Nutrition and Hypothyroid
What group of hormones affects your weight, energy, digestion, and mood?
You guessed it: it’s your thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones control your metabolism which affects every system in your body. When your thyroid hormone levels are too low things slow down and you feel sluggish.
Your thyroid needs nutrients to function and make its hormones. Improving your diet can help you feel better (along with any medications you might need).
Thyroid problems can cause several seemingly unrelated issues throughout the body. These include changes to your weight, energy, digestion, and mood. These are all linked to the thyroid because it directs important processes that happen throughout the body.
Thyroid hormones help control your metabolism. When the levels are too low, metabolism slows down. Symptoms can include feeling chilly, fatigued, getting constipated, feeling down, and gaining weight. Low levels of thyroid hormone is called hypothyroidism.
There are some important foods and nutrients that can help you feel better. By providing your body with proper nutrition—along with prescribed medications—you can help reduce your symptoms.
Before we dive into my nutrition tips for you, let’s start by understanding the thyroid and why it’s so important for your body and mind.
What does your thyroid do?
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck that secretes thyroid hormones. These hormones control your metabolism (the way your body uses energy). These affect several processes throughout the body, including your breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and brain. When thyroid hormones are high, many systems speed up. When hormone levels are low, they slow down.
Thyroid hormones are very important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Not only for the health of the mother but also the developing baby. Thyroid hormones help with proper development of babies’ bones, brains, and nervous systems.
Low thyroid (hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s)
Low levels of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) is common. Nearly 1 in 20 Americans aged 12 or older experience underactive thyroid. Overactive thyroids, or hyperthyroidism, is much less common—affecting just 1 in 100 Americans. Thyroid problems occur most often in women, people over 60 years old, and those with a family history of thyroid issues.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease. This is an autoimmune condition. It happens when the body’s immune system—designed to fight off germs and infections—mistakenly attacks and destroys the body’s own cells. People with other autoimmune disorders (celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, lupus, etc.) are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s disease than those who do not have an autoimmune disease.
Other less common causes of hypothyroidism are inflammation, iodine deficiency, other diseases, medications, or it can be present at birth.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
There are many symptoms of hypothyroidism. Some common ones include:
- Fatigue and weakness (feeling unusually tired, having less energy)
- Weight gain
- Trouble tolerating cold (feeling chilly when others around you feel fine)
- Depression, difficulty concentrating, memory problems
- Joint and muscle pain
- Puffy face
- Dry or thinning skin, hair, and nails
- Heavy or irregular menstrual problems or fertility problems
- Slow heart rate
These symptoms can vary from person to person, and may have causes other than low thyroid. Hypothyroidism develops gradually over time, so it’s possible not to notice symptoms for months or even years.
Hydration in the Heat
It’s officially summer and the weather has been HOT, HOT, HOT! And that means more sweating, and fluid loss. Did you know that even mild dehydration means a deficit of 1 - 2 percent of your total body fluid?
That’s only 1 ½ - 3 pounds for a 150-pound person. Total body water comprises approximately 45 - 75% of a person’s body weight. Muscle mass is 70 - 75% water, while water in fat tissue can vary between 10 and 40%.
Water functions in the body to:
- Regulate body temperature
- Lubricate joints and organs
- Provide structure to cells
- Transport vitamins, minerals and nutrients through the body
- Preserve heart function (such as maintain a lower heart rate) In this hot weather,
if we’re not rehydrating adequately it is really easy to become dehydrated.
Our bodies are Amazing!
Maintaining constant water and mineral balance requires the coordination of sensitive detectors in our bodies. These detectors are precise; when there is a lack of water, fluid is pulled out of cells (intracellular) and pushed into the bloodstream (extracellular), causing the cells to shrink. Signals are then sent to our brain to tell us to hydrate, and hormones cause a decrease in urine output (helping us hold on to our water stores). This means, THIRST is a poor indicator of hydration. Because if you’re thirsty, your body is already adjusting to conserve its’ precious resource!
