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Episode 227: 4 Steps to Living Symptom Free with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (Part 2)

Last week I shared the first two steps of living a symptom-free life with Hashimoto's. These are the steps I parsed down from 2 decades of my own trial and error, literally hundreds of hours of research, time working with a number of functional medicine practitioners, over a decade of working 1:1 with clients, and expanding my knowledge with programs like Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, Gut Honest Truth Academy, Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and Functional Nutrition Alliance. 

I wish I had a shortcut when I was first diagnosed... this is yours. 

Click here if you missed part 1, or dive right in! 

Step 3: Optimize Your Adrenals 

Do you ever notice that your thyroid symptoms flare up during periods of stress? Or that they improve when you go on vacation? That's because your stress hormones play a significant role not only in thyroid health but overall hormone health. 

And where do stress hormones come from? Your adrenals. 

Now before you tell me, "Kat, I'm not a terribly stressed person" or "Kat, I handle stress really well!" Keep in mind that...

1. Just because you aren't mentally freaking out doesn't mean your body isn't still having a physiological response to the stress you're encountering every day. 

2. Most people have become so accustomed to stress that they're numb to it. It's become the new norm. Meanwhile our body is stuck in fight or flight and all the hormonal upheaval that that entails. 

3. When I say 'stress' I'm not just talking about the stress of a busy work week, or a rough patch in your relationship, or juggling a job and 3 kids. I'm talking about the stress that comes from living in a world with pollution in the air, fluoride in the water, endocrine disruptors in our clothes, toxins in our personal care and cleaning products, and pesticides and preservatives in our food. 

So whether you think you're stressed or not, you need to prioritize this step. 

Now let's get into how your adrenal health actually impacts your thyroid.

When we're talking adrenals, the main hormone we're going to be digging into is cortisol. And rightfully so, it completely changes our internal environment. 

  1. Cortisol is our main survival hormone, so when it's released it's like Sandy Lyle in Along Came Polly - when he gets on stage he's going to make sure he steals all the attention from every other actor up there. He views himself as the single most important character and has no problem ruining the entire show as long as he gets the spotlight. What does this mean for your health? It means cortisol is going to divert energy away from your thyroid and signal your thyroid to stop producing as much thyroid hormone. After all, it needs all that energy to protect you from all those stressors we talked about. 
  2. Cortisol restricts the conversion of T4 to T3. Imagine inactive T4 hormone is like a sleeping soldier and you need the alarm to sound so he gets up and goes to battle (at which point he becomes your active T3 hormone). Cortisol effectively silences the alarm. 
  3. Cortisol is catabolic, meaning it breaks down your tissue to mobilize stored glucose to give you the energy you need to fight or run away from whatever stressor you're facing - no your body doesn't know you can't physically fight or run from a work deadline. And I'm sure I don't need to tell you that as a hashimoto's warrior your body is already breaking down things it shouldn't (hint: your thyroid tissue), we don't want to exacerbate this process with chronic cortisol production. 
  4. Finally, if we're trying to live a symptom-free life, that means healing has to take place. And cortisol can slow healing by 24-40%.

But cortisol isn't the only piece of the adrenal puzzle we need to look at. When our sodium:potassium ratio is out of whack (ie too much sodium without enough potassium), it activates the SGK1 pathway which turns on cells that promote the autoimmune response while turning down T-regulatory cells (the cells responsible for calming down our overactive immune system. What's responsible for managing levels of sodium and potassium in your blood? The adrenals.

Obviously given the many forms of stress we're faced with every day, it's going to take more than a few deep breaths and a meditation app to fix the problem. If you want to really target this core root cause I have an entire module that covers exactly what to do to support your adrenals and mitigate stress's effect on the body (since we definitely can't get rid of it completely) in my Follow Your Gut Program. Click here for more info and to apply!

Step 4: Support Your Liver 

This was the sleeper step that I didn't find out until way late in the game, but it was one of the most crucial in finally breaking through my skin and digestive issues. Everything else - balancing my blood sugar, healing my gut, supporting my adrenals got me 70% of the way there. But this was the key to the final climb. 

First off, just like our adrenal step, liver support is necessary for hormone balance in general. 

  1. We often just associate the liver with alcohol metabolism. But it also is responsible for metabolizing old hormones. And when it's congested with all the toxins, chemicals, pesticides, and endocrine disruptors I mentioned earlier, it's like your old hormones are waiting in line at a grocery store that's way too long and going way too slow. Eventually they're going to get out of line. This translates as your old hormones recirculating back into the bloodstream causing all sorts of imbalances. 
  2. Your liver is responsible for 60% of the conversion of T4 to T3. So going back to our soldier metaphor, imagine 60% of the army just didn't go off to battle because the alarm never sounded... not going to be a very effective army. 
  3. There's a pretty major chain reaction with a whole lot of stops along the way that impact thyroid health. I'll try to keep this as simple and straight forward as possible, but bare with me. Deep breath... ok we're ready. If you have Hashimoto's you're at a 200% increased risk of developing gallbladder disease. Remember hypothyroidism slows everything down - your metabolism, your digestion, your energy, and yes your gallbladder. If you remember from middle school science class, the gallbladder stores and releases bile which is what helps you break down dietary fat. When your gallbladder slows down and doesn't contract as well, you can't absorb your fat as well which means you also aren't going to absorb your fat-soluble vitamins as well (vitamins A, D, E, and K). Why do we care? Vitamins A and D in particular are essential for thyroid stimulating hormone. Now you may be wondering why I bring up the gallbladder when this section is supposed to be talking all about liver health. Well an impaired gallbladder decreases clearance of cholesterol from the liver leading to that congested grocery line problem. 
  4. When your liver is impaired/congested not only do we see recirculating hormones, we can see a reduction in the release of bile salts which help keep the cells of the gut lining closely knitted together. Imagine it's like the mortar between the bricks of a wall. And without that mortar we experience leaky gut, one of the root causes of Hashimoto's that we covered in part 1
  5. Finally a poorly functioning liver impairs thyroid binding globulin which is what binds to your thyroid hormones to take them where they need to go throughout the body. It's like you were waiting on a date to pick you up to go to a restaurant but they never showed, you're not going to go to the restaurant by yourself. Heels are coming off and Netflix is coming on. 

So how do you support your liver besides just cutting back on booze? There are 2 parts.

Imagine your liver is like a tub that you don't want to overflow. You need the drain to be open enough to let the water out and you need the water pressure low enough that it doesn't overpower the capacity of the drain.

So we need to support the liver with certain foods and potentially some supplements to help it metabolize everything that comes through (open the drain), and remove as many liver-cloggers as possible (turn down the water). 

How do you know if this is a step you need to focus on? In fact how do you know which of these 4 steps are most important for you to prioritize to get the best and fastest results possible?

In my Follow You Gut Program I can connect you with functional labs that will look at your adrenal, gut, and liver health to see what healing opportunities are most pressing (the blood sugar balance we'll address with habits, no testing or finger pricks necessary). 

If that's a route you'd like to take because you do not want to waste another second on trial and error, click here to apply!


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