NourishDoc: Hello, everyone. I am Amita from NourishDoc, a platform for natural and holistic therapies. We will be talking about diet to support thyroid hormones in women; that is the topic of our discussion today and joining me is Lauren dietitian and nutritionist who focuses on women’s health. I’m just waiting for her to join me, and you can ask all the questions if you would like; well, there you go; hello Lauren, good evening.
Dietician Lauren: Good evening; thank you; well, great to meet you, likewise great to meet you.
NourishDoc: So I was telling our viewers the topic is thyroid hormones in women, and her nutrition can help, so before we get started, maybe you could tell us a little bit about yourself, and then we can go into the questions after that?
Dietician Lauren: My name is Lauren Papanos. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist. I hold both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nutrition sciences. I own functional feeling nutrition, an integrative nutrition practice here in Los Angeles, California. So I have worked primarily with women, specializing mainly in metabolic health, whether it’s a polycystic ovarian syndrome. I do a lot with thyroid conditions, much hypothyroidism, women’s hormones, amenorrhea and fertility type issues, and also exercise performance; I have some years of experience working in more of a sports nutrition type setting as well, so a little bit of some hormone and metabolism at the center to all of that but super excited to be here today so thank you for having me.
How can diet help metabolic health & thyroid hormones in women?
NourishDoc: That’s great. So let’s talk about metabolic health and women’s hormones and thyroid; how can nutrition help support it?
Dietician Lauren: Yeah, I think that there’s a lot of different components to look at, right, but it’s looking at it from a holistic standpoint of its not just diet, there’s always going to be environmental components to it lifestyle components to address, and then diet is one colossal component that helps improve symptoms and helps improve someone’s health outcomes, but all of that has to be addressed. So I like to always start by talking to my patients about how everything begins with the brain and our brain our hypothalamus, which is located in our brain, is really what governs how our thyroid functions, how our reproductive hormones are made, and how insulin which is a crucial regulator to our metabolic health is controlled so if we can control. We can work with how we support the hypothalamus and our cortisol and stress hormones. That is the place to start, and then you work outward with dietary strategies.
NourishDoc: So managing our brain is number one, which affects everything like the thyroid and other hormones, right? So stress would be the number one thing, like what you’re saying.
Dietician Lauren: Yeah, and many people are very surprised that one that what you eat or how you eat can very much impact your cortisol levels but also that your cortisol plays a massive role in your reproductive hormone health as well as your insulin and your blood sugar which also go into effect in terms of your hormones but also with thyroid conditions many times thyroid conditions develop because of a very stressful life situation. So that’s why I’m so interested in the role of cortisol on all of these other hormonal processes.
How your brain controls your thyroid
NourishDoc: So I think that’s a very interesting concept. I don’t think many people know about the connection between the brain and cortisol and the thyroid, so we all know about the connection between the gut and that brain access. Hence, when talking about the brain, the question automatically comes to your gut, so your brain and gut are all connected. If they are out of balance, the thyroid hormone goes out of the back. So this whole thing happens in that, I mean, which way is what I’m just guessing I am not a dietitian again.
Dietician Lauren: No. So I always explain it as there’s this cup. We have a cup of water; think of it like that. There are all of these different stressors that can fill up the cup. All the different stressors are liquid that will go into the cup. So those stressors can be deficiencies, so if someone not having enough micronutrients enough, vitamins, and minerals, there could be some gut infection. So different stressors can fill up this cup. So those stressors can come from nutritional deficiencies and not enough vitamins and minerals, which I’ve seen so many vitamin and mineral reports. It’s almost impossible for even if someone’s eating the healthiest diet to get enough from just diet alone because of stress depleting a lot of the vitamins and minerals in our diet exercise which many people sometimes are doing too much exercise and that’s depleting these vitamins and minerals even just our soil and then these environmental things that can also change our vitamin and mineral intake. So that is a massive component of it.
However, the biggest thing for a nutritional element is how much you eat. So for many of the patients and clients, I’m working with, many of them are pretty active people. So they are expending a pretty good amount of energy throughout the day and also eating very healthy and so what can happen is there can become this really imbalance between how much energy you’re expending through exercise through daily activities through all the stress these people are under with their jobs and life stressors and then how much they’re actually consuming in terms of the total amount of just energy from calories and also these vitamins and minerals.
Role of stressors and sleep in hormone balance
NourishDoc: So you talk about cortisol; what other hormones can go out of balance when you’re talking about hormone health?
