What’s up with Bee Pollen?

Hey there,
I’ve never taken bee pollen as a supplement however a number of patients have mentioned it over the years so I wanted to see what was up with Bee Pollen?

What is Bee Pollen?

Bee pollen is considered a highly nutritious food because it contains a balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, enzymes, and essential amino acids.
Pollen comes from various plants, including buckwheat, maize, pine (songhaufen), rape, and typha (puhuang)
It’s not the same things as  bee venom, honey, and royal jelly.
Bee pollen contains more amino acids and vitamins than many other amino acid-containing products like beef, eggs, or cheese.

Bee Pollen Uses

Orally, bee pollen is used for general nutrition, as an appetite stimulant, to improve stamina and athletic performance, for premature aging, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), hay fever or allergic rhinitis, mouth sores, rheumatism, painful urination, prostate conditions, and radiation sickness. It is also used orally for weight loss and obesity, bleeding problems including coughing or vomiting blood, bloody diarrhea, nosebleed, cerebral hemorrhage, and menstrual problems. Bee pollen is also used for gastrointestinal (GI) problems including constipation, diarrhea, enteritis, colitis, as a general tonic, diuretic, and for alcohol intoxication.

Topically, bee pollen is used for skin care in skin softening products, and for treating eczema, pustular eruptions, and diaper rash.

 

Safety of Bee Pollen

Bee pollen has been safely used in clinical trials lasting up to 30 days. So that means if you’re using it longer than a month – consult your health care provider and consider cycling on and off of it. Alternating with other products.
There is some concern that bee pollen might have uterine stimulant effects so you may want to avoid it during your period as it might cause a heavier flow. And you probably want to stay away from it if you’re pregnant.
Preliminary evidence suggests that a specific combination product seems to decrease some symptoms of PMS including irritability, weight increases, and edema when given over a period of 2 menstrual cycles.

Dosing of Bee Pollen

An initial theoretical dose is 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon, once per day. The dosage may be gradually increased to 1-2 teaspoons one to three times per day (anecdotal). A spoonful at breakfast, preferably taken with a piece of fruit: the fruit fibers (raw hemicellulose) reinforce the activity of the fresh pollen.

Adverse effects

Hypersensitivity to pollens included in commercial preparations has been observed. Symptoms include allergic reactions such as gastrointestinal upset, rash, erythema, asthma, hay fever, nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. So start small especially if you have allergies or are sensitive to other products.

Pollen Allergies?

Bee pollen supplements can cause serious allergic reactions in patients who are allergic to pollen. Allergic reactions can include itching, swelling, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and anaphylaxis.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about it, you probably want to chat with your health care provider to double check it’s for you. And then start small.
And if you’re struggling with any of these health conditions we mentioned above, book a free meet the doctor visit with one of us to see how we can help.
Talk soon,
Dr. Whitney
Source – Natural Medicines Database

How To Exercise For Your Thyroid

how to exercise thyroid

Is your current exercise routine sabotaging your thyroid health?

If you have a thyroid condition, you may be experiencing one or more of the following when it comes to exercise:

  • You’re exhausted and can’t imagine attempting exercise or even making it to the gym
  • You’re making exercise a regular habit but you find that it takes you forever to recover and you experience lots of muscle or joint pain afterward
  • You’re working out like crazy and are beyond frustrated that your best efforts at the gym aren’t getting you any closer to your goals

If any of the above sounds familiar, read on!

Hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Disease can make exercise a challenge. Why? A low thyroid also means a low metabolism. Even if you’re taking medication and your thyroid labs are “normal” your metabolism could still be suffering.

First and foremost is to make sure your thyroid labs (especially your free T3) are optimal so you have the stamina and energy to make it through your day AND get some exercise in. With optimal labs you will also recover faster from exercise and experience less muscle and joint pain.

Secondly, (and this is the important part!) the type and length of exercise can make a big difference for hypothyroid folks.

Did you know that high intensity or extended periods of exercise can actually lower your Free T3 (your most active thyroid hormone) and increases your Reverse T3?

This combination is like a big brake pedal for your thyroid gland telling it so slooow down. For people with low thyroid function, this is the opposite of what we want!

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help decide if your current exercise plan is right for you:

  1. How do you feel during exercise?
    If at any time you feel dizzy, lightheaded or fatigued during exercise it may be too strenuous.
  2. How do you feel after?
    After exercise, you should feel energized and upbeat due to the positive endorphins that are released with physical activity. If you’re feeling sore, exhausted, or like you need a nap, you may need to dial back the intensity of your workouts.
  3. Could you do the same exercise again?
    If the answer is yes, you’re exercising at the sweet spot of intensity (not too low and not too high)
  4. Do you enjoy it?
    Please, pick something you actually enjoy! Exercise doesn’t have to mean slugging it out at the gym day after day. Walking, hiking, yoga, biking, karate, swimming or mowing the lawn are all wonderful ways to move your body.

