Soy is definitely one of the more controversial foods with regards to thyroid health. While there are some health benefits of eating organic, fermented soy, there are also some negative health effects that soy can have. In this blog post I’m going to discuss four reasons why people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions should consider avoiding soy while restoring their health.
1. Many people have soy allergies and sensitivities. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations includes soy in its list of the 8 most significant food allergens, and at least 16 potential soy protein allergens have been identified (1). There is evidence that approximately 50% of children with a soy allergy outgrew their allergy by age 7 years (2). But of course this means that 50% don’t outgrow the allergy. Plus, many people don’t have IgE-mediated soy allergies, but instead have an IgG-mediated soy sensitivity.
But what’s the difference between a soy allergy and a sensitivity to soy? I’m not going to get into detail about this here, as if you’d like more information you can read an article I wrote entitled “Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Thyroid Health“. But essentially a soy allergy involves an immediate reaction, whereas a soy sensitivity involves a delayed reaction. In other words, if someone has a soy allergy they typically will have a negative reaction within a few minutes of consuming soy. On the other hand, if someone has a soy sensitivity they might not have a negative reaction for a few hours, or perhaps even a few days after consuming soy.
What’s wrong with continuing to eat soy if you have an allergy or sensitivity? The problem with eating any food that you have an allergy or sensitivity to is that this will result in inflammation. This in turn can interfere with the healing process. And while you can run a food allergy or food sensitivity panel to determine if you react to soy, these tests aren’t completely accurate.
2. Most soy is genetically modified. Unfortunately most of the soy is genetically modified. Some actually think this is a good thing, and there are a few studies which suggest that genetically modified soy might be less allergenic than non-GMO soy (3) (4). But the problems with GMOs doesn’t just relate to allergies. One of the main concerns is that genetically modified soybeans contain high residues of glyphosate.
I spoke about glyphosate in greater detail in an article entitled “Does Glyphosate Have a Negative Effect on Thyroid Health?“. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, and while it can have an adverse effect on our health in numerous ways, one of the main problems is that it can have a negative effect on our gut microbiota. This gut dysbiosis can make someone more susceptible to developing an autoimmune condition such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
3. Soy has goitrogenic properties. Goitrogens are substances which inhibit thyroid function. And a few studies have shown that soy has goitrogenic effects (5) (6) (7). One of these studies demonstrated that the effect on the thyroid hormones was minimal, although the study involved short-term soy consumption, lasting only seven consecutive days. On the other hand, another study involving soy supplementation for eight weeks in those with subclinical hypothyroidism showed that there is a 3-fold increased risk of developing overt hypothyroidism, although soy also helped to decrease insulin resistance, inflammation, and blood pressure (8).
Should other goitrogenic foods be avoided as well, such as cruciferous vegetables? I usually don’t recommend for my patients with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to avoid cruciferous vegetables. After all, foods such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower have numerous health benefits, and I think that most people should be eating these foods on a daily basis. I’m not suggesting for people to eat four or five cups of raw cruciferous vegetables per day, but having one or two servings of these foods usually won’t cause any problems from a goitrogenic standpoint.
4. Soy has phytates. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that is found in grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, including soybeans. And studies show that the phytates in soy can lead to a decrease in iron and calcium absorption (9) (10). The good news is that soaking and fermenting soy can significantly decrease the levels of phytic acid.
Should You Be Concerned About the Estrogenic Properties of Soy?
Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen found mostly in soy products, and there is some controversy over whether phytoestrogens can be harmful to our health. I wrote an article on this entitled “The Truth About Soy, Flaxseed, And Other Phytoestrogens“. While some consider soy as being an endocrine disruptor, the research I have found doesn’t show this, and there are actually numerous benefits to phytoestrogens. However, I will admit that I try to avoid soy as much as I can, and most of the phytoestrogens I get are from other sources, such as flaxseed.
In summary, soy should be avoided in those with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions. While there are some health benefits of eating organic, fermented soy, many people have soy allergies and sensitivities. In addition, soy has goitrogenic properties, and it also has phytates, which can interfere with the absorption of nutrients. As a result, I usually recommend for my patients to avoid eating soy.
Many people with autoimmune conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis follow an autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet. I’ve spoken about this diet numerous times in other blog posts and articles. An AIP diet is similar to a “standard” paleo diet, but also excludes eggs, nightshades, and nuts/seeds. I commonly recommend this diet to my patients, and while some people do great when following it, others don’t do as well.
In the past I wrote a blog post entitled “Should Everyone With Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Follow an Autoimmune Paleo Diet?“. Although I commonly recommend an autoimmune paleo diet to my patients, in this blog post I spoke about some of the common “flaws” of this diet. The truth is that there is no diet that perfectly fits everyone, and this applies to the autoimmune paleo diet.
Anyway, for those who have already followed an autoimmune paleo diet, or are currently following an autoimmune paleo diet, I’d like for you to share your experience in the comments below. If you followed an autoimmune paleo diet and noticed an improvement in your symptoms and test results please let me know! Or if you followed an AIP diet and felt worse please let me know! Please feel free to be as specific as possible, as I’d love to hear how you felt from a symptomatic standpoint when following an AIP diet, if there were any positive or negative changes in your test results, etc. Thank you in advance for participating!
