Feeding Our Kids and Thyroid Health
Our first question for this week’s House Call comes from Robyn. She wants to know what treats and snacks she can feed her young children, and she also asks if there are any special considerations that need to be taken into account when following the Pegan diet while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Let’s first talk about what to feed our kids…
Your kids should eat what you eat. This is what I tell my patients when they ask me what they should be feeding their kids. In Japan, kids eat raw fish and seaweed – there are no kids’ menus! So why are most restaurants in America featuring kids’ menus? Kids will learn to love whatever we feed them, but we have to start them early.
When I was facilitating a 10-day detox at a high school, the teacher asked, “Do we need to get a consent form to make sure it’s OK for kids to eat this way?” I laughed and said, “Maybe we should get a consent form for kids to drink Coca-Cola and eat Doritos and other processed foods, because we know those are deadly. But do we really need a consent form for real, whole foods?”
Robyn mentioned that her kids are pretty adventurous eaters, which is great. If your kids love to try different foods, that makes things a bit easier. If not, you want to make sure to prepare kid-friendly recipes. To get your kids more interested in eating healthy foods, I recommend involving them in shopping and cooking as early as possible. When kids feel included, they are more likely to try different foods. Make a shopping list together or ask them to prepare a menu or have them wash veggies for you. Click here for a blog I wrote in which I present an in-depth guide to raising healthy eaters.
And here are four of my favorite kid-friendly recipes:
For snacks, I recommend quick and easy finger foods, such as celery sticks with almond butter, veggies and hummus, and hard boiled eggs… and smoothies are always a hit!
In terms of pregnancy and breastfeeding, the Pegan Diet, is the diet that I recommend for new moms and I do not recommend making any modifications. The Pegan Diet includes plenty of healthy fats – like omega-3 fats- that are important for the baby’s brain development. This diet is also low in processed carbohydrates which are a major contributor to gestational diabetes. This diet works for the whole family – including those who are just coming into this world!
The Root Cause of Hashimoto’s
Our next question comes from Mimi who asks, “For a Hashimoto’s diagnosis, how do we get to the root of the problem?”
This is a great question. For those who don’t know, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid. Looking at the bigger picture, thyroid disease affects 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men, yet 50 percent of those with this disease go undiagnosed.
Conventional medicine fails to treat the underlying cause of Hashimoto’s. In Functional Medicine, we ask why? Why do you have the disease? Let’s take a look at the four major root causes:
- One of the most important factors that lead to thyroid dysfunction is exposure to environmental toxins (pesticides, for example) which act as hormone or endocrine disruptors and interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism and function. These pesticides then interfere with thyroid function and cause hypothyroidism. In fact, one study found that as people lost weight, they released pesticides from their fat tissue. Heavy metals, such as mercury, can also affect thyroid function. I see many people with chronic hypothyroidism and other thyroid problems because of high levels of mercury.
- There is an intimate interaction between stress hormones and thyroid function. More stress taxes your adrenal glands, resulting in a less-than optimal thyroid. Any approach to correcting poor thyroid function must address the effects of chronic stress and provide support to the adrenal glands.
- There is also a link between inflammation and poor thyroid function. The biggest source of chronic inflammation is gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats. Gluten is a very common allergen that affects about 10 to 20 percent of the population. This reaction occurs mostly because of our damaged guts, poor diet and unhealthy stress levels. I also think eating so-called Frankenfoods, such as hybridized and genetically modified (GMO) grains with very strange proteins, makes us sick. Our bodies say, “What is this? Must be something foreign. Better create antibodies to fight this and get rid of it!” This chronic inflammatory response interferes with thyroid function — and contributes to the epidemic of inflammatory diseases in the developed world.
- Nutrient deficiencies. Lastly, nutritional deficiencies play a big role in thyroid dysfunction. These include deficiencies of iodine, vitamin D, omega-3 fats, selenium, zinc, vitamin A and the B vitamins.
I’ve written a comprehensive e-book to address thyroid health which you can find here. I also recommend checking out my various blogs on thyroid health which dive deep into this topic. You can find these blogs here.
Testing Your Thyroid
Our final question ties into the previous question. SweetNizz asks, “My doctor needs to test my thyroid correctly. I need a full thyroid panel including reverse T3. How can I ask yet not offend?”
First of all, your job is not to worry about offending your doctor. If your doctor gets offended, then I say find a new doctor! Your doctor should be your ally, not your enemy.
Now, doctors typically diagnose thyroid problems by testing your thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH levels - the ideal range being between 1 and 2 m IU/ml - and sometimes your free T4 level. But some doctors and clinicians are questioning the “normal” levels of those tests .
To get a more complete picture, I recommend looking at a wider range of functions:
- Test both free T4 and free T3 (the inactive and the active hormones, respectively)
- Test for thyroid antibodies (or TPO) – when other thyroid test results come back as normal, most doctors don’t routinely check this. However, this test looks for an autoimmune reaction that commonly goes undiagnosed.
- Thyroid-releasing hormone (TRH) stimulation test
- A 24-hour urine test checking for free T3, which can be helpful in hard-to-diagnose cases
A physician experienced in ordering these tests and interpreting the results can provide a more comprehensive picture of how your thyroid is functioning.
Remember, you and your doctor are a team working together to create better health for YOU. So, don’t be afraid to tell them what you need. You know your body better than anyone!
Now I want to hear from you! Do you have tips for raising healthy eaters? Are you dealing with Hashimoto’s or thyroid disease? Post your thoughts on my Facebook page. If you liked this video, be sure to share it with your friends and family on Facebook or Twitter. If you have a question for our House Call series, send a video to email@example.com or tweet me @markhymanmd. Maybe next week I’ll make a House Call to you!
Wishing you health & happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD