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Thyroid Health: How to Identify Imbalances + Tips for Support

With Samantha McKinney, RD

Season 4, Episode 5 | October 5, 2021

Thyroid issues are prevalent: An estimated one in seven people are affected, with even more suffering from an imbalance — and many not even aware that their thyroid is behind their symptoms. Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT, shares the signals our thyroid might be sending us, the tests to ask for, and the lifestyle habits we can implement in our daily lives to nourish and support our thyroids.

Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT, is a Master Trainer at Life Time who supports members and nutrition programming.

In this episode, McKinney offers advice around the ways we can support our thyroid health, including the following:

  • Request a full panel of testing. In addition to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which physicians typically run to diagnose high or low thyroid, McKinney suggests also asking your healthcare provider to test for the following to help paint a bigger picture of what’s going on: T4 and T3 (including total and free amounts), reverse T3, TPO antibodies, and thyroid-globulin antibodies.
  • Aim for optimal ranges. Physicians will typically look at medical ranges when running thyroid testing. Yet there is a chance you may be within an acceptable medical range but be outside of an optimal range — and that’s a place where you likely still won’t feel like your best self.
  • Think nourishment, not restriction. Sub-optimal levels of thyroid function can result in stagnant weight or health changes, which can cause people to “diet” or restrict calories or macronutrients. Rather than support health, that can make the problem worse. The thyroid dictates your body’s calorie burn and needs nourishment to function properly.
  • Practice supportive nutrition. Eat a whole-foods diet — including adequate amounts of protein and plenty of produce — and support it with supplementation via a high-quality multivitamin. Consider going gluten-free, and avoid high amounts of goitrogens, which are raw, cruciferous veggies like cauliflower. (You do not need to give up these veggies, simply lightly cook them.)
  • Manage stress and prioritize sleep. The thyroid is very sensitive to stress. If you’re not sleeping enough and are stressed out, your body can start making reverse T3 to reduce caloric expenditure and protect you.
  • Be realistic with your exercise plan. If you’re trying to optimize your thyroid or get to the root of your thyroid issues, it’s not the time to go all-out with your fitness program — that will only add additional stress to your body. Conversely, not moving at all is also a stressor. McKinney suggests pairing walking with regular strength training, making sure to take time for adequate rest in between sets.

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Transcript: Thyroid Health: How to Identify Imbalances + Tips for Support

Season 5, Episode 5  | October 5, 2021

Jamie Martin

Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy-living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor-in-chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman, Life Time’s national digital performer brand leader. We’re all in different places along our health and fitness journey, but no matter what we are working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.

Jamie Martin

In each episode, we’ll break down the various elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, and health issues. We’ll also share real inspiring stories of transformation.

David Freeman

And we’ll be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond, who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.

[MUSIC]

Jamie Martin

I’m Jamie Martin.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman. And in this episode, we’re talking about thyroid health with Sam McKinney. Sam is a registered dietitian and master trainer at Life Time who supports members and nutrition programming.

So Jamie, going into this episode, what were some golden nuggets that stood out to you?

Jamie Martin

Right. So first and foremost, just how common thyroid issues are. What did we —  the stat was something like one in seven people are diagnosed with thyroid issues. But it’s actually probably more common, because the symptoms of it are not always easy to identify or not always associated with it. It could be something else. So the prevalence of thyroid issues and how challenging it can sometimes be to get a diagnosis. So how important it is for advocating for ourselves, to know what tests to ask for, so that we can work with a health care provider or find a health care provider who will work with us on that. That was one of my takeaways.

The second one —  and it’s something that Sam said that just continues to stick with me —  is the importance of nourishing our bodies well. She said focus on nourishment, not on restriction. And just how essential it is for us in those times when our body is operating potentially sub optimally, when our thyroid is sub-optimal, how important good nutrition, self-care, all of those things that nourish us, they’re just so important to focus on.

So how about for you?

David Freeman

Just putting the power back into each individual’s hand as far as with their health. So if you’re going to a health care provider and they’re simply just saying —  her quote was, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s normal. So like if people are saying, this is normal, they’re not necessarily helping with the root cause and focusing on that and they’re just treating the problem. That’s where you want to probably look elsewhere and see if somebody can now meet you where you’re trying to go within this health and fitness journey. So that stood out to me as just leveling up those individuals that we’re working with as a whole.

Jamie Martin

Yep. And I think to that point it’s really about empowering ourselves with education in nutrition to know, again, what to ask for. To know that just because we have a thyroid issue doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it. There are a lot of things that we can do to take care of ourselves. And so if we can share some of those lifestyle factors, those habits that can support whatever else we’re doing, whether it’s medication or other sorts of treatments, we have some level of advocacy that we can do for ourselves, and we can take charge.

David Freeman

Yeah. Yeah. We usually say knowledge is power, but I always say the application of the knowledge is power.

So with that, let’s go ahead and give you guys some power right now. And we’re going to jump into our episode with thyroid health with Sam McKinney.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

David Freeman

Sam McKinney, welcome back to Life Time Talks. Last time we checked up on you and you were actually on, you just had a baby.

Samantha McKinney

I did.

David Freeman

But now we’ve been having a few Final Destination events happening in your life?

Samantha McKinney

We have. And this time I understand the movie reference, so there we go.

David Freeman

Yes.

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. I would say that the McKinney family has had kind of a crazy month. But I’ll start off by saying we’re all OK. It’s just it’s almost a running joke at the office right now as far as like, hey, what happened to Sam this week? But there’s been a totaled car. There’s been —  my baby and I in the are were OK, but we got hit by a drunk driver. So that was super stressful.

I broke my toes off of the bed after a 2:00 AM feeding. So it’s just been interesting, but we’re all good. And everybody keeps telling me to play the lottery now because the bad luck has got to be up.

David Freeman

Yeah, for sure.

Jamie Martin

Well, I’m so glad you’re OK and that hopefully your luck is turning at this point.

Samantha McKinney

For sure.

Jamie Martin

As you said, win the lottery. Buy a lottery ticket, hopefully. Something along those lines.

So we have you back today because the last time you were on, we were talking about metabolism. And we kind of went down a rabbit hole of talking about thyroid health. And we really wanted to revisit that topic, because it’s one that we know is actually thyroid issues are pretty prevalent and common. I think one in seven people are estimated to be affected by some sort of thyroid issue.

Samantha McKinney

That’s right.

Jamie Martin

So let’s just dive deeper into that topic. I think it’s one we know that our audience wants to know more about. So right off the bat, what is the thyroid? Where is it? And why is it important for our health?

Samantha McKinney

Sure. So it’s a butterfly shaped gland. It’s right at the front of your neck, right here. And it is involved in pretty much every single aspect of metabolism. Every single cell in your body requires thyroid hormone to function well. And you are right —  it’s a super common imbalance that people have. The estimates say one in seven. I can say anecdotally —  so from working with Life Time it’ll be a decade this fall. I’ve had a chance to look at a lot of member lab data. So we actually have direct to consumer labs in certain states available.

And out of everybody that I’ve looked at that’s gotten that done, about half of the people have some sort of imbalance in their thyroid function where it’s not optimal. So you know, the gland is pretty important and there’s a whole —  and I’m sure we’ll get into it today —  there’s a whole downstream impact of things that can happen that can really dramatically impact how you’re feeling and how you’re functioning every day, which is why I think it became so prevalent in our metabolism chat.

Jamie Martin

Right. And so let’s talk for a second —  when your thyroid health is good, when it’s optimal, what does that look like?

Samantha McKinney

Heavenly. I would say for those that are looking for body composition changes, it’s a little bit easier to see results. You implement changes, you see results happen. Your digestion is regular. Your energy levels are super high. Your mood is typically balanced. And I say all of this because I almost wonder if we should flip and talk about, hey, what happens when the thyroid is off? Because all those things I listed, there are other things other than thyroid that can throw it off too, right?

But when all is well, and assuming everything else is well, you just feel good. High energy. You work out spontaneously because you want to and you’ve got the energy to do so. You know, you’re happy. You’re going to the bathroom. Your hair, skin, nails, everything is healthier. So it’s a pretty good place to be.

So on the flip side, I’m guessing I should go into —

Jamie Martin

Yeah. Let’s go into the sub-optimal.

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. So maybe we should talk about sub-optimal a little bit, too? So whenever it comes to thyroid function, there are set medical lab ranges typically. That’s what’s usually run whenever you get your thyroid tested. And whenever we talk about feeling like our optimal selves, that’s really where we want to focus on what —  at least at Life Time —  we look at is optimal functioning ranges. They’re typically a little bit narrower than those medical reference ranges.

And really, if you’re outside of that optimal range but still within medical reference range, you might not be at a spot where maybe your physician’s concerned, because it might not be a big medical emergency or something that is putting you in imminent danger. But you’re just not feeling like your best self either. And we really care about helping members get into that optimal range. And when they’re outside of that, I see people implementing changes that theoretically should get them to lose body fat, if that’s what they’re looking to do. Or they might start carrying body fat whenever nothing else has changed, which can be really unnerving. They’re like, I don’t feel like myself. Skin can be really dry.

It kind of slows down everything. Think of that —  it’s sort of like everything’s in slow motion. You’re thinking is a little bit slower. Your energy levels are slower. Your digestion is slower. You get some brain fog. You might feel down. And some of those symptoms are kind of like ambiguous. It could be like, hey, there could be a lot of things going on there, right?

David Freeman

Well, you talked about what optimal, right? So we talked about optimal, and now sub-optimal. So for those who have the happy butterfly —  I like the reference that you said there. For those who do not have such a happy butterfly, and when they go to their care team and they are now diagnosed with hyper or hypothyroid, what’s the next steps?

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. OK, so good question. Well typically, if you’re going to —  generally speaking, if you’re going to like a regular general practice physician, usually what’s run is something called thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH. And that’s usually what’s used as —  and again, there are exceptions to this. But usually what I’ve seen my clients report is what’s used to diagnose if somebody is having high thyroid or low thyroid, right? And I’ll circle back to answer your question directly in a minute.

But THS —  thyroid stimulating hormone —  it does exactly what it says to do. It tells your thyroid to function. So really, if that is high, usually you’re diagnosed with slow thyroid, or hypothyroidism. Because basically what that’s saying is your thyroid needs a bigger kick in the pants to do its job. It needs a louder signal. It’s like your body’s yelling at your thyroid to function more because it’s slow. So that stimulating hormone is high.

