People with eating disorders such as anorexia simply do not experience hunger and satiety in the same way people who have a healthy relationship with food do. New research suggests that the composition of gut bacteria, or the gut microbiome, may play a role in the behavioral aspects of anorexia and eating disorders. For instance, previous research shows a connection between mood disorders such as depression and poor gut microbiome diversity. Less than half of people with eating disorders fully recover, showing that conventional treatments are failing untold numbers of people, the vast majority of them women.
The study showed that patients with anorexia had lower diversity of gut bacteria than healthy individuals. They also found that the less diverse the gut microbiome was the more depression and anxiety patients suffered. The researchers also found that as a patient with anorexia began eating again their gut bacteria diversity was partially restored, which in itself aided in recovery.
Alterations in the gut microbiome can affect how a person’s body functions, how they think, feel, and behave, and how they interact with others.
The gut microbiome is critical not only to regulating mood and behavior, it also plays a vital role in regulating metabolic function, appetite control, and weight.
A better understanding of the role of the gut microbiome in anorexia can help researchers forge new directions in treatment around determining target weight goals, how fast the anorexic patient should gain weight, and what type of diet the anorexic patient should follow to best support the brain’s role in eating disorder behaviors.
The researchers are now investigating whether targeted probiotics could ease the renourishment and refeeding phase of anorexia recovery — many patients struggle with gastric and abdominal distress when reintroducing foods. Customized probiotic therapy could also support the mental and emotional aspects of recovery from an eating disorder.
Gut bacteria targeted in eating disorders
Past research has also shown a link between the gut microbiome and eating disorders, which affect an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the population. A 2015 study from France showed gut bacteria plays a role in eating disorders.
The study looked at mice who had an inflammatory reaction to a protein made by gut bacteria. In essence, the mice responded to these bacteria as if it were an allergy or sensitivity. This immune response caused eating disorders in the mice.
The gut bacteria that triggered this reaction is very similar in structure to a hormone called alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (a-MSH). a-MSH is a satiety hormone that tells you when to feel full. When the immune system attacks the gut bacteria similar to a-MSH, it also attacks the a-MSH due to their structural similarity. This immune reaction can then dysregulate signals around feeding, energy usage, and anxiety.
When the immune system mistakenly attacks the body
This study is evidence of a “cross-reactive” immune reaction, in which the immune system confuses something in the body with something infectious and attacks both. This is a very common mechanism in autoimmune reactions, such as with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, or multiple sclerosis.
The research suggests that some eating disorders may have an immune reaction driving the psychological disorder.
Tips on addressing eating disorders nutritionally
Although eating disorders are highly complicated and require intensive, sometimes multi-faceted therapeutic approaches, it’s still important to be mindful of nutritional strategies to support the brain and the gut microbiome:
Eliminate processed carbs and sugars as they trigger addictive tendencies metabolically.
Keep blood sugar stable to curbing cravings, food obsession, and relentless hunger. You may need to eat small, frequent meals that include protein initially.
Base your diet on plenty of vegetables and a wide, ever changing diversity of vegetables. This will increase the diversity of your gut microbiome, which promotes psychological health and stability.
Supporting your brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters affect your mood, thoughts about yourself, behavior, energy levels, and other aspects of how you feel and function. For instance, you may need serotonin or dopamine support. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel joy and stave off depression. Dopamine, on the other hand, is necessary to feel self-worth, motivation, and to not experience constant cravings. Both serotonin and dopamine have been shown to play a role in eating disorders. If you have been starving yourself, binging and purging, undereating, or affecting your diet in other ways due to an eating disorder, there is a strong possibility you may be deficient in either one or both of these important neurotransmitters.
Ask my office for more advice on how to support a healthier approach to balanced approach to recovering from eating disorders.
Numerous studies show a strong link between gluten intolerance and Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism. This is because gluten has a molecular structure that closely resembles thyroid tissue — gluten sensitivity triggers an attack on the thyroid gland. Gluten (technically, the correct term is gliadin), is the protein found in wheat and wheat-like grains, such as spelt, kamut, rye, barley, triticale, and oats.
One of the immune system’s primary jobs is to protect the body from foreign invaders. Sometimes it may recognize a common food as a dangerous invader. When you eat that food throughout each day this can keep your immune system engaged in constant battle, making it hyper zealous, overly sensitive, and thus prone towards food sensitivities and autoimmunity.
Some people also have celiac disease, disease in which gluten triggers an autoimmune attack against the gut, the skin, or neurological tissue. Gluten sensitivity is more common than celiac disease, however, both show up in higher numbers in people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism you should first test for Hashimoto’s by screening for TPO and TGB antibodies — the majority of hypothyroidism cases are caused by Hashimoto’s.
You should also screen for gluten intolerance or celiac disease given how common these conditions are in patients with Hashimoto’s. Likewise, people who discover they are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease should screen for Hashimoto’s.
