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What’s Your Experience With Selenium?

Recently I wrote an updated article on selenium.  In the article I mentioned how many people take selenium supplements, and if this describes you I’d like to know what your experience with selenium has been.  I realize that it’s not always easy to know if a specific supplement is helping, especially when most people are taking more than one supplement at the same time, which frequently is the case.  But if you noticed some positive changes when taking selenium I’d like to know.

So if you noticed an improvement in any of your symptoms while taking selenium please share it below in the comments section.  This can include an improvement in hypothyroid symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, cold hands and feet, or other symptoms.  And of course if you have hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease and experienced an improvement when taking selenium please let me know!  If you didn’t experience an improvement in symptoms but noticed a decrease in your thyroid antibodies after adding selenium please let me know!  If you happened to experience any negative symptoms when taking a selenium supplement please let me know!  If you don’t take a selenium supplement but are instead relying on food sources of selenium you of course can also comment below if you’d like.  Thank you so much for sharing your experience with everyone.


Can SIBO Trigger Thyroid Autoimmunity?

Many people reading this are familiar with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which is also known as SIBO.  This involves an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, and can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal pain, along with diarrhea and/or constipation.  Although SIBO is more common in people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I have also seen it in patients with Graves’ Disease as well.  But can SIBO trigger an autoimmune thyroid condition?

Numerous pathogens have been associated with thyroid autoimmunity.  This includes H. Pylori, Yersinia enterocolitica, Lyme disease, Epstein barr, and parasites such as Blastocystis Hominis.  However, it’s important to understand that SIBO isn’t a pathogenic infection.  This condition involves having good bacteria in the wrong place, as most of the bacteria should be located in the large intestine, and only a small amount should be located in the small intestine.  But for numerous reasons that I’ll discuss in this blog post, there can be an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.

As a result, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth itself doesn’t seem to be an autoimmune trigger.  However, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Some cases of SIBO are due to an autoimmune process, which I’ll describe below, and having one autoimmune condition can make someone more susceptible to having another autoimmune condition.  So perhaps having SIBO can lead to another autoimmune condition such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but the correlation hasn’t been made yet.  But even if this isn’t the case, SIBO can cause an increase in intestinal permeability (a leaky gut), and this in turn can set the stage for the development of an autoimmune thyroid condition.

What Causes SIBO?

There are numerous factors which can cause someone to develop SIBO, and so let’s take a look at some of these:

1. Dysfunction of the migrating motor complex (MMC).  This is the main reason why people develop SIBO.  The MMC is a small wave that cleanses the small intestine of debris.  And so if the MMC isn’t working properly then bacteria and other debris are no longer swept through the lumen of the small intestine.  Food poisoning is the most common cause of a dysfunctional MMC, but other causes include hypothyroidism, diabetes, or an infection such as C. difficile, giardia, or Lyme disease.  Certain drugs such as opiates and antibiotics can also affect the MMC.

2. Altered anatomy.  This can interfere with the clearance of bacteria.  For example, adhesions due to surgery or endometriosis are potential causes of SIBO.  Other anatomical anomalies include a narrowing of the small intestine, fistulas, and diverticuli.

3. Hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid).  Millions of people take acid blockers, and this is a big problem.  Besides being necessary to break down nutrients, stomach acid also can help to eradicate harmful pathogens, and prevent the overgrowth of bacteria.  However, you don’t need to take acid blockers to have low stomach acid, as having a hypothyroid condition alone can result in the decreased production of stomach acid.  Stress can also decrease the production of stomach acid.

4. Absent or inefficient Ileocecal valve.  The ileocecal valve is the barrier that separates the small intestine from the large intestine.  It prevents backflow from the large intestine into the small intestine.  If this is absent or dysfunctional then it can cause the bacteria from the large intestine to migrate into the small intestine, thus leading to SIBO.

What Is The Relationship Between IBS and SIBO?

Infectious gastroenteritis, more commonly known as food poisoning, can result in the production of toxins by bacteria that can damage the nerves which play an important role in gut motility.  The specific name of the toxin is cytolethal distending toxin (CDT).  What happens is the immune system forms antibodies to this toxin (called anti-CDTb antibodies), but anti-vinculin antibodies are also produced.  Vinculin is a protein that helps connect the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) so that they can communicate properly to help the MMC .  When someone has the CDT-b toxins these harm the ICC, and in a case of mistaken identity the immune system attacks vinculin, which has a negative effect on gut motility.