Conversely, whenever it’s low, that usually means that you have a fast thyroid, which is hyperthyrodism. And that is nowhere near as prevalent. Most people are really concerned for like their hypothyroidism, or slow thyroid, or slow metabolism. So if that gets diagnosed —  that’s an if, and we can kind of get into why that is —  typically people are going to be put on thyroid hormone in order to address that and get them to feel better. But there are some different avenues and things that we can chat about there, too.

Jamie Martin

Right. So let’s say you go to your doctor. They’re going to test for TSH. Are there other thyroid hormones you can ask to be tested for? I know I personally have gone and I’ve had a list. So what are some of those? If you want to go and ask for additional tests, what might those be?

Samantha McKinney

For sure. OK. So TSH is typically that standard one that’s drawn. And then there’s a decent amount of physicians that I’ve heard of that will also run T4, which is kind of the more prevalent thyroid hormone. There’s T4 and T3. There are other ones, too, but those are kind of the two most commonly ones looked at. And there’s about like 30 to 100 times more T4 than T3, so most physicians are going to look at TSH and then T4.

And just —  I think sometimes explaining the physiology, even though it gets sciencey, can really help.

Jamie Martin

I think that would be great.

Samantha McKinney

So your thyroid, it kicks out T4 and T3, but way more T4 than T3. T3 —  and just a little fun fact —  those numbers, 3 and 4, refer to the number of iodine molecules on there. So if you’ve ever heard about iodine and thyroid, which we can kind of get into, that’s why. So that thyroid stimulating hormone tells that butterfly shaped gland in your neck to kick out thyroid hormones —  it’s T4 and T3. Way more T4 than T3. But T3 is way more powerful, right? So it’s way more metabolically active, I should say.

So what happens is because there’s just a small amount of T3 that your thyroid makes, and it makes a lot of T4 but T4 is not that active, the T4 goes to other parts of your body. An iodine molecule is removed, and it makes T3. That make sense? And so that’s where most of your T3 comes from. So thyroid makes a ton of T4, a tiny bit of T3. T4 goes elsewhere, gets turned into T3.

Jamie Martin

Got it.

Samantha McKinney

That make sense? And then from there, the T3 actually has to get into the cell. And that’s what exerts all of those beautiful metabolic effects that make the happy butterfly analogy that we were talking about. So to answer your question, TSH. I would say T4 and T3 are really important to test. There’s total amounts and free amounts.

The other thing to really look at is something called reverse T3, which your body can start to make under certain conditions if it’s trying to actually reduce caloric expenditure to protect you. We can get into all these details. Hopefully you’re keeping track, because I know I’m going down eight different rabbit holes right now. There’s T4, T3. Then there’s reverse T3. And there’s some antibodies, as well, to test. So TPO antibodies and thyroglobulin antibodies.

And all of those really —  it sounds complex, because it is —  can help paint a bigger picture of what’s going on with your thyroid health. And I think kind of what I want to summarize that whole little diatribe I just went on is there can be five people that have five very similar symptoms, right? And they’re not getting enough T3 into their cells, right? So it’s what’s causing those symptoms, but they could have five different reasons why that’s happening. And you don’t really know unless you get all of those tested and really looked at and evaluated. Does that make sense?

Jamie Martin

Yes.

David Freeman

I mean, I think obviously the detail is what leads us to a lot of the answers. And the beautiful part about what you just broke down is people can always play it back, take their notes, and then ask questions if need be. And the more that we empower them with the knowledge, the more they’re equipped with making the changes that they need to make.

Samantha McKinney

Sure.

David Freeman

So when you broke down hyper, hypo, you also have Hashimoto’s. What I also want to throw on top of that is when you looked at the five different individuals that you just talked about, what if it’s now great grandma, grandma, mother? Is it a genetic predisposition? Is it passed down? What do you have for me there?

Samantha McKinney

Yes, so I will say that there’s a lot of different things that can throw off your thyroid, that can cause thyroid dysfunction. And some of the most prevalent things, like Hashimoto’s —  it’s actually an autoimmune disease that impacts your thyroid —  you for sure have a genetic predisposition to that. Now, does that mean, hey, it’s going to trigger at the very same time that it did for grandma and mom? Maybe, but you actually might have a lot of influence over how it’s expressed, how it’s managed, and really how well you’re feeling and functioning.

And actually, I’ll share —  I’m a perfect example of that. My entire family, like my parents are from Poland, so I’m first generation. And my entire side of my mom’s family, every single female has Hashimoto’s. And it’s really prevalent, and I will say that they are struggling with a lot of the symptoms that I don’t really struggle with, too. And so did my grandma before she passed, and my great grandma, and all of that, too.

So I have it. And again, I’m a dietitian that’s super passionate about this stuff. But again, I have to do things specifically to manage it.

David Freeman

Go deeper into that. So you say you have influence over —  can you give us a few different examples?

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. So for example, with Hashimoto’s there is some evidence to suggest that, for example, staying away from certain foods like gluten can make a big impact. I can say with clients of mine that have Hashimoto’s, which is —  actually, let me back up. A lot of times people are told that they’re hypothyroid and they don’t really even know why. So that’s one of the biggest questions I ask is like, hey, do you know what type of hyperthyroidism you have? And my clients are like, wait, what are you talking about?

And I bring that up, because Hashimoto’s is one of the most prevalent underlying factors that cause hypothyroidism.

