How to do lymphatic drainage for your thyroid or autoimmune disease

The lymphatic connection to autoimmune and thyroid diseases

Your lymphatic system is a complex web of tissues and organs that help your body get rid of toxic wastes. The lymphatic system moves “lymph” which is a fluid containing white blood cells throughout the body. White blood cells are our primary infection fighters. 

Those diagnosed with thyroid or autoimmune diseases are prone to having a “clogged” or “sluggish” lymphatic system, which means you aren’t properly disposing of waste materials, such as bacteria, in an efficient way. It can also mean infection-fighting white blood cells are unable to reach certain tissues of the body to stave off infection. 

Infections are an underlying cause of thyroid and autoimmune diseases, so it stands to reason that by maximizing your waste removal and white blood cell function, we can improve the status of your thyroid or autoimmune disease (and thankfully, there are studies to support this). Specifically, those dealing with thyroid-related illnesses such as Hashimoto’s Disease, Graves’ Disease, and basic hypo- and hyperthyroidism can absolutely benefit from regular lymph drainage.

You have lymphatic tissue all over your body — even in your gut! But the easiest lymph tissue to manipulate and drain will be the lymph nodes closest to the thyroid — on your face, jawline, and clavicle. You can hire a professional, such as a massage therapist to do this technique for you, but you can also easily learn to do it yourself at home on a regular basis.

How to do lymphatic drainage for your thyroid or autoimmune disease

First, identify the location of the lymph nodes you are attempting to drain. The easiest to access will be those at:

  • the back of the cheeks, right in front of the ears
  • behind the ears
  • on each side of the jawline
  • under the chin
  • up the left and right sides of your neck
  • the crook where your neck and shoulders meet/the clavicle area

You do need to exercise care and gentleness with these areas as they can be inflamed, achy or sensitive for many thyroid and autoimmune sufferers. You also never want to apply too much pressure to damage these areas or cause them to swell.  Note: those with goiter or kidney or liver diseases especially should speak with their doctor before performing this on themselves at home. 

Next, either using your hands or a firm, fixed knob tool (I like to recommend the Fascia Blaster for body work) press firmly on these areas until you reach a level of pressure that is comfortable but providing resistance to the tissues. Some people feel an aching or releasing sensation while applying pressure and some people feel nothing at all. Do this motion repeatedly for just a few minutes at a time. Never press beyond your comfort level and be sure to avoid all major arteries. 

Help with detoxification

You will only want to do one session every few days because there will be a toxic load that will be released from the tissues and your body will work hard to rid itself of this. After doing this lymphatic drainage technique, you may also experience “detox” symptoms such as rashes, hives, itching, soreness, nausea or lack of appetite, fatigue, and brain fog after these draining sessions. This is common and if it does occur, you should take the time to rest and recharge yourself with plenty of nutrient-dense foods and be sure to get plenty of sleep. 

Drinking lots of water and herbal teas, as well as taking liver supports are a good idea to assist this process. I especially like to recommend roasted dandelion root tea, which has a flavor similar to coffee but is non-acidic and an excellent liver support.  Also be sure to avoid refined foods that are acidifying, such as white sugar, corn syrup, refined grains, and too much protein. Rely on fresh-pressed juices, greens and green vegetables, (preferably those that are not goitrogenic, such as lettuces), and fresh fruits while you detoxify from the lymph drainage.

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Supplements to help stop die-off reactions

What is die-off?

If you have been diagnosed with a thyroid or autoimmune condition, chances are you also have an overgrowth of certain bad yeasts, bacteria, or parasites that are contributing to your illness. In the holistic health world, we know that infections are causative in most chronic illness because they perpetuate Leaky Gut Syndrome, which is a root cause of immune and hormonal conditions.

Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition where the cell walls in the intestines become “leaky” or permeable and allow food proteins, yeasts, bacteria, viruses, and other nasty bits into circulation in the blood stream where they do not belong. As a result, you end up inflamed, allergic, and experiencing uncomfortable symptoms. Over time, if left unaddressed, Leaky Gut Syndrome can cause autoimmunity and hormonal conditions, as well as food allergies, nutrient deficiencies and detoxification problems. 

In my health coaching practice, I always make a point to address underlying infections with my clients. This means we put them on anti-yeast, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, or anti-viral protocols that include very strategic diet and supplement changes in order to restore their health. In the long run, clients see dramatic improvements in their lab work and symptoms, but in the short term it can sometimes be uncomfortable as these infections start to die. (Note that viruses remain in the body but we use measures to greatly reduce their impact on the immune system or localized tissues). 

When bad yeasts, bacteria, or parasites begin to die, people can sometimes experience what is called a “die-off reaction”, though it’s also known as a Herxheimer reaction, or healing crisis. This is when you are on the correct protocol but temporarily feel worse because the pathogens emit toxic byproducts upon their death. Yeasts, for example, emit ethanol and acetaldehyde when they die, which can mimic symptoms of a hangover.

