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Did you know that there is actually a very good chance that you could have a yeast or parasite infestation?
The human body is literally crawling with hundreds of strains of yeasts and bacteria. The digestive track alone holds more than three pounds of bacteria. In the right balance, these bacteria are necessary for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria in the gut, are a form of bacteria, though they have a tremendous positive impact on our health.
When these beneficial bacteria in the digestive track get out of balance, problems begin. A large number of factors can facilitate the disruption of this balance of bacteria, including diet, certain medications, stress, contact with infected sources, and others.
The body is also host to yeast, which is naturally occurring and not specifically dangerous in proper amounts. Yeast overgrowth, on the other hand, which is rampant in today’s world, can have a tremendous negative impact on overall health and fertility. Many people are (unfortunately) familiar with vaginal yeast infections, but these infections are often symptomatic of a much larger body-wide infection.
The most disturbing invaders to our bodies, in my opinion, are parasites, though sadly, most people carry these guys around too. Studies have found that most people, especially those with chronic diseases and cancer, are host to at least one kind or parasite.
Parasites can range from tiny organisms, visible only by microscope to long tapeworms (several feet long). They can enter the body through food, drink, contact with animals or infected person, or even just skin contact, and parasite infections can last for years.
Yeast and parasites can enter the body a variety of ways, depending on the type. Candida Albicanis, the most common and difficult to remove type of yeast, occurs naturally in the body in small amounts.
When a person eats lots of glucose and fructose (remember the body turns all sugars, starches, grains, and even fruit into glucose for digestion), it feeds the normally occurring yeasts and parasites and allows them to multiply abundantly. Some pharmaceuticals, and especially hormonal birth control and antibiotics, can deplete the digestive track of the beneficial bacteria needed to keep yeast and parasites in check, and lead to an overgrowth or infestation.
Yeast especially, can multiply rapidly in the presence of any high carbon substances like sugar. Yeasts are also able to convert sugar into alcohol in the body, just as it does in the beer and wine fermentation process. This is one reason that people with severe yeast overgrowth experience symptoms like brain fog, lightheadedness, and nausea.
Treating yeasts, parasites, and other fungi in the body is a three step process. First, the invaders themselves must be killed, then they (and the toxins they created) must be flushed from the body, and finally, the body must be supported in healing and regenerating itself.
There are many symptoms directly or indirectly associated with yeast and parasite overgrowth. If you have several of these symptoms, there is a really good chance that you have an infestation or overgrowth.
Symptoms of Yeast and Parasite Overgrowth:
If left untreated, Candida, yeast, and parasite overgrowth have been linked to a plethora of chronic conditions. Yeast and Parasites are often found in people with the following conditions:
The good news is that there are some natural treatments that are effective at helping the body kill and remove yeast and parasites. If you suspect that you have an overgrowth, you might consider some of the treatments below:
Dietary Adjustments- If you do have yeast or parasites, any sugars at all can feed an infestation and make removal very uncomfortable. If you are embarking on a natural treatment for Candida, fungi or parasites, remove all sources of natural sugar from you diet, including sources like honey and fruits. Some Stevia is ok once in a while, but avoid anything that gives the body a sugar source and feeds yeast or parasites. Consider also avoiding dairy for 1-2 weeks to give you body a boost.
Sweat- As your body kills off parasites and yeast, their by-products must be removed from the body, along with the toxins that they might have bound to. Some of these are best removed through the sweat glands, so let your body sweat by exercising, taking cayenne supplements and getting in hot tubs or saunas during the healing process.
Diatomaceous Earth- This is a naturally occurring substance that has amazing ability to kill parasites, yeast and parasite eggs. It is naturally high in silica, which is necessary for hair, nail and skin growth, and has other trace minerals as well. It can also help restore body tissue and improve digestion. If you decide to take this supplementally, start with 1 tsp per day in 8 ounces of water and work up to 1-2 TBSP a day until yeast symptoms disappear. Read info below on Herxheimers reaction! Also, make sure to use food grade Diatomaceous earth! More info here.
Apple Cider Vinegar- Another easy and effective remedy for Candida and parasites. Apple Cider Vinegar is high in B-vitamins and very nourishing to the body. It help the body’s pH neutralize and improves digestion. It is well known for killing yeast and improving skin condition. Some people are leery of vinegar, as a fermented product, when they have a yeast infection. While some fermented products like beer and wine can feed yeast, Apple Cider Vinegar undergoes a much different fermentation process and produces a completely different reaction in the body. It tastes awful, but after taking it for a while, you will become more tolerant of the taste, and your body will start to crave it. Start with 1 tsp up to 3 times a day about 30 minutes before each meal (some people can’t handle it before breakfast!). If you handle this well, this dosage can be increased to a tablespoon.
Probiotics- Probiotics restore the helpful gut bacteria that is wiped out by yeast or parasites (or antibiotic or oral contraceptive use). Probiotics are necessary to restore proper intestinal flora, even after yeast and parasites have been removed. A high quality probiotic supplement should be included, taken according to product instruction. Do not take probiotics within an hour of Apple Cider Vinegar or Diatomaceous Earth! You might also consider drinks like Kombucha and Water Kefir to help build up probiotic levels, or whole plain full-fat yogurt.
Cinnamon- Cinnamon is a natural remedy for parasites and fungus. Take ½ tsp of a high quality cinnamon powder in water up to three times a day.
