Your hands and feet are constantly cold. You gain weight despite relentless exercise and willpower with dieting. You suffer from low energy and feel like you could sleep all day. You struggle to focus as brain fog sets in for no apparent reason. And you’re constantly hungry, often craving sugary foods. Do you want to regain your health, reignite your life, and enjoy greater clarity, focus, energy, and happiness?
“Maybe it’s your thyroid,” says Elle Russ, bestselling author of The Paleo Thyroid Solution, coach, and host of the top-ranked Primal Blueprint Podcast. “Over 200 million people worldwide and more than 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, but 60 percent are undiagnosed and unaware of their condition.”
We sat down with the coach, actor, and writer to discuss her new book, which is making waves in the burgeoning Evolutionary Health Movement (also referred to as Paleo, Primal, or Ancestral Health).
Elle, why should we care about the thyroid?
The thyroid is the master gland of your body. It controls everything from sex drive and adrenal function to body temperature, fat burning, and a healthy heart rate, as well as blood pressure, brain function, and physical energy. It produces the hormone of life and metabolism called T3, so you’ll feel miserable with inadequate levels. Having low levels of T3 would be akin to expecting a car to run on water instead of gasoline. If you want to be a high performer, you must care about your thyroid.
What causes thyroid problems?
Anything anti-thyroid, like food glutens and environmental chemicals (chlorine from a swimming pool, food additives, and fluoride in tap water or toothpaste). It could be from certain medications, too much stress, over-exercising, poor diet, nutrition deficiencies from poor food choices, or inadequate sleep. These all act like human kryptonite.
So, if my thyroid feels out of whack, what should I do?
First, you need the right specialist doctor to support you. Many doctors are generalists, and you need someone who’s gone beyond the standard M.D. qualification. This Yahoo group contains one of the best lists of good doctors anywhere on the internet. Call a doctor’s office and ask:
- Does the doctor have success stories with treating thyroid disorders?
- What blood tests does the doctor order? It needs to be more than the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test.
- Does the doctor treat patients by eliminating symptoms along with blood work or rely on blood tests alone?
Second, you need to approach your condition like a detective. Record detailed notes about your symptoms. Learn everything possible about your condition. Knowledge and research will inspire your doctor to take a chance on you with more experiential treatments.
Three, ensure your doctor orders these blood tests:
- Free T3
- Free T4
- Reverse T3
- TPO ab (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody test: Hashimoto's)
- Tg ab (Thyroglobulin Antibody test: Hashimoto's)
- DHEA Sulfate
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin D 25-hydroxy
The right doctor will know how to isolate, treat, and systematically alleviate your symptoms based on the blood test results.
Is there anything else we can do?
Most people are “sugar-burners.” This means your body is addicted to fueling itself on glucose. The consequence is, you can’t maintain weight loss. Signs that you’re a sugar-burner include: being cranky or losing mental/physical energy if you go more than four to six hours without eating. The bad news is: you’ll need three to four weeks of mental willpower to wean yourself off glucose addiction—and experience the associated hunger and energy lapses. The good news is that once you’ve overcome the sugar burner hurdle, you can train your body to burn fat and enjoy life. How? Adopting a paleo/primal lifestyle.
Tell us more about paleo/primal.
When we get our bodies to burn fat instead of sugar or carbs, we function the way we were designed. Start by reducing your total daily carbohydrate intake to under 150 grams, with smaller people and women shooting for 100 grams or below per day. Eliminate grains, beans, and legumes — they are inflammatory gut-health disrupters, and food glutens can trigger or exacerbate Hashimoto’s disease. Source grass-fed or organic beef and wild-caught fish. Eat more nutrient-dense local or organic foods like beets, bell peppers, and leafy greens. Opt for lower sugar fruits like berries. Go easy on the nuts — they’re full of calories and don’t support weight loss if you overdo it. Also, it sounds counterintuitive but fats are not bad for you. Heart disease is actually linked to excess carbohydrate consumption (grains and sugars). Good sources of fat include grass-fed butter, coconuts, macadamia nuts, avocados, olives, and extra-virgin olive oil. Take a good probiotic for gut health and eliminate or reduce alcohol.
A good dietary recommendation summary is The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid; take a look, it’s very different to the government’s nutrition guidelines.
What about the paleo/primal lifestyle?
Get adequate sleep and manage your stress. I do something physically active for at least 30 to 60 minutes daily. If I feel lazy, I’ll swim. There’s nothing more enjoyable than hiking on nature trails wearing a heart-rate monitor (to ensure you stay within 55 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate). Or go for a walk listening to a good audiobook or podcast. You can also get amazing physical results from doing a five- to 10-minute bodyweight workout that’s freely available on YouTube. When in doubt, just do something active that you find fun, like paddle boarding, surfing, or basketball.
A good lifestyle recommendation summary is The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid.
Elle Russ is the author of the bestselling book, The Paleo Thyroid Solution and a leading voice of thyroid health in the burgeoning Evolutionary Health Movement (also referred to as Paleo, Primal or Ancestral Health). Elle is also a life coach and the host of the top-ranked Primal Blueprint Podcast. Originally from downtown Chicago, Elle lives and plays in Malibu, California. Photos supplied by Jonathan Moeller.