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Graves’ Disease vs. Subacute Thyroiditis: What’s The Difference?

Most cases of hyperthyroidism are autoimmune in nature.  So when someone finds out that they have hyperthyroidism for the first time, there is a pretty good chance that they will be diagnosed with Graves’ Disease.  However, this isn’t always the case, as some people with hyperthyroidism have multinodular toxic goiter, which frequently doesn’t involve an autoimmune component.  And some people with hyperthyroidism have subacute thyroiditis.  And that will be the focus of this blog post, as I’ll be discussing the differences between Graves’ Disease and subacute thyroiditis.

With regards to the symptoms, both Graves’ Disease and subacute thyroiditis present with similar symptoms.  As a result, one usually can’t use the typical symptoms of hyperthyroidism to differentiate between the two conditions.  Here are some of the symptoms those with Graves’ Disease and subacute thyroiditis commonly experience:

  • Elevated resting pulse rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tremors
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Goiter
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Sweating
  • Hair loss

But are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism as severe in someone who has subacute thyroiditis when compared to someone who has Graves’ Disease?  The symptoms can be severe, as the resting heart rate can get very high, and on a blood test the thyroid hormone levels can be just as high as in someone who has Graves’ Disease.  In fact, over the years I’ve had a few Graves’ Disease patients who presented with what I would consider to be mild hyperthyroidism.  On a few occasions I have even worked with people who have subclinical Graves’ Disease.  In other words, they will have a depressed TSH with elevated thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins, but they will have normal thyroid hormone levels and/or won’t experience the hyperthyroid symptoms I listed above.

Two Main Types of Subacute Thyroiditis

1. Subacute granulomatous thyroiditis.  This is also known as De Quervain’s thyroiditis, and is very painful.  In fact, it is the most common cause of someone having a painful thyroid gland.

2. Subacute lymphocytic thyroiditis.  This typically doesn’t involve any pain, and is often mistaken for Graves’ Disease.

Both of these conditions seem to be caused by a viral infection of the thyroid gland.  This causes inflammation, which in turn damages the thyroid follicles, and this causes thyroid hormone to be released into the bloodstream, which in turn results in the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.  The hyperthyroidism usually lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, and it is usually followed by a period of hypothyroidism that can last six months or longer, and in some cases can be permanent.

Three Ways To Differentiate Graves’ Disease From Subacute Thyroiditis

1. An elevation of TSH receptor antibodies.  Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune thyroid condition that is characterized by elevated TSH receptor antibodies.  Thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins are the most common type of TSH receptor antibody elevated in Graves’ Disease, and if someone with hyperthyroidism has these levels elevated then this confirms that they have Graves’ Disease, and not subacute thyroiditis.

2. The signs and symptoms of thyroid eye disease.  Some people with Graves’ Disease also have thyroid eye disease, which is when the immune system attacks the tissues of the eyes.  This can lead to symptoms such as eye pain, swelling, and/or bulging of the eyes, also known as exophthalmos.  And so if someone with hyperthyroidism has one or more of these signs/symptoms then in all likelihood they have Graves’ Disease.  Keep in mind that most people with thyroid eye disease have very high levels of thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins, and so if you have the signs and symptoms of thyroid eye disease I would definitely make sure to test the TSI levels.

3. An elevated radioactive iodine uptake test.  Many endocrinologists will recommend the radioactive iodine uptake test, which involves swallowing a very small dosage of radioactive iodine.  In most cases of Graves’ Disease the radioactive iodine uptake test will be elevated, while in subacute thyroiditis the uptake test will usually be low.

If someone has elevated thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins then there really is no good reason to do the RAI uptake test.  But how about if someone with hyperthyroidism tests negative for these antibodies, and doesn’t have the symptoms of thyroid eye disease?  Well, in this case one can make a better argument for getting this test, although I must admit that I’m still not a big fan of this test.

Treating Graves’ Disease vs. Subacute Thyroiditis

The conventional medical approach for treating Graves’ Disease usually consists of antithyroid medication, radioactive iodine, or thyroid surgery.  With subacute thyroiditis, since this usually leads to hypothyroidism, most medical doctors will manage the patient’s symptoms through antithyroid medication and/or beta blockers.  While Methimazole is a common choice for managing the hyperthyroid symptoms in Graves’ Disease, with subacute thyroiditis many medical doctors prefer to use beta blockers.  And the reason for this is because the person with subacute thyroiditis is likely to become hypothyroid within a short period of time, and if they are taking Methimazole then this will make them even more hypothyroid.  Of course taking the person off of the Methimazole will decrease the severity of the hypothyroidism, but many medical doctors still choose not to put these patients on antithyroid medication.

As for treating these two conditions naturally, the goal with Graves’ Disease is to detect and remove the autoimmune trigger.  This topic is too detailed to discuss here, but I have written numerous articles which discuss this, and I also regularly conduct webinars that focus on natural treatment methods for Graves’ Disease.  I will say that managing the symptoms is similar in both of these conditions, although as is the case with Graves’ Disease, antithyroid herbs such as bugleweed need to be used cautiously due to the person eventually becoming hypothyroid.  Motherwort might be a better option in those with subacute thyroiditis, although if this doesn’t help to lower an elevated heart rate then bugleweed can be used.  If this is the case then the person wants to make sure to carefully monitor their symptoms, and it probably would be a good idea to do a follow-up blood test within four weeks.

