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Birthday Cake and Thyroid Health

For those people with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, following a natural treatment protocol can be a big challenge.  Probably the greatest challenge during this time is sticking to the diet.  Although many people are disciplined and don’t cheat while trying to restore their health, others can’t resist certain temptations.  Obviously there are other temptations besides birthday cake, but every month it seems as if I get at least one or two emails from patients telling me that they “gave in” to birthday cake.  And since my birthday is in October I figured it was a good time to write a post on this topic.

On the surface it might seem silly to write a post which is focusing on birthday cake.  However, this post isn’t just about avoiding birthday cake, but it’s about trying to avoid all other temptations which can affect your recovery.  There are numerous situations which make it very difficult to stick with the diet while following a natural treatment protocol.  In addition to birthday parties, another big challenge is dealing with the holiday season, as during this time I also receive a lot of emails about sticking to the diet.  And of course it’s common to struggle with one’s diet while going on vacation.  So there are numerous scenarios which can make eating well even more challenging.

The Emotional and Physiological Aspects of Eating Well

Many people have strong cravings which makes it challenging to eat well.  And in these cases it’s not always just a matter of having the “willpower” to resist eating certain foods.  For example, if someone has blood sugar imbalances then they most likely will have a great challenge avoiding eating certain foods such as refined carbohydrates.  Similarly, if someone is addicted to caffeine then it can be a challenge to go “cold turkey”.  Sure, without question there is also an emotional component behind this, as I’ve known numerous patients who have successfully given up eating sweets and/or coffee immediately, and not slowly wean off of these.  But one can’t deny that there is also a physiological aspect when it comes to overcoming cravings.

The first thing someone needs to do is to make up their mind that they want to change their eating habits.  Once they have made this commitment the next step is to correct the physiological aspect of any cravings they have.  With regards to sugar cravings, in addition to avoiding the refined sugars, and minimizing the consumption of healthy sugars as those present in fruit, additional support might be required.  Some nutrients and herbs which can help to balance blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity include chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and gymnema.  As for how to overcome caffeine cravings, for some people this can be more challenging, but one strategy is to switch from drinking coffee to another beverage which has some caffeine, but not as much, such as green tea.  Not only does green tea have a lower amount of caffeine than coffee, but it also has an ingredient called theanine, which counteracts the effects of caffeine.

The Key Is Setting Yourself Up For Success

Once you have decided to make the commitment to eat well, in addition to correcting any physiological aspects of cravings, you also want to do whatever you can to set yourself up for success.  Here are some tips to help accomplish this:

1. Try not to bring junk food into your home. It obviously is more challenging to resist certain temptations if you have easy access to them.  As a result, whenever you go grocery shopping you ideally want to avoid buying junk food, and only buy healthy, whole foods.

2. Get your friends and family on your side. It will be easier to eat well if your friends and family members are encouraging you to do so.  Many people might not understand why you are choosing to follow a natural treatment protocol, but even if this is the case, there shouldn’t be any arguments about wanting to live a healthy lifestyle.  One of the biggest challenges is trying to follow a strict diet when the spouse or significant other is freely eating whatever he or she wants.  This is especially true when the refrigerator and cabinets are filled with foods you are trying to avoid.  Although it might be difficult to convince your spouse and children to follow the same diet you’re following, at the very least I would try to incorporate healthier options.

3. Don’t put yourself in a position to cheat. This is especially important when first beginning a natural treatment protocol, but it can also be true months after starting one.  For example, if there is a birthday party you are invited to, then pass on going to it.  And if it’s a party of a close friend or family member and you feel you need to go, mention your strict diet to the person running the party ahead of time, and consider leaving right after they blow out the candles and before they have a chance to shove a piece of cake into your face.  In addition, don’t go to the party hungry, as if the party is around lunchtime, eat lunch before you go to the party.  And the same thing applies with a party that is being held around dinnertime.  Even though I’m focusing on birthday parties, this obviously applies to other types of parties as well.

4. Consider confronting your temptations. I realize that this contraindicates the previous tip about not putting yourself in a position to cheat, but sometimes implementing this strategy initially can help a great deal.  When I was close to graduating from chiropractic school I went on my very first detoxification.  While following the detox there was a seminar I wanted to attend in a different state (Orlando Florida), so a friend and I drove to Orlando, and his parents lived in Daytona Florida, which is about one hour away from Orlando.   We stayed at his parent’s house for one night, and the first night we were there everyone wanted to go out for pizza, including my friend, who wasn’t on a detox.

To make a long story short I went to the pizza place with my friend and his family, and I ordered a plain salad.  I’m pretty sure I was also avoiding meat at the time, so if I recall correctly I just ordered a plain salad…no chicken, no croutons, no salad dressing.  When they brought out the pizza I really thought about breaking the detox, or at least just indulging for the night and then getting back on track.  But I resisted the temptation, and when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease and followed the natural treatment protocol, I used the “pizza story” as my personal motivation to eat well without cheating.

This probably won’t work for everyone, but many people who follow a natural treatment protocol will indulge right before becoming strict with their diet.  In other words, they will eat a lot of junk food for a few days or weeks before starting the protocol.  You might want to consider putting yourself in a situation similar to my “pizza incident”, as within the first few days of beginning the natural treatment protocol you might want to consider “confronting your primary weakness” with regards to junk food, yet do everything you can to not give into the temptation.

Having Birthday Cake In The Future

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles and blog posts, once someone has restored their health back to normal they can usually indulge every now and then without having a serious setback.  Of course there are exceptions to this, as for example, if someone has Celiac disease then they really should avoid gluten permanently.  The good news is that there are plenty of gluten free options for dessert.  Which brings up another point, as when someone is following a natural treatment protocol which overlaps with their birthday, some will wonder why they can’t just have healthier type of cake, such as a gluten free cake without any artificial ingredients.  I get this question asked during the holidays as well, as every year a few people will ask me around Thanksgiving if they can have gluten free pecan or pumpkin pie.

Obviously I’d rather my patients have a gluten free piece of cake which doesn’t have any artificial ingredients when compared to a cake which has gluten and/or artificial ingredients.  But even if it’s gluten and dairy free, cake is still not considered to be healthy, and eating the “healthier” cake will still spike up your blood sugar levels.  I’m not suggesting that having a single piece of gluten free cake while following a natural treatment protocol will cause someone to relapse.  To be honest, some people following a natural treatment protocol would do fine eating a single piece of gluten free cake during Thanksgiving.  One problem is that many people won’t stop at one piece of gluten free cake.  In addition, everyone is different, and so for some people, having single piece of cake might be an issue, even if it is a “healthier” version.

When I followed a natural treatment protocol for my Graves’ Disease condition, I had to deal with eating well on my birthday, as well as during the holiday season.  It wasn’t easy, but I of course realized that indulging for a few minutes on my birthday or on Thanksgiving wasn’t worth the potential setback.  When I was following a natural treatment protocol, perhaps I could have had a gluten free piece of birthday cake without a problem, but I didn’t want to take the chance.

In summary,  many people find it very challenging to eat well when following a natural treatment protocol.  And even though most people feel better when making dietary changes, some people still have problems resisting certain temptations while trying to restore their health back to normal.  The first thing someone needs to do is to make the commitment to eating well.  They also need to do some things to set themselves up for success, such as not bringing junk food into their home, getting their family members and friends to understand the importance of them being strict with the diet, not putting themselves in a position to cheat, and to consider confronting their temptations.  Also keep in mind that while you want to be strict while following a natural treatment protocol, you probably will be able to eat birthday cake again in the future, after you have restored your health back to normal.