Sufficient vitamin D levels requires more than a healthy diet and taking supplements—good vitamin D levels need the right cofactors too. A shocking three-quarters of the US population has too little vitamin D, even in sunny locales. Vitamin D is necessary to dampen inflammation and tame autoimmune diseases. Some people with autoimmunity may even need extra vitamin D due to a genetic variation that affects the ability of their cells to absorb adequate vitamin D.
In addition to supplementing with fat-soluble vitamin D (cholecalciferol), make sure you are getting the right cofactors, or “helper molecules” that assist in the biochemical transformations required by vitamin D.
These include fat-soluble vitamin A, magnesium, and K2, which make vitamin D more bioavailable and help prevent D overload.
Vitamin A and vitamin D work together to make sure your genetic code functions appropriately. There are two main types of vitamin A:
Beta-carotene, found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, apricots, mango, and leafy greens.
Retinol, found in organ meats and dairy products.
You can take vitamin A in supplement form as both beta-carotene and retinol, however retinol is the more active form. Although it’s also possible to take too much retinol. Your body can’t get rid of it easily, which can be harmful.
Magnesium. You can obtain sufficient magnesium through food, but high doses of vitamin D3 deplete magnesium. If you are already low in magnesium and supplement with vitamin D, supplementing with magnesium may avoid headaches, cramping, nausea, numbness and more that may accompany high doses of D3.
The Vitamin D Council recommends 500–700mg of magnesium per day. Supplement sources include magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, and magnesium malate. Each has unique effects, so consult with my office to learn which is right for your needs.
Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, potato, beans, lentils, avocado, bananas, figs, strawberries, blackberries, nuts, seeds, brown rice, and dark chocolate.
Vitamin K2. Vitamin D toxicity can cause soft tissue to accumulate calcium and calcify like bone. In contrast, sufficient vitamin D i may even protect against calcium deposits in arteries.
Vitamin K2 is an important cofactor for vitamin D to help the body deposit calcium in appropriate locations such as the bones and teeth, and to prevent calcium from depositing where it doesn’t belong, such as the soft tissues, arterial walls, joints and organs.
Healthy gut bacteria are necessary to convert vitamin K1 to the more active form K2. However, we can supply our K1 needs through eating cabbage, kale, spinach, chard, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels’ sprouts, and sauerkraut. These foods will also promote healthy gut bacteria.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends 90mcg of K2 for women and 120mcg for men.
However, Osteoporosis International recommends 180 mcg a day of K2 as MK-7.
If you take blood thinning medicines such as Warfarin or Coumadin, vitamin K supplements can affect how well your blood clots, so please talk to your doctor.
Checking your vitamin D level periodically can help you improve your health if you suffer from chronic illness.
In functional medicine we measure vitamin D levels with a serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. Optimal levels are between 50 and 80 ng/mL.
If you suffer from leaky gut or autoimmunity, you may be more prone to a genetic vitamin D deficiency, so make sure to pay attention to this vital vitamin.
Unhealthy gut bacteria are a bigger risk for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries than smoking, cholesterol levels, obesity, or diabetes. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart disease.
That’s because the root cause of heart disease is inflammation. In fact, most modern health disorders are rooted in inflammation, including arthritis, diabetes, obesity, dementia, depression, and inflammatory bowel disease. Cardiovascular disease is no exception.
So where do gut bacteria come in? Researchers have discovered an unhealthy microbiome — the term given to our inner garden of gut bacteria — is pro-inflammatory while a healthy gut microbiome is anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately, Americans have the unhealthiest gut microbiomes studied thus far.
A recent study found that women experiencing hardening of the arteries also showed less gut bacteria diversity while women with healthy arteries showed healthier gut bacteria. A diverse array of gut bacteria is linked with better health.
The study also found that in healthy subjects, diverse and healthy gut bacteria produced more indolepropionic acid (IPA), a neuroprotective antioxidant that also has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes.
The gut microbiome and high blood pressure
It turns out there is more to high blood pressure than reducing your salt intake. Researchers have found high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, can also be linked to the gut microbiome.
The key is in a compound called propionate, one of several short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced by healthy gut bacteria. Scientists are learning that SCFAs such as propionate and butyrate are instrumental to the health of the brain and body in many ways, with propionate being specific to the cardiovascular system.
How to foster a heart-healthy gut microbiome
Although taking propionate may help, it won’t do much good if it’s battling a minefield of infectious and inflammatory gut bacteria. Just as healthy gut bacteria produce SCFAs that are good for us, bad bacteria produce the highly inflammatory compound lipopolysaccharide (LPS).
The key to a heart-healthy gut microbiome is to eat about 25–30 grams of fiber a day via a very diverse array of vegetables and modest amounts of fruit (fruits are high in sugar and too much sugar is inflammatory).