Recently I listened to Dr. Josh Axe’s book “Eat Dirt” on Audible. As a side note, if you’re not familiar with Audible it’s something to check out, as I frequently listen to audiobooks while driving, working out, preparing my meals, etc. Anyway, getting back to Dr. Axe’s book, I thought it was very good and is worth reading (or listening to). He talks a lot about leaky gut syndrome, but he also talks about the hygiene hypothesis, and there is some evidence in the research that discusses how this might play a role in the development of autoimmune conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Well before Dr. Axe wrote his book, there was an article released by the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “Eat Dirt-The Hygiene Hypothesis and Allergic Diseases” (1). This article starts out by discussing how there has been an epidemic of both autoimmune and allergic diseases, which is more common in Western, industrialized countries. And the basis behind the hygiene hypothesis is that we’re not being exposed to as many microorganisms (both good and bad), and this essentially weakens or suppresses our immune system. This in turn can make us more susceptible to developing infections, allergies, and autoimmune conditions.
This might seem to be counterintuitive to some people, as many believe that is a good idea to avoid all “bad” microorganisms. After all, this is one of the reasons why there are so many vaccines given during childhood these days, and why many people receive the flu shot on an annual basis. I’m not suggesting that it’s beneficial to get the flu, or serious illnesses such as polio or tetanus. However, we are going to extremes to avoid exposure to all of these microorganisms, and the hygiene hypothesis suggests that there can be negative consequences of taking this approach.
But why are we not being exposed to as many microorganisms? Well, there are a few reasons for this:
1. We spend too much time indoors and not enough time in our environment. This is true with both children and adults. As a child I didn’t have access to all of the electronics that are available these days, and so I frequently went outside to play with my friends. These days many children spend too much time on electronic devices (i.e. computers, video game systems, IPads, etc.), and not enough time exploring the environment. On average, adults are spending more and more time indoors as well. After all, who needs to go out and socialize when you can simply login to Facebook or chat with someone through Skype?
2. We are becoming too sanitary. Widespread access to clean water, soap, and chemicals to aid in cleaning dates back to the end of the 19th century (2), and so this is unlikely to be a big factor in the development of autoimmunity. But one thing that has changed greatly is the use of hand sanitizers. For example, when I was a child there wasn’t the widespread use of hand sanitizers as there is today. And while soap was available, chemicals such as Triclosan weren’t in all of the soaps like they are these days. Not too long ago I wrote a blog post entitled “Hand Sanitizer, Triclosan, and Thyroid Health“. Triclosan is commonly used in soaps and hand sanitizers, and while the post focused on some of the health risks associated with this chemical, perhaps the main concern is that overuse of this will lead to a decreased exposure to microorganisms, which in turn can have a negative effect on our immune system health.
3. The birth process. Most births take place in a hospital setting, and frequently the baby is bathed too soon. Babies are born covered in a white substance called vernix, and this is a protective material that helps to prevent common infections. So while this blog post has focused on how we should be exposed to a greater number of microorganisms, in this situation you want to delay bathing a newborn due to the antimicrobial properties of the vernix (3). This is why some hospitals enforce “delayed bathing.
The increase in Cesarean deliveries can also play a role in the development of autoimmunity related to the hygiene hypothesis (4). The reason for this is because being born via a C-section can potentially lead to a change in long term colonization of the developing intestinal tract, which in turn can alter the development of the immune system (4). Approximately one third of births in the United States are through cesarean delivery. And while some of these are necessary, many others are due to maternal request.
4. Vaccines. I’m not going to go into much detail about the controversy behind vaccines, but many more vaccines are given these days than in the past, which further reduces the chances of children and teenagers getting infections. I realize that some of these infections can be life-threatening, and everything of course comes down to risks vs. benefits. While it’s understandable for parents to be concerned about their children developing certain infections, they also should be concerned about the risks associated with vaccines as well, not only as they relate to the hygiene hypothesis, but also the additives included in them. According to the Center for Disease Control (who is in favor of vaccines), some of the common substances found in vaccines include aluminum, antibiotics, formaldehyde, monosodium glutamine (MSG), and thimerosal (5).
So What Can You Do?
If the hygiene hypothesis is one of the factors responsible for the increase in autoimmunity over the last few decades, then what can be done to help prevent the development of autoimmune conditions? Here are a few suggestions:
Eat some dirt. Okay, so you probably won’t eat dirt, but I definitely would try to spend more time outdoors. This admittedly is something I need to do more of, as without question I spend too much time indoors.
Use more natural soaps and avoid soaps and hand sanitizers with Triclosan. If you frequently use antimicrobial soaps and hand sanitizers then I would encourage you to switch to more natural products. There are plenty of natural options with regards to soaps and hand sanitizers, including essential oils.
Sleep with your pet. If you have a dog or a cat that spends times outside then consider inviting him or her into your bed at night. This is especially true if you don’t spend much time outdoors.
Be cautious about taking antibiotics, and educate yourself about vaccinations. Once again, I’m not going to get into the vaccine controversy, but I will recommend to educate yourself about vaccines, especially if you have young children, or are planning on having children. Even if you are in favor of vaccinations, consider spacing them out.
Read Dr. Axe’s book. I’m not getting anything for promoting Dr. Axe’s book, but I do think it’s worth reading, or listening to on Audible like I did.
