around determining target weight goals, how fast the anorexic patient should gain weight, and what type of diet the anorexic patient should follow to best support the brain’s role in eating disorder behaviors.

The researchers are now investigating whether targeted probiotics could ease the renourishment and refeeding phase of anorexia recovery — many patients struggle with gastric and abdominal distress when reintroducing foods. Customized probiotic therapy could also support the mental and emotional aspects of recovery from an eating disorder.

Gut bacteria targeted in eating disorders

Past research has also shown a link between the gut microbiome and eating disorders, which affect an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the population. A 2015 study from France showed gut bacteria plays a role in eating disorders.

The study looked at mice who had an inflammatory reaction to a protein made by gut bacteria. In essence, the mice responded to these bacteria as if it were an allergy or sensitivity. This immune response caused eating disorders in the mice.

The gut bacteria that triggered this reaction is very similar in structure to a hormone called alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (a-MSH). a-MSH is a satiety hormone that tells you when to feel full. When the immune system attacks the gut bacteria similar to a-MSH, it also attacks the a-MSH due to their structural similarity. This immune reaction can then dysregulate signals around feeding, energy usage, and anxiety.

When the immune system mistakenly attacks the body

This study is evidence of a “cross-reactive” immune reaction, in which the immune system confuses something in the body with something infectious and attacks both. This is a very common mechanism in autoimmune reactions, such as with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, or multiple sclerosis.

The research suggests that some eating disorders may have an immune reaction driving the psychological disorder.

Tips on addressing eating disorders nutritionally

Although eating disorders are highly complicated and require intensive, sometimes multi-faceted therapeutic approaches, it’s still important to be mindful of nutritional strategies to support the brain and the gut microbiome:

Eliminate processed carbs and sugars as they trigger addictive tendencies metabolically.

Keep blood sugar stable to curbing cravings, food obsession, and relentless hunger. You may need to eat small, frequent meals that include protein initially.

Base your diet on plenty of vegetables and a wide, ever changing diversity of vegetables. This will increase the diversity of your gut microbiome, which promotes psychological health and stability.

Supporting your brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters affect your mood, thoughts about yourself, behavior, energy levels, and other aspects of how you feel and function. For instance, you may need serotonin or dopamine support. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel joy and stave off depression. Dopamine, on the other hand, is necessary to feel self-worth, motivation, and to not experience constant cravings. Both serotonin and dopamine have been shown to play a role in eating disorders. If you have been starving yourself, binging and purging, undereating, or affecting your diet in other ways due to an eating disorder, there is a strong possibility you may be deficient in either one or both of these important neurotransmitters.

Ask my office for more advice on how to support a healthier approach to balanced approach to recovering from eating disorders.

How to Support Your Brain’s Happiness Chemical

836 serotonin basics

Many people take SSRI antidepressants for depression. However, it’s important to ask why you are feeling depression in the first place.

Many important research strides have been made linking chronic inflammation, poor gut health, gut bacteria, and general brain health with depression.

However, we still need healthy serotonin activity, the target of SSRIs, to feel good.

Do you have these symptoms of low serotonin?

  • No longer finding joy, pleasure, or enthusiasm in life
  • Rage and anger
  • Depression
  • Depression related to lack of sunlight
  • No longer enjoy hobbies, favorite foods, friendships, or relationships
  • Unable to sleep deeply or feel rested from sleep
  • Life looks good on paper but doesn’t feel good

Light. The brain depends on sufficient light to manufacture serotonin, so being indoors all the time or in chronically dark or grey weather can affect serotonin activity.

Estrogen. In women an estrogen deficiency can lead to poor serotonin activity. This can explain why some women who are perimenopausal or post-menopausal experience depression.

Although it’s important to use functional medicine to address the cause of low estrogen, such as blood sugar or adrenal imbalances, some perimenopausal or post-menopausal women may still need bioidentical hormone replacement. In these situations, estrogen therapy can deplete the methyl donors necessary for serotonin synthesis, making it important to supplement with them: methyl B-12, SAMe, or MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).

Diet. Some nutritional advice will tell you to address low serotonin activity with foods high in tryptophan, a precursor amino acid to serotonin. However, clinically we really don’t see this work.

