Spectrum AK Blog

Why breakfast is important if you have Hashimoto’s

Breakfast is the easiest meal to skip—mornings are rushed and many people don’t have an appetite when they wake up. Some people even feel nauseous in the morning (which indicates a blood sugar disorder). But if you skip breakfast you may be sabotaging your management of Hashimoto's hypothyroidism and increasing your risk of obesity.

Skipping breakfast associated with obesity

Numerous studies show skipping breakfast is associated with higher rates of obesity in both children and adults. Some people erroneously think that by skipping breakfast they consume fewer calories and thus aid weight loss. However, skipping breakfast can cause an unhealthy metabolic cascade that eventually leads to excess fat.

Skipping breakfast increases stress—makes it more difficult to manage Hashimoto's hypothyroidism

Breakfast is the first meal after a long night of fasting. In the absence of food, the body must release stored glucose to fuel the brain or create glucose by breaking down muscle tissue. This process is made possible by stress hormones.

Skipping breakfast when your brain and body are starved for energy exaggerates this stress response, forcing the body to continually pump out stress hormones to fuel the brain. These stress hormones also explain why some people wake up feeling nauseous. Although it seems counter-intuitive, eating can actually relieve that morning nausea by inhibiting the stress response.

The habitual stress response caused by skipping breakfast and other meals promotes weight gain, upsets hormonal balance, causes inflammation, hinders brain function, and can lead to symptoms such as migraines, depression, mood swings, shakiness, lightheadedness, brain fog, sleep disorders, and more. Eating meals high in sugar and carbohydrates also contributes to this problem by causing energy to continually spike and crash throughout the day.

The imbalances caused by chronic stress also disrupt immune function and make it difficult to manage an autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Eating a good breakfast every morning is one way to help dampen the stress response and autoimmune flare-ups. Also, make sure you pass on the bagels or toast. Gluten has been linked with Hashimoto's hypothyroidism in a number of studies.

Skipping breakfast makes you more prone to overeating or poor food choices

Skipping breakfast can increase your chances of overindulging or making poor food choices later in the day. When your energy is crashing and your brain is starving for fuel, downing a caramel latte or package of mini donuts suddenly seems unavoidable. A well-fueled brain is better equipped to make healthier choices and not succumb to a mad grab for the nearest source of quick energy (for which the American food industry seems to be designed).

A recent study validated this tendency, showing participants who skipped breakfast were more likely to seek out high-calorie junk foods and that dieters who skip meals are more prone to gain weight over the long run. Their brain scans showed skipping meals stimulated the brain in a way that made high-calorie foods seem more appealing. Those who skipped breakfast also ate about 20 percent more at lunch.

It's also important to pay attention to this if you are giving up gluten or other foods to manage your Hashimoto's hypothyroidism. If you skip meals and become overly hungry, you are more likely to blow your food plan and eat a food that flares up your thyroid symptoms. Eating breakfast and avoiding high-carb foods stabilizes your energy levels so you are less likely to cheat.

Breakfast keeps body and brain on an even keel to manage Hashimoto's hypothyroidism

Breakfast should emphasize healthy proteins and fat (avoid sugary, starchy breakfasts) to start the day on an even keel and maximize brain function. Eat frequently enough to avoid blood sugar crashes, and include protein, healthy fat, and fiber (vegetables) with every meal to sustain energy throughout the day. This is a vital strategy to managing Hashimoto's hypothyroidism.

Do you have low blood pressure?

We all hear about the risks associated with high blood pressure, but having low blood pressure can also pose health risks. When you have low blood pressure your blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients, is not being sufficiently pushed into the tissues throughout your body, including the brain. This means your brain and other organs are not getting enough oxygen to work as well as they could. A blood pressure of 120/80 is considered healthy and if the upper or lower number deviates by 10 your blood pressure is in an abnormal range.

Low blood pressure associated with adrenal fatigue

Low blood pressure is typically associated with poor adrenal function. The adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, produce stress hormones and play an important role in regulating blood pressure. Many people today have fatigued adrenal glands thanks to chronic stress, poor diets, low blood sugar, chronic infections, digestive problems, inflammation, or other issues. Chronic stress from any or all of these factors may wear out the adrenal glands, causing adrenal fatigue. As a result, your body has a harder time maintaining health and balance through life’s ups and downs. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue may include constant tiredness, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and low blood pressure.

Feeling faint when you stand up

A common type of low blood pressure is a orthostatic hypotension, a drop in blood pressure when you go from sitting to standing that causes lightheadedness. For the person with orthostatic hypotension, standing up causes blood to pool in the legs. This slows the flow of blood back to the heart and decreases the amount of blood pumped from the heart. Medical professionals diagnose orthostatic hypotension when the top number falls by 20 and the bottom number falls by 10 upon standing.