Vitamin C- Besides being an excellent antioxidant and immune support, Vitamin C is helpful in yeast/parasite removal. If you have symptoms of yeast and parasites, take 5,000 mg (5 grams) per day spread out in 2-3 doses. Do not take vitamin C at the same time as calcium/magnesium as they will neutralize each other. High consumption of Vitamin C may cause loose bowel movements, especially when yeast and parasites are being removed. This is not necessarily worrisome, but if it bothers you, adjust the dose down until symptoms go away.
Coconut Oil- Coconut Oil is naturally anti fungal and very nourishing to the body. Hopefully, you are using it in your cooking by now, but consider taking several tablespoons a day additional as an antifungal support. This will also help support the hormones and reproductive system. To make it easier to take, dissolve a couple tablespoons in a hot tea of choice and drink. The first couple sips will be coconut oil, and then you will just taste the tea.
Garlic- To help remove yeast and parasites, finely mince 1-2 cloves and drink in a cup of water before meals.
Olive Oil- Also an antifungal that supports removal of parasite and yeast waste. Add 1-2 TBSP or more to salads or veggies, or take supplementally.
Other Herbs known to help with yeast and parasites: Oregano Oil, Thyme, Peppermint, Rosemary, Olive Leaf Extract and Grapefruit Seed Extract. If you have a severe case of yeast or parasites, consider using on of these potent herbs, but do your research first!
I mentioned above that removal of yeast and parasites can be uncomfortable at times. This reaction, named after the German dermatologist who discovered it, is basically the discomfort caused by the die off of yeast and parasites and the body’s attempt to remove them. The faster you attempt to treat symptoms and the more potent remedies you take, the higher your chance of experiencing this reaction.
It is best to be on an anti yeast/parasite diet for several weeks before starting supplements to help minimize this reaction. Starting with small doses of Apple Cider Vinegar and Diatomaceous Earth and then working up will also help keep die off symptoms at bay.
You may even find that you “catch a cold” a week or so after starting to treat your yeast and parasite symptoms. This is actually a mild Herxheimer reaction, and backing down supplements and drinking more water should help it pass quickly.
Removing yeast and parasites is a difficult job for your body. During this process, it is highly important that you support your body as much as possible with regular exercise, good diet, adequate sleep, and limiting exposure to toxins.
Soaking in an Epsom salt bath (1/2 cup Epsom salts in hot bath water) will also help remove toxins through the skin. Drinking enough water will help flush die off toxins out faster, and adequate sleep will give the body enough time to regenerate.
During this time, it is also vitally important that you do not consume sugar or carbs, as this will make the process much slower and much more uncomfortable. Consuming enough raw vegetables during this time will also help keep your energy levels up and clean the body faster. If you can stomach it, this is a veggie smoothie I drink daily.
A grain-free and sugar-free diet is vital in removing yeast and parasites from the body.
Meet Richa: I was born and brought up in India and am now settled in Seattle. I like the time in my kitchen when I can vegan-ize something or figure out a gluten-free alternative. I like challenges and also like to create easy options for meals, snacks, desserts and everything else. Join me on this journey full of flavors and compassion.
Meet Em: You can call me Em. I eat raw plants because I love my body, the planet, and all beings. We are all equal and all-one! When I eat food, I want it to be beautiful, but not just in taste. I want it to nourish my body and soul, work in harmony with the earth, and allow other earthlings their right for freedom. I find that raw, organic plants fit the bill pretty well.
Meet Jordan: Hi all! I’m Jordan. I was once vegan, and now I’m all about balance. Just a healthy gal tryin’ to share some photos, recipes, and stories & hopefully inspire a little bit along the way.
ROASTED CHICKPEA AND BROCCOLI BURRITOS
This is a fan favorite that had to appear in the book, says Davis. “It’s a weeknight staple and one bad burrito you deserve to have in your life. Listen to the fans. They know what’s up.”
Makes 4 to 6 burritos
1 large yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
1 large crown of broccoli
3 cups cooked chickpeas*
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg’s**
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander***
Cayenne pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 to 6 flour tortillas
Burrito trimmings such as spinach, avocado, cilantro, and Fire-Roasted Salsa (page 124)
1. Crank your oven to 425F. Grab a large rimmed baking sheet.
2. Chop up the onion, bell pepper, and broccoli ’til they’re the size of a chickpea. Place all the chopped up veggies in a large bowl with the cooked chickpeas. Pour in the oil and soy sauce, stir, and then throw all the spices in there. Mix until all the vegetables and shit are covered. Put all of that on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
3. Take it out of the oven—don’t f*cking burn yourself—then add the garlic and stir it around. Bake for another 15 minutes. The broccoli might look a little burnt at this point but that is the plan, so chill the f*ck out and take it out of the oven. Squeeze the lime juice over the pan and stir the roasted chickpeas and veggies all around. Taste and see if it needs more spices or anything.
4. Now make a motherf*cking burrito. We like ours with spinach, avocado, cilantro, and some fire-roasted salsa, but do your thing.
* Or two 15-ounce cans
** WTF? See page 10.
*** Or more cumin if you don’t want to go to the store.
Amazing bacon and lentil soup I found!
Unlike wheat, corn, and sugar, legumes aren’t generally associated with “junk food” or processed food products. It’s easy to conjure up hyperbolic images of Twinkies and Wonderbread to demonize wheat, but lentil soup and hummus just don’t have the same effect. Some legumes, like soy, are even widely considered to be health foods, and marketed as nutritionally superior alternatives to animal products. But that doesn’t make them optimal foods for human beings – just because you can’t find them at McDonald’s doesn’t make them healthy.
