Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Green smoothie + Thyroid issues on *sparklingly [http://www.sparklingly.blogspot.com]
{ Pretty greens at breakfast  |  21 February 2013 }

A few years ago my mom began to have really odd health issues—she put on weight very quickly (without any lifestyle / diet changes), but it came on unevenly. It wasn't so much as getting "fatter", as it was that her face / neck / upper body got massively bloated. That was the biggest sign that something was happening (along with a few other more personal / TMI issues).

She finally went to the doctor and had a blood test which showed that her TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) indicator was at a 6.5, and at that time doctors agreed that a "normal" thyroid would return a result between 0.5 and 5.5, so she was definitely above even the "high-end", which lead to a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, an issue with the endocrine system.

With hypothyroidism your thyroid doesn't make enough thyroid hormone, which regulates your metabolism, affects protein synthesis, regulates long bone growth, and affects how your cells use energetic compounds (protein, fats, carbohydrates)—some pretty major stuff. This isn't like that lazypants appendix that hangs around slothily. To combat the serious complications she was facing (and would face, if left untreated), my mom was put on prescription medicine and the situation is under control now.

+ + +

I didn't even think about any of that until I went to visit a Functional Medicine / Integrative Medicine doctor last month. Ever since making drastic changes to my diet / lifestyle a few years ago, I've been interested in an holistic approach to medicine, i.e., treating the root cause, addressing every aspect of your life to make positive physical / mental changes, and using food / environmental adjustments as the first line of defense, rather than drugs.

I had never seen one of these types of doctors before because insurance (of course) didn't cover it. But, my company switched plans in December and the first thing I did was to see if any of the Functional Medicine doctors in NYC were now covered and hoooboy, hit the jackpot. The Continuum Center for Health and Healing here in New York was mostly covered! I immediately made a few appointments for yearly check-ups.

When we showed up for our appointments (I dragged R along, too) they allowed us to be checked out together—I'm a firm believer in needing support to make big changes, so I wanted us both to hear what the doctor had to say to the other—so that was a good start. The questions about our medical history / life included "how do you like your job?", "what do you do to relax?", "are you religious / spiritual?". I loved the focus on our environment and the understanding and belief in how everything affects us.

My blood test results came in a few days later and here's where things get interesting.

Ten years ago the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, at the recommendation of the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry, re-evaluated prognoses based on TSH results: no longer would "normal" be 0.5 to 5.5, but only to 2.5.

Remember my mom got a 6.5? I didn't get that high, but I did get above a 2.5 and below a 5.5, which perhaps is still a "gray area" for some doctors, but it had me crazy worried!

Even though my doctor told me my results were fine, my Google-ing/uber-researchy mind set about to figure things out for myself when I got my PDF readout. I called him and asked, "are you SURE that I don't need to be worried about this, because it would explain a lot of the issues I have, namely: I'm always tired and have continuously cold feet / hands (despite being hot everywhere else)".

He stayed firm in his opinion that I don't have hypothryoidism, based on the congruence of all of my other tests (which, to be fair, I have no idea how to determine that), but even so, I think I'm going to look into things I can do myself (sans drugs) to boost my thyroid performance, which is what I would have done anyway.

+ + +

A few things I've read about that affect the thyroid negatively:

+ Fluoride: which I use ABUNDANTLY, since I have a genetic disposition to cavities despite a seriously fierce teeth cleaning routine. Rather than have both fluoride toothpaste + fluoride mouthwash, I'm going to take one out of the equation. (I'm afraid removing both will launch a thousand cavities). I'm also going to check our pants to see which ones are non-stick (and thus, a source of fluoride).

+ Soy: I really dislike soy, although I've recently been into tempeh (fermented soy). I thought the fermentation alleviated the issues with soy (which for me manifest in an upset stomach), but perhaps it's time to cut back on that, too?

+ Estrogen: I think a lack of any prescription pills on my part and a mostly organic-meat diet takes care of keeping extra estrogen away from my systems, but I do enjoy my Ronnybrook milk in coffee, but surely that's not enough to cause an issue, right? Either way, I may be easing off of that a bit.

+ Processed foods: Fake foods, artificial flavors / colors, preservatives, white flower, white sugar, hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup are all majorly bad in general, but also for the thyroid. Luckily, no issues for me here.

+ Cruciferous vegetables: Now this is a problem, since I eat a LOT of broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale and cauliflower. Dislike. (Although, I think cooking mitigates the problem—goitrogenic compounds—so perhaps I'm okay?).

A few things I've read about that are good for the thryoid (and thank goodness, are already a part of my life, just need to boost 'em):

+ Alkaline foods: Lemons, limes, grapefruit, asparagus, onion, parsley, spinach, broccoli, garlic, olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

+ Gluathione: This is an antioxidant that strengthens the immune system and some foods that help the body produce it are asparagus, broccoli (so, ignore the cruciferous thing above, I guess?), avocado, spinach, garlic, squash, grapefruit and raw eggs (yes! I love raw eggs!).

+ Chlorphyll: There's some in my Pure Synergy green powder, but I can find more ways to add this into my diet, I think.