In summary, the hygiene hypothesis suggests that autoimmune conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis might be more common due to a decreased exposure to microorganisms. Some of the reasons behind this decreased exposure includes not spending as much time outdoors, using too many chemically-laden soaps and hand sanitizers, the birth process, and too many vaccines. So while there are many factors that can lead to the development of an autoimmune condition, with regards to the hygiene hypothesis, some of the things we can do to help prevent the development of autoimmunity include spending more times outdoors, using less soaps and hand sanitizers with Triclosan, sleeping with your pet, and being cautious about taking antibiotics and vaccines.
In the previous blog post I discussed the health benefits of coconut oil, and in this post I will be focusing on the benefits of olive oil. Towards the end of this post I will also mention a few other healthier oils. In addition, I will list a few oils you should avoid whenever possible. I will also discuss how you can avoid olive oil fraud, as many people think they are consuming olive oil when this isn’t the case.
Basic facts: Olive oil is obtained from the olive. With regards to its fatty acid content, olive oil is composed mostly of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat that is responsible for many of the health benefits of olive oil. But olive oil also consists of other fatty acids, including palmitic acid and linoleic acid. In addition, olive oil has numerous polyphenols which also have many different health benefits. What I’d like to do is discuss some of the health benefits of oleic acid and the polyphenols of olive oil.
Oleic acid. Oleic acid isn’t exclusively found in olive oil. Canola oil and sunflower oil are actually high in oleic acid as well. Almonds are a good source, as are avocados, along with beef, chicken, and eggs. As for some of the health benefits, one study showed that higher plasma oleic acid levels due to olive oil consumption was associated with lower stroke incidence (1). There is also evidence that olive oil reduces blood pressure, and one study showed that it’s the oleic acid content that’s responsible for this (2). Another study showed that oleic acid can help to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells (3). Some studies suggest that oleic acid might also have a beneficial effect on autoimmune and inflammatory conditions (4).
Polyphenols. Some of the different polyphenols of olive oil include tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein, ligstroside, apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, rutin, and there are numerous others (5). These polyphenols can have protective effects on cardiovascular risk factors, and one study showed that consumption of olive oil polyphenols decreased plasma LDL concentrations and LDL atherogenicity (6). Another study showed that olive oil polyphenols enhance HDL function in humans (7). LDL is known as the “bad cholesterol”, and HDL is referred to as the “good cholesterol”, and while these are actually lipoproteins, the important thing to understand is that olive oil can have a beneficial effect on our lipid markers by increasing HDL and decreasing LDL.
Here are some of the uses of olive oil:
- Olive oil is a great oil for cooking. Just as is the case with coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil resists oxidation at high temperatures.
- Put olive oil on your salad and/or mix with other vegetables. I’ve never been a big fan of salad dressings, but I do enjoy adding olive oil to my salads. I also add olive oil to other vegetables, such as steamed broccoli.
- Add to your smoothie. I usually don’t add olive oil to my smoothies, as I usually have a daily salad and I add plenty of olive oil to it. However, I commonly add one tablespoon of olive oil to my wife’s smoothies, which I prepare for her in the morning.
Why Choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
There are many different varieties of olives. The reason why you want to always buy extra virgin olive oil is because this has higher amounts of nutrients and antioxidants. Other types of olive oils are extracted using solvents and other chemicals, whereas extra virgin olive oil is obtained from the olive using a “cold-press technique”, which doesn’t alter the chemical natural (8). In fact, the term “virgin” means that the oil was produced with no chemical treatment.
Other Research Studies on Olive Oil
Just as I did with coconut oil in the last blog post, I would like to mention some of the studies which discuss the health benefits of using olive oil.
Cardiovascular benefits. Multiple studies show that olive oil can benefit cardiovascular health. One study showed that olive oil decreased systolic blood pressure and increased HDL-C concentrations (9). There is also evidence that extra virgin olive oil consumption can reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation (10).
Type 2 diabetes. There is evidence that higher olive oil consumption is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women (11). Another study showed that extra virgin olive oil improves post-prandial glucose and lipid profile in those with impaired fasting glucose (12).
Inflammation. There is evidence that olive oil can exert beneficial effects on markers of inflammation (13) (14). One study discussed how extra virgin olive oil has joint protective effects by significantly reducing the levels of proinflammatory cytokines and prostaglandin E2 in the joint (15).
Neuroprotective effects. Olive oil phenols have been shown to have neuroprotective effects against cerebral ischemia, spinal cord injury, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s diseases, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, aging, and peripheral neuropathy (18).
Cancer. Earlier I mentioned how the oleic acid in olive oil can help to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. And there are a few other studies which show that olive oil can have a protective effect not only with breast cancer, but with colorectal cancer as well (19) (20).
Beware Of Olive Oil Fraud
For years I had purchased organic extra virgin olive oil, and just like millions of other people, I didn’t think twice about the possibility of it not being olive oil. But Tom Mueller opened my eyes in his book entitled “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil”. He discusses how some unscrupulous companies use other unhealthy oils (i.e. soybean oil), and sell it as extra virgin olive oil. You might be wondering how such companies can get away with it, and for more information I would recommend reading his book. But for now I’ll provide a link to “Tom’s olive oil supermarket picks“. When purchasing olive oil, you want to make sure it has a seal from the International Olive Oil Council (IOC), and it should also have a harvesting date on the label.
Other Healthy Oils
In addition to consuming coconut oil and olive oil, here a few other healthier oils you can consume.
Macadamia nut oil
Avocado oil is probably the healthiest oil from this list. If someone is following an autoimmune paleo diet, then consuming macadamia nut oil is somewhat controversial. And while palm oil is allowed, the harvesting of palm trees for palm oil frequently results in the destruction of tropical forests, which in turns destroys the habitats of many animals. Indonesia might be a potential source of palm oil without the concern of deforestation (21). Although I like flax oil, keep in mind that it oxidizes easily, and so you want to make sure that when you purchase it that it’s refrigerated, and then when you bring it home you want to put in the refrigerator immediately.
On the other hand, the following oils are ones that are best to be avoided:
Can Olive Oil Affect Thyroid Health?
Just as is the case with coconut oil, I didn’t find any studies which showed that olive oil directly affects thyroid health. However, it might indirectly benefit people with autoimmune thyroid conditions by helping to reduce inflammation. And while there are many other nutrients that can help to reduce inflammation, olive oil should be one that you consume on a regular basis.
So hopefully you learned some valuable information about the health benefits of olive oil by reading this blog post. Most of the health benefits of olive oil come from oleic acid and the polyphenols. Olive oil can be used for cooking, as a salad dressing, and you can even add olive oil to your smoothies. Extra virgin olive oil has higher amounts of nutrients and antioxidants. When you purchase olive oil please make sure it has a seal from the International Olive Oil Council, and it should also have a harvesting date on the label. Some other healthy oils include avocado oil, palm oil, macadamia nut oil, and flax oil. Some of the oils you want to avoid include cottonseed oil, peanut oil, rapeseed oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil.
One of the biggest problems with eating out is that most restaurants use unhealthy oils. And because you don’t have control over the oils these places use, you want to try to avoid consuming these oils as much as possible, and of course when you are cooking at home you want to use higher quality oils. Olive oil and coconut oil are two of the healthier oils, and in this blog post I’ll discuss many of the health benefits of coconut oil, and the next blog post I will focus on olive oil. In the next post I will also mention a few other healthier oils, and I will also discuss some of the oils you should try your best to avoid.
So let’s go ahead and talk about coconut oil…
Basic facts: coconut oil is extracted from the meat of coconuts. It is an excellent source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have numerous health benefits. There are a few different components of coconut oil, but three of the main ones include lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid. Approximately 50% of coconut oil consists of lauric acid. Let’s take a look at each of these compounds:
Lauric acid. This is also known as dodecanoic acid, and as I mentioned above, it compromises approximately half of the fatty acid content in coconut oil. One study looked at the antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil on Clostridium difficile (1). The study showed that while exposure to lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid inhibited its growth, lauric acid had the greatest inhibitory effect (1). Another study showed that lauric acid can be an alternative for the antibiotic treatment of acne vulgaris (2).
Capric acid. This is also known as decanoic acid, and like lauric acid, it’s a type of saturated fatty acid in coconut oil. Like lauric acid, capric acid also has numerous antimicrobial properties, as while a study I mentioned earlier showed that lauric acid had the greatest inhibitory effect on C. difficile, the study showed that capric acid also had inhibitory properties (1). Both capric acid and lauric acid demonstrate bactericidal and anti-inflammatory activities against Propionibacterium acnes, which might be involved in acne inflammation (3). Another study showed that capric acid caused the fastest and most effective killing of three strains of Candida albicans, although lauric acid was the most active at lower concentrations and after a longer incubation time (4). Another study showed that capric acid has inhibitory effects on osteoclast development (5). Osteoclasts break down bone, and so capric acid might be useful for the treatment of bone resorption-associated conditions (5).
Caprylic acid. This is also known as octanoic acid. Caprylic acid also has antimicrobial properties. In fact, one study claimed that caprylic acid is superior to Diflucan, which is a potent prescription antifungal (6). The same study also claimed that caprylic acid has potential application for anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-Alzheimer’s disease, anti-autism, anti-infection, and general circulatory improvement (6).
Uses: Coconut oil has many different uses. Here are just a few of them:
- It’s a great oil for cooking. Because of its high saturated fat content it is slow to oxidize, and thus is less likely to become rancid like most other oils.
- Add coconut oil to your smoothies (like I do!). I usually rotate between coconut oil and avocados, and when I add coconut oil to my smoothies I’ll add approximately one tablespoon.
- Use it as a lotion or moisturizer for dry skin
- It’s great for oil pulling. This is something I commonly do, as I will put a little less than one tablespoon of coconut oil in my mouth a few days per week and swish it around. And there is a study which shows that oil pulling with coconut oil can decrease plaque formation and gingivitis (7).
- Many people use coconut oil as a carrier oil for essential oils
- Coconut oil can also be used as a hair conditioner, although I can’t say that I personally have used it in this manner.
What Type Of Coconut Oil Should You Use?
Coconut oil needs to be extracted from the coconut. Virgin coconut oil is the least refined type. Virgin coconut oil has a higher antioxidant status than non-virgin coconut oil (8). I add virgin coconut oil to my smoothies. However, some sources claim that you want to use refined coconut oil when cooking at very high temperatures, as it has a higher smoke point than virgin coconut oil. The smoke point of an oil is the temperature under which volatile compounds and other potentially harmful products are released. If you are using coconut oil as a carrier oil for essential oils then you want to use either virgin coconut oil, or fractionated coconut oil.
Other Research Studies on Coconut Oil
Although earlier I discussed some of the research with regards to the individual components of coconut oil (lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid), there are many other studies which discuss the health benefits of using coconut oil.