Like grains and pseudograins, legumes contain phytic acid. Phytic acid binds to nutrients in the food, preventing you from absorbing them. It doesn’t steal any nutrients that are already in your body, but it does make that bowl of lentils a lot less nutrient-dense than the Nutrition Facts panel would have you believe. For this reason, it’s usually cited as a major downside of these foods, but the truth is clearly little more complicated, because some Paleo-acceptable foods like nuts also contain relatively high amounts of it. Per unit of mass, most nuts actually have a little more phytic acid than most grains and beans. So why are nuts fine to eat, but lentils are problematic?
Rather than labeling any amount of phytates as harmful, it’s more precise to say that the effects on the body depend on how much you eat. In fact, phytic acid may even have some health benefits in small amounts, so it’s not accurate to dismiss it as nothing but a toxin to avoid. The key is in how much you eat: this is why nuts are fine in moderation, while legumes and beans are discouraged. The difference is that nuts and kale aren’t staple foods in most people’s diets – if you were relying on almonds as a chief source of nutrition, which hopefully you aren’t, you’d suffer from the same problems.
Beans and legumes, unlike nuts and vegetables, are the primary source of calories for many people around the world, and eating foods so rich in phytic acid as nutritional staples is quite unhealthy. If you replace meat and animal fat with soy and lentils, you’re drastically decreasing your nutrient intake – these plant proteins are less nutrient-dense in the first place, the phytic acid prevents your body from getting even the nutrients they do contain, and unless you eat them with another source of fat, the lack of dietary fat will also stop your body from absorbing and using them. Thus, basing your diet on these foods can lead to severe nutritional deficiencies. In terms of phytic acid content, eating a handful of lentils as a snack every now and again probably wouldn’t be any more problematic than eating a handful of cashews, but that’s just not the way people eat lentils.
In addition to their phytic acid content, legumes are also FODMAPS, meaning that they contain a type of carbohydrate called galaco-ligosaccharides that can cause unpleasant digestive problems for some people, especially people who already have IBS or similar digestive problems. This isn’t necessarily a reason for anyone else to avoid them (any more than you would avoid other FODMAPS foods like onions or mushrooms if you aren’t sensitive to them), but it’s definitely a concern for anyone with pre-existing digestive troubles.
Another drawback of these foods is their lectin content. Lectins are proteins found in almost all kinds of foods, but not all lectins are problematic. Different people react to different lectins, which is why, for example, some people are fine with eating members of the nightshade family, and other people react to them. Potentially toxic lectins are highest in grains, legumes, and dairy. In the body, lectins damage the intestinal wall, contributing to leaky gut, with all its associated digestive and autoimmune problems. While many lectins can be destroyed by proper preparation methods (more on this below), most people find these cooking methods irritatingly laborious, and it’s almost certain that any beans or legumes you buy in a restaurant won’t be cooked this way. Thus, making beans and legumes a regular feature in your diet can significantly contribute to gut irritation and permeability.
Anyone trying a lower-carbohydrate version of Paleo should also beware the carb content of many beans and legumes: vegetarians might tout them as a “protein source,” but this is only really true relative to foods like bread and vegetables, which have no protein at all. One cup of black beans, for example, has approximately 230 calories, with around 170 of those being from carbs. Only around 53 of the calories in this “protein source” are actually from protein. While there isn’t anything wrong with the inclusion of safe starches in the diet, eating beans as a staple source of calories will quickly deliver many more carbohydrates than your body needs. In the long term, this can contribute to weight gain and metabolic problems like insulin resistance.
Beans and legumes also don’t have much to make up for this: they can’t match the micronutrient content of animal foods, so there isn’t any compelling reason why we should eat them. If chickpeas or kidney beans were extremely high in some vital and rare nutrient, they might be worth eating once in a while as a kind of supplement food, but the reality is that they don’t have anything you can’t get in a more potent and healthier way from animals or vegetables. Vegetarians love them for the protein, but on a Paleo diet, you have plenty of better protein options: you don’t need to rely on rice and beans.
Peanuts are probably the sneakiest type of legumes, if only because of their name. Like other legumes, peanuts are problematic because they contain lectins and phytic acid, but peanuts also bring a new guest to the party: aflatoxins. Aflatoxins aren’t actually part of the peanut itself; they’re produced by a mold that tends to grow on peanuts (as well as other non-Paleo crops like corn). This mold thrives on crops stored in warm, humid places, and it’s so difficult to eliminate that the FDA has declared it an “unavoidable contaminant.” Organic or all-natural brands of peanuts and peanut butter aren’t any better, since the peanuts still have to be stored and transported. Unless you’re picking your peanuts directly from the farm, you’re probably getting some aflatoxins with them, and they’re not something you want: some research has linked long-term consumption to aflatoxins with risk for diseases like cancer and hepatitis B, especially in countries where peanuts are a staple food. Especially in people with mold sensitivities, peanuts are a particularly concerning type of legume.
Unlike many other types of lectins, peanut lectins are also very difficult to destroy by cooking. As discussed further below, proper cooking methods can destroy many of these sneaky gut irritants, but peanut lectins are very heat resistant, so roasting or otherwise cooking the nuts doesn’t help.
Another type of legume that deserves special mention is soy. Some vegans seem to subsist entirely on soy products – soy milk with their cereal in the morning, edamame salad for lunch, and tofu stir-fry for dinner. Soy is beloved by the modern diet industry because it’s cheap to grow and incredibly easy to flavor and process into almost anything. But in the long run such a “cheap” crop comes at a steep price: the health of the soil it grows in. And the “convenient” additive suddenly starts looking a lot less appetizing when you understand the health costs of eating it.