Yes, is the type of hypothyroidism. So it bar none is the most common one. And I’ve run into a lot of people that have known for years that they have hypothyroid, but they don’t know if they have Hashimoto’s or not. So testing for that is really important.

So anyway, with Hashimoto’s, basically any autoimmune condition, there’s typically some sort of genetic predisposition. And then it ties into your gut function and sort of how well your digestive tract is functioning. And then usually there’s some sort of trigger. And that trigger that can basically set everything into motion, it could be a virus that you’re exposed to. It could be a really stressful event. Oftentimes it starts to manifest itself in pregnancy. And women, too, because of all the hormonal changes that happen. And so postpartum thyroid issues tend to trigger quite a bit.

Jamie Martin

If you’re testing specifically for Hashimoto’s, is that where you get into are you testing for antibodies in that case? Or what are you testing for? If you’re looking for, like, I have hypothyroidism, now I want to get more specific and more detailed.

Samantha McKinney

So all of those things I listed will help kind of paint that picture. And generally, speaking the antibodies, like the TPO antibodies and the thyroglobulin antibodies, that is usually what will help guide a physician to deciding whether or not you’ve got the autoimmunity piece going on.

David Freeman

Yeah. And we typically talk about all the different things that help influence or create change within our behaviors, that help yield positive results within our body. So when we think of some of the pillars that we always set ourselves up with, when you look at nutrition, hydration, that’s why I was looking at more for the examples that probably can help influence whatever is already set within the body to help benefit you in the long run.

Samantha McKinney

Sure.

David Freeman

Whoever’s struggling in this area in the long run.

Samantha McKinney

So kind of what are the foundational things to really look for? Or like almost big things that can trigger it?

David Freeman

Or support.

Samantha McKinney

Or support it. OK. So I think we can kind of wrap that all together in the conversation. So if you think, OK, let’s say somebody has sub-optimal levels of thyroid function, but they don’t know. Typically they’re going to hold on to weight a little bit. I should say like unwanted or uninvited weight a little bit more easily. So let’s say you and your friend are joining some sort of routine or program. Your friend might be getting a ton of results and you’re like, hey, what’s going on here?

Well, what’s really interesting with thyroid, because it has so much to do with metabolism, is sometimes those very people that are struggling tend to —  and I air quote “diet” harder. So they’ll really start to restrict calories, and that’s actually making the problem worse. And so they’ll restrict calories, or they’ll cut out all carbohydrate. And they’re like, OK. I’m not doing any carbs whatsoever. That’s also going to make the problem worse. Or hey, they cut their protein, which is probably one of the worst possible things that you could do. And so that would make it worse. But really, they’re trying so hard to fight against their body, when really they might need to pause and kind of nourish themselves. And that’s where some of those foundational habits are.

So you do need to think more nourishment than restriction whenever it comes to thyroid function. Because it dictates your body’s calorie burn, right? And how well your body is burning calories.

You also really need to manage stress and sleep, which I know we talk about that a lot. I find for some reason —  and this is like with one on one clients, this is with friends, this is with family. I almost feel like people are like, yeah, yeah, yeah. I need to, I need to. And they don’t. I’m like you —  because it almost feels unproductive. Of like, hey, I’m managing my stress and I’m sleeping, but your thyroid is very sensitive to stress.

So let’s say you have this sub-optimal thyroid function going on. If let’s say you’re cutting your calories and you’re not sleeping enough and you’re stressed out, that is one of those examples of where your body will start making what’s called reverse T3 —  and I mentioned that in the labs to get them. And that’s your body’s attempt at lowering your caloric expenditure —  so how many calories your body burns —  in an attempt to protect you.

So what happens is it kind of —  think of it this way. That T3, that really powerful hormone that helps you feel good? Imagine there’s like parking spots. That reverse T3 is now taking up the parking spots and the T3 that you have can’t do its job.

So stress and sleep management are huge. And then the two other kind of big areas, I would say, are nutrient sufficiency. There are key nutrients that are literally needed for all these processes to function correctly. As well as just being really aware of environmental toxins, because those can really throw off thyroid health, too.

Jamie Martin

So let’s dig into that nutrition piece. You mentioned protein earlier. That’s so essential. How else can we support ourselves, our thyroid, with nutrition?

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. So I think I mentioned gluten before. So it’s general best practice, as long as you’re not taking like a diet that’s really high in like ultra processed foods and switching to the expensive gluten free versions of those, right? Going gluten free with more natural whole unprocessed foods —  meats, veggies, complex carbohydrates, et cetera can be super helpful.

You don’t want to do a high amount of what we call goitrogens. So there are foods that in extreme excess can throw off thyroid function. And goitrogenic foods are like raw cruciferous vegetables. So tons of raw broccoli, tons of raw kale, tons of raw cauliflower. I don’t know many people that are doing that. If you’re listening and you’re like, hey, I’m low thyroid. Not a reason to give up your broccoli at all, right? All you have to do is lightly steam it and you’d have to eat tons of it. But just be cognizant, because sometimes I’ve seen people where maybe they’ll try like a green juice fast and all of a sudden there’s a ton of like broccoli, cauliflower, or kale and they’re drinking tons of it. That’s where you’d want to be careful. But just lightly cooking it takes care of that.

