Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism Weight Gain? A Solution from Nature Tested by Science

Do you have hypothyroidism and have not been able to lose weight even though you are medicated?  The all too common symptom of weight gain and the difficulty of losing weight with hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may have just been solved by scientists researching natural solutions.

Not Losing Weight on Thyroid Medication

When I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism I was as excited as a 4 year old waiting for Santa’s arrival on Christmas morning in anticipation of the gift of weight loss I thought starting on thyroid hormone replacement (called levothyroxine, thyroxine or T4 replacement) would bring.

What I discovered was the standard medical treatment for hypothyroidism was a lump of coal / bundle of sticks when it came to weight loss. This lack of weight loss from thyroid medication is a very well known truism in the long term hypothyroid community and has scientific research to support it as well (Lee, Braverman & Pearce, 2014).  So not losing weight on thyroid medication is not just in our heads!

New Research on Weight Loss for Hashimoto’s hypothyroid

Constantly I hunt the research scouring publications for clues that someone somewhere is studying a solution to weight loss for those of us who are medicated with hypothyroidism.  So when the researchers first published their promising results using a seed from a plant on people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroid who were medicated I threw tinsel in the air and ran around my neighbourhood wishing everyone a Merry Christmas - Santa’s arrived and he is bearing gifts!  

The study was on the impact of a seed from a plant called Nigella sativa also known as black seed, black cumin or Nigella.  Nigella sativa has long been used as a traditional medicine for a wide range of diseases including obesity and investigations into its constituents detected the presence of thyimoquinone which has been linked to improved thyroid status in animals.

Dose:

Treatment with Nigella sativa was at a dosage of 1 gram/ twice a day for 8 weeks (Farhangi, et al., 2016). 

Results:

Less Weight

The study found the 40 Hashimoto’s hypothyroid participants lost weight and reduced their body mass index (BMI).  

Better Thyroid Labs

For those of you who track your lab results the study also found a lowered thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level, increased active thyroid hormone (T3) and reduced thyroid autoantibodies - a stunning result (Farhangi, et al., 2016). 

Deep Dive Into The Research

So if you’re like me and want to delve a little deeper here are some key snippets of the research:

The Study:

-      40 Hashimoto’s thyroiditis patients

-      Aged between 22 and 50 years old

-      Placebo Controlled & randomised into two groups for 8 weeks of treatment one receiving 1g of powdered Nigella sativa in a capsule twice/day and the other a placebo capsule of starch twice/day.

-      Measurement was of changes in body weight, BMI, waist circumference, dietary intakes, thyroid status.

-      Also measured was Nesfatin-1 concentrations (a neuropeptide that influences hunger and fat storage) as several studies have proposed its possible role in thyroid dysfunction and serum vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) linked to pathological changes in the thyroid gland itself (Farhangi, et al., 2016).

Results:

After 8 weeks:

•          TSH and anti-thyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) antibodies decreased in the Nigella sativa group.

•          T3 concentrations increased in the Nigella sativa group with a with a significance of P < 0.05

•          T4 concentrations increased in the Nigella sativa group but not significantly

•          Treatment with Nigella sativa significantly reduced body weight, waist circumference and BMI with a significance of P < 0.05

•          There was a significant reduction in serum VEGF concentrations in the Nigella sativa group.

•          There was no significant change in the Nesfatin-1 concentrations

•          None of these changes had been observed in placebo treated group

•          There was no change to the food eaten by either group over the 8 weeks studied specifically no change to calories consumed nor carbohydrate, protein, fat ratios.

Side effects:

During the trial, three patients in Nigella sativa-treated group experienced itching and nausea which are possible side effects of taking this herbal remedy. 

The researchers said:

“Our data showed a potent beneficial effect of powdered Nigella sativa in improving thyroid status … in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. … Considering observed health- promoting effect of this medicinal plant in ameliorating the disease severity, it can be regarded as a useful therapeutic approach in management of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.” (Farhangi, et al., 2016).

The Bottom Line

The “Against Nigella” Argument

-      1 study is not a strong piece of evidence and let’s face it 40 people is not a big group for a result.  If the study had been in the thousands or if it had been repeated a few more times I’d be more confident recommending it for weight loss and raising T3 levels.

-      The potential cost of a taking a supplement of 1 gram twice a day for 8 weeks of Nigella and not noticing any weight loss.

The “Pro Nigella” Argument

- What’s your scientifically researched alternative for weight loss with Hashimoto’s when medicated for hypothyroidism? Nada! I know this is not a resounding successful “pro” argument in all fairness.

- However from personal experience in my study of N=1 it is gosh darn-hard to lose weight with Hashimoto’s when you are on T4 medication. Personally I would have been super happy to fork out $ for 8 weeks of a supplement that might just might work with the downside, the worst case scenario being the lost $ and/or some tummy cramps.

Still Want More Info?

Other Studies on Nigella

The only other studies on Nigella sativa in hypothyroidism has been on rats with mixed results: 

- 30 days of Nigella oil saw an increase in both T3 and T4 levels significantly (P ≤ 0.005) and TSH level decreased significantly (P < 0.005) as compared with control groups (Jasim, et al., 2016)

- 14 days of Nigella in an ethanolic extract saw a significant increase in T4 results but not T3 results (Sharif, et al., 2012)

In health,

Sonia x 

References:

Farhangi, M. A., Dehghan, P., Tajmiri, S., & Abbasi, M. M. (2016). The effects of Nigella sativa on thyroid function, serum Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)–1, Nesfatin-1 and anthropometric features in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 16(1), 471.DOI: 10.1186/s12906-016-1432-2

Jasim, W. K., Hassan, M. S., & Keam, G. G. (2016). Study the effect of Nigella sativa on thyroid function and reproductive hormone of female rat. Journal of Contemporary Medical Sciences, 2(6), 67-69. 

Lee, S., Braverman, L., & Pearce, E. (2014). Changes in body weight after treatment of primary hypothyroidism with levothyroxine. Endocrine Practice, 20(11), 1122-1128.

Sharif, S. H., Elmahdi, B. M., Mohammed, A. M. A., & Mohammed, A. H. (2012). The effects of Nigella sativa L. ethanolic extract on thyroid function in normal and alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Thyroid Research and Practice, 9(2), 48.

Naomi Chambers
Fighting Fatigue & Boosting Energy Naturally

Feeling tired is a wide-spread problem for about 20% of our population who possess so little energy their exhaustion interferes with their ability to enjoy a normal life (9).

The simplest, natural treatment for fatigue is rest and sleep. Sadly this solution is often not effective when the lack of energy is caused by an underlying health problem, medication, or chronic long term stressor (9). 

Thankfully there are a wide range of solutions that are effective, affordable and easy to implement.

fighting-fatigue-sonia-mcnaughton.png

Sunshine and Temperature

Light has an acute, immediate and alerting effect on mood and performance so spending your lunch-break soaking up sunshine* is an easy energy boost for your afternoon (3).

Bear in mind though 75% of us report worsened fatigue when our core body temperature heats up. So to prevent the 3pm slump sip on cool drinks and open a window / turn on the air conditioning when you are back at work and need to concentrate (6). 

Boosting Nutrient Intake

Eating too many processed foods may lead to fatigue and poor concentration. Young to middle-aged adults especially women with demanding lifestyles, who are physically active yet whose food choices are based on convenience and/or regular attempts to lose weight have been found to be at greater risk of nutrient deficiency and fatigue (5).

As we age our need for nutrient dense foods increases so eating the same foods you enjoyed in your 20‘s may no longer work in your 50‘s (5).

From a naturopathic perspective the best way to consume a diet rich in energy-giving nutrients is to eat foods in their most natural state.  Specific supplements should then chosen to fill individual gaps to meet your own personal health goals, balance underlying conditions and/or counteract deficiencies caused by medications.

Using Supplements to Boost Energy

Multi-vitamin mineral supplement

Often I get asked if a general multi-vitamin mineral supplement is worthwhile and if you are taking it to boost energy and prevent fatigue there is evidence of benefit. 

A placebo-controlled, double blind, randomised trial on 216 healthy women aged 25–50 taking a daily multi-vitamin mineral found fatigue was reduced with multi-tasking and mathematical tasks completed faster and more accurately after 90 days of supplementation (4).

B12 and Iron

B12 and iron are well known nutrients to relieve the fatigue caused from anaemia (1).

B12 deficiency is most commonly caused as we age by the reduced ability of the stomach to digest animal protein (1), the conscious choice to restrict/eliminate animal foods in vegetarians/vegans and is found in over 10% of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (the most common form of low thyroid function) patients (2).

Iron deficiency anaemia is common in menstruating women with inadequate dietary intake of iron rich foods, people with compromised absorption of nutrients in the small intestine as in coeliacs disease or in cases of intestinal bleeding (1). 