It’s the diversity of vegetables that matters most, with research increasingly confirming that a diverse gut microbiome is what lies behind good health and a lower risk of disease.
Switch up the vegetables you eat regularly and shop at world markets unfamiliar to you to try new types of produce. Even a teaspoon of different new veggies each day is enough to help colonize the friendly bacteria that will work to keep your heart healthy.
In this fiber-rich environment, supplementing with SCFAs such as butyrate and propionate can help boost your gut bacteria to produce even more of their own SCFAs.
Additionally, make sure to keep your blood sugar stable by eliminating sugars, sweeteners, and processed carbohydrates, avoid foods that cause an immune reaction in you (for example, gluten and dairy do for many people), avoid toxin chemicals in your foods and body products that can kill good bacteria, and exercise daily — exercise has been shown to positively influence your gut microbiome.
Ask my office for more advice on how to cultivate an optimal gut microbiome and detoxify bad bacteria.
When it comes to autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, dampening inflammation and immune attacks on the thyroid is the primary goal. One of the most powerful allies in this quest is to support your regulatory T cells (T reg cells). These are immune cells that do what their name implies — they help regulate the immune system. This means they play a role in either activating or dampening inflammation. The good news is that when it comes to Hashimoto’s, we can do many things to influence the T reg cells to dampen inflammation and quell Hashimoto’s flare ups and attacks so you can have more good days.
Ways to support T reg cells to manage Hashimoto’s
Following are some proven ways we can support our T reg cells to manage Hashimoto’s.
Vitamin D (cholecalciferol). Fat soluble vitamin D is a powerful supporter of the T reg cells, especially at therapeutic doses (around 10,000 IU a day).
Vitamin D is also important because studies show many people with Hashimoto’s have a genetic defect hindering their ability to process vitamin D. Therefore, they need higher amounts of vitamin D to maintain health. This can be the case even if a blood test shows sufficient levels of serum vitamin D. That’s because the defect is at the cellular receptor site, preventing vitamin D from getting into the cells.
Omega 3 fatty acids. The EPA and DHA in fish oil support T-reg cells. It’s important to make sure you take enough; it’s estimated 80 percent of the population are deficient in essential fatty acids.
Research shows a healthy dietary intake of supplemental omga-3 is 3,500 mg if you eat 2,000 calories per day.
The average EFA capsule is 1,000 mg. Most people in the US eat between 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day and therefore should take 4 to 6 capsules of fish oil a day. Dietary sources of omega 3 include cold water fish, nuts, and seeds.
Glutathione. Glutathione, also known as the master antioxidant, supports T reg cells and is a powerful support in dampening inflammation and managing Hashimoto’s. Straight glutathione cannot be absorbed well but there are other ways to take it, including reduced glutathione, s-acetyl-glutathione, liposomal glutathione, and glutathione precursors.
Glutathione precursors make glutathione inside the cells and include n-acetyl cysteine, cordyceps, Gotu Kola, milk thistle, and alpha lipoic acid. Don’t be shy to take large amounts of glutathione support to dampen inflammation.
Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are powerful signaling compounds that influence the health of the body and brain. They are produced by healthy gut bacteria that come from eating a diet abundant in a diverse array of vegetables. The more abundant and diverse your gut bacteria the better your SCFA production.
This helps many functions in your body, including proper T reg cell function and dampening of inflammation and managing Hashimoto’s. You can also take the SCFA butyrate to support your SCFA levels, however, you’ll need to make sure you’re eating plenty of vegetables throughout the day too for this strategy to be effective.
Endorphins. Saving the best for last, did you know a powerful way to support anti-inflammatory function of T reg cells is to experience joy, happiness, love, and playfulness? All of these things produce endorphins, feel good chemicals that reduce inflammation. Methods for increasing endorphins include:
Socializing regularly with healthy people
Meditation and breath work
Massage and other forms of body work
Doing something playful regularly
Daily expression of gratitude via a journal or verbal affirmation
Regular exercise that gives you a “natural high” but doesn’t wear you out
These are some of the ways you can manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Ask my office for more information.
The notion that genes dictate our destiny has been solidly debunked in favor of epigenetics, the study of external or internal mechanisms that switch genes on and off. Exciting new research shows epigenetic memory can span multiple generations.
Descendants of people who survived the Holocaust show abnormal stress hormone profiles, in particular low cortisol production. Because of altered stress response, children of Holocaust survivors can be at increased risk for PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
Children of women exposed to intimate partner violence during pregnancy have higher predisposition to mental illness, behavioral problems, and psychological abnormalities due to transgenerational epigenetic programming of genes acting in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), a complex communication pathway between glands involved in our stress response.
Classic genetic theory states that genetic change occurs over a time scale of hundreds to millions of years.