Better nutritional advice is to eat a diet that keeps blood sugar stable and does not inflame the gut or the body. This means avoiding sugar and processed carbohydrates, avoiding foods that trigger an immune response, and eating lots of diverse vegetables to foster healthy and diverse gut bacteria.

Blood sugar and gut inflammation. Unstable blood sugar — blood sugar that is either too low or too high — can significantly impact serotonin activity, leading to depression. The same goes for a diet that inflames the gut and the body.

Iron. Additionally, an iron is deficiency can cause low serotonin production. Things that can cause iron deficiency include iron anemia, celiac disease, leaky gut, heavy periods, parasites, over exercising, low stomach acid, hypothyroidism, and uterine fibroids.

Nutritional cofactors for serotonin activity

In addition to iron, nutrients serotonin synthesis requires include P-5-P (pyridoxal-5-phosphate), an active form of B-6, niacin, methyl B-12, folic acid, and magnesium.

Deficiencies in these cofactors are widespread due to how poorly most Americans eat.

Additionally, magnesium deficiencies can arise in those taking diuretics or athletes who over train.

Methyl donors such as methyl B-12 are important for the conversion of the amino acid 5-HTP to serotonin; people who take SSRI antidepressants for long periods of time deplete their methyl donors and P-5-P.

Those considering weaning off SSRIs may need to supplement with these cofactors to cover deficiencies acquired during use of the medication.

Supplements that support serotonin activity

The amino acids 5-HTP or tryptophan are precursors to serotonin. Tryptophan has been shown to more easily cross the blood-brain barrier than 5-HTP. Others prefer 5-HTP because it is only one step away from being converted to serotonin, whereas tryptophan is two steps away. Therefore, 5-HTP has more potential to boost serotonin levels. However, both work and taking both can cover your bases.

Both 5-HTP and tryptophan have been shown to be helpful in addressing depression, persistent nightmares, fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, migraines, and mood disorders.

Botanicals that increase receptor site sensitivity, ensure the breakdown of used serotonin, and provide necessary cofactors for serotonin production include St. John’s wort, SAMe, P-5-P (a form of B-6), niacinamide, magnesium citrate, methyl B-12, and folic acid.

Ask my office how we can help you support your brain serotonin activity so it can help you feel happier and enjoy life more.

Peppermint Panna Cotta

Serves 4  if you’re lucky…

INGREDIENTS

1 can full fat coconut milk

4 Tbsp raw cacao powder

1 Tbsp Gelatin

2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)

1 tsp peppermint extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Blend all ingredients until smooth and well combined.

Then let rest in blender for 5 minutes to allow gelatin to activate.

After 5 minutes blend on high for 1 minute and distribute into ramekins.

Place in fridge to set for 3-4 hours.

 

If desired, top with whipped cream or whipped coconut cream and a sprinkle of crushed organic candy cane.

Is Chronic Stress Damaging You? Take a Salivary Cortisol Test to Find Out

835 adrenal salivary test

Many of us are too stressed out these days and this can have negative consequences on our bodies and brains, promoting chronic disease and rapid brain degeneration. If you’re concerned about the effects of stress on your body and how to manage it, an adrenal salivary test is an important ally. It can show you whether your stress hormone cortisol is too high or too low and whether this has affected your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Symptoms of low adrenal hormones

  • Fatigue
  • Slow starter in the mornings
  • Crash in the afternoon
  • Crave sweets, caffeine, or nicotine to keep going
  • Prone to moodiness
  • Become shaky, light-headed, or irritable if go too long without eating
  • Wake up at 3 or 4 a.m.; inability to stay asleep
  • Become dizzy when move from sitting to standing

Symptoms of high adrenal hormones

  • Excess belly fat
  • Insulin resistance (high blood sugar)
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Wake up not feeling rested
  • Women grow facial hair; men grow breasts
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

How to do an adrenal salivary test

To perform the adrenal salivary test, simply collect a small vial of saliva several times throughout the day using the vials in your test kit. The lab will then analyze your saliva for cortisol levels and how much cortisol you produce in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Do not something unusual or stressful on the day of your test.

It’s important to understand that low or high adrenal hormones usually don’t reflect a problem solely with the adrenal glands, two glands that sit atop each kidney and secrete adrenal hormones. Instead, chronic stress affects stress pathways in the brain, which start to dysfunction when stress is chronic.

