Inflammation is not always your friend!
Normally, inflammation is a naturally healthy and positive response of your immune system to counter the infectious problem of a virus, bacteria or fungal excess. It can also be activated by an irritant (picture a splinter in your finger) or damage to your cells from an injury.
But in thyroid patients, the inflammation response can become chronic and problematic! And while many thyroid patients may be clear they have inflammation, others may have it with no clue! The latter is common.
The following article was written by Thyroid Patient Mary to help you become informed and pro-active about this potential problem.
It’s all too common for thyroid patients to find themselves with high levels of inflammation as discovered by certain lab work, such as a high ferritin result or a positively high C-Reactive Protein (CRP). In fact, one may be low, while the other high!
Why is chronic inflammation a concern?
Inflammation can spread and affect far more than a localized area. It can result in dampening of your HPA axis (meaning you won’t signal your adrenals well to produce cortisol), higher blood pressure, allergies, autoimmune issues, joint pain, heart problems, harmful swelling, bone loss, lowering of iron and so much more that is negative to your health and well-being.
What labwork do I need? Inflammation Numbers (CRP, ESR, Ferritin) $99 can be ordered from My Med Lab without a prescription. CRP may not show whether the inflammation is coming from your gut or joints, but ESR can, say some medical professionals.
Action Plan for Inflammation
1) Treat your hypothyroidism properly. Patients have learned that a huge step in lowering that inflammation is being on an optimal thyroid treatment – that is, natural desiccated thyroid, NOT T4-only medications like Synthroid. (Read the Things We Have Learned page on STTM, or even more details in Chapter 3 in the new Revised STTM book).
2) Treat Adrenal Issues. Don’t guess! Do a 24 hour adrenal saliva test! And then treat any adrenal issues based on your results. Low cortisol can contribute to inflammation, since cortisol is naturally anti-inflammatory. (Read the Adrenal Wisdom page on STTM, or more details in Chapter 6 in the new Revised STTM book.)
3) Try to identify the root cause of your inflammation, which can be:
- Chronic stress
- Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (liver labs would reveal this)
- Bacterial imbalance or overgrowth
- Bacterial infection, such as H. pylori (if you have low iron, check into this!)
- “Hidden” food sensitivities/allergies/gluten intolerance
- Yeast/Fungal overgrowth, such as Candida
- Underlying viral infection
- Low cortisol
- Continued hypothyroidism, especially those who use the inadequate T4-only
- Heavy Metal Toxicity
4) Look to your Gut. A healthy human body is estimated to contain ten healthy bacteria for every 1 cell! The presence of beneficial bacteria is essential to maintain health, particularly of the GI tract, and to prevent pathogenic bacteria from taking up residence. Fermented foods and drinks can help populate and maintain the presence of these beneficial bacteria. Good probiotic supplements can help as well.
Increase healthy fats and cut bad fats. Consume fats that are rich in omega-3, not omega 6 or 9, including meats from healthy animal sources (that is, from grass-fed, not feed lot meats), coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil. Avoid pro-inflammatory fats from oils that are rich in omega-6 such as safflower, sunflower, corn, peanut and soy.
Address hidden food allergies or intolerances. For some people, the gluten-containing grains wheat, barley and rye or even any grains cause an autoimmune response, leading to inflammation. For others, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, nightshades and even meats can be problematic and will cause inflammation. EnteroLabs offers sensitive stool testing for food allergens, which many patients report being the most accurate. Cyrex laboratories also specializes in gluten sensitivity blood tests. However, the sure-fire way to know is to conduct a strict elimination diet, such as this one.
Eliminate refined sugars from your diet, since they increase insulin resistance, weight gain, and inflammation, and can contribute to candida yeast overgrowth. Natural sugars, such as fresh fruit, raw honey, and maple syrup may be beneficial. Be cautious of over-consuming high oxalate foods (also, see here) since they can trigger pain and inflammation.
5) Consider taking antioxidant supplement Astaxanthin. While eating wild Pacific salmon is one way of obtaining astaxanthin, it would take eating it daily to get the amount we could be getting from a supplement. Triple Strength Astaxanthin by Healthy Origins brand might be a good choice because it is marine microalgae-based; they do not use chemicals in their processing; and the serving size of 12 mg is a solid dose. But there are other good brands as well. (Mercola recommends 12 – 20 mg.)
6) Other Anti-Inflammatory supplements: what works for one person may not work for another. Find the supplements that work best for you, and sometimes a combination is key…for example, adding turmeric with Astaxanthin plus Krill Oil.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin
- Pau D’Arco tea
- Guggul (note that this can also increase thyroid hormone production)
- Cat’s Claw – treats inflammation (by suppressing TNF-alpha synthesis–which is needed in the inflammation process)
- Boswellia (Frankincense)
- Holy Basil, which is anti-inflammatory due to its high vitamin K content, is also an anti-histamine and it can help with high blood sugar issues. **Be careful, because it can lower cortisol if taken too long or in high amounts.
- Berberine can help lower blood sugars and clear inflammation.
- Cilantro, including tinctures such as this one or this one, can help detox mercury, arsenic, and lead. Some suggest taking it in smaller amounts and with a binding agent, such as chlorella.
- Aloe Vera
- Slippery Elm
- Pink Rock Rose (Cistus Incanus) has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-viral properties.
- Read about more anti-inflammatory herbs here
- There is some evidence that Resveratrol supplements may lower inflammation.
7) Exercise can dramatically lower inflammation. If you have low cortisol, don’t push yourself; gentle movement can help, along with being in tune to your body’s limits.
8) Optimize vitamin D levels, which inhibits inflammation naturally and is a key component for a healthy-functioning immune system.
9) De-stress. (See Number 2 about treating adrenals.) Take time to be quiet. Meditate, pray, contemplate. Do deep-breathing exercises periodically throughout the day. Get good sleep.
10) If you are taking higher amounts of iron supplements in trying to raise low iron, we’ve found we have to lower them, since all inflammation does is push more and more iron into storage, floating around out bodies.
Also, note that pre-existing inflammation can exacerbate methylfolate supplementation in those with MTHFR gene mutation.
An Important Note: Low Iron with Inflammation
If you have low iron, you should read this article from the Iron Disorders Institute. It is important for those who have low iron levels to learn whether or not they have Anemia of Chronic Disease (ACD) or Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) since “taking iron pills for anemia of chronic disease could be harmful, even fatal.” The article states that “ACD and IDA can be distinguished with a serum ferritin test” as well other iron labs (see “Diagnosis“). If you have ACD, your ferritin levels will not match up with your other iron levels.
Have Hashimoto’s? Janie of Stop the Thyroid Madness notes in working with patients for over a decade that a main cause of inflammation for Hashi’s patients is failing to avoid gluten.