Nutrition

Thyroid Antibodies: Why Test?

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Thyroid antibody lab tests are tests often overlooked by physicians when checking for thyroid disease. This is unfortunate because when caught early, the amount and length of time the thyroid is being attacked could be decreased. If you are interested in learning more about thyroid health, click here for my last post. Hang with me here and we will talk about why thyroid antibody tests are important and if you should have yours checked.

What are Antibodies?

An antibody is a protein made by plasma cells in response to an antigen, or a substance the body thinks is a “bad guy”. Each antibody can bind to only 1 antigen in order for the immune system to attack and destroy that antigen. So, obviously, thyroid antibodies set up an attack on the thyroid gland, each one in a different way.

Anti-thyroperoxidase (TPO) antibodies are the most common and are associated with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis along with anti-thyroglobulin (Anti-Tg) antibodies. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) Receptor (TSHR-Ab) antibodies are associated with Graves’ Disease.

Did you know that thyroid antibodies can be present before other thyroid hormones are out of “normal” range?  

So, if I ask you if you’ve had your thyroid labs check and you are like, “yep, my doctor says my thyroid is good”, it is usually only a TSH level that is checked. This lab test can only give us a small picture of what is going on with the thyroid or maybe not tell us anything at all. Antibodies can be present for years before we see a change in the TSH level. This is super frustrating because if antibodies are present, they can slowly destroy the thyroid over time. This will eventually cause the thyroid to not be able to produce hormone efficiently, then causing the change in TSH.

Thyroid antibodies can produce symptoms even when there is no hypothyroidism detected. Symptoms can include fatigue, anxiety, depression, weight gain, general poor feeling and potential for miscarriage. So no, you are not crazy when you tell your doctor you think there is something else going on even though your labs don’t show it.

Thyroid antibodies with a normal TSH can be an early warning sign of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. It is estimated that 90% or more of those with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s disease. But, not all of those with Hashimoto’s will have elevated antibodies and will need a thyroid ultrasound if symptoms persist. I am one of the few with hypothyroidism and not Hashimoto’s. If there are antibodies present and an elevated TSH, Hashimoto’s is likely in the later stages.

Why are doctors not testing antibodies?

After reading the information above, you may be asking this same question. Right? Many general medicine practitioners don’t think that an autoimmune disease can be treated and reversed. Therefore, there is no need to know if antibodies are present because it doesn’t change their treatment plan. The root cause doesn’t really matter. They will treat the thyroid if the labs show that it makes sense. Or, if they are aware of autoimmunity, they want to suppress the immune system causing more problems and side effects.  

If I have antibodies will I always have antibodies?

There is no cure for autoimmune disease. Once autoimmunity is present, there is always a potential for your immune system to attack your own cells causing problems. There is, however, a way to support the immune system, reverse or decrease autoimmunity and prevent further attack on the body. Nutrition and lifestyle play a large role in supporting the immune system and this topic deserves multiple blog posts! And, just so you know, I care about the root cause and it does matter!

Antibody levels will change in response to underlying causes, like stress, food sensitivities and infections. It is important to also look at the big picture of how you are feeling. If you have antibodies, it is great to have them checked occasionally with your other labs because it can tell you if your interventions are working or if you are maybe having a flare up and need to try something different.

Who should have thyroid antibodies tested?

If your doctor is already doing blood work to check your thyroid health, I recommend asking for a full thyroid panel, which will include antibody tests. It is great to get these labs done and see the full picture from the start. If this isn’t being done, here are some reasons you may want to ask for thyroid antibody tests:  

  • You have another autoimmune disease like celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, Sjogren’s, etc. Once you have an autoimmune disease, you are 3x more likely to develop another one.

  • You have classic symptoms of a thyroid issue but your TSH continues to come back in the “normal” range.

  • You have a close family member with an autoimmune disease, especially Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease.

  • You’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism but have not had antibody tests done.