Cardiovascular health. Coconut oil can benefit cardiovascular health, and one study showed how virgin coconut oil has cardioprotective effects (9). Another study showed that virgin coconut oil prevents blood pressure elevation and improves endothelial function (10). Another study shows that coconut oil can lead to a beneficial lipid profile (11).
Candida. Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, and can be especially effective against Candida species. I mentioned some of the research regarding Candida earlier, and one study discussed the problems with drug-resistant Candida species, and suggested that coconut oil should be used in the treatment of fungal infections (12).
Insulin resistance. Can coconut oil help with insulin resistance? One study showed evidence that virgin coconut oil might prevent the development of insulin resistance (13). Another study showed that coconut oil can lead to lower glucose and insulin concentrations (14).
Alzheimer’s disease. One study showed that the medium-chain fatty acids of coconut oil might be beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease by converting to ketones, which are an alternative energy source in the brain (15).
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. One study I came across showed that virgin coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties (16).
Bone density. A rat study I came across showed that rats who consumed virgin coconut oil had greater bone volume, and the study concluded that virgin coconut oil was effective in maintaining bone structure and preventing bone loss (17).
Can Coconut Oil Increase Thyroid Hormone Production?
Can coconut oil have a direct effect on thyroid health? Well, some sources claim that coconut oil can raise basal body temperatures and increase metabolism. And because of this some feel that coconut oil can benefit people with hypothyroid conditions, and if you do some searching on the Internet you’ll find some websites which claim that taking coconut oil can help to boost thyroid function. And if this is the case, then those with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease might be concerned that taking coconut oil can be harmful by increasing thyroid hormone production. Well, there are no studies I’m aware of which show that taking coconut oil can improve thyroid function. In addition, I commonly recommend coconut oil to those with both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid conditions, and I can’t say that I’ve seen problems with people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease taking coconut oil.
So hopefully you learned some valuable information about coconut oil in this blog post. Although it is questionable as to whether coconut oil has a direct effect on thyroid health, it seems to have many other health benefits. One of the greatest benefits is that it has antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil is also a great oil for cooking, it can be used for oil pulling and as a carrier for essential oils, it can be used as a lotion or moisturizer, and it can be added to your smoothies. Virgin coconut oil is the least refined type, and it has a higher antioxidant status than non-virgin coconut oil. In the next blog post I’m going to talk in detail about olive oil, and I’ll also briefly mention a few other healthier oils you can consume.
Occasionally someone will ask me what the difference is between Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease, and so I figured I’d write a brief blog post which discusses the main differences and similarities between these two conditions. First of all, both Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are autoimmune conditions that affect the thyroid gland. However, they both affect the thyroid gland differently, and because of this the treatment for managing the symptoms are also different.
Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis:
Here Are The Similarities Between Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis:
1. Both Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions. Both of these are autoimmune conditions which affect the thyroid gland. And so while managing the thyroid symptoms frequently is necessary, the overall goal should be to restore the health of the immune system.
2. Both Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Involve The Triad of Autoimmunity. The triad of autoimmunity involves 1) a genetic predisposition, 2) an environmental trigger, and 3) a leaky gut. To be honest, it hasn’t been proven that everyone with an autoimmune condition has a leaky gut, although the evidence is very strong. But assuming this is true, then the goal with both Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should be to detect and remove the environmental trigger, along with doing things to heal the gut. Of course nothing can be done for the genetic predisposition, but the good news is that the autoimmune component can be reversed if the trigger is removed and the gut is healed.
3. Most Endocrinologists Don’t Address The Autoimmune Component. Unfortunately, most endocrinologists focus on the thyroid gland, while not doing anything to improve the health of the immune system. This comes down to the training they receive in medical school.
4. Both Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Can Be Treated Naturally. Even though there isn’t a permanent cure for autoimmune thyroid conditions, following a natural treatment protocol can help to reverse the autoimmune component. And so it is possible to get into remission and then maintain your health thereafter.
Here Are The Differences Between Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis:
1. Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Affect the Thyroid Gland Differently. Most people reading this know that Graves’ Disease is typically associated with hyperthyroidism, while Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is usually associated with hypothyroidism. And the reason for this is because the immune system attacks different parts of the thyroid gland with different autoimmune conditions. So with Graves’ Disease the immune system attacks the TSH receptors, which causes the thyroid gland to secrete an excess amount of thyroid hormone. Here is an article I wrote on the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. “On the other hand, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis involves damage to either thyroglobulin, which is a protein of the thyroid gland, or thyroid peroxidase, which is an enzyme involved in the production of thyroid hormone. Here is an article I wrote on the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
2. Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are characterized by different thyroid autoantibodies. I mentioned how with Graves’ Disease the immune system attacks the TSH receptors, and because of this, most people with this condition will have TSH receptor antibodies, with the most common type being thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins. On the other hand, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis typically involves either thyroglobulin antibodies, thyroid peroxidase antibodies, or in some cases both of these antibodies are elevated.
Can Someone Have Both Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease At The Same Time?
It is possible for someone to have the antibodies for both Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is actually common, as a lot of people with elevated thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins also have elevated thyroid peroxidase antibodies. Some people have elevated thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins and elevated thyroglobulin antibodies. And there are some people who have all three thyroid antibodies elevated.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that people with the antibodies for both Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease will have symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. For example, many people with elevated thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins and thyroglobulin antibodies will primarily experience hyperthyroid symptoms initially. However, if the autoimmune component isn’t addressed then they very well might become hypothyroid in the future due to damage to the thyroid gland. With that being said, there are some people with both types of antibodies who do experience a fluctuation of hypothyroid and hyperthyroid symptoms.
