naturopathy

THE GUT THYROID CONNECTION

What does the gut have to do with thyroid function? We see many patients with low thyroid function and autoimmune thyroid conditions. As a gut-health specialist clinic we will of course ask about your gut – but particularly so when we hear anything related to the thyroid or thyroid-associated symptoms. Why?

The gut and the thyroid are intimately linked and influence each other in many ways. Essentially – poor gut health suppresses thyroid function and low thyroid function causes inflammation and may contribute to leaky gut.

There is a myriad of contributing factors to gut-thyroid imbalances, such as stress and cortisol release which increase intestinal inflammation and permeability; and sluggish digestion and constipation, gallbladder issues and low stomach acid which can be caused by low thyroid function. However today I will go into a bit of detail about the two important mechanisms that link the thyroid and the gut: GALT and the MICROBIOME.

*Note: the subject is huge one and this blog is by no means an exhaustive explanation of all links.

GALT Tissue

Ever hear the statistic that 70-80% of the immune system, or rather immune tissue lies in the gut?1 It’s true. I’ll explain…

Apart from digestion – the most important function of the gut is to protect us from the unwanted microorganisms that we ingest when we eat, drink and breathe. The digestive tract runs from mouth to anus and if you think about it, this tract is essentially a hollow tube that is open to the outside world. This means we need a strong barrier and good soldiers to protect our bodies from the barrage of potential invaders every time we eat, drink, breath, kiss – you get the picture.

The body has an ingenious method of protection- its all about the GALT…GALT stands for Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue2. The digestive tract is lined with vast amounts of this GALT – immune tissue and is comprised of immune cells such as B and T lymphocytes – the soldiers of the immune system. Due to the large amounts of GALT in the gut – any issues in the gut will have a profound effect on the body’s immune system as a whole.

Problems in the immune system occur when this barrier containing immune cells becomes damaged due to various causes such as stress, environmental toxins, low thyroid function and diet – this is called Leaky Gut or Intestinal Permeability.

When the gut lining is damaged it becomes inflamed and as a result larger particles from our food are able to pass through the inflamed gut tissue into our blood stream. This is not normal and the soldiers in our immune system get confused and mount an attack/response in order to protect us. A case of mistaken identity. This causes a massive amount of systemic inflammation and tissue destruction. This ‘hyped up’ immune system plays a key role in the development of autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s - see more info about how to treat leaky gut HERE

The Microbiome

A little known fact is that good bacteria in your gut help to convert inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to the active from (T3) – by producing the enzyme intestinal sulfatase.  This enzyme is necessary for this conversion to take place. Some studies suggest about 20% of thyroid hormone is converted in the digestive tract this way. That’s huge!

This illustrates how important it is to have healthy populations of good gut flora in order to support your thyroid, and is commonly why people with compromised gut function also have thyroid symptoms. Additionally diverse populations of gut flora are essential for good gut-barrier function and healthy GALT tissue, and protect against leaky gut and pathogenic microorganisms.

Naturopathically, we say that everything in the body is linked and we like to look at the whole picture. When treating conditions such as Hashimotos we will always look at diet, environment, emotions, stress, sleep and any other factors that may be compromising your thyroid health – and of course address any underlying gut issues. 

Karen

BHSc (Naturopathy)

 

How seeing a naturopath can better your health.

As a naturopath, we often see patients that have suffered years of ongoing, unresolved complaints and have been searching for answers without any luck. You may have a feeling that 'something more can be done', looking for a natural approach or are sick of getting prescribed antibiotics for the common cold. What about a desire to understand your body or wanting to have optimal, thriving heath and not feeling like you are just surviving? Does any of that sound familiar? If so, naturopathy may be for you. 

Naturopath's have the exciting, complex and rewarding job of looking and treating you as a whole person. What does this actually mean? This means that when you come in with a concern, for example you feel tired all the time, we will look beyond how much sleep you are getting. We will also consider your personal health history, family history, blood tests, medications, stress levels, physical examination, diet, allergies and so much more. We do this because we want to understand your unique situation as we appreciate the many causes that contribute to you feeling this way. An understanding of who you are is so important in giving you the best treatment.

The beauty of naturopathy is that the therapies we use are well tolerated and can actually be a support to conventional medicine. Although our remedies have traditional beginnings, many of them have substantial scientific evidence that support there use and efficacy. Naturopathy is also wonderful and unique in that there is no 'one fix' approach to a problem. It has a broad scope of treatment and can use the following remedy options according to your circumstance. 