Dietician Lauren: Sure. So cortisol is going to play a massive role in our insulin management and our blood sugar management. So if you’re sleep deprived if you’re going through a stressful season, you will see that your blood sugar and your insulin levels will become elevated, so cortisol does impact that component, and cortisol also competes with our gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which is what regulates all of our reproductive hormones and especially for women in particular also it has enormous implications on our progesterone production. So for many women with irregular menstrual cycles, a lot of it can be related to the amount of cortisol produced because that cortisol will compete with that progesterone for binding.
NourishDoc: So cortisol is the primary hormone that affects the thyroid from that point of view, correct? Okay, now there are hunger hormones, too; how do we handle those, along with what other things are going on?
Important nutrients & role of gut health
Dietician Lauren: I think that’s where the gut plays a role in all of this because if we have good gut health, then that’s going to help support that it needs that there are not any pathogens in there and that we’re getting rid of those if those are present because very many people are struggling with some gut disturbance.
So it’s not unusual for someone to have something going on. So the gut plays a critical role in that. Vitamin D is getting enough vitamin D through sun exposure in our diet; it’s very uncommon for someone to be able to eat enough vitamin D or to be able to get enough vitamin D from just the sun alone. So for most people, that requires some supplementation to ensure that they have enough vitamin D, which is essential for serotonin level production.
NourishDoc: Yeah, but vitamin D most of the time, we can’t get a lot from the food, so we have to take supplementation.
Dietician Lauren: Very few food sources contain vitamin D, and you must eat quite a bit to keep your levels high. So I would say it’s pretty unusual for someone to keep their levels high with food alone.
NourishDoc: So you recommend supplementing vitamin C for most women or men, right?
Dietician Lauren: Yeah, it’s essential for hormone production.
NourishDoc: Okay, so hunger hormones, we talked about that a little bit, and those are related to the gut, obviously the gut hormones and then the gut and the brain; how do we revive our brains because that’s what you said at the beginning that everything starts in the brain, the stress from the cortisol so how do we revive our brain to make sure that we don’t come into this thyroid and other imbalance?
Dietician Lauren: Yeah, that’s the most challenging part, and I think that’s where a lot of the intuitive component of teaching people how to understand their body comes into this, and I think that it’s essential to know that our body doesn’t differentiate between stressors.
So our body doesn’t know if there’s a stressor coming from something happening within our personal life or if it’s a stressor because we’re not sleeping enough if it’s a stressor. After all, if we’re not eating enough, or we’re over-exercising, our body knows that it’s under too much stress and that it’s going to start sending those signals to the thyroid and to our ovaries or our testes to slow down its production of hormones and so managing those stressors and knowing that if I’m going through a stressful season, I need to pull out a stressor from that cup I need to focus on really ensuring that my diet is ample and calories that I need to support my energy levels to provide my body with enough vitamins and minerals. So that’s where the intuitive component of knowing your body and what you’re dealing with is helpful.
Foods to eat & foods to avoid
NourishDoc: So what foods should we focus on to make sure our brain stays less stressed, of course, mindfulness? We all know that meditation helps, but most of us have a problem meditating by sitting still for like ten minutes or five minutes, and this something meditation is a bit hard. But how can nutrition? What kind of different foods do you think we should focus on?
Dietician Lauren: Yeah, that’s a great question. So our cortisol is, and the health of our mitochondria is essential. So I always like to target enough antioxidants in the diet because we know that antioxidants can significantly lower our cortisol levels and can improve the health of our mitochondria which is where a lot of our hormone production happens, so think of things like your citrus fruits and vegetables your strawberries your dark leafy greens your bell peppers these really rich foods and antioxidants and vitamin C those in large enough quantities can have profound impacts on our cortisol production. Hence, load up on antioxidants, yes, and then the second one is amino acids. So many people they’re not entirely eating enough protein, and protein is where we get these amino acids. Those amino acids are essential for being able to help lower our cortisol production. But those amino acids, especially when they’re paired with a little bit of some complex carbohydrate, think of your sweet potatoes, your black beans, your lentils of any sort, those are going to help in the evening time with pushing that tryptophan to melatonin, and that’s going to help with getting sleep and then producing the proper levels of cortisol. So pairing those amino acids with those complex carbohydrates can be very valuable.
Best times to eat
NourishDoc: So many people talk about night drinking some milk. I mean, not necessarily cow milk but like oat milk or something that helps the melatonin and then helps to sleep and helps to kind of calm down. I mean, what are your thoughts on that like is there some specific types of foods that we should eat at night so that we are de-stressed at night and get a better night’s sleep?
Dietician Lauren: Sure. The most important part is looking at when you are going to bed and subtracting three hours. So if you’re going to start your bedtime routine, I usually start mine at 8:45–9:00 pm, so I’m going to try to have my last large meal by 6:45 or 7:00 pm so that whatever you eat has enough time to digest and because just having food in your stomach that can heat your core body temperature especially if there is much protein in it. It can cause just that feeling of bulk in your stomach, making it hard to sleep.
