January 1st, 2012
Hashimoto’s, Graves’, and all other forms of thyroid dysfunction are near and dear to my heart for two very important reasons. One is that I struggled with my own autoimmune thyroid condition. In fact it nearly caused me to drop out of medical school.
It was a frustrating and frightening time in my life, because even as a medical student, navigating the medical maze of doctors, lab tests, and treatment options was overwhelming, and there were no ideal options available to me at that time to truly reverse my symptoms.
Conventional medicine failed me in my own journey with thyroid disease and it is my mission to not let it fail you too.
The second is that we are truly living in a thyroid epidemic. An estimated 27 million Americans have some form of thyroid dysfunction, and the American Thyroid Association estimates that 12% of the U.S. population can expect to develop thyroid dysfunction. That’s one person in every eight. And women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to be affected.1
I’ve treated thousands of patients in my clinic with Hashimoto’s, and what angers me is that virtually all of them have been told that there is nothing that can be done to stop the disease from progressing. They are typically given a prescription for supplemental thyroid hormone and told to manage their symptoms the best they can.
They have never been told they can regain optimal thyroid function and restore their health. So, I’m always thrilled to give them the news that taking back their health IS possible.
To understand why that is possible, let’s start with a quick primer on what Hashimoto’s is, and what’s really behind your symptoms.
Your thyroid is your body’s engine, and it powers all of your metabolic processes – keeping you energized, managing your heart rate, keeping your digestive system moving, regulating your mood, maintaining your body temperature, and much much more.
In Hashimoto’s your immune system has become overstressed and is mistakenly attacking your own thyroid tissue, causing your thyroid to become inflamed and then underproduce its hormones. This slows down all of your metabolic processes, and can lead to weight gain, digestive issues, hair loss, fatigue, mood imbalances, and countless other symptoms.
However, because all autoimmune disorders are a result of a malfunctioning immune system, by tackling the underlying issues that caused your immune system to go rogue in the first place, you can stop its attack on your thyroid, restore optimal function, and eliminate your symptoms!
I have helped thousands of Hashimoto’s patients do this by addressing the root causes of Hashimoto’s, using simple, yet proven dietary and lifestyle changes to naturally restore your immune system and thyroid function.
However, I wanted to empower even more people to take back their health. That’s why, in 2016 I wrote my second book, The Thyroid Connection.
Since it was released and became a New York Times bestseller, I have received success stories from people all over the world who have taken back their health and are now living their best, most vibrant lives. These stories truly bring tears to my eyes and you, and the millions of others who are committed to taking back your health, are what drive me to do what I do each day.
So to celebrate the one year anniversary of The Thyroid Connection, I want to share the five strategies from my book that thousands of Hashimoto’s patients have followed to take back their health.
1. Repair Your Gut
If you have Hashimoto’s, or any autoimmune condition, repairing your gut is vital to reversing your symptoms. Afterall, nearly 80% of your entire immune system is located in your digestive tract. The wall of your intestines is supposed to be just a little permeable so the nutrients from your food can get through and into your bloodstream. When that wall becomes leakier than it should be, it’s no longer just the nutrients getting through.
Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is one of the major causes of leaky gut. It produces a chemical called zonulin that causes the tight junctions in the wall of the intestine to open up.2 Leaky gut can also be caused or made worse by stress, gut infections, such as Candida overgrowth, antibiotics and the birth control pill.
Once your gut becomes leaky, larger molecules – food particles, bacteria, viruses, and toxins – enter your bloodstream where your immune system detects them as foreign invaders, attacking them and leading to chronic inflammation.
Many of these “foreign invaders” floating in your bloodstream look very similar to your own body’s cells. Your immune system can get confused and accidentally attack your tissues. This process of mistaken identity is called molecular mimicry, and is one of the theories as to how autoimmunity happens. In the case of Hashimoto’s specifically, gluten’s chemical structure is very similar to that of your thyroid tissue. So once gluten has lead to leaky gut and is now floating freely throughout your bloodstream, it can trigger mistaken attacks on your thyroid.
You can see why repairing the intestinal wall is so important! I use functional medicine’s 4R approach to healing the gut. My book, The Thyroid Connection, walks you through these steps in detail, and here are the basics:
- Remove inflammatory foods, toxins, infections, parasites
- Restore the enzymes and acids necessary for proper digestion
- Re-inoculate with healthy bacteria
- Repair the gut with the nutrients and amino acids it needs
2. Optimize Your Diet
Knowing which foods to eat and which ones to avoid can be confusing, however getting it right is crucial. You might be stocking your kitchen with dairy, legumes, eggs, corn, and soy. These are supposed to be healthy options, right? The reality is, all of these foods could be contributing to your symptoms, because they can all contribute to inflammation and leaky gut.
I’ve already mentioned gluten is one of the worst offenders. It contributes to intestinal permeability and increased inflammation, and through that process of molecular mimicry I mentioned above, it can even cause your immune system to attack your thyroid. In my clinic, I see thyroid antibodies plummet when patients give up gluten. Casein, the protein found in dairy, has a very similar molecular structure to gluten. So, not surprisingly, it can have the same inflammatory and molecular mimicry effects.