Antibodies can be an important piece of information when we are looking at thyroid health and thyroid diseases. They do matter and they can be decreased with immune system support. Antibodies can be present long before the thyroid is showing signs of attack and decreased function. As always, be aware of symptoms and be diligent in finding a doctor who will listen to you.

In health,

Lin

Inflammation: What You Need to Know and How to Reduce It

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Inflammation is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the nutrition world. Maybe you’ve heard of inflammatory diseases or an anti-inflammatory diet? I was pretty unaware of inflammation until it affected me. I first found out about my inflammation about a year ago after tests run by a functional medicine clinic. I started going there because of some problems I was having that I couldn’t figure out. My inflammatory marker, CRP, was high and I was also having insulin resistance, which goes hand-in-hand with inflammation. I was completely shocked that I was dealing with insulin resistance but it was starting to make much more sense. There were things happening in my body causing problems that I didn’t know about. That’s just my story but it also may sound a lot like your story.  

So, what exactly is inflammation and how does it work in our body? There is a lot of information when it comes to inflammation and it can be very sciency! Is that even a word? Yep, pretty sure it is. Let’s break this information down to help make sense of it. And, just the juicy tidbits instead of all the blah, blah, blah stuff. I personally like the blah, blah, blah stuff but I’m a geek.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural immune response to a stimulus, usually to protect itself from harm. Inflammation can be good and bad, also known as acute and chronic. Acute inflammation happens when we get a cut and our body sends out the defenses to heal the wound. This is good and is shorter in duration. We need inflammation to survive. Chronic inflammation happens when our immune system is consistently in the “on” switch causing a release of chemicals that cause damage leading to disease. This is bad and long term. Chronic inflammation is responsible for pain and tissue destruction in disease.

What Causes Inflammation?

In working to figure out how to calm chronic inflammation to heal, we must understand the causes of inflammation. According to integrative and functional Dr. Mark Hyman, the list of causes isn’t very long. His list of causes of inflammation:

  • Poor diet: mostly sugar, refined flours, processed foods and inflammatory fats such as trans fats.

  • Lack of exercise

  • Stress

  • Hidden or chronic infections with viruses, bacteria, yeasts or parasites

  • Hidden allergens from food or environment

  • Toxins such as mercury and pesticides

  • Mold toxins and allergens

 I would also add to this list:

  • Excessive exercise

  • Gut dysbiosis or imbalance of good and bad bacteria (often caused by diet and medications)

  • Negative thoughts and emotions

Inflammation is very individual and it can be hidden to some. It can present in different ways, even in people with the same disease. The key is for health practitioners to work with an individual to find their specific inflammatory triggers by digging into their health history and testing to get more specific information. Testing can be very helpful when we talk about food allergies or sensitivities, toxins and chronic infections. There are also a few tests that can determine inflammation in the body with C-reactive protein (CRP) being most common. This is the test I had run. Mine was 1.2 with optimal (according to my practitioner) being <0.3 so it wasn’t terrible but wasn’t awesome. If you suspect inflammation, ask your doctor for this test with your next set of labs.

What Diseases are Correlated with Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is at the root of many common and chronic conditions. It can slowly cause problems with many systems in our body. We usually don’t know about the inflammation until major issues and symptoms show up. If it is a chronic disease, you can bet there is underlying systemic inflammation that needs to be dealt with. Here is a small list of inflammatory diseases:

  •   Metabolic disorders

    • Type 2 Diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, fatty liver disease

  • Cancers

  • Neurological Disorders

    • Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Bone, muscular and skeletal disorders

    • Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis

  • GI disorders

    • IBS, IBD, Chron’s, Colitis (microscopic and ulcerative)

  • Mental disorders

    • Depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, Autism spectrum disorders

Symptoms of inflammation include

  • Brain fog

  • Swelling

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Insulin resistance

  • Fatigue

How Can You Reduce Inflammation?

There are a number of strategies that can help to reduce inflammation in the body. Let’s talk about the heavy hitters that can give you a big bang for your efforts.