Epigenetics explains how our lifestyle, diet, environment, and experiences affect the expression of our genes over multiple generations, but it does not account for actual changes to our genetic code.
How do genetics and epigenetics relate?
Via epigenetics our genes can be influenced by factors such as:
Where you live
Who you interact with
Social support (or lack of it)
Method of birth (cesarean vs. vaginal)
We inherit one variant of each gene from each parent. Epigenetics can turn off one of these two gene variants (this is called “imprinting”).
This can result in a negative health outcome if the other, still-active variant is defective or increases our susceptibility to toxins or infections.
The cumulative impacts of our lives on our genes
Related to epigenetics is the exposome, the cumulative measure of all the exposures of an individual in a lifetime — starting at conception — and how they relate to our health. Some consider the exposome the environmental equivalent of the human genome.
The exposome is divided into three overlapping categories:
The environment inside our bodies that affects our cells:
Hormones and other cell messengers
Oxidative stress (excess highly reactive and damaging molecules)
Lipid peroxidation (damage to cell membranes and other molecules containing fats)
The external environment to which we expose our bodies:
Pathogens and toxins
The general external environment, including broader sociocultural and ecological factors:
Urban or rural residence
Using epigenetics to positively impact the future
Epigenetic processes are natural and essential to many bodily functions. But if they go wrong they can negatively impacts not only our health but the health of our children. Researchers feel the ability for these changes to be passed down has significant implications regarding evolutionary biology and disease causation.
There are factors we have no control over such as certain environmental toxins, method of birth, and exposure to some level of stress. The good news is we can affect change in many areas that can powerfully affect our epigenetics:
Good sleep habits
Who we interact with
Addressing food intolerances
Functional medicine offers many avenues to support healthy epigenetic expression. If you seek ways to help your body express its genes in the best ways possible, contact my office for help.
Weight training is not the first exercise choice that comes to mind for seniors. Instead we think of chair yoga, walking, dancing, or aqua aerobics. However, science shows weight training is one of the best types of exercise for aging whether you’ve been doing it your whole life or have never touched a barbell in 60-plus years.
Of the 57 million deaths worldwide in 2008, more than 5 million were caused by lack of physical activity. Roughly 80 percent of adults fail to meet recommended guidelines for physical activity.
For seniors in particular inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are dangerous, increasing the risk of health conditions such as:
High blood pressure
There is a common misperception that the elderly should stay away from strenuous activity. It is important to use safe equipment, focus on correct form, and warm up and cool down properly, but using your muscles as you age isn’t inherently dangerous.
In fact, studies show that lifting weights — whether heavy or light — helps us in many ways as we age.
Weight training reduces the risk of falling by maintaining or even increasing muscle mass and helping maintain bone density. This makes the elderly much less susceptible to age-related and disabling bone breaks from falls or accidents.
This also helps stave off loss of independence, one of the greatest worries around aging.
Strength training can promote mobility and function and even help combat depression and cognitive decline.
An analysis of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) database found that adults 65 and older who strength trained twice a week had a 46 percent lower mortality rate. He also found strength training reduces all causes of death, including cancer and cardiac death.
Drawing from the data, the analysis outlined 78 science-backed benefits for seniors who lift weights. The main categories include:
Combat age-related muscle loss and sarcopenia
Burn fat and increase muscle mass
Support functional independence
Improve quality of life
Improve osteoarthritis and bone health
Increase cardiovascular health
Improve mental health and cognitive functioning
Reduce mortality risk
Fight Type 2 diabetes
Improve quality of sleep
Recover from hip fractures
The study showed that those who had lifted regularly for some time were protected against numerous age-related health issues related to neuromuscular functioning, sarcopenia, muscle force-generating capacity, cognitive functioning, overall functional capability and performance, and mitochondrial impairment.
Is weight lifting riskier in old age?
Lifting weights risks at any age, however, hundreds of studies have shown weight training to be safe, enjoyable, and beneficial as we get older.
Anyone can get injured when working out, so knowing how to safely use equipment, warming up and cooling down properly, and using proper form will keep you in action.
Before starting, have a medical checkup or ask your doctor for clearance. This is especially true if you haven’t exercised before or have taken a long break from physical activity.
What type of weight training is best?
Weight training is an activity anyone can start regardless of age. It doesn’t take lifting like a competitor to gain major benefits, and many of the benefits are immediate. As you train, your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness will improve, thus helping you to prevent injuries as you progress.
Whether you train using your body weight, dumbbells, systems weights, full Olympic style, or with some other style, focus on gradually increasing intensity and power.
A personal trainer can help you meet your goals with a form that works for you, plus teach you how and when to safely increase your challenges. Finding a weight training style you like will motivate you so you keep showing up for workouts — whether it’s at the gym or in your living room.
Before starting any exercise program, be sure to consult with your health care practitioner, and if you are uncertain where to begin, reach out to a local certified personal trainer who can guide you.
