Hypothyroidism and the Sun

I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I’m not sure exactly how long I’ve had it for, but I’m pretty sure it was at some point in my teens when it first set in. I’ve been managing my symptoms and helping others to do so using my immunology background and nutrition training.

Recently though, I’ve been marvelling at how well I felt while I was away on holiday in Costa Rica.

I’ve been feeling well overall for a long time now, but usually it is something that I have to constantly manage. If I slip up with my diet or get too little sleep, then I really pay the price – there isn’t much of a buffer.

But apparently this is not the case in the tropics!  I was able to manage jet lag (with two jet lagged children) and big dietary changes (from very high veg and low carb to high carb and low veg…) with no problem at all. I was even waking up refreshed after a very little sleep!

Amazing.

So what was going on?  I’ve always loved the tropics and I am convinced it’s the temperature, humidity and the sunshine that help my body work better. Even though I didn’t sun bathe – I was either in the shade with the kids, in my rash vest attempting to surf or walking around with suncream and a hat – I got a light tan and felt the difference.

Vitamin D plays a huge role in moderating our immune systems, and that it is really important (but usually deficient) in people with autoimmune conditions (like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).

I can help you get your thyroid condition under control and to feel your best as soon as possible!  Email me now to book your Free Discovery Session EMAIL CAROLINE

Getting that extra bit of sunshine (carefully of course) definitely helps me.  I also acknowledge that getting away from it all and being on holiday undoubtably makes things better!

So what does this mean for those of us in temperate regions?  Interestingly autoimmune conditions are more prevalent in temperate zones.  I’d suggest getting out in that sunshine, or even daylight, as much as possible and in a safe way and keeping warm by layering up, especially when it’s breezy!

Have you been on holiday this summer? How did you feel?

Caroline xx

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Blood tests, hypothyroidism and vitamin D

I’ve recently got back from a fabulous holiday in Costa Rica, Central America. I am super lucky to be able to go there; I have amazing family and friends there, it’s beautiful, very biodiverse, the people are delightful and you can walk into a lab like a highstreet shop and order any blood test you like.

I know that this is quite a privileged thing to be able to do, and I wouldn’t advise that you do it unless you know how to interpret the results or have a doctor who can help you with it (I also saw an endocrinologist while I was there).

In the UK getting your own blood tests done isn’t possible. Here your GP has to order the blood tests, which means they first have to think that the tests are worth ordering and that the NHS should spend money on them. Even then, the lab tech running the tests can decide not to bother if they don’t think it’s relevant (I’m not kidding, this has happened twice with my Husband’s tumour markers!). It’s therefore quite uncommon for vitamin deficiency tests to be run, for example.  We also don’t get the full thyroid panel, or levels of antibodies. This lack of monitoring can make it hard to determine whether the changes you are making to your lifestyle and diet are having a positive effect on your hypothyroidism.

I can walk you through the diet and lifestyle changes you need to help your thyroid in a safe and systematic way, that’s unique for you! Click HERE

So I went with a plan. I wanted to know whether the vitamin supplements I have been taking are A) having an effect on my vitamin levels (i.e. being assimilated properly) and B) whether I should continue to take them.

I try not to take vitamins unless I really need to. In a lot of cases it’s unclear what a high dose of some vitamins can do, and there has been a fair amount of bad press out there. On the other hand, we know our bodies need certain vitamins, and for hypothyroid people, vitamin deficiencies are common and often undermine the health changes you’re making. For me Vitamin D is an important one – many hypothyroid people assimilate vitamin D poorly, yet it has such a huge role in moderation our immune systems. We don’t really get it from our food, and in the UK, getting it through sun exposure can be challenging.  Personally, I take a high dose Vitamin D3 supplement. In doing so, I need to watch my calcium levels as these can drop. SO I was curious to see what my test results showed.

Interestingly, despite this high dose supplement, my vitamin D levels were right on the boundary of being deficient. This means one of two things 1) that my VitD levels without the high dose supplements are ridiculously low or 2) that the supplement isn’t being assimilated. I don’t know which is the answer, though I do know that I start to feel tired, lethargic and brain-foggy when I skip my Vit D for a few days.

Luckily my blood work showed perfect Calcium levels, so no worries there.

