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Category: Depression

Hashimoto’s and Depression

Hashimoto’s and Depression

Please note: this is not medical advice, only my own experience. You should consult with a knowledgeable practitioner as you go through this journey. I am listing the supplements I use only as reference. I am not being compensated for this information.

In one of my previous posts, I discussed how Hashimoto’s affects emotions in general. I stated that I wanted to spend a lot of time talking about the psychological ramifications of this condition. This post will be the first of many dealing with this topic.

Depression comes in a huge variety of forms. Some of the ways it presents itself are obvious: if you don’t ever want to get out of bed, or if you are thinking you would be happier if you were dead, then you probably are already aware that you are struggling with depression. If you are, in fact, dealing with symptoms this severe, it’s important to contact a practitioner right away.

It’s also important that your practitioner understand the impact of thyroid autoimmunity on emotional states. If your thyroid gland is not properly supported or regulated, depression is often the end result. So before agreeing to take any psychiatric medications for your depression, you should insist on a thorough screening of your thyroid gland. At the very least, TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies should be checked. Adrenals must also be checked because, if they are weak, this can also cause depression.

Sometimes the symptoms of depression can be a lot more subtle. If you feel unmotivated or irritable, or if you tend to have negative views on practically everything, these can also be signs of depression.  Losing a sense of hope is always a clear indicator.

Depression in the context of Hashi’s can be long term or it can be intermittent. If it’s intermittent, this can make it difficult to attach the label “depression” to it, at least in your mind, because it may not feel like a severe problem to you.

My personal experience with depression has been largely a situation of feeling unmotivated a great deal of the time and also having days where I wished I could just fall asleep and not wake up, because the struggle of this condition just gets to be too much to bear. Looking back, I believe I have dealt with depression pretty regularly since my teenage years. My body became totally unsettled during puberty, which isn’t that unusual. But, it never really found itself again after that. By my mid-20’s, I was already dealing with a lot of fatigue…and when you’re tired all of the time, you’re going to be depressed.

I also think depression was a part of my home life growing up. Depression does tend to run in families, but then, so do thyroid problems.

People in the world of psychology often think of depression strictly in emotional terms. I’m here to tell you that, at least in the context of Hashi’s and other thyroid conditions, it is a biological problem, not an emotional one. While thinking positive thoughts may help folks who are basically physically sound deal with depression from a specific life event, the only real place to start when you have Hashi’s is proper regulation and support of the thyroid and adrenal glands. Until you have that implemented, it will be very hard to talk yourself out of the way you’re feeling.

It’s really important to recognize the fact that depression is a part of the Hashimoto’s package – you are not at fault.

Hashi’s wreaks havoc on the regulation of your thyroid gland because it’s always under attack from those nasty antibodies. Once the thyroid gland becomes unstable, this produces almost a domino effect with the rest of the endocrine system because all the members of this system depend on each other in order to function properly.

To review from my post on emotions, here’s a list of all the glands in the endocrine system:

  • hypothalamus – regulates hunger, metabolism, body temperature
  • pituitary gland – produces the following hormones:
    • growth hormone
    • thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) – stimulates the thyroid to produce hormones
    • adrenocortocotropin hormone (ACTH) – stimulates the adrenals to produce hormones
    • luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone – control sexual function and production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone
    • prolactin – produces breast milk in females
    • antidiuretic hormone – controls water loss by the kidneys
    • oxytocin – contracts uterus during birth and stimulates milk production
  • thyroid – helps regulate metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, muscle tone and reproductive functions
  • parathyroids – help regulate calcium levels in the blood as well as bone metabolism
  • adrenal glands – produces corticosteroids which regulate metabolism, salt and
  • pineal body – secretes melatonin which helps with sleep
  • reproductive glands (which include the ovaries and testes) – the main source of sex hormones
  • pancreas – secretes digestive enzymes and hormones which regulate blood sugar

Most of the time, we find ourselves talking mainly about the thyroid and adrenal glands because our most obvious symptoms seem connected to these 2 amazing organs. It’s incredibly important to work with a practitioner who understands how to best regulate these 2 glands, if you’re having problems.

If the adrenals are not properly supported, the thyroid gland will need more support. I spent a lot of years with an over-medicated thyroid gland because I didn’t understand this and most doctors still do not believe that adrenal insufficiency exists! I was constantly tired and irritable and the only way I could get more energy was to increase my thyroid medications and drink coffee. It was only after I finally found a functional medicine doctor that my adrenal glands were properly addressed.

I am currently on Pure Encapsulations adrenal cortex and hydrocortisone for my adrenals. I also make sure I take adequate amounts of vitamin C daily: I was up to 3000 mg a day, but as a result of my NAET treatments, I have been able to reduce that to 1500 mg a day. Many people use adaptogens  to help the adrenals. I have yet to find one that I can tolerate, but you may have better luck with that than me. For more info on adaptogens, click here.

When I was first diagnosed with Hashi’s, I was put on Synthroid by my doctor. This was a huge mistake, in my opinion, even though it’s standard protocol for conventional medicine. If you are on Synthroid, it is vitally important that you do something to support your adrenals, because Synthroid can actually make your adrenal problem worse! The prescribing instructions given to doctors with Synthroid plainly states that doing so in the presence of adrenal insufficiency can worsen the adrenals. If you have a doctor with an open mind, you might consider using natural desiccated thyroid instead. Many people do better on this.

For a more detailed discussion of these things, please see my post on medications here.

Because the body is, in general, depleted with Hashi’s, it can be a real challenge to make sure you are maintaining adequate levels of a lot of things. If you have malabsorption issues due to leaky gut, you will have an even greater challenge ahead of you. As a result of these issues, people with Hashi’s are typically deficient in vitamin D and iron, both of which can contribute to depression. The levels of these 2 items should be checked regularly with labwork.

You will have to be vigilant about the foods you eat and notice if certain foods make you feel better or worse than others. Food can definitely cause depression. I have found that I always feel worse when I eat foods that contain sugar, too much histamine, or anything to which I have developed an allergy.  I’m allergic to a long list of foods, so that leaves me with very little to choose from, hence my decision to begin NAET treatments in an attempt to address all these allergies.