It isn’t just being too busy, a bad job, a bad relationship, and so forth that cause chronic stress. Lesser known factors of chronic stress can include unstable blood sugar (usually from too many carbs), a chronic infection, leaky gut, or an autoimmune disease. Using second and third adrenal salivary tests allow you to track whether you’re successfully managing your condition; adrenal health should improve as these conditions resolve. If adrenal health does not improve, it means you must keep investigating to find out what is causing the body stress.

Measuring the sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm

A sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, that is out of whack is one symptom of adrenal stress. If the circadian rhythm is normal, then cortisol is highest in the morning and lowest at night. This is what allows us to feel alert when we wake up and sleepy before bed. Many people with altered circadian rhythms notice they are more awake at night. Or they may notice an energy crash in the afternoon and being wide awake in the middle of the night.

The stages of stress

The adrenal salivary test measures circadian rhythm, the cortisol precursor hormones DHEA and 17 hydroxyprogesterone, and cortisol levels. It can tell you where you fall on the spectrum of adrenal fatigue to high adrenal hormones. People don’t necessarily progress from high adrenal hormone to low; adrenal function can jump back and forth between phases or stay stuck in one phase.

The adrenal salivary test also measures total secretory Ig antibodies, or (SIgA). Low SIgA levels reflect poor and dysfunctional immunity. If your SIgA levels are low, you are more prone to food intolerances, chemical sensitivities, autoimmune disease, infections, and other assaults on the immune system.

Ask my office about functional medicine protocols that can profoundly influence your adrenal health. We will also search for and manage the root causes of your adrenal stress.

Test for Gluten Sensitivity if You Have Hashimoto’s

834 hashimotos and gluten

Numerous studies show a strong link between gluten intolerance and Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism. This is because gluten has a molecular structure that closely resembles thyroid tissue — gluten sensitivity triggers an attack on the thyroid gland. Gluten (technically, the correct term is gliadin), is the protein found in wheat and wheat-like grains, such as spelt, kamut, rye, barley, triticale, and oats.

One of the immune system’s primary jobs is to protect the body from foreign invaders. Sometimes it may recognize a common food as a dangerous invader. When you eat that food throughout each day this can keep your immune system engaged in constant battle, making it hyper zealous, overly sensitive, and thus prone towards food sensitivities and autoimmunity.

Some people also have celiac disease, disease in which gluten triggers an autoimmune attack against the gut, the skin, or neurological tissue. Gluten sensitivity is more common than celiac disease, however, both show up in higher numbers in people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism you should first test for Hashimoto’s by screening for TPO and TGB antibodies — the majority of hypothyroidism cases are caused by Hashimoto’s.

You should also screen for gluten intolerance or celiac disease given how common these conditions are in patients with Hashimoto’s. Likewise, people who discover they are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease should screen for Hashimoto’s.

It’s important to give up gluten completely if you have Hashimoto’s and gluten intolerance. Cheats and little bites are not ok as they trigger an immune response that ultimately destroys thyroid tissue. Also, it’s important to avoid foods that have been contaminated by gluten. Be careful when in a kitchen where gluten is used, with restaurant food, or with questionable packaged foods.

Cyrex Labs offers testing to identify gluten intolerance. However, sometimes the immune system can be so depleted that it produces too few antibodies to produce a positive test, even though you react to gluten. You can screen for this with a total immunoglobulin test.

However, given the evidence establishing a link between gluten intolerance and Hashimoto’s disease, you may be surprised how much better you feel by simply removing gluten from your diet as a start.

Many people have to remove other foods as well, such as dairy, eggs, or other grains. Following the autoimmune paleo diet for about a month and then reintroducing restricted foods one at a time every 72 hours can help you determine which foods trigger an inflammatory reaction in you.

Many people are able to put their hypothyroid symptoms into remission simply by following a diet that eliminates gluten and other trigger foods. Although autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s can be successfully managed through diet and lifestyle strategies, it’s important to understand they can’t be cured. It’s just a matter of taming the immune system.

Ask my office for ways to manage your autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroid condition.

