The Adrenal-Thyroid Connection

Thyroid Thursday Week 3 – Facebook Live Replay Jan 21 2021

Summary notes:

Welcome back again to Thyroid Thursday! This is week 3 of our Thyroid Awareness Month series. If you missed the previous 2 instalments, you’ll find them under the Videos tab on my Facebook page and linked below.

In week 1 we talked about the PCOS-Thyroid Connection, where people with PCOS may be more likely to have thyroid issues especially underactive thyroid – and vice versa! – with a few ways to address that.

Then in week 2 we talked about the Plant-Powered Thyroid, since it’s also Veganuary and plant-powered living is a major focus of Love Plants for Life, so we looked at special considerations in supporting thyroid health as vegans and vegetarians.

This week, we’re going into the Adrenal-Thyroid Connection with what it is, and some ways to support both through foods and a class of herbs and supplement known as adaptogens.

Now let’s dive in!

As you might know, the thyroid is part of our endocrine system, and is considered basically a master gland, playing roles in regulating metabolic hormones, sex hormones, and how our bodies respond to stress. And that’s where the adrenal glands come in.

The adrenals are actually on a kind of feedback loop with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland – also known as the HPA axis – which also happens to regulate thyroid function. So:

  • People who are prone to underactive thyroid function – hypothyroid, autoimmune Hashimoto’s – may be more prone to adrenal insufficiency as well.
  • Similarly, people with adrenal insufficiency – chronic stress, elevated cortisol, chronic fatigue – may also exacerbate thyroid problems.
  • They’re also linked in that adrenal hormones play a role in T4-T3 conversion.
  • Cortisol and thyroid – elevated cortisol may inhibit proper thyroid function, via disruption of enzymes affecting conversions of thyroid hormones
  • There’s even more to this, but for the sake of keeping it short I’ll leave it at this: too much cortisol is not great for keeping the thyroid humming smoothly.

It can also be hard to say if symptoms you may be experiencing are just thyroid or just adrenal, since they do so often go hand in hand AND happen to share a handful of symptoms as well. So more often than not, when we want to support adrenal health, we also want to do what we can to support the thyroid. Fortunately, a lot of things that we nutritionists like to suggest for adrenals are also good for the thyroid. Maybe it’s a bit of a “chicken/egg” scenario, but there you have it.

So what are some of those things?

Well, reducing your stressors is a major one. Take stock of what stresses you out the most (job, finances, global crises…), as well as what things also could be stressing you out (distribution of housework, emotional labour, time spent on social media…), and even things that might seem like they’re not that stressful may actually be pretty stressful according to your body (like exercising too much, one cup of coffee too many, eating more sugar than you think you are, not sleeping or hydrating enough…). Then do what you can to reduce those stressors where you can. This can be challenging and can take a while, so starting with the smaller stuff and working your way up can be a really good place to start.

So now we know what to remove. But I’m a fan of replacing more than just removing, so what can you add in to nourish the adrenal-thyroid connection?

  • B complex – B12 particularly may be deficient in those with hypothyroid, and especially those also prone to anemia. Supporting adrenals with the full range of B vitamins is also important, so other than a good bioavailable B complex supplement, looking to add more B-rich foods like dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, avocados, whole grains like oats and quinoa, as well as nutritional yeast and spirulina for that B12.
  • Vitamin D – may also help regulate cortisol levels. Mushrooms are a top vegan-friendly source, as are fermented soy products, and of course sunlight. Supplementation though is generally recommended for everyone but especially plant-powered lifestyles.
  • Ashwagandha – adaptogen herb that may help lower cortisol, and shows benefits for thyroid function as well. Adaptogens basically help your endocrine system adapt, as the name suggests. Throwing it back to week 1, ashwagandha may also help regulate testosterone and estrogen levels, so it can be a good overall addition to a PCOS plan too. I like to add ashwagandha powder to my morning smoothies, and it’s also good as a tea.
  • Additional adaptogens that I really like as teas or elixirs include reishi mushroom, holy basil or tulsi tea, and licorice tea.
  • Of course any herb or supplement should be cross-checked against your other conditions or medications for possible contraindications, so be sure to talk to your practitioner about it.