As well as the same lectins and phytic acid as other legumes, soy has one particular nasty downside: phytoestrogens. Like environmental estrogens, these chemicals mimic the action of estrogen in the body. The problem with this is that their imitation of estrogen only goes far enough to trick your body into thinking that’s what they are. They don’t actually perform any of the vital functions that real estrogen does. The exact mechanisms by which they do this are very complex, but the upshot is that they tend to produce hormonal problems because they tell your body it has enough estrogen, even though it actually doesn’t.
In men, this hormonal imbalance can cause the development of typically “feminine” traits like breasts and fat deposits on the hips; in women, it can impair fertility and lead to all kinds of menstrual and other reproductive problems. Most alarmingly, phytoestrogens have been linked to breast cancer and disruption of normal thyroid function. It’s not necessary to be alarmist (eating soy products alone is unlikely to cause extreme problems), but in the context of a world full of other environmental estrogens and hormone-disrupting chemicals, soy adds one more straw to the camel’s back – and unlike many environmental pollutants, it’s a straw that’s completely avoidable
As well as hormones, soy also contains trypsin inhibitors, which interfere with protein digestion, and it increases the body’s needs for several important micronutrients, including Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. Soy protein powder is even worse: this is a completely processed, artificial non-food that shouldn’t be part of anybody’s diet. Skip the post-workout shake and boil yourself up a few eggs or grab a can of sardines instead: there’s no reason why anyone needs to gulp down a massive dose of processed soy product every day, and there are plenty of reasons not to.
Of course, any argument that soy is unhealthy tends to raise the “Asian objection:” if people in Asia are so much healthier and longer-lived than Americans, and they eat a lot of soy, how could it be so bad? One difference is that traditional Asian cuisine relies much more on fermented foods: as described below, it’s possible to make legumes much more digestible and less harmful by fermenting them. Also, the soy products eaten as part of traditional meals were not industrially processed, and were served in addition to a very nutrient-rich diet that also includes lots of organ meats, bone broth, and vegetables. There is a world of difference between a small amount of fermented tofu in a big bowl of broth and a huge scoop of soy protein isolate in a protein shake full of food coloring and sugar.
Tofu and soy milk are easy enough to avoid (who wants to eat tofu when they could eat real meat instead?), but one soy product poses a particular challenge on the Paleo diet: soy lecithin. This particular form of soy is an ingredient in most brands of dark chocolate, a common Paleo indulgence. Soy lecithin is actually a byproduct of the production of soy oil, and it’s not any better than any other kind of soy. In a moderate serving of chocolate, the dose of soy lecithin is small enough that some people might not have any problems tolerating it, but it isn’t doing anyone any favors, and it’s not difficult to find a brand of chocolate without it.
One way that many people ingest beans and legumes (sometimes without even being aware of what they’re eating) is through oils. Peanut oil (a staple in many Asian restaurants), soybean oil, and other similar vegetable oils are very common cooking ingredients, on the mistaken belief that since they don’t contain animal fat, they must somehow be “heart-healthy.” But these seed oils might be even worse for you than the plants they come from. Even naturally produced seed oils contain high levels of PUFAs and Omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are inflammatory. Since PUFAs are very unstable fats, these oils can easily oxidize, a process that produces harmful molecules called free radicals. When you cook with the oil, this process accelerates, producing even more. These free radicals are a major driver in inflammation and oxidative stress, the main culprit behind aging and many chronic degenerative diseases.
Even if you don’t buy or cook with vegetable oil, you can still get it if you buy peanut butter. If you’ve ever brought home a jar of all-natural PB, you’ve probably noticed how the oil floats to the top of the jar, requiring you to stir it before you dig in. When you stir that oil back into the peanut butter, you’re loading down your afternoon snack with an extra dose of rancid oxidized fats. This is actually why some people prefer to also pour the oil off the top of jars of almond butter: to get a creamier texture, they just add in healthier saturated fats like coconut oil. In general, nut butters aren’t an ideal food because they make it very easy to overindulge, but if you enjoy them, swapping out the PUFAs for saturated fats is always a more nutritious choice.
Peanut oil is bad enough even though it’s the product of a fairly simple procedure. Soybean oilis even more concerning because of the way it’s processed. From start to finish, soybean oil is a product of modern monoculture farming. Socrates and Plato could sit down to olive oil at dinner time, but soy oil would have been a completely foreign concept to them because the technology for making it simply didn’t exist. To produce this particular food product, the oil company first extracts the oil from the beans using a chemical called hexane, a byproduct of the process that refines crude oil into gasoline. If that isn’t unappetizing enough, the beans are then washed and purified with various other chemical solutions, heated to very high temperatures in the process, and then bleached to remove unwanted color and smells.
For products like margarine, which need to be solid rather than liquid, the soy is then hydrogenated. Hydrogenation solidifies the oil by pushing bubbles of hydrogen through it. This changes the oil from a liquid to a solid by changing the fats from naturally occurring PUFA to something even worse: artificial trans fats. These industrial trans fats should not be confused with the trans fats that are naturally found in animal products: nobody is putting trans fat in beef by forcing hydrogen bubbles through a cow! While naturally occurring trans fats are perfectly healthy, the industrial Frankenstein foods are not. The body can’t make heads or tails of these artificial fats, so they’re highly inflammatory, and contribute to all kinds of problems as diverse as weight gain, atherosclerosis, and infertility.
