Sometimes my big health mistakes turn into blessings.
When I was on a raw vegan diet 15 years ago to heal IBS, it was doing obvious damage to me body but I refused to believe this “healthy” diet was harming me. But this debacle led me to visit a raw vegan retreat center where I met the Paleo nutritionist who led me back to health.
It’s stressful to make mistakes with your health, but there’s a valuable lesson in the experience. And if you are afraid to make mistakes, you are not moving forward toward heal but rather stuck just wishing it away.
My most recent mistake led me to discover that my thyroid was off. The reason people with IBS and SIBO should care about their thyroid is because a slow thyroid, also called hypothyroid, can be a root cause for SIBO and digestive symptoms like bloating and constipation.
Hypothyroidism is associated with altered gastrointestinal motility, which is the most common underlying cause of SIBO.
SIBO and IBS rates tend to be higher among people the hypothyroid population versus people with normal thyroid function.
Even more alarmingly, you may have had your thyroid tested and told it was normal by your doctor. This was the case for me too. However I later learned through my own research that it was not normal, but slow. And I’ll discuss how to know if this is the case for you below.
My slow thyroid function could have been a reason I developed SIBO earlier this year.
Women are particularly vulnerable to a slowing thyroid after the hormonal shifts of pregnancy or when approaching menopause (that’s me).
The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue, tendency to feel cold, dry skin/hair/nails, hair that is thinning or falling out, unexplained weight gain or inability to lose weight, lack of motivation, tingling or numbness in extremities, sleep disturbance, memory issues or forgetfulness/fogginess and mood issues like anxiety or depression. And obviously gut issues and motility issues like constipation are associated with a slow thyroid.
It’s not ideal to diagnose yourself based on symptoms because they vary greatly and I personally don’t have many of these symptoms above consistently other than the mood issues, lack of motivation and the feeling that my brain is slowing down. And thought I’m not fatigued my energy should be more abundant based on how well I eat and take care of myself.
My biggest thyroid symptom is just feeling a bit off. I just don’t feel like myself. And that’s why I am always trying to tweak my diet, supplements and routine to feel more vital.
My health mistake was trying the ketogenic diet. It is a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet that lowers inflammation, increases energy and clears and focuses the mind.
The ketogenic diet, also called keto, mimics the effects of fasting while still eating food that are high in fat and therefore satiating. This high fat diet feeds you but starves the yeast and bacterial overgrowth in the gut.
Keto can improve blood sugar and heal insulin resistance. And is used medically and successfully to treat people with serious conditions like epilepsy, cancer, diabetes, autism and Alzheimer’s.
Since I’ve been generally sticking to a lower carb diet since kicking SIBO, keto seemed like the next promising thing to try.
The difference between a low carb and a ketogenic diet is that the aim of keto is to produce ketones in the liver which turns fat into glucose. The healing effects of this bring the body into a homeostatic balance by lower inflammation, balancing blood sugar and healing the brain. Read ore about keto here.
After months of research, I attempted the keto diet for 11 days. You can follow my journey here on Instagram.
It did not go well.
The hunger I experienced was intense. Even after eating. I stopped when I started having bowel issues and skipped my period. My body had a stress response to keto and I wanted to figure out why.
I searched deeply for answers, asking my keto expert friends combing through my most recent blood tests. That is when I learned about subclinical hypothyroidism.
The basic blood test for thyroid is TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone. This is the measure of the signal your brain is sending your thyroid to get it to work. The higher this number is the slower your thyroid function.
Anyone with TSH under 5 is considered to have normal thyroid function and the testing stops there.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is diagnosed as anything over 2. My TSH was 3.56. There is a lot of debate about these ranges in the medical field. Many feel that the range of what’s considered normal is off because the average includes many people with less than optimal thyroid hormones.
Because the current thyroid lab ranges are so loose and liberal, millions of people with thyroid problems go undiagnosed and then go on super low carb diets that stress the thyroid further.The thyroid needs a steady supply of glucose to function well.
My discovery reinforce hsow important it is to do your own research and to be your own advocate with your doctor. Or find someone who understands this better.
It takes 17 years for current breakthroughs in medicine to make it from research findings to your doctors practice. Because of this, many doctors, unless they make a huge effort to keep educating themselves, are stuck practicing medicine from almost 2 decades ago. That is why many of them don’t understand SIBO and give patients incorrect information about SIBO.
I have been learning about how to support thyroid health and have added a full thyroid testing panel to my test offerings, along with the SIBO test and comprehensive stool test.
While doctors only test one thyroid market, TSH, the thyroid panel I use tests actual thyroid hormones like T3 and T4 as well as thyroid antibodies, as many cases of hypothyroidism can be caused my autoimmune issues. This test can be partially covered by insurance.
People with low functioning thyroids must avoid extremely low carb diets, eat enough foods and drink filtered water that is clear of chlorine (chloramine) and fluoride.
The thyroid is most vulnerable in times of stress. Emotional stress, nutritional stress (sugar, gluten and soy especially), over exercising and toxic exposure can cause the thyroid to slow.
For healing and managing the thyroid, eating a nutrient dense diet that is balanced in protein, carbohydrates and fat is important. As is eating foods that are high in selenium (brazil nuts) and Omega 3s (salmon and seafood), and avoiding raw cruciferous veggies like kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and rutabagas. These nutrient dense veggies are ok if well cooked and eaten in moderation.
There are also many micronutrients that help support thyroid function that contain iodine, B12, selenium, zinc, kelp and ashwagandha to support and nourish the the thyroid, adrenals and immune system. I am taking this targeted supplement that contains all these nutrients and more.
There is also a home test for thyroid function. Take your temperature a few minutes after you wake up and avoid moving. Take an average of three morning’s temperature. Anything under 97.6 should merit further testing. Another clue is the worsening of symptoms if you go too low carb.
If you are hypothyroid, taking T3 or T4 hormones can bring a great deal of relief to the thyroid related symptoms listed below.
If this article resonates with you then my suggestion to to get your thyroid tested. A full panel would be preferable but TSH is also a good start. If it is above 2 then you know you have some work and further testing to do.
This could be the missing piece for you as it has been for me. Fixing your thyrod can change quality of life, your weigh and your digestion.
The thyroid is the tiny butterfly shaped gland located in your throat that manages metabolism, and the master hormone that regulates all the other hormones, from cortisol and estrogen to progesterone and insulin, which all play a big part in managing mood, hormonal chaos, reproductive and gut health.
Because the thyroid can cause problems with constipation, sleep memory, joint pain and mood, doctors sometimes dispense antidepressants to treat it. Obviously this won’t help if thyroid is the root cause.
Check out the many symptoms below and get your thyroid check out to see if it may be the cause.
• Weight gain or the inability to lose weight despite proper diet and exercise
• Edema (fluid retention)
• Low body temperature
• Irregular menstrual cycles
• Low stamina
• Lack of motivation
• Sleep disturbances
• Difficulty concentrating
• Joint aches
• Poor ankle reflexes
• Light sensitivity
• Hair loss (including thinning of outer eyebrows)
• Hoarseness upon waking
Angela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.
Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.