Why You Need to Know the Relationship between your Thyroid and Gluten
The symptoms of hypothyroidism can consist of muscle stiffness and pain, extreme fatigue, unable to withstand the cold, a hoarse voice, weight gain and constipation. It can make your skin dry and create hair loss. It can also cause depression. Although this is a pretty big collection of symptoms, it is not all inclusive.
In the majority of cases hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease, and in its short form it is called AITD (autoimmune thyroid disease). Studies are showing that there is a connection between AITD and gluten intolerance.
This is a condition that contributes to hypothyroidism. What happens here is your immune system attacks your thyroid, which then creates an inflammation which in turn causes the hypothyroidism. It impairs the glands ability to make thyroid hormones T4 and T3. The attack is the cause of the Thyroid problem. Hashimoto is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.
Graves’ disease has the opposite effect on the thyroid where it causes it to become over-active. This is called hyperthyroidism. However, it is not as common as Hashimoto’s.
Both Hashimoto’s disease and Grave’s disease are classed as autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD).
What is gluten?
It is a common word that most of us have heard. It is normal now to walk through the grocery store and see many foods labeled “gluten free”. The name gluten applies to the proteins that are found in many of our foods like wheat, rye and barley, for example. As the name suggests it is somewhat like a glue that helps various foods keep their shape and stick together.
What is gluten intolerance?
It isn’t a food allergy. Undigested gluten proteins (prevalent in wheat and other grains) hang out in your intestines and are treated by your body like a foreign invader, the immune system begins to attack the protein portion gliadin, irritating your gut and flattening the microvilli along the small intestine wall. This can cause a condition called leaky gut. You have considerably less surface area with which to absorb the nutrients from your food and the barrier between the gut and bloodstream becomes breached. This breakdown allows entry of other undigested foods, chemicals, bacteria and toxins to enter the bloodstream. This leads sufferers to experience symptoms of malabsorption, including chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, nausea, skin rashes, depression, and more.
You can test negative for Celiac disease and still have Gluten Intolerance.
How common is the connection between AITD and Gluten Intolerance?
There have been so many studies conducted that have concluded there is a link between AITD and Gluten intolerance. It has been strongly suggested that when an individual is being tested for one condition, they should also be tested for the other.
How does the connection occur?
The protein portion of gluten has a molecular structure that is very similar to the thyroid gland. So the immune system of the body makes a mistake when identifying what the gluten is. When it goes to attack it, it can also attack the thyroid tissue because the two are so similar in structure. The immune system goes into the attack mode when the gliadin which is the protein contained in the gluten gets past the gut’s protective barrier (Leaky Gut).
This protein then gets into the blood stream where it becomes detected by the immune system.
Based on this, it presents a very strong case for eliminating gluten from your diet if you have been diagnosed with AITD. Gluten is considered an antigen.
Antigen: A substance that the immune system perceives as being foreign or dangerous. The body combats an antigen with the production of an antibody.
Getting tested for gluten intolerance?
Your health care provider may run some tests although this test will fall short to identify all components for gluten. Here is why, there are four components to gluten (gliadin) alpha, beta, gamma and omega. Not to mention that gluten is also made up of glutenin, which can also be toxic. Processed foods are made of an altered form of gliadin called deamidated gliadin. Traditional testing tests the alpha portion of gliadin only. As you can see it falls way short in terms of concluding positive or negative for gluten intolerance. Cyrex labs has one of the most thorough tests available to get a reliable answer. If you want to get tested go with Cyrex labs
Eliminating the gluten from your diet when treating AITD:
Once you have been diagnosed with AITD your health care provider will use some form of treatment to keep this thyroid disease under control. Most commonly Thyroid hormone replacement. Is this really fixing the cause? I’m not suggesting that Thyroid hormone replacement is not necessary as the thyroid no doubt is unable to produce adequate amounts of Hormone.
But why is it not able to do this? Hashimoto’s AITD is the cause.
The effects of gluten has to be strongly considered, especially when there is such strong supporting evidence of the connection between AITD and gluten.
How to get started on a gluten free diet:
First you need to become educated as to what foods contain gluten. Unfortunately, grains , breads and pasta are a big part of most diets. . It isn’t good enough to just reduce your gluten consumption, it is important to totally eliminate it. This can be a drastic change in lifestyle.
It is also important to become aware of cross reactivity. Gluten Free foods are not always safe. Rice, dairy, potato, corn, egg, tapioca can also cause the same problems as gluten. Fortunately, Cyrex labs has testing for cross reactive foods. Without testing you should really stay away from all grains and gluten free foods.
Action steps, get tested for Hashimoto’s. You may have a food sensitivity that is driving the AITD. If you need help getting tested or you need a plan to help beat Hashimoto’s schedule a case review.