As with pseudograins, you may be able to make beans and legumes much more digestible by preparing them in various traditional ways. This is one reason why Asian cultures see fewer ill-effects from eating traditional foods like natto: proper preparation (as opposed to industrial processing) can make these foods much less problematic. This obviously depends on your level of tolerance for them – and peanuts and soy should still be avoided no matter what cooking method you use – but it’s useful to understand how you can at least minimize the danger from these foods.
Many traditional cooking methods go quite a long way in reducing phytic acid content, for example. Soaking is a good first step – it can help reduce some of the phytic acid but doesn’t completely eliminate it. Sprouting is the most effective method for legumes, reducing phytic acid by 25 to 75 percent. The process of sprouting a batch of beans or legumes is actually fairly easy: all you really need to do is keep them moist and give them access to the air. Fermentation also greatly reduces the phytic acid of many different types of food – and it gives your gut floraa boost as a bonus. Note that the phytic acid in soy is particularly hard to reduce: this is another reason to avoid it if at all possible.
After any soaking or fermentation, you still have to cook your legumes before you can eat them – this adds another layer of protection because heating most beans and legumes (with the exception of peanuts, which have lectins that survive the cooking process) will destroy most of the lectins in them. Since nobody eats raw beans or legumes, this significantly reduces the concern about their lectin content.
These traditional methods of cooking won’t turn lentils or beans into a magical health food. But if you do need to eat them for some reason, they can help reduce their more dangerous aspects. Paleo isn’t about perfection, so if you have to stretch $20 into grocery money for the week, a few bags of lentils or black beans, properly prepared, will do a lot less damage than ramen and peanut butter.
…it might not be one! In the same way that peanuts aren’t actually nuts, coffee beans, cocoa beans, and vanilla beans aren’t actually beans. Coffee can be problematic for some people for other reasons, but it’s actually a seed, not a bean. Vanilla and vanilla bean extract are also fine, as are cocoa products. Of course, if you react poorly to these foods for other reasons, there’s no reason to include them in your diet, but there’s also no reason to deprive yourself of them because you’re worried about the dangers of legumes.
Green beans are also somewhat of a special case. When we eat green beans and similar vegetables like snow peas, we eat the pod with the seeds – the seed contains the vast majority of the problematic elements, so a serving of green beans already has much less phytic acid than a serving of soybeans. Also, like nuts, most people don’t eat green beans as a staple food – most of us might have a serving once a week or so, but we don’t rely on them as a major source of energy. Since they contain comparatively fewer problematic elements, and since they aren’t a major component of anyone’s diet, green beans are often regarded as an acceptable Paleo side dish, just like nuts. If you’re very sensitive, you might need to eliminate them, but most people can eat them once in a while without worrying about it.
In conclusion, the main problem with most beans and legumes might be negative, rather than positive: when eaten as a staple food, they simply crowd out more nutritious foods like animal products. Combined with the phytic acid and lack of fats in the legumes themselves, this can lead to a perfect storm of nutritional deficiency. Peanuts (which contain aflatoxins and heat-resistant lectins) and soy (which contains phytoestrogens) are particularly problematic; these are definitely foods to avoid strictly. Other legumes might not cause such serious problems, but that doesn’t make them good staple foods for a healthy lifestyle: a diet based on high-quality animal foods is much more nutritious without requiring all the annoying and time-consuming preparation of soaking, sprouting, and fermenting – and it tastes better.
If you were used to eating a fairly healthy diet before they switched to Paleo, you might occasionally miss your lentil soup or hummus. After properly preparing the lentils or chickpeas, a small amount of these foods probably won’t do a lot of damage, but think of it as an occasional indulgence rather than a dietary staple. Alternatively, you could try more Paleo-friendly recipes like baba ghanoush or a thick, hearty “lentil” soup (this recipe uses cauliflower and plenty of spices to get the same texture). Experimenting with these new recipes is a great way to brush up on your cooking skills and enjoy making something tasty without the digestive stress of eating unhealthy foods.
In a healthy body, there is balance between the Th1 (T cell) and Th2 (B cell) parts of our immune system. And that’s the desirable state.
However, sometimes an imbalance of the Th1/Th2 system can be beneficial. For example, during pregnancy women have a tendency to shift towards a Th2 dominance, which is advantageous since a Th1 shift would induce rejection of the fetus.
Virtually all autoimmune diseases -– conditions where the immune system begins to attack self-tissue –- have either a Th1 or a Th2 dominance.
Put another way, autoimmune conditions generally have either a T cell upregulation and B cell suppression (Th1 dominant) or the opposite (Th2 dominant).
It’s imperative that people with autoimmune disorders maintain Th1/Th2 balance.
When the immune system is dysregulated and starts attacking body tissues, the more out of balance the immune system is, the more voraciously it will attack those tissues.
For example, in someone with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks cartilage, the more out of balance the Th1/Th2 system is, the more cartilage destruction will take place.
According to research, a number of natural compounds have a tendency to push either side of the Th1/Th2 balance.
Green tea is one such substance. The active components of green tea have a tendency to push the Th2 system to be more dominant by inhibiting the Th1 side of the immune system.
Therefore someone with a Th2-dominant autoimmune condition (see table below) would be wise to stay away from green tea or products containing concentrated green tea (such as a green tea supplement), because it can upregulate an already dominant system and lead to more tissue destruction.
