In the latest episode of the Unprocessed podcast, hosts Grace and Clara welcome Naturopath Lauren Wood to guide listeners through the intricate connections between the gut, thyroid health and autoimmune conditions, plus the roadblocks standing in the way of diagnoses and treatment.
Lauren is a passionate Naturopathic Practitioner dedicated to transformative healthcare, and her functional approach emphasises targeted, specific treatments that yield tangible results, underlining the importance of investigating the root cause for genuine healing. She’s not just looking for band-aid solutions, this holistic naturopath is all about unpacking the unique microbiome of each person and finding out the best plan of attack based on their needs. But this isn’t just a career for Lauren, her journey into naturopathy was sparked by her own personal troubles with autoimmunity.
“I dealt with chronic gut health issues; severe constipation, bloating, fluid retention and I was feeling really fatigued,” she says. “I went through the conventional system at the time, I saw a gastroenterologist and they couldn’t find out what was wrong, they said, ‘basically it’s IBS.”
It was Lauren’s step mum her first suggested she try out a naturopath to get a more holistic view of what was happening within her body.
“That was a game-changer for me,” Lauren says, adding that she then developed an interest in naturopathy.
The episode delves into Lauren's personal journey of overcoming chronic gut health issues, a path that led her to a deep understanding of the profound influence gut health has on one's quality of life. Sharing her experiences, Lauren says, "I was having to get colonoscopies every two years," highlighting the significant impact such issues can have on an individual's wellbeing, and the confusion and unanswered questions so many people end up with after seeking help from doctors.
Lauren challenges the conventional notion of "subclinical" in the context of diagnoses like hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto's disease.
"Doctors often say you're in the reference ranges we can't treat you, but patients may still be symptomatic and need help,” Lauren says. "Reference ranges are too broad."
What Does Subclinical Mean?
One of the major topics of the episode is the term subclinical and how unhelpful reference ranges can leave people who are highly symptomatic without the proper treatment. But what exactly does subclinical mean? Well, it refers to a state in which a disease or condition is not meeting the criteria for a clinical diagnosis. In the context of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's disease, a person may have markers or abnormalities indicating the presence of the condition, but they might not exhibit clear or overt symptoms. Or the reverse can be true – they may be symptomatic, but their test results are not in the range doctors require to make a diagnosis. Let’s take a look at some of the elements of subclinical diagnoses Lauren unpacks:
Broadness of Ranges in Diagnosis: The broadness of reference ranges in the diagnosis of autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, can impact individuals' ability to receive timely treatment and support in several ways.
Symptomatic Discrepancy: Reference ranges are established based on statistical norms within the population, and individuals falling within these ranges are often considered "normal" or "healthy." However, the broad nature of these ranges means that people with subclinical symptoms, who may still be experiencing health issues, may not be flagged for further investigation or treatment.
Delayed Diagnosis: Individuals with autoimmune conditions might face delayed diagnosis because their symptoms are not severe enough to fall outside the broad reference ranges. This delay can result in prolonged suffering, worsened symptoms, and potential complications.
Quality of Life Impact: Even though someone falls within the reference range, they may still experience a decreased quality of life due to subclinical symptoms. The broadness of diagnostic ranges may lead healthcare providers to overlook these symptoms, leaving individuals without the necessary treatment and support to manage their condition effectively.
Patient Advocacy Challenges: The perception that falling within reference ranges equates to overall health can create challenges for individuals advocating for their own health. Patients may encounter resistance when seeking treatment or support, as healthcare providers might dismiss their concerns based on standardised ranges.
Preventive Measures: Early intervention is crucial in managing autoimmune conditions. A broad diagnostic range may hinder the identification of individuals who would benefit from preventive measures, lifestyle changes, or targeted treatments to mitigate the progression of the disease.
Healing the Gut Microbiome
Lauren says one of the major elements of poor gut health and autoimmunity comes down to the gut microbiome – it’s often overlooked and band-aid solutions are used instead to treat the symptoms, but not the condition.
Lauren shares her approach, saying, "I typically would see a patient and go through their symptoms and try microbiome analysis and breath testing.
"I completely healed my gut through naturopathy.”
So, how can you boost your microbiome? Well, it’s starts with what you put on your plate.
- Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Incorporate a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), leafy greens, berries, and turmeric. These foods can help reduce inflammation in the gut.
- Fibre-Rich Foods: Consume a variety of fibre-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Fibre supports a diverse microbiome and aids in the production of short-chain fatty acids, which are beneficial for gut health.
- Probiotic Supplements: Consider taking high-quality probiotic supplements. Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria into the gut, promoting a balanced microbiome.
- Fermented Foods: Include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso in your diet. These foods provide natural sources of probiotics and support gut health.
- Prebiotic-Rich Foods: Consume foods rich in prebiotics, such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and bananas. Prebiotics nourish the beneficial bacteria in your gut, promoting their growth and activity.
- Identify Food Sensitivities: Work with a healthcare professional to identify and eliminate potential food sensitivities. Common triggers include gluten, dairy, and other allergens, which can contribute to inflammation in the gut.
- Mind-Body Practices: Engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or tai chi. Chronic stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome, and managing stress is crucial for overall well-being.
- Prioritise Sleep: Ensure you get sufficient, quality sleep. Sleep is essential for the body to repair and regenerate, including the gut lining.
- Drink Plenty of Water: Stay hydrated to support digestion and maintain the mucosal lining of the intestines.
- Use Antibiotics Judiciously: While antibiotics are essential for treating infections, their overuse can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria. Use antibiotics under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
- Individualised Approach: Work with a healthcare professional, as a functional medicine practitioner or a registered dietitian or a naturopath like Lauren, to develop an individualised plan based on your specific needs, symptoms, and health goals.
- Microbiome Testing: Consider Microbiome Analysis: Some individuals may benefit from microbiome testing to assess the diversity and composition of their gut microbiota. This information can guide targeted interventions.
In a world where conventional healthcare often overlooks the intricate relationships within the body, Grace, Clara, and Lauren not only inform but inspire a fresh perspective on healthcare—one that acknowledges the profound connections between the gut, thyroid, and autoimmune conditions, fostering a path to genuine healing. Keen to learn more? Head on over to the podcast to watch the full episode.
Want to find out more about Lauren's practises and tips for a healthy gut? Take a look at her Instagram HERE.