Soy is actually really goitrogenic, too. So trying to consider maybe staying away from soy.

And then eating certain key nutrients. So I think I kind of hit on that, too. And you know, obviously we want to get them from food, but I do recommend good supplementation. But I would say selenium is really important. Zinc is really important, as is iodine and then iron. Which most of those, other than iron, are covered with a high quality multivitamin. If you are low in thyroid I wouldn’t necessarily just start supplementing with iron until you get it tested, but you should be eating high iron foods, like grass-fed red meat, dark meat poultry. Ideally organic if you can.

That was a lot.

David Freeman

No, that was a lot. But at the same time, like I said, it’s all slowly being digested. So when you said the foods that we should avoid, with the gluten and processed. So is there anything exercise wise that you should probably be avoiding within thyroid issues?

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. So metabolism —  and we talked about this in our last podcast —  is super dynamic. What works today isn’t going to be what works in a week or a month, right? When somebody is actively trying to get to the root of hypothyroidism and optimize their thyroid function, that is not the time to go all out. This is about not adding stress to your body. And exercise is a wonderful stress. It’s necessary. But I would recommend walking and really regular strength training with adequate rest in between sets.

You have to stay moving. Giving up exercise is a stress on the body in and of itself. You need to exercise. But gosh, I mean, think about it —  if you’re feeling super lethargic, you don’t have high energy, your mood is low, your body’s talking to you and it’s right. It’s not the time to go —  you only want to go all out whenever you’ve got the energy to do it, right? So exercise is huge that way, as well.

Jamie Martin

One of the things —  and I think I’m correct on this. I’d have to go fact check myself, as well. But just thinking about adrenal health and its connection with thyroid. Can you speak to that?

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. That kind of really —  the biggest thing to take home goes back to that stress piece that we were talking about. So there are times where, whenever it comes to a supplement plan, using like adrenal supplements and stress support supplements can be really helpful. But essentially —  well, and that whole reverse T3 issue, right? So if you’re stressed out, your body’s not going to be able to use your thyroid hormone correctly.

So think about that real quick. Even if you’re on thyroid medication —  so let’s say the most common thyroid medication, it’s called levothyroxine or Synthroid. That’s actually synthetic T4. So that main hormone that kind of goes out. Your body converts that to T3. Let’s say you’re on medication, but you’re under a ton of stress and you’re not managing it. Well, you probably have a lot of reverse T3 that’s getting in the way of helping you to feel better.

Jamie Martin

So even if you’re a medicated in that case, it might not be doing the job it’s intended to do.

Samantha McKinney

Well, yeah. And I’ll also say just with conversations people that might ask me about thyroid health is they might tell me —  oh, one of the big symptoms, too, is feeling cold all the time. Is hey, I feel cold. I’m lethargic. I’m kind of low mood, all those types of things. And I’m like, oh, that sounds like a potential thyroid imbalance. People are like, oh, yeah, yeah. I’m on thyroid medication. And I’m like, stop and think about what you just said, right?

So you’re getting medicated, but you’re still showing all the signs of an imbalanced thyroid. So are we missing a piece there? And usually we are, right?

Jamie Martin

What are we missing?

Samantha McKinney

Yes. So that stress piece is huge and you can’t really ignore it whenever you’ve got thyroid issues going on.

Jamie Martin

Yeah. And that just brings me, you know, I’m thinking about the ideas of other self-care strategies that we often need in those. Because stress is something —  if it’s chronic —  I mean, there’s acute stress, right? But then we get into that chronic stress phase. And if we know that that’s ongoing, if we’re not taking care of that through a variety of strategies, we may just be here for a while. So any other self-care strategies you would suggest?

Samantha McKinney

I mean, purposeful stress management, which I know sounds kind of like a cop-out, everyone’s going to say that. But it really is whatever works for you for figuring out a way to be in the present moment, not thinking about anything else. So for some people, yes, it’s meditation, which has research behind it. For some people it’s doing regular acupuncture. For other people it’s, hey, I want to go wood work in my garage and I just need to get lost in that.

The popular trend —  and maybe it’s still going on —  a couple of years ago of like adult coloring books, right? Just little things to sort of like lose yourself in whatever you’re doing even, if it’s for 5 or 10 minutes, can make a big difference.

But in terms of thyroid function, that is assuming that stress is the culprit. You know, all of this really goes back to why is your thyroid off in the first place? And that goes back to the testing to kind of figure that out. And it’s sort of hitting on whatever is going on there. So is it a nutrient insufficiency? Is this, hey, I’m not converting it from T4 to T3 well, which happens in the liver and in the digestive tract. Is it that I’m stressed out and so my body can’t even get the T3? And you’ve got to figure out what’s the root before you figure out the kind of strategic plan there.

David Freeman

It’s a common theme that I keep hearing over and over. So we hear it now within thyroid. We heard it within weight loss, or optimizing metabolism, whatever it may be, is the intensity of the workout, right? I keep hearing the low to moderate intensity. And what we see so much of is this high intensity to get the result that they might see from what people are seeing from an aesthetic standpoint. So I’m glad that you’re reiterating that, too, that you can get so much more from doing this low, moderate intensity and just get your body moving. And utilizing fat as that energy source to remove fat from the body and put yourself in a healthy mind, and your body in a healthy state, too. So I just wanted to once again just drive that message home.