Here are my general recommendations on how to exercise for your thyroid:

  • Keep your exercise at a low to moderate intensity (less than 75% of your maximum heart rate) for approximately 30-40 minutes.
  • Avoid high-intensity cardio or extended periods of exercise. Don’t over do it – your body will interpret this as stress and will slow down your metabolism even more to conserve energy. Exercises to think twice about would include marathons, high-intensity spinning, or aggressive HIIT training.
  • Build muscle! Cardio is not king in the thyroid world. More muscle = better metabolism.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel good both during and after exercise, it’s likely a good choice for you.

Have questions? Book your Free Thyroid Assessment to learn more!

Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16175498

Desiccated Thyroid: 5 Things You Need To Know

thermometer-temperature-fever-flu

Recently I’ve been getting a ton of questions about desiccated thyroid from my thyroid patients and as Naturopathic Doctors have recently gained access to the prescribing of this medication, it’s a great time to do some Q&A.

So, here’s the top 5 things you need to know about Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT)

1. What is desiccated thyroid? (NDT)
NDT is used for the treatment of low thyroid function. It’s considered a more natural form of thyroid medication and is sourced from porcine (pig) thyroid glands. NDT is NOT the same as natural thyroid “extracts” (the ones found online and in health food stores – these should be avoided!). NDT can be used in place of synthetic thyroid medications such as levothyroxine (T4) or cytomel (T3).

2. What is the difference between NDT and levothyroxine (Synthroid)?
Synthroid is the synthetic version of T4 which is only one of our thyroid hormones. NDT is sourced from actual thyroid glands and contains the full spectrum of thyroid hormones including T3, our most metabolically active thyroid hormone.

3. Where can I get desiccated thyroid?
NDT is available at most pharmacies by prescription only through your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor. In the US, desiccated thyroid is called armour thyroid or nature thyroid. Here in Canada, it’s referred to as desiccated thyroid, ERFA, or just plain ‘thyroid’. You don’t need to go to a compounded pharmacy to get desiccated thyroid.

4. My doctor says desiccated thyroid isn’t safe, is that true?
Historically there has been concerns about NDT doses not being standardized, meaning that one pill could have different amounts of hormone than the next. Because the thyroid gland is so sensitive to changes, this is definitely a serious concern! However, NDT is currently produced by only one manufacturer in Canada (a pharmaceutical company called ERFA) and is standardized to contain specific amounts of hormone in each tablet. Like any other pharmaceutical, it has a drug identification number (DIN) which means that it has been reviewed and approved by Health Canada. This also allows for quality control, inspections, and all the other regulations that go along with any pharmaceutical drug. In short, ERFA Thyroid is closely monitored for standardized dosing.

5. Is desiccated thyroid better than Synthroid?
This is a tough one and it really depends on the person and their current state of health. Some people do feel better on NDT due to the fact that it better represents our natural hormone production and contains T3, our most active thyroid hormone. There hasn’t been much research comparing the two, however a 2013 study compared levothyroxine to NDT and found that 49% preferred desiccated thyroid, 19% preferred levothyroxine, and 23% found no difference. So, while NDT may work well for many, it’s not for everyone.

Hope that helps!
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND

Decode your Thyroid! Get your free guide to optimal thyroid hormones herePBOOK008

 

Resources:
Hoang TD et al Desiccated thyroid extract compared with levothyroxine in the treatment of hypothyroidism: A randomized, double-blind, crossover study. J Clin Endo Metab 2013;98:1982-90. Epub March 28, 2013.

ERFA Pharmaceuticals www.eci2012.net/product/thyroid 

 

Are Low Iron Levels Sabotaging Your Thyroid Hormones?

Low iron thyroid

Iron Basics
Low iron is one of the most common things I see in women who walk through my door. It’s also one of the most common tests we run and we do this by looking at ferritin levels (a measure of iron stores in your body). The normal reference range for ferritin is anywhere from 10-291 ng/mL for women. Most often, if you’re not clinically anemic and your ferritin is within this range, you won’t be alerted to abnormal ferritin levels (even if they as low as 12, for example). However, recent studies show that women have improved energy and feel best with ferritin levels > 50, even if they’re not anemic.

Symptoms of Low Iron
Symptoms of low iron can include fatigue, low energy, hair loss, feeling cold, weak or brittle nails, palpitations or shortness of breath, brain fog and more. Many of these symptoms are also symptoms of low thyroid function or hypothyroidism. If you’ve been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are still experiencing many of these symptoms, take the guess work out and have your ferritin levels checked.

Side note: If you experience heavy menstrual periods, are vegan/vegetarian, or have digestive disorders (such as celiac disease) that affect nutrient absorption, it’s also important to have your ferritin assessed on a regular basis.

The Iron-Thyroid Connection
Women are more likely to have low iron levels and we’re also more likely to have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Disease (Lucky us!). We don’t usually think of iron as being essential to thyroid function, but it is!