So to summarize, food poisoning is the most common cause of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D).  This in turn has a negative effect on gut motility, and the problem with gut motility is what leads to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.  There is a blood test called IBSchek by Commonwealth Laboratories that can determine if someone has IBS-D associated with anti-CDTb and anti-vinculin antibodies.

How Is SIBO Diagnosed?

Although one’s symptoms can provide a lot of valuable information, if SIBO is suspected then it is a good idea to test.  And the way it is detected is through a breath test.  With the breath test the patient fasts overnight, and then in the morning they will start with a baseline breath test, followed by the consumption of a substrate (i.e. lactulose or glucose).  After the baseline breath test they will measure a breath sample approximately every 20 minutes, and what the lab is looking for is bacterial fermentation, and it measures this fermentation by measuring the levels of hydrogen and methane. In other words, if someone has SIBO, there will be more fermentation, which will lead to higher levels of hydrogen, methane, or both gases. Let’s take a look at the two main breath tests used:

Lactulose breath test.  Lactulose can’t be absorbed by humans, but can be broken down by bacteria.  As bacteria consume lactulose they produce hydrogen and/or methane gases, which are measured with the breath test.  This is most commonly used because it can diagnose SIBO in the distal end of the small intestine.

Glucose breath test.  The glucose breath test seems to be more accurate, but the reason this test isn’t as commonly used is because glucose is absorbed in the beginning of the small intestine.  As a result, if someone has SIBO that is occurring in the distal small intestine then it is less likely to be detected.  However, some bacteria don’t ferment lactulose, and as a result, if SIBO is suspected yet the lactulose test comes back negative then you should consider doing a glucose breath test.  Another option is to do both the lactulose and glucose tests initially, although many labs don’t offer both types of testing.

Can A Stool Panel Detect SIBO?

Hydrogen and methane are produced by bacteria, and this is what’s being measured on the breath tests.  Methanobrevibacter smithii is a bacteria that accounts for most of the methane production in the body.  Some comprehensive stool panels test for this “methanogenic” bacteria, and if this is high then this might suggest that someone has SIBO.  However, this isn’t conclusive, and the breath test remains the gold standard for determining if someone has SIBO.

What Health Conditions Are Associated With SIBO?

Below I have listed some of the other health conditions associated with SIBO.  This doesn’t mean that SIBO is always responsible for the development of these conditions, but if you have any of the following conditions then SIBO is a possible cause.

  • Acne Rosacea
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Interstitial Cystitis
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

What’s The Ideal Diet For Those With SIBO?

Although I like my patients with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s to start on an autoimmune paleo diet, in the past I have written blog posts which discuss how there is no diet that fits everyone perfectly.  And the same concept applies with SIBO.  While all cases of SIBO involve the overgrowth of bacteria into the small intestine, the bacteria will differ from person to person.  As a result, one person with SIBO might be able to tolerate foods that someone else with SIBO can’t tolerate, and vice versa.  In addition, some people might be able to eat small quantities of a certain food, but if they eat larger quantities they experience bloating and gas.  With that being said, there are certain diets that people with SIBO should consider following, although there will be some modifications depending on the person.

Below I’m going to discuss the different diets that are recommended for patients with SIBO.  The primary goal of each of these diets is to feed the person while starving the bacteria.

Low FODMAP diet.  This probably is the most well known diet when it comes to SIBO, and because of this, many healthcare professionals will put their patients with SIBO on this type of diet.  FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.  Examples of high FODMAP foods include fermented foods (i.e. sauerkraut), starch (grains, beans, starchy vegetables), soluble fiber (grains, beans, fruits, vegetables), sugar (fruit, agave), and resistant starch (legumes, whole grains).

This doesn’t mean that everyone with SIBO needs to avoid all of these foods.  For example, some people with SIBO are able to tolerate sauerkraut, while others can’t eat any fermented foods without experiencing gas, bloating, and other symptoms.  Some people are able to eat small amounts of these foods, while others are unable to tolerate certain foods altogether.  And so you need to listen to your body.

Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is similar to a Paleo diet in that it allows meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit.  However, it differs in that it does allow some lactose-free dairy and certain beans.  The dairy products that are allowed include yogurt, aged cow and goat cheeses, butter, ghee, and cottage cheese.  The allowed beans include white beans, navy beans, lentils, split peas, lima beans, kidney beans and black beans.  In order to make the beans easier to digest you want to soak them overnight.  For more information I would read the book “Breaking The Vicious Cycle”, or you can visit the website www.scdlifestyle.com.

GAPS diet.  GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and the diet was developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.  The diet is very similar to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and involves minimal supplementation.  The only legumes allowed on the GAPS diet include lentils, split peas and white navy beans, and they need to be soaked first.  Dairy is initially eliminated, but then the person is allowed to slowly reintroduce ghee, followed by butter, yogurt, sour cream, kefir, hard cheese, and cream.  One of the main differences between the GAPS diet and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is that the GAPS diet involves going through a 6-stage introduction diet before moving onto the “full” GAPS protocol, which is usually followed for one or two years.

SIBO Specific Diet.  This is a diet created by Dr. Allison Siebecker, and is a combination of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the low FODMAP diet.  While it’s a great diet for those who have SIBO, it’s important to understand that this a very restrictive diet, and as a result, Dr. Siebecker first recommends to try one or more of the other diets listed above first, and if you don’t do well with the other diets then you might want to consider giving this diet a try.   For more information I would visit www.siboinfo.com/diet.

Elemental diet.  The elemental diet can be the most effective diet when it comes to alleviating the symptoms of SIBO.  However, it is arguably the most challenging diet to follow.  It’s considered an antimicrobial approach because the goal is to starve the bacteria, but supply the person with sufficient nutrients in an easily absorbed form.  It essentially consists of protein, fat, carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and either glucose or maltodextrin.  You can get a premade formula from a company such as Integrative Therapeutics, or if you visit www.siboinfo.com and visit the resources page you can get a recipe to make your own.  The elemental diet can help to lower both methane and hydrogen levels and typically you want to follow it for 2 or 3 weeks, and then do another breath test immediately upon completion of it.

Should Someone With Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Also Follow An AIP Diet?

Many people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis follow an AIP diet, and they might want to know if they should continue following an AIP diet when trying to address SIBO.  So for example, should they follow an AIP diet and a low FODMAP diet?  Doing this is extremely difficult, and what you usually want to do is prioritize the eradication of SIBO.  In other words, it’s usually okay to stray from the AIP diet while trying to address SIBO, and this falls into the “Remove” category of the 5-R protocol I mentioned in a previous blog post.  Then once the bacterial overgrowth has been “removed” you can focus more on gut healing by following the AIP diet, along with eating gut-healing foods (i.e. bone broth) and taking certain nutrients (i.e. L-glutamine).

Eradicating SIBO Through Drugs and Herbs

In order to eradicate SIBO there are two main methods used: prescription antibiotics and natural antimicrobials.  Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Prescription antibiotics.  Rifaximin is the antibiotic most commonly recommended for SIBO.  While I’m not a big fan of antibiotics, Rifaximin is different than most other antibiotics.  First of all, it stays in the small intestine, which means that it doesn’t harm the beneficial bacteria in the large intestine like most other antibiotics do.  In fact, there is evidence that Rifaximin can actually increase good bacteria (i.e. bifidobacteria) in the large intestine.  In addition, bacterial resistance isn’t too common when using Rifaximin.  With that being said, not everyone with SIBO will respond to Rifaximin.

Herbal antimicrobials.  I personally prefer to use herbal antimicrobials when dealing with SIBO.  Some of the natural agents which can help to eradicate SIBO include berberine, oregano oil, neem, and allicin.  Keep in mind that while garlic is a high FODMAP food, most people with SIBO can tolerate an allicin supplement, although not everyone.  Although I personally haven’t used pomegranate as of writing this blog post, Dr. Nirala Jacobi has a lot of experience with SIBO and has been experimenting with pomegranate as an antimicrobial.  As for whether the herbs are as effective as Rifaximin, there actually was a study that showed that herbal therapy is equivalent to Rifaximin for treating SIBO (1).  However, just as is the case with Rifaximin, not everyone with SIBO will respond to the herbal antimicrobials.