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. And I mean, to kind of piggyback off of that, too, is what I mentioned is like you’re —  just like other parts of your program, your exercise program should change. So let’s say somebody has low thyroid and it’s not really manageable right now and they’re not feeling so good. Yeah, that low intensity might be what they need to do right now. But as they implement a bunch of these strategies in a holistic way to try to get their thyroid back to the way it’s designed to work, you sort of earn the right to exercise more. And you start to feel better. And you’re like, you know what? I want to go hard today. Like I really want to do a workout that is just going to like kick my behind. And you feel when you’re ready for that, you know?

And you want to respond to that. Because it’s not about always walking and just doing strength training. Like, even for heart health, you want to get to the point where you can optimally incorporate some high intensity training and kind of get the cardiovascular benefits out of that and everything. So it is about really listening to your body, doing regular testing, regular check ins on how your symptoms are trending, and adjusting your program from there.

David Freeman

The key word there everybody —  because we tend to listen and take out the parts that vibe with, oh, she said we can go to high intensity. She said earn. So it’s an earned progression, so make sure you guys heard that keyword there —  earn that progression there. I like that.

Jamie Martin

Absolutely. The other thing that I’m hearing you say, Sam, just based on the testing protocols, the diagnoses, and kind of some traditional medical settings, it sounds like you have to be an advocate for yourself when it comes to like, no, I’m really not feeling well. Can we dig deeper? So let’s talk a little bit about that and being your own best advocate when it comes to getting better and feeling better.

Samantha McKinney

It’s so, so important, right? If you are not feeling like your optimal self, it is important to partner with a health care team that’s truly listening to you and isn’t brushing your symptoms under the rug. Because just because something is common, doesn’t mean that it’s normal. And I’ve probably said that eight million times in my career, right? Because people say, oh, you know, this just happens as I get older. And I’m like, that is not optimal and you don’t have to accept.

I mean, yes, there are certain things that happen as you get older. But what I just find is that we are so quick to —  let’s say you go to the physician. You’re like, hey, my hair is falling out, my nails are splitting, and I’m really down. Well, if the first response that you get back to that is, hey, here’s a medication for mood that you can take, I’d encourage you to just stop and see if you can like dig a little bit deeper with that conversation. And if you find that you’re really not getting anywhere and you’re not really jiving with the health care team that looks at things holistically or wants to get to the root cause, find someone who will.

Because they’re out there, right? There are some general practitioners that have done more advanced thyroid education. There are certain endocrinologists that you could potentially find that can take a more holistic view. There are certain functional medicine doctors that have good track records of helping people with this. And so make sure that you find that team of support to really figure out what’s going on, and how to address it.

And you know the nutrition exercise piece that we’re so passionate about —  and lifestyle, of course —  plays a huge role in your outcomes with all of this.

Jamie Martin

Yeah. And I think when you’re working towards improving your health, or you have a diagnosed health issue like this, also cluing in the people who are part of your support system at home or in your community, to get them to help you along the way, too, and help them be part of the process as well.

Samantha McKinney

That’s critical. I mean, I can even give another anecdote is one of my closest friends —  she doesn’t live anywhere near Life Time. But she was really struggling a lot. She actually was having recurring miscarriages. And infertility, that’s another big thing that can happen whenever your thyroid is off. So anybody struggling with that, I really encourage a full thyroid panel. And I was just telling her, you need a full thyroid panel. You need a full thyroid panel. She was getting a lot of resistance from her doctors. It just wasn’t happening. And she had, I think, four or five of them in a row.

And she finally found a doctor that would listen. She got tested, and she had rampant Hashimoto’s. Like a really severe case of it that had been missed that entire time. And so, OK. So I start kind of connecting with her and I’m like, OK, so here are some supplements to take. Like try going gluten free. Here’s what you focus on with nutrition.

And at first, her family was super resistant. They’d make fun of her for giving up gluten. And oh, like that’s just a trend. That doesn’t mean anything or whatever.

Well, fast forward like a year and a half. She’s been doing it. Even though her goal has been fertility, she’s lost 20 pounds that she —  you know, she’s happy with that, right? Like she’s not mad about it. She feels better. They’re working with a fertility specialist and everything, too. It can be a process and it can take a while, but over time as her husband and her parents and her brothers and her sisters that live close by were seeing the changes in her, they got on board. And it’s just —  I just think to myself how much easier it would have been for her had she just had that support from the beginning. But really, she got kind of attacked for it.

So that support at home and getting people on board is really huge. Even if somebody —  if you’re in that situation, you find that your family is resistant, you can say, hey, listen. You don’t have to understand this, but I really don’t feel good. And I really want to try to figure this out. Like can you just sort of be my cheerleader here?

Jamie Martin

Be your own champion in that regard, as well.

David Freeman

Support is so huge. So I remember seeing something the other day. It actually came from Pitbull, but when —  no for real, it’s some great gems being dropped. But when you go all the way back to when you were a kid and you remember —  or now us being parents, when our kids start to take that first step, and that positive reinforcement as far as encouragement. Like keep going, Bain or Harley, or our kid’s name. And we’re cheering them on. And the reason why they keep getting back up and keep trying is because of the positive reinforcement.

