The key function of the thyroid is to help metabolism. T4 is the major hormone produced by the thyroid, which also converts to T3. T3 is five times more active than T4, so it helps regulate metabolism better. However, this conversion can get tricky because selenium is required and if there isn’t enough selenium it won’t covert and you’re left with the less active T4.
The presence of too much cortisol from stress can also stop the conversion. It’s important to remember that you can have adequate amounts of T4 but still experience some thyroid imbalance symptoms due to the lack of more active T3. Those symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, puffiness around the eyes and face, foggy thinking, dry hair and skin, etc. Low thyroid can also cause increased cholesterol and LDLs because you’re not metabolizing fats as well. Heart issues, particularly a higher risk of heart disease, can also occur.
So how can you improve thyroid function? There are several ways. First, there are several nutrients that can help: selenium, zinc, the B vitamins, vitamin A and vitamin C. Reduce stress levels so there is no conversion issue. Avoid toxin exposure to mercury, lead, BPA and phthalates by eating more organic and not drinking out of plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. Fish oil and vitamin D are good because they are anti-inflammatory and the herb ashwagandha stabilizes the adrenals, helps metabolism and lowers cortisol.
I’ll be participating in a free teleseminar series on hormone health called “Turning Back the Clock: Rejuvenate Your Hormones, Your Health and Your Life – Naturally,” presented by Pomegranate Health and WomenWise International.
The series will take place from October 26-December 7 and feature seven of the natural health world’s leading experts on hormone health. My appearance will take place November 2 and will focus on keeping your mind sharp as a tack.
Here’s more details on my topic: The Brain Hormone Connection – How To Feel Well, Have Fun And Remember What You’re Doing!!
Most people think about menopausal symptoms when they think about hormones. However, hormone balance is very important to the overall health of your brain. Hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, cortisol and thyroid all profoundly affect how you think, feel and remember. Attendees will find out how to keep these hormones in balance to optimize your mood, memory and concentration while minimizing your risk for brain health problems like Alzheimer’s. You’ll discover the best nutrients and lifestyle tactics for your mental health.
Keeping with the theme of healthy holidays, today I’d like to focus on Thanksgiving. I am sharing some delicious recipes to include with your Thanksgiving feast next week that are sure to keep your hormones happy and your weight on track. These sides are the perfect complement to your turkey.
Roasting is a very healthy and delicious way to cook vegetables. It enhances the flavors of the vegetables without losing any of the nutrients. Drizzle the vegetables with heart-healthy olive oil, season with a little Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. You could also use some fresh or dried herbs, a squeeze of lemon, etc. 400 degrees is the optimal roasting temperature for vegetables – cooking time depends on the vegetable and how it is cut, but plan to turn once midway. Good choices for this cooking method include asparagus, carrots, brussel sprouts, parsnips and squash.
Many people may think it isn’t Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes, but a creamy cauliflower puree may be a better option for you. Make this in addition to mashed potatoes, but leave the potatoes for your kids and you opt for this alternative instead. Sweet potatoes are also a Thanksgiving staple and on their own sweet potatoes are very healthy with a low GI, but when loaded with brown sugar, tons of butter and little marshmallows, they’re not so healthy anymore. Instead use skim milk, a little unsalted butter and cinnamon. Cinnamon has been shown to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar, so it is a better choice than brown sugar. Looking for a green bean alternative to the traditional casserole? Try sautéing green beans with caramelized onions, garlic and sliced almonds. For the complete recipes and directions for these healthy side dish alternatives, click here.
When you’re sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner next week, a good rule of thumb is to fill your plate with mostly veggies and some turkey. Pass on the starchy casseroles and avoid going back for seconds. And gather everyone for a post-dinner walk around the neighborhood or friendly game of touch football instead of sinking into the couch in a food coma.
Many people find this time of year to be stressful, when in fact it should be a joyous time. It is true, there is a lot going on and a lot of money can be spent, which can lead to more stress, elevated levels of cortisol and eventually weight gain and other symptoms of hormone imbalance. However, with a little planning and stress management techniques, this can be the most wonderful time of the year for you and your family.
To keep spending within your budget and not consuming all your time, make a list and start early. Make a list of everyone you’re buying for and what you’re buying them, and then stick to that list. Start your shopping early, so you’re not running around until the last minute. Just like any other time, find time for yourself to do the things you enjoy, whether that it is getting a manicure, having quiet time to read a book, playing a round of golf, going for a walk or to yoga class, etc.
