The Thyroid and Iodine Connection

The Thyroid and Iodine Connection

It has become common knowledge that your thyroid needs sufficient iodine levels to function properly. This is absolutely true, and the long term effects of low iodine levels are commonly documented in countries where foods aren’t fortified with iodine. Patients who are iodine deficient may develop hypothyroidism or develop enlarged and inflamed thyroid glands, called goiters. If iodine deficiency can be so detrimental, why isn’t everyone supplementing? Let’s unpack the connection and our point of view here at MIMC.

What is the role of iodine in thyroid function?

Iodine is a critical backbone of T4 and T3 which are the hormones that your thyroid gland produces and your body needs to power your cells. T4 is a prohormone – created from tyrosine plus 4 iodines all linked together. 

As your tissues demand it, the prohormone may also go through a step called deiodination. This is a fancy word for the process of plucking off one iodine from T4 to form the thyroid’s most metabolically active form of hormone—triiodothyronine (a.k.a. T3). That’s mouthful, I know. 

RELATED: 4 Thyroid Labs Conventional Doctors Might Skip and Why They’re Necessary

However, if iodine is critical for thyroid function, why aren’t we recommending iodine supplementation for every patient exhibiting low thyroid symptoms?

First, iodine deficiency is not common in the United states. Our foods are generally fortified with iodine (common: iodized salt) and if you eat the top foods on this list, you’ll most likely hit the 150 mcg of iodine recommended in a day. Actually, most multivitamins, prenatals or other multiminerals also have around 150 mcg of iodine in them and will be cherry on top of your daily dietary intake. 

You can test your iodine levels via urine or blood – although if you’re really worried about levels, urine testing will be the most accurate. 

Risk of over supplementing with iodine 

There are a couple concerns when it comes to (over) supplementing with iodine. That includes a potential increased risk of autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) and a reflexive slow down in T4 output, causing TSH to rise (hypothyroidism). Which, of course, is the clear opposite of what we’d like to happen with our precious thyroid.

With so many good things out there to help with thyroid function and potential controversies surrounding over supplementing with iodine and thyroid damage that can happen – my thoughts have always been “why risk it?” If we don’t know who it will help or hurt, why risk a potential increase in autoimmune risk, or reflexive hypothyroidism with iodine supplementation? 

On the flip side, it may not be iodine deficiency causing thyroid issues at all. Things like exposures to toxic chemicals can cause iodine to be displaced from the thyroid gland and cause a functional hypothyroidism. Or deficiencies in other essential thyroid nutrients such as selenium and zinc.  

RELATED: 3 Common Chemicals That Could Impact Your Thyroid

Bottom line, we are here to unpack the topic in a way that is customized to you because throwing something at a “problem” can be a risky route when you don’t understand the root cause.

Wellness vs. Therapeutic IV Treatments

Wellness vs. Therapeutic IV Treatments

MIMC provider prepping a patient for IV treatment

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The SIBO & Hashimotos Connection

The SIBO & Hashimotos Connection

Connecting the dots–it’s our jam. There’s nothing we love more than sharing the what and the why. Today we’re going to connect the dots between two conditions we see here a lot at Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center. SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and hashimotos (autoimmune thyroiditis). 

This article is going to go along with the corresponding video [linked HERE]. 

To step back, let’s talk through SIBO a bit more. The small intestine is a long organ. And you can see below, the baseline is the bottom through line to number nine. This is giving you a good idea of the entire small intestine and the lines in the chart gas production.

RELATED: What Actually IS Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth

When bacteria grows on the inside of your small intestine–they attach themselves to the intestinal wall and these bugs will eat the food that you are eating and ferment that into a gas. That gas can be hydrogen, methane or hydrogen sulfide gasses. And then those gases are created. It’s important to know which gases are created and where they are located in your small intestine as it can change treatment timeline, herbs and/or antibiotics that are used and the types of symptoms you may be having. 

Breaking down the breath test

This test measures how much of that gas you have inside and where the biggest colonies are located. In the case of this patient, the largest colonies of bacteria are at the end of her small intestine, closer to the large intestine, which gives a little bit of information about root cause and where this came from. But that’s for a different article.

RELATED: Here’s How We Treat SIBO in Two Phases

The small intestine is a porous organ. It is where all of your nutrients–think magnesium, zinc, carbs, fats, protein is absorbed from this organ. If you have bugs that are physically lining the pores of your small intestine, there is going to be malabsorption. You can think about those pores as little windows for your immune system.