As we start to get older, and we lean into our peer group, and they’re like, why are you doing that? That’s just a fad. It’s opposite. So that same positive reinforcement that we have as a foundation, we start to lose sight of that as we become adults. So we can get back to it —  we talked about it on another podcast —  the power of five. And the people, the circle of individuals that you surround yourself with, and how positive and how that can help change that narrative and change your life.

So I mean, that’s powerful. I like how you framed that up.

Samantha McKinney

Well, especially because as you guys can start to appreciate from this conversation, I’m sure, there are a lot of changes to be made whenever you have sub-optimal thyroid function, right? And they’re going to sometimes impact your family, right? Trying to now make gluten free dinners. I can understand like, hey, if you’re not the one in the family with thyroid issues, you don’t need to give up gluten. You’re like, wait, we’re not going to have bread or regular pasta right now? Or whatever it might be. So I can understand it impacts other people. So it just takes some real conversations there.

Jamie Martin

Yeah. Honest conversations.

Samantha McKinney

Yeah.

Jamie Martin

Sam, we covered a lot on this topic. Is there anything else relating to thyroid health that you want to add before we jump over to David’s drill for you?

Samantha McKinney

Well, if I haven’t hit home yet, I would say testing and retesting a full thyroid panel if you’re having thyroid symptoms is huge. It’s also really listening to your body. If you’re experiencing, whether it’s something like the fertility issues, or whether it’s unexplained weight gain, or whether you’re just feeling really tired and you can’t figure out —  you’ve got to nap every day at 3:00 PM. Or you’re constantly cold. Like those aren’t optimal things. Your body’s talking to you. I wouldn’t take —  I wouldn’t brush that under the rug, no matter what you’re necessarily told. So kind of do that.

And then regardless of, let’s say you’re kind of in that waiting game of you’re trying to find somebody to do testing, or you’re considering getting direct to consumer testing yourself —  I would not skip the foundational things to do. And I think I talked about this in our metabolism podcast, too. But this is a high quality multivitamin that’s capsule based. I know it sounds like vanilla, like it’s just a multivitamin. It sounds really plain and simple to do.

If you think about it, that’s what’s going to provide you a high quality source of B12, which your thyroid needs. It’s going to provide you a chelated zinc, so it’s going to help sort of replete that. Hopefully it gives you iodine as well. A lot of people aren’t getting enough iodine, so I know we mentioned that earlier. Iodine is going to come from seafood and sea vegetables. I don’t know how many people are eating those four or five days a week, right? So really take that high quality multivitamin.

Get your protein in. Think nourishment —  don’t restrict yourself so aggressively. That’s the other one. Strength training. And then there are like, outside of some of the other core really helpful supplements, such as omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D and magnesium. Those are kind of like table stakes. Like, do those.

And don’t be afraid to supplement a solid nutrition and exercise and lifestyle plan, because it can be really helpful. Like for example, if someone’s on thyroid medication, they might be low in like coenzyme Q10. So you might want to take coenzyme Q10. Or they might be low in an amino acid called carnitine, so just seek out help to guide you with all of this.

But the foundational things, such as the strength training, core supplement regimen, stress management, sleep management —  it wouldn’t hurt to try a gluten free approach and see if you feel any different, right? I’m not going to claim going gluten free is going to fix your thyroid. That’s not what I’m saying. But it wouldn’t hurt to try and just see if you feel better off of it. So kind of go back to some of those foundations and really push for that testing to figure out what’s actually going on, and partner with a team that can help.

Jamie Martin

Absolutely. And we have, in addition to this episode, we have a lot of resources at LifeTime ‚ ExperienceLife.LifeTime.Life. There’s lots of stories and content on thyroid. Just search that to get more info. And Sam, I think you’ve contributed to some of those articles, so we’ll make sure to include those in the show notes for this.

Samantha McKinney

Sure.

David Freeman

I think it’s time.

Jamie Martin

It’s time.

David Freeman

It is time.

Jamie Martin

Go for it. Sam.

David Freeman

Are you for it? The hot seat?

Samantha McKinney

I don’t think I’m ever ready for the hot seat, Dave. But I’m going to go ahead and be a team player here.

David Freeman

Yes, you are a team player. You are also a beautiful butterfly. So here we go. As you know, the rules of the game —  it’s usually two minutes. I always preface sometimes we go to overtime. Sometimes we throw a little timeout in there.

Samantha McKinney

I’m sweating.

David Freeman

No. Don’t sweat. Don’t sweat. Ideally we want to be able to answer the question within 10 seconds, OK? You’re not able to phone a friend or anything like that.

Samantha McKinney

What?

David Freeman

I don’t know, I just felt like the Biggest Loser? Was that —

Jamie Martin

I’m here for moral support.

Samantha McKinney

That was Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

David Freeman

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

Samantha McKinney

Oh, did I just throw something back at you?

David Freeman

You threw it back at me. You got it. That was a layup.

Samantha McKinney

There you go.

David Freeman

You got it. You got it. Alright, here we go. You ready for it?

Samantha McKinney

Bring it.

David Freeman

What was the show that you just mentioned?

Samantha McKinney

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

David Freeman

Funny how I have that as the first question.

Samantha McKinney

What?

David Freeman

Oh, here we go. You ready? 3, 2, 1. If you had a million dollars, what would be the first thing you did?

Samantha McKinney

Buy a house —  a different house.