Keep in mind that if someone does have the antibodies for both Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease then the treatment approach will be similar to someone who only has one type of antibody. In other words, the primary goal is to reverse the autoimmune component. However, the symptom management will of course differ depending on whether the person is experiencing hyperthyroid or hypothyroid symptoms.
So hopefully you understand some of the similarities and differences between Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Both of these are autoimmune conditions that affect the thyroid gland, and both involve the triad of autoimmunity. However, these conditions affect the thyroid gland differently, and they are characterized by different thyroid autoantibodies. And it is possible to have the antibodies for both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease. The good news is that it is possible to reverse the autoimmune component of these conditions.
I’d like to wish you a happy Thanksgiving! I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate you! Thank you so much for reading my articles and blog posts. I’d also like to thank all of the other healthcare professionals who educate their patients, email subscribers, etc. Even though we still have one more month to go in 2016, I’m already preparing to share more great content with you in 2017!
Best of health,
Last month I wrote a blog post entitled “What’s Your Experience With Gluten?” Not surprisingly, many of the comments received were from people who felt better upon eliminating gluten from their diet. While not everyone who gives up gluten notices an improvement in their symptoms or labs, many people do. And the same is true with dairy, although I will say that in general people seem to be more resistant to give up dairy. And while having pasteurized and homogenized milk might not be healthy for you, other forms of dairy do have health benefits.
For example, many people do well when consuming raw dairy. Others do fine eating fermented forms of dairy, such as kefir. And many people do well when eating grass fed butter and ghee. But if someone is following a strict autoimmune paleo diet, or even a standard paleo diet, then all forms of dairy should be excluded.
Anyway, I’d like for you to share your experience with dairy. You can talk about milk, cheese, butter, ghee, etc. You can talk about pasteurized dairy, raw dairy, and fermented dairy. If you have been dairy free for awhile and feel like it has benefited your health please let me know! And if you consume dairy regularly and are doing well please let me know! Thank you in advance for participating!
Today’s blog post includes an interview of Jen Wittman, who reversed her Hashimoto’s condition through diet and lifestyle. Jen is a holistic health care expert and a thyroid/autoimmune coach who has degrees in culinary arts, psychology, transformational coaching, nutrition, and Italian. She spent a year honing her cooking skills in Italy and is passionate about physical rejuvenation, family, laughter and helping people craft the life of their dreams.
Dr. Eric: When reading your book it looked like you had a similar diet to myself growing up! Chips Ahoy, Spaghetti O’s, Hostess cupcakes, Pepsi, etc. How hard did you find it to make the transition from eating junk food to eating a clean diet?
Jen: At first, I found it terribly challenging to transition from eating junk food to eating a clean diet not because the changes were difficult but because I had a lot of emotional ties to certain foods and my general mindset around changing my diet. I wanted to see if I could reverse Hashimoto’s without altering my diet at all…and I tried…but it didn’t work. I tried every other healing modality I could find just so I could avoid making any dietary changes, but over time, it became clear that if I didn’t change my diet, my health wouldn’t improve either. In fact, I realize now that I stayed sick an extra year and a half because I was unwilling to change my diet. Once I changed my mindset and looked at changing my diet as a gift I was giving myself, my health improved immediately. Each nourishing dietary change I made gave me more energy and helped me to get my thyroid and antibody levels back to optimal.
Dr. Eric: How challenging was it to give up gluten?
Jen: As a trained chef, foodie and Italy lover, it was especially challenging at first for me to give up gluten. I didn’t want to give up any of my favorite foods like biscuits and gravy, fried mozzarella sticks, pastas and pastries. I just didn’t want to do it. But one day, I felt so awful that I decided I’d had enough. Was eating a donut more important than having the energy to play with my son? Was having a croissandwich more important than feeling fit in my body and having my hair back? Was it worth it to feel crummy everyday just so I could eat foods with gluten? No! In the end, I decided my health, my energy, my mood and my body were more important than gluten. Once I put the emphasis on feeling my best by eliminating gluten, it was easy to make the switch.
Dr. Eric: When you moved from Los Angeles to Italy you spoke about the “Italian lifestyle” and compared it to the “United States lifestyle”. Can you please elaborate on this?
Jen: Yes! The Italian lifestyle was so eye opening for me. I was used to the Type-A go-go-go lifestyle of the U.S. – fast food, lots of doing, lots of multi-tasking and an overwhelming schedule. When I got to Italy, I was so surprised at how different it was from the U.S. First, food is really valued there. The ingredients are high quality, unprocessed, simple, and fresh. People really honor their meals by sitting down and taking time to eat together (not alone, in the car or standing up!). One eats at home usually for all meals and eats “slow” food. In general, everything is done at a slower pace in Italy. “Being” with friends and family is more of a priority than “doing” a million things. It really helped me understand the importance of balancing work and life in healthier way.
Dr. Eric: You developed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis during your pregnancy. Can you explain why it’s common for women to develop Hashimoto’s when pregnant?
Jen: So many major shifts happen during pregnancy – changes in hormone levels and immune function can play a role. Sometimes, pituitary function changes as well. And many women are now going into their pregnancies already stressed by demanding work/life schedules, or physical challenges like food sensitivities, autoimmune conditions, gut infections or blood sugar imbalances. These challenges coupled with the enormous hormonal changes during and post-pregnancy make women’s bodies the perfect storm for Hashimoto’s (and post-partum depression) to occur.
Dr. Eric: In your book you mentioned that “love” is what allowed you to heal and reverse the symptoms of your condition? Can you please talk about this?
Jen: Yes, I was really awakened (by one of my doctors) to the fact that as women, we tend to nourish, care for and serve everyone else in our world but we don’t often apply that same love to ourselves.
As I learned more about thyroid and autoimmune conditions, it became clear that my needs weren’t being met…and I wasn’t allowing them to be. I often didn’t speak up when I needed help and I rarely reached out for support. I wasn’t showing myself the same love I was giving to others. And when you think of what an autoimmune condition is, it really is the body attacking itself. And with Hashimoto’s, the body is attacking your thyroid, the seat of communication. So, if you’re not speaking your mind and your truth, and you’re holding on to a lot of stress, anger, shame, guilt and you’re not asking for help, your body is manifesting symptoms in your thyroid to get your attention. For Hashimoto’s, I see it time and time again with my clients, the message your body is screaming at you is that you need to love yourself, care for yourself and speak your mind. You have to nourish yourself first before you can take care of everyone else.
Dr. Eric: In your book you discussed how you started a self-love practice every single day. How did this benefit you? Also, I assume this is something you recommend for others to do?
Jen: Yes, I’d absolutely recommend this practice to do. It has benefited me enormously by allowing me to put myself first at some point every day. It has helped me to reduce my stress levels and have more energy throughout the day as well.
Dr. Eric: You spoke about how your thyroid levels were always within the “normal” range, but not within the optimal range when you were dealing with Hashimoto’s. Can you talk about this, and why people can’t rely on the lab reference ranges?
Jen: Yes. This is the single most prominent reason thyroid conditions go undiagnosed and misdiagnosed so often. The lab reference ranges for normal thyroid levels are way too large and aren’t even based on people with thyroid conditions. So, a person can have all the symptoms of a thyroid condition but their thyroid levels look normal because the range is so large. Instead, the key is to focus on the optimal functional levels for your thyroid. For most people, being just outside the optimal ranges in one direction or the other indicates that the thyroid isn’t functioning optimally and this is why you’re having so many symptoms. When we look at symptomatic clients/patients, we can see that those with symptoms often fall outside of the optimal ranges but within the “normal” ranges. And, the medical community/insurance companies need to start diagnosing thyroid conditions when they fall outside of the optimal range so that more people can catch the condition in its early phase; making it easier to reverse.
Dr. Eric: Can you please talk about the three transformative phases of healing?
Jen: Sure! When it came to healing thyroid and autoimmune conditions in my practice, three stages began to emerge consistently. I called them The Caterpillar, The Cocoon and The Butterfly.
The Caterpillar is the phase of nourishment – nourishing your body and mind with healing foods and self-care. In this phase, you are putting the most focus on your healing.
The Cocoon is the phase of restoration. It is a time of rest so your body can repair itself. It’s also the optimal time to go within and address stresses, obstacles and getting the support you need from others. During this phase, your body is rebuilding and rebalancing itself.
The Butterfly is the phase of freedom. This is when you emerge from the cocoon whole again and ready to fly. You can put less focus on healing because your symptoms are gone and the thyroid or autoimmune condition has been reversed.
To discover which phase you’re in, there’s a free assessment on my site. Click here.
Dr. Eric: Can you explain why having a healthy thyroid is necessary to have a healthy gut, and vice versa?
Jen: Poor gut health is intricately connected to low thyroid function and additionally, can trigger Hashimoto’s disease. When your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally, it causes inflammation and immune dysregulation which in turn causes a leaky gut. The leaky gut then causes more inflammation and immune dysregulation which then further harms the thyroid. Press repeat. The cycle of destruction is endless if it is not addressed.
Dr. Eric: You mentioned how limiting sugar is one of the fastest ways to see results when you’re trying to heal from Hashimoto’s. Why is this?
Jen: Sugar is so incredibly inflammatory to the body. When there’s a lot of sugar in your diet, your body spends a lot of time and energy dealing with the inflammation and not repairing itself. Also, oftentimes, women with thyroid conditions also have issues with candida and sugar feeds candida. It also promotes weight gain and blood sugar, insulin and leptin imbalances.
Dr. Eric: I’m always encouraging my patients to eat more veggies, and in your book you also said that you believe in “veggie heavy Paleo eating”. How many servings of vegetables per day do you recommend?
Jen: I’m lazy about counting calories (which I never recommend) or servings…instead, I like to make things quick and simple and encourage folks to look at their plates. At each meal, make sure 75% of your plate is filled with veggies. I recommend 50% cooked veggies and 25% raw (like a salad) and then 25% a high quality protein. That’s just a simple way to eyeball it. I also encourage fruit smoothies with greens and fresh green juices as a way to get more veggies in your diet. I am personally not a veggie lover. I wasn’t raised to be…so this is my simple way to make sure I’m getting enough veggies in my diet.
Dr. Eric: What are some of your favorite techniques for managing stress?
Jen: For me, it’s singing. Singing massages the thyroid, it helps regulate breathing and it immediately puts me in a less stressed mood. Other techniques I love for managing stress are EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), acupuncture, massage, epsom salt baths and journaling. Really though, anything that brings you joy and helps you refocus your energy on giving time and care to yourself, is a great tool for managing stress.