Or, if you are following an anti-bacterial or anti-parasitic protocol, you may experience stomach troubles in addition to other symptoms because your gut flora is adjusting as you kill the pathogens. 

Supplements to help stop die-off reactions

Thankfully there are ways to alleviate some of the discomfort caused by die-off reactions. Here are some I suggest to clients undergoing this process:

  • Activated charcoal: because this acts as a binder, it can expedite the process and help remove unwanted pathogens or their byproducts. Do not use for a few consecutive days as it can also interfere with nutrient absorption, especially iodine. 
  • Liver supports: as yeasts die, they emit toxic byproducts which can temporarily affect the liver. Milk thistle, dandelion root, and burdock are my favorites to suggest. If you prefer to not take a supplement, you can also find these in tea form. 
  • Bentonite clay: Another binder, clay can “mop up” pathogens and their byproducts. Mix a small amount into a large glass of water. 
  • Herbal teas: Drink these to ease stomach discomfort often associated with die-off. Ginger and peppermint are especially effective because of their astringent properties. 
  • Digestive enzymes: These can also help with digestive complaints. Take a digestive enzyme that contains amylase, protease, and lipase about 5-10 minutes before meals for best results. 
  • Electrolyte drinks: Staying hydrated is important when undergoing die-off so drink electrolyte-enhanced water, or use natural electrolyte powders that contain magnesium and potassium especially. 

Ready to figure out the perfect diet for you? Ready to improve your lab work and daily symptoms? Click here to book a consultation.

Thyroid disease and “fifth chakra” problems

This week, I met with a lovely client who has been seeing me for the last 4 or so years on and off for nutritional support for Hashimoto’s disease. As life goes on, our nutritional needs change and so she’s been sure to meet with me to adjust her diet accordingly.

Food intolerances can come and go as you work to heal your leaky gut or methylation problems, so many people don’t need to eat a restricted diet the rest of their lives, thankfully. Or, sometimes you need to go on emergency antibiotics and afterwards you develop new food intolerances or symptoms that you didn’t have before. And so we need to adjust then too.

This time though, my client came to me for mind-body support. She’s was at an apex of stress in her professional and personal life and her body was beginning to show lots of signs of distress. She even had to be hospitalized for the anxiety and irregular heartbeat she had experienced. She was scared of eating because any food seemed to cause more heart palpitations. On top of that she was not happy in her relationship or job and wasn’t sure which direction to take.

A sensitive and creative woman, I knew she had trouble expressing herself and standing up for herself. She said she often felt the need to metaphorically “hide” because the people around her were so abrasive and insensitive.

Although she had come to talk about her boyfriend and job, I asked her to begin to deconstruct the patterns she learned in childhood. Namely, how her parents interacted with one another. She explained that although she loved her parents and knew they had tried their best, her dad was emotionally callous, cruel, and relied solely on anger to communicate. Her mom on the other hand had been sick for years and retreated into crying and solitude every time her dad got this way or things became difficult.

My client said because of witnessing this as a kid she learned to either hide and be totally quiet or to explode in unhealthy ways when things reached a breaking point. I explained to her that it was understandable for her to act this way because she had only ever learned extremes from her parents. She had never learned a way to communicate reasonably, moderately, or find a middle ground. And she went into every interaction expecting to not be heard.

I told her that while it was understandable for her to adapt in this way, it also wasn’t healthy or helping her.

In the holistic health world, we know that tension and unresolved emotions can “build up” in certain areas of your body and lead to unhealthy patterns both emotionally and physically. In this case, she had never learned how to appropriately regulate her voice, also sometimes called the “fifth chakra”.

You don’t have to believe in eastern religions to benefit from understanding the fifth chakra. Think of it as how you express yourself, and coincidentally this is right at your voice box aka thyroid gland area.

After years and years of withholding your voice, you create palpable tension which can cause a buildup of unhealthy soft tissue called Fascial adhesions. It’s like you literally begin to calcify that area from improper use.

Once she realized she had been operating in these extremes (anger on one side of the spectrum and hiding on the other), she had an “aha” moment. She said she wanted to begin speaking, expressing herself and standing up for herself when she needed to, instead of internalizing all of the frustration and tension.

I also encouraged her to begin practicing myofascial release on her neck and clavicle area where she held all of her stress and that flared whenever she was upset. Myofascial release is a technique you can do at home or find a trained practitioner to help you with which releases the unhealthy build-up of the soft tissue that keeps you restricted. This prevents blood flow to the area, which can mean nutrients and immune cells can’t do their job properly. It can also mean you feel like you are “choking” on food, can’t breathe properly, or get sinus blockages easily.

If you have a thyroid disease, chances are you also have some degree of fifth chakra problems due to how you learned to communicate or express yourself early on. Even if you had an ideal childhood, you can develop such problems later in life due to stress.