Conversely in someone with a Th1-dominant autoimmune condition, green tea would be beneficial because it inhibits the Th1 side of the immune system.
Another common example most people know of is the herb echinacea.
When people get sick with a cold or flu, echinacea helps boost the T cells (Th1 response) involved with the initial attack of a foreign invader.
However, in a Th1-dominant autoimmune condition, echinacea will likely make the condition worse and is therefore be something to be avoided.
We had a patient come into our office and report that she took a single antioxidant capsule one night before bed and experienced an array of symptoms including heart palpitations, anxiety, “inward trembling” and insomnia.
The patient had been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a low thyroid condition characterized by weight gain, fatigue, and depression-like symptoms.
The number one cause of hypothyroidism in the United States is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s syndrome (or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).
The patient’s symptoms after taking the antioxidant indicated an upregulated, or increased attack on her thyroid gland, which then released extra thyroid hormone into her system causing what are classically hyperthyroid symptoms.
When we looked at the ingredients in the antioxidant, it made sense.
Two of the main ingredients –- green tea extract and curcumin -– have been shown to push the immune system towards a Th2 dominance. Given the symptoms she experienced after taking the antioxidant, we concluded that she suffered from a Th2-dominant Hashimoto’s autoimmune condition.
We surmised that the green tea and curcumin stimulated her already lopsided immune system into more aggressively attacking her thyroid gland.
Autoimmunity. Green tea also has immunomodulating effects due to EGCG. Numerous animal studies identify and support the use of EGCG as a potential therapeutic agent in preventing and ameliorating T cell-mediated autoimmune diseases (20). The mechanism involves decreasing T cell activation, proliferation, differentiation, and production of cytokines (20). Of course research on humans demonstrating these effects would be even better, but the animal studies seem promising.
I came across an interesting article by two authors discussing whether green tea can alleviate autoimmune diseases (21). Their observations showed that EGCG is associated with suppressed proliferation of autoreactive T cells, reduced production of proinflammatory cytokines, decreased Th1 and Th17 populations, and increased Treg populations in lymph nodes, spleen and the CNS. What I found interesting is that they converted the doses used on animals, and found out that the average person would need to drink 2.5 liters of green tea per day to receive the same benefits on their immune system. Since this isn’t feasible for most people, they suggested taking EGCG capsules (400 to 2,000 mg/day).
Although I commonly recommend an herbal complex which has a small amount of green tea extract, I haven’t yet tried using higher doses of EGCG on my patients. But after doing research for this article it very well might be something I try out in the future. I still think it’s a good idea to drink one or two cups of green tea per day, but perhaps combining this with EGCG capsules will further help to suppress the autoimmune component of people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. However, one also needs to be cautious, as there is evidence that consuming a concentrated green tea extract can be toxic to the cells of the liver (22). Although this might be rare, it should make us cautious about taking large doses of supplements and herbs.
Can Green Tea Inhibit Thyroid Gland Activity?
There is some evidence which shows that the catechins present in green tea might have antithyroid activity when consumed in high doses (23) (24). However, these studies were performed on rats, and as I just mentioned, involved high doses. I don’t see a problem with most people with hypothyroid conditions drinking one or two cups of green tea per day. On the other hand, people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis might want to be cautious about drinking larger amounts of green tea on a regular basis.
With the possibility of high doses of green tea inhibiting thyroid activity, some people with hyperthyroid conditions might wonder whether drinking a lot of green tea can help with their condition. I personally haven’t tested this out on my patients, but it would be interesting to find out if drinking a lot of green tea on a daily basis (i.e. five or more cups) would inhibit thyroid activity.
Another potential concern of green tea consumption is that there is fluoride present in green tea. Although the studies I listed attributed the antithyroid activity to the catechins in the green tea, it is also possible that the fluoride was responsible for inhibiting thyroid function. I’m not sure if there is enough fluoride in one or two cups of green tea to have a negative impact on one’s thyroid health, but if you want to play it safe you can purchase green tea that is fluoride-free.
In summary, there are many different health benefits of drinking green tea. As a result, most people can benefit from drinking at least one or two cups per day, and drinking more than this can offer further benefits in preventing the development of certain chronic health conditions. By modulating the immune system, regular green tea consumption can also benefit people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. However, while drinking large amounts of green per day might offer certain benefits (i.e. provide protection against cardiovascular disease), drinking a lot of green tea might have a goitrogenic effect. Although this might be beneficial for those people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, those people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis might want to limit their consumption of green tea to one or two cups per day.
Interview with Jill Grunewald, holistic nutrition coach.
Jen: What are some signs/symptoms of Hashimoto’s?
Jill: Hashimoto’s is autoimmune hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) and it’s estimated that 90 percent of people who have low thyroid function do, in fact, have Hashimoto’s. Having thyroid autoimmunity means that there are antibodies in the blood that are launching a “mission sabotage” on the thyroid gland. Whether hypothyroidism is due to Hashimoto’s or from iodine deficiency (the cause of the other 10 percent of hypothyroid cases), the telltale symptoms are the same: unwarranted fatigue (even after a full night’s rest), difficulty losing weight, gaining weight with no change in diet or exercise, hair loss and loss of hair luster, difficulty getting and staying warm, constipation, depression, brain fog, fluid retention (edema), poor ankle reflexes, and dry skin. You can read a lengthier list of symptoms here.