Dr. Eric: Thank you for this interview Jen. Please tell my readers where they can find out more about you.
Jen: You can find me at Thyroid Loving Care www.ThyroidLovingCare.com and right now, I’m able to give away free digital copies of my book, Healing Hashimoto’s Naturally. And, if you’re a food lover like me, follow my adventures at The Gluten-Free Food Crawl, where I go all over the globe in search of the best gluten-free meals out there.
I have been recommending adrenal saliva panels to most of my patients for approximately seven years. There are numerous reasons for this, which I will explain in this blog post. On the other hand, some natural healthcare professionals don’t do any adrenal testing. They instead assume that most of their patients have adrenal problems and simply recommend general adrenal support to all of their patients. So is it best to test the adrenals, or since most people have adrenal issues is it best to just treat the adrenals, and not do any testing?
When I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease I obtained an adrenal saliva panel. The results showed depressed cortisol and DHEA levels, along with a depressed secretory IgA. Even though I didn’t think that stress was a factor, after seeing the results of my adrenal saliva panel it made me realize that stress probably was one of the biggest factors, and perhaps the main factor in the development of my Graves’ Disease condition. But this of course was just my experience, and so this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should get their adrenals tested, right? Well, what I’d like to do is discuss why I choose to test the adrenals in my patients, and then for arguments sake I’ll also list some reasons why you might not want to have the adrenals tested.
Why Do I Choose To Test The Adrenals In Most Of My Patients?
Here are the main reasons why I recommend for most of my patients to obtain adrenal saliva testing:
1. Most people have adrenal problems. Of course everyone deals with stress, but the main problem isn’t the actual stressor, but one’s perception of the stressor. Unfortunately most people don’t do a good job of handling stress. As a result, most of the patients I work with have adrenal issues.
2. Not all adrenal imbalances are treated the same. While some natural healthcare professionals offer general support for the adrenals, the problem is that not all adrenal problems are the same. Sure, everyone should manage their stress levels, and regardless of the state of your adrenals it usually won’t hurt to take adaptogenic herbs and some nutrients such as vitamin C. But this doesn’t mean that everyone with adrenal problems can or should be treated the same way. As an example, when I was dealing with Graves’ Disease, I took herbs and nutrients which helped to increase cortisol production, which made sense since I had depressed cortisol levels. However, many people have elevated cortisol levels, and when this is the case they of course want to do things to decrease cortisol production. And the only way to know for certain if someone has elevated or depressed cortisol levels is through testing.
3. Blood testing doesn’t look at the circadian rhythm of cortisol. Some doctors will test the morning cortisol levels through the blood. And while this has some value, blood testing doesn’t look at the circadian rhythm of cortisol. This is important because even if the morning serum cortisol looks good, this doesn’t mean that the person has a normal circadian rhythm, as it’s possible for cortisol to be depressed or elevated at other times during the day. Plus, remember that cortisol increases during stressful situations, and many people get stressed out when getting blood drawn, which can lead to a false high or normal reading of cortisol.
4. Seeing is believing. What I mean by this is that some people need to see that they have compromised adrenals before they will start to make the necessary lifestyle changes. This definitely described me, as before I received the results of my first adrenal saliva test I didn’t expect the results to show depressed cortisol and DHEA levels. Prior to doing the saliva test I always thought I did a good job of handling stress, but the results of the saliva test proved me wrong. And without seeing the results I probably wouldn’t have worked on improving my stress handling skills, which is not only a big factor when it comes to restoring one’s adrenal health, but is also important when it comes to maintaining healthy adrenals.
5. The saliva panel I recommend doesn’t just evaluate cortisol and DHEA. In addition to looking at cortisol throughout the day, along with DHEA, the company I use looks at a few other useful markers. One of these is 17-OH progesterone, which is a precursor of cortisol. This can provide some value, as depressed 17-OH progesterone levels are common with weakened adrenals. Secretory IgA is also evaluated, and I spoke about the importance of this marker in an article entitled “How Does Secretory IgA Relate To Thyroid Health?”
Why Shouldn’t You Test The Adrenals?
Let’s look at a few of the reasons why you might not want to do an adrenal saliva test.
1. Most people have adrenal problems. Of course I used this same argument as a reason why most people SHOULD get adrenal testing, but as I mentioned earlier on, some healthcare professionals use this as a reason NOT to get the adrenals tested. They just recommend for all of their patients to do things to improve their stress handling skills, give their patients general adrenal support, etc. And while some people will do fine with taking some general support, others need more specific support based on their individual adrenal state.
2. Adrenal saliva testing can be expensive. The truth is that most testing is expensive, and you therefore want to prioritize the testing that you obtain. I’m pretty conservative when it comes to testing, but at the same time I will recommend those tests I feel are necessary.
In summary, different natural healthcare professionals will take different approaches with regards to testing the adrenals. Some natural healthcare professionals won’t do any adrenal testing, but instead will recommend general adrenal support. On the other hand, I have most of my patients obtain an adrenal saliva panel, and I gave a few reasons for this in this blog post. While it is true that many people have adrenal issues, different adrenal imbalances shouldn’t be treated the same say, and seeing compromised adrenals on a saliva panel can serve as further motivation to do what is necessary to improve the health of the adrenals.