Excess iron intake is dangerous so before supplementing iron always check with your GP or naturopath.

Choosing a Supplement

Potentially there are many other nutrients helpful in boosting energy including magnesium, B group vitamins (5) and Coenzyme Q10 (7). 

The choice of what to eat or what to supplement must be based on your own personal needs and individual circumstances.

If always prefer my clients to get their nutrients from food rather than a manufactured supplement so before I prescribe a solution I run through this quick process to work out which option will match the client’s health goals and lifestyle the best:

•          Analyse nutrient content of all foods and drinks consumed over a few days

•          Test specific nutrients levels for example iron and B12

•          Compare the optimal level of the nutrient required to meet the health goals against the potential amount available via food sources in the diet

•          Choose a supplements to fill gaps not able to be met through food.

Exercise

A day when you don’t move makes you feel more tired yet for some this sounds counter-intuitive.  Shouldn’t we feel rested and therefore more energetic if we don’t exercise?  Researchers found physical activity reduced the chance of feeling fatigued regardless of the amount of nighttime sleep in adults aged 20 to 59 years (10).

Fatigue when overweight

Researchers found in overweight people fatigue is more likely to be caused by diet and exercise as well as emotional and psychological stress than sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea (11) .

So if you are overweight and fatigued seek out support to create an achievable plan for reducing emotional and psychological stress as well as strategies for enjoyable movement and healthy eating to boost your energy and fight fatigue.

Herbal Remedies

There are herbs that have been studied for their anti-fatigue results with promising early evidence-supporting the use of: Rhodiola rosea, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Schizandra chinensis, for increased endurance and mental performance in patients with mild fatigue and weakness (9).

A favourite of mine is Rhodiola rosea especially for stress-related fatigue as in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with parallel groups in both males and females aged between 20 and 55 years over 28-day period found Rhodiola had an anti-fatigue effect with increased mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome (8).

If These Do Not Work Then What? 

Fatigue is a common symptom of many health conditions and it is often one of the first symptoms to show up as the body tries to talk to you about how it is feeling. For this reason when fatigue is not related to poor sleep, changes in exercise, food intake, a stressful situation, or a medication I always want to investigate further!

What’s your favourite energy boosting, fatigue busting solution?

In health,

Sonia x

*    Normal and safe precautions for sunshine exposure should always be taken. For more information check-out https://www.skincancer.org

References:

1. Balducci, L. (2010). Anemia, fatigue and aging. Transfusion Clinique et Biologique, 17(5), 375-381.

2. Boelaert, K., Newby, P. R., Simmonds, M. J., Holder, R. L., Carr-Smith, J. D., Heward, J. M., … & Franklyn, J. A. (2010). Prevalence and relative risk of other autoimmune diseases in subjects with autoimmune thyroid disease. The American Journal of Medicine, 123(2), 183-e1.

3. Cajochen, C. (2007). Alerting effects of light. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 11(6), 453-464.

4. Haskell, C. F., Robertson, B., Jones, E., Forster, J., Jones, R., Wilde, A., … & Kennedy, D. O. (2010). Effects of a multi‐vitamin/mineral supplement on cognitive function and fatigue during extended multi‐tasking. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 25(6), 448-461.

5. Huskisson, E., Maggini, S., & Ruf, M. (2007). The role of vitamins and minerals in energy metabolism and well-being. Journal of International Medical Research, 35(3), 277-289.

6. Meeusen, R., Watson, P., Hasegawa, H., Roelands, B., & Piacentini, M. F. (2006). Central fatigue. Sports Medicine, 36(10), 881-909.

7. Mizuno, K., Tanaka, M., Nozaki, S., Mizuma, H., Ataka, S., Tahara, T., … & Watanabe, Y. (2008). Antifatigue effects of coenzyme Q10 during physical fatigue. Nutrition, 24(4), 293-299.

8. Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B., & Panossian, A. G. (2009). A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta medica, 75(2), 105.

9. Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2009). Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Current Clinical Pharmacology, 4(3), 198-219.

10. Resnick, H. E., Carter, E. A., Aloia, M., & Phillips, B. (2006). Cross-sectional relationship of reported fatigue to obesity, diet, and physical activity: results from the third national health and nutrition examination survey. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: JCSM: Official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2(2), 163-169.

11. Vgontzas, A.N. Bixler, E.O. & Chrousos, G.P. (2006). Obesity-related sleepiness and fatigue: the role of the stress system and cytokines. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1083, 329-344.