1. Eat real food. Yes, I said it. Eat real, high-quality food, lots of colors, lots of flavors and things you can pronounce. Anti-inflammatory diets can be helpful in reducing inflammation as the name would suggest. See your dietitian (or me =) ) for guidance starting an anti-inflammatory diet.

2. Decrease inflammatory fats and oils and increase anti-inflammatory fats and fatty foods. This could go with #1 but I like it on it’s own. Inflammatory oils are often found in processed packaged foods like chips, crackers, frozen meals, and shelf-stable peanut butter. Get my free guide to healthy fats here.

3. Exercise, but not too much. Studies have shown that exercise can protect against chronic diseases. Over-exercising can cause more stress on the body leading to increased inflammation.

4. Control blood sugar levels. Decrease or eliminate sugar and processed carbohydrates, eat at regular intervals and include protein and healthy fat with meals and snacks.

5. Address food sensitivities. This can reduce inflammation quickly. An elimination diet can help with finding food sensitivities but you can have a sensitivity to even the healthiest foods you eat. See my post on the MRT food sensitivity test and the LEAP program for more information.

6. Address nutrient deficiencies. Talk to your physician or dietitian about testing for nutrient deficiencies, and more than just vitamin D and B12. If this isn’t an option, a high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement is never a bad idea to fill in the gaps. I also like a high-quality vitamin D with vitamin K-2 supplement for most of us.

7. Relax, de-stress and get adequate sleep. Is this a joke? No, no it’s not. Lack of sleep increases stress. Stress, as mentioned above, can cause inflammation. Find your favorite ways to relax. Maybe yoga, meditation, bubble baths, music, more time with friends, a vacation. Allow yourself this time. Get on a better sleep routine and aim for 8 hours a night. Read my post on the importance of sleep.

8. Minimize toxic burden. Decrease exposure to plastics, pesticides, oxidative fats, pollutants, and harsh chemicals. What goes on your body and on/in your food is important also.

I hope this gives you some good, useful information. I am definitely not saying that everyone is dealing with chronic inflammation that is causing problems. I am saying that if you have a chronic condition or generally don’t feel well, taking some action to reduce inflammation can make a big difference. I would also take away that your lifestyle now can play a role in your health later down the road. I know it is a lot of information to digest so feel free to leave me your questions. You can also schedule a free 15 minute discovery call with me if you would like to learn more about working with a registered dietitian.

Lin

Pumpkin Spice Energy Balls

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I love when two things that are great on their own come together to make something even greater. Like peanut butter and chocolate, chips and salsa, champagne and orange juice. Am I right? And now, pumpkin spice and energy balls! Oh yes, a match made in heaven and just in time for the fall pumpkin season. These healthy pumpkin spice energy balls are quick, easy and make a great snack or sweet treat.

Pumpkin is the hot flavor right now, thanks to the #PSL trend and I’m getting right on that train. I can’t go anywhere without seeing a pumpkin flavored food or drink. And for good reason, really. All of the warm, delicious spices that come with pumpkin flavor like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove. I think those spices elicit a warm cozy feeling reminiscent of cold nights by the fire and family feasts at holidays.

So, let’s talk more about pumpkin and the nutritional benefits because there are a few.

·      Beta carotene – an anti-oxidant that is a precursor to Vitamin A, which protects against inflammation and helps keep eyes and skin healthy

·      Vitamin C – fights free radicals and increases immune health

·      Fiber- regulates blood sugar, decreases LDL, helps with digestion and keeps you feeling full longer

·      Magnesium (very common nutritional deficiency)– essential for bone and heart health

·      Low in calories and carbohydrates – about 50 calories and 10g carbohydrates per ½ cup

I actually made these pumpkin spice energy balls by accident, which is probably how many great recipes are born. I was making the cinnamon energy balls, yet again, for another baseball tournament (for the boys between games when they have a double header) and saw some leftover pumpkin puree I used for a test recipe. It was going to be cold that night at the games and pumpkin sounded good so I made another batch, changed it up a bit and added the pumpkin. I didn’t have high hopes for them but they ended up being a big hit with the boys and the parents.