So I think that the first component is looking at the timeline. The second thing would be making sure that the last meal that you do have does have those complex carbohydrates paired with those amino acids, so for many people, I see that especially are trying to lose weight or maybe they read articles online whatever it might be many people they restrict carbohydrate intake in the evening time for fear that it might cause weight gain or whatever issues there might be.
I usually try to get people to do the opposite where it’s not much carbohydrate. However, you’re getting in some of those delicious fiber-rich carbohydrates, those beans, the legumes, the sweet potatoes you’re having a small portion of that paired with a three to a four-ounce portion of fish or whatever your protein source is, and that way; you’re pairing that carbohydrate with the amino acids so that you can help support those cortisol levels.
Complex carbs, amino acids & exercise
NourishDoc: But you’re right. I mean, most of us are cutting down on our carbs, and that’s what the internet says; we go on google, and we check it and say, oh, cut down on your carbs, you will lose weight. But that’s not the right thing to do right then; that’s what you’re saying that you have to include the complex carbohydrates with amino acids.
Dietician Lauren: Yeah. Yes, I think they’re essential, and the dose is the most important, so I’m not saying that your whole plate should be full of these complex carbohydrates. However, a palm-sized portion of some sweet potatoes or some beans that’s perfect to be able to give you a little bit of those complex carbohydrates there, and I think that the best time to have those carbohydrates is either at that dinner meal or after any form of exercise because exercise is going to help you improve that insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a critical component of your hormone health.
NourishDoc: So after exercise like an evening walk or evening exercise and then after that you have a complex carbohydrate just a teeny, teeny bit and then pair it with some other like proteins like a few fats as well also?
Dietician Lauren: Yeah, always a little bit of fat at each meal. If you’re doing something like salmon, salmon naturally contains some perfect omega-3 fats in there, so you’re doing salmon, you probably don’t need to add in any other than maybe some oil that you’re cooking it with, but if it’s something like some black beans, black beans don’t have any fat. So I would recommend adding in some avocado, nuts, or seeds to get those healthy fats.
NourishDoc: Got it. Okay, well, I think that’s great to summarize Lauren’s talking about managing your cortisol levels, the stress hormone the most because stress hormone is the one that’s the culprit of all our other imbalance that happens in our thyroid and then how do we do that then you’re suggesting to add complex carbohydrates after the exercise and pair it up with the amino acids to balance it up and then some fat like avocado or maybe salmon or these kinds of foods and what else would you like to add? I’m just trying to summarize because I see people joining right now.
Dietician Lauren: Yeah, I think as we spoke, the antioxidants are essential there as well, so ensure that you’re getting enough antioxidants to be able to support those cortisol levels and but hormone health, in general, we really need to eat and these balanced meals that have enough fats in them to be able to support that healthy blood sugar and not be grazing all day long, and so I see that a lot too where people are kind of just like picking at things all day long they’re not sitting down forming a balanced meal that’s supporting this blood sugar and then allowing their body time to go through their full digestive cycle finish that out before they eat their meal and so I think trying to get back into more of a regular eating pattern of how we should eat of eating three times per day and having the fats the protein those fibers there and then allowing our body time to do what it needs to do before we consume food again.
Meals vs snacks
NourishDoc: No, I think that makes sense. I think all of us nibbled all day like snacks or energy bars. I mean, that’s also what many people do right to pick up an energy bar and get the energy out. Then you’ve had that energy bar which is not natural. Then you don’t eat a proper meal at night, and then that’s not the right way; the right way is to eat your proper meals, and in between, is snacking aloud like a little bit of fruit or not?
Dietician Lauren: I try to get people to focus more on meals than snacks, so sometimes you need both because sometimes people have a high energy expenditure. So we do need some snacks built in there. But I like even if it’s a snack, I want it to look very similar to a meal; if you’re doing an apple, pair it with some hard-boiled eggs or pair it with some salmon and some nuts or seeds, and that way you’re getting in more of a balanced meal rather than it just being a little sugar source that’s happening throughout the course of the day.
NourishDoc: Yeah, I think that makes sense. Thank you so much, Lauren, for being with us, I think it’s a very informational session, and I hope our viewers know this is the time when it’s evening. However, most of the viewers join morning viewers in the morning, but when they watch, if you have any questions, let us know. We’ll be back with Lauren with some other topics in the future. Anything else you’d like to add, Lauren, before we wrap up?
Dietician Lauren: I think that’s all. Suppose you have any questions, though, please feel free. In that case, you can follow me on Instagram, ask any questions, or comment on this IG live, and I’m happy to answer anything.
NourishDoc: Okay, thank you so much; bye-bye.