What To Do When Rifaximin or The Natural Antimicrobials Don’t Work

So what should be done if someone takes either Rifaximin or the natural agents and doesn’t improve?  Well, it is important to do another SIBO breath test after completing a round of treatment.  On the retest, if the gas levels have decreased a good amount but are still high then it makes sense to do another round of the Rifaximin or natural antimicrobials, regardless if the person’s symptoms have improved or not.  On the other hand, if the gas levels haven’t improved then it probably is wise to try a different treatment approach.  If the gas levels have normalized and the person is still symptomatic then this is usually an indication that there is something else going on besides SIBO, and additional testing might be indicated.

The Role of Prokinetics In Preventing a Relapse

Prokinetics help to stimulate the MMC, and since most cases of SIBO are caused by a dysfunctional MMC, taking prokinetics can be important to prevent a relapse after receiving treatment for SIBO.  It’s also important to understand that the MMC works in a fasting state, and so while I commonly recommend for patients to eat regularly throughout the day to help stabilize the blood sugar levels, those with SIBO probably shouldn’t snack in between meals, and should go at least 12 hours overnight without eating.

As for what prokinetics you should take, I used to recommend an herbal formulation called Iberogast, but it seems as this is being discontinued.  Ginger can be a good prokinetic, and 5-HTP also can be helpful.  Many reading this are familiar with low dose naltrexone, and this can also act as a prokinetic.  For those who aren’t familiar with LDN you can read the article I wrote entitled “Low Dose Naltrexone and Thyroid Autoimmunity“.  Erythromycin is commonly used as an antibiotic, but in very low doses it can also help to stimulate the MMC (2).

How long should someone take a prokinetic for after SIBO has been eradicated?  It depends on the person, as most will need to take it for at least 3 to 6 months.  And if someone has autoimmunity to vinculin then they might have to take prokinetics on a permanent basis.  I mentioned earlier how if someone has the CDT-b toxins these harm the ICC, and in a case of mistaken identity the immune system attacks vinculin.  And until we figure out how to stop the autoimmune process then the person will most likely have to continuously take prokinetics.

Can Someone With Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Get Into Remission By Eradicating SIBO?

As I mentioned earlier in this post, SIBO doesn’t seem to be a direct trigger of thyroid autoimmunity.  However, SIBO can cause an increase in intestinal permeability, which is a factor in autoimmune conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Because of this, one can argue that if someone has SIBO and a leaky gut, then in order to heal the gut it is necessary to eradicate SIBO, and if the trigger is also removed then this can put the person into remission.  And so while eradicating SIBO might be necessary for healing a leaky gut, in order to get someone with an autoimmune thyroid condition into remission it is still necessary to find and remove the trigger.

In summary, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can be present in people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease.  The most common cause of SIBO is dysfunction of the migrating motor complex.  SIBO is usually diagnosed with either the lactulose or glucose breath test, although false negatives are possible with either test.  Some of the common diets recommended for those with SIBO include the low FODMAP diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the GAPS diet, the SIBO Specific Diet, and the Elemental diet.  Although antibiotics such as Rifaximin are commonly given to people with SIBO, herbal antimicrobials can be equally effective in many people.  And taking prokinetics can be important to prevent a relapse from occurring after receiving treatment for SIBO.


Book Review: Hashimoto’s Protocol

Many reading this are familiar with Dr. Izabella Wentz, as she is the author of the bestselling book “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause”, and she also hosted the Thyroid Secret Documentary, which I was grateful to be a part of.  Dr. Wentz sent me an advanced copy of her new book “Hashimoto’s Protocol”, which I recently finished reading.  And so I decided to dedicate a blog post to review her book.

Note: For those who aren’t interested in reading this entire review, I do want to let you know upfront that Dr. Wentz is offering a free autoimmune paleo diet 2-week recipe plan, which you can get by clicking here.