Since subacute thyroiditis is caused by a virus, it still makes sense to do things to improve the health of the immune system.  And the reason for this is because viruses usually can’t be eradicated, which means that a person can have subacute thyroiditis multiple times.  For more information on viruses I would refer to an article I wrote on viruses entitled “Which Viruses Can Trigger Thyroid Autoimmunity?”.

So hopefully you have a better understanding of the difference between Graves’ Disease and subacute thyroiditis.  Both of these conditions present with similar symptoms, including an elevated resting pulse rate, heart palpitations, weight loss, increased appetite, and frequent bowel movements.  Two main types of subacute thyroiditis include subacute granulomatous thyroiditis and subacute lymphocytic thyroiditis.  Three ways to differentiate Graves’ Disease from subacute thyroiditis include 1) an elevation of TSH receptor antibodies, 2) having the signs and symptoms of thyroid eye disease, and 3) having an elevated radioactive iodine uptake test.  With both Graves’ Disease and subacute thyroiditis, improving the health of the immune system is the key.

5 Things To Know About Candida and Thyroid Health

Although some people enjoy reading longer articles and blog posts, others are interested in learning the most important points.  And so every now and then I will be releasing a “5 things to know” blog post.  With this post I will choose a topic that has interested my email subscribers in the past, and I’ll discuss five things you should know about this specific topic.  This blog post will focus on five things you need to know about Candida overgrowth.

So let’s get started…

1. Many people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis have a Candida overgrowth.  It’s very common for people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions to have an overgrowth of Candida.  And while some healthcare professionals frequently do testing for Candida, others will look for signs and symptoms of a yeast overgrowth and then treat based on these symptoms.  I fall somewhere in between, as while I do like testing to confirm that someone has a Candida overgrowth, doing so can be expensive if you’re paying out of pocket.  And while many people will get tested for Candida antibodies in the blood, it’s possible to have a false negative.  In other words, negative Candida antibodies in the blood don’t rule out a Candida overgrowth.  As a result, some people choose not to test and simply follow an anti-Candida diet, and perhaps take some natural antifungal agents.  Some of the signs and symptoms of a Candida overgrowth include brain fog, sweet cravings, gas and bloating, fatigue, dizziness, skin conditions, bad breath, and a thick white coating of the tongue.  Keep in mind that not everyone who has a Candida overgrowth will experience all of these signs and symptoms I listed.

2. Organic acids testing is a great method of testing for a Candida overgrowth.  Although blood and stool are probably the two most popular methods of testing for Candida by clinicians, I find that organic acids testing is the most accurate.  False negatives seem to be more common with blood and stool testing.  Organic acids testing is a urine test that assesses certain urine metabolites, and while there are a few different companies that offer this test, Great Plains Labs has the advantage of testing for oxalate metabolites.  Oxalates are found in certain foods, but they are also byproducts of yeast and mold.  And so in addition to looking at the yeast and fungal metabolites on an organic acids test such as arabinose, one can also get an idea of the severity of the Candida infection by looking at the level of oxalate metabolites.  And while eating foods high in oxalates such as spinach, nuts, soy, and raspberries can cause an increase in these oxalate metabolites, if someone has very high levels of arabinose and oxalate metabolites then this is usually a good indication of a moderate to severe Candida overgrowth.

3. Avoiding fruit and fermented foods isn’t always necessary when dealing with a Candida overgrowth.  Of course everyone with a Candida overgrowth (and even those without this problem) should avoid refined sugars, and until you have resolved the Candida overgrowth problem it is also a good idea to avoid some natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup. With regards to fruit, I have found that many people who have a mild to moderate case of Candida overgrowth can eat one or two servings of low sugar fruit on a daily basis without a problem.  On the other hand, those with a more severe Candida infection might need to completely avoid fruit.

As for fermented foods, although some sources recommend for those with Candida overgrowth to avoid all fermented foods, in my experience most people with a Candida overgrowth can eat some of these foods.  This is especially true with regards to eating fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles.  If someone also has small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) then these foods might be problematic, but otherwise they usually don’t cause problems for those dealing with a Candida overgrowth.  On the other hand, the microbial community of kombucha consists of not only bacteria, but strains of yeast as well, including Candida albicans (1).  As a result, it is wise for those with a Candida overgrowth problem to avoid drinking kombucha.

4. Candida can be a factor in thyroid autoimmunity.  As for whether Candida is a direct trigger for autoimmunity, this remains controversial.  In a past article I wrote entitled “Candida and Thyroid Autoimmunity” I discussed how there is evidence that Candida can result in an increase in proinflammatory cytokines, which are increased in autoimmunity.  I also mentioned a few studies that showed evidence of Candida causing an increase in autoantibodies, although there is no evidence I’m aware of which specifically shows a link between Candida and the autoimmune thyroid conditions Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  An increase in intestinal permeability (a leaky gut) is a factor in autoimmunity, and even if Candida isn’t a direct trigger of autoimmunity, it can be a factor in autoimmunity by increasing intestinal permeability.