It’s important to give up gluten completely if you have Hashimoto’s and gluten intolerance. Cheats and little bites are not ok as they trigger an immune response that ultimately destroys thyroid tissue. Also, it’s important to avoid foods that have been contaminated by gluten. Be careful when in a kitchen where gluten is used, with restaurant food, or with questionable packaged foods.
Cyrex Labs offers testing to identify gluten intolerance. However, sometimes the immune system can be so depleted that it produces too few antibodies to produce a positive test, even though you react to gluten. You can screen for this with a total immunoglobulin test.
However, given the evidence establishing a link between gluten intolerance and Hashimoto’s disease, you may be surprised how much better you feel by simply removing gluten from your diet as a start.
Many people have to remove other foods as well, such as dairy, eggs, or other grains. Following the autoimmune paleo diet for about a month and then reintroducing restricted foods one at a time every 72 hours can help you determine which foods trigger an inflammatory reaction in you.
Many people are able to put their hypothyroid symptoms into remission simply by following a diet that eliminates gluten and other trigger foods. Although autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s can be successfully managed through diet and lifestyle strategies, it’s important to understand they can’t be cured. It’s just a matter of taming the immune system.
Ask my office for ways to manage your autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroid condition.
Trying out the liver cleanse recipe, Chickpea Quiche, from Medical Medium’s book – Liver Rescue. Love trying out different healthy recipes where food is your medicine. This dish is to prepare you for an eventual liver & gallbladder cleanse.
roasted broccoli, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and garlic (yum)
Who doesn’t love red onions? Try them roasted – even better.
Your doctor says you have hypothyroidism and this explains feeling like crap, the crazy weight gain, and your distressing hair loss. But how do you know if Hashimoto’s is causing your hypothyroidism? Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system is attacking and destroying the thyroid gland.
Hashimoto’s is responsible for more than 90 percent of hypothyroid cases. Chances are strong it’s the cause of your low thyroid function too.
But if your doctor does not want to screen for Hashimoto’s or if you would like to be sure, here are some tips to help you figure out if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
You feel worse despite taking your thyroid medication
One of the most common signs of Hashimoto’s is you still have symptoms despite taking your thyroid meds. In fact, your doctor prescribes ever increasing doses as your thyroid function deteriorates. You may even notice no difference if you forget to take your meds. Why don’t thyroid meds help in many cases of Hashimoto’s? Because the immune system continues to attack and destroy the thyroid gland even though the meds may make your TSH levels look normal.
You swing back and forth between low thyroid and high thyroid symptoms
Swinging back and forth between under active and over active thyroid function is another common sign of Hashimoto’s. One week you suffer from fatigue, headaches, constipation, depression, and low libido. The next week you have insomnia, a racing heart, anxiety, and tremors. This is because a flare up that damages thyroid tissue causes excess thyroid hormone to spill into the bloodstream. You may be misdiagnosed with anxiety or even bipolar disorder.
If you run blood tests during these surges and crashes you will see TSH also peaks and dips. TSH may even test as normal for short periods as its moves between these swings. This can lead to a misdiagnosis if you drew your blood during that time.
You have pernicious anemia, celiac disease, or other autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s are the result of an imbalanced immune system. It’s very common for people with one autoimmune disease to develop more. This is because the imbalanced system becomes overly sensitive and loses tolerance to new tissues in the body.
If you have hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases, chances are you also have Hashimoto’s. Pernicious anemia (an autoimmune disease that causes B12 deficiency), celiac disease, or a gluten intolerance are all commonly linked to Hashimoto’s.
If you think you might have Hashimoto’s, see if any of these symptoms apply to you.
If you would like help understanding if your Hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Under active thyroid symptoms
Feeling tired or sluggish
Feeling cold — hands, feet, all over
Require excessive amounts of sleep to function well
Weight gain despite adhering to a low-calorie diet
Gaining weight easily
Difficult, infrequent bowel movements
Depression and lack of motivation
Morning headaches that wear off as the day progresses
Outer third of eyebrow thins
Thinning of hair on scalp, face, or genitals, or excessive hair loss
Dryness of skin and/or scalp
Over active thyroid symptoms
Increased pulse rate, even at rest
Feeling nervous and emotional
Difficulty gaining weight
Symptoms are important but a blood test provides the proof you may need to convince doctors or family members. Look for these markers:
Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO Ab). In most cases of Hashimoto’s the immune system attacks TPO, an enzyme that triggers thyroid hormone production.
Thyroglobulin antibodies (TGB Ab). You should also test for antibodies to TGB, which the thyroid uses to produce thyroid hormones.