Giving your body the nutrients it needs is just as important as removing toxic foods from your diet. My book gets into the details of exactly how various nutrients support thyroid function, and there are four nutrients in particular that are key for optimal function: iodine, selenium, zinc and iron.
Here’s a quick summary of the role they play:
- Iodine – this is one of two components your thyroid uses to produce its hormones
- Selenium – needed to convert thyroid hormones to their active state, also reduces Hashimoto’s antibodies
- Zinc – necessary to trigger your hypothalamus’ thyroid hormone receptors, also plays a role in converting thyroid hormones to their active state
- Iron – converts iodide (from your diet) to iodine to form thyroid hormones, and helps convert thyroid hormones to their active state
Eating a diet rich in clean, whole foods will go a long way in boosting your levels of these critical nutrients. However, due to our modern lifestyles, I recommend taking a high-quality multivitamin that includes these nutrients in order to maintain sufficient levels.
I custom formulated a multivitamin that is specially designed for patients with Hashimoto’s and contains optimal daily levels of iodine, selenium, and zinc. If you are a menstruating woman or have low iron, you many also want to add in an iron supplement.
And to celebrate the one year anniversary of The Thyroid Connection my custom-formulated multivitamin specially designed with Hashimoto’s patients in mind is 15% off now through, Friday September 29th!
3. Tame the Toxins
Toxins can be frightening and overwhelming because they are so ubiquitous in our modern society. In fact, we’re exposed to hundreds if not thousands of toxins everyday. These toxins can accumulate in your body and impact your health in many ways, including how your thyroid is functioning. The toxins that pose the biggest threat to your thyroid are mercury, perchlorate and nitrates.
Mercury, perchlorates, and nitrates are all chemically similar to iodine and are quickly absorbed by your thyroid in place of iodine. When this occurs, your thyroid doesn’t have enough iodine to produce adequate levels of its hormones, perpetuating Hashimoto’s symptoms. Additionally nitrates have been linked to increased rates of thyroid cancer.
The good news is this – you can take steps to prevent your exposure to these toxins and to remove them from your body.
First you need to know how you’re being exposed. All three of these toxins can be present in your tap water. And mercury can also be found in the air (from coal burning plants), as well as pesticides, fish, cosmetics, dental fillings, and vaccines.
Then you’ll want to minimize your exposure by filtering your water and air, choosing organic food and low-mercury fish, buying non-toxic body products, having a biological dentist safely remove amalgam fillings, and making informed decisions about vaccines.
From there you can focus on supporting your detox pathways so you can safely flush toxins from your body. I explain more on that in this post .
4. Heal Your Infections
There are several ways viral and bacterial infections may trigger Hashimoto’s. I explained earlier how a leaky gut can lead to molecular mimicry, where your immune attacks your thyroid in a case of mistaken identity. Well, infections can have that same effect. Your immune system mistakes your thyroid tissues for the virus or bacteria in your body and begins attacking.
Another scenario is if the infection invades your thyroid gland or hides in its cells. When this happens, your immune system tries to kill the virus or bacteria and damages your thyroid as a result.
There are a number of infections associated with autoimmune diseases, and there are five specifically often found in people with Hashimoto’s. These include: herpes viruses, Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis C, Helicobacter pylori, and Yersinia enterocolitica. These are common infections and often show no symptoms, so you might never know you’ve been infected.
These viruses and bacteria can all be tested for and treated. When I work with patients in my clinic to treat infections, we are able to bring their thyroid antibodies down. You can read more about what causes infections, how to test for them, and treat them in this blog post or in my book, The Thyroid Connection.
5. Relieve Your Stress
When you experience stress, your adrenal glands kick in, producing and releasing a cascade of hormones. This signals to your body to prioritize the stressor and forget about other functions – such as, digestion, immune response and thyroid hormone production. The flooding and eventual plummeting of stress hormones has many negative effects on your thyroid including:
- slowed thyroid hormone production
- reduced conversion of thyroid hormone from T4 (storage form) to T3 (the active form)
- shortage of unbound thyroid hormone
Ideally, this stress passes quickly and your body’s functions, including your thyroid, return to normal. However, in today’s society, many of us live in a state of chronic stress. Experiencing this process over and over again can have a detrimental impact on your thyroid. Stress also contributes directly to leaky gut and inflammation and can reactivate those latent infections that trigger Hashimoto’s.
We all have stress in our lives. It’s not realistic to think we can get rid of stress completely, however, we can learn how to relieve it. Figuring out what works best for you to relieve stress is an important step in healing. Deep breathing, meditation, going for a walk, a run, whatever you need to do to prevent yourself from slipping into a state of chronic stress – find the time, and do it. Your health is worth it. You are worth it.
If you have Hashimoto’s or suspect you may have a thyroid disorder, my book The Thyroid Connection has all the information you need to get a diagnosis and embark on the path to reversing your condition and eliminating your symptoms. You don’t need to live with the symptoms of Hashimoto’s. Following the approach I’ve outlined above and getting to the root cause is your roadmap for a happier, healthier life.