Our thyroid needs adequate iron levels to produce the active hormones T4 and T3. If our body is low in iron, the enzyme responsible for this can be reduced in activity up to 50%. Iron is also essential to another key enzyme, which converts T4 into T3. (T3 is our most active thyroid hormone). If you are already on medication for your thyroid (such as Synthroid) having adequate iron levels is still important for converting the medication into active, usable, thyroid hormone.

There’s more: a very common symptom of hypothyroidism is low stomach acid, which decreases our ability to break down foods and absorb nutrients. Thus, a very common symptom of hypothyroidism is (you guessed it) low iron levels!

Low iron –> hypothyroidism –> low iron –> vicious cycle

So What Should My Ferritin Be?
For optimal energy and thyroid function, ferritin levels should be at or above 80 ng/mL. Hair loss or thinning can occur at levels less than 40. Anything below 30 is what I call “scraping the bottom of the iron bucket”. If your ferritin is really low, your thyroid won’t be functioning properly no matter what other medications or supplements you are taking. Most women I test ferritin levels on are somewhere between 20-50, and many are in need of some sort of iron support or supplementation. If you’ve been on iron in the past and have experienced digestive upset, constipation, or nausea, there are better supplements out there that don’t have these unwanted side effects and are more effective in bringing up iron levels.

That said, we also don’t want too much iron, as this can be harmful to the body. So supplement wisely and make sure to re-test your levels on a regular basis.

The Recap: 

  • Many symptoms of iron deficiency and hypothyroidism overlap. What you thought were low thyroid symptoms (such as fatigue and hair loss) could in fact, be due to low iron!
  • Your thyroid requires adequate iron levels for TWO key enzymes that are vital to hormone production and activation.
  • If you have low thyroid function or hypothyroidism, have your ferritin levels assessed and get a copy of the results. Use 80 ng/mL as a guide to optimal levels, although different people feel best at different levels.
  • Ask your Naturopathic Doctor about testing your ferritin levels and if needed, the best iron supplements to increase your levels quickly without causing you digestive upset.

Want more info on the thyroid tests you need? Check out my last blog post here

Take care!

Dr. Katie

 

 

Preventing Blood Clots with Herbs

PREVENTING BLOOD CLOTS NATURALLY

I was recently asked by a patient if there was anything natural for preventing blood clots naturally while on a long flight over to Europe.

The risk factors for clotting and deep vein thrombosis (DVTs) are being over 40, obese, recent surgery (past 3 months), use of estrogen contraceptives like the birth control pill, previous clots or family history of clots, and varicose veins.

So, here are some herbs that have anticoagulant properties that could also be used for other purposes too. 2-fers as our 2 pharmacist professions might call them. Drugs aka herbs that can be used for 2 or more purposes.

As with anything, check with your naturopathic doctor before going ahead and taking herbs. Even natural stuff can hurt you.

Here’s the Herbs:

HERB OTHER INDICATIONS CAUTIONS
Angelica Digestive, expectorant (bronchitis) Ulcers and GERD
Clove Digestive, analgesic, antimicrobial GERD
Garlic Blood pressure  
Ginger Antinausea, anti-inflammatory, digestive Ulcers, gallstones

 

Ginkgo Vasodilator, antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, cognitive  
Panax ginseng Adrenal fatigue, fatigue  
Horse chestnut Venotonic, antiinflamatory, antiedema GERD, don’t apply to broken skin
Meadowsweet Antacid, anti-inflammatory, astringent  

 

 

Managing Menopause Naturally: Herbs and Hormones

I was working with a patient for many months. We were trying to get her night sweats under control so that she could sleep. The lack of sleep was disrupting her daytime life with fatigue and brain fog. After many trials with many herbs, I brought up the possibility of bioidentical hormones to manage her menopause symptoms. She wanted to know if they were safe. After reading the results of the Women’s Health Initiative study back in 2002 she had concerns. They had shown a relationship between hormones and increased cardiovascular and cancer risks.

A wonderful article published in Integrated Healthcare Practitioners goes through what we currently know about the research.

While it concludes that we need more research done, especially comparative studies, it does point to some small studies done that support the use of bioidentical hormones over synthetic versions. They show less side effects and better safety profile for bioidentical estrogen and progesterone.

So what order should therapies occur in to treat menopause symptoms naturally?

  1. Follow good nutritional guidelines – a whole food, plant based diet.
  2. Move your body – daily exercise is helpful for symptoms and for prevention of cardiovascular disease and fracture risk.
  3. Herbs and vitamins – often these are enough to keep symptoms at bay. Sage, Black Cohosh and Soy all have evidence to support their use.
  4. Bioidentical hormones – when other interventions cannot provide the relief needed, adding some progesterone with or without estrogen can yield fabulous results.

How long have you been suffering with menopause symptoms? Is it time to get your sleep, sex and sanity back?

To see if naturopathic medicine could help your menopause symptoms, book a free meet-the-doctor session using our online booking system, or call the office at 705-792-6717