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Getting to know your thyroid!

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Getting to know your thyroid!

Thyroid problems are getting more and more common which could be due to deficiencies, stress, fad dieting etc. But do we know what our thyroid does and how to help avoid problems?

The thyroid is two inches long and it is wrapped around the windpipe (near the Adam’s apple in the neck). It is very important and produces several hormones including T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) that are key in regulating growth and metabolism.

T3 and T4 hormones are essential because they-

  • Work to increase the Basel Metabolic Rate- the amount of energy you burn just sitting still
  • Determine growth and development of many tissues in the body, including brain and skeleton
  • Help cells convert calories into energy
  • Control body temperature and the rate at which the body functions

The pituitary gland produces TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone), which stimulates the production of the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. T4 is the inactive form of the hormone, so it has to be converted into T3 to be of any use to the body. The production of these hormones is dependent on sufficient iodine intake from foods and supplements. The hormones then work to regulate cell growth, development, converting protein, fats and carbs into energy etc. However, it is not just iodine that is needed; vitamin D is needed as well.

When we are healthy the thyroid gland produces the right amounts of T4 and T3, T4 is converted into T3 and everything is working well. However, when things go out of balance (too much or too little), it can cause major health issues such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism- Underactive Thyroid

Hypo (not enough) is when your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of the essential hormones (either one, or both T3 and T4). This can be caused by removal of the thyroid gland, inflammation, stress, oxidative stress, radiation exposure, Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune) or a condition present at birth. It could be that you are just not converting enough of your T4 into the active form of T3, due to stress, heavy metals, fad dieting etc. When this happens, you will be producing reverse T3 (rT3). This form of the hormone is very inflammatory and causes a lot of oxidative stress, so it is important to get it tested. However, the issue here is that it is very rare for GP’s to test for T3 or rT3, so it may not be picked up.

You are more likely to develop hypothyroidism if-

  • You’re a women
  • You’re over 60
  • You’ve been pregnant in the last 6 months
  • It runs in your family
  • You have another autoimmune disease

Symptoms include weight gain, joint pain, depression, infertility/irregular periods, tightness in the throat, sensitive to heat and cold, dry skin, hair loss, difficulty metabolising carbohydrates and sugars etc.

Diagnosis is made by a GP by measuring blood levels of the thyroid stimulation hormone (TSH). Generally, if TSH is above normal, it means hypothyroidism. A low T4 level can also indicate hypothyroidism.

Treatment includes taking a synthetic hormone replacement (Thyroxine- T4). TSH levels are tested regularly to determine dosage. Although adequate intake of iodine is necessary, excess amounts may cause or worsen hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism- Overactive Thyroid

Hyper (too much) thyroid hormones are being produced. Body functions speed up, including metabolism.

You’re more likely to develop hyperthyroidism if-

  • You’re a women
  • You’re over 60
  • You’ve been pregnant in the last 6 months
  • It runs in your family
  • You have a B12 deficiency
  • You have type 1 diabetes

Symptoms include insomnia, weight loss, mood swings, irritability, development of a goitre (swollen thyroid gland), nervousness, irregular heartbeat etc. It can be caused by Grave’s disease, lumps, inflammation, too much iodine and too much synthetic hormone to treat hypothyroidism.

Diagnosis is made by the GP after a few blood tests. Usually TSH levels are low and T3 and T4 are high.

Treatment is trickier for hyperthyroidism then for hypo and more individualised depending on the cause and severity. Treatment can be radioactive therapy, surgery, and/or medication for the symptoms.

 

 

If you have any of the symptoms above, see your GP and ask for a full thyroid panel (very difficult get a full panel from the GP)-

  • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
  • Free T4 (free thyroxine)
  • Free T3 (free triiodothyronine)
  • Reverse T3
  • Antithyroglobulin antibodies (anti-TG)
  • Antithyroid peroxidise antibodies (anti-TPO)

If your GP won’t test these, we offer a complete thyroid panel test.