These pumpkin spice energy balls can be totally customizable. You can use a different nut, add nut butter, add oats or oat flour in place of almond flour, add collagen powder or use all cinnamon instead of pumpkin pie spice. I love when I’m able to customize a recipe to fit my dietary needs or taste preferences.


Pumpkin Spice Energy Balls - Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free

Healthy, quick and easy pumpkin spice energy balls make a great snack or sweet treat.

Makes: 12-15 balls

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Prep time:

Cook time:

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 2 Tbsp pure pumpkin
  • 1/8 cup almond flour
  • 1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Instructions:
  1. Add almonds, pepitas and dates to food processor. Pulse until you get small crumbles.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until well mixed.
  3. With wet hands, roll into balls. Place balls on parchment lined plate or baking sheet and refrigerate.
  4. Store in airtight container for 1 week.
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Happy fall ya’ll! I hope you have a great fall season. I’m planning to enjoy the great weather we are having and get in all the essential activities like the pumpkin patch and apple orchard. And of course enjoy some pumpkin treats like these.

Cheers!

Lin

Food Sensitivities and LEAP Therapy

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“Some things cannot be taught; they must be experienced. You never learn the most valuable lessons in life until you go through your own journey.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

Hey everyone, I am going to switch things up a bit with this post. I love talking about intuitive eating and similar topics and will continue to discuss those as they are super important so stay tuned for more. But, I'd like to shift gears for a bit and talk about food sensitivities and a program I will be using in my practice called LEAP Therapy. It uses MRT, or mediator release test to test for specific sensitivities to foods and/or chemicals. I'm super excited because I recently finished my training and am now a CLT, or Certified LEAP Therapist.

I posted the quote above because my personal health issues and experiences have pushed me to learn more about the integrative and functional side of nutrition. This means really digging down to the root cause of health conditions and diseases. Food sensitivities can be one of the reasons for some health problems and symptoms, which are often overlooked. So, I will tell you a little more about food sensitivities, who might be affected, and why MRT and LEAP therapy are recommended. I will also link to their website for more great information. It's about to get a little sciency up in here. 

What is a food sensitivity?

A food sensitivity is a type of immune reaction in the body to toxic substances, in this case, specific foods or chemicals. The immune cells release mediators, or inflammatory chemicals, which cause inflammation and other symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, diarrhea, or skin issues to name just a few. A food sensitivity is not the same as a food allergy. Food sensitivities are an IgG immune reaction. Food allergies are an IgE immune reaction. Simply put, they involve different things and different cells. A food allergy can cause immediate symptoms and those symptoms can be life-threatening. A food sensitivity causes delayed symptoms, sometimes up to 72 hours after ingesting the food. The delayed onset of symptoms can make diagnosing the food sensitivity very difficult. These are also both different from a food intolerance like lactose intolerance. 

Are you still with me? Just hang on a little longer.

Who might be affected by a food sensitivity?

There are some common conditions where food sensitivities are most likely in play. Determining the culprits can have a huge effect on the condition, symptoms, and quality of life. Here are some of the most common conditions where the MRT and LEAP therapy can be very useful:

  • IBS-d (diarrhea predominant)

  • Migraines

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis

  • Lupus

  • Celiac disease

  • Hashimoto's disease

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Skin issues like eczema

  • Acid reflux

  • ADD/ADHD

If it's autoimmune or inflammatory, food sensitivities are good to get checked out.

What is the MRT? 

MRT is the mediator release test that can determine the specific food sensitivities. It measures the quantity of mediators (inflammatory chemicals causing problems) released when exposed to 170 different foods and chemicals. It then breaks the foods into green (non-reactive), yellow (moderately reactive) and red (reactive) categories. The foods it tests for can range from common sensitivities like wheat and corn to ones you might not suspect like spinach and blueberries. There are multiple chemicals it tests for including food dyes and ibuprofen as well as naturally occurring chemicals like tyramine and caffeine. If you are really struggling to find answers with your condition, the MRT takes the guesswork out of figuring out what foods will make you feel the best. 