Although lightheadedness is not cause for alarm, if standing up causes you to faint you should seek medical attention. Orthostatic hypotension also increases the risk of falling for elderly people. Orthostatic hypotension is common among people with low blood pressure and hypoglycemia, although people with high blood pressure can also have orthostatic hypotension.

What to do for low blood pressure and adrenal fatigue

If you have low blood pressure and suspect you may have adrenal fatigue, consider having an adrenal saliva test. This test measures how much cortisol, an important adrenal hormone, your body makes, and whether your cortisol level follows healthy daily patterns.

Although people with high blood pressure are told to avoid salt, those with low blood pressure may actually benefit by adding sea salt to their food.

Also, certain nutritional compounds have been shown to support adrenal function and thus healthy blood pressure. Because adrenal fatigue is always secondary to another problem, it’s important to find out what is taxing the adrenal system and address that as well. Eating a diet that prevents your blood sugar from dropping too low and causing symptoms of hypoglycemia is another important key. Strategies include eating a good breakfast, ditching sweets, starchy foods and sweetened drinks, eating regularly enough to sustain blood sugar, and making sure never to skip meals.

For more advice on supporting healthy adrenal function and blood pressure, contact my office.

Low cholesterol caution: Why you need cholesterol

We frequently hear about the dangers of high cholesterol, but keeping cholesterol as low as many doctors recommend may be doing your body more harm than good.

Although conventional medicine has demonized cholesterol and many healthy foods as a consequence, too little cholesterol can be harmful in a variety of ways. Your body uses cholesterol to make cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D, bile acids (to help you digest fats), and it’s vital to good brain function.

Cholesterol prevents depression and memory loss

Cholesterol is abundant in brain and nervous tissue. It provides insulation around nerve cells that transmit electrical impulses, thus maintaining healthy communication in the brain. It also supports the activity of neurotransmitters, chemicals used for communication that greatly affect our mood, personality, and cognitive function. In fact, sufficient cholesterol is necessary to prevent depression and cholesterol-lowering medications have been linked with loss of memory and cognition.

The majority of your brain is made up of fat and the fats you eat help determine the chemical structure of your brain. Many of the foods people are told to avoid in order to lower cholesterol—eggs, fatty meats and fish, butter—also contain choline, a precursor to a brain chemical called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is necessary for learning, memory, concentration, and focus. It’s important to eat healthy, natural fats and avoid processed vegetable oils. You also want to strictly avoid trans fats, or hydrogenated oils, which have been shown to damage the brain and raise your risk for heart disease.

Cholesterol needed for healthy hormones

Cholesterol is a primary building block for the reproductive hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and adrenal hormones. When cholesterol is too low, hormone deficiencies may result. Sufficient cholesterol is also necessary to digest vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are found in fats and are important antioxidants.

Although cholesterol scares are over inflated, it is nevertheless important to pay attention to other lipid panel markers, such as the ratio of HDL to LDL, triglyceride levels, and small, dense LDL. It is important to note too that some people have a genetic tendency toward extremely high cholesterol. In those situations medical attention beyond diet may be necessary.

Inflammation is the real culprit in heart disease

Researchers are increasingly finding chronic inflammation, not healthy dietary fats, damages the walls of the arteries and raises the risk of heart disease. Cholesterol's job is to repair this damage by creating patches, or plaques—it is more the Band-Aid for arterial damage than the cause.

High blood sugar and insulin increase inflammation and heart disease risk

High blood sugar and insulin levels are a primary cause of chronic inflammation. Sweet and starchy foods such as desserts, pastries, cereal, white rice, sodas and sweet drinks, and any other foods that spike the blood sugar and subsequently insulin are the real threat to the arterial walls.

When it comes to looking at your risk of heart disease on a blood test, inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein in the blood that rises in response to inflammation, are important to check. High triglycerides and abnormal blood sugar levels are other markers that can reflect whether your diet may be promoting inflammation.

To learn more about healthy cholesterol and a genuine heart-healthy diet, contact my office.

How to motivate yourself to exercise every day


 

Exercise is the golden bullet when it comes to lowering your risk of heart disease, bone loss, dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and a long list of other modern health maladies. Yet many Americans just can’t seem to make the time or find the motivation.

The problem, say researchers in a New York Times article who have studied the issue, is that exercise is a “should” instead of a “want.” For many people, exercising to prevent a possible health problem later in life is not a good enough reason to get out of the office chair or off the sofa. Being scared into exercising because of a current health condition, like obesity, heart disease or bone loss, may be more effective, but still fails many.

Give exercise and emotional hook

With most of the population struggling with overstuffed schedules, people will only fit in what they feel is absolutely necessary for that moment. Therefore, say research psychologists, we need an emotional hook to compel us to stay physically active. The solution is not to exercise for theoretical medical reasons or some long-off health goal, but because it makes your life better now. Instead of using media scare tactics or self-admonishment to make yourself exercise, find what’s enjoyable about it and use that.

For instance, one researcher suggests a busy working mom use a walk with her kids as a way to spend time with her children and teach them the importance of physical activity.