Holistic approaches

Obviously holistic approaches are individual and depend on what the cause of the problem is. However, there are some things you can do to boost your overall thyroid health-

  • Exercise! Regular aerobic, low intensity exercise can stimulate the production of the thyroid hormones.
  • Eat organic! This will reduce exposure to environmental toxins which can lower T3 hormone and produce more reverse T3 (which blocks active T3 from gaining access to your body, it is very inflammatory and causes oxidative damage).
  • De-stress! Under periods of stress, the stress hormone cortisol suppresses TSH production. Managing stress through meditation, yoga, sleep, exercise etc is one of the best ways to ensure your thyroid gland doesn’t slow down!
  • Detox through sweating! Saunas and steam baths help to detox environmental toxins.
  • Nutrients! Selenium, iodine, vitamins A, C, D, and E are all important for thyroid hormone production. Vitamin D is essential for their efficacy in your body’s cells.
  • Reduce the gluten! It causes inflammation and can trigger autoimmune thyroid issues.
  • Introduce seaweed into your diet. This can be in the form or a powder (in your smoothies), sprinkled in many dishes including casseroles and salads. Seaweed is naturally high in iodine.
  • Introduce brazil nuts into your diet. At least 4 a day. These are high in selenium which is essential for the conversation of T4 to the active T3.

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact us to book in for a consultation.

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Lets get back to basics

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Lets get back to basics

When training at a high intensity getting your nutrition right is key. This will help improve your recovery, speed, strength, energy levels and motivation. This article is going to give you a base level of knowledge to get you on your way to experiencing these benefits.

I’m going to start off with one of the most important topics to begin your journey to optimum nutrition…. macronutritients.

Macronutrients are the main components of our food, these are; protein, fats and carbohydrates. They are called ‘macro’ because we need them in large amounts. The amounts you need of each of these macronutrients depends on your training goal, weight goal, body composition and body type. I’m sure we all know people who can eat anything they want and not put on any weight (muscle or fat); these people tend to cope with higher carbohydrate diets. Whereas people who struggle to lose fat tend to work better on higher protein and fat diets. There are exceptions to this but we will go into more detail in other articles.

Let’s see what these three macronutrients do for us…..

Protein-

Protein is probably the most well known macro amongst people who train. There are hundreds of different protein powders and amino acids on the market nowadays, but what actually is it and why is it so popular?

Protein is made up of 21 amino acids. 8 of these are essential which means our body can’t produce them so we need to get them from our food. Different protein sources contain different amino acids and all the different amino acids have specific functions. There are only certain sources of protein that have all 8 essential amino acids. All animal sources of protein do, but most vegan sources don’t. This means vegans need to be clever about their protein, especially if you’re trying to improve strength and performance.

Protein is essential for muscle recovery and repair. During a workout muscles experience normal microscopic damage that breaks down muscle fibres. The protein you consume after a workout rebuilds these fibres and aids recovery. The recovery process involves synthesis of new fibres in addition to an increase in the bulk of existing muscle fibres.

Sources of protein- non vegan/veggie options include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, whey protein powder, bee pollen. Vegan options include nuts and seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, beans and lentils, quinoa, avocados, organic tofu, temph, spirulina, maca powder, hemp, rice and pea protein powders.

Fats-

Many people have a phobia of fat as it has been given a bad reputation. The misconception that fats make you fat has meant ‘low fat’ products have become very popular and are seen by many as ‘healthy’. This is very wrong as they are highly processed and have lots of added sugar which is much more likely to cause fat gain than fats.

Fats are essential for many functions in the body such as hormone production, joint health, nervous system health, cell permeability, absorption of nutrients and much more.

There are different types of fats- unsaturated (including omega 3 essential fatty acids), saturated and trans fats. Unsaturated and saturated have very important functions in the body which are listed above. Trans fats however have no use at all and are very damaging to our health. Trans fats are man made fats and their molecular structure is changed during processing which means our bodies don’t recognise them. Therefore our body will store it, as it can’t use it for anything. This will lead to high cholesterol, heart disease and many more health conditions. Trans fats include any precessed foods such as chocolate, crisps, biscuits but also processed oils such as vegetable oil.

Good sources of saturated fats include organic fatty meats, organic butter and coconut oil. Good sources of unsaturated fats include fatty fish, avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseed oil.

Carbohydrates-

Carbs have also started to get a bad reputation. This started with the Atkins diet, then Dukan, and also to some extent the paleo diet. The rapid weight loss that comes from taking carbs out of the diet tends to make people scared of introducing them back in and eating them regularly. However, when people take this whole food category out of their diets they don't replace it with anything which causes a massive drop in calories. This will cause weight loss but it’s not sustainable unless you replace those calories with either more protein or fats.

