Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hypertension, Hypothyroidism, and Paleolithic Diets

I went in to the doctor a few weeks ago and my blood pressure was pretty damn high, about 170/100. I was surprised.

Part of the reason I went into the doctor was that I felt 'weird', and wanted to get a new prescription for my thyroid medication. Hypertension is one common effect of untreated hypothyroidism ("patients with hypothyroidism have triple the risk of developing hypertension" from one source, or this paper listed in PubMed, or a study that looked specifically at the two), so I knew that not being on meds could be a problem. My first goal was to get back on thyroid meds, continue workout out, and continue losing weight. Not being on the medication was itself a gross mistake, one that I really only made because of the hassle of dealing with medical insurance. Moving on -- I'm back on thyroid medication.

Strength training has sometimes been associated with higher blood pressure, but most of what I've seen in that regard says that it is while lifting weights that one's blood pressure goes up. Nearly every source I've checked says that athletes (and children) have low blood pressure, so I'm not sure that building muscle tissue should cause hypertension. That seems weird. So I'm not going to stop strength training yet, especially since I'm working on other avenues. Normally when one says "athletes" I think what comes to mind is runners, sports players, cyclists, and the like -- people engaged in long-term cardiovascular exercise, who can exert themselves for hours at a sport or exercise. So running should help lower my blood pressure, although I expect that benefit to be slow and gradual as I step up my running.

Blood pressure is also correlated with weight loss. But I'm losing weight (on the paleo diet), so that should also be a continuing benefit, again slow and gradual as the weight comes off.

Of course, the doctor wants to give me pills for the hypertension and then pretend the problem is solved. She didn't know of any pill that I could take once that would cure the problem, so the "only option" is lifetime medication. Blech! I didn't want that solution. I want to be healthy, not just have "healthy numbers."

Thyroid function is harder to restore, I know, as Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease. I expect to continue to be on thyroid medication for a long time. Some people have been able to reverse autoimmune diseases after fixing their gut (by removing lectins such as WGA and other stessors from their diet) and eating nutrient-dense food, but all the anecdotes I've read about it says that it takes a year or more for your body to restore itself to health. Some relief can be found immediately depending on the disease, but hypothyroidism doesn't cause pain or other severe effects like some of the other autoimmune diseases. I would like to restore my thryoid to normal functioning; I don't want to be on that medication for life. But that depends on how damaged my thyroid is, and if removing antagonists will eventually convince my immune system to leave my thyroid alone.

My blood pressure numbers have been coming down; I'm back into pre-hypertension range. I've got a BP cuff at home now, and I'm using that to track my BP a few times a day. My diet hasn't changed (still paleo), although the high BP reading was enough to convince me to be more consistent in my workouts (running every other day, strength training every four). It's also convinced me to keep to the diet.

I've been consistently paleo for three months and have lost 20 pounds. I figure strength training has helped me put on some lean mass, but I haven't been tracking body fat % so I can't really judge that. At some point I'll post my weight and BP readings, probably in one big chunk, for those that would like to see hard numbers.


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