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CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — A thyroid hormone deficiency prevents the brain from functioning properly. Many people being treated for hypothyroidism continue to suffer from thyroid symptoms because the autoimmune attacks against their thyroid are not being managed, or they’re not on an effective form of thyroid medication.
Additionally, if you’re not managing your Hashimoto’s with diet and lifestyle, you may be suffering from chronic inflammation that is also inflaming your brain.
In the first and second parts of this series, I introduced the ways in which Hashimoto’s low thyroid can cause symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, depression, memory loss and sleep issues. In this article, I’m going to examine some other factors that impact brain health when you have Hashimoto’s.
How poor balance can indicate poor brain function
It’s not uncommon for people with Hashimoto’s to also have autoimmune attacks against their cerebellum, an area of the brain that plays a role in movement, coordination and balance. Many Hashimoto’s patients at RedRiver Health and Wellness Center also have gluten ataxia, a condition in which gluten triggers damage in the cerebellum.
Improving cerebellum function is important for several reasons. Poor cerebellum health worsens things like anxiety, stress, fatigue, insomnia, sound and light sensitivity and intolerance to being in crowds. Poor balance is also a risk for falls.
Additionally, when the cerebellum degenerates, it speeds up degeneration of the rest of the brain; so if you have poor balance, this is a red flag regarding your brain health.
Do you have these symptoms of poor cerebellum health?
- Do you wobble if you stand on one foot? How about with your eyes closed?
- Can you stand in a heel-to-toe position without swaying or stumbling? How about with your eyes closed?
- If you walk in a straight heel-to-toe line, do you stumble? How about with your eyes closed?
- If you stand with your feet together and close your eyes, do you sway to one side?
- Do you walk with a wide gait or feel like you’re going to fall if you don’t hold the handrail going down the stairs?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, inflammation may be degenerating your cerebellum.
How to improve your cerebellum health when you have Hashimoto’s
There are several ways to protect the health of your cerebellum. One is to perform balance exercises, such as the ones listed in the symptom questions.
Or you can Google the DUI test and use that for exercises. DUI testing essentially tests your cerebellum, which is significantly impaired by alcohol.
Yoga and tai chi are also beneficial. As your balance improves or if you are already athletic, continually challenge yourself, like by doing your balance exercises on a wobble board or BOSU ball. Just be safe while you’re doing these excrcises.
Test for brain autoimmunity
If you feel Hashimoto’s is causing poor brain health, you can run some tests to screen for brain autoimmunity.
The Array 7 – Neurological Autoimmune Reactivity Screen from Cyrex Labs screens for potential autoimmune reactions in the brain and other nerve tissue. If any of your neurological antibody tests comes back positive, this means you have increased risk of accelerated brain degeneration and developing a neurological autoimmune condition.
It also means a food sensitivity can significantly accelerate this process. It’s important to figure out which foods or chemicals trigger your symptoms and avoid them. Some people also become triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, emotional conflicts and infections.
If you test positive on the Cyrex Labs neurological antibody test, it’s important you customize an autoimmune diet and lifestyle to keep the autoimmune process in remission as much as possible.
Exercise the vagus nerve to improve brain health
A simple way to improve brain health is to exercise the vagus nerve. The vagus is a large nerve that runs between the brain and the organs of the body. Activating the vagus nerve can improve function of the organs and metabolic systems, such as digestive health. At the same time, it can also help activate the brain to improve brain health.
A few simple ways to tell if your vagus nerve may not be sufficiently active include not having much of a gag reflex – when you say “ahhh,” the uvula (the little punching bag at the back of your throat) doesn’t rise much – or you’re not able to swallow supplements.
How to activate the vagus nerve
– Gargle water
Do this as intensely as possible for three minutes, three times a day.
– Sing loudly
If you’re alone at home or in the car, spend some time singing as loudly as you can.
Using a tongue depressor, which you can buy on Amazon, gently press on the back of your tongue to make yourself gag. Do not poke the back of your throat. Do this several times a day.
– Deep breathing exercises.
These will help stimulate the vagus nerve as well as improving lung capacity and oxygenating the body. Three times a day for five minutes at a time, breathe as deeply as you can through your nose, and then exhale out your mouth.
The goal is to minimize how many breaths you take per minute. Count your breaths and see if you can work towards cutting them in half. This builds lung capacity. I have people monitor their heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation while doing this exercise to ensure oxygen levels are actually going up.
– Perform coffee enemas.
Coffee enemas activate nicotinic and cholinergic receptors, which stimulate the vagus nerve. To learn how to do coffee enemas, see the link in my Instagram bio or on my website for a free download, ”Coffee Enemas to Improve the Gut-Brain Axis.”
I’ll be addressing more ways to improve brain health when you have Hashimoto’s in upcoming articles. If you’d like all the information right away, download my free guide, “12 Ways to Improve Brain Function When You Have Hashimoto’s or Autoimmunity,” available online here.
We work with your prescribing physician for optimal results. Do not discontinue medication or hormone replacement therapy without consulting your prescribing physician. Visit our website to learn more about our services and schedule a free consultation.
Written by JOSH REDD, chiropractic physician at RedRiver Health and Wellness Center.
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About Josh Redd
Josh Redd, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, is a chiropractic physician and author of the Amazon bestselling book “The Truth About Low Thyroid.” Redd owns seven functional medicine clinics in the western United States and sees patients from across the country and around the world who are suffering from challenging autoimmune, endocrine and neurological disorders. He studied immunology, virology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins where he is a MaPHB candidate. He also teaches thousands of health care practitioners about functional medicine and immunology, thyroid health, neurology, lab testing and more.
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