There is of course a lot more information and so many ways to support thyroid and adrenal function, but these are some of my favourite ways to get started. If you do have questions or you’d like additional support for hormone issues you might be experiencing, remember you can email me or book your free Discovery Session to see how we could work together to support your best health.

Next week we’ll wrap up Thyroid Awareness Month with a final big-picture session, looking deeper at the alchemy of hormone balance and what you can do going forward. See you then!

The Plant-Powered Thyroid

Thyroid Thursday Week 2 – Facebook Live Replay Jan 14 2021

Summary notes:

Welcome back again to week 2 of the Thyroid Thursdays series! Last week we talked about the PCOS-thyroid connection and 4 plant-powered support strategies for that. You can still catch that replay on my Facebook page videos tab, or my previous post on LPFLblog along with my summary notes.

This week, since it’s also Veganuary, celebrating all things vegan, I want to throw some guidance at you for your plant-powered thyroid, including what could help support – or sink it.

So let’s dive in!

First, I know it gets asked over and over and over again anytime one of us says we’re vegan or vegetarian: how do you get your protein? And while protein is more abundant in plant foods than we’d once been led to believe, it does still matter what kind when it comes to the amino acid breakdown. One of those amino acids is tyrosine. It helps with the formation of thyroid hormones.

Tyrosine is actually quite available in plant foods, especially sesame seeds, soy beans, and nuts at large. Additionally, it will be present in plant proteins that are considered complete – containing all essential amino acids – and dense protein sources. Think hemp hearts, quinoa, peanuts, peas, and legumes.

Next, I touched on iodine briefly in last week’s session. We need iodine to help convert the thyroid hormone T4 to T3. Seafood is generally the top dietary source, but so is seaweed. So if you love sushi – or sushi bowls, like the recipe I posted earlier today and that you can find below – nori chips, miso with wakame or wakame salad, kelp noodles, dulse flakes… these are not just savoury additions but rich in the trace mineral iodine. You can also look to some types of salt for iodine, and generally keeping electrolytes in balance. If your diet is completely salt-free and has been for a while, you may want to look into boosting dietary sources like these, or consider a supplement like kelp liquid or tablets. This would be something to discuss with your primary care practitioner as iodine balance can be delicate.

I also mentioned selenium last week, and there are several plant-based sources there as well, with Brazil nuts ranking highest – just 1 a day giving you your daily needs. Sunflower seeds are another great source. Selenium is another cofactor for thyroid hormones, so it’s important to include these sources in your whole-food plant-powered lifestyle.

Now, while we’re talking about nuts and seeds, a lot of raw nuts and seeds contain something called phytic acid. In a nutshell… phytic acid may bind to and inhibit the absorption of minerals from the food, like iron, calcium, iodine, and selenium – which we need for healthy thyroid hormones. A lot of plant foods – especially nuts, seeds, as well as legumes or beans and peas, grains, and cruciferous veggies – are rich in phytic acid. And they also happen to be our best sources of minerals. But even if your diet contains these foods, there are ways to help reduce the phytic acid effect on mineral absorption.

Soaking and sprouting are among these ways, helping to break down phytic acid’s hold on the minerals. Steaming and fermenting are also helpful – great for the dark leafy greens and cruciferous veggies (sauerkraut and kimchi are made from fermented cabbage). Many of these foods appear on “avoid” lists for thyroid, and a lot of it has to do with phytic acid. Preparing them in these ways – soaking, sprouting, steaming, fermenting – can help put them back on the “enjoy” list.

It’s also often been thought that soy products – which can be a staple food for many vegan and vegetarian lifestyles – may contribute to hypothyroidism, so it’s also been at the top of those “avoid” lists. But beyond phytic acid content, there isn’t really the evidence to say that soy is as bad for the thyroid as once thought.

That being said, the type of soy product may still be important for overall endocrine balance, which does include the thyroid, so I do still suggest looking to organic and minimally processed soy foods where possible, and fermented like tempeh and miso are great for better nutrient absorption (and of course reduction of phytic acid). Alternating and rotating with other plant protein sources rather than centering the entire diet around soy products – soy milk in the coffee, tempeh bacon for breakfast, tofu stirfry for lunch, soy yogourt for snack, soy-based “meat” for dinner; basically avoiding having too many soy-heavy foods in one day, like one does with most other foods – is also a good practice to strive for.

