Elle Russ, author of The Paleo Thyroid Solution, is a leading voice of thyroid health in the burgeoning Evolutionary Health Movement. Her new book is an espresso serve of truths about thyroid health and treatment—revealing antiquated clinical metrics for testing thyroid function and debunking myths about common treatments. The genius of her thesis lies in the simplicity and tone with which Elle digests this prevalent topic. Often overlooked or misdiagnosed, our symptoms of fatigue both physical and mental are exasperated by a compromised thyroid—influenced by stress, pollution, diet and other factors. If you have tried everything else, and received a healthy thyroid diagnosis—you need to read this book, and buy a copy for your doctor.
We asked Elle to explore some of the more controversial topics from The Paleo Thyroid Solution—stuff even the specialists need schooling on.
Your Guide to the Master Gland by Elle Russ
As human beings we have the innate genetic programming to run, sprint and move our bodies in a multitude of ways—yet when our training regimens negatively exceed what our genes expect from us, the results can be detrimental to overall cellular inefficiency and fat burning metabolism…the job our thyroid glands are ultimately responsible for. The thyroid is the master gland of the human body, responsible for every metabolic function ranging from the production and regulation of sex hormones, body temperature, fat-burning, muscle recovery, brain function, blood pressure and heart rate. The thyroid gland will react in accordance to the messages it receives from our lifestyle, our diet, and thoughts. Over training and/or insufficient recovery in athletes can lead to thyroid issues that can throw a wrench into planning for an extreme sport or endurance competition, and ultimately throw a wrench into your longevity.
Our DNA preference for fat-burning conflicts with the government food pyramid, which suggests that carbohydrates should form the foundation of a healthy diet. The government food pyramid recommends eating six to eleven servings of grains per day and two to four servings of fruit, along with limiting fat intake and other irrational suggestions that lead to health issues. Our modern high-carbohydrate, grain-based diet has sparked a dependency on external carbohydrates for energy at the expense of efficient fat metabolism. We are the only living things on the face of the Earth who have “food issues.” Animals in the wild don’t require food every two to three hours to maintain energy and stamina. Humans have burned fat as their primary source of energy throughout human evolution. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were not only lean and fit, but they did not have diseases of modern life, such as type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, and autoimmune disorders, until the abrupt transition to a grain-based diet. The agricultural movement, and the decline of human health, entered the picture ten thousand years ago, once humans settled down in one area, stopped wandering, and started to domesticate animals. Dairy came on the scene about seven thousand years ago, and sugar showed up only two hundred years ago.
A high-carbohydrate, high-insulin-producing diet inhibits fat metabolism, making you dependent upon regular carbohydrate feedings in order to sustain mental and physical energy. This promotes a lifelong accumulation of excess body fat, an exhaustion of your adrenal glands’ fight-or-flight stress responses, along with emotional tribulations related to eating. Living life as a sugar-burner is a never-ending struggle to balance calories in with calories out. A grain-infused, high-carbohydrate diet also promotes inflammation and free radical damage in the body, accelerating the aging process and contributing to all health problems, including heart disease and cancer.
Did you know that humans can live their entire lives without ever eating a single carbohydrate, but we could not survive without protein and fat?
Not only will our bodies produce glucose on their own, but excess protein goes through a process called gluconeogenesis, which converts excess protein into glucose. So in times of overeating animal flesh in the wild, human bodies would turn that excess protein into carbohydrates. A sugar-burning existence will put you at risk for developing food addictions, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and adrenal gland issues, all of which negatively affect thyroid hormone metabolism.
Athletes who follow a glucose-dependent fueling model will have a higher risk of facing adrenal and thyroid issues, because fluctuations in blood glucose levels go hand-in-hand with overstimulation of the adrenals glands as cortisol will be continually tapped in order to deal with the high and lows of blood sugar. The thyroid will join in….higher cortisol levels and constant blood glucose fluctuations will send a message to the thyroid to hold back a bit in order to ensure your survival against what the thyroid and adrenals see as physical assaults. On the other hand, athletes who make the switch from glucose dependency to our bodies preferred form of fuel (fat), have the best odds at maintaining healthy adrenal function, blood glucose management, and healthy thyroid hormone metabolism. Becoming fat adapted ensures that blood glucose management leads to insulin sensitivity and furthermore won’t elicit responses from your adrenal glands in outputting cortisol when blood sugar drops up and down throughout the day (as it would in the instance of being a glucose dependent sugar-burner). For endurance athletes interested in shifting their training paradigm to one aligned with ancestral principles should read Primal Endurance, where bestselling author Mark Sisson details how a fat-adapted, primal eating and training regimen can improve speed and performance while avoiding the health-damaging pitfalls of training in a glucose-dependent state.