Your situation may be simpler than mine. If you’re still able to eat a good selection of foods, I would advise sticking to organic as much as possible, getting rid of sugar, alcohol, grains, gluten, dairy, soy and making sure you are getting enough protein. If you suspect leaky gut, then beginning a regimen of probiotics, l-glutamine, digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid can be very helpful. You might also check out various leaky gut diets online or investigate the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet. You can find more information on these things in my posts about supplements and diet.

You may not realize that a particular food is affecting you, but a little detective work can sometimes help.

If you start feeling hazy or depressed, calculate how long it’s been since your last meal. Typically, you will react to foods either immediately or within a 5-6 hour time period. Sometimes it can take as long as 12 hours. Using this as a gauge, you can then sort through the foods you ate either 6 or 12 hours ago and do elimination trials on one food at a time to see if you can identify the culprit. I’ve used this method a lot and have found it very helpful.

If you’re doing all this and still having problems, it’s at this juncture that you may want to look at the rest of your life. Ask yourself the following:

Do you have supportive people in  your life?  It’s vitally important to have people in your life who care about you and are trying to understand what you’re dealing with. If people are telling you that “it’s all in your head” or “you’re too sensitive”, then it might be time to cultivate some new friends or try to have some very honest conversations with the people who are closest to you. In the future, I will be writing more extensively on how Hashi’s can and does impact relationships.

Is your work (if you’re able to work) satisfying?  Work is what you make of it. It can either be perceived as completely tedious or odious, or it can be seen as an opportunity to be with people or a way to contribute to the world. However, if your workplace is extremely stressful and you’re not able to find a way to ease that stress, you might want to consider a change.

Stress is the #1 enemy of autoimmunity. It really is imperative that you keep it at a minimum for the sake of your health.

If you’re too disabled to work because of Hashi’s and therefore have a very limited life, it would be important to look around and see what you can do to change that. How can you reach out and be part of the world in a way that will work for you?

How do you spend your free time? Do you have hobbies or do you just watch TV?  I’ll admit – I love to watch TV. I always have, from the time I was very small. But I know this about myself, and I put myself on a regimen so that I can still watch every day and also have time to do other things. I find that I’m happier, in general, if I’m using my brain for something, whether it’s writing a blog post or playing an instrument. If you don’t have any hobbies, it might be interesting to try something out. You might be surprised.

What kinds of TV programs or movies do you watch? Yes, I love to watch TV, and I used to watch horror movies and old vampire movies back in my younger days. But I’ve found that, as I have dealt with Hashi’s for a number of years, my ability to handle anything “scary” has diminished markedly. I’m sure this is attached to the fact that I have weak adrenals. Since I know this, I try to be kind to myself with what I choose to watch: no horror, very few tear-jerkers, just good drama or sci-fi with a mix of comedy in there to be sure I’m laughing a little. I think the comedy part is really important, especially when dealing with depression.

Do you listen to the news a lot or do you opt for music instead? I’ve almost completely stopped listening to news. It’s just too depressing and infuriating. Instead I check online for stories once or twice a day and keep my radio tuned to my favorite music station. Since making this change, I’ve noticed that I feel a lot better. It’s worth it to ask yourself if the stuff you’re listening to is actually making you more depressed or helping you to feel better.

Are there activities that you used to enjoy that you’ve stopped doing for some reason? You may be limited in what physical activities you can do if you’re dealing with muscle pain like I am. But establishing something physical like stretching, walking, light yoga can be very good for depression. It gets the endorphins flowing. It’s also really important to try to get 15-20 minutes of exposure to the sun every day, to the degree that this is possible. This is, by far, the best way to get your vitamin D.

If you’re a craftsy person and you’ve stopped doing whatever crafts you enjoy, this might be a good time to try again. Granted, you may not feel like it at first, but once you get engaged, you may start to feel better.

In fact, if you’re depressed, chances are you won’t feel like doing much of anything. You’re going to need to fight this and just will yourself to at least start something.

Many times, just the act of getting involved in something will help you feel better.

I hope you will find the information in this post helpful. Soon I’ll be writing a post about another emotional issue that often affects people with Hashi’s: anxiety.

To constant healing,

Vanessa

Vanessa Gunter, D.M.A., M.A.

 

Emotions and Hashimoto’s

Emotions and Hashimoto’s

If you’ve been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s or are thinking you might have it, then you are probably already familiar with the fact that this condition can wreak havoc on your emotions.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • After a day of dragging yourself around with absolutely no motivation, beating yourself over the head because you don’t feel productive, worrying that you’re going to lose your job because you just can’t seem to get everything done on time, you fall into bed and start thinking about how nice it would be if you didn’t wake up in the morning…
  • You and your partner/spouse have different ideas about some things, which is to be expected in any relationship. You used to be able to handle this with ease and calm, but now, anytime you disagree with each other, you feel devalued and criticized. You find yourself becoming verbally aggressive in situations where it’s just not appropriate, but you can’t seem to help yourself.
  • You’re watching some piece of schlock on the TV and you burst into tears for no reason.
  • Your partner forgets to ask you about your day and you become sullen and withdrawn.
  • You find yourself in an argument and your gut goes into a knot. You cannot figure out why this situation feels so scary to you.

I could go on, but if any of these sound familiar, be assured:

You are NOT losing your mind.

So many of us have felt as though we were. No one ever explained to us that this comes with Hashi’s territory. If we had only known, perhaps it would have made it easier to handle.

Well, now you know. Hashimoto’s is intimately tied to your emotions. This is because the attacks on the thyroid that occur as a result of the antibodies involved in Hashi’s compromise your entire endocrine system. The endocrine system is hormone central and your hormones regulate your emotions. Your thyroid is part of that system along with a whole host of other organs and glands.