So it is possible to support rather than sink our thyroid health with a wider range of plant foods than we may have thought! I’d love to know which of these foods you already enjoy and which you’re going to try to start adding in.

If you missed it last week, I have a free PCOS Breakfast Bundle that also features many of these thyroid-supportive foods as well! Download the free PCOS Breakfast Bundle here

Next week we’ll talk about the adrenal-thyroid connection, because it’s a major one!

The PCOS-Thyroid Connection & 4 Plant-Powered Support Strategies

Thyroid Thursday Week 1 – Facebook Live Replay Jan 7 2021

Summary notes:

Welcome to the first week of Thyroid Thursdays!

As we get started on this first broadcast of the New Year, if you’re watching live, or even later on the replay, please feel free to comment and let me know if increasing your energy, reducing stress, or balancing your hormones are among your January health goals! (You can just put energy, stress, or hormones real quick).

So for those who are new to my world, I’m Sara Galipeau, nutritionist and owner of Love Plants for Life, with a focus on plant-powered strategies for hormone health – especially conditions affecting and affected by the menstrual cycle, including PCOS.

And since January is Thyroid Awareness Month, I wanted to kick it off by talking about the connection between PCOS and the thyroid.

So first of all, the thyroid is basically the master gland, controlling most of your metabolism through thyroid hormones – mainly TSH, T3, and T4. And there are disorders of the thyroid that can also contribute to metabolic disorders (and vice versa). I don’t want to get super technical on these talks for brevity, but in a nutshell:

PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome – is actually more of a metabolic disorder, affecting insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, and overall endocrine balance, which includes the thyroid.

Thyroid hormones and testosterone have a kind of feedback on each other and the ovaries, both affecting ovarian function and follicle stimulating hormone, which in turn contributes to how the follicles, or cysts, form on the ovaries prior to ovulation. When thyroid function is low or testosterone is high or both, multiple follicles may form (thus the name polycystic ovary), but without enough of the right hormones, they may not be released properly and this is why ovulation and periods may be irregular or may not even occur.

And the symptoms of PCOS and hypothyroid can overlap, so it can be easy to misdiagnose as one without the other. Symptoms like anxiety, depression, insulin resistance, problem skin, hair loss, excess visceral fat, and so on. It’s also part of why it can take a long time to get a confirmed PCOS diagnosis, since regular blood tests don’t always measure hormones outside of, like, TSH unless specifically ordered or referred out.

Anyway, because of this overlap I like to support and nourish the thyroid as part of my approach to PCOS.

As you likely know, I take a whole-food plant-based approach to this, so let me tell you about 4 plant-powered ways to support them at the same time that you can get started with right now.

  • Include raw nuts and seeds, even better if soaked or sprouted. These provide omega fatty acids, which are building blocks of various hormones and are anti-inflammatory. Nuts and seeds like Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds, particularly, are quite rich in the mineral selenium, which acts as a counterpart to iodine, the main thyroid-supportive mineral. Brazil nuts in particular are extremely rich in selenium, to the point where just 1 a day (or 2 or 3 once every 2 or 3 days) provides your full day’s amount. Walnuts are also great for omega 3s, and some research indicates including them regularly may reduce testosterone by raising sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). As a bonus practice you can also get into seed cycling, which involves eating 1 Tbsp. of each flax seeds and pumpkin seeds daily during your follicular phase, and 1 Tbsp. of each sunflower and sesame seeds daily during your luteal phase. You can find a post about seed cycling on my blog.
  • Include sea vegetables, like nori, wakame, dulse, and kelp. These are rich in iodine, which helps give your thyroid the resources it needs to convert T4 to T3. So if you love sushi and miso soup, you’re in luck! And if you don’t, seaweed flakes are also easy to sneak into your cooking and can give a bit of a salty taste. I also like sprinkling some into smoothies!
  • Include lots of sources of B vitamins, like whole grains, dark leafy greens, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Your endocrine system, including thyroid, uses a lot of B vitamins to keep running smoothly, so keeping your intake up is very important. There is a caveat to be aware of when it comes to plant foods, the absorption of nutrients, and thyroid function, and I’ll cover that more in next week’s broadcast. For now, just focusing on getting more of those B-rich foods is a great place to start.
  • And one more strategy you can try right now (or rather, tomorrow morning) is a macronutrient-balanced breakfast. As I mentioned earlier, insulin resistance can be both a symptom and contributor of thyroid disorder. Making sure to short-circuit the morning cortisol cascade that feeds into imbalances of other hormones like insulin is another key tactic for supporting thyroid and overall endocrine balance. If you’re stuck for thyroid and PCOS-friendly breakfast ideas to get started on that, I have a free PCOS Breakfast Bundle up for download.