Thyroid stimulating hormone antibodies (TSH Ab). This test can identify Graves’ disease (hyperthyroidism), although sometimes TSH antibodies can be elevated in Hashimoto’s. On lab tests, this marker is often labeled thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI). If your autoimmune thyroid condition is advanced, you have multiple autoimmune diseases, and/or you react to bioidentical thyroid meds but not synthetic, you may also have antibodies to T4 and T3.
When your test comes back negative despite massive symptoms
Don’t despair if your test comes back negative even though you have all the classic symptoms. Because the immune system and inflammation wax and wane, you may have had your blood draw during a time the immune system is not attacking the thyroid gland. However, if you’re test is positive this confirms Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and that the immune system should be a target for therapy. Ask my office for more advice on managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism using functional medicine.
Even if you eat all organic, many oat-based foods such as cereal, granola, instant oats, and bars contain glyphosate, the toxic weed-killer in Roundup.
The independent study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) measured levels of glyphosate in 45 samples of products made with conventional oats, and 16 samples made with organically grown oats. The results were shocking.
Thirty one of 45 samples made with conventional oats had 160 ppb or more of glyphosate, higher than what the EWG considers protective of children’s health.
In the organic products, glyphosate was detected at concentrations of 10 ppb to 30 ppb in 5 of 16 samples — well below the EWG health benchmark, but still present.
Organic farming prohibits use of glyphosate, so how does it get in organic food? It could drift on the wind from nearby conventional crop fields or enter by cross-contamination at a facility that handles non-organic crops.
According to the EWG, “The EPA has calculated that 1- to-2-year-old children are likely to have the highest exposure, at a level 2x greater than California’s No Significant Risk Level and 230x EWG’s health benchmark.”
Glyphosate: Not just an herbicide
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the most heavily-used weed killer worldwide. Used widely in the US on at least 70 crops from corn, soy, oats, and wheat, to fruits, nuts and vegetables, the EWG states that more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate is sprayed on American crops yearly.
A systemic herbicide, when applied to the foliage of broadleaf plants, weeds, and grasses, glyphosate is absorbed through the tissues to kill them.
While most of the public knows of Roundup as an herbicide, it is also commonly used in a pre-harvest application called “dessication.” Applied 7 to 10 days before harvest, it has the following effects:
Acts as a drying agent on crops where uneven drying might risk ruining the harvest.
During wheat harvest it can result in slightly higher crop yield by triggering plants to release more seeds.
Pre-harvest application can initiate early harvest if weather conditions threaten the crop.
Encourages earlier ripening for earlier replanting of a new crop.
Reduces green material in fields that would otherwise strain farm machinery during harvest.
The “dessication” method was first suggested in the 1980s and has become routine in North America in the past 15 years. It is also catching on widely in the UK.
Most people assume glyphosate and Roundup are used only on GMO products, but it is also sprayed just before harvest on non-GMO oats, barley, wheat, and beans.
While hundreds of other Roundup-related court cases are pending, in a 2018 landmark case, Monsanto was ordered by a California jury to pay $289 million in damages to a man dying of cancer, reportedly caused by repeated exposure to Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers in his job as a school groundskeeper.
Cancer not the only concern being researched
In addition to cancer risk, glyphosate also harms our gut bacteria.
Glyphosate also enhances the damaging effects of other chemical toxins in the environment. The effects manifest slowly over time damaging cellular systems throughout the body.
Monsanto claims that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because its mechanism of action (called the shikimate pathway) is absent in all animals.
However, this pathway is present in bacteria, which is key for understanding how it can cause systemic harm in humans and animals.
Glyphosate disrupts beneficial bacteria thus allowing pathogens such as the highly toxic Clostridium botulinum to overgrow and take over the gut environment.
Disruption of the gut biome is an issue which underlies many diseases and conditions including:
In addition to the direct concerns for human health, environmental concerns exist as well:
Mounting weed resistance to the toxin, requiring stronger and stronger applications.
Honey bees exposed to glyphosate lose some of their beneficial gut bacteria and become more susceptible to infection and death from harmful bacteria.
Despite resistance from herbicide producers, glyphosate has been banned or restricted by the following countries:
In addition, towns in many states have taken a stand against the chemical.
Organic or not, check your brands
What can you do to reduce the impact of glyphosate for yourself and your family? First, eat organic produce whenever you can. Secondly, look out for the following products from the EWG study and know their risk level:
Potentially dangerous to children:
Back to Nature Classic Granola
Quaker Simply Granola Oats, Honey, Raisin and Almonds
Nature Valley Granola Protein Oats ‘n Honey
Giant Instant Oatmeal Original Flavor
Quaker Dinosaur Eggs, Brown Sugar, Instant Oatmeal
Have you ever wanted to know everything there is to know about your thyroid? This 7-part video series will cover thyroid lab testing, nutrition and infections that affect the thyroid, toxins, thyroid hormone conversion, lifestyle, and adrenal interplay.