5. Rotating antifungal supplements and herbs can be effective for tough cases of Candida.  There are a lot of natural agents that have antifungal activity.  This includes oregano oil, caprylic acid, berberine, garlic, saccharomyces boulardii, golden seal, uva ursi, olive leaf, and black walnut.  And while taking one or more of these agents on a daily basis can help with the eradication of yeast, with tough cases you might need to rotate these.  So for example, one week you can take oregano oil and caprylic acid, and the next week you can take caprylic acid and berberine, the next week berberine and garlic, etc.  It’s also important to know that Candida albicans can form biofilms, and this in turn can make them resistant to antifungal medication and herbs.  As a result, taking biofilm disruptors can be beneficial, which I discussed in a blog post entitled “What Does Biofilm Have To Do With Thyroid Health?

So hopefully you have a better understanding of Candida after reading this blog post.  Just keep in mind that it can take awhile to address a Candida overgrowth problem.  Also remember that having some Candida is normal, but an overgrowth is likely to occur in individuals who take antibiotics or have a compromised immune system.  As a result, improving the health of the gut flora and overall health of the immune system will play a key role in overcoming Candida overgrowth, as well as preventing it from coming back.

What’s Your Experience With Natural Thyroid Hormone?

Recently I wrote an article entitled “Comparing The Different Brands of Natural Thyroid Hormone”, and I thought it would be interesting to see the experiences some people have had with natural thyroid hormone medication.  Although it’s true that the goal should be to address the cause of the problem, some people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis do need to take thyroid hormone medication.  While most endocrinologists recommend synthetic T4, many do better when taking desiccated thyroid hormone medication.  But of course everyone is different, and there are some who don’t do well when taking natural thyroid hormone.

Anyway, if you have taken Armour, Nature-Throid, WP Thyroid, or a different brand of desiccated thyroid hormone, please let me know what your experience was.  If you felt better and would recommend natural thyroid hormone to others please let me know!  And if you didn’t have a good experience with natural thyroid hormone please let me know!  Thank you so much for sharing your experience with everyone.

How To Optimize Detoxification: Part 2

This is the second of two blog posts discussing how to optimize detoxification.  The reason why I put together these posts is because many people do things to detoxify their liver, but most don’t have a good understanding of phase one and phase two detoxification.  And while you don’t need to be an expert in this area to do a liver detoxification, having a basic understanding of the pathways involved can help you to have a better detox.  In the last post I focused on phase one detoxification, and in this post I’m going to focus more on phase two detoxification.

Before talking about phase two detoxification, I want to briefly summarize phase one detoxification.  If you recall, phase one detoxification is a process of biotransformation, as it’s when the liver transforms fat soluble compounds into reactive intermediates with the help of CYP enzymes.  In phase two these reactive intermediates are then turned into water soluble molecules so that they can easily be excreted in the bile and feces.

Phase two involves six different pathways.  And while I hope you found the first blog post on phase one detoxification to be interesting (and not too confusing), since phase two is more nutrient-dependent I’m hoping that you will find this post to be even more valuable.  After all, while the biotransformation process involved in phase one is of course very important, most people who do a liver cleanse are focusing more on phase two detoxification by eating certain foods, along with taking certain supplements and herbs.

The Six Different Pathways Of Phase Two Detoxification

Remember that phase one results in the production of a reactive intermediate.  Conjugation is the process where a substrate is coupled with the reactive intermediate, which in turn makes this less active and water soluble.  This allows the toxin to be easily excreted, and the actual excretion is considered to be phase three detoxification.  So with that being said, let’s go ahead and look at the different phase two detoxification pathways.  And probably the most important factor to pay attention to with each pathway is the nutrients involved.

1. Glucuronidation.  This process involves a few steps, and if you recall, earlier I mentioned that conjugation involves the substrate coupling with the reactive intermediate that is produced in phase one, and this makes the xenobiotic/chemical less active and more water soluble.  With glucuronidation, when the substrate is conjugated with the reactive intermediate it leads to something called a glucuronide.  This process also involves an enzyme called Uridine 5′-diphospho-glucuronosyltransferase, which is also known as UGT.  There are different types of UGTs, and these enzymes help to catalyze the conversion of the compounds into water soluble molecules.

Some of the compounds that are conjugated in this pathway include bilirubin, thyroid hormone, and the steroid hormones.  So glucuronidation helps with the detoxification of thyroid hormone, along with other hormones.  If someone has reduced glucuronidation the person won’t be able to detoxify these compounds, which can lead to numerous problems.

But why would someone have reduced glucuronidation, or a reduction in any of the other pathways?  Well, there can be a few reasons.  One reason is because they are not consuming the required nutrients to support that pathway, which I’ll discuss shortly.  Another reason is because someone can have a genetic defect that affects the enzymes involved in these pathways.  An example of this is seen with Gilbert’s syndrome, which involves a genetic defect in UGT1A.  This results in an impaired ability to conjugate bilirubin with glucuronic acid, and as a result can lead to jaundice.  One potential sign of Gilbert’s syndrome on a blood test is when someone has consistently elevated bilirubin levels.  If someone has this genetic defect then they not only can have problems conjugating bilirubin, but other compounds as well.

