Article contribution by Paleohacks online blog, written by Aimee McNew. PaleoHacks is a top source for amazing Paleo recipes, fitness tips, and wellness advice to help you live life to the fullest.
If you suffer from Hashimoto’s, you’re not alone. Here’s why repairing your gut is so important to finding relief – and how to do it correctly.
Hashimoto’s thyroid disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S., and it affects women five to 10 times more than men. (1) If you have Hashimoto’s disease, you’re probably wondering the best way to treat it. While autoimmune disease isn’t curable, your symptoms of autoimmunity can be put into remission. But for this to happen, you have to first know how you got there, and what to do next.
How Thyroid Autoimmunity Gets Triggered
Autoimmune disease begins when the immune system gets confused and attacks its own organs, joints, or tissue. The thyroid in particular is highly sensitive and is susceptible to many triggers for disease, including: (2, 3)
- Secondary infection from a primary autoimmune condition, many times fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Celiac disease, or rheumatoid arthritis
- Viral infections, particularly Epstein-Barr
- Hormone shifts such as postpartum or menopause
- Environmental triggers like chemicals or toxin exposure
- Genetic mutations, such as MTHFR, that are switched “on”
- Leaky gut and food triggers, especially gluten, dairy, and soy
- Family history of Hashimoto’s or other thyroid disorders
While autoimmunity exists in many forms, Hashimoto’s is the most common form. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone or when the body can’t activate or use the thyroid hormone that exists. When the immune system is not involved, this can often correct itself. However, in the case of Hashimoto’s, the immune system destroys thyroid tissue that can result in reduced ability to produce and convert hormones.
Research shows that as much as 79 percent of Hashimoto’s development is due to genetic factors alone, while remaining factors include stress, environment, lifestyle and viruses. (4)
Even when genetics are the most likely culprit, you still have to have something that turns “on” the gene. We are a complex system of DNA, and we have many genes that are in varying stages of being turned on and off. Lifestyle, diet, infections, and even stress can all influence how our genes respond to the environment, which can directly influence how our immune systems work.
When genetics combine with any other trigger, the immune system can be sensitized to the thyroid, slowly and often silently mounting its attack against the thyroid for years and even sometimes decades before symptoms become prominent. In many cases, symptoms are often written off as a part of a busy life or attributed to other conditions.
Once the immune system is in attack mode against the thyroid, it cannot be undone. However, you can take lifestyle steps to cool down the immune system’s attack and halt progression of the autoimmune disease, and even reverse negative symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s.
3 Steps to Calming the Immune System
While addressing Hashimoto’s can seem daunting, these essential steps can point you in the right direction of calming the immune system and relieving symptoms.
In order to halt the progression of Hashimoto’s and ease the immune system back into balance, it’s important to cut off any possible sources that could be fueling the immune system’s attack. Regardless of the cause, Hashimoto’s disease is always rooted in gut health.
Everything we eat is digested and absorbed into the gut. The small intestine is where most digestion takes place and where nutrients are taken into the bloodstream. In the case of leaky gut, the tightly regulated gateway system that keeps unwanted particles out of the bloodstream breaks down. That means partially digested food, chemicals, and viruses can all enter the bloodstream and alert the immune system to their presence.
Eliminating triggers associated with Hashimoto’s mean quitting dairy and gluten, even if you are not allergic to them. Why? Because the chemical components of these foods, at a cellular level, look similar to thyroid tissue. (5) This matters because if you eat these foods, they have easy access to your bloodstream, where your immune system will “see” them. Anything your immune system doesn’t recognize gets obliterated. Additionally, anything recognized as self that is found where it does not belong gets obliterated, too.
To eliminate triggers for Hashimoto’s, try the following:
- Stick to a diet free from gluten, dairy, and soy
- Assess your gut health and get tested for viruses like Epstein-Barr
- Manage stress
- Rebuild the Gut
After the triggers have been eliminated, it’s time to restore. Fortunately, gut repair is a simple process that involves taking in nutrients that help the body to build up gut tissue and to improve digestive function.
There are several nutrients that are particularly beneficial for boosting and building the gut:
Collagen: Found in bone broth and on its own as a supplement, collagen is a component of tissues found throughout the body. It is rich in amino acids, especially proline and glycine, that cut inflammation throughout the body, especially the gastrointestinal tract, and promotes tissue repair. (6)
Glutamine: An essential amino acid, glutamine is a required component for gut repair and health. It can be taken both during the repair phase and to help prevent recurrence. Glutamine is anti-inflammatory and acts as a sort of intestinal sunscreen: it coats the lining of the gut to keep inflammatory and damaging substances from leading to inflammation. The Ultimate Gut Support was designed to provide glutamine plus other essential nutrients to support the gut.
Probiotics: While the bad bacteria in the gut seem to thrive easily, good bacteria need to be regularly replenished. In a day and age where it’s less common to eat fermented food, probiotic supplements can step in and help bridge the gap.
Digestive enzymes: Undigested food particles can’t enter the bloodstream if they’re fully digested to begin with. Digestive enzymes can help the reduce overall burden on the digestive system, and should be taken before or with every meal to aid in the breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbs. I recommend 1-2 caps of Digest Care during each meal to support this process.
- Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
Once you have removed triggers and worked to repair the gut, you need to supply the body with regular amounts of high-quality nutrients to support gut health and nourish the body in its quest to find balance after autoimmunity.
Foods that support both thyroid and gut health are anti-inflammatory, rich in healthy fats, low in refined carbs and sugar, and loaded with protein, which helps promote hormone stability in the body.
While many foods on a Paleo diet can offer this type of nutrient richness, there are certain ones that give more bang for their buck. The following five nutritionally rich “superfoods” are great for promoting a balanced thyroid and reducing autoimmunity.
5 Foods That Support Thyroid Health
Brazil Nuts: Rich in antioxidants and selenium, Brazil nuts can help to promote proper thyroid hormone conversion and activation in the tissues. They also increase glutathione, a master antioxidant that helps to lower thyroid antibodies that are commonly seen in Hashimoto’s. Just three Brazil nuts per day can provide all the selenium you need.
Sea Vegetables: While supplemental iodine can be a big no for Hashimoto’s, since it can perpetuate autoimmune reactivity, natural sources of iodine like seaweed and other sea vegetables can promote healthy thyroid functioning.
Broccoli: Most people with thyroid disease have probably heard the advice to avoid “goitrogens,” foods which can potentially lead to an enlarged thyroid or “goiter.” Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables received this harmful label, but in reality, broccoli is one of the most anti-inflammatory foods that exist, and is rich in nutrients that suppress an overactive immune system. Unless you’ve been diagnosed with goiter, research shows no indication that cruciferous vegetables are harmful for Hashimoto’s. (7)
Salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods that exist, and wild-caught salmon is one of the densest sources of this nutrient. While fish oil supplements can help, nothing replaces that actual impact of eating a diet rich in this seafood that is loaded with healthy fat, a moderate amount of vitamin D, and B12, which can help to promote a healthy immune system.
Pumpkin Seeds: Selenium is a nutrient required by the thyroid to produce hormone and is a relatively common borderline deficiency, especially in people with thyroid problems. Pumpkin seeds are a rich dietary source of selenium, which functions as an antioxidant in the body and helps to prevent damage to cells from inflammation and autoimmune attacks.
Article contribution by Paleohacks online blog, PaleoHacks is a top source for amazing Paleo recipes, fitness tips, and wellness advice to help you live life to the fullest.