A significant difference between Hashimoto’s and iodine-deficient hypothyroidism is that in cases of Hashimoto’s, some people swing back and forth between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism — or overactive thyroid. So while the diagnosis may be low thyroid function, some experience a “push-pull” and have days where they feel hyperactive, energetic, anxious, and can have heart palpitations. This hyper state is a sign of excess thyroid hormones in the bloodstream due to increased autoimmune attack on the thyroid.
Jen: How do you get tested?
Jill: Thyroid testing includes a full range of thyroid labs (bloodwork) or an at-home BBT(basal body temperature) test, which involves taking your basal body temperature first thing in the morning for three days, then determining the average. If it’s less than 97.8, you’re likely hypothyroid. When it comes to labwork, it’s important to work with an open-minded, functional medicine doctor who isn’t TSH-happy. TSH stands for thyroid stimulating hormone and reveals very little of overall thyroid function. (See this link for the labs I recommend.) See “Testing in the Lab” in this Experience Life article for functional reference ranges, which can more readily determine an imbalance. You can also order bloodwork on your own. There are several online sources, and the one I recommend is HealthCheck USA. The Ultimate Panel includes the thyroid labs I feel are most telling of overall thyroid function.
We live in a numbers-happy society: “Numbers don’t lie.” Or, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Yet some functional medicine doctors say that when it comes to managing hypothyroidism, the real litmus test of whether your thyroid is functioning optimally is how you FEEL. Hear hear!
Jen: Why did this happen (i.e., is it my fault)?
Jill: Many of my clients ask, “What did I do wrong? How did I cause myself to be hypothyroid? What did I do to myself to acquire autoimmunity?” For 10 percent of those with hypothyroidism, they’re simply iodine deficient. That’s an easy fix. (See below for dietary recommendations.) For those with autoimmunity, it’s more complex. There is a long list of autoimmune conditions, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, celiac, rheumatoid arthritis — the list goes on. One in twelve Americans has an autoimmune condition, making it more prevalent than heart disease and cancer. But it’s rarely talked about as an epidemic. While there are differing expert opinions on what has caused the drastic rise in autoimmune conditions, including genetic predisposition, scientists worldwide concur that the root cause is environmental — a result of our Industrial Age and 21st century lifestyles. Exposure to chemicals, toxins, pesticides, and processed foods has caused our immune cells to become confused and for some of us, to launch an attack on our own bodies. I realize this is sobering, but I don’t dwell on the doom and gloom — I like to look forward to ask what we can do today to heal and to protect ourselves. To learn more about the sudden rise in autoimmune diseases, I recommend Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s book, The Autoimmune Epidemic.
Jen: What’s the way out?
Jill: Autoimmunity or no autoimmunity, thyroid drugs or no thyroid drugs, there are several things you can do to jumpstart a sluggish thyroid and start alleviating symptoms. Diet is your first line of defense. And I don’t mean “dieting” — many people who are struggling with thyroid-related weight gain go on calorie-restrictive diets, which can backfire.
There is no pharmaceutical cure for any autoimmune disease and managing autoimmunity can be multi-faceted. Generally, it’s critical to rethink what you’re eating and to eat whole, unadulterated foods (steer clear of factory-made and factory-farmed food); eat organic as often as possible; supplement wisely; address the stressors in your life; and shield yourself as much as you can from everyday chemicals, including cleaning and bodycare products.
Jen: What foods should you avoid?
Jill: It depends on the level of hypothyroidism and the adrenal fatigue that typically accompanies hypothyroidism, but more often than not, it’s a good idea to stay away from sugar and caffeine, both of which can up the ante on the overproduction of stress hormones — namely adrenaline and cortisol — that can hinder thyroid function. Goitrogens — broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, and turnips are the heavy-hitters — can also hinder thyroid function by causing a goiter, or enlargement of the thyroid gland. While there is some controversy about the degree to which cooking inactivates goitrogenic compounds, generally, I believe that cooked goitrogens are fine. They’re certainly not deal-breakers. You’ll also hear wildly differing opinions on soy, and my opinion is that it’s fine if it’s fermented (tempeh, for example), in moderation. Being 100 percent gluten free is non-negotiable if you have Hashimoto’s. Because the molecular structure of gluten is almost identical to the molecular structure of thyroid tissue (so weird), ingesting gluten can make the body say, “Invader! Attack! Attack!” and increase the autoimmune assault on the thyroid.
In addition, do not eat a low-carbohydrate diet, which can contribute to brain fog, hair loss, and can inhibit your body temperature regulation. It can also inhibit T3 production and increase Reverse T3, which can block thyroid hormone receptors.
Jen: OK, so what should I eat?
Jill: Here is my shortlist:
For more information, see “Nutritional Dos and Don’ts” in this article.
For those with non-autoimmune hypothyroidism, amp up the dietary iodine intake with seafood and sea vegetables, the best sources. Seasnax, roasted sea vegetables, are strangely addictive. (I don’t recommend iodine supplementation, unless it’s food-based, as from kelp.)
Jen: Can you work out if you have Hashimoto’s?
Jill: Absolutely. While severe fatigue is often the case for those with low thyroid function, it’s important to move. For those with more advanced fatigue, walking and yoga are sufficient. Some functional medicine doctors say that for people who have severe adrenal dysfunction and crippling fatigue, it’s best to not exercise at all during the healing phase. Later, people can transition to restorative exercise – yoga, tai chi, light pilates, walking, or the biofeedback approach you take at Movement Minneapolis. White-knuckling exercise and having a “I gotta do this because I’m overweight” attitude can be counterproductive. I’ve given many clients permission to take a break from exercise and they’ve broken through weight loss barriers. Why? Because non-restorative, “distress” exercise can induce a stress response, which can cause overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol, nicknamed “the belly fat hormone,” then sets up camp around our midsection and also hinders thyroid function. So it’s a vicious cycle. “Eustress” exercise, on the other hand (thank you, Jen, and the other rock stars at Movement Minneapolis for introducing me to this term) is restorative and gets people better results.