Ideally you want to try to do things to induce, or accelerate glucuronidation.  Some of the nutrients and phytonutrients that can help accomplish this include quercitin, curcumin, resveratrol, milk thistle, grape seed extract, and hawthorn.  You also want to make sure to consume omega 3 fatty acids, and magnesium.  Probiotics and calcium d-glucarate can help to inhibit beta glucuronidase, which I’ll briefly discuss below.  Foods which support glucuronidation include apples, kale, broccoli, and watercress.

What is Beta-glucuronidase?

Beta-glucuronidase is an enzyme produced by bacteria in the gut.  You ideally want to have low levels of this, and the reason for this is because if this enzyme is active then it results in uncoupling of the substrate and the phase one intermediate, and the toxin therefore gets reabsorbed into the enterohepatic circulation, which isn’t a good thing.  In fact, elevated beta-glucuronidase is associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancers.  One of the ways to test for beta-glucuronidase is through the Metametrix comprehensive stool panel.  Some of the nutrients and herbs which can inhibit this enzyme include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, apricots, watercress, calcium d-glucarate, milk thistle, and licorice.

The Role of Thyroid Hormone In Glucuronidation

Thyroid hormone is also involved in glucuronidation, as T3 influences some of the UGT enzymes (UTG1A1 and UTG1A6).  Vitamin A also plays an important role in this (1).  As a result, even if someone has sufficient T3 levels, but has a vitamin A deficiency, then this will have a negative effect on glucuronidation.

2. Sulfation.  Sulfation involves multiple steps, but the end result is conjugation with the substrate, which as you know by now will make the xenobiotic inactive and water soluble.  An enzyme called 3-phosphoadenosine-5-phosphosulfate is a coenzyme involved in sulfation.  An enzyme called sulfite oxidase catalyzes the conversion of sulfite to sulfate, which is necessary to break down sulfur-containing amino acids such as methionine and cysteine.  What’s important for you to understand are the nutrients required in this pathway, and vitamin B6 and molybdenum are required cofactors for this enzymatic reaction.  As a result, a deficiency of either one of these can cause problems with this pathway.  Having problems with sulfation can result in food sensitivities, chemical sensitivities, or an intolerance to acetaminophen.

3. Methylation. I’m not going to get into detail about methylation, but I did speak about this process in an article entitled “Methylation, MTHFR, and Thyroid Health“.  With regards to detoxification, methylation involves conjugating phase one intermediates with methyl groups.  Three of the more important nutrients required to help support methylation include folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6.  These are the main cofactors of S-Adenosyl-l-methionine (SAMe), which is the main methyl donor.  Once again, for more detailed information on methylation I would read the article I wrote on this topic.

4. Glutathione Conjugation. Many people reading this are familiar with glutathione, which is an antioxidant that helps to protect us from free radicals, but also plays an important role in phase two detoxification.  N-acetylcysteine is a precursor of glutathione that I commonly recommend to my patients to help support phase two detoxification.  Another option is to take an acetylated or liposomal form of glutathione.  There are also numerous cofactors of glutathione, including selenium, magnesium, niacinamide, vitamin C, and alpha lipoic acid.  Fruits and vegetables usually contribute over 50% of dietary glutathione.  In addition, having healthy butyrate levels can also lead to healthy glutathione S transferase levels.  Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that is produced by the gut flora.

5. Amino Acid Conjugation.  Not surprisingly, amino acid conjugation requires amino acids such as glycine, taurine, and glutamine.  Of these, glycine is the amino acid most commonly used for amino acid conjugation, although taurine is also commonly used.  So in order to support amino acid conjugation you want to make sure you are eating enough protein.

6. Acetylation. Acetylation involves conjugating toxins with acetyl Co-A.  If someone has a condition such as multiple chemical sensitivity then they will usually be a “slow” acetylator.  Acetylation is involved in eliminating excess histamine, serotonin, and sulfa drugs.  Nutrients which enhance acetylation include Vitamin C, B1, B2, B5, magnesium, and lipoic acid.  N-acetyltransferases (NATs) are drug-metabolizing enzymes that play a role in this pathway.

How Do You Get All Of The Nutrients To Support Phase Two Detoxification?

As for how to get the necessary nutrients to support phase two detoxification, you want to get as many of these nutrients through diet.  Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is of course important, but you also want to make sure you eat sufficient protein as well.  While you want to get as many nutrients as you can through your diet, taking nutritional supplements and herbs can also help to support phase two detoxification.  Throughout this post I listed nutrients associated with each of these pathways.  So for example, to support glucuronidation I mentioned food sources such as apples, kales, and broccoli, but you can also supplement with curcumin, resveratrol, or milk thistle. Similarly, diet plays an important role in methylation, although if someone has an MTHFR defect then they might need to supplement with methyl folate or other supplements.