Viruses Can Trigger Celiac Disease and Other Autoimmune Conditions

833 virus triggers celiac

Autoimmune disease is a modern epidemic in which your body’s immune system, which normally helps defend you from pathogens, mistakenly attacks your own organs and tissues. Current research tells us multiple factors can play a role in causing autoimmunity, including viruses. More recently, a virus has been linked with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which symptoms are triggered by eating gluten.

Celiac disease linked with normally harmless virus in humans

Celiac disease affects one in 133 people in the United States, however only 17 percent have been diagnosed.

While former research has focused on genetic factors underlying celiac disease, a recent study found a link between celiac disease and reovirus, a normally harmless virus in humans.

The study found that mouse subjects with celiac-like disease have higher levels of reovirus antibodies than those without the disease. Those with reovirus antibodies also had high levels of a gene regulator that plays a role in loss of oral tolerance to gluten protein.

In the study, researchers took two different reovirus strains that infect humans (T1L and T3D), and tested them on mice. Both types triggered a protective immune response, but only the T1L caused the mice’s immune systems to act against gluten. This triggered a celiac-like condition in the mice.

The immune response triggered by the T1L virus was dependent on a molecule called interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF1), which has been found in higher than normal levels in the small intestine of human children with celiac disease.

This suggests that early reovirus infection might raise the risk for developing gluten-related autoimmunity.

According to lead researcher author Bana Jabri, MD, PhD, director of research at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, “During the first year of life, the immune system is still maturing, so for a child with a particular genetic background, getting a particular virus at that time can leave a kind of scar that then has long term consequences.”

Along with other researchers, Jabri is investigating the possibility that other viruses can play a similar role in autoimmunity.

Chronic viral infection makes the short list for autoimmune factors

Research increasingly indicates viruses and bacteria may play a role in the development of autoimmunity.

Viruses and bacteria trigger an immune response in the body. Some researchers suggest that the antibodies we produce in response may also attack our body’s cells. This may be because they resemble the virus or bacteria, confusing the immune system into the attack.

If you already experience lifestyle-induced chronic inflammation, this makes the immune system hyper zealous and thus more likely to erroneously attack self-tissue.

The viruses suspected in connection with autoimmunity are varied, and some are linked to multiple conditions:

  • Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis is associated with Epstein Barr virus (EBV), herpes simplex 1 and 2, hepatitis C, and cytomegalovirus (CMV).
  • Multiple Sclerosis is associated with EBV and measles virus.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with EBV, hepatitis C, E-coli bacteria, and mycobacteria.
  • Lupus is associated with EBV.
  • Type 1 diabetes is associated with coxsackievirus B4, cytomegalovirus, mumps virus, and rubella virus.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome is associated with EBV, CMV, and campylobacter bacteria.

Know your viral exposure

Having a viral or bacterial infection is not a guarantee of developing autoimmunity, because other factors must come together for it to occur. However, it’s a good idea to take viral exposure into account when looking for the root causes and treatment of your autoimmune condition.

Some practitioners say regardless of other medical protocols, patients with autoimmunity do not go into remission unless they also address their chronic viral and bacterial infections.

Because viral infections usually occur well before any autoimmune symptoms develop, it can be difficult to make a definitive link between a specific infection and a your autoimmune disorder.

Therefore, if you are seeing your doctor about your autoimmune condition, remember to mention any infections you know you’ve had, even back in your childhood; some viruses such as Epstein Barr can persist in the body for decades without obvious symptoms. Lastly, if you don’t seem to be able to heal, ask about testing for hidden chronic viral infections as well as bacterial gut infections.

Other autoimmunity risk factors

Although there is a genetic component to autoimmunity, the following factors are linked to an increased risk of develop an autoimmune condition:

  • Females. Women represent about 75 percent of autoimmune cases. Researchers speculate women’s hormones or their active immune systems make them more vulnerable to developing autoimmunity.
  • Young to middle-aged. While the elderly can develop autoimmunity such as rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune conditions more frequently show up in youth or middle age.
  • African American, Native American, or Latinx heritage. These ethic groups represent higher rates of autoimmunity than others.
  • Family history of autoimmunity. If your family members have had autoimmunity, you are at higher risk.
  • Environmental exposure to toxins or heavy metals. There is evidence relating toxic exposure to higher rates of autoimmunity.
  • Intestinal hyper-permeability (leaky gut). Leaky gut is present not only in all autoimmune diseases, but in other chronic illnesses such as heart disease, depression, and more.