David Freeman

If your life was a movie, what would be the title?

Samantha McKinney

Oh, my gosh. I mean, that could be the title, I think. Look at it —  yeah, OMG. Yeah. Especially considering my last month, right?

David Freeman

What do you consider your greatest personality trait?

Samantha McKinney

I would say driven.

David Freeman

I like it. I like it. Alright, what’s a pet peeve that you have?

Samantha McKinney

I hate when people bite their nails so much. So much. I can’t.

David Freeman

Yeah. I’m a nail biter. Alright. Alright, here we go. Would you rather have isolation from the world for 10 days —  now make sure you listen up here. Isolation from the world for 10 days, or be placed in the middle of the woods and have to figure out how to get back to civilization?

Samantha McKinney

Isolation for sure. I’m an outgoing introvert, so that sounds great. But again, as long as there was a time cap on it.

David Freeman

Alright.

Samantha McKinney

Being in the woods. Yeah.

David Freeman

Alright. So here we go —  favorite Olympic sport to watch?

Samantha McKinney

Gymnastics.

David Freeman

Alright, Alright. If you had to pick your last meal, what would it be?

Samantha McKinney

Oh. I would say a really, really good steak. Medium rare, perfectly seasoned. It’d be awesome.

David Freeman

I like the detail. I like that. Alright —  most critical feedback you received and how you responded to it?

Samantha McKinney

Oh, 10 seconds I got for this?

David Freeman

Well, you can go ahead over time. We know it’s there.

Samantha McKinney

Oh, gosh. Most critical?

David Freeman

Critical.

Samantha McKinney

Critical feedback.

David Freeman

Critical feedback.

Jamie Martin

Also known as constructive criticism.

David Freeman

Oh.

Samantha McKinney

Constructive criticism.

Jamie Martin

A little shift on that.

David Freeman

I like that. I like that. Look at you getting in there.

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. I’ll say I used to — because I’ve done some work on this — if there was any type of conflict or whatever it might be, I’d want to like jump in and address it right in that second. And it took a couple of years, but I’m finally at a point right now where if there’s any type of conflict or something to resolve, I now —  I didn’t always —  see the value of stopping, taking some time, thinking before I speak. All those types of things. So yeah.

David Freeman

That’s good. That’s awesome. I like that one a lot. What do you love most about your career?

Samantha McKinney

I mean, it doesn’t feel like a career. It’s a passion. I mean, I truly believe that there’s an approach that can be taken to get people to feel like the most optimal version of themselves. The way that they were, what I believe to be, created to be. And when I see people struggling with things that can be addressed, I want to help. So I mean, I think the part of my career is that I get to live that out every day, which is really cool.

David Freeman

Live on purpose.

Samantha McKinney

Yeah.

Jamie Martin

I love it.

David Freeman

You see how I did that?

Jamie Martin

You totally did.

David Freeman

Last but not least, here we go —  what do you want to leave as a stamp of impact in the year 2021?

Samantha McKinney

Specific to a year, too. You got deep on some of this.

David Freeman

A little bit.

Samantha McKinney

Yeah. 2021 impact? I would say —  I mean, not surprisingly it goes back to my passion around health. I would say that the last couple of years have been a roller coaster for everybody. And it really is, I would say, about trying to get people to understand that you are not necessarily a kind of —  from a chronic health standpoint —  like a victim of what happens to you. You’ve got power over your health. You’ve got power to make change. You’ve got power to invest in yourself. And whether it is to feel like your best version of self, or whether it is related to kind of current events and just being able to kind of navigate storms a little bit better, you’ve got a way to build your own resilience from a health standpoint. And so trying to get people to really appreciate and get excited about that.

David Freeman

You heard it here first. Sam “Butterfly” McKinney. There it is.

Jamie Martin

Well, I think that —  just as a great way to end it —  empowering people, right? Like with education, with knowledge, with all these tools, we can take charge, right?

Samantha McKinney

For sure.

Jamie Martin

Awesome. Sam, thank you so much for coming on. If people want to follow you or see more of your work, where can they find you?

Samantha McKinney

I would say within Life Time, there’s a Life Time Training Facebook group. You can always go there. You can also go to ExperienceLife.LifeTime.Life. And as you mentioned, I’ve got some of my articles on there, too. And then there is some really cool —  for any Life Time member, there’s some really cool programs that we have within our Life Time Training app. So I’m a part of that team as well. So happy to interact through that platform, too.

Jamie Martin

Love it.

David Freeman

Awesome, Sam.

Jamie Martin

Thank you, Sam.

David Freeman

Thank you, Sam.

[MUSIC]

David Freeman

Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today, and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you? Where do you run into challenges? Where do you need help?

Jamie Martin

And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us, too. Email us at lttalks@lt.life, or reach out to us on Instagram, @lifetime.life@jamiemartinel, or @freezy30, and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks. You can also learn more about the podcast at el.lifetime.life/podcasts.

David Freeman

And if you’re enjoying Life Time Talks, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Feel free to rate and review, and share on your social channels too.

Jamie Martin

Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks.

Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time, healthy way of life. It’s produced by Molly Schelper, with audio engineering by Peter Perkins, and video production by Kevin Dixon, Coy Larson, and the team at LT Motion. A big thank you to the team who pulls together each episode, and everyone who provided feedback.

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at lttalks@lt.life.

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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