While I consider nutrition to be the number one priority when clients are working to improve their symptoms and lab work, the mind-body connection is also something you need to seriously consider. If you have a thyroid disease, start working through your fifth chakra imbalances. 

Ready to figure out the perfect diet for you? Ready to improve your lab work and daily symptoms? Click here to book a consultation.

Is the acid/alkaline balance a myth?

Everywhere you look online, health “gurus” are warning us about the acid/alkaline balance — telling us to eat more fruits and vegetables to remain “alkaline”.  They say that living in an “acidic” condition makes us prone to diseases and by alkalizing your body, you can prevent or reverse disease. 

Some experts even go so far as to tell people to avoid all foods that contribute to acidity, such as animal products, and instead encourage a vegan diet, juicing, or fruitarian diet (where all you eat is fruit). It’s important to get to the bottom of this idea so that you can integrate elements that are helpful and not stress over those that are simply not true — and certainly not limit your diet unnecessarily. 

Myth versus fact

The truth is that the acid/alkaline balance in the body is a real phenomenon. Yes, it is possible to become too acidic. In the medical community this is called Metabolic Acidosis and can occur when your body:

  • Makes too much acid (due to stress or a poor cortisol response, over-exercise, poor diet, dehydration and mineral loss, ketone build-up, genetic problems)
  • Can’t effectively remove enough acid (due to methylation problems, kidney problems, lack of bicarbonate, etc)

In reality, anyone who is suffering from a chronic health condition is going to veer in and out of states of being too acidic. So while you may not have a life-threatening acidic condition, you should still think about ways to become more alkaline. However, instead of suggesting clients eliminate complete food groups, I prefer to make some very strategic dietary and lifestyle changes to restore the acid/alkaline balance more gently. 

8 ways to restore the acid/alkaline balance:

  1. Juicing. You need minerals to restore you to a more alkaline state. Making fresh-pressed juices daily is the quickest way to do this. Celery and cucumber juices are especially alkalizing, but I also like to suggest carrot, romaine, jicama, beet, fennel, pear and apple. Really, the sky is the limit but be sure to avoid goitrogenic (thyroid-suppressing) greens such as kale if you have a thyroid condition. If you don’t like the taste of fresh juice, use it as a base in a fruit smoothie to mask the flavor. 
  2. Reduce your protein intake. You don’t need to completely eliminate meat, eggs, or dairy unless you are in a terribly acidic state based on labs. Begin to eat large portions of raw vegetables daily and instead have smaller portions of dairy, eggs, or meats. 
  3. Limit grains. Grains are also acidifying and if you are in a very acidic state, even healthy gluten-free grains can make it worse. Relying mostly on fruits and vegetables to make up the bulk of your diet is best, then add in some healthy beans, legumes, grains, and animal products as needed to meet your daily calorie needs. 
  4. Use supplements to alkalize. 
    • Mineral complex. This should include magnesium and potassium, in addition to other minerals. I find the citrate or bicarbonate forms of minerals works best. 
    • Chlorophyll. An alfalfa-based supplement or parsley works well. I prefer these to other “greens” supplements because they are not goitrogens (thyroid-suppressing foods).
    • Yucca shigidera. This helps mitigate the toxic byproduct that is produced upon eating animal products. You can take this with each meal that contains protein.
  5. Reduce your salt intake. While I consider unrefined mineral salt to be an essential part of a healthy diet, while you are acidic, anything that dehydrates you will make the problem worse. So limit your salt intake — even the good kind of salt.
  6. Completely avoid refined sugar and alcohol. Both are extremely acidifying.
  7. Avoid stressful thoughts. Stressful thoughts begin a cascade of unhealthy responses in the body, which depletes you of minerals and creates acidosis. You have been programmed from childhood to respond to stress in a very specific way. Deconstruct your stress responses — what triggers you? When you are triggered, where do you hold tension in your body? How can you release it? You are likely triggered by much smaller circumstances that you realize and since these happen on a daily basis, you keep repeating the acid cycle each day.
  8. Avoid intense exercise. While you are too acidic, anything that dehydrates you will contribute to the problem. Choose gentle forms of exercise and exercise indoors during the heat of summer. 

Tests to ask for

If you are curious if you are too acidic, you can get testing through your doctor to determine this.

  • Anion gap test. This tests for metabolic acidosis and will tell you if you are in fact too acidic. 
  • Electrolyte or mineral panel: magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium. Ask for an Intracellular test because blood tests are notoriously incorrect. Minerals help alkalize the body so if you are low in these, it indicates a greater need for dietary minerals or supplements to restore the balance. 
  • Urine test for ketoacidosis

Ready to figure out the perfect diet for you? Ready to improve your lab work and daily symptoms? Click here to book a nutrition consultation.