Another woman, struggling with obesity and diabetes, decided to use long walks to spend time away from her kids and fulfill a life-long dream of taking photos during her walks to use for paintings later.

Another woman in her 60s meets her daily goal of walking for an hour thanks to the company of a friend, so that her morning walks are also a time to socialize.

Reasons that will motivate you to exercise

A number of emotional benefits can help motivate you to exercise if health goals aren’t good enough carrots on a stick. Below are some reasons that may give you cause to get moving.

·         Sleep better at night

·         Relieve depression

·         Relieve anxiety

·         Relieve stress

·         Boost energy and productivity

·         Better able to cope with daily frustrations

·         Endorphin rush, that natural high from physical exertion that lasts for hours

·         Boost self-esteem; exercise makes you feel better about yourself and how you look

·         Time to socialize if you exercise with one or more friends (adding the health bonus of socialization)

·         Time with the family

·         Time away from the family

·         Time with a favorite pet

·         Time doing something fun and playful (dance, skating, Frisbee, golf, hiking, etc.)

Making exercise fun improves motivation

When trying to meet your exercise “dementia-prevention” quota or weight loss goal, it’s easy to get trapped in a boring, noisy gym, staring at the television while on the treadmill, or going through a tired old weights routine. Although certainly better than not exercising at all, some people may find such routines too boring and eventually lose motivation to continue.

Find ways to turn your exercise into play time; scientists have found other species of intelligent animals, such as dolphins, chimps, and otters, play throughout their adult lives as a way to stay active and socially connected. Think back to when you were a child and what you found enjoyable. Perhaps you will have more fun taking your walks to an outdoor hiking area, swimming, doing Zumba, or even roller skating.

Although regular exercise is a powerful tool for health, its ability to simply enhance your current quality of life is undersold by the media. By dropping the health obligations and making exercise into something fun and enjoyable, you will look forward to doing it every day.

 

Twenty percent of diabetics have “type 1.5” diabetes

Although insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes get pinned on diet and lifestyle choices, in some cases these disorders could be associated with an autoimmune reaction, which is the mechanism behind type 1 diabetes. If so, this changes the diet for diabetes to manage the autoimmune condition. It is estimated that 20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes also have an autoimmune reaction against the cells of their pancreas, prompting researchers to dub this “type 1.5 diabetes.” Type 1.5 diabetes may be even more prevalent than type 1 diabetes.

Insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) and diabetes are typically linked with a long-standing diet heavy in sweet, starchy foods and processed fats, as well as overeating and a lack of exercise. This is often referred to as “adult-onset diabetes,” although it’s becoming more common in younger people as their obesity rates rise. In these cases a diet for diabetes would involve managing blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes, referred to as “juvenile diabetes,” is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin.

A person with type 1.5 diabetes may have aspects of both: diet and lifestyle affect pancreatic function, as does an autoimmune reaction which may or may not have been identified. In this case a diet for diabetes would address blood sugar and autoimmune management.

Are you a slender, healthy diabetic or pre-diabetic? Consider type 1.5

Some individuals are at a healthy body weight, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet yet can’t seem to control their consistently high blood sugar levels. With type 1.5 diabetes an autoimmune reaction destroys cells of the pancreas, but the pancreas still secretes insulin—autoimmune damage is not advanced enough to shut down insulin function. In type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, more than 90 percent of the insulin-producing cells have been destroyed. Because a person with type 1.5 diabetes has not sustained pancreatic damage to such a great degree he or she is often misdiagnosed.

Identifying type 1.5 diabetes

If a diet for diabetes that is lower in carbohydrates begins moving blood sugar toward a normal range, it may be that your insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes does not have an autoimmune component. However, if insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes are stubborn despite a diet for diabetes, or if you are slender and active, it’s worth screening for antibodies against pancreatic beta and islet cells. Additionally, some people have antibodies against the glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) enzyme, which is involved in the release of insulin from the pancreas. GAD is also found in areas of the brain, and an autoimmune reaction to GAD may be associated not only with a blood sugar disorder but also with such neurological symptoms as obsessive-compulsive disorder, dizziness, or problems with balance.

A diet for type 1.5 diabetes

Because type 1.5 diabetes is autoimmune, these individuals will want to go beyond a diet for diabetes that manages blood sugar to include managing the immune system. This means strictly avoiding immune-reactive foods, which for most people includes gluten and dairy. The GAD enzyme may cross-react with gluten so that eating gluten can stimulate an immune attack against GAD. Additional foods that trigger autoimmune reactions can be ferreted out by adhering to an autoimmune diet for a period of time. With type 1.5 diabetes, a diet for diabetes should be an autoimmune diet that also manages blood sugar.

Beyond a diet for diabetes, a number of nutritional compounds have been shown to regulate the immune system and dampen autoimmunity. Ask my office for advice on managing autoimmunity. 

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