Signs of mild dehydration include:
- Moodiness (mood aspects particularly affect women, like issues such as happiness, fatigue & confusion)
- Decreased physical performance and slower reaction time
It’s worth noting that most studies on hydration and cognitive performance are short-term (i.e., hours, days) and it is not certain if there are longer-term cognitive declines resulting from dehydration.
Stay hydrated this summer!
A great way to tell if you’re adequately hydrated…look at your urine (that’s right, check out your pee). It should be mostly clear, with a tinge of yellow, anything darker and you’re dehydrated. An exception to this rule is if you’ve recently taken a multivitamin (which naturally turns your urine a bit of a neon yellow).
For those of you who are more methodical and would prefer a numerical target. You should aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces. For example, a 150-pound person would drink about 75 ounces per day. Adjust this number according to your activity level. The more active you are, and the heavier you sweat, the more you should drink. If you were to weigh yourself before exercise and post exercise, you would replete your body with 16 ounces for every 1-pound loss. For example, if you weighed 150 pounds pre-exercise, and 149 pounds post-exercise, you should consume 2 cups of water to reach euhydration (hydration homeostasis).
Tips to staying hydrated:
- Drink water! Our bodies are made of water, not soda, or juice.
- Although these beverages will help hydrate; in reference to soda they may cause an increased loss of calcium (which is concerning for both bones and kidneys). And the juice adds unnecessary sugar!
- Flavor your water; try lemon or lime juice, mint leaves, lemon balm, cucumber or berries.
- I do not recommend using commercial flavor enhancers as many use sugar substitutes like artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols that studies show disrupt the microbiome (our healthy gut bacteria).
- Find what fits you: some people drink more when they have a straw, others less, some prefer ice water, others room temperate.
- Carry a glass or stainless-steel water bottle (if you need to, create challenges for yourself to consume “x” amount by 12, 4 and 8 pm, for example).
- Eat fruits and veggies! Fruits in particular are water dense; foods such as watermelon, grapes, lettuce and cucumber can offer some of your fluid needs.
- Drink smoothies, eat popsicles and enjoy frozen fruit as a refreshing summer snack!
Spring Clean Your Cooking Routine
Anyone else have spring cleaning on their mind? Or has that shipped sailed since we’ve been stuck in our homes for months now!? Just like it’s important to periodically deep clean and purge unnecessary clutter around the house, it’s helpful to reevaluate your meal planning, shopping and food prep routine also. Here are a few simple steps for spring cleaning your cooking routine as we head into this new season.
Step 1: Take inventory of your fridge, pantry & freezer Did you know that according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans waste more than $161 billion dollars of food annually? That’s $1,600 a year for a family of four! To avoid this you should routinely take inventory of your food supply.
Let’s begin with your refrigerator, this cleaning process should be done at least once a week. For those fresh foods that are nearing the end of their shelf life, consider putting them in a soup, stew or smoothie. Throw out foods that have been "hibernating" in the fridge too long.
Next let’s venture into the depths of the pantry to see exactly what you have, then strategize how to use it (or if needed, toss it!). You can save money as you work through shelf-stable items too. Before purchasing duplicates be sure to use those that are close to their sell by date, then restock. Also remember to re-stock those healthy staples that make fast and easy weeknight meals; like this spaghetti squash with turkey veggie sauce dish. Some of my family’s favorite pantry staples are canned tomatoes, coconut milk, vegetable broth and nutrient-rich whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat.
Next work through your freezer. We jam pack our freezer with the usual suspects including riced cauliflower, broccoli, shredded kale, green peas, frozen berries and cherries, and of course wild caught fish! I often make double batches of meals too and freeze the second batch for a “prepared freezer meal” one another week; it’s such a fun surprise (but be sure you label it, otherwise it could be a surprise)!
As you clean each of these areas, check expiration dates to help determine when to dispose of foods. But when in doubt, throw it out. Have you ever wondered what's the difference between "use by" and "expiration?"
• “Use by” or “best if used by” date is not a safety-related date (these are usually placed on shelf stable foods, like cereal). It’s the last date recommended for use of the product at optimal quality.
• "Expiration" date means don't consume the product after this date (think of your dairy foods).