So hopefully you have a better understanding of phase two detoxification.  In phase two detoxification, the reactive intermediates that were formed in phase one are made water soluble so that they can be excreted. There are six different pathways associated with phase two, including glucuronidation, sulfation, methylation, glutathione conjugation, amino acid conjugation, and acetylation.  You want to get most of the nutrients to support these pathways through diet, although taking certain nutritional supplements can be beneficial at times.

How To Optimize Detoxification: Part 1

Most people reading this are aware that the liver is involved in detoxification.  However, many don’t realize how complex of a system this is, as there are many different factors that can affect the detoxification pathways.  And if any one of these factors are negatively impacted then you very well might have problems with detoxification.  Plus, remember that detoxification isn’t just about removing harmful chemicals, but hormones as well, including thyroid hormone, estrogen, etc.  There is so much to discuss that I’ve decided to split this up into two different blog posts, as in this post I will talk about how to optimize phase one detoxification, and in the next post I will focus on how to optimize phase two detoxification.

One thing I do want to point out is that while most detoxification takes place in the liver, keep in mind that the gut, lungs, kidney, and skin also play a role in detoxification.  As a result, if one or more of these other areas are compromised then this can affect detoxification.  For example, I’ll be talking about the CYP enzymes, which play a role in phase one detoxification.  And while these enzymes are primarily located in the liver, they are also located in the gut as well.  And this is one reason why having a healthy gut is important for optimal detoxification.

Understanding The Basics of Detoxification

Phase one detoxification is all about the transformation of fat soluble compounds into reactive intermediates.  I’ll explain what this means in a minute, but I first want to mention that this transformation requires the help of the CYP enzymes I briefly mentioned earlier, which I’ll expand on shortly.  While I’ll be focusing on phase two during the next blog post, I did want to mention here how this phase is involved in conjugation with the reactive intermediate to form a water soluble metabolite that will get excreted.

In order to better understand this let’s look at an example.  If someone uses a skincare product that includes a xenobiotic (a foreign chemical substance), as part of the phase one detoxification process the liver will use certain enzymes to transform this chemical, which in turn will become water soluble after the phase two reactions.  The same concept applies when someone is eating a vegetable with pesticides, as the body will transform the chemicals that are in the pesticide, and eventually these chemicals will become water soluble.

This is a simplified example, as in phase one what frequently happens is that the transformation process turns the environmental toxin into a more harmful reactive intermediate.  This in turn can form free radicals and cause damage to your DNA, RNA, and proteins.  And while a properly functioning phase two system is important for the detoxification of these chemicals, you need an abundance of antioxidants to help minimize the damage caused by these reactive intermediates produced in phase one.

So for example, if someone doesn’t eat a good amount of fresh vegetables and fruits, which are filled with antioxidants, then this will lead to increased damage during phase one detoxification.  Taking antioxidant supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione can also help to some extent, but you need to eat a healthy diet in order to minimize any negative reactions from phase one detoxification.  In addition, certain factors can induce phase one activity.  In other words, certain factors can speed up the transformation that takes place in phase one.  This might sound like a good thing, but if someone doesn’t have sufficient antioxidants, or if there are problems with their phase two detoxification pathways, then this can cause a lot of oxidative stress, which of course isn’t a good thing.

The Role of The Phase One Detoxification Enzymes

Earlier I mentioned how certain enzymes are required for phase one detoxification, and these are called cytochrome P450 enzymes.  These enzymes are necessary for the biotransformation process.  However, certain nutrients, herbs, and drugs can either induce (i.e. speed up) or inhibit these enzymes.  Having certain genetic defects can also affect these phase one detoxification enzymes.  But what’s the significance of this?  Well, if something induces one of these CYP450 enzymes, then this increase in enzyme activity can in turn cause an increase in the reactive intermediates, which can cause further damage…unless if the phase two system is upregulated as well.  On the other hand, downregulating or slowing down these enzymes to some extent can be beneficial.  In other words, while you don’t want to completely inhibit these phase one enzymes, taking certain nutrients to slow down the activity of phase one detoxification can reduce the oxidative stress and damage.

It’s also important to understand that inhibiting or inducing these enzymes can cause problems when someone is taking one or more medications that are metabolized by the same enzyme.  Let’s look at an example of this.  CYP3A4 is a phase one enzyme that is involved in the metabolism of many drugs.  And grapefruit juice has compounds that can inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme.  As a result, if someone is taking a certain drug that is metabolized by the CYP3A4 enzyme and the same day they take the drug they decide to drink some grapefruit juice, then this will decrease the metabolism of this drug, causing it to build up in the system.  On the other hand, the herb St. John’s Wort can lead to an increase in the metabolism of the CYP3A4, which can decrease the effectiveness of certain drugs.  This is one reason why St. John’s Wort is contraindicated when taking certain medications.