  • Herbal medicine as liquids, tablets and teas
  • Dietary advice to promote food as medicine and nutritional supplements
  • Lifestyle and environmental advice to promote mindfulness and wellbeing
  • Flower essences have an energetic basis and can enhance the emotional aspects of healing.   

Using the example above, if your 'feeling tired all the time' was caused by high levels of stress we could look at using one or a combination of diet modification, herbal medicine, nutrient supplementation and mindfulness techniques. Interestingly this means that if your friend were to need help because they also felt tired all the time due to stress, we may actually consider completely different herbs, nutrients and dietary advice because we would consider their unique circumstances.  

In essence, naturopathy is based on the principle that the body has an inherent ability to heal itself. We follow these six philosophies when treating you:  

  1. The healing power of nature  (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
  2. Identify and treat the cause (Tolle Causum) 
  3. Treat the whole person (Tolle Totum)
  4. Do not harm (Primum Non Nocere)
  5. Doctor as teacher (Docere)
  6. Prevention (Preventare)
Herbal Medicine in melbourne

At Narayani Wellness, your naturopathic experience is truly unique as we have a supportive community of passionate naturopaths and integrative doctors working together. We believe more can be achieved by having these two approaches as it has greater potency and efficacy than doing things separately. Our approach to patient care embraces the combination of traditional philosophy with functional testing, and we find we get better results with our patients with the addition of functional testing. Functional testing allows us to look at the finer processes that occur within our bodies. This includes looking at how our cells function, our energy production pathways, how we clear toxins, how we make our brain chemicals, hormone profiles and how we can achieve healthy bowel functions. Our focus is to put you first and we realise the best relationship is one built on trust. All of this keeps us on our toes which motivates us to do professional development and stay current with research to continually benefit you.

We realise that Spring is a time we focus on our health and 'recover' from Winter woes. For some, this means the annual struggle of hay fever or a time to address old health issues that flared up from a change in your diet and exercise. With Spring well and truly here and the excitement of warmer days coming, maybe this is the right time for you to see a naturopath and regain your health. 

The hidden toxins in your bathroom cabinet and how to avoid them

Part two 'on'

Following on from part one of this blog series, in part two we tackle the hidden toxins we use ON our body. These toxins are dressed up and put in products that ‘help’ you achieve particular results. The problem is, what we put on our skin affects us in ways you not may realise. Our skin is the largest organ of our body; one of its roles is to protect us from the many toxins in our environment. However, it is also permeable, meaning it absorbs everything it comes into contact with, which ends up in our blood stream(1). An average woman's 'getting ready' routine exposes her body to 515 different synthetic chemicals every single day(2). Think about it, do you really know what you wash your hair and face with? Do you know what's in your moisturiser, make-up or perfume? Read on to learn about some toxins you may be lathering, spraying and brushing on yourself.

1. Parabens are used in many cosmetic products including moisturisers and lotions, and are commonly used in the armpit and breast area. Paraben containing products have been known to cause allergic responses. They are also a significant source of hormone disrupting chemicals, which may be linked to breast cancer in women(3). One study even detected parabens in breast tumours(4). This nasty effect on hormones not only affects the adult, but if pregnant, could impact foetus development(3).

2. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is used in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners (yikes!). SLS is in hair shampoos, treatments and colours, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundation, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents and bath oils and salts. SLES and ALS are related and should also be avoided(5). High level exposure to SLS is toxic to our organs, development and reproductive and nervous systems. It also negatively affects our hormones and is possibly linked to some cancers(6). Cosmetic use may cause dermatitis and irritation to the skin and eyes(7). The real concern is that there is a lack of long-term studies on ALL of the chemicals in these products, so we don't really know what the long-term effects are(8).

3. The ethanolamine chemical group can be listed on the product label as DEA, TEA and MEA(9,10). DEA can cause skin and eye irritation and high exposure has been linked to liver cancers and precancerous changes in the skin and thyroid. The European Union classifies DEA as harmful due to the danger of serious damage to health from prolonged exposure. DEA can also react with other cosmetic chemicals which changes it to a cancer causing agent(11)

4. Triclosan is used in personal care products such as toothpaste, deodorant and soap. New studies have linked it to heart disease, heart failure(12) and thyroid hormone disruption(13,14). When Triclosan was first registered in 1969 it was registered as a pesticide! In fact, today it is still registered as a pesticide and it is also widely used for industrial uses(15).