Here’s a list of all the glands that are part of the endocrine system:

  • hypothalamus – regulates hunger, metabolism, body temperature
  • pituitary gland – produces the following hormones:
    • growth hormone
    • thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) – stimulates the thyroid to produce hormones
    • adrenocortocotropin hormone (ACTH) – stimulates the adrenals to produce hormones
    • luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone – control sexual function and production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone
    • prolactin – produces breast milk in females
    • antidiuretic hormone – controls water loss by the kidneys
    • oxytocin – contracts uterus during birth and stimulates milk production
  • thyroid – helps regulate metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, muscle tone and reproductive functions
  • parathyroids – help regulate calcium levels in the blood as well as bone metabolism
  • adrenal glands – produces corticosteroids which regulate metabolism, salt and water balance in the body, the immune system, sexual function and handling stress
  • pineal body – secretes melatonin which helps with sleep
  • reproductive glands (which include the ovaries and testes) – the main source of sex hormones
  • pancreas – secretes digestive enzymes and hormones which regulate blood sugar

If you read the job descriptions of each of these glands and then look at the common symptoms which often go along with Hashi’s, you’ll see that they are very closely aligned with your endocrine system. All of these glands are connected and support each other, so when one starts to fail, it becomes almost like dominoes. It’s just a matter of time before the rest of them join the party.

Here’s a list of the possible emotions a person may experience during the course of dealing with Hashimoto’s:

Depression

  • Doctors have been aware of the connection between thyroid issues and depression for some time now. In fact, it is general practice to rule out any thyroid conditions for an individual presenting with depression before prescribing anti-depressants. I’m not sure how often this actually occurs. But, even if it occurs as much as it should, many doctors are relying on lab values that don’t tell the whole thyroid story, so a lot of people are told that nothing is wrong and given anti-depressants anyway, which then masks the thyroid problem even further, leading to a worsening of the condition.

Anxiety

  • This often goes hand-in-hand with depression and can be tied to the adrenal glands. Hashimoto’s often comes on as the result of stress – perhaps you’ve experienced a huge stressor, like the death of someone close, or a car accident, or abuse of some sort – if the body is already struggling and the immune system is compromised, this stressor could be the trigger for those antibodies to start attacking your thyroid. This can also happen to someone who has had ongoing stress throughout his/her life, whether it be large or small.
  • For a discussion on the connection between histories of stress and autoimmune disease, click here.

Anger/Rage

  • Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning that it occurs as a result of another emotion, and is usually connected to fear. If you’re experiencing a lot of anger and/or “losing it” at the drop of a hat, not only is your mind trying to protect you from something you’re either not aware of or not ready to process, but your body isn’t able to regulate your emotions in order to keep you calm due to your compromised immune system. It’s going to be important to begin to look inside yourself and ask some questions about what you might be fearing.

Fear

  • Our culture has gradually become one that is actually based on fear. From the time we get up in the morning until we try to go to sleep at night, many of us are faced with a long list of uncertainties that keep us insecure and fearful. Perhaps you have money issues that are worrying you or you have a relationship or a job that isn’t going all that well. Maybe you have a child with problems of some kind. If you watch any TV or listen to any radio, these fears are then compounded by the drama of what is passing for news these days. Sensationalism is the order of the day and it only serves to stoke our fears further.
  • This ongoing undercurrent of fear contributes to stress levels which contributes to further weakening of your system, especially if you’re dealing with something like Hashi’s. Additionally, the inability of your system to handle fear very well means that you are likely going to feel more fearful than you used to, perhaps for what seems like no apparent reason.

Abandonment/Isolation

  • Given the state of medical care regarding Hashi’s, it’s very easy to begin to feel like a) no one can help you and b) no one cares enough to help you. Many of us have gone to numerous doctors only to be discounted or sometimes even chastised for our problems and views regarding our treatment. In addition to that, it can often feel as though no one in your life understands what you’re going through. People are quick to say “well, she/he looks ok” and then conclude that nothing is really wrong or that you just have “psychological” problems.
  • As your condition worsens, it can also become harder to maintain a social life, especially if you’re dealing with multiple food sensitivities. Between not being able to eat anything and having to go to bed at 9:00 just in the hopes that you might be able to get through the next day successfully, your friends soon realize that you’re not generally up for a lot of activities and you find yourself at home alone most of the time. This feeling of aloneness can be especially amplified if you have had to quit work as a result of Hashi’s.

Grief

  • A lot of us who have Hashi’s feel as though we have been grieving for decades, not only over the loss of our health, but over what that has meant for our lives. When you have an autoimmune condition, whatever it may be, you are going to experience loss – loss of good health, loss of social engagement, loss of employment, loss of relationships – and all this is in addition to whatever trauma or loss you may have already experienced prior to becoming ill. For a discussion of the connection between past trauma and autoimmune disease, click here.
  • Many people with Hashi’s are Type A personalities – driven, competitive, needing to stay productive. When you are no longer able to do any of that, then you begin to ask profound questions about who you are and what your place is in this world.

Uncontrollable Sadness

  • I distinguish sadness from depression here, because depression is a conglomerate of things that include sadness, but sadness can present by itself in a way that makes it both surprising and difficult to deal with in relation to Hashi’s. You might be watching some schmaltzy movie and burst into tears at the slightest provocation, or you might just think about some innocuous situation in your life and be unable to stop crying. These are all symptoms of the inability to regulate emotion which is connected to the dysfunction in your endocrine system.

 

So I’ve touched on some basic emotional issues related to Hashimoto’s in this post which I hope will be helpful to you. In future posts, I would like to take each of these issues and explore them in detail in order to give you more insight into how these emotions really present as a result of Hashi’s and what might be done in order to feel better.

More soon.

In healing,

Vanessa

Vanessa Gunter, D.M.A., M.A.

NAET Treatments and Hashimoto’s: The Third Treatment – Calcium Mix

NAET Treatments and Hashimoto’s: The Third Treatment – Calcium Mix

Today’s post is about my third NAET treatment. My previous two posts discussed NAET treatments in general and what occurred with my first and second treatments. This third treatment was for calcium, which meant that, after the treatment, I would have to avoid all things containing calcium for a given period of time.