Jen: What lifestyle changes can I make to support thyroid health?
Jill: There is a significant mind-body component to thyroid health. The thyroid gland corresponds with our 5th chakra, the throat chakra, and is between the 6th and 4th chakra, which are the head and heart chakras, respectively. Chakra means “wheel” or “turning” in Hindu and our chakras are energy centers in the body. Our throat chakra is associated with the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. When there is conflict between the head and heart, we can have a thyroid imbalance. The best way to work through this conflict is to journal, meditate, pray, breathe, or practice visualization. Any spiritual practice, including yoga, which was designed to support all of our chakras, will help resolve this imbalance.
Your Dietary Defense
Making dietary changes is your first line of defense in treating hypothyroidism. Many people with hypothyroidism experience crippling fatigue and brain fog, which prompts reaching for non-nutritional forms of energy like sugar and caffeine. I’ve dubbed these rascals the terrible twosome, as they can burn out your thyroid (and destabilize blood sugar).
1. Just say no to the dietary bungee cord. Greatly reduce or eliminate caffeine and sugar, including refined carbohydrates like flour, which the body treats like sugar. Make grain-based carbohydrates lesser of a focus, eating non-starchy vegetables to your heart’s content.
2. Up the protein. Protein transports thyroid hormone to all your tissues and enjoying it at each meal can help normalize thyroid function. Proteins include nuts and nut butters; quinoa; hormone- and antibiotic-free animal products (organic, grass-fed meats, eggs, and sustainably-farmed fish); and legumes.
Note: I’m not a fan of soy and soy products: tofu, soy milk, fake meats, energy bars, etc. Even when organic and non-GMO, soy can impede cell receptors and disrupt the feedback loop throughout your entire endocrine (hormonal) system.
3. Get fat. Fat is your friend and cholesterol is the precursor to hormonal pathways; if you’re getting insufficient fat and cholesterol, you could be exacerbating hormonal imbalance, which includes thyroid hormones. Natural, healthful fats include olive oil; ghee; avocados; flax seeds; fish; nuts and nut butters; hormone- and antibiotic-free full fat cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese (yes, full fat, not skim); and coconut milk products.
4. Nutrient-up. While nutritional deficiencies may not be the cause of hypothyroidism, not having enough of these micronutrients and minerals can aggravate symptoms: vitamin D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, copper, vitamin A, the B vitamins, and iodine.
A few highlights:
5. Go 100% gluten-free. The molecular composition of thyroid tissue is almost identical to that of gluten. So for those with Hashimoto’s, it’s a case of mistaken identity. Eating gluten can increase the autoimmune attack on your thyroid.
6. Be mindful of goitrogens, which are foods that can interfere with thyroid function. Goitrogens include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnips, millet, spinach, strawberries, peaches, watercress, peanuts, radishes, and soybeans. Does it mean that you can never eat these foods? No, because cooking inactivates goitrogenic compounds and eating radishes and watercress in moderation isn’t going to be a deal-breaker.
7. Go for the glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system and is one of the pillars of fighting Hashimoto’s. It can boost your body’s ability to modulate and regulate the immune system, dampen autoimmune flare-ups, and protect and heal thyroid tissue.
While few foods contain glutathione, there are foods that help the body produce glutathione: asparagus, broccoli, peaches, avocado, spinach, garlic, squash, grapefruit, and raw eggs. A plant substance found in broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, (those goitrogens), helps replenish glutathione stores.
8. Address underlying food sensitivities. Just like the body’s attack on the thyroid in the presence of Hashimoto’s, the body will also see offending or inflammatory foods as an invader and will up the ante on the autoimmune response.
9. Do a gut check. A whopping 20 percent of thyroid function depends on a sufficient supply of healthy gut bacteria, so it’s best to supplement with probiotics (friendly intestinal bacteria).
10. Address silent inflammation with whole foods nutrition. Systemic inflammation and autoimmunity often go hand-in-hand.
11. Address adrenal fatigue. There is an intimate connection between your thyroid and adrenal glands and it’s uncommon to have hypothyroidism without some level of adrenal fatigue. The thyroid and adrenals are like Frick and Frack – so tightly in cahoots that it’s not effective to address one without the other.
12. Look at your stressors and practice relaxation. The thyroid is a very sensitive gland and is exceptionally reactive to the stress response.
13. Ask for the thyroid collar. The thyroid is sensitive to radiation, so next time you’re getting an x-ray at the dentist, ask for the thyroid collar. Do not let your thyroid get zapped!
Autoimmunity or no autoimmunity, drugs or no drugs, it’s vital to treat the thyroid well by eating a thyroid-friendly diet. Here are some of the nutritional recommendations Minneapolis-based holistic nutrition coach Jill Grunewald recommends for her clients.
The big three macronutrients — fat, protein and carbohydrates — all play key roles in regulating thyroid function.
Nutritional deficiencies play a significant role in thyroid dysfunction. While they aren’t the cause of hypothyroidism, not having enough of these micronutrients and minerals can exacerbate symptoms.
Eating right for thyroid health also means avoiding these foods:
Grain Free Receipt Blogs: