"The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter, and the spirit heals with joy"
Hypothyroidism (or low thyroid function) is on the rise and affects 1 in 10 women in North America. The most common cause of hypothyroidism? You may be surprised to know that it’s an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Disease.
In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system produces antibodies against the thyroid. Overtime, this causes damage to the thyroid gland and eventually hypothyroidism. While Hashimoto’s affects primarily the thyroid, it’s not just a thyroid condition – it’s an autoimmune condition.
Testing for thyroid antibodies is the only way to truly know if you have Hashimoto’s disease. However, these are some of the signs and symptoms I see in people who have an autoimmune thyroid condition. These are usually in addition to the ‘regular’ or classic symptoms of hypothyroidism such as fatigue, trouble losing weight, cold body temperature and constipation.
1. You still feel like $h*t on Synthroid
Maybe you’ve been on thyroid medication for years (or decades!) but have never felt quite right. While thyroid medication can improve the hormone levels in your blood, it doesn’t address the inflammation and autoimmune process that happens with Hashimoto’s Disease. Without treating the inflammation your symptoms can continue to worsen over time even with “normal” thyroid tests.
2. You have digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, heartburn, diarrhea/constipation OR have been previously diagnosed with IBS
What does the gut have to do with our thyroid? A healthy digestive system is key to proper immune function. If you’ve experienced long-term gut issues, have been previously diagnosed with “IBS” or have never been well since something like food poisoning, Hashimoto’s should be on your radar.
3. You experience random skin rashes or hives
This is another sign that the immune system is out of control and reacting to things it shouldn’t be. It is also a tell-tale sign that the gut isn’t working properly (see above!)
4. You have joint pain or feel puffy all the time
Autoimmune conditions often affect muscles and joints and can lead to constant aches and pains. Swelling, redness, and pain are all signs of inflammation, which goes hand-in-hand with autoimmune conditions and Hashimoto’s disease.
5. You already have an autoimmune condition
Having one autoimmune condition increases your risk for developing others. Autoimmune conditions seen frequently with Hashimoto’s include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac disease, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Pernicious anemia, Vitiligo, and more.
6. Other members of your family have a thyroid condition
There is also a strong genetic link to Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune conditions. I often see autoimmune conditions being present in multiple members of the same family such as sisters, mothers and daughters. Remember, Hashimoto’s is much more common in females! If your family has a strong history of thyroid conditions, or a relative has been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune condition, you’ll definitely want to pursue testing.
6. Your thyroid condition was first diagnosed at a young age or after the birth of a child
I often see Hashimoto’s being diagnosed more commonly in young women between 20 and 30 years old. Pregnancy and postpartum is another time where a change in hormones and the immune system can ignite an autoimmune thyroid condition.
The Bottom Line
If you have been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism I encourage you to also have your thyroid antibodies checked to rule out Hashimoto’s Disease (Your MD or ND can do this). You’ll want to ask specifically for Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (AntiTPO) and Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb).
You can also check out my other blog post here on what tests you need for a complete thyroid assessment.
Have questions? We’re here to help!
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND
Today I want to share 3 specific nutrients that I make sure to check in every single thyroid patient I see. These nutrients tend to be chronically low in most people with thyroid conditions and this alone can be a major contributing factor to symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, muscle aches and more. The first step in many of my treatment plans is to improve these nutrients to optimal levels as it often gets people feeling better than they have in a long time!
1. Ferritin (Iron Levels)
Hypothyroidism and low iron often go hand in hand. We can test your iron levels by looking at ferritin, a measure of iron stores in your body. The most common signs of low iron include fatigue, hair loss, feeling cold, weak or brittle nails, and palpitations or shortness of breath. Your thyroid also requires adequate iron levels for two key enzymes that are vital to thyroid hormone production and activation. Without iron, your thyroid just can’t function properly.
If you experience heavy menstrual periods (common with low thyroid function), are vegan/vegetarian, or have a chronic digestive disorder it’s even more important to have your ferritin assessed on a regular basis.
2. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 deficiency is frequently reported in those with thyroid conditions and I certainly see this in practice. A 2014 study stated that over 55% of patients with an autoimmune thyroid condition had low B12 levels. A series of Vitamin B12 injections often does wonders for thyroid patients in terms of energy levels, memory and concentration, as well as aches and pains.
We get most of our B12 from our diet in the form of animal products, so if you are vegan or vegetarian you should definitely have your B12 checked more often.
Another condition called Pernicious Anemia commonly co-exists with autoimmune thyroid disorders. If you have pernicious anemia your body is unable to absorb B12 from food sources and you will require supplementation long term.
3. Vitamin D
Most of us know that Vitamin D can be helpful for our immune system, but did you know that it is also an essential vitamin for preventing and healing thyroid conditions?
Low vitamin D levels have been implicated in the development, severity, AND progression of autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s Disease and Grave’s disease. Vitamin D can also be anti-inflammatory for the thyroid and has a role in reducing thyroid specific antibodies.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, muscle/joint pain, and frequent colds and infections. Our body makes its own Vitamin D but only with exposure to the sun. Many of us (especially as Canadians) are vitamin D deficient and require supplementation.
Test, don’t guess!
All of these important nutrients can be tested accurately with a simple blood test. Remember to check your labs carefully or review them with a knowledgeable health professional to make sure they are optimal, and not just falling within the ‘normal’ range. Your Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor can run these tests, ideally alongside a full thyroid panel, which I talk about HERE.