Naomi Chambers
International Women’s Day #IWD

International Women’s Day is one of the most important days in the calendar for women. Since the 1900s it has both celebrated women’s achievements and sought to stimulate discussion on progress in women’s issues.

It’s easy as a woman in 2019 to reap the fruits of the labour of our sisters whose blood, sweat and tears have provided me the life of privilege I now enjoy.  The women who starved themselves on hunger strikes and were violently force fed for me to gain the right to vote.  Women who flung off their bras as they wished to fling off the restrictions on them in the workforce so I could be considered equally as any man for any job.  

It’s easy to think there is nothing we can do to move the cause of women forward today and feel justified in doing nothing. Yet small changes in our attitude and the way we talk to and about each other can change the world for women!

In my job, I see first hand the destructive aftermath on my female clients of comments on womens’ appearance in social media, jokes and japes at home, and overheard whispers at work.

This International Women’s Day, let’s hold back judgement and criticism on and with our friends, our family and our co-workers to end the evaluation of women based on their appearance.  Whether you know the person or not let’s just not.

This one small change could grow into a movement that changes our world!

Whatever you choose to do today, whether you wear purple to symbolise justice and dignity or not, why don’t we all commit to freeing women from the stifling chains of judgement of our worth based on our appearance.

In health,

Sonia x

Naomi Chambers
A crunchy, healthy snack that’s good for you

My latest food obsession is baked cauliflower…I am absolutely obsessed with this easy-to-make, delicious-to-eat, healthy snack at the moment. It’s Paleo, it’s 5:2, it’s low GI, it’s just downright spectacular!

Cinnamon Baked Cauliflower

Not only is it the perfect Paleo snack, for 5:2 lovers it is a super low calorie way of filling yourself up on fast days.

I find myself making this recipe most days with a few minor variations to coincide with my mood and I leave it on the kitchen bench so when I pop into the kitchen looking for a food based distraction I have a health, low calorie snack to nosh on.

Ingredients:

•          1/2 cauliflower head broken into flowerettes.  Don’t discard the thick stalks they are so creamy and nutty when baked. Chop the stalks into bite sized pieces

•          Pinch or two of good quality salt

•          1-2 tsp cinnamon powder – no sugar added.  Although curiosity got the better of me 1 day and I added a drizzle of maple syrup OMG it was like there was heaven in my mouth…for me though sugar/syrup sets up the tyranny of food cravings 2-4 hours later and honestly it just isn’t worth the mental torture.

•          – If cinnamon doesn’t float your boat and you prefer more savoury flavours to your snacks try a tsp of cumin and tsp sesame seeds –

•          1 tbspn coconut oil (or if you are a bit over the ubiquitous coconut you are cooking at a lowish heat so 1 tbspn extra virgin olive oil)

 If you are concerned about your response to sugar/uncontrollable food cravings cinnamon is a great additive to your diet.  Research supports its use for as a mild blood sugar balancer.

Directions:

•          Grab your fave baking dish and line with baking paper which means you don’t have any washing up to do at the end  – I couldn’t love this recipe more if it bought me jewellery

•          Add all ingredients together to baking dish

•          Shake dish to mix all ingredients together

•          Pop in low oven (150C) for 30 mins.

•          When you see it starting to brown and go crispy on edges most probably it is finished

•          Push sharp object through a thick end of a stalk and if it penetrates easily if is cooked.  If it is a little underdone for you cover the dish and leave on your bench top as the steam will finish cooking.

I leave it uncovered on the bench all day as the flowerettes retain their crispy, crunchy texture better.  If you pop it in a container to take to work it will end up a little soft, still delicious, just soft.

For my gorgeous thyroid followers, yes cauliflower is a member of the family of vegetables that has goitrogenic properties so in theory can limit the production of thyroid hormones.  I have scoured all the available research on goitrogens for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and whilst admittedly evidence in human trials is limited studies have concluded no detected impact on thyroid function. Still on the fence?  Use your own body and energy as a guide.  Personally cooked cauliflower a few times a week has no impact on my energy levels which I self-monitor carefully nor on my thyroid lab results which I get done regularly.  However I do have a beautiful Hashi’s friend who feels she is sensitive to broccoli and cauliflower when cooked so she sensibly avoids it.

I’d love to hear from you about your delicious, healthy, easy-to-cook snacks.

In health,

Sonia x

Naomi Chambers