Vitamin D Vital in Managing Autoimmune Disease

807 vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients we can’t get enough of from food. Our bodies are designed to make vitamin D from sunlight, yet modern life has made that difficult. The result is a worldwide 50 percent deficiency in vitamin D, even in sunny locations. This is a contributing factor to autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Why we can’t get enough of the sunshine vitamin

While some foods contain vitamin D, our main source is supposed to be sun exposure and we synthesize it using cholesterol.

However, certain factors stand in the way:

Reduced sun exposure. We spend far fewer hours outside than our ancestors and slather on sunscreen when we are outside. People with dark skin or who live farther north have even less ability to make vitamin D from sunlight.

Limited diet. Most people don’t eat the foods that contain more vitamin D, such as organ meats, salmon and fish liver oil, and egg yolks. Two foods fortified with vitamin D — dairy (a common immune reactive food) and breakfast cereals (gluten and grains). Both dairy and gluten are also problematic for many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Gut inflammation and fat malabsorption. Vitamin D is fat-soluble. When the gut is inflamed due to leaky gut and other inflammatory gut disorders, fat absorption is compromised and your vitamin D levels suffer.

Stress. High cortisol levels from chronic stress can deplete vitamin D levels.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Muscle, joint and bone pain
  • Gum disease
  • Brittle or soft bones
  • Digestive issues
  • Asthma
  • Suppressed immune system

What vitamin D does for you

Vitamin D is actually a hormone, and along with thyroid hormone, is one of the two hormones every cell in your body needs. It regulates hundreds of different pathways throughout the body.

Bone density. Vitamin D has long been known to play a role in preventing breakdown of bones and increasing the strength of the skeletal system.

Mood regulation. Low vitamin D is linked to a 14 percent increase depression and a 50 percent increase in suicide rates. Increasing vitamin D intake can help improve anxiety and depression.

Brain health. Vitamin D’s biologically active form has shown neuroprotective effects including the clearance of amyloid plaques common to Alzheimer’s Disease. Associations have also been noted between low 25-hydroxyvitamin D and dementia.

Reduced cancer risk. Optimal vitamin D levels are associated with lower rates of cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, and pancreas.

Sleep quality. Adequate vitamin D is associated with improved sleep.

Immune regulation. Vitamin D plays a key role in promoting regulatory T cells, which decide whether to dampen or promote inflammation in the body.

This is particularly important in dampening autoimmunity such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, when the immune system attacks body tissue.

Studies show more than 90 percent of those with autoimmunity have a genetic defect that promotes vitamin D deficiency.

Low vitamin D levels are associated with autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s, hypothyroidism multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and even Parkinson’s disease.

A common thread in all chronic illnesses, inflammation is shown to be reduced by adequate vitamin D levels.

Ways to boost vitamin D

Sunshine. Get 20 to 60 minutes of sun on your skin per day, depending on your skin tone and latitude. The more skin exposed, the more D you produce.

Food sources. Include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and egg yolks in your diet.

Supplementation. Vitamin D exists in two forms, D2 and D3.

While vitamin D2 is commonly seen on mainstream vitamin labels, vitamin D3 is twice as effective at raising vitamin D levels in the body.

Current mainstream dosage guidelines for vitamin D are based solely on maintaining proper bone density and not preventing chronic health conditions.

Since vitamin D is fat soluble, its recommended to take it in an oil-based soft gel capsule or liquid form with a meal that includes fat.

For autoimmune management, doses of vitamin D can range from 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day. Some people take higher doses if their genetics hamper absorption. It’s best to test your levels every three to six months.

Emulsified vitamin D

Emulsified vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) enhances absorption and helps prevent toxicity at higher doses.

Support fat metabolism with digestive enzymes

If you have leaky gut, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or have had your gall bladder removed, your ability to absorb fat may be compromised. Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, make sure your body can absorb it by adding digestive enzymes to your daily regimen.

Ask my office about finding out whether you need to boost your vitamin D levels to better manage you Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

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.