This post is a “living” post meaning, I am going to continue to work on this topic and update this post over time. So please keep in mind this thing is a work in progress — so it will probably look a bit messy for a bit.
The reason for this post is because my wife Jodie was just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.
Here’s a quick description of Hashimoto’s from the Mayo Clinic.
Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. The resulting inflammation often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. It primarily affects middle-aged women, but also can occur in men and women of any age and in children.
Since Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disease, it’s a good idea to do anything we can to stregthen the immune system.
So when Jodie told me she wanted to do everything she can to improve her condition, I immediately when to Chris Kresser’s site to start reading about what we can do.
Chris Kresser is my number one health expert I trust most.
Aside from being the health expert I trust most, I know that Chris has mentioned in his Podcast that his wife has Hashimoto’s as well and I know he has written a ton of helpful information on his site about Hashimoto’s and what we can do to naturally combat this condition.
So this post is essentially a very practical kind of “how to guide” I am putting together on what Jodie and I can do together to help improve her condition.
Step 1 (at least right now) is to Strengthen The Immune System by Balancing Omega 3 and 6.
From Chris Kresser’s article “Basics Of Immune Balancing for Hashimoto’s”
The ideal ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 3:1. The average American ratio is closer to 25:1, and as high as 30:1, thanks to diets high in processed and refined foods. The result of this imbalance is – among other things – inflammation.
The approach I like to take when attacking a problem is to attack the 20% of factors that create 80% of the results — otherwise knows as the Pareto Principle. The idea here is to focus on attacking only a few things that have the MOST impact rather than trying to attack a whole bunch of factors. We want the most bang for our buck (and time).
So the first question is.…
“If we want to bring our Omega 3 and 6 ratio in balance, is it best to focus on increasing Omega 3 or reducing Omega 6?”
After reading this article from Chris Kresser it sounds like “reducing Omega 6″ is the strategy that would have the biggest impact.
OK so we know reducing Omega 6 is the best, most powerful strategy to start with so what are the
Step 2: Get A Baseline
Whenever I really want to attack a specific health problem, I start with some baseline metrics — information that gives a fairly black and white picture of where I am right now in relation to the problem I am attacking.
Here’s the process.…it’s just like going on a road trip!
1. Where am I today?
For this mission, I need to know what my Omega 3 and 6 ratio is right now.
2. Where I am trying to go?
What do I want my Omega 3 and 6 ratio to be? A 1:1 ratio would be great and ultimately that’s the goal but to start I’d be very happy with a 3:1 ratio since that is still in the “ideal” range.
3. What plan can I put in place that will help me get there?
This is the hard part and the reason I like to think of this as a “mission.”
All change is hard. We are creatures of habit and no matter how determined, excited and fired up we are about creating a change in our lives, unless we have enough internal motivation to see our plan through.
The reason I was successful at dramatically changing the direction of my health a few years ago was because I love Leah so much and I wanted to be the best version of me for her.
I wanted to change my health even more for her than I did for myself. I always found ways to justify to myself why it was OK to eat crappy food, not exercise and let my health deteriorate.
But when I began to notice how it impacted the kind of Dad I was to Leah, I wasn’t ok with it anymore.
Anyway, the bottom line is, if I want to change my Omega 3 and 6 ratio, it’s going to be hard fucking work so I better have a really fucking compelling reason to make it happen.
My reason — I want to help Jodie. I know if I do this, she will do it too. Even if she isn’t as hard core as I am, she will do it to some extent and that will help her. I also know that as we do this together as parents, our kids will reap the benefits as well. Not only will they have healthier parents — which helps us to be happier, more energetic parents — but they will try some of the stuff we are eating and therefore — their health will improve too.
So, how to we start to chisel down the Omega 6 in our diet?
I’s probably a good idea to.…
1. Create a list of foods and their Omega 6 content and then rank those foods from highest Omega 6 content to lowest.
(put Omega 6 chart here)
2. Check off the foods on that list that we eat on a regular basis
(maybe make that list downloadable so we can print it out and put it on the fridge or something — so it’s front of mind)
3. Come up with a plan to replace those foods with more healthy, lower Omega 6 foods
(Hmmm. Eat this not that kind of thing? Might actually make sense to do a food diary for a couple days or a week so it’s even more practical. Then, write up like 5–10 different ways to replace the high Omega 6 foods with low Omega 6 foods. It may be best to swap with a very similar type of food so the pain of change is a bit lower than going from eating bread to eating a piece of salmon for example. Maybe a low Omega 6 form of bread? Hmmm. Would be good to have a food grading system I think — like “If you eat a bread that contains High Fructose Corn Syrup, the next best choice is a bread with no High Fructose Corn Syrup like (A, B or C). Then next level up would be maybe Sprouted Grain Bread or something. And then maybe the next step up Gluten Free Bread or something along those lines. I think this would make it much easier for parents to help their kids improve their Omega 3 and 6 balance since it’s so hard to get kids to change the foods they eat, getting them to eat a better, more healthy bread would be a good baby step to eating healthier that shouldn’t be too difficult…I don’t think.)
Step 1: What Foods Are The Biggest Sources Of Omega 6?
Enemy #1:Industrial Seed Oils
These guys are bad news. They are found in almost every type of processed food and the amount of Omega 6 they carry is kind of obscene. Look at the amount of Omega 6 in the oils below.
The list below is from this article by Chris Kresser.
- Sunflower oil: 65.7g
- Cottonseed oil: 51.5g
- Soybean oil: 51g
- Sesame oil: 41.3g
- Canola oil: 20.3g
Now, most of us probably have no clue about how much of these we actually consume on a daily basis. As vigilant as I am, I am sure I eat way more Industrial Seed Oils than I think.
Why? Because they are in every processed food you can imagine.
Here’s a short list of some common foods that most Americans eat that contain the oils above.…
1. Mayonnaise: Almost every brand and type contains Soybean Oil and some try to appeal to health concious people by adding Olive Oil to them.…but check the label, they still have Soybean or Canola Oil in them in addition to (a very small amount) of Olive Oil. Typical marketing trickery.
2. Bread: When I say bread you can include pretty much every single form of bread — loaf of bread, bagels, hot dog buns, muffins etc.
3. Almost every type of “sauce” and “dressing” you can think of like Barbecue Sauce, Salad Dressing, Ketchup (except Simply Heinz Tomato Ketchup) and the list goes on.
4. Restaurant Food: These oils are very cheap. They cook with them and/or use them in foods. So, it’s safe to assume that when you eat anything from a restaurant (any restaurant) you are probably eating a hefty dose of one or more of these oils.
Chris’ Suggestion on how to bring Omega 3 and 6 in Balance
- Reducing n-6 intake to approximately 3% of calories, and following the current recommendation of consuming 0.65g/d (three 4-oz. portions of oily fish per week) of EPA & DHA.
- Limiting n-6 intake to less than 2% of calories, and consuming approximately 0.35g/d of EPA & DHA (two 4-oz. portions of oily fish per week).
My Notes: What does n-6 at 3% of calories look like? What foods and about how much daily/weekly? How to monitor and manage that? Ways to
How To Test Omega 3/6
The blurb below is from this article by Chris Kresser
The omega-3 index is a relatively new test and is not commonly ordered by doctors. But if you want to get this test, you can order a finger stick testing kit from Dr. William Davis’ Track Your Plaque website here. It’ll cost you $150 bucks, though.
Chris Kresser Articles referenced: