What I Learned From Interviewing 39 Experts in Autoimmunity

December 2nd, 2014

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What I Learned

What I Learned From Interviewing 39 Experts in Autoimmunity

Autoimmune disease has become a modern day epidemic. If you aren’t one of the estimated 50 million Americans who suffer from at least one autoimmune disease, you likely know someone who is. Conventional medicine views diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupusmultiple sclerosis, and other debilitating conditions as chronic, and only manageable with strong, immunosuppressive medications that have their own long list of side effects. When I myself was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disease called Graves’ disease while in medical school, I started down the conventional path–which was, in my case, harsh medications and the eventual ablation of my thyroid.

I knew there had to be a safer, more natural way to heal my malfunctioning immune system, and I made it my mission to not let conventional medicine fail anyone the way it had failed me. My search for answers launched me into the world of functional medicine and forever changed my view of autoimmune disease treatment. In my own clinical practice, I began to identify 5 key environmental factors that play a role in the development and treatment of autoimmune disease:

What I Learned chart


Again and again with my patients, I’ve seen dramatic improvement and even reversal of symptoms with attention to these five factors. I wanted to see if other experts agreed, so I set out to interview 39 doctors, researchers, and scientists about what we can each do now to halt today’s worldwide autoimmune epidemic.

Even if you aren’t able to see a functional medicine doctor, you can take steps today to protect your health and reverse autoimmunity. Here are the biggest tips that I heard over and over from the amazing experts who took part in the first Autoimmune Summit:

1. Clean up your diet by removing toxic and inflammatory foods.

Dr. Robert Rountree pointed out that autoimmune disease “develops in the context of an inflammatory diet.” All of the experts agreed that improving a patient’s diet was the first step they took, and many pointed to an elimination diet as the most useful tool for identifying foods that could be causing inflammation. During an elimination diet, you remove common inflammatory triggers from your diet for a period of about two weeks, and then add them back in, one at a time, while gauging your symptoms. If you feel better when you avoid one food, but your symptoms return when you add it back in, you continue to avoid that food. Dr. Alejandro Junger suggested you “start by eliminating the big toxic triggers: dairy, gluten, sugar, and alcohol.”

2. Eat a variety of organic whole foods.

Removing problem foods is only the first step; the next is to give your body the nutrients it needs to heal. “Variety is key,” explained Dr. Deanna Minich, who emphasized the importance of eating a “rainbow” of richly colored organic fruits and vegetables. “Commit to eating one new green thing every day,” suggested Dr. Susan Blum, echoing Brianne Williams when she said that “the body knows how to recover once you give it the right things.”

Another point brought up again and again was the importance of eating organic food. In his interview, Jeffrey Smith explained the dangerous potential of consuming GMO foods, and that you can avoid them by buying organic. “Eat organically,” said Nora Gedgaudas, explaining that pesticide residues and GMOs “can have an amplifying effect on virtually any form of autoimmunity.”

3. Take care of your microbiome.

Practically every expert agreed that the health of your gut is fundamentally important for the health of the rest of your body. They explained that one huge step you can take to prevent or reverse autoimmune disease is to care for your microbiome (the ecosystem of bacteria and other microorganisms, like yeast and parasites, that live in your gut). “Attention to the gut in general is where I start with anyone with autoimmune disorders,” Dr. Leo Galland explained. In agreement, Dr. David Perlmutter said that “you’ve got to focus on restoration of the gut bacteria–that’s job one, two, and three.” Take a daily probiotic, avoid antibiotics unless medically necessary, limit sugar, and eat fermented foods and other prebiotics that will promote the growth of good bacteria.

4. Reduce your stress.

One of the biggest lessons learned during The Autoimmune Summit was the overwhelming importance of stress reduction to combat autoimmunity. Several of the speakers, including Dr. David Haase, Donna Jackson Nakazawa, Dr. Katie Hendricks, and Dr. Sara Gottfried referenced and even demonstrated breathing techniques that have a profound effect on the progression of autoimmune disease.

“If I only had one tool the rest of my life to give all of my patients,” said Dr. Haase, “it would be paced breathing, and I’ve said that for 10 years because I’ve never seen something so simple, safe, effective, and cheap produce such massive results in people’s lives if consistently used.”

Universally, the experts agreed that your other efforts, such as cleaning up your diet and exercising, will be undermined if you have a high level of stress, although it’s rarely discussed in the same way. As Dr. Todd LePine phrased it, “It’s a really simple thing to do. It sounds like it’s not going to do anything, but deep breaths and just being grateful and present have a huge role in calming down the immune system.”