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND
Quinoa has definitely grown in popularity over the last few years and for good reason! It's a naturally gluten free grain (it's actually a seed) and contains high amounts of protein and fiber compared to other grains.
Quinoa also contains many of our essential nutrients like our B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, and manganese. This superfood seed also has a low glycemic load. Meaning that unlike refined carbohydrates and some other gluten free options, it will not spike your blood sugar. This is important for everyone (not just diabetics!) in regards to energy and overall health.
Here is your No Fail Quinoa recipe for fluffy delicious quinoa, everytime.
Step 1: Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a mesh strainer (this prevents the quinoa from tasting bitter)
Step 2: Add rinsed quinoa and 2 cups of water to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil
Step 3: Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes
Step 4: Check out your quinoa! There should not be any liquid left in the bottom of the pot and the germ (tiny white spirals in the grain) should be visible.
Step 5: If all looks good, take off the heat and let stand, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.
Step 6: Fluff with a fork for light and delicious quinoa
1 cup of uncooked quinoa makes approximately 3 cups of cooked quinoa. You can make any sized portion you like, just keep the 2:1 water to quinoa ratio.
Some of my go-to ways to use quinoa are as an easy side dish, stuffing for peppers or mushrooms, under a stir-fry in place of rice, and in soups and stews. Have a favourite recipe using quinoa as it's star? I'd love to hear about it!
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND
The holidays are a time for celebrations, parties and fun times with family and friends. And let's be honest, alcohol is usually making an appearance too. We've likely all had those nights where we end up drinking more than we should... so here are some tips to help prevent those unwanted holiday hangovers!
1. Eat a good meal before hand
Heading to a party without a proper meal is a recipe for disaster! Alcohol is absorbed quickly through our stomach (approximately 20%) and small intestine (80%). Without food in place to buffer and slow absorption, alcohol will be absorped rapidly and you will likely have a much lower alcohol tolerance and a wicked hangover the next morning to boot.
2. Avoid the sugar and caffeine filled drinks
Stay clear of sweetened mixed drinks, sugary cocktails and energy drinks. Alcohol on its own is hard on the liver (our main detoxification organ). Adding in sugar and caffeine on top of that is just asking for trouble (and a splitting headache).
3. Instead, choose clear liquors or red wine
These are better options for preventing a nasty hangover. Choose clear liquors and mix with soda or water to keep the sugar content down, or opt for red wine which actually contains loads of antioxidants that can help combat (some) of the hardship on your liver.
4) Prime your detox pathways with N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) and B vitamins
NAC is an amino acid that helps the liver detoxify alcohol and replenish glutathione (or GSH). GSH is one of the most potent antioxidants and is depleted when our liver is under stress. Essentially, more glutathione = less hangover. Our liver also needs B vitamins to metabolize alcohol properly (and alcoholism can lead to severely depleted B vitamins). So, increase your B vitamins before and after a night out to help your liver keep up.
5) Consider IV Therapy
Intravenous therapy is a serious home-run when it comes to preventing and recovering from hangovers. You may have seen IV clinics pop up in cities like Vegas and New York to help the partying elite bounce back after a night of too many soda pops. This is because IV therapy contains ultra high doses of all the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to help detoxify alcohol at a rapid rate. IV therapy also hydrates the body AND we can even give glutathioine directly for a serious antioxidant boost.
6) Pace yourself, and don't forget to hydrate!
The liver can only metabolize about 1 ounce (or 1 drink) per hour. If you're drinking at a more rapid rate, your blood alcohol levels will rise. So pace yourself and give your liver a chance to keep up! It's also a good idea to follow each alcoholic drink with a glass of water to keep yourself well hydrated throughout the night and next day. Many of the "hangover" symptoms we experience are due to dehydration, so the more we can do to prevent it from happening, the better!
It's important to remember...
Alcohol IS a toxin and can result in many health (and life) consequences. Be good to your body and know your limits. These tips are intended to be used sparingly to help your body bounce back from the occasional night out, not to encourage unhealthy habits.
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND
I had so much positive feedback from my Ridiculously Simple Cashew Milk Recipe that I've decided to share one of my other super easy hacks for a healthy home.
If you haven't yet noticed, winter is officially here! And if you're a fan of coconut oil, you know what this means... Hard, unforgiving oil that you practically need a chisel to get through. Here's an easy hack to keep your coconut oil soft and usable all winter long. Whip it!
1) Put 1/2 cup (or any amount really) coconut oil into large bowl
2) Use handheld mixer or stand mixer to whip well for 3-5 minutes
3) Just before you're done mixing, add in 2-3 drops of your favourite essential oil (like lavender or peppermint) - optional
After a few minutes of whipping, the coconut oil should take on a light and fluffy appearance. It will firm up slightly, but will maintain a light 'mousse'-like texture for easy application.
*If you want your coconut oil to be super smooth, melt the oil in a double boiler first. (Doubler Boiler = stainless steel or glass bowl on top of pot of boiling water). Then let cool until firm and start at Step 1. This melts down all the little hard peices before whipping, and gives you an ultra smooth result.
Give it a try and let me know what you think below!
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND
Hello! I'm Katie, a licensed Naturopathic Doctor who is passionate about sharing knowledge with others.
This is the place to stay connected, enjoy my most recent blog post, or link you to my published articles. When I'm not seeing patients or writing new content, you can find me enjoying the outdoors, cooking delicious (and healthy) food, and reading the latest mystery novel with a great cup of tea.
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