Of course I had anti-thyroid antibodies, as you’d expect with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and my white blood cells were slightly low – again common with my thyroid condition.

So, I’m sticking with the Vitamin D supplements and continuing to eat right and be well!  I’ll be back on the calcium-rich bone broth ASAP!

Caroline x

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Sleep has always been an important part of my life, and I’ve been able to sleep in some pretty spectacular situations – from a sun-warmed stone on a mountain top to the bouncing bow of a boat in the cold, driving rain. In hindsight, my ability  – or need- to nod off was probably a symptom of my thyroid disease.

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Recently I have met a lot of people with hypothyroidism, or suspect they have it despite their blood work being normal. Many of these people have a long list of symptoms that they have never associated with their thyroid condition and have lived with them for years. They are are used to feeling less than optimal and easily put these, often non-specific, symptoms down to age or lack of sleep.

But what if you could feel better? What if you could get rid of those aches and pains?  Today I want to give you a more comprehensive list (but by no means exhaustive) of the symptoms you may experience with hypothyroidism – there may be more than you may realise.

Chronic symptoms of hypothyroidism can be reduced or eliminated through changes in eating habits and lifestyle.

I’m walking proof of this. I have gone from being bedridden, aching all over and barely able to move to, on the whole, being fully functional!  I still get the odd flare-up, but there is usually a clear cause, such as over working, catching a horrible bug or letting my sugar consumption creep up. When this happens I know I have to go back to basics and “Reboot“, to get back on track. And it works.

If you have hypothyroidism, particularly Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and suffer from chronic symptoms it’s important you know that they are an indication that your body is not functioning at it’s best. You have those symptoms for a reason.

Masking symptoms with pain killers and supplements without addressing the cause can compromise your long-term health.

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If you have these symptoms please know that you can feel better. It may take time. It may take effort, but it is possible! With no help or guidance from medical doctors as to how to manage my diagnoses (first CFS and then Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), just a prescription for Thyroxine, for a long time I thought I was going to be virtually house-bound for the rest of my life. Thank goodness I took control of my health and made the necessary changes to feel better.

I read and researched. I used my background in Immunology to understand the science behind my disease, then I listened to my body and used my knowledge of nutrition to heal and get as healthy as possible.

Here is a list of some of the symptoms you may have, even if you’re taking thyroxine. How many of these do you have?

  • Palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Slow speech
  • Slow movements
  • Brain fog/confusion/forgetfulness
  • Liver tenderness
  • Insomnia (yes, even with hypothyroidism)
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Muscle and joint stiffness
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Pins and needles
  • Puffy, itchy, scratchy eyes
  • Puffy hands and feet
  • Cold extremities/ low basal body temperature
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Tinnitus/hearing problems
  • Restless legs
  • Hair loss
  • Eczema/ dry skin
  • Migraines
  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to cope with stress

I had more than 75% of these symptoms and I was misdiagnosed for 5 years. Now I live largely symptom free!

Get in touch to hear how we can work together to improve your health and get rid of your symptoms.

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If you have some of these symptoms and haven’t got a hypothyroidism diagnosis, then it’s advisable to talk to your doctor. These symptoms don’t mean you DO have hypothyroidism and are not meant for diagnostic purposes. If you are at all concerned about your health, then make an appointment to see your doctor.

I am happy to help you make positive dietary and lifestyle changes alongside your medical doctor.

Take control of your health and feel better!

With warmth,

Caroline x

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The Reboot

It’s officially Springtime! Hooray!

I love Spring – it is so full of colour and hope, especially after a long, grey winter (which they usually are here!). I find this change of season inspiring and optimistic.  After being in hibernation mode for winter,  I’m ready for the gorgeous sunshine we have had in recent days here in Devon – long may it last! It makes me want to grab life with both hands and go out and live it!

If only I had the energy and time (right?)

As you may know, I’ve had my health problems in recent years, and I know what it is like for your brain to want you to do something, but your body to outright refuse. I have been there, held captive by exhaustion and fatigue – willing my eyes to stay open long enough to read a book, or to stay focussed enough to make a serious phone call. Getting myself out of that state required a major Reboot. A focus on myself and my health. Read more about it HERE.