Your immune system also gets this window into the small intestine and we can actually see the bugs that are in there and respond to them–what that’s going to do is both call more of your immune system to come over and take care of it and if the infection is there long enough, it can cause your immune system to need to create new soldiers. These new soldiers are immature and new and more prone to being ‘distracted’ by other organ cells – like your thyroid. 

Enter hashimotos to the discussion

As you get this immune system stimulation, the protein cells have this rapid turnover, especially if SIBO been there long term, you can get this attraction and inflammation of other autoimmune diseases–such as Hashimoto’s.

Not only do those pores allow your immune system to see in, but remember when we said the bacteria attach to the lining of your GI? Well the bacteria can also send metabolites and toxins of their own into your system creating your immune system to be upregulated (and a whole host of other issues).

If you already have Hashimotos and then find out you have SIBO as well, this immune activation can really aggravate Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Our strategy for hashimotos is to not only treat the thyroid (important but if you only stay there–you’re missing a HUGE component for treatment) but to treat the immune system as well. And, that leads to the question of what things can aggravate the immune system.

If you can get rid of the SIBO, you can decrease the immune system stimulation in the gut and get your overall immune system to calm down a bit. And if SIBO isn’t the only thing triggering your immune system, getting rid of it can highlight other symptoms that are lingering and allow you to see what else may be there–think: heavy metals, environmental toxins, mold, food allergies, to name a few.

One of the ways that we will treat Hashimoto’s specifically is by looking both at the gut and IN the gut. Our goal here is to rid you of this abnormal bacteria to stop this immune system stimulation and make our thyroid gland work a little better.

What Does Your Doctor Think of Athletic Greens? Plus, How to Shop for Green Juice Powder

What Does Your Doctor Think of Athletic Greens? Plus, How to Shop for Green Juice Powder

A glass of green juice sits on a marble cutting board on a kitchen counter.

Athletic Greens has quickly become a social media influencer favorite. You can barely start a YouTube video or scroll Instagram without seeing someone orchestrating their morning routine, green juice in hand. And a green juice powder that you can mix up at your leisure is enticing! Who wouldn’t want access to that every day? 

But is Athletic Greens worth the hype? Let’s cut through the chatter and dive deeper—here’s what your doctor (aka our practitioners) think about Athletic Greens and other green juice powders.

Athletic Greens review

This incredibly popular daily supplement is likely the one you’ve heard the most about from YouTubers, Instagramers, and Tik Tokers. It pops up just about everywhere you’ve made an online footprint, if you’ve done any health research on your browser or phone at all. 

Is its popularity warranted? Here’s a list of pros and cons to consider when thinking about purchasing Athletic Greens:

Pros of Athletic Greens:

  • Gluten-free
  • Nut-free
  • Dairy-free
  • No GMOs
  • No artificial colors or flavors
  • No sugar added
  • Contains a wide range of adaptogens for helping your body deal with stress
  • Contains 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole-food sourced ingredients in one easy-to-use daily serving
  • Contains probiotics and digestive enzymes
  • NSF certified for sport
  • Comes in travel pouches, making it easy to take with you anywhere

Cons of Athletic Greens:

  • $$$$—Athletic Greens is one of the pricier per serving options you can buy. It comes in at $3.30 a serving, while other greens powders (some certified USDA Organic) come closer to $0.80 per serving.
  • Not certified USDA Organic, which means that some of its ingredients may have been grown in soil that contains fertilizers, or they may have been sprayed with weed/bug killer during growth
  • Not all individual ingredients are certified organic either
  • Third-party testing information isn’t available on their website
  • Includes stevia as a sweetener (which some people are sensitive to, and can have an unpleasant aftertaste)
  • Other comes in one “flavor”
  • Not Certified Glyphosate Residue Free

The verdict? Athletic Greens is a well-rounded green juice powder that is convenient and easy to use. It falls short on certifications and third-party testing, and is pricier than we prefer, but if you’ve used it and like it, or you’re interested in trying it, it’s a fine choice.

Other green juice powder options

What you should look for in a green juice powder

If you’re interested in a cheaper-than-a-fresh-pressed-juice option and you want an easily accessible supplement to your daily nutrient intake, green juice powders can be a great option. Choosing the right one can mean you get the benefits of organic greens, probiotics, and other good-for-you ingredients on the daily, without much effort. But how should you choose a green juice powder? Look for these on the label or the company’s website:

Certified organic ingredients

We care about this because it means the fruits and veggies and other ingredients were grown to the USDA Certified Organic Standard. And when you’re ingesting concentrated produce like in a greens powder, this is important because you’ll avoid banned pesticides and other potential toxins that you might find in non-organic certified produce. There are other organic certifications, so if you don’t see USDA Organic, it still might be certified organic—check the label for other certifying bodies.