When I first thought about this, prior to the treatment, it didn’t sound like it would be too hard, since I’ve been off of dairy for a long time. But, you don’t realize how many foods and supplements have calcium in them until you have to avoid it. Turns out, I would have to avoid a lot of veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs and about half of my supplements. Two of my medications also had trace amounts of lactose in them. If I had been eating dairy, soy, spinach, or fruits, the avoidance list would have been even longer.

So, the first thing we did at this third treatment was discuss the issues surrounding my medications and supplements. My practitioner provided me with a “workaround routine” that I could use before and after taking my medications. This consisted of a series of acupressure points that assist the body with clearing the small amounts of lactose I would be exposed to after taking these medications.

Next, we went over my supplements. I have to tell you, I was very afraid of letting go of this support because my system has been very weak for a very long time and it was hard for me to imagine that I would be able to function at all without half of my supplements.  My practitioner reassured me that, during the avoidance period, the calcium from the treatment would be circulating through my body, so my body wouldn’t really miss the calcium. But, I was also having to go without my multivitamin, which is a major support piece for me. I agreed to give it a try and to call her if I felt like I was getting into any trouble after the treatment.

The treatment began with my practitioner muscle testing to see if I cleared the Egg Mix from the last treatment, and I did. She then tested the one supplement that we agreed I should probably take (chromium) to be sure I really needed it. Turns out I did, so we agreed I would use my “workaround” for that as well. Following that, she tested me for the calcium – my arm was definitely weak, weak, weak, which indicated that I really did need the treatment.

Next was the spinal “massage” routine that she does, followed by energy work, followed by acupuncture.

I always feel significantly better right after these treatments – rested, clear-headed – it’s really wonderful.

After the acupuncture, she muscle tested me again for the calcium, and my arm was strong this time. She calculated that I would need to avoid calcium for 50 hours following the treatment, so I went home and tried to put together a calcium-free lunch.

I typically eat greens, both at breakfast and at lunch, so I had to avoid those. The only vegetable that I could eat successfully for these 2 days was zucchini, so that’s what I did. I also cooked some quinoa because I couldn’t eat the special bread that I usually make, since it also contained calcium. Basically, I lived on meat, zucchini and quinoa for 2 days. I suppose it could have been worse.

By the end of the first day, I was really, really tired and by the time my 50 hours were up, I felt like total crap.

I called my practitioner on the third day to tell her that I still wasn’t feeling very well and her hypothesis was that I didn’t clear the calcium. But, I felt that the problem was not being able to take my multivitamin. My system was and is just too weak to go through these food and supplement changes without more support. Thankfully, by the fifth day, I was feeling more normal (normal for me, that is), so that by the time I went for my next treatment, I felt up to trying this again.

As it turned out, I did clear the calcium, but my practitioner also discovered that my body really needed to be treated for digestive enzymes as soon as possible, so she felt that this also played into the problems I had after this treatment.

This treatment was a real challenge for me. Not only did I not do well physically after this treatment, but I was pretty low emotionally as well. This would stand to reason, since Hashi’s tends to mess with everything on days that you aren’t feeling well. I started to question whether I could do these treatments, which led to feeling pretty hopeless for a while, since I have tried so many things over the years with only mediocre results. I’m really thankful that my husband is a kind, supportive man who is willing to help me through these depressive episodes. He’s definitely my #1 cheerleader!

Because this treatment was so difficult for me, I really had no idea what to expect going forward, but I was determined that I would continue to take my multivitamin during my avoidance periods, because I knew it would help a lot.

Moral of the story is: trust yourself to know what your body needs and be sure to discuss this honestly with any practitioners you are seeing.

Before going to my fourth treatment, I looked again at what I would be having to avoid so I could shop accordingly. I also looked at my supplements so that I could make decisions about which ones to discuss with my practitioner. I just had to hope that the next treatment would be easier to get through…and it was.

More soon.

To healing,

Vanessa

Vanessa Gunter, D.M.A., M.A.

 

 

NAET Treatments and Hashimoto’s: The Second Treatment – Egg Mix

NAET Treatments and Hashimoto’s: The Second Treatment – Egg Mix

In my previous post, I talked about what NAET is and how it generally works. This was followed by a description of what occurred in my first appointment with my practitioner.

Today, I want to talk about my second treatment, which was for Egg Mix. Egg Mix basically means all things related to chickens. Thankfully, following this treatment, as long as I avoided anything connected to chickens, I could eat or touch pretty much anything else, so the avoidance period would not be too horrible.

At the beginning of this treatment, my practitioner muscle tested me to see if I cleared the Brain Body Balance Formula, and I did. (If you need an explanation of muscle testing, please see my other post here). She had requested at the first treatment that I bring all of my supplements and medications with me. I practically needed a suitcase to haul all of this stuff to my appointment. When she saw how many there were, she decided to just test me for my medications to be sure that the dosage I was taking was on target. It turns out it was, which didn’t surprise me.

Next, she tested me for the egg mix and I was totally weak. I mean, my arm just fell to the table. I guess I didn’t expect to react that strongly to eggs and chicken, because I’ve been eating both for a long time with, what felt like, no problems.

Apparently my body wasn’t handling these things as well as I thought, and that is a lesson in itself. You just never know.

After that, we did the same routine as during the first treatment: spinal “massage” with varied breathing patterns followed by energy work, followed by acupuncture. She let me rest after the acupuncture for about 15 minutes or so and then tested me again for the egg mix and my arm was strong this time. It’s always amazing how that works. She also calculated that I would have to avoid eggs and chicken for 50 hours following the treatment.

If you’ve ever done any acupuncture before, you know that you are always advised to eat something before the session so your blood sugar doesn’t drop. I found out pretty quickly that I also needed to eat something after NAET treatments. Acupuncture always makes me hungry, but I also found myself getting very tired about halfway home from the treatments, so I started bringing an extra snack to eat afterwards.

The next 2 days were spent avoiding eggs and chicken and anything associated with them. Luckily, I don’t sleep on feather pillows or with down blankets, or I would have had to change the bed. But I did need to come up with a different breakfast, since I usually eat eggs. I don’t eat any grains either, so I decided to make baked lamb chops, which were yummy. The recipe is here in case you’re interested. I left out the garlic because I usually don’t handle that very well, but it was still really delicious.

The only other big adjustment to those 2 days involved my husband having to make his own omelettes for breakfast. But, he already knew how to do that, so it wasn’t a big deal. I felt ok for the most part, maybe a little more tired than usual, but that was it. I was grateful that this second treatment was not too difficult because I could tell the ones coming up were going to be more challenging.

After the 2 days were over, I went back to eating eggs and chicken as usual. I didn’t feel any real difference in how my body was handling these things, but I didn’t expect to, given that I hadn’t felt any real reactions to them prior to the treatment. The rest of my week went pretty well – no depression, little or no anxiety, and decent levels of energy.

I began to look ahead at the next treatment to see what I would need to avoid and to start planning ahead for groceries. It’s really important to have a plan in your head regarding what you will eat during your avoidance period for the upcoming treatment, because each treatment is a little different. As I was looking ahead this time, I saw that my supplements were going to be a affected, so I wondered how that would work. I would have my questions answered at the next treatment.

More soon.

In healing,

Vanessa

Vanessa Gunter, D.M.A., M.A.

Acupuncture and Hashimoto’s!!

Acupuncture and Hashimoto’s!!

You may have noticed that there are two exclamation points after the title of this post. This is because my own personal experience with using acupuncture to address symptoms of Hashi’s has been incredible. In fact, I recently began a series of specialized acupuncture treatments aimed at clearing the body of food sensitivities and allergies and, after only three treatments, I am already feeling significant changes.

Before I go into that, I just want to talk about the general benefits of acupuncture for someone dealing with Hashi’s.

I have found that acupuncture, more than anything else I have tried, has significantly reduced my levels of anxiety and depression.

Now, I’m trained as a psychotherapist, so I am very familiar with the “party line” when it comes to trying to deal with these two very common, but often implacable issues. Literally everyone I saw during the time I was practicing therapy was struggling with both anxiety and depression. Typically, what is offered to clients is a combination of therapeutic approaches and medication. Talk therapy can actually be quite helpful, but if someone is dealing with some level of chronic illness, chances are that these symptoms are being generated by an imbalance in the body.

You see, these two conditions are often thought of as “emotional” disorders. Well, they are, but we tend to divorce things associated with the mind and the emotions from what’s going on in the rest of the body when what goes on in the body directly affects your emotions! This is because conditions like depression and anxiety are a result of your body’s biochemistry being out of balance.

Because of the way the immune system is affected by Hashimoto’s, I would be willing to say that probably 99% of people who have this condition are also struggling with anxiety and depression. This is because of the involvement of the endocrine system, specifically the thyroid and adrenal glands. The endocrine system is in charge of keeping your hormones in balance and your hormones control your emotions. So, when this system cannot maintain the balance it needs, you get all kinds of “emotional” symptoms, like anxiety, depression, huge mood swings, and an inability to regulate your emotions.

I will be talking about these things in greater detail in coming posts. For now, just remember that your emotions are a result of your biochemistry.

Now, back to the acupuncture. If you’ve never had acupuncture before or don’t know much about it, it’s actually quite fascinating. This ancient art uses the “meridians” or energy channels of your body to bring the body back into balance. It is literally working with the body’s electrical energy to re-establish or awaken connections that may have gone dormant for some reason.

I found a quote from an article in Acupuncture Today entitled A Simple, Easy-to-Understand Explanation of Acupuncture by John Amaro, LAc, DC, Dipl. Ac.(NCCAOM), Dipl.Med.Ac.(IAMA) which explains it this way:

“Acupuncture deals with homeostasis, which is the body’s ability to maintain balance. The patient who is out of balance electromagnetically becomes ill and expresses specific symptoms.”

I’m not a fan of needles, so it took me way too long to consider using acupuncture for my Hashi’s. I’m hoping you will take advantage of it earlier than I did. This is easier to do than it used to be because many insurance companies are now paying for acupuncture.

I searched for a good practitioner and managed to find one who also had Hashi’s! What a gift. It was amazing to be able to talk with her about what I was experiencing and have her actually “get it”! She said during our first conversation that she felt like she was talking to herself when I was telling her about my symptoms.

I did some research before going to my first session and found most people talking about a high level of benefit and no pain from the needles. Well, I did experience pain – but, it wasn’t unbearable and it only occurred for a second while inserting the needle. It also didn’t happen with every needle. After a few sessions, I didn’t care anymore, because I was feeling so much better emotionally that whatever small level of pain I experienced was totally worth it.

My initial sessions involved a lot of needles in my ears – apparently there are a whole lot of acupuncture points in the ears. My practitioner was focusing on decreasing anxiety and depression, increasing energy levels and improving digestion.

After 4 or 5 sessions, I was able to decrease my adrenal supplements by half.

I also noticed that my energy was better for much of the week, as compared to only a couple of days out of each week prior to beginning treatments. My digestion also felt stronger – I felt like I was handling histamine a little better, which is a huge issue for me. I eventually got to the point where I could go for 10 days without a treatment and still remain relaxed and with good energy.

After about 15 sessions, my acupuncturist recommended that I see someone qualified to do N.A.E.T. acupuncture. She had gone through these treatments herself and credited them with healing her to the point where she could eat many foods to which she had become overly sensitive, maintain consistent energy levels and go back to work again.

So this is where I am now. I started these specialized treatments about a month ago and, as I stated at the beginning of this post, I really feel that they are making me stronger. I am continuing to reduce certain supplements with every treatment, and this is something I’ve really not been able to do since I was diagnosed decades ago.

I’ve decided to dedicate a series of posts to N.A.E.T. acupuncture – sort of a journaling experience, if you will – so you can be a part of this as I do it. Click here to get started with the first post.