What is LEAP Therapy

LEAP (lifestyle eating and performance) therapy uses an individually tailored "ImmunoCalm diet" based off of the MRT results. It is broken down into phases starting with your least reactive foods for a few weeks, then adding in other tested foods then untested foods one at a time. This allows for the immune system to calm down with the hope that more foods can be better tolerated down the road. It isn't a quick process and you might feel worse before you feel better but it is worth it if your quality of life improves. The LEAP therapist, aka me, is there to help you through the process, design your eating plan and phases, give lots of help and support and get you the best results as quickly as possible. 

So you might be wondering if I plan to do the MRT and the answer is yes. I am actually pretty excited about it. I have been going to a functional medicine clinic because I am hypothyroid, have reynauds disease (neither of which are autoimmune), can't seem to lose weight, am constantly puffy and bloated and I've been dealing with some really bad back and hip pain for over a year. After running some tests my labs showed that I am pre-diabetic, have markers of inflammation in my body (can affect insulin resistance and blood sugar as well as cause fluid retention), and am low in some nutrients. I have tried an elimination diet but it is really hard for me to pinpoint trigger foods when I add them back in. I suspect I have a problem with chicken, corn and dairy but to be honest, I'm not really sure and it's really hard to determine if feeling tired today is due to something I ate 3 days ago. 

So yes, I am going to do the MRT to pinpoint any foods and/or chemicals that are causing my body problems that I can't figure out. I really hope it's not coconut or avocado or almonds or bananas. Otherwise, I think I can deal.

So that is a little bit more about my new CLT title and why I decided to do it. I am very excited to help people that really need the help. I'm excited to put puzzle pieces together to get to the bottom of a condition and use nutrition to heal. I will be back with my results and how things are going. Meanwhile, feel free share this with others and to comment with any questions you have and I'll do my best to answer those. 

Lin

 

Lettuce Eat Greens

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Hello friends! I hope this new year is finding you happy and well. I kind of feel like my new year so far has been a whirlwind and bam, it's already the 18th. We've visited more with friends, we're back to soccer and baseball practices and we've been home a lot lately due to the bitter cold temps in KC. This week we had -20° windchill and then it will be 50° this weekend. That's KC for you.

One thing holds true for me when I am out of my food routine (whatever that really is) for whatever reason, I miss eating something green! I don't discriminate (too much) when it comes to what kind of green foods I like to eat but I want them regularly! I'm going to share with you why green foods are good for you and easy ways to incorporate them into your routine, even when life gets, well, like life.

Greens are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and carotenoids. Antioxidants help protect healthy cells from damage. They can be vitamins, minerals or carotenoids. Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are compounds found only in plants that help protect them. They also have health benefits. Common Phytonutrients are lutein and beta-carotene. Carotenoids are a phytonutrient that has antioxidant properties. Anyway, there is a lot of great s#!$ in green veggies, or all veggies for that matter.

My favorite greens to eat on the regular are broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, spinach, and arugula. I also like green peppers, other green lettuces, and cucumbers.

Broccoli

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This is probably my favorite veggie out of all of them, well maybe besides sweet potatoes. Broccoli is a cruciferous veggie that contains vitamin C, beta-carotene, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin K, folate and fiber. It is a nutrient power house. Did you know that 1 cup of broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange? Vitamin C helps build collagen and is an antioxidant. The best ways to cook broccoli are steam, roast, stir-fry or microwave to preserve nutrient content. My favorite ways to cook and eat broccoli:

  • My favorite is to roast broccoli. It gives it a bit of a charred taste and leaves it a little crunchy. I roast it at 400º for about 15 minutes with olive oil and salt.

  • I like roasted broccoli on my pizza.