+ Coconut oil: HA, got that covered, for sure.

+ L-Arginine: A non-essential amino acid that our bodies produce, but that we also get from food (dairy, beef, pork, gelatin, poultry, seafood, nuts, chick peas, seeds). I think I get plenty of those foods, but wouldn't hurt to up it (as I don't really want to take a supplement).

 + L-Tyrosine: An amino acid we use to synthesize protein, which (naturally) comes from protein sources in our diets. Like L-Arginine, I think my diet gives me enough, but perhaps I can work some more in or, ugh, take a supplement at some point?

+ Probiotics: Helps keep healthy gut bacteria flowering and whatnot (thank you Whole Milk Fage for my regular dose!).

So, let's see how this goes...


  1. My mom started having thyroid issues a few years ago - didn't know your mom was having them too!

    1. Oh, really? I had read that many women develop it as they get older (makes sense, given estrogen thing). Timing works out right, too, since my mom went through it while I was in college and your mom is a few years younger. They probably both had to deal with during "the change". :/


  2. first of all amazing post- i'm also strong believer in going to the 'root' to fix something. When I was pregnant I was so energetic, deliriously happy, totally alert and focused - all the things I'm usually not. (although things have improved enormously after the move away from NY) Still compared to pregnancy when i felt really MYSELF my 'normal' state is mostly described as 'blah'... unless I'm on vacation. the point is after giving birth a few month down the road i've slowly regained the 'blah-ness' and started researching leading me to believe that maybe normaly i'm missing somekind of hormone, or eating something that upsets the hormones....etc. also for the fact that i have LOST abt 15lbs while pregnant. (yes, you heard that right - after giving birth i was more then 15lb lighter then pre-pregnancy weight). anyway did blood tests they said all looks good. my dad swears by enzymes... ?? i think in the end it all stems from too much stress and not enough exersize. and yes the disguasting un-natural foods don't help either. I do applaud your investigations! I'm very curious if you'll feel any immediate health uplift when you move to Sve! Has R noticed any negative effects since moving to NY??? then again he is a guy, guys say they feel great even when gushing blood out of their sides...

    1. Whoa, you have SERIOUSLY just blown my mind, Ale!

      First things first: you felt an uptick in energy when you left NYC, but it mellowed out once you were settled abroad and then went through the roof during pregnancy, right? I am completely FASCINATED by this——it really seems like a combo of environment and (mostly) hormones. Crazy that blood tests came back normal (like mine, argh! Although I did just email my doctor to ask about other ones I can do). Maybe the only way to fully test this theory is to have another bouncing babe? ;)

      I've heard rumblings about enzymes, too, especially ones to help digestion, which affects energy levels, but I haven't had the brain space to look into that just yet.

      I'm even more frustrated because every other aspect of my life that I can think of has been cleaned up (98% "clean" diet, meaning no gluten, no sugar, no products from toxically-raised animals, no processed foods; no chemical cleaning or body products; I sleep about 7'ish hours a night, which could probably be higher; and I'm regularly active). What gives?!

      Which brings me to the "a-ha" moment of your comment: what if it's my job/New York? I've switched jobs (but not fields of work) and still feel tired, so perhaps I'm in the wrong line of work? But more so, what if it's the city itself?! And, you were spot on: R DID/IS experiencing negative health effects after moving here! Why did I never connect that to NYC?!

      Maybe the lease renewal situation is another vote for getting the heck out of here immediately? :/

    2. It's funny you never thought to blame NYC!! :) The city has a really 'oppressing' energy (some people call it 'exciting energy' i feel like it's very stressful, especially Manhattan. The buildings are very high and surround you, that creates a feeling like something is 'pressing' on you from the top. Also there is constant noise. Even on a sunday morning when it's at it's quietest and you think it's completely quiet, if you listen there is still a constant low buzz... that's totally stressful. I would feel an immediate "lift' of mood when I'd drive over the bridge from Mhttn to my parents house in staten island - like magic. that's why many ppl don't live in nyc longer then few years, it's just so tiring somehow (well....and expensive, that too).

      for me- not that we're discussing... maybe i feel a lift of energy when there is a big 'change' that's happening???? maybe i'm a change addict...

    3. Spot on, Ale!
      (That poem makes me laugh, love how that kid has it all figured out:

      "So much depends on
      busy people in cities
      rammin’ on rickety computers
      gettin’ really really tired."

      It's funny because I can't imagine living in the suburbs, but I do need more access to nature (which is such a hassle to get in NYC) and maybe the answer is a low-rise, less intense city with easy access to greenery and space (like Stockholm!). My ideal would be a very small apartment in a calmer capital city with a "summer house" less than two hours away (And, back to Sweden, that's actually how most people live, my in-laws included!).

      NYC and Tokyo and (most of) London are just ZINNNNGGGIng with energy, and perhaps you're right——I'm one of the people that gets drained by it (would make sense, too, given how introverted I am). I'm definitely not energized by change (I don't think), but I think I have been happier/more zen/energetic with more space around me (college in VA, summers in Sicily, etc.)

      Lots to think about.


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