Does this mean you should never drink grapefruit juice or take St. John’s Wort?  Of course not, but if you are taking medication you might want to do some research to see if it is metabolized by the CYP3A4 enzyme, and if this is the case you probably would want to refrain from drinking grapefruit juice or taking St. Johns Wort.  Click here for a list of drugs that are metabolized by CYP3A4 and 3A5.  For those who take bioidentical hormones, you’ll notice that CYP3A4 and 3A5 metabolizes estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone.  The point I’m trying to make is that nutrients or herbs that inhibit or slow down these phase one enzymes can cause certain drugs to build up in the bloodstream, while speeding up the enzymes will increase the metabolism of certain drugs, which can reduce their effectiveness.

Understanding Some of The Phase One Detoxification Enzymes

What I’d like to do below is discuss a few of the more common CYP450 enzymes so you can better understand how they help to biotransform certain chemicals in the body.  However, it’s important to understand that these enzymes can have multiple roles.  For example, I’ll discuss how the CYP1A2 enzyme plays a role in metabolizing caffeine, but this enzyme is also important for estrogen metabolism.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at some of these enzymes:

CYP3A4 and 5.  As I mentioned earlier, the CYP3A4 enzyme is primarily involved in drug metabolism, and it is involved in the metabolism of certain hormones.  The CYP3A5 enzyme also is involved in drug metabolism.  In fact, 40 to 45% of all drugs are metabolized through these enzymes.  This includes acetaminophen, codeine, cyclosporin A, diazepam and erythromycin (1).

Earlier I mentioned how grapefruit juice can inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme, which can cause certain medications to build up in the bloodstream.  Other agents that can inhibit this enzyme include antifungal medications, along with resveratrol.  I also mentioned how St. John’s Wort can cause induction of this enzyme, which in turn will speed up the clearance of certain medications from the body.  Red wine and licorice root can also induce this enzyme.

Can Grapefruit Juice Affect Thyroid Hormone Metabolism?

Getting back to grapefruit juice, one small study looked at the effect of grapefruit juice on levothyroxine metabolism (2).  The study showed that grapefruit juice might slightly delay the absorption of levothyroxine, but it only has a minor effect on its bioavailability.  I couldn’t find any studies which showed if grapefruit juice can affect the absorption or bioavailability of antithyroid medication, but one study  I came across showed that methimazole can cause a dramatic decrease of CYP3A4 activity, while partially decreasing the activities of some other CYP enzymes (3).  What this means is that if someone is taking one or more medications along with Methimazole, and if those medications are metabolized by the phase one detoxification enzymes that are affected by Methimazole, then the blood levels of some or all of these can be greatly increased.

CYP2D6.  This enzyme is involved in 25-30% of drug metabolism, as it helps to transform many antidepressants, antipsychotics, analgesics and antitussives, some beta blockers, antiarrythmics and antiemetics (4).  CYP2D6 genetic polymorphisms are very common (4).  Smoking cigarettes and eating charlbroiled meat can induce this enzyme (5) (6).  So if someone is taking a medication that is metabolized by the CYP2D6 enzyme and is a smoker, or eats a very well-done grilled hamburger, then this can actually increase the metabolism of the drug.

Earlier I mentioned how CYP2D6 genetic defects are very common. Tamoxifen is one of the drugs metabolized by CYP2D6, and this drug is commonly recommended as a treatment for some cases of breast cancer.  And just to show the impact these phase one enzymes can have, one research study shows that after taking tamoxifen for five years, women who had reduced CYP2D6 metabolism had an increased incidence of relapsing or dying at a rate that was 2.5 times higher than women with normal CYP2D6 (7).  In other words, if someone has a genetic polymorphism of the CYP2D6 gene, then they probably shouldn’t be given tamoxifen.  Fortunately this can be tested for, which I’ll talk more about shortly.

CYP1A2.  Although this enzyme is involved in the biotransformation of some drugs, it also plays a big role in the metabolism of caffeine.  I’ve spoken about this in a past blog post, as if someone has an upregulated CYP1A2 gene then they are considered to be a fast metabolizer of caffeine, and thus they are able to clear caffeine rapidly from the body.  On the other hand, if someone has a downregulated CYP1A2 gene then they will be a slow metabolizer of caffeine, and these are usually the people who have problems sleeping when drinking coffee, especially later in the day.  The CYP1A2 enzyme is also important in the biotransformation of 2-OH estradiol, which is considered to be one of the “good” estrogen metabolites.

CYP1B1.  This enzyme helps to transform certain pro-carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals into reactive intermediates.  For example, it helps to transform estrogen into the 4-OH metabolites, which is considered to be a “bad” estrogen metabolite.  Other chemicals can induce the CYP1B1 enzyme, such as PCBs, the chemicals in cigarette smoke, UV light, and even xenoestrogens.  In other words, exposure to these chemicals will cause the body to convert more of these chemicals into reactive intermediates.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?  Well, it can be a good thing if you have a properly functioning phase two system (which I’ll talk about in the next blog post), as this will help to convert these reactive intermediates into water soluble molecules that will be excreted.  On the other hand, if someone has problems with their phase two detoxification pathways then these reactive intermediates can build up, which can increase the risk of cancer and other chronic health conditions.

