Hypothyroidism, in which the body produces to little of the thyroid hormones Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) which are synthesized from iodine and the amino acid tyrosine. Lots of people are deficient in amino acids causing improper functioning of the thyroid gland. Endocrine disruptors also impeded thyroid function.
Hyperthyroidism is the opposite in which the body produces too much of the very same hormones (T3 & T4). Those with hyperthyroidism can feel hotter than normal, slowly lose weight even though they may be eating more, or gain weight because of an increase in appetite. Patients with hyperthyroidism usually experience fatigue at the end of the day, but can have trouble getting to sleep. Hand tremors and palpitations can develop, they may become irritable and easily upset. In severe cases people can suffer shortness of breath, chest pain, and muscle weakness. Often so gradual in its onset that patients may know they are sick for sometime.
Hypothyroidism is what fits most peoples picture and the common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue that sleep often fails to eliminate, depression and weight gain. Other symptoms that often occur include:
- forgetfulness/short-term memory loss
- myalgias or arthralgias
- intolerance to cold
- heart palpitations
- cold hands/feet
- premature gray hair
- slow pulse/reflexes
- dry flaky skin
- inability to lose weight
- hair that falls out easily
- loss of sex drive
- high cholesterol readings
- muscle and joint pain
Modern medicine usually uses blood tests for thyroid function, which frequently miss the diagnosis. A more reliable test is the barnes basal temperature test which is suggested by Dr. Broda Barnes who is the author of the book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. Dr Barnes assessed thyroid function by testing the metabolic rate via basal body temperature and resting pulse rate.
As I mentioned, Josh Rubin from East West Healing, who is one of the CHEK Faculty has turned us all on to the work of Ray Peat. Ray states that "Healthy and intelligent groups of people have been found to have an average resting pulse rate of 85/minute, while less healthy groups average close to 70/minute". He explains that our pulse rate can also be controlled by adrenaline (racing pulse in a constant fight or flight state), and that when in hypothyroidism their can be a compensation factor of extra adrenaline production. Leading to symptoms linked with adrenal fatigue. As we already know adrenaline works on the liver to raise blood sugar levels due to stimulated glucose production so their can also be blood sugar handling issues. This can also raise the the heart rate etc. What we need to work out is what is the driving factor that causes this cycle rather than just jumping in and treating symptoms. For some years I've assessed blood sugar levels and adrenal function so it will be interesting to see if this method brings better results for those I advise (including myself). Barnes suggests that when temperature and pulse is low it may be an indication of hypothyroidism. In Barnes book he suggests that "a pulse running 65 or below indicates lower thyroid function. The normal basal body temperature runs between 97.8 and 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature running below 97.6 indicates the possibility of low thyroid function." Peat suggests that a pulse rate below 85 is indicative of low thyroid function. Babies tend to have a pulse around a 100 which slows to 85 by about 8 years old and then seems to gradually slow as we age and deteriorate over the years. My old knowledge gained from numerous gym instructor courses told me that a slow pulse is healthy, yet over the years I've frequently seen unhealthy people with relatively low pulse rates, my own experience of having a pulse rate in the 30's left me chronically ill and questioning how I could train so much yet feel so unfit. I'm personally aiming for 98.6 degrees Farenheit (37) after eating.
How to test yourself: As you rise in the morning place the thermometer under your armpit and take a reading. This is also an ideal time to record your pulse rate for one full minute. Be sure to remain still so as not to stimulate the body (temperature & pulse rate) and be sure that you follow the same protocol each day when you retest. From this you can do various things such as work out if you are suffering from poor thyroid function and also monitor any daily variance which can help athletes decide if they should train or not.
Peat makes a lot of suggestions for diet to assist in thyroid regulation which sits well with my CHEK training as I've never been a fan of pills and potions.
Proteins: As with the methods I've previously used (metabolic typing) it's important to eat carbohydrate when consuming proteins (people always assume I teach carbohydrate avoidance). Meats need to be eaten with the gelatin it comes with or via another source (I use gelatin powder), to balance out tryptophan. Coconut oil can also be used in the cooking process to assist in the removal of poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Peat recommends potato (eaten with lots of fat such as butter) as a protein source but I'll cover this in a later blog post.
Fatty fish such as salmon should be limited due to it unsaturated fat content. We need fats from warm blooded animals which produce the saturated and monounsaturated fats we require. Fish tend to be cold blooded and unsaturated which is unhealthy for us.
Peat suggest that for an adult, gelatin is greatly required. Lamb shanks as an example, is a great source of gelatin but is exactly what the world tends to avoid due to fear of fat. 5–10 grams of gelatin at approximately the same time is suggested as a healthy amount when consuming meats to create a better amino acid balance.
Dairy is great but make sure its raw which is what I (and CHEK) currently recommend.
Fats: Still the same here, coconut oil and butter are the most useful and healthy fats plus the fat naturally occurring in your meat. Avoid grain and vegetable oils like the plague which is no different to what I've taught for years. A little (good quality) olive oils seems to be ok but don't go overboard.
Carbohydrates: As with metabolic typing always consume carbohydrate at every meal with protein and fat (know your own ratios though). Peat is a big advocate of fruit (both whole and juices), he seems to love orange juice due to it’s potassium and magnesium content. If your going to try juices (I'm not there yet due to previous problems with too much sugar in relation to protein/fat), make sure its home juiced and not store bought. Berries which contain seeds aren't recommended. Bananas and other starchy fruits such as apples/pears are also on his no no list. He does seem to suggest that they are more useful/safer when ripe, peeled and cooked. The fat in cheese is suggested as protective against the starch in non ripe fruit, so once again good quality raw cheese is a handy snack if your consuming fruit.
Potato, white rice or oats, and brown rice (listed in order of preferability) can be used. You should already be aware of phytic acid as we've discussed it before (its why we soak nuts and grain) and it causes calcium absorption to be blocked. Its suggested that cooking the oats for a much longer period may improve the nutritional value. I know they don't work for me so I still won't be eating them though.
Carrot, especially a carrot salad with coconut oil has an anti-estrogen effect. Well cooked broccoli is okay. Vegetables should not be the main part of anyone’s diet though.
Beverages: Water. Peat does suggest coffee (must be taken with sugar and cream) but at the moment I'm sticking with avoiding this one until I can balance my thyroid, adrenals and know that my blood sugar handling is more stable.
Avoid: PUFA's can be found in processed food, nuts and seeds and their butters, vegetable oils.
So here's the deal. The whole world seemingly believes that to stay healthy we need to eat lots of plants (5 a day) and do lots of cardio. From my experience and studies, jogging doesn't prevent heart disease, help you loose weight or give you a rippling six pack (sorry to all the people I see jogging past each day). The message put out to everyone is wrong, we aren't designed to run for long periods (we can but it compromises health and your body is suffering while you do it), aerobics classes will not make you healthy (check out the often plump instructors with thyroid issues, running on adrenaline and often with serious blood sugar issues). We also aren't supposed to survive on veg and poly unsaturated fats alone and evidence suggests that it seriously damages the body. For most Ray's suggestions will be too much, people already struggle with the current recommendations I make. However, working alongside a knowledgeable practitioner is advisable as health is a complex issue that varies from person to person. Its not as simple as running and dieting, working together we can begin to implement the changes that progress you on the path towards a healthier life.
1. Peat, Ray. www.raypeat.com
2. Barnes Broda, M.D. Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness
3. Rubin, Josh, Jeanne. Wholistic Living: Blog Talk Radio Various episodes available through iTunes