In healing,

Vanessa

Vanessa Gunter, D.M.A., M.A.

 

 

Supplements Which May Be Helpful With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Supplements Which May Be Helpful With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Please remember, these choices are very personal and I am listing mine simply to show you what has worked for me, not as medical advice.

I’ll be honest with you: I am on a truckload of supplements. Why? Because I was not able to find knowledgeable practitioners in time to avoid a long list of food allergies, which led me to a place where I was on a ridiculously restricted diet. This meant that the only way I could really get the vitamins and minerals I needed was through supplements because I would react to practically every kind of food that went into my mouth.

I am still struggling with this situation, but it is slowly getting better, thank goodness. But I will tell you that patience is key to this process. I have to keep telling myself that I didn’t get this way overnight and I am not going to get “well” overnight, either.

I talk more about diet and food allergies in this post. Here I just want to provide you with a list of what I’m currently taking and why, in order to give you an idea of where you might want to start your own research regarding your own supplements.

Please remember: this is not medical advice, only my own experience. You should consult with a knowledgeable practitioner as you go through this journey. I am listing the brands I use only as reference. I am not being compensated for this information.

I’m going to divide my supplements into categories according to what each is trying to address so that I can discuss each in a more coherent way. I am continuing to try new and different things, so I will try to keep this information updated as I make changes to my regimen.

General Support

  • Multivitamin: I use a heavy-duty multivitamin called Ultra Preventive III by Douglas Laboratories because of my restricted diet and inability to absorb my food very well. I feel like my ability to absorb nutrients is improving, as I have been able to reduce my dose of this supplement recently. This multi has a broad range of vitamins and minerals in it that are ideal for people struggling with gut problems. Whatever multi you decide to use, be sure that it is a comprehensive one.
  • Vitamin D: it seems that people with Hashi’s very often have a deficiency in vitamin D. For me, this has been a result of my gut problems and also my inability to get outside much and exercise as a result of my muscle issues. I take 5000 IU daily and I use the Jarrow brand.
  • Fish oil: fish oil is great for a lot of things as it is a good source of Omega 3. Apparently the tendency in America is to get too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3, since many processed and fast foods use Omega 6 oils. Fish oil can help with anxiety, depression, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hair growth and gut health, just to name a few. I use wild salmon oil (Natural Factors brand). For a detailed discussion of the benefits of fish oil, click here.
  • Evening Primrose oil: I began taking this to help with hair loss and it has definitely made a difference. This oil has a reputation for aiding in balancing hormones in women, helping with fertility, hair loss, skin health and even rheumatoid arthritis. I use Barleans brand. For more info on this oil, click here.
  • Borage oil: this oil has more GLA than Evening Primrose and so may help more with inflammation and issues connected to healing, which is why I added it to my regimen. There are also people online who swear by it for hair loss. I use Barleans brand. For more info, click here.
  • Monolaurin: my doctor put me on this supplement after he took me off of iodine and I was getting sick all of the time. It is really great for boosting the immune system. I immediately felt better after I started taking it. Since then, I’ve resumed my iodine supplement (you can read more about this below), but decided to keep taking this until my system has had a chance to heal more. I use the Ecological Formulas brand. For more info on monolaurin and its precursor, lauric acid, click here.
  • Ultra Benfotiamine: this is a form of thiamine and apparently, Hashi’s people are usually deficient in thiamine. I discovered this wonderful supplement as a result of Dr. Isabella Wentz at thyroidpharmacist.com. It has made a lot of difference in my energy levels. Be sure to read her information on this supplement here. I use the Douglas Laboratories brand.
  • Calcium Lactate: I am lactose intolerant, so getting calcium into my diet can be a challenge. I began this supplement via a naturopath that I was seeing some years ago and, while I thought it would be beneficial to my bones, the biggest change I noticed was in my thinking. I was able to think much faster and clearer once I started taking this. It makes sense, because calcium is one of the electrolytes that your body needs in order to pass messages from the brain to the body and back again. I use the Standard Process brand. You can read more about calcium and the brain here.
  • 5-MTHF: this supplement is necessary for people who have a problem with methylation, which is a process involved in protein synthesis, detoxification, formation of transmitters, and hormone regulation, among other things. People with Hashi’s often have issues with methylation, either as a result of a genetic mutation, leaky gut, lousy diet, or exposure to environmental toxins. You can get tested for gene mutations to find out if you’re at risk. I was tested several years ago, there was a mutation, and my doctor immediately put me on this supplement. I take Metabolic Maintenance brand. This whole methylation thing is very involved, but there’s a good explanation here.

Digestion

  • Probiotics: these are critical for anyone with gut issues. I had to try quite a few before I found one that seemed to work for me. I wasn’t able to tolerate prebiotics very well and a lot of these supplements have inulin which is a definite no-no for me. So, if your body doesn’t like what you’re taking, be sure you don’t force the issue. I use Probacto probiotics and I feel like this product has really worked well for me. It is an “anti-Candida” probiotic, but you don’t necessarily have to be diagnosed with Candida to use it and get benefits from the way it works.
  • Digestive Enzymes: I take these with all meals and snacks. They break down your food and make it possible for your intestines to absorb nutrients. Some people are deficient in these enzymes from birth, others develop deficiencies due to bad dietary habits. There is some evidence that individuals who were not breast fed are deficient in enzymes because mother’s milk acts to provide the infant with numerous enzymes after birth. Go here to find out more. I use Pancremax by Karuna for meals and Prozymes by GIProHealth for snacks. Why two different kinds, you ask? Because the Karuna is pretty expensive and I know the Prozymes are also safe for me, but a little cheaper.
  • Hydrochloric acid: most people with Hashi’s have low stomach acid, which means your food will not be broken down or digested properly. It’s important to supplement with Betaine Hydrochloride with Pepsin for optimum results, so be sure whatever supplement you choose has both. My doctor advised me to start with a small dose and gradually increase until I felt some stomach discomfort, then decrease the dose slightly from there. I used to use a Standard Process supplement for this that I liked very much, but then it became ridiculously expensive, so now I’m using Hydrozyme by Biotics Research Corporation.
  • L- Glutamine: this is an amino acid which supports the intestinal lining and may help with repairing a leaky gut. I use Jarrow brand.
  • Ginger tea: this has been a lifesaver for me. No more Pepto-Bismol for stomach aches. I go straight for the ginger tea and I keep drinking it until my tummy feels better. I also drink it after every meal because it helps so much with digestion. Warning: it will make you feel warm and, if you’re like me and you’re dealing with hot flashes, it will make them worse, but only for a little while. The digestive support is worth the extra heat to me. I always try to drink organic, plain ginger tea when possible, although sometimes I splurge and have a cup of lemon-ginger tea instead.