Once you’ve finished each area of your kitchen try to get in the habit of using the First In, First Out method – which means put those closest to their end date in the front of your fridge/pantry (so they’re the first ones to be used). That way you never waste food, or money.
Step 2: Embrace seasonal produce One simple way to get out of a cooking rut is to switch up your go-to fruits and vegetables based on the season. Bonus: this also means fresher and less expensive finds! I love salads with seasonal fruits and vegetables like this one featuring strawberries and radishes which came back in season, beginning in March. Did you know that depending on the season, frozen produce may be more nutritious than fresh? That’s because if a fruit or veggie is out of season it is picked while it’s still green (meaning not yet ripe) and held under conditions during transport to ripen. That means less tasty, and less nutritious food. Be sure to print this Produce Availability Chart that shows you how to eat seasonally, for those of you who are Michiganders.
Step 3: Find a meal planning method that actually works. Remember that meal planning is key to staying on track with healthy living goals, so if you’re current setup isn’t working, it might be time to switch gears. Make it a goal to find an approach that feels doable -- and most importantly, sustainable. If this is something you struggle with, you might consider outsourcing. Try out my meal planning program to save time so you can focus on improving your culinary skills and enjoying home-cooked meals over endless recipe searching. The recipes are so tasty too, so even if you enjoy meal planning, trying my plans can offer nice variety for as little as $9/month!
Dedicating time to freshen up your cooking routine can produce results that last. A simple, well-planned menu and well-stocked pantry will reduce your stress in the kitchen and limit the need for takeout (saving your health and your wealth). Set yourself up for success…which step will you tackle first?
Fish … such a polarizing food, am I right?! To some seafood is the smelly, mealy texture of food they’ll never eat. So, some just don’t like it, others avoid fish and seafood due to allergies. Still others such as pregnant and lactating woman, have previously been told to avoid fish for fear of mercury toxicity.
With all of that, fish are really swimming up creek without a paddle (silent giggle to myself).
However, I want to tell you why you should be consuming fish (assuming you don’t have any allergies or intolerances).
NUTRITION Since fish live in water, they absorb, and consume many different nutrients than our land animal protein sources. And variety is a good thing!
- Fish are some of your best sources of selenium, iodine, iron and Vitamin D.
- Fish is also a great source of protein, and if the fish you’re consuming is skin-on and bone-in, you also get a dose of calcium and vitamin A.
- If you’re selecting fatty fish, you’ll also get a dose of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA which have anti-inflammatory properties (these nutrients affect pathways of inflammation and oxidation, maybe even helping one live longer)!
Did you know? Fish are the best source of DHA and EPA! Plant sources of omega 3’s (ALA) can convert to DHA and EPA, but the conversion rate is rather inefficient. There are many factors that play a role, but this conversion is anywhere from 5-10% in most populations. The exception is in younger women who have a much greater capacity (up to 35%) because of the importance of long chain fatty acids in child development. Those at particular risk of for omega 3 deficiencies are those populations whose ancestors ate a lot of fish, for example if someone from Asia were to move to the states and their offspring consume a diet with less fish.
A number of studies aren’t able to substantiate the benefits of fish oil supplements long term. It seems the benefits really come from eating the fish itself.
With that said, for those who don’t consume fish, or who are vegan, a fish oil supplement may still be a good idea for you. Generally, a safe dose is 2 grams of fish oil per day, but you should always speak with your health care provider to see what’s right for you. A well sourced supplement is very important to ensure they aren’t adulterated or that they don’t contain metals and other toxicants. Due to fish oils high susceptibly to rancidity, high quality supplements that are properly stored is of utmost importance! I like Nordic Naturals, check out this link for 15% off: https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/cultivate-nutrition.
For those with thyroid conditions, fish is excellent because it provides nearly all of the nutrients required to improve thyroid function. Namely, selenium, iodine, iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids. Each of these nutrients assists in the thyroid’s ability to produce the active form of thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine.