But even if they have a properly functioning phase two system, if they are exposed to a high amount of environmental toxins then this still can be a problem, and in this case you might want to do things which can inhibit or downregulate this enzyme.  CYP1B1 is downregulated by DHEA, polyphenols, resveratrol, and pomegranate.  So if someone is exposed to large amounts of cancer-causing chemicals which are transformed into reactive intermediates, it probably would be a good idea to increase your consumption of polyphenol by consuming more vegetables, fruits, and spices, or perhaps you can take some resveratrol or eat some pomegranate.

CYP2E1.  This enzyme is involved in the metabolism of many different chemicals, including acetaldehyde, acetaminophen, acrylamide, aniline, benzene, butanol, carbon tetrachloride, diethylether, dimethyl sulfoxide, ethyl carbamate, ethylene chloride, halothane, glycerol, ethylene glycol, N-nitrosodimethylamine, 4-nitrophenol, pyrazole, pyridine, and vinyl chloride (8).  It is induced by ethanol, benzene, and styrene, and inhibited by grape seed extract, resveratrol, garlic, licorice root, and watercress.

It’s important to keep in mind that when I list certain nutrients, or herbs, and medications that can induce or inhibit a specific enzyme, these are just a few examples.  You’ll notice that with some enzymes I’ll list more inducers and inhibitors than others, and one reason is because with some enzymes we have a greater knowledge of the inducers and inhibitors.  And unfortunately there is the possibility that there are nutrients, herbs, and drugs which can induce or inhibit a specific enzyme but this hasn’t yet been discovered.

The Role Of Diet In Phase 1 Detoxification

Although phase two is more dependent on nutrients, eating well in phase one is of course important.  Earlier I spoke about the importance of antioxidants in helping to minimize the damaging effects of the reactive intermediates formed in phase one detoxification.  And while you can take antioxidant supplements, you really do want to make sure you eat a good amount of antioxidant rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, and even certain beverages such as green tea.  It’s also important to know that the CYP450 enzymes are heme-dependent, which means that they require iron to function properly.

This is one of the reasons why I have just about all of my patients get a full iron panel.  It’s also important to know that fasting can induce certain CYP450 enzymes.  This includes CYP2B1, CYP2B2, and CYP2E1 (9).  So in other words, fasting can help to increase the metabolism of these enzymes, which can increase the clearance of certain chemicals.  While this might sound like a good thing, if someone is exposed to a lot of environmental toxins and/or has inefficient phase two detoxification pathways, then this can lead to the buildup of reactive intermediates and make the person feel sick.  I’m not suggesting that fasting is never a good idea, but you do want to be cautious.

This might explain why many people (although not everyone) feels better when doing a juice fast, while some people might feel lousy when doing a water fast for a few days.  A juice fast involves plenty of antioxidants, which helps to quench the free radicals produced in phase one, but the nutrients in the fruits and vegetables also help to support phase two detoxification.  The problem is that phase two detoxification also requires sufficient protein, and so while there have been some great success stories involving people who did a juice fast for a prolonged period of time, it can also be problematic if you do it for too long.

How Genetic Mutations Can Affect Phase One Detoxification

I’m not going to get into great detail about genetic polymorphisms (SNPs), which are common genetic mutations.  But one can’t overlook these, as if someone has a genetic defect of one or more of the phase one detoxification enzymes then this can cause a lot of problems.  For example, in this blog post I mentioned how CYP3A4 and CYP2D6 are both involved in the metabolism of many different medications.  And if someone has a genetic defect in one or both of these phase one detoxification enzymes then this can affect the absorption of medications that are metabolized by these enzymes.  And of course people can have genetic polymorphisms of other phase one detoxification enzymes as well.

So the next question you probably have is…”how can I determine if I have a genetic polymorphism of the CYP3A4 or CYP2D6 enzyme, or other phase one detoxification enzymes?”  Fortunately genetic testing is available, as many labs offer it, and many people use a company such as 23andme, although this also requires using a third party service such as Genetic Genie or Nutrahacker to list the specific genetic polymorphisms.  If a medical doctor prescribes a drug that is metabolized by one of these enzymes, it would be a good idea to have the person do some genetic testing, although I realize that there are times when time is a factor and the person might need to take a certain medication sooner than later.  This is one reason why I think that genetic testing will become more routine in the future, as there will be a time and place when medical doctors will take into account the person’s genetics when prescribing certain medications.

What’s The Best Way To Support Phase One Detoxification?

I realize that this blog post was advanced for some people, and so I’ll summarize everything here so that you will better understand how to support and optimize phase one detoxification.

1. Consume plenty of antioxidants. You learned that phase one involves the transformation of fat soluble molecules into reactive intermediates. And so one thing you want to do is to make sure you consume plenty of antioxidants. While taking supplements to increase glutathione production is something some people need to consider, you also want to eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and green tea.

2. Downregulate phase one detoxification enzymes. You also learned about inhibiting and inducing phase one enzymes. While there can be benefits of both induction and inhibition, the main concern with inducing one or more of the phase one enzymes is that it can lead to an excess of reactive intermediates. And so typically you will want to do things to inhibit or downregulate these phase one enzymes. And while different nutrients are required to inhibit certain enzymes, some of the more common nutrients that can help to slow down the phase one enzymes include resveratrol, polyphenols, pomegranate, and garlic.