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Even now I know when I have been overdoing it. When I haven’t been getting my 7-9hours of sleep (I have two young kids, so this is pretty much a given), when I have been rushing from A to B and sorting everyone else out.  I notice that I am less focused, tired all the time and readily feel overwhelmed – I’m not functioning my best. I know that I am putting my health second, which is not sustainable and is not a good thing!

To battle tiredness I get tempted by sugary foods and caffeinated drinks to get me through the day. We all know that this is a temporary fix, and it usually leaves me feeling worse, not to mention the longer term consequences. But how many of us get stuck in this cycle?  I know I’m not alone in this!

It is time to break the cycle! Reboot NOW

There is no better time for change than Spring – shake off that winter lethargy and refocus on your health. Feel Better!

Give yourself the best chance at making positive changes and making them stick.

Check out my new health coaching package: The Reboot

Are you ready to have:

  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Less chronic inflammation
  • More control of your health

And more!

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Are you vegan?

I get asked this question a lot, and I can understand why – I, and my family, eat a mostly plant-based diet and we avoid dairy.

Am I a vegan?  No.

It took me a good while to work out my family’s optimal “diet”.  I was troubled by the fact that many lifestyle factors, including diet, can significantly affect our chances of developing disease. So, I wanted to put some thought into how to keep my family healthy, through food. I had a Cancer patient, my thyroid and adrenal issues, two kids under 3 and several intolerances to consider, so it was not an easy task!

A quick scan of the light “science” available online told me in no uncertain terms that becoming vegan was the way forward. After all, vegans are reported to live longer and healthier, with lower risk of nasty things like cancer and heart disease.

I toyed with this idea for a while, and it was tempting. But, a few things didn’t sit right. First and foremost, getting your recommended daily allowance of nutrients from a vegan diet requires a lot of vegetables (clearly!), and a fair bit of digestive effort. I had the whims of a toddler and the tastes of a baby to think about, as well as some questionable digestion my part thanks to my thyroid. Secondly, I couldn’t, and still can’t, get past the fact that being a vegan deprives you of Vitamin B12.

B Group Vitamins are water-soluble (you need a regular intake) and enable the release of energy from your food. Energy is not something I take for granted – as a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and hypothyroidism I need all the energy release I can get!

Vitamin B12 has a role in the formation of red blood cells, nervous system and the metabolism of fats and proteins, and not enough of it can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and numbness.

Of course, these days, as a vegan you can overcome these risks by taking a daily vitamin B12 supplement. 

Brain Food: We have evolved to eat meat

A recent article in the journal Nature discusses the need for quality meat in our diet, in a world that is rich in nutrient-poor food. Read the article HERE.

Gupta highlights that the consumption of meat by our primate ancestors enabled them to evolve bigger brains. Meat provides readily available iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and fatty acids – all of which are required for brain development and optimal function (so not something I’m willing to deprive my kids of). 

The article does note, however, that nutrient-poor, factory-farmed meats are nowhere near as beneficial for us as free range meat.

So where does this leave us on the “healthiest diet” dilemma?

My view is that your diet needs to suit your needs. For me, and my family, getting our daily requirements for optimal health purely from plants would be challenging. I alone have a thyroid condition which predisposes me to have an array of nutrient deficiencies – including B12!

This doesn’t mean we eat loads of meat everyday – far from it. We eat a diverse mix of gluten-free, plant-based foods including vegetables, nuts, pulses and the odd bit of seaweed!  We eat free-range chicken and well-sourced oily fish, like mackerel and salmon. We rarely eat red meat or processed meat because of the links to increased risk of cancer (Cancer Research UK).

We also don’t eat dairy, primarily because of intolerances (did you know that Thyroxine can make you lactose intolerant?), but also because of the potential links to some Cancers and the fact that our ability to drink milk into adulthood is due only to a chance mutation – only 30% of people can digest the milk sugar lactose (mostly Europeans).

Most importantly, I am open to changes in our eating regime – the aim is to get the most from our food and to feel our best!

This is what works for us. What works of you? 

Are you vegan? 

I make homemade gluten, dairy, egg and soy-free food, many of which are suitable, or can be made suitable, for vegans (or all of which if you are a vegan who eats honey!). Have a look at what you can order HERE.

Is it time you took a look at your diet, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Get in touch HERE and we can have a chat about how I may be able to help.