In order to reap the benefits of a paleo/primal lifestyle, it is necessary to transition your body from a glucose-dependent sugar-burner to a fat-adapted fat-burner. The only negative in this transition is that it takes about three to four weeks of mental willpower to succeed. You don’t have to lift a finger in terms of exercise in order to make this transition, but it does require a level of willpower as your body becomes un-addicted to glucose to fuel itself. During this period of transition, your brain will trick you into thinking you are hungry, and mental/ physical energy lapses can occur. In actuality, your brain is an addict that is going through glucose/carbohydrate withdrawal and is trying to trick you into consuming its drug of choice—sugar.
Becoming fat adapted is the process of breaking an addiction cycle. One month of mental willpower for a lifetime of freedom was worth it to me. Becoming fat adapted not only changed my body, brain, and spirit, it enabled me to reduce my thyroid medication. Adopting a paleo lifestyle inherently addresses underlying causes of adrenal fatigue and blood sugar issues which helps your endocrine system function more efficiently, including thyroid hormone metabolism.
Keys to Paleo Fat Adaptation
➤ Consume quality paleo/primal foods and manage carbohydrates (under 150 grams of total carbohydrates per day unless you are a professional athlete. For women or smaller people like me, under 100 grams of total carbohydrates per day or lower unless you are an athlete).
➤ Low-intensity exercise/training combined with a weekly sprint session or high intensity training session.
➤ Lifestyle: getting adequate sleep, sunlight, fresh air, and stress reduction/management.
➤ General paleo/primal ratio: high fat/moderate protein/low carbohydrate.
There is really only one thyroid hormone that we know for a fact is critical to life, and that hormone is called T3 (triiodothyronine). T3 is the very powerful biologically active thyroid hormone and having adequate levels of T3 (Blood test is Free T3) contributes to lean muscle mass and calorie burning. T3 is what keeps body temperature at an average of 98.6°F in healthy humans. Too much natural T3 production or intake can cause hyperthyroidism which often encompasses overstimulation symptoms like elevated body temperatures, higher heart rate, inability to gain weight. Thyroid status is a goldilocks situation – not too hot, not too cold…just right. T3 is so powerful that our bodies have an extremely smart mechanism in place that protects us from the energy effects of T3 by dishing it out to our bloodstream incrementally via the biologically inactive thyroid hormone T4. The thyroid gland releases some T3 directly into the bloodstream, but 80% of what the thyroid releases is T4. The job of the T4, either released from your thyroid gland or ingested as thyroid hormone replacement, is to convert into energy-giving T3. We cannot live without T3, and prolonged inadequate levels of T3 will negatively affect every system in our body and have a domino effect of disease states begetting more disease states.
T3 is our master fat-burning hormone… it IS ENERGY. However, in times of perceived stress (over-exercising, under-eating, chronic infection/inflammation, blood sugar highs and lows, adrenal issues) the body will hold back on either dispensing T3 and/or will not convert the T4 into T3 (It will instead convert the T4 into an inactive form of T3 called Reverse T3) in order to save you and prevent you from becoming hyper metabolic when your body needs to focus on healing other perceived and/or real assaults.
In my book The Paleo Thyroid Solution, I dispel outdated, misguided thyroid wisdom still practiced by uninformed doctors and endocrinologists, while also providing the in-depth guidance necessary to solve thyroid issues, achieve vibrant health, and optimize thyroid fat-burning hormone metabolism. Over 200 million people worldwide and over 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, but 60% are undiagnosed and unaware of their condition. Undiagnosed or mistreated hypothyroidism can put people at risk for serious conditions, such as: depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, gynecological issues (infertility/miscarriages/fibroids/PCOS etc.), hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue, anemia, and other diseases. The Paleo Thyroid Solution provides the only lifestyle and weight loss plan specifically targeted for maximizing thyroid hormone metabolism in harmony with paleo/primal/ancestral health principles.
Ways to naturally optimize thyroid function
➤ Adopt and paleo/primal lifestyle.
➤ Get to the bottom of any gut issues, and work on repairing/improving gut health.
➤ Get 200 to 400 mcgs of selenium daily.
➤ Maintain healthy Vitamin D3, Ferritin, and B-12 levels.
➤ If you suspect impaired or low thyroid function, the below blood tests are a great start to assessing thyroid issues.
Basic Thyroid Panel
TPO ab (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody test)
Tgab (Thyroglobulin Antibody test)
Related Thyroid Tests
Vitamin D 25-hydroxy
To find out more about Elle Russ visit her website: www.elleruss.com