In order to not put additional stress on your cortisol levels, keep up with your diet of eating every couple of hours and including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. I know it’s hard to avoid all of the yummy treats that seem to find you during this time. Just try to limit yourself. A good rule of thumb is to eat some healthy snacks prior to going to a party in order to keep from going overboard. Also try not to drink too much alcohol. Especially avoid the overly sweet or rich drinks and alternate with sparkling water or club soda between alcoholic beverages.
Between the holiday parties, family gatherings and holiday baking it is easy to overeat this time of the year. But I have some tips that you might find helpful to keep you from eating too much of the wrong stuff.
Before heading to a party, have a healthy snack at home. A little bit of turkey or some nuts will provide protein and stabilize your blood sugar. If you’re not starving going into a party, you’ll make better choices when it comes to food and you won’t overeat. Go ahead and treat yourself a bit, but watch the portion sizes and try to avoid foods that are fried or made with a lot of cream and/or cheese. Also, don’t hang out around the buffet table because that might cause you to continue snacking.
I’ve said it before, but limit your alcohol consumption. Opt for a glass of red wine or mulled cider instead of eggnog, Kahlua or beer. Avoid sugary beverages that are just empty calories and will elevate blood sugar levels and expand the waistline. Alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of club soda or sparkling water with lime.
Host a healthy meal swap with friends. If you and some friends share the “we’re all in this together” attitude, the more likely you’ll stay on track and avoid holiday weight gain. Another good idea is to plan a post-party brick workout with friends to combat against all those calories consumed at holiday parties.
With a little planning and an after-party activity plan, you can avoid going overboard this holiday season and maybe even lose weight instead of gaining those holiday pounds.
The New Year is upon us, but instead of setting drastic resolutions for yourself, how about making small changes to your diet that will help balance your hormones and improve your overall health? First of all, don’t set a number for the amount of weight you want to lose. Instead make a resolution to eat healthier and measure your success by the way you feel. Do you have more energy? Are your hot flashes getting better? Are you more focused at work? Are you sleeping better at night? Has your libido increased?
Here are some general guidelines to help get you on track this new year so you can feel like a whole new you:
- Drink water! – Water is very important for our bodies to detoxify all the toxins that are stored in our fat. Drinking a glass of water prior to a meal can also help you eat less.
- Plan your meals in advance, even snacks – If you know what you’re going to eat when you’re hungry the less likely you’ll stand in front of the fridge or pantry trying to find something. This is when “less than optimal” foods may enter your mouths.
- Record what you eat – This helps you lose weight by showing food patterns, monitoring areas of improvement and tracking progress.
- Eat breakfast – Breakfast is important because your body needs to restore the fuel it lost during the night. If you don’t eat breakfast your body won’t have fuel to work with and your body sees that as a stressor and your cortisol levels will rise.
- Eat every 3 hours – Small, more frequent meals provide a consistent input of fuel, which won’t trigger an increase in cortisol demand and reduce your metabolism due to lower thyroid hormone.
- Don’t drink your calories – Sodas (even diet), fruit juices, sports drinks, sweet tea, and specialty coffee drinks should be replaced with water, seltzer water, green tea, herbal tea and decaf coffee. The sweeteners and caffeine contribute to insulin resistance and cortisol imbalance. If you can’t function without your morning coffee, start with one cup of caffeinated and then switch to decaf.
- Eat healthy foods 80-90 percent of the time – If you’re eating whole, nutritious foods 80-90 percent of the time, you can indulge in a little something special during the other time. If you’re too rigid, you’ll get frustrated and give up, which is why many diets fail.
Environmental toxins in our food and everyday household and beauty products not only impact our health and hormones, but they can also impact our ability to lose weight. We’ve already discussed how some toxins can mimic our hormones, which prevents our bodies from using our hormones as well as make hormones, but what you might not know is that all this exposure to toxins confuses our metabolisms.
Additives and processed foods with refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup strain our livers and interrupt our detoxifying systems. These additives as well as hydrogenated fats, preservatives and artificial sweeteners do not contain any nutrients; therefore they add empty calories and create a hormone imbalance. Pesticides in our food are stored in our fat tissue, which poisons our metabolism and prevents weight loss. On top of it all, processed foods increase inflammation in our bodies, which increases demand for cortisol and creates a hormone imbalance with progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, insulin and thyroid.