This will wrap us up for now!

Recap:

  • Nuts and seeds – such as Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and walnuts for omega-3s and selenium; for supporting thyroid and testosterone balance
  • Sea vegetables – such as nori, wakame, dulse, and kelp for iodine to help provide the resources that serve conversion of T4 to T3
  • B vitamin-rich foods – such as whole grains, legumes, dark leafy veggies, and nuts and seeds, to help nourish the thyroid, nervous/adrenal system, and provide cofactors for hormone metabolism
  • Macronutrient balanced breakfasts, to help short-circuit the cortisol cascade that can affect thyroid, sex hormones, and blood sugar balance

How can you integrate these strategies starting today?

Remember, this isn’t to replace your doctor’s advice; if you suspect you may have thyroid disorder or PCOS symptoms or both, be sure to check in with your primary care practitioner.

Next week, since it’s also Veganuary, we’ll be talking about special considerations for the thyroid and vegan nutrition. Hope to see you then!

Resolutions Suck – Yeah, I Said It

In my line of work, it’s a pretty bold claim: resolutions suck. It’s kind of an open secret that “New Year New Me” mentality is like the bread-and-butter of the health and wellness industry.

And, without mincing words, a lot of us went into 2020 with Big Resolutions that were shit-canned by mid-March, for obvious reasons. It’s really easy to feel, then, despite acquiring some skills like learning to bake perfect banana bread and dalgona coffee, like this year was a total write-off when it comes to resolution fulfillment.

But year after year, it’s true that more often than not, resolutions suck.

Why, though?

Continue reading “Resolutions Suck – Yeah, I Said It”

[LoveBites] Client-Fave Cookie Recipe for the Holidays

The holidays are basically synonymous with baking. At least, in my mind it is.

One particular combo that I love at this time of year is oatmeal and cranberries, perhaps with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate. I don’t quite know why – okay, maybe it was the cakes and cookies and loaves laden with these components that my mother and grandmother would bake every year – but that just says “winter holidays are here” to me!

Continue reading “[LoveBites] Client-Fave Cookie Recipe for the Holidays”

Do You Have These Symptoms? (Why You Should Check Your Magnesium Intake)

This week I’m all about how stress affects our hormones, and how that can be linked to gut health and immune function.

One nutrient that just about always tops my list for combatting stress is magnesium.

That’s because Continue reading “Do You Have These Symptoms? (Why You Should Check Your Magnesium Intake)”

Check Your Pulses [Recipe Post]

Okay, by “pulses” I mean legumes: beans, peas, and lentils. And by “check” I mean check to make sure

  1. that you’re eating them (I’ve sharing a recipe below to help with that!) and
  2. that you’re getting good quality with minimal contaminants!

Why do you want to eat pulses? Continue reading “Check Your Pulses [Recipe Post]”

Why Chocolate is Encouraged in My Programs (and a Recipe!)

You read that right. Chocolate is encouraged in my programs.

Okay, that might not be a surprising reveal. But since it’s World Chocolate Day (yay!), why do I include chocolate when pulling together recipes for my clients and followers?

One major reason I’m into chocolate for health: Continue reading “Why Chocolate is Encouraged in My Programs (and a Recipe!)”

[Recipe Post] Comfort Foods and Deprivation vs Modification

Do you deprive yourself of foods you love in the name of health goals?

What about modifying them?

I’m not a particular fan of complete deprivation. While I do know that it may be necessary to reduce or yes, even eliminate certain foods for the sake of specific health/lifestyle goals – Continue reading “[Recipe Post] Comfort Foods and Deprivation vs Modification”