Third-party testing/certification

Third-party testing means that someone (other than the brand itself) is backing up its claims. This is key is because brands do not need to get their dietary supplements FDA approved before bringing them to market. In fact, the FDA explicitly states, “the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that its dietary supplement products are safe before they are marketed.” Green juices powders can be third-party tested for heavy metals, microorganisms, pathogens, chemical pesticides/fertilizers, synthetic herbicides/fungicides, GMOs, glyphosate, gluten and more.

Certified Glyphosate Residue Free

Not many green juice powders will have this, but if it does, BONUS! Glyphosate is a synthetic herbicide patented in 1974 by the Monsanto Company and now manufactured and sold by many companies in hundreds of products—and has been associated with cancer and other health concerns (did you hear about Roundup in breakfast cereals? That’s what we’re talking about).

Digestive enzymes + probiotics

Digestive enzymes, like probiotics, can be a great addition to a green juice powder formula. Though the preferred way to support the gut microbiome is through eating a diet full of fiber and fermented foods, incorporating a well-formulated probiotic can be beneficial for those looking to improve GI health. This can include probiotics and digestive enzymes added to your daily juice—but if you have long-term or ongoing GI issues, consult with your doctor before adding these to your diet.

No sugar added

If you can avoid added sugar in any processed product, we prefer it. Many of the cheaper greens powders have added sugar to help with the taste—but it adds to your overall sugar load, and if you can avoid it, that’s the best choice. Some greens powders will have stevia or monk fruit for added sweetness. These are better choices, but some people have trouble digesting them, and some people don’t like the lasting aftertaste. So it’s important to evaluate this portion of the ingredients list on a greens powder.

No other filler ingredients

Just like with any supplement, we want to avoid fillers in the inactive ingredients list (aka, not the active ingredients list). That’s where you’ll find what rest of the formula is made of, what fillers a company puts in to take up space, what dyes they used to make the powder a homogenous color (‘cause herbs look like dirt and who wants to take a dirt-colored powder?), and preservatives. These are just as important as the active ingredients, since they can be hiding unnecessary components that you don’t need to be ingesting daily.

Anything you’re allergic or sensitive to

In general, we’d recommend avoiding added gluten and dairy in your greens powder, even if you’re not sensitive to these. They’re fillers and usually unnecessary. That said, if you’re allergic or sensitive to any ingredient, double check that the green juice powder you’re considering is free from those ingredients. If you have celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance, make sure to check for cross-contamination possibilities. If the product isn’t certified gluten-free and the packaging or website info isn’t clear, reach out directly to the company to confirm (or find a powder that IS certified GF). 

The key to finding a green juice powder that works for you? Eliminating unnecessary added ingredients and looking for third-party certification. If you’re still not sure, consult with your doctor for the best green juice powder for you.

How to Choose the Best Protein Powder for You

How to Choose the Best Protein Powder for You

a spoonful of collagen powder sits in front of a blue glass and a canister of collagen powder on a marble countertop.

Protein powder has been around the block when it comes to health trends, and it’s often associated only with men who want to bulk up. But what’s the best protein powder if you want to incorporate it into your daily routine, to boost your muscle tone and support your overall health? We’re breaking it down here.

Who needs protein powder?

We’ll start with our overarching recommendation when it comes to any change to your meal planning and lifestyle: Check with your doctor first to make sure that protein powder is the best supplement for you and your health goals. While supplements can boost protein for people with increased needs (athletes, pregnant women), most people can fulfill their daily protein needs by eating whole foods. Most people don’t need a protein powder daily.

If you’re an athlete, protein powder can be used to build muscle and stamina, or for those looking to support their strengthening goals. Certain types of protein have been shown to increase muscle mass and improve strength.

If you’re considering protein powder as a weight-loss tool, we strongly recommend checking in with your doctor before embarking on a plan, especially one that subs a protein shake for a whole-foods-based meal.

RELATED: How to shop for supplements.

What’s the best type of protein powder?

If you’ve shopped for protein powder, you know that a quick Google search or trip to the store can be overwhelming—the sheer number of options might stop you in your tracks. To help, bookmark this page to reference next time you go looking for the best protein powder, because we’re breaking down the most popular types.