Carbohydrate have become the main macronutrients in the standard british diet and this is when carbohydrates are an issue. When you eat carbs of any source the hormone insulin is released. The more carbs you eat the more insulin is released. This can lead to insulin resistance, so insulin can’t do it’s job optimally. This leads to fat storage and eventually diabetes. However, there is no need to be worried about this happening if you are a healthy weight and eating the right amount of carbs for your body. 

Whole food carbohydrates have their place, especially when training at a high intensity. They provide sustained and high quality energy and are high in fibre, as well as being a source of essential vitamins such as iron, B vitamins and vitamin E. Plus, low carb diets can lead to high cortisol levels…which can then lead to fat gain. 

Carbohydrates tend to be broken down into simple and complex carbs, but I like to look at them more as whole food and processed carbs. Whole food carb sources include sweet potato, starchy vegetables, rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, white potato, beans, lentils and fruit.

 

Then there are micronutrients. When nutrition is talked about in the training sense, the main focus tends to be on macronutrients. However, micronutrients are just as important, if not more important. These are all the vitamin, minerals, phytochemical etc. I won’t go through all of them in this article, but basically we wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for these little nutrients. These are what our body and cells thrive on. When we eat food it is broken down, digested and absorbed into the body. All our macronutrients are broken down into these micronutrients. This is why digestion is so important. If we’re not digesting our food, we won’t be getting these nutrients….no matter ho many macronutrients we’re eating.

We get micronutrients from a variety of whole foods but the most nutrient dense food is plants. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are packed with vital nutrients and enzymes.

 

The main thing to always keep in mind is to eat whole, natural food that is in the same state as it would be in nature. That way you know your body will recognise it as food. We will talk about the amounts of each macronutrient in future articles.

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Does fat make us fat?

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Does fat make us fat?

Does eating fat make you fat? I have so many clients who come to me afraid of consuming fat, any types of fat! This is understandable as we have been told it for so many years. Sadly for most of the population cutting out or reducing our fat intake didn’t make us thinner it just caused many other health issues.

First thing to note is there are different types of fat, so it would be a commonly made mistake to generalise and say ‘avoid fat’ or ‘consume fat’, without identifying and understanding which type of fats are ok to eat, and what types are not.

There are three main categories of good fats; monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated (often listed as bad). All of these can be obtained from eating whole foods and we need them all. The most concerning bad fats are the trans fats. These are found in processed foods, deep fried foods, margarine, processed cakes, biscuits, muesli bars, foods with long shelf lives etc. Trans fats are created when some polyunsaturated fats are damaged due to heat.

The ratio of the fats we consume is also important. Omega 3s and omega 6s come under the polyunsaturated fat category. Our ratio of 3:6 should be around 1:2 or 1:3, now days our ratio is an average of 1:20, some people can even get up to 1:50! This can come from the over consumption of omega 6 fats compared to omega 3. Omega 6s are essential, but if we consume too many, and the wrong types (processed), it can turn very inflammatory and cause many health problems. You must focus on eating less omega 6 rich foods, which will naturally happen when you eat less processed foods and more whole foods.

Omega 3 rich foods include; oily fish (wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), flaxseeds, chai seeds.

Fats from real, whole foods are essential for our health. It is needed to help reduce inflammation, keep a healthy immune system, to have gorgeous skin, eyes, hair and nails and you need it to help you to burn fat for energy! We need fats (in particular cholesterol) to make our sex hormones, they will help you feel happy and content, fuller for longer and it can even reduce your cravings for sweet foods.

You also need fats to help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), these are needed for maintaining the health of your organs, as well as many other key roles in the body.

As you can see, the fat free fad took away an essential food and fuel. What is even worse is that most of the fat free foods replaced the fat with refined sugars. Even worse, is that to counteract the increased sweetness of the food, a huge amount of poor quality salt was added!

This fad took us away from our health and we gained nothing but health problems in return. The way to avoid getting caught up in food and nutrition fads is to remember that, when it comes to food, nature gets it right and its human prevention that can steer it in the wrong direction!

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