5. Talc (magnesium trisilicate) is found in thousands of toiletries ranging from make-up cosmetics to antiperspirants and deodorants. Using talc as little as once a week raises a woman's risk of ovarian cancer. This risk is increased when used daily(16), and even more so when used regularly on external genital areas(17,18). Serious lung damage and cancer have been reported amongst talc manufacturing workers, and for this reason you should not use talc on babies. It can cause serious breathing complications, convulsions and even death(19). You can read about just one lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson here.

6. Mineral oil is made from petroleum, the same stuff you put in your car's engine. Many products use mineral oil, as it allows lotions to be spread easily across your skin. This is despite the fact that it's a known cancer causing agent! Mineral oil also blocks your pores to cause blackheads and pimples. This is because it creates a film on your skin that stops your skin's natural breathing process(20,21). Studies have found that mineral oil affects more than just your skin, samples of fat and breast milk were found to be contaminated with mineral oil. This result is likely from a build up over time from repeated exposure from cosmetics(22)

7. “Fragrance” or “parfum” actually represents a secret cocktail recipe potentially made up of hundreds of synthetic chemicals(23). These chemicals are selected from a pool of 5,000 ingredients(24), none of which have to be disclosed or tested for safety(25). Fragrances are in everything, the list is endless from the obvious deodorants and perfumes to moisturisers, hair products and anti-wrinkle creams (26). “Fragrance” contains hormone disruptors called phthalates(27), which was discussed in part one.  Fragrances commonly cause allergic reactions which can cause skin sensitivity, dermatitis, asthma attacks and migraines(28).

8. Formaldehyde is used in nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel, hair-smoothing products, baby shampoo, body soap and wash and colour cosmetics(29). It is a known human cancer causing agent, with high exposure linked to some types of cancers(30,31). It can also cause allergic skin reactions and rashes(29)

Tips to clean up your bathroom cabinet

  • Read the label and know what you are talking about. Be savvy with what you are being sold. For example, if you want to buy pure rose hip oil and you turn the label over to see 10 ingredients listed = RED FLAG.
  • Ditch the perfume! A better alternative is using certified organic essential (not mineral) oil. You could even try applying no scent at all.
  • Make your way over to mineral make-up. Once again, the word natural in marketing doesn't mean a great deal, so read the label. 
  • Use certified organic products and not just organic products. There is a big difference!
  • Reduce the number of cosmetics in your daily routine. Do you really need 25 products to make-up your face when you plan to go do the groceries?
  • Have make up free days when possible and let your skin breath!

Next week we will be giving you our favourite toxin free, absolute must-have beauty products!

The perks of pregnancy; what you can do to help your morning sickness

There's nothing like a personal experience to help give some perspective on what my patient's might be going through. I'm not going to lie, my first four months pregnancy has been tough! Fatigue and all day nausea and vomiting is exhausting, not to mention unpleasant. I went through all sorts of feelings during this time, while being absolutely over the moon to be growing a baby, it was difficult to stay positive while having to stay so close to a bucket and carry a sick bag everywhere I went! I felt the guilt that I wasn't supplying my growing bub with adequate nutrition. All I wanted to eat was fruit, something I generally try to limit to one serve per day, and even supplements were difficult to keep down. 

Pregnancy Diet

My advice:

1. Don't be too hard on yourself. A few months of a less than ideal diet isn't going to undo all the good nutrition you put in prior. So far in my pregnancy, I ate a lot more fruit than I would usually, but it's better than nothing! And now that the nausea is over (thank goodness) I am weaning myself off slowly and increasing my intake of nutrient dense foods like eggs, meats and butter (things I went off completely for a few months). 

2. Eat little and often. I wasn't great with this one and would often forget or get too busy to eat. Preparation is key here, have ready to eat snacks on hand - nuts, fruit, vege sticks or rice crackers with hummus/pesto work well.

3. Try healthy foods in different forms. I usually don't eat too many raw vege's in winter but veggie sticks with hummus was the only way I could get my veg in. 

4. Preconception care. If you can, aim to spend 3-6 months preparing your body for pregnancy. This should include personalised advice from a qualified practitioner, a super nutrient dense diet for both mum and dad and prenatal vitamins and minerals.

5. Correcting nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B6 and zinc. This is easier to do prior to pregnancy to potentially prevent morning sickness and should be part of your preconception care.

From one mum-to-be to another, good luck!
 

Abi Walker

BHSC Naturopathy, PGDIP Dietetics, BSC Human Nutrition