Whey protein

A popular, easy-to-find form of protein is whey protein. It’s a highly digestible milk-derived protein that contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own. That makes it what we call a “complete” source of protein.

Why protein is also a well-studied form of protein. Research has shown that whey protein supplements combined with resistance training led to a significant increase in muscle mass and improvement in strength.

Plus, whey protein has been shown to speed muscle recovery and reduce exercise-induced muscle damage in physically active people, making it an excellent choice for athletes.

Cons: Since it’s milk-based, it’s not suitable for those with sensitivities to dairy or for people choosing a vegan diet.

Recommended whey protein powder: Natural Force Grass Fed Organic Whey Protein Powder

RELATED: What’s the best milk for me? What you need to know about non-dairy vs. cow’s milk.

Collagen

A more recently popular competitor in the protein market is collagen. Yep, that supplement that Instagram influencers are slinging has more than aesthetic benefits.

Collagen does have some wrinkle-reduction benefits, but it can also help reduce joint pain, and increase muscle strength.

Commonly, collagen supplements are extracted from the skin and / or bones of cows or pigs, or from the skin and scales of fish. The best of these powders are hydrolyzed, which means they’re broken down into smaller pieces that are easier for your body to absorb.

Collagen powder also is easily dissolvable in hot or cold liquids, which makes it convenient for daily use and travel.

Cons: Since collagen powders are animal-derived, they’re not suitable for people choosing a vegan diet.

Recommended collagen powder: Great Lakes Collagen Peptides Powder Supplement

RELATED: What’s the deal with collagen supplements?

Pea protein

If you can’t tolerate animal-based proteins, or eat vegan, pea protein might be for you. It’s sourced from dried and ground yellow peas, and is considered hypoallergenic, aka safe for people with food sensitivities or allergies.

Pea protein powder is highly concentrated, making it a good source of essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine (even though peas themselves aren’t usually considered protein-rich). One study even found that pea protein could support increased bicep muscle thickness better than whey protein.

Cons: It doesn’t have a complete profile of the amino acids you need, so check with your doctor to make sure pea protein is the right pick for you. It can be combined with rice protein to get the complete amino acids picture you need too, so consider a plant-based multi-protein powder.

Recommended pea protein powder: Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Pea Protein; Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Protein Powder

Hemp protein

Another plant-based source of protein, hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant (though, like CBD, hemp is not psychoactive and does not contain any THC).

It’s a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a favorable ratio of 3:1. When we eat an imbalanced omega ratio (too much omega-6s, abundant in vegetable oils and processed foods), it can lead to inflammation, which has been linked to numerous health issues including heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Cons: Hemp protein doesn’t pack as much protein punch when weighed against other other vegan friendly formulas (i.e. pea protein). It can also be pricier than other options.

Recommended hemp protein powder: Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Raw Hemp Seed Protein Powder

How to choose the best protein powder

Much like other supplements, protein powder is not something we’d recommend picking up just anywhere. Here’s how to shop for a protein powder, no matter where you’re searching.

Look at the inactive ingredient list

The inactive ingredients in a protein powder are just as important as the active protein. Fewer ingredients are usually better, and you want to avoid high amounts of preservatives, artificial colorings, and other chemical additives. It’s simplest to choose protein powders with just one ingredient (i.e. collagen peptides or whey isolate).

We also like to avoid high sugar content and prefer certified gluten free products.

Look at the sourcing

We prefer certified organic and / or grass-fed animal protein options when it comes to protein powders. This ensures that a third party has vetted the product and verified that it contains what the company says it does. Plus, certified organic ingredients help avoid the possibly harmful chemicals from non-organic sources, and reduce your toxic load.

Look for other certifications

Certifications are NOT the be all to end all (they can be pricey for small companies to procure), but they can help when choosing the best protein powder. Certified B Corp, Certified Gluten Free, USDA Organic, Non GMO Verified, and third-party testing for heavy metals are easy to look for on packaging or in the description of the product.

But don’t just look for the words—it’s best to see the certified symbol of these certifications, to ensure that these companies have gone through the vetting process.

If you have questions about an ingredient or a product’s validity, reach out to the brand. They should be able to provide you with more information—and if they can’t or won’t, that’s a red flag, and you should skip the product.

Still not sure if protein powder is right for you? It’s time to take it to your doctor. You can easily get the protein you need from eating whole foods, but if you have additional health concerns that might inhibit you from absorbing the protein you need, your doctor can help create a personalized plan for you.