Thyroid/Adrenal Support

  • Adrenal cortex: this supplement supports the adrenal glands and supplies the body with extra energy and mental clarity. I use Pure Encapsulations brand.
  • Coconut oil: this supports the thyroid, brain function and contains a lot of caprylic acid, which is great at fighting fungus in the system. I use Health Support brand.
  • Vitamin C: I have been off of fruit for a long, long time because my body just cannot process any form of sugar properly. I am still trying to sort out this problem, but in the meantime, it has been necessary to supplement with lots of vitamin C. The adrenals must have vitamin C in order to function properly and anyone with an adrenal deficiency will need to take lots of it in order to help those tiny organs do their jobs. I use the American Health brand with bioflavonoids. I have noticed I feel much better on this brand than others and this supplement comes in tablet, capsule and vegetarian formulas.
  • Selenium: many people with thyroid problems are deficient in selenium and, if you are taking in any iodine at all, you need to balance it out with selenium in order to keep your antibodies from going up. I have tried plain selenium in the past, but I find that Life Extension Super Selenium makes me feel better. You need to be sure you are getting 200 mcg daily.
  • Iodine: this is a highly controversial area when it comes to Hashimoto’s. Suffice it to say that there are people out there who will tell you not to take in any iodine at all if you have Hashi’s, not even in your food. I can tell you I tried this and I felt like total crap. My allergies became much worse and I just felt generally bad. If you know anything about iodine at all, then you know that it cleans your blood and that your thyroid gland has to have it to function properly, so I am at odds with anyone who says you shouldn’t have any at all. There are studies out there that show that iodine can be taken successfully by people with Hashi’s as long as adequate selenium is taken with it. I am currently taking 1/2 of a 12.5 mg tablet of Iodoral. I have found that, if I take more, depression sets in, and, if I take less, my allergies flare up badly. There are other brands of iodine out there, such as New Iodine and Lugol’s, which people use with great success. If you have never taken iodine before, be sure to do so with a doctor’s supervision and begin at very low doses and work your way up to what seems best for you.
  • B12: this powerful little vitamin is crucial for adrenal, muscle and brain health. Symptoms of a deficiency can include chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety,  and muscle aches and pains, to name only a few. I’m currently using sublinqual drops by Pure Encapsulations. The jury is still out on this as I have only just started using it, so I may be updating this choice in the future. For more info on B12, click here.

Muscle Health

  • Magnesium malate: in general, I find that I need pretty high doses of magnesium in order to keep my muscles from knotting up and going into spasm. I take two kinds: magnesium malate by Designs for Health and magnesium citrate/malate by Pure Encapsulations. Altogether, I am taking between 1200 and 1500 mg a day. I have found that magnesium malate works best for me, but this is a personal thing. I cannot eat any fruit at the moment, so I am not getting any malic acid from much of anywhere and your muscles need this to function properly. I have found, however, that if I take too much of the magnesium malate by Designs for Health, or if I take just plain malic acid, that I get a headache. So, I am constantly working with how I combine these two magnesium supplements. There are other forms of magnesium out there. It’s important to get one that the body can absorb easily. I started with magnesium citrate years ago in order to help with constipation. My functional medicine doctor put me on magnesium malate in order to help with my muscle problems. Since then, I have just been tweaking the doses as needed.
  • CoQ10: this supplement is widely known to help with muscle health. I use the Jarrow brand, 200 mg.
  • Epsom salts baths: every evening, I soak in a bath of epsom salts. I use this time to do some self massage on my neck, shoulders and arms, and anywhere else that might be giving me trouble. I find this really helps my muscle tissue stay more flexible and it also helps me sleep better.
  • Magnesium lotion: I have just started using this, but I can already tell it’s helping. I recently had a bout with my left hip flexor muscles and found that my usual supplements were not enough to ease the pain. I had tried magnesium oil in the past and didn’t really get much relief from it, but the lotion I’m currently using is definitely making a difference. I put it on at night before sleeping. It not only helps with muscle pain and knots, but it helps with sleep as well. If I’m having extra muscle issues, then I also use it during the day. I’m using Life Flo Health Products brand.

Histamine Intolerance/General Inflammation

  • Turmeric: this is a wonderful anti-inflammatory and has also been connected with brain health. I put in almost everything I eat, in addition to taking it as a supplement. I take the Organic India brand.
  • Antronex: this supplement is by Standard Process and I have found it to be very helpful with sinus conditions associated with histamine problems. It is made from bovine liver extract which helps to cleanse the blood. You can see a detailed description of this supplement here.
  • Quercetin: this is a wonderful anti-histamine antioxidant with many talents. It occurs naturally in several types of foods. I use the Jarrow brand. To find out more, you can go here.
  • Mangosteen: this is actually a tropical fruit, popular in Southeast Asian regions. It’s known for its anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties and is being studied for its anti-cancer properties. I use the Source Naturals brand

So that’s it for my list for now. I hoping this list will become shorter very soon. As I change things, I will update you.

May we all find healing,

Vanessa

Vanessa Gunter, D.M.A., M.A.

 

Addressing Hashimoto’s Symptoms – Where to Start?

Addressing Hashimoto’s Symptoms – Where to Start?