  • We also like frozen broccoli for convenience. The Bird's Eye Baby Broccoli Florets are the best.

  • Steam broccoli if you don't like it roasted. Watch it carefully because it can turn mushy pretty quickly.

Kale

I know kale is kind of old school in all things nutrition, right? I don't eat it as regularly as broccoli or some other greens but I still enjoy it. Kale, also a cruciferous veggie, has a high content of the carotenoid, lutein, which supports eye health. It is high in vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin C. It also contains manganese, copper, vitamin B 6, calcium and fiber. It is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Another nutrient powerhouse! My favorite ways to eat kale:

  • In this soup.

  • I also like to sauté kale with olive oil, garlic and chopped walnuts. Add a little water and throw a lid on after it sautés for a few minutes to finish the cooking. And of course add salt and pepper.

  • Baby kale is great in salads.

  • Kale, however, is NOT a green that I enjoy in a smoothie. Just being real!

Brussels Sprouts

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So I just started eating brussels sprouts over a year ago. Some really good brussels with all kinds of bacon and stuff at a restaurant converted me! Brussels sprouts are another cruciferous vegetable and have a lot of the same nutrient qualities. They are also studied frequently for their cancer preventative substances called glucosinolates. How to cook:

  • I like to roast my brussels sprouts and get all of the little crunchy pieces! I halve them and roast them with olive oil and salt at 400º for about 20 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Flip them over 1/2 way through cooking. Super quick, super easy!

  • You can also cook them with bacon and apple and/or add a little drizzle of balsamic glaze at the end.

  • I have also had them in a cheesy gratin for a holiday and YUM!

Spinach

I kind of have a love-hate relationship with spinach. Obviously it has health benefits and is probably one of the more commonly eaten greens. It is high in antioxidants. It contains fiber, iron, calcium, zinc, niacin, folate and lots of other vitamins and minerals. It contains beta-carotene, which we normally think of in orange-colored foods. Spinach is one of the dirty dozen foods meaning it can have a lot of pesticides so buying organic spinach is recommended over conventional if possible. I have yet to find a way that I like cooked spinach but if that's your thing then do it. Here are easy ways to use spinach:

Banana pancakes with spinach

Banana pancakes with spinach

  • As a salad green. If you prefer a "crunchier" type of lettuce you can always add spinach in to whatever you are using.

  • In a smoothie. It is so easy to add a handful of spinach to your smoothie mix and it doesn't change the flavor but will add some different nutrients. I keep a bag of TJs organic spinach in my fridge weekly for smoothies. The organic is only like 20 cents more than regular.

  • Puree spinach with a small amount of liquid and add in to baked goods. I do this with pancakes mostly. I make banana pancakes in my magic bullet and just add it right in. For a pancake mix that you make in a bowl, just mix the pureed spinach in with the other liquid. Again it won't change the flavor but adds nutrients and it's kid friendly!

  • Chopped up and add to scrambled eggs. Add in at the very end of cooking.

  • On pizza.

Arugula

Arugula, or rocket, is by far my favorite salad green. I love it's pepperiness. Is that a word? It also lasts a little longer in the fridge than a lot of other salad greens. Arugula is another cruciferous vegetable, so obviously I really like those. Arugula contains vitamin K, which can help with bone health. It also contains folate, B vitamins, carotenoids and other antioxidants. It is low in oxalates, which can inhibit the absorption of some nutrients. Here is how to use arugula:

  • As a salad green. It's especially good with parmesan, EVOO and lemon juice. It also mixes with with other greens like spinach. If you are in the KC area, you must try the rocket salad at The Mixx (with salmon, duh). It's so good!

  • On pizza. Put on top after cooking.

  • On a sandwich.

Maybe you now know a little more about green foods and easy ways to use them. Do you have to? No. Should you? That is totally up to you. Are you capable? Absolutely! It doesn't have to be complicated or take a lot of time but greens can offer you a lot of nutrients and health benefits. So, lettuce eat greens!

Lin