For more information on my Coaching sessions and Packages click HERE

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Caroline x

7 things you should know if you take thyroxine (T4)

Today I booked myself another blood test to check whether the thyroxine (levothyroxine, T4) dose I am on is keeping my other thyroid-related hormones within normal range. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – a chronic autoimmune condition that, if left untreated, can be a serious problem.

Each time I collect my thyroxine from the chemist he tells me not to have it with milk. I then tell him that I’m dairy intolerant so it’s not an issue. Recently I started wondering what it was about the milk that was a problem. And, are there other things we should be aware of that we aren’t routinely told?

Whether you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or another form of hypothyroidism, you need your thyroxine to be working so you feel your best and stay healthy long-term. This is important stuff!

This week I went back to the original scientific literature to check a few things out. Here are some of the things you need to know if you take thyroxine:

  1. Most people on thyroxine have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Davis et al, 2015) – an autoimmune disease that will not go away. It seems that many people on thyroxine don’t really know why they are on it. If that’s you, don’t panic, just book an appointment with your doctor to check it out. Your doctor will explain the medical reasons behind you taking thyroxine and whether or not it is an autoimmune condition, and together you can take control of your health from there.
  2. Thyroxine (T4) is the hormone our thyroid is struggling to produce when we are hypothyroid. It comes in several different forms, but the most common (especially in the UK) is tablet form of synthetic T4, commonly known as Levothyroxine.
  3. Many things affect how well Levothyroxine works in replacing your natural T4 supply.  For example, whether the dose is right, if we take it regularly and whether it interacts with other things that may stop it being absorbed properly into our body.
  4. Levothyroxine guidelines recommend taking on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. This is supported by Bach-Huynh et al. (2009), who also recommend fasting for 1 hour afterwards, and highlight that it can take up to 4 hours for levothyroxine to be absorbed. The idea behind fasting is to maximise the chance of it being absorbed without something we eat interfering.  Do you wait an hour to eat after taking thyroxine? 
  5. Common “morning” foods and habits that can reduce your thyroxine absorption include coffee, soy, grapefruit juice, high fibre foods (e.g. bran, granola and wholemeal bread) and multivitamins that contain calcium and iron (Andrade 2013).
  6. Levothyroxine needs high stomach acidity to be properly absorbed (Centanni et al. 2006) – something people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis usually lack!
  7. Levothyroxine can lead to dairy intolerance as it inhibits lactase production (the enzyme needed to breakdown milk sugar). Unsurprisingly therefore, 79% of people with Hashimoto’s in one study were found to be lactose intolerant (Asik et al. 2014). Lactose is often used to “fill” thyroxine tablets, so if you’re concerned about this talk to your doctor about possible alternatives. I’m not sure if this was what my chemist was referring to – I haven’t come across any other milk-related problems with taking levothyroxine, apart from maybe that calcium reduces absorption, have you?

How do you know if your thyroxine is working?

If you keep going back to the doctor and get a higher dose of thyroxine, you may be doing something that is stopping it from working properly, and perhaps you should discuss this with your doctor on your next visit.  Otherwise, try a few things. 1)  do a Symptom check (I am a BIG advocate of this and use it regularly with my clients – it reminds us that we are experts of our own body and only we know how we feel). If you’re having the tell-tale hypothyroid symptoms of fatigue, aches and pains, brain fog etc, then it’s likely you need to review your thyroxine dose or the way you take it. 2) get a blood test and discuss with your doctor whether your hormone levels are within normal range.

Other factors can affect the dose of thyroxine you need, like life-stage and weight, so  make sure you get checked periodically. Also, be aware that you can be within “normal” range and still feel rubbish – that is where point 1 comes in and you will probably need to consider dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce your symptoms. Give me a shout HERE if that’s you!

Do you have a “must-know” fact about thyroxine (preferably backed up by science)?  Let us all know by commenting below.

Remember, if you have ANY concerns about your health or questions about why you are on thyroxine, please discuss this with your doctor (not google).

Don’t forget to share and like this post especially if you know someone who could benefit!

Be well!

Caroline x

My Thyroid Story – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

We all have a story – something that has led us to where we are today. My health, and that of those around me, has repeatedly shifted the course of my life, changed my perspective and led to some serious personal development.

I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – an autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism.