5. Sleep.

Getting enough sleep, what Robb Wolf called “an underestimated piece of autoimmunity,” was another topic that came up again and again as one of the first steps you can take in healing from autoimmunity. Sleep expert Dan Pardi dedicated his entire talk to this topic, ending with the advice that you “give yourself enough time in bed to get complete sleep and wake up naturally. Maintain smart light rhythms every day, evening, and night.”

6. Exercise (but don’t overdo it!).

Hand in hand with sleep and stress reduction, exercise was also emphasized as one big way to heal your body from autoimmune disease. Dr. Dan Kalish pointed out that exercise “is the hardest one for most people,” because exercise does cause inflammation. Dr. Frank Lipman and Dr. Jeff Bland both explained that some level of inflammation is needed to induce healing.

“There’s a certain level of positiveness about inflammation that induces the repair of tissues,” explained Dr. Bland. “If you completely sit quiet with no inflammation and you’re in casts, you put casts on all your joints, that’s the case where you’ll get the most joint degeneration. You need to keep moving.”

But how do you do that? “Gentle movement,” according to Dr. Lipman, “is very powerful. I think people don’t realize that exercise, especially when it’s hard exercise, is a major stress on the body…You can push, but then you need to pull back and let your body recover, and I think that’s really important.”

7. Clean up your environment.

When it comes to toxins, it isn’t all about your diet. All of the experts agreed that limiting your toxic exposure from every source was vastly important, especially cleaning products, cosmetics, and heavy metal sources like drinking water and dental fillings. Heather White, the executive director of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), provided practical tips and guides for reducing your exposure to toxins.

“Be very honest with yourself and very vigilant about the different possible chemicals that you have in your life,” suggested author Donna Jackson Nakazawa. “You might think it doesn’t matter what kind of cosmetics you wear or what kind of shampoo you use, or whether or not you’re spraying a particular type of toxic cleaner all over because it works really well and makes your furniture beautiful, but the facts are that it all adds up. Every little drop in your barrel adds up. The more you can take out, the better your life is going to be.”

8. Be your own advocate.

“I would say, first of all, in this whole arena, you need to be your own health advocate,” explained Dr. David Brady on what became one of the most talked about themes of the entire summit. “You need to get educated yourself, because if you’re waiting for your standard family physician, internist, or something, or rheumatologist to lead you down this path, it’s not going to happen.”

When I designed The Autoimmune Summit, the intention was to equip as many people as possible with the information they need to take their health and recovery into their own hands.  Each expert gave examples of how we can all educate ourselves and make changes to end today’s autoimmune epidemic.

One way to do that, Heather White suggested, is to “become a label reader of everything you buy…You have to get in the game and make your voice heard, and it’s amazing what you can do when you speak up.”

As Dr. Datis Kharrazian eloquently summarized, you need to “rise up to the occasion, take control of your life, you can control your autoimmunity, you can control your lifestyle… Educate yourself. You need to be smarter than any doctor you’ll see. This is about your health, this is about your life, and no one knows you better than you.”


I hope you enjoyed The Autoimmune Summit, and that you were able to take away at least one piece of information that can help you or a loved one prevent or reverse autoimmune disease!


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  • JP Ploetz

    Thank you for the wonderful review!! I began practicing some changes in diet and sleep and already my hood sugars dropped from 139 To 99. I sleep better and look forward to celebrating my 50 th anniversary in June healthy and happy. THANK you,,

    • That is wonderful!!! So glad you enjoyed the summit 🙂

  • Diane

    Thank you!! This was very helpful!

    • You’re welcome, I’m so so happy so many people were helped by it!!

  • Michelle Ford

    Thank you, Dr. Amy for the Autoimmune Summit! It was an awesome summit with so much information from so many great experts in the field. I started on my journey a year ago when my internist found nodules on my thyroid. I had a lot of intestinal issues (imagine that!) and my Dr wanted to put me on a lot of different meds. All that to say, I’m still on this journey, but summits like yours are helping me to put the pieces of the puzzle together. One question: I did not hear any speaker discuss nodules on the thyroid (could have just missed it), but my thyroid labs are totally normal, including antibodies, Free T3, T4, TSH. But I do have nodules. Is this an indication of Hashimoto’s? Thank you again!

    • Myriam Lluria Sitterson

      I have a nodule and a cyst on my thyroid and my endocrinologist, one of the top doctors in Miami, told me it was a normal part of the aging process! I couldn’t believe it. I’m interested in the answer to this as well.

      • Zine-abidine Louadrhiri

        Dear Myriam Liuria Sitterson,it is not normal.very likely to be an autoimmune attack,my sister did have it as a part of inflamation of Keratin in the bones ,due to poisoning.take good care about detoxing and your friends and environement, a lot of Ginger,cinnamon,curcumin ,mint,thym and sage can help.

        • Myriam Lluria Sitterson

          Thank you, Zine-abidine Louadrhiri, I am very careful with my diet and environment, don’t use toxic cleaners or personal care products. I also take Triphala daily as well as use ginger, curcumin and sage on a regular basis as well as vitamins and minerals to boost immunity and support thyroid health. I also take 3 drops of iodine daily. 🙂

      • Keith

        I had thyroid nodules and Hashimoto’s. I shrank the nodules and swollen thyroid using Iodoral, selenium, turmeric, and a little bit of tyrosine. I’m currently now off all meds including thyroid meds.

        • Theresa

          Hi Keith I am wondering where you got the idea to use Iodoral and tyrosine?

          • Keith

            I’m no doctor, but I have several hundred hours of research invested in owning the condition I used to have…Celiac, Hashimoto’s, nodules, colon polyps, anemia, severe iodine deficient, etc. I was flirting with cancer on several fronts. All caused by celiac. I may get some disagreement on this, but it seems that Hashimoto’s and nodules are a sign of inflammation and your thyroid starving to death. I was close to death myself. I went Gluten Free and took the gas off the bonfire. Then I started with turmeric (natural anti-inflammatory), then I fed my thyroid. I got my energy and metabolism back. Two years later and 60 pounds lighter, I’m off all prescription meds. The combination of Iodine and Iodide works great!!!

          • Theresa

            Thanks for your reply. I have Hashimoto’s but not Celiac – no antibodies or the genetic markers. However I have been gluten/dairy/grain free for >12 months. Am taking anti inflammatories – fish oil/tumeric. Am removing amalgams and am sure I have a high mercury load. Can you point me in the direction of Iodoral and tyrosine research?

          • Jayme

            Hi Keith,
            My son was just diagnosed with hashimotos and I wondered if it was possible to get his thyroid operating normally so that he won’t have to take meds the rest of his life. You story is fascinating. I would like to chat with you if possible. Would you email me at [email protected] with your contact info and I will call you?

          • Keith

            Through research, different medical articles and sites, I found that iodine and tyrosine are components of T4. The thyroid is a major store house of selenium. The selenium is used in the production of glutathione peroxidase. GP deactivates the hydrogen peroxide generated making T4. Without Glutathione Peroxidase, the H2O2 would damage your thyroid. Selenium, tyrosine, and iodine are all needed to make T4 and keep your thyroid healthy. I also take another amino – NAC N-Acetyl Cystine. NAC and selenium are the components of Glutathione Peroxidase. It’s complicaged, but your thyroid, gut, and immune system health are all linked together. You need to be able to absorb a couple minerals and aminos to improve your metabolism and overall health. Please read all the info you can find on T4, selenium, Iodine, tyrosine, and Glutathione Peroxidase.

          • Theresa

            Hi Keith, great information I will definitely look into it. Thanks!

        • Myriam Lluria Sitterson

          Great to hear, Keith! I’m taking liquid iodine drops, selenium, L-tyrosine, zinc, Ashwaganda, Vit C and a lot more and I use turmeric regularly. Never took meds and I have returned to check how it’s doing in a few years.

      • Noel Jensen

        When a medical professional uses the word normal, you should hear two things. 1) the problem (or symptom) I have is very widespread and/or common. 2) It is not something that he/she wants to treat with drugs or surgery. You should not,however, equate “normal” with being well and/or healthy in our society.

        • Very true.

        • Myriam Lluria Sitterson

          Thanks, Noel, I never listen to doctors! Gave birth at home with my last two daughters after bad experiences with doctors and a nurse midwife, and did a lot of other unconventional things and going more that way the older I get and I follow my intuition mostly.

      • Conventional doctors tend to see things as “normal” that are definitely not ideal! A nodule could be a sign of an underlying thyroid condition–a functional medicine doctor is the kind you want to see. You can find one in your area here: http://www.functionalmedicine.org

        • Myriam Lluria Sitterson

          Thank you Dr. Amy! I have gone to 3 Functional Medicine doctors in my area….but have not been satisfied at all and they all took offense when I questioned or spoke about some of the things I’ve learned in many years of studying natural health. I have learned more from the many health summits than from any of the doctors I saw, including the Functional Medicine ones in Miami. The last one I went to wanted to put me on a hormone patch for my menopause symptoms and I explained to her that I would not consider that because I had already tried it and then learned a lot about hormones. She’s closing her practice due to illness. She wears an estrogen patch.

        • Myriam Lluria Sitterson

          I can’t believe they haven’t figured out they weren’t taught much of value in medical school as far as helping people get and stay healthy! And I LOVE the work you’re doing on all counts and how you are so outspoken about the truth. I’ve known there was something very wrong with Western medicine since my teens and especially since I started having children 25 years ago and reading lots on alternative and holistic medicine.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the summit!! Yes, Hashimoto’s is associated with an increased risk of thyroid nodules. So it could be. I would definitely get checked out by a functional medicine doctor as they’re going to be looking for the cause of the problem, not just the symptom treatment (ie medication).

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  • Christine Jackson Sypien

    I learned so much from the summit to help thyroid cancer survivors in the group, Butterfly Bandits. Thank you for your continued help in making us healthier.

    • You’re welcome Christine!! I’m so happy with the way the summit turned out and how many people it helped.

  • Gloria Millar

    Wondering about PMR and the best way of recovering.

  • Zine-abidine Louadrhiri

    Well Dear Amy,no wonder they would have poisoned you,you look very pretty,attractive and very smart.autoimmune diseases are mainly due to poisoning.I ve been personally suffering for 40 years because I was poisoned.they made me swallow something which spent 7 days in the mouth of a dead corpse.that triggered an autoimmune attack on IMPs,Na,K,channels causing spasmophilia or Isaacs syndrome,beyond the scope of tetany and chronical fatigue,and polymyalgy,there is a zombieing ,the IMPs are the pillars of the soul .it has just been discovered lately in the Rockfeller institute,a beautiful piece of scientific work done by chinese.it holds the main key to efficient treatments in the future,as what was genially done inthe Max Plank institute in Berlin(please notice the huge Moore names,Rockfeller and Max Plank).because once you define the target of the attack,then that target can be fixed to dead Bcells and injected in the bodyand Abra kad Abra ,the attack stops ,and the disease is cured.well some kind of Homeopathy you would say.because you re treating with the causative poison.it desrves certainly a Nobel Prize.it is not a particular miscievous characteristic of a specific ethnic group,but envy and evil is common to all,as Leo Zscirald said after the atomic bomb,”it is just the tragedy of mankind”,but for sure people who are handsome and intelligent will be prone to envy and damage.”you ve got to prepare your ownsalvation with fear and trembling” the Gospel of Peter.

  • Jan Atkinson

    I want to take a moment to personally thank you for all that you did for us during the summit. We know it was a labor of love with hours of work on your part. It is so greatly appreciated and you deserve a standing ovation. We are in a time when too many Doctors are not keeping up with the new studies and changes and are not willing to look at the possibilities that abound. We thank you and appreciate your help in our attempts to take back our own health!

    • YOU’RE WELCOME!! That made me so happy to read, thank you so much for the kind comment!

  • lorrainegrula

    I am enjoying the summit a great deal. It is a massive amount of information and quite helpful. I am just a couple of months into my journey of healing but already feeling so much better. I had chronic pain and stiffness and sometimes could barely move. Thank you so much for all your work.

  • Kathleen

    The summit was great. I wish I had attended prior to my thyroid ablation years ago. There are many of us that have not felt well since this procedure and I was hoping that Dr. Amy will share more on how she has coped with the aftermath.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the summit. I do have a podcast where I talk a little bit more about my own journey: http://www.amymyersmd.com/2013/04/21/dr-myers-journey-to-functional-medicine-tmw-episode-one/

      • Kathleen

        Yes, I had heard your story of Graves and your thyroid ablation and listened again on the podcast. My story is exactly the same as yours, but I had several doses of RAI. presumably, the endocrinologist did not think I would be miserable enough after one dose so he kept going. I hear you on the regret you’ve experience. The promise of “one little pill for the rest of my life” has not worked at all. I’ve had T4, T3 and T4, and T3 alone. I’ve done Wilson’s protocol to no avail.I know that I am not alone on seeking solutions and finding none.

        Do you think that after ablation, we are left like Hashimoto’s patients (perhaps worse) and that we could get well with the same treatment you have used to help Hashi patients recover?

  • Sandra

    Dealing with MS and Cancer over the last 6 years have really shifted the way I view daily life. While working to make the best day for myself, I have discovered very little to work with in our medical system. I learned more from your Summit than I could imagine and all
    very workable for my daily life. I cannot thank you enough for bringing these experts together and sharing this valuable information under one roof. I am shining brighter these days with hope. Thank you Dr. Amy.

    • You’re welcome!!! I’m so happy you got something out of it!!

  • Salvador Garcia

    Great Job! I didn’t get to view all the summit speakers but enjoyed the ones I saw especially Dr. Junger. I also had ablation and would like to here more of how to cope with the aftermath. Also, I believe my problems were accelerated when an accident with a spray rig completely covered me with “Round Up” . A few months later I felt like I was on the road to the grave. My own investigation and then finding you has turned my health around I feel better daily. Thank You so much for all the good information, and congratulations on your recent engagement!

    • Aw thank you!! I am so so happy you liked the summit!

  • Ace

    That was a great summit! I really enjoyed the talks. I learned so much! Thank you so much for organizing it and making it public!

  • Dom n Perla

    I first came across Dr. Myers through Mind, Body, Green… and later had the chance to attend the virtual summit and listen to her speech. She and many other experts in this field align so perfectly with what our company does and the education I share with others regarding not just autoimmune issues, but break it down into smaller components as she has done here to address each one individually. Through MyToxicFreeClub.com you can find the most certified organic products in the industry today. From ToxicFree®, organic, EcoCert, BunnyLeap (cruelty-free), Non-Gmo, Vegan and the list goes on. She hit on some particulars that I know some of the folks who are writing in may find of interest and they are the following: #3 We carry OneBode’ supplements which are plant based and are the cleanest way to go, nothing synthetic about them and the choices are great, #4 In addition to her recommendation, we carry a product called Neroli Mist, it’s extraordinary scent lifts the mind, body and heart bringing about a positive attitude, #6 OneBode’ has 2 great products Recover (to aid in the recovering of sore or aching muscles and Flex to help support cartilage, aid in connective tissue health, as well as overall joint health and finally #7 In all the programs I present I bring up EWG and encourage people to do some self discovery and send them off with some homework, to look up what is in their cabinets that can be making them sick. I just want to say that it is fantastic to find people who are like-minded and see the world as a gem and think outside the box looking for alternatives. Speaking of those, I would love to know what Dr. Myers things about autoimmunity and Glutathione, we have a patented triple encapsulated formula that consistent with our theme. I am always interested to hear others opinions of this antioxidant and its capabilities If you want to take a peek at what we have to offer stop by our site http://www.MyToxicClub.com and check us out or shoot me an email [email protected] and lets talk! Have a blessed day!

  • Dana Lynn Castonguay

    Thank you. Just Thank You from the bottom of my heart!!!

  • Lisa Kazmier

    Liked the Summit, liked the summary here, Sharing. Perhaps someone (not on SSDI like I am) will jump on board before it’s too late.

    • Please share with as many people as possible!! I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • Lynn Dell

    Thank you very much for this concise and thorough overview of the take home points of the summit!

  • Kerry Wilson Sernel

    My husband has polymyositis and I finally convinced him to go gluten free. It has been 2 weeks and he feels like crap. I was hoping he would at least start to feel better within the first few days but instead I think he feels worse (or at best, the same) I am convinced he has a gluten sensitivity. Do some people react this way?

  • Hannah Rose

    Thank you for reminding me. It was excellent. I think the sheer volume of information may be a little hard to sort through, kind of all jumbled in my mind, but so glad it’s in my notes. You did a wonderful job of interviewing. And you have an expressive face and voice, which are energize the presentations! You seem to be a caring person, and that’s what people want in a practitioner!

    • Thank you Hannah!! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the summit 🙂

  • Kristen Kay

    We live in Dallas and would love to find a doctor here to help with Eosinophilic esophagitis. Any referrals would be great! Thanks!

  • Stephanie Medina

    I also want to thank you Dr. Amy Myers for your hard work in bringing this information together for all to see. I am still battling with uncovering other issues that years of no treatment has created and the burden of trying to lose weight on a very tiny budget, despite having treatment from a functional medicine practitioner, but the information provided is still very useful for those of us managing on our own.

    I am currently in the process of creating a Hashimoto’s non-profit organization to help fund more autoimmune research and would like your thoughts and feedback. I am creating sweaters for awareness for starters, and hopefully will be fully running in the next two years. My email is [email protected] again would love to hear your feedback about the non-profit foundation. Thank you!

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  • Carly

    Hi Amy,
    I have done all the aspects over he past 19 years but just discovers I have ongoing postive parvo virus in pcr. But no igm to fight it. I believe this is my missing link and explains why all my efforts have not got me nearly far enough. What can I do though to clear this infection? I have found no answers other than slim possibility of getting Ivig on uk nhs? Would just love to know it’s possible to fight this and how? Thank Carly x