Toxins found in products we use everyday like Bisphenal A, parabens, phthalates are endocrine disruptors and can impact weight loss in a number of different ways. BPA acts like estrogen and contributes to weight loss. Phthalates work against testosterone and are connected to obesity and insulin resistance. If you’re insulin resistant your body stops using sugar as energy and stores it as fat.
By switching to a whole food diet, filtering water, avoiding processed foods and using products that are organic and/or fragrance free, you can reverse the effects these toxins cause. Your liver and thyroid will function normally, which will restore hormone balance, increase your metabolism, burn more fat and your liver will be clear to release toxins from fat cells so further weight loss is possible.
Here is my list of five supplements that make good additions to a heart healthy regimen. Combine these with a proper diet and exercise:
- B complex – this is very important in many of the reactions that produce energy in your body (including your heart). B vitamins have also been shown to reduce homocysteine, and high homocysteine is correlated with an increase in heart disease.
- Omega 3 – slows the build up of plaque in the arteries. Recommended if you have high triglycerides or family history of heart disease. Good sources are oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel.
- Vitamin D – a deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with increased cardiovascular risk. If you don’t get much sun take a daily supplement. Dairy products and oily fish are also good sources.
- Coenzyme Q 10, CoQ10 – increases heart contractility, the performance of cardiac muscles. Recommended especially if you have hypercholesterolemia or on statin drugs because statin drugs reduce the body’s production of CoQ10.
- Garlic – this is known to decrease triglycerides and reduce total cholesterol. You can take it in a supplement form or add it to your food.
With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, I thought I would focus this week’s article on libido issues and how you can increase libido and desire for a more fulfilling love life with your Valentine. Testosterone is considered the “life force hormone” as it supports sex drive and sexual function.
The most significant testosterone robber is a large waist, which leads to low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depressed mood, sleep disturbances, lethargy and diminished physical performance. Weight gain also accelerates decline in testosterone levels.
For many men, erectile dysfunction can be resolved with weight loss, instead of medications. So, put away the Viagra and start the following regimen to improve your libido.
- Manage stress – excessive demand for cortisol limits testosterone production and over time, leads to increased belly fat, further reducing testosterone levels.
- Proper diet – too much sugary and starchy foods will spike blood sugar, which is a form of physical stress triggering excess production of cortisol and then we’ll end up with the scenario mentioned above.
- Physical activity – even just daily walks will help get your testosterone levels up and maintain other hormones at healthy levels.
- Sleep – getting enough sleep is a prerequisite for maintaining optimum testosterone production.
- Saw Palmetto – Native Americans used berries of the saw palmetto to boost libido and today it is available as a dietary supplement for prostate health.
Of course, a healthy lifestyle also has more significant benefits to your overall health since low testosterone is associated with heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer. But if increasing libido is what gets you on the path to health, I’ll take it
Many people don’t realize the far reaching effects that your thyroid can have on your general health. Most of us know that your thyroid is connected to your metabolism, your energy level and your ability to gain or lose weight. But, did you know that there are many other effects of suboptimal thyroid function? In addition, the prevalence of thyroid dysfunction in United States is widespread; as many as one in seven Americans have thyroid glands the don’t work as well as they should.
Thyroid function is also very important for heart health. We have two major thyroid hormones in our body, T4 and T3. The thyroid gland normally secretes about 90 percent T4, which has some activity. However, our body usually converts T4 to T3, which has five times more activity! This conversion is dependent on some nutrients like selenium and doesn’t happen as readily if you have a lot of stress. Therefore, many of us don’t convert our T4 hormone to the more active T3. Also, this inability to convert T4 to T3 may not show up with routine testing for thyroid function such as TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).
Not only does this affect your metabolism, it can affect your heart.
Decreased T3 production will raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, due to decreased metabolism of fats. Decreased T3 also reduces the availability of your essential fatty acids, EPA and DHEA, which reduce inflammation and help to protect your heart. You can also obtain essential fatty acids by eating cold water fish such as mackerel and salmon and supplementing with a good-quality fish oil. But, it’s important to make sure your thyroid is functioning well so you have as much of the heart healthy EPA and DHA available as you can. Because inadequate T3 lowers your metabolism, it reduces the rate at which you burn oxygen. That can contribute to free radical damage to your heart.
If you have any symptoms of low thyroid such as weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, constipation, dry hair and skin or difficulty concentrating, call your physician and ask for thyroid testing that includes TSH, free T3, free T4, reverse T3 and thyroid antibody testing.