Depending on how long you’ve been dealing with Hashimoto’s disease, you may have only a few symptoms or everything that was on the list in my earlier post. Obviously, it’s easier to manage if you have only a few, but it’s really important that those first symptoms are managed properly, so that your condition doesn’t worsen.

In my case, as I mentioned before, symptoms were ignored for literally decades until, finally, a thyroid antibody test (which no one had ever thought to do prior to that time) returned a positive result. People are now starting to talk about the fact that by the time you are actually diagnosed with this condition, it may have been around for a very long time and you may already be in a pretty severe stage of the disease.

Thyroid Meds

When you’re diagnosed with this condition, you are diagnosed as being hypothyroid (underactive thyroid). Conventional doctors will inevitably prescribe medications such as Synthroid or its generic equivalent Levothyroxin. Unfortunately, this approach simply attempts to support the thyroid gland without addressing any component of the autoimmune problem. This is why we all get sicker over time. For more on this issue and some alternatives, click here.

Digestive Issues

Digestion is a huge issue with a lot of people who have Hashi’s. Many of us have never had good digestion for whatever reason and some of us have created a hostile digestive environment through bad eating habits. In either case, the end result is usually leaky gut. There is still skepticism about this condition among many conventional doctors, but I am definitely a believer. Given my own struggles with digestive issues my entire life, I now firmly believe that this was the shaky foundation that helped to set me on a path to Hashimoto’s. Simply put, leaky gut allows food particles that would normally stay in your digestive tract to escape into your blood stream. This not only causes problems with nutrient absorption, but it causes your body to become sensitive to a wide variety of foods, since it is no longer being protected by the usual barrier between your gut and your bloodstream. This results in becoming allergic to a long list of foods and not being able to absorb nutrients from food, so you literally become malnourished. At my lowest point, my hair was falling out, I had become very thin, and my muscles were basically just hanging off of my bones because I was on a horribly restricted diet and I was absorbing very few nutrients from my food. For a detailed discussion of leaky gut, you can go here.

As if this weren’t enough, many people also struggle with Candida, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) and/or parasites. Any of these can cause brain fog and fatigue, along with digestive issues. You can find more info and resources on this topic here.

All this leads to the question: What can I eat?  I used to joke some years ago, when I was gradually eliminating first one food and then another and another and another, that by the time I was 60, I would be subsisting only on saltines and water. Well, that turned out not to be true, because I can’t even eat saltines!!  All joking aside, this is a serious issue, given the above-mentioned problems with malabsorption and malnutrition. For my take on this, go here.

Supplements become a primary concern for those of us struggling with this condition, usually because of malabsorption problems in the gut which can ultimately lead to malnutrition. However, you need to be very careful about the quality of the supplements you use and the extra ingredients that may be included. Sometimes these can worsen your condition, especially if you have multiple allergies and sensitivities. I have a post detailing the supplements and medications I use here. Please remember, these choices are very personal and I am listing mine simply to show you what has worked for me, not as medical advice.

Sleep…or the lack thereof

Most people with Hashimoto’s will deal with insomnia at some point. This can present in several ways. Sometimes people have difficulty falling asleep, sometimes it’s hard to stay asleep, and sometimes it can be both. Issues with falling asleep very often point to a badly regulated thyroid gland and issues with staying asleep can be related to adrenal, kidney, or liver issues. When you have both of these, then trying to get any decent sleep at all becomes a real challenge. Food sensitivities also play into this because if you’re eating foods that your body is having difficulty processing, then your body is probably going to wake you up in the middle of the night to let you know it is not happy. You can find an in-depth discussion of this problem here.

Chronic Pain (and Attempting to Exercise)

I didn’t know this until well after I was diagnosed, but chronic muscle and joint pain is also a common symptom of Hashimoto’s. For me, this presented as knots and spasms in my muscles which were incredibly painful, so much so that I have had to walk away from several jobs as a result. For now, my pain is pretty manageable, but I have found that removing stress is critical to keeping the pain at bay, along with taking copious amounts of magnesium and getting a prescription for low dose naltrexone (LDN). Read more about this here.

One of the most frustrating things for me about the muscle pain has been the inability to do much physical exercise. There are people out there who will advise certain things about Hashi’s and exercise, but the bottom line is, you can only do what you can do. So don’t push yourself to do exercises that are going to worsen your condition, regardless of what anyone says. I talk more about this here.

Brain Fog

Another common complaint among Hashi’s people is brain fog. If you’ve experienced this, you know. You can’t concentrate, you forget easily, you really feel like you can’t do anything but just sit in front of the TV, and, even then,  you can’t concentrate on what you’re watching. It’s a horrible feeling and it’s scary, especially with increases in diagnosed cases of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. There seems to be a very strong connection between brain health and thyroid function, as well as a healthy gut. You can learn more about this here and here.

Depression and Anxiety

And lastly, I have to mention the emotional toll this condition takes on everyone who has it, because it is a large one. Depression and anxiety are common not only because you are constantly battling the various facets of this disease, but also because they are a physical part of this condition. Hashimoto’s screws mightily with your hormones and your hormones have a fundamental part to play in endocrine health, which regulates your emotions. So, it’s important to remember that these are symptoms, not some personal failing because you “can’t handle” your condition.

As I mentioned before, I have walked away from numerous jobs due to my Hashi’s and when/if you have to do this, it can bring all sorts of questions to your mind: What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I work like a normal person? Will I ever have a normal life again? How will I live? and the biggie, especially if you’ve been doing work you identify heavily with: Who am I now? Am I this disease? 

On top of this, you will inevitably encounter people who won’t believe you are struggling as much as you are because “you look fine”. This can be infuriating and hurtful, but just expect it, because it will happen. I will be devoting considerable resources to a discussion surrounding the psychology of Hashi’s.

So, this gives us a start at identifying core features of Hashimoto’s and a few resources with which to begin the journey of educating ourselves about this condition. More soon.

Best,

Vanessa

Vanessa Gunter, D.M.A., M.A.