3. Consider doing genetic testing. You also might want to consider doing some testing to determine which genetic polymorphisms of the phase one detoxification enzymes you have. Notice I didn’t say “if” you have genetic polymorphisms, as pretty much everyone has certain genetic polymorphisms, although some are more significant than others. Although I personally obtained a 23andme test a few years ago, I currently don’t recommend genetic testing to all of my patients, and I’m admittedly not an expert when it comes to interpreting the results of such tests. But I am continuously trying to expand my knowledge in this area, and as I mentioned earlier, I do think that such testing will become more routine in the future.

So hopefully you have a better understanding of phase one detoxification.  It admittedly can be complex, and one of the big keys to optimizing phase one detoxification is to make sure you consume sufficient antioxidants to help offset the damage caused by the reactive intermediates.  You also learned about how certain nutrients and herbs can induce and inhibit the phase one detoxification enzymes.  And while the topic of genetic polymorphisms is complex, hopefully you realize that certain genetic defects of the phase one detoxification enzymes can affect the metabolism of different medications.

4 Reasons Why Soy Should Be Avoided In Those With Thyroid Conditions

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.

What’s Your Experience With The Autoimmune Paleo Diet?

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!

Can Eating Dirt Benefit Your Thyroid Health?

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.

Can Olive Oil Affect Thyroid Health?

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).

Osteoporosis.  A few studies show evidence that olive oil phenols can prevent the loss of bone mass and increase bone mineral density (16) (17).

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.

Avocado oil

Palm oil

Macadamia nut oil

Flax 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.

Unhealthy Oils

On the other hand, the following oils are ones that are best to be avoided:

Cottonseed oil

Peanut oil

Rapeseed oil

Safflower oil

Soybean oil

Sunflower oil

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.


Can Coconut Oil Affect Thyroid Health?

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.

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Here are some of my patients with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions who have benefited from following a natural treatment protocol.

I was concerned about an ongoing "mental fog" and forgetfulness I had - which is one of the symptoms of Hashimoto's. I was having trouble losing weight and also felt very low in energy. Since following Dr. Osansky's recommendations I have found that I have a greater sense of calm - something I didn't expect from the treatment and changes in diet and lifestyle. In addition to getting my Hashimoto's under control, I have enjoyed other health benefits as well. I no longer suffer from anemia, my Vitamin D levels are normal and my immune system is strong. My thyroid blood tests also improved. Although it's a commitment and initial expense, it is completely worth it in the long run. Given the alternative (taking thyroid medication for the rest of your life), in my opinion it's a no brainer. If you give a natural treatment protocol a fair chance you'd be surprised at how much more empowered you'll feel about your illness and treating it. A natural treatment protocol is an effective solution that puts you in the driver's seat when it comes to your health. Traditional methods do the exact opposite.

Maria DeSimmone
Howard Beach, NY

Since following the natural treatment protocol I have all of the energy that I had before Graves' Disease, and not being on the meds feel wonderful. Being able to do all of the things that I used to do is fantastic, as we all take so many things for granted in life, and our health/body is very sensitive so what we feed it is so important, good in good out. Little by little my blood work came back to the normal range (within 4 to 6 months) but you have to follow the protocol.

Michael Addario
Albany, NY

When I first began the natural treatment plan for my autoimmune hypothyroid condition my top five symptoms were chest pain (diagnosed with costochondritis), fatigue, memory loss, stomach upset, and muscle weakness. No matter how much rest I got, I was still tired. Additionally I did not sleep well either. Originally, I didn't feel much different. I believe the reason for that to be because I was only taking a portion of the recommended natural supplements, as well as the fact that I had only changed some of my diet. When I really got serious about making changes is when I began to really see improvements. Although this does require a change in lifestyle, I feel much better today. The natural treatment protocol allowed me to delve deeper into the root of the problem and address it so that I will hopefully not need to be on these supplements for the rest of my life. I have already cut back on some of my supplements since my last blood work results.

Adah Thompson
Rossville, GA

Through my own research, I discovered that there are many side effects to radioactive iodine treatment. However, every visit to the endocrinologist ended with them stating that this was the only treatment for Graves Disease. In fact, one endocrinologist yelled at me and stated that I had to have the procedure done by November because of the dangerous side effects of the medication. I found Dr. Osansky’s website and read all his articles. I was immediately convinced that he could help me because one of his articles described his symptoms and it seemed as though he was describing my symptoms. I wanted a doctor who had this experience and could tell me what to expect.

Since starting the natural protocol, I feel full of energy. I look forward to seeing my students instead of dreading each day. My eating habits have totally changed. I can actually function when I get home. I used to sleep during the two week Christmas holidays, but this year I actually painted, cleaned and exercised. It has truly been a lifestyle change. My blood tests show tremendous improvement. In fact the same endocrinologist who yelled at me sent me a letter indicating that I should immediately start lowering the Methimazole.

Norma Lopez
Houston, TX
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