CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — The brain needs sufficient thyroid hormones to function. If you aren’t managing your Hashimoto’s disease with diet and lifestyle, your condition may be affecting your brain, even if you take thyroid medication.
In the first part of this series, I introduced the ways in which Hashimoto’s low thyroid can cause symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, depression, memory loss and sleep issues. With this article, I’m going to explain how inflammation from Hashimoto’s can impact your brain.
Chronic inflammation is one of the most common factors that trigger autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, this inflammation also makes its way into the brain, where it can cause damage and sometimes, debilitating symptoms.
The important thing to understand about brain inflammation is that the brain has a different immune system than the body. In the body, the immune system has an off switch, allowing it to turn off inflammatory immune cells when an infection or an invader is no longer a problem.
However, the brain has no such “off switch.” When something triggers the brain’s immune system, this inflammation can move like a slow-burning fire moving through the brain, slowly damaging brain tissue along the way and causing poor brain function.
Things that can cause brain inflammation
Food intolerances: The most common food sensitivities we see in our Hashimoto’s patients are gluten, dairy, grains, egg, soy and corn. In fact, the tissue most often damaged by gluten intolerance is brain tissue.
Chronic inflammation in the body: Immune cells involved in inflammation in the body make their way into the brain and begin triggering inflammation there as well. Patients with unmanaged Hashimoto’s often have chronic inflammation.
Gut inflammation: Most of our Hashimoto’s patients have some type of gut health issue stemming from gut inflammation. This is a common cause of brain inflammation.
Blood sugar imbalances: Blood sugar imbalances are highly inflammatory to the brain. In fact, high blood sugar is so damaging to nervous tissue that researchers call Alzheimer’s disease “type 3 diabetes.” Low blood sugar and blood sugar crashes also inflame the brain. The constant spikes and drops of blood sugar – and the surges of insulin that follow – disrupt brain function and inflame the brain.
Hormonal imbalances: Many of our female Hashimoto’s patients have estrogen that is too high or too low. Polycystic ovary syndrome, hair loss, facial hair, infertility and menstrual difficulties from hormonal imbalances can inflame the brain. Estrogen deficiency during perimenopause and menopause can also inflame the brain.
Autoimmune diseases: If a person has an autoimmune disease that they are not managing through diet and lifestyle, the inflammation from the autoimmune disease may cause inflammation in other parts of the body, including the brain.
Leaky blood-brain barrier: When you have leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, you also most likely have a leaky blood-brain barrier. This means inflammatory compounds can make their way into the brain and trigger inflammation.
Tips for supporting your brain if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
One of the most important things to do for your brain is to manage your Hashimoto’s. At RedRiver Health and Wellness Center, our clinics specialize in this. The program is beyond the scope of this article; however, it involves following an autoimmune diet specific for your dietary triggers, improving imbalances found through medical testing and applying some lifestyle strategies to manage your autoimmunity effectively.
Beyond that, following are a couple of brain-specific strategies that work well for our patients.
Autoimmune diet and lifestyle
We start our Hashimoto’s patients on an anti-inflammatory autoimmune diet for four to six weeks. The diet is strict, but it allows the immune system to recharge and the brain to get back online. Most patients report that they feel amazing on the diet.
This diet consists solely of meats – excluding pork and beef – and places an emphasis on vegetables, healthy fats and minimal fruit, due to the high sugar content. The diet excludes grains, dairy, eggs, sugars, processed foods, legumes, nuts, seeds and nightshades, such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. These foods are excluded because they are autoimmune triggers for many people.
After the immune system has calmed down and patients feel better, we have them reintroduce each food they eliminated one at a time, every three days. If they have a reaction, then they know they need to continue to avoid that food. You can learn more about the diet in the free guide on my website.
Take supplements that lower brain inflammation
Fortunately, some supplements can help dampen brain inflammation. The ones we use in our offices have been very successful. However, no supplement can overcome a poor diet and lifestyle, so you must also follow an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle.
Glutathione is probably the most powerful anti-inflammatory supplement out there. It is the body’s master antioxidant, necessary to protect cells and prevent inflammation. Many people’s glutathione levels have been depleted by poor diet, excess sugars, environmental toxins and chronic health conditions. Aging also depletes glutathione.
Glutathione is especially important for brain health. The glutathione products we get the best results with are Trizomal Glutathione by Apex Energetics or Tri-Fortify Orange from Researched Nutritionals. How much you need depends on the degree of your inflammation, but we have our patients take two to three times the recommended amount.
Taking therapeutic doses of liposomal resveratrol has been shown to significantly dampen inflammation. We like to use Resvero Active from Apex Energetics, which is a highly absorbable liposomal resveratrol and allows you to take therapeutic doses.
How much resveratrol you take depends on how bad your inflammation is, so take enough to feel an effect. We recommend two to three times the recommended amount.
Sufficient vitamin D dampens inflammation and supports brain health. Therapeutic doses of vitamin D range from 10,000 to 20,000 international units (IU) a day, but have your doctor monitor your vitamin D levels regularly to make sure it doesn’t go too high. It’s rare to see levels go too high, but it’s best to stay aware of your vitamin D status. Use the cholecalciferol form.
NeuroFlam by Apex Energetics is a blend of botanicals that have been shown in the scientific literature to dampen brain inflammation. They have also been shown to support the brain after a brain injury or stroke and provide general antioxidant support for the brain. I, and many people I know, take NeuroFlam daily for general brain support.
NeuroO2 by Apex Energetics is a blend of botanicals that have been shown to improve circulation in the brain. This in turn supplies the brain with more oxygen and nutrients, which help dampen inflammation.
Many people with Hashimoto’s have poor circulation. Cold hands and feet are symptoms of poor circulation and also a sign that the brain is not getting enough oxygen.
I’ll be addressing more ways to improve brain health when you have Hashimoto’s in upcoming articles. If you’d like all the information right away, download my free guide, “12 Ways to Improve Brain Function When You Have Hashimoto’s or Autoimmunity,” available online here.
We work with your prescribing physician for optimal results. Do not discontinue medication or hormone replacement therapy without consulting your prescribing physician. Visit our website to learn more about our services and schedule a free consultation.
Written by JOSH REDD, chiropractic physician at RedRiver Health and Wellness Center.
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About Josh Redd
Josh Redd, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, is a chiropractic physician and author of the Amazon bestselling book “The Truth About Low Thyroid.” Redd owns seven functional medicine clinics in the western United States and sees patients from across the country and around the world who are suffering from challenging autoimmune, endocrine and neurological disorders. He studied immunology, virology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins where he is a MaPHB candidate. He also teaches thousands of health care practitioners about functional medicine and immunology, thyroid health, neurology, lab testing and more.
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