Omega 3 fatty acids alone may improve a host of mood conditions such as depression and anxiety. Although this one is not conclusive yet, studies look promising, and no doubt nutrition has a role in mood disorders. Therefore, there’s no harm in suggesting someone increase their fish intake to see how it works for that individual.
One of the omega 3 fatty acids in particular, DHA, is a well-known nutrient required for brain development of fetus and young children. New recommendations come from FDA for pregnant women; it is recommended that this population consume at least 8 – 12 ounces of fish weekly.
New research suggests that DHA is not only protective in young, but may be protective in neurological conditions that develop in adults, such as dementia and multiple sclerosis. These fats help to cushion and protect our nerves, myelin sheath and synapses. (Remember the phone cords that allow different body systems to “talk” to each other)? Those are better supported with omega 3’s.
Fish are some of the best sources of Vitamin D; cod, trout, salmon and sardines top the list! There is no lack of research when it comes to Vitamin D’s benefits. Having adequate vitamin D is shown to reduce your risk of cancer, including breast and colon, improve your body’s insulin sensitivity and improve our microbiome. Remember the microbiome is home to over 70% of your immune system!
HOW TO SHOP
Now I know you’re asking, what about mercury and PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls, highly toxic industrial compounds), right? Well two things. First, mercury is highest in the fish who live the longest, and who are the largest, so choose wisely.
Although diversity is always a good thing, you should opt for these five fish the most. These are the richest in omega 3 fatty acids with the least amount of toxins; Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring. More often larger fish, and bottom feeders have more PCB’s, opting for Wild Caught is best whenever possible. Which is also a more sustainable approach (did you know that if we continue at the rate we’re going with farmed fish that by 2050 we may be all fished out!). SEAFOOD WATCH is a great resource to use, you can go online, or load the app.
CULINARY A couple ways to try fish:
• An easy lunch option is tuna + sardine salad. Mixing these two boosts the omega 3’s with sardines but makes the taste more tolerable with the milder tuna. Just mash together with avocado, or mayonnaise, celery, onions, lots of dill, garlic and some salt & pepper!
• We love fish tacos- BONOS it’s a great way to introduce your kids to fish because tacos are a familiar food. Try this rendition: https://www.livingplate.org/recipes/white-fish-lime-tacos/
The Latest on the Science of Intermittent Fasting
Welcome Spring! The weather is warming up, and with all seasons of spring we start stripping off the layers. So naturally, people begin their‘Spring Break Bod’ plans [#SpringBreak2020]. There are so many different diets out there that claim to help with weight loss and disease prevention: low-fat, low-carb, ketogenic, paleo, whole 30, vegetarian, vegan, DASH, Mediterranean, MIND, etc. But I want to talk to you about one of the latest trends: the science of intermittent fasting, otherwise known as IF in the world of food and nutrition.
You may be used to eating three meals every day, plus snacks. That’s pretty common. With intermittent fasting you can essentially eat how much of whatever you want—but here’s the catch: you have to stay on schedule. With intermittent fasting there are scheduled periods of time when you can eat and others when you have to fast. Unlike most other diets, intermittent fasting tells you when to eat, not what to eat.
And, many people say that it can help lead you to better health and a longer life.
Let’s dive into some of the pros and cons of intermittent fasting.
How to intermittently fast
Most of the diets that help achieve weight loss work by reducing the number of calories consumed. Intermittent fasting does the same thing, but in a different way. This way of eating significantly limits calories (requiring fasting) for certain durations of time (intermittently), while allowing little or no restrictions the rest of the time.
Intermittent fasting essentially means skipping meals on a regular basis, sometimes daily, weekly, or monthly. Here are a few different approaches:
- Time-restricted feeding—Having all of your meals during an 8 to 12 hour window each day, drinking only water the rest of the day.
- Alternate day fasting—Eating normally one day but only a minimal number of calories the next; alternating between “feast” and “famine”.
- 5:2 eating pattern—Consuming meals regularly for five days per week, then restricting to no more than 600 calories per day for the other two. This happens by eating very little and drinking only water on those two fasting days.
- Periodic fasting—Caloric intake is restricted for several consecutive days and unrestricted on all other days. For example, fasting for five straight days per month.