This diagnosis came after I had been gluten-free for about 6 months, having put the family on a gluten-free diet because of symptoms my son had (dry skin patches, distended stomach etc). One day I came across a lonely packet of normal (full of gluten) biscuits. Being human, I couldn’t resist and I tucked into them. The next day my thyroid was the size of a tennis ball (or there abouts!).

Aside from “Gerty the Goiter” I also had or developed these lovely symptoms:

  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome

A blood test showed that my Thyroid Stimulatory Hormone (TSH) was ridiculously high at 96 (normal levels are approximately 4). My TSH was so wildly out of range because my immune system had been attacking my thyroid gland and preventing it from producing adequate amounts of the hormone Thyroxine (T4). As a result my pituitary gland was churning out TSH to tell my thyroid to produce more T4, but to no avail. I also tested positive for thyroid auto-antibodies.

Hence, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Finally I had a reason for feeling tired and cold my WHOLE life (or at least since I was 15).

So, I was put on Thyroxine (replacement T4 hormone).

It occurred to me prior to taking it that Thyroxine stimulates metabolism. I was already struggling to maintain my body weight and, sure enough, as soon as I took the Thyroxine my body crashed. I became bedridden within 24hours and all my symptoms had worsened – it felt like my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) days.

At the time I was caring for our two kids and my husband who had Cancer (read about our Cancer story here), so I simply couldn’t afford to be ill.

I had to take control of my health immediately. I did so by radically, but safely, adjusting my diet and lifestyle. Within two weeks I had more energy than I had had for years and my thyroid/CFS symptoms disappeared.

Looking back, I now know I was right to go to the doctor as a teenager with fatigue, as a student with exhaustion, anxiety and muscle aches and as a post graduate with persistent colds and lethargy. Each and every time I was dismissed as needing more sleep or for just being “a student”. In reality my body was struggling to deal with an autoimmune disease.

I don’t blame the doctors for this. Yes, it’s frustrating, but really it is a reminder that we need to be proactive and tenacious about our health – reconnect with our body, listen when something is wrong and then take action.

I’m being proactive about my health by concentrating on reducing the effects of this incurable disease so that I stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible!

Do you have thyroid issues? What are your symptoms and how do you keep them under control?

 

10 signs your thyroid is struggling

Tired in bed

It turns out I’ve had an under-active thyroid for the past 17 years. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease –  my immune system attacks my body.

Your thyroid is pretty important. It’s responsible for producing hormones that control metabolism, digestion, heart, brain development, muscles… the list goes on and on.  It’s therefore unsurprising that when it goes wrong the list of signs and symptoms is pretty lengthy – and it can be very debilitating.

Like so many people, my signs and symptoms were put down to “being a teenager” then, “being a student” then just “working too hard” or “not getting enough sleep”…

Tired, cold and in pain became my norm.

I wish I’d known about these 10 signs when I was 15:

  1. Fatigue/exhaustion. We’ve all been a bit over tired, but the fatigue I am talking about is on a different lever.
  2.  Anxiety – triple checking the car is locked or suddenly being nervous about leaving the house or driving the car.
  3.  Muscle and joint aches, pain and weakness (fibromyalgia-like)– Oh the pain!
  4.  Scratchy, full and sensitive eyes – Mine felt full of sand and about to pop out.
  5. Brain fog – yep, I had brain fog throughout school, my degree and my PhD – brilliant!
  6. Depression, lack of motivation and difficulty handling emotions – It’s hardly surprising with this list of symptoms, but it is more than that.
  7. Being cold, especially hands and feet – there was a reason I moved to the tropics!
  8. Weight problems – uncontrollable weight gain, or in my case weight loss.
  9. Sleep problems – wakefulness due to anxiety, being wakeful in the night and being unrestored by sleep.
  10. Hair loss and thin, grey hair – beautiful!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of thyroid signs and symptoms.

The good news is that many if not all of these signs can be managed through diet and lifestyle!

I am now fully functional, having been housebound for about 18months a few years back. I’m on thyroxine and I have made some dietary and lifestyle changes that me I no longer have aches and pains and my hair is slowly growing back.

Want some help getting your thyroid under control? Get in touch here for a FREE Discovery Session to find out how I could help you.

What are your thyroid signs and symptoms?

Photo credit: LichtCatchingToby via Foter.com / CC BY-NC