Yoga and Digestion – Thyroid & Gut Health

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Updated: January 2021

As I consult with patients, I work on stress reduction and relaxation techniques.  I also give specific recommendations on intake of digestible and absorbable proteins so that the body can maintain, heal, and repair.

Every patient is different and I spend hours (behind the scenes) reviewing case history reports, laboratory tests and formulating (or modifying) my treatment plans for each patient.

Rest and Digest

I’ve written about the “Rest and Digest” phenomenon and how the nervous system can get out of balance and be in a chronic state of “Fight or Flight” in some of my other articles.

The facts are that most of my patients first come to me in a state of fight or flight.  Because of this, they literally can’t digest and absorb their food in a healthy way.

When the body is in a rest and digest state, nutrients can be absorbed and distributed to the body in an efficient manner.

Deep breathing and meditation are great at helping someone get into a rest and digest state, but deep breathing and meditation don’t do much when it comes to preserving and enhancing lean muscle mass.

What Type of Exercise is Good?

If a person is physically able, ideal exercise would include a regimen of water aerobics, cycling, stationary recumbent bicycle or elliptical trainer (NO TREADMILS!), walking, weight training, and core strengthening.

Muscular strength and flexibility are very important for overall health and protection of the spinal structures.  What are two things that people lose as they age?  Strength and flexibility.

Often loss of strength and flexibility come from a decrease in physical activity, poor diet, poor nutrition and believe it or not, malabsorption.

Also, inflammation is at the root cause of all disease.  Cancer, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia are all inflammatory driven conditions.

Certain inflammatory processes can cause activation of “osteoclasts” in the body.  Osteoclasts are the cells that break down bone tissue and can lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis.

It has been scientifically proven and validated that weight bearing exercise helps stimulate “Osteoblasts” which are cells that build new bone tissue.  Osteoblasts can help maintain and preserve bone structure and integrity.

What could weight bearing exercise like yoga do for me?  It strengthens muscles which help support healthy bone tissue.  It’s very important for someone who wants to be healthy.

Only those who exercise can regain a state of true health

To get your body into a better rest and digest state, I strongly recommend that all patients get into doing some type of yoga related exercise on a regular basis (a minimum of 3 times a week but ideally, daily).

Should I get a Yoga Instructor?

I believe that going to a class is important in the initial stages because an instructor who has done yoga for a long time can guide you and help ensure that you are performing all of the yoga poses correctly so that you can avoid possible injuries.

Another aspect of going to a class and having an instructor is the accountability aspect.  Having a day and time where you are supposed to show up at a scheduled event, is an important part of making sure that you do it.

Often, it is easy to skip a workout when you are doing it at home.  You may say, “I’ll do it later today” which becomes tomorrow, etc… and before you know it, you’ve lost your momentum.

How Often Should I do Yoga?

I recommend doing yoga at least 3 times a week if you are healthy and your body can handle it.  Start off slow and build up over time.  You don’t want to get too sore.

It’s the same as with my patients:  I will hold you accountable.  In my experience, it is by far the best way to get results.  That’s what we all want, right?  Results?  So, going to a class is a good thing.

If you are VERY self disciplined, and you have done yoga for a while, you may elect to get some DVD’s or download some yoga classes.

**It is important to recognize that not all people are the same and that you may not be able to perform all of the yoga moves in a particular class or video session, especially in the beginning. 

The goal is to build up over time to develop the strength and flexibility.  Yoga is also very relaxing and will simply make you feel better so just do it.  I strongly recommend purchasing a thick yoga mat that has plenty of cushioning so that your knees don’t hurt.

Some people have difficulty getting up and down off of the floor.  It’s okay!  Just make some modifications!

You may have to start off doing yoga in a chair if you can’t get on the floor.  It’s cool.  Just doing something is better than nothing.  Do whatever you can and with time, you will start seeing benefits.

Proper Breathing for Yoga

The deep breathing associated with yoga alone improves health by removing wastes such as carbon dioxide and other toxic gases in the body.

I like the following Yoga DVD:

A.M. Yoga for Your Week by Rodney Yee

**An alternative for people who are wheelchair bound or walker dependent would be a DVD called Sit and Be Fit.

A.M. Yoga for Your Week is a solid yoga for a beginner and is very relaxing. It can still be challenging though.  We introduced it to my 75 year old father-in-law and he does the a.m. workout 2x a day, morning and night.

It was hard and challenging for him at first but he has improved greatly and continues to do it faithfully.  My mother-in-law is doing it now as well!

You Can do This!

My father-in-law, Sammy, is a retired iron worker and he is the last person on Earth that you would expect to do yoga but he says that it is what keeps him going.

The goal with my patients, is to treat the root cause of their health problems.  Sometimes people need some basic instruction on the proper way to eat, exercise, breathe, etc… so that they can get their body into a state of balance so that they can digest and absorb their food properly.

Can Yoga be this Simple?

Obviously, most of my patients are complex cases where it is going to be more complicated than recommending eating slowly, chewing their food until it is liquefied, doing some deep breathing, and performing yoga.

Many of them will have a chronic infection or some other pathology that is wreaking havoc on their body.  However, these recommendations are a place to start and can really benefit people in ways that they wouldn’t even have expected.

Yoga and Muscle Mass Preservation

I like to educate and empower my patients by teaching them what it takes to be healthy.  Preservation of lean muscle mass is so important because it actually has a profound effect on blood sugar regulation.

The more lean muscle mass someone has, the more insulin receptors they will have.  Lean muscle helps keep a strong metabolism.  It also helps you move around and stay more active.

Yoga and Religious Beliefs

Some people may be concerned that doing yoga could be sacrilegious.  I really don’t feel that way about yoga.

The word “namaste” is a sign of respect and also a greeting in the Hindu culture.  That’s it.

Yoga is really just gentle stretching, deep breathing, and relaxation.  All of these have been proven to provide great health benefits to the body.

The focus of this article is to give people some basic suggestions to improve their quality of life and overall health and yoga is a solid approach to enhancing someone’s quality of life.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get enrolled in a yoga class, preserve and maintain your lean muscle mass, and enrich your life today.

Health is Happiness,

Dr. Keith Currie

What patients think:

I suffered from extreme fatigue and anxiety. I own my own business, so it became a real problem for me. I told Dr. Currie about my fatigue, anxiety, tightness across my abdomen, sleep difficulties, and other health problems. He put together a plan for me that I followed to the T. I can say that I have no more anxiety and my bowel movements are normal. I’m sleeping through the night and have energy levels that have surpassed where I have been for many years. I couldn’t be more pleased. I believe that if you follow Dr. Currie’s recommendations, that he can help almost anyone.

by - Jerry P.

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