First of all, I’d like to start off by saying that this is a lengthy book with plenty of great information!  The book consists of almost 400 pages, and while this includes sections you are unlikely to read (i.e. bibliography), even if we omit the bibliography, the acknowledgements, etc., you’re still left with approximately 350 pages of excellent content.  And so this is not a book that most people will knock out it a day or two.  She also offers an audio version of the book on Audible, which I probably would have purchased had I not been sent a free copy of the book.  While I love reading books, I must admit that I’m an Audible fanatic!

When I first learned about the title of the book, one of the first concerns I had was that this book was just going to focus on diet and supplements.  And don’t get me wrong, as she does talk a lot about diet, and there definitely are a lot of different nutritional supplements she talks about as well.  But this isn’t just a book on diet and supplements, as she talks about other lifestyle factors, some of the different methods of testing, and she even dedicates a chapter on how to optimize thyroid hormone levels.

This Book Actually Discusses Multiple Protocols

Another concern I had when I first learned about the title of the book is whether Dr. Izabella would just focus on a single protocol for Hashimoto’s.  After all, the title of the book is “Hashimoto’s Protocol”, which suggests that it discusses a single protocol.  Of course I should have known better, and if I counted correctly she actually discusses nine different protocols.  This might sound overwhelming, but keep in mind that not everyone with Hashimoto’s needs to follow all of these different protocols, and I’ll talk more about this shortly.

Dr. Izabella’s book is divided into three parts.  The first part is entitled “Getting To Know Hashimoto’s and the Root Cause Approach”.  In this section she starts off by talking about her Hashimoto’s success story, and then discusses the symptoms, diagnosis, and origins of Hashimoto’s.  The last chapter of this section then discusses how the root cause approach can help you to recover your health.

The second section of the book discusses the “Fundamental Protocols”.  This consists of three protocols that include the following:

1. The Liver Support Protocol.  This is a two-week protocol that focuses on reducing your exposure to toxic substances while simultaneously supporting the liver.  The goal is to 1) remove foods which can be potential triggers, 2) add supportive foods, 3) reduce toxic exposure, and 4) support detoxification pathways.

2. The Adrenal Recovery Protocol.  Dr. Izabella talks about a five-step adrenal recovery protocol, which according to her takes approximately 4 weeks to follow.

3. The Gut Balancing Protocol.  This is a six-week protocol, although Dr. Izabella does mention that you should reevaluate your gut function after this time, and so there is a chance it can take longer than this.

Dr. Izabella recommends for everyone to follow the fundamental protocols in order to help improve the health of the liver, adrenals, and gut.  According to Dr. Izabella, following these protocols should take approximately 90 days combined.  One thing I found interesting is that whereas most natural healthcare professionals focus on the health of the gut initially, Dr. Wentz first focuses on improving the health of the liver.  Of course this also involves certain dietary changes, and so essentially people are still doing things to improve the health of their gut through diet while also supporting the liver.

Root Cause Assessments

It’s also important to mention that each of these fundamental protocols comes with a separate assessment.  For example, before following the liver support protocol it is recommended to complete a liver assessment, which will help to establish your current level of toxicity.  The adrenal assessment helps to determine your risk for impaired adrenal function, and there is also an assessment for determining your gut health.

In the last chapter of the second section she talks about “Advanced Root Cause Assessments”.  These are additional assessments that can help you identify your personal triggers and prioritize the next steps of your protocol.  These include the thyroid hormone assessment, nutrition assessment, traumatic stress assessment, infections assessment, and toxins assessment.

Advanced Protocols for Hashimoto’s

The third section of her book talks about numerous advanced protocols.  I’m not going to discuss all of them, but here are two that I found to be pretty interesting:

Thyroid hormone optimizing protocols.  Here Dr. Izabella discusses five unique strategies that will assist with optimizing your thyroid hormone levels.  Not surprisingly one of these involves taking prescription thyroid hormones, but there are four other methods.  One of these includes low level laser therapy.  I was thrilled to see her discuss this, as I wrote a blog post on cold laser therapy and thyroid health in September of 2015, and then when I attended Dr. Izabella’s Thyroid Masterimind meeting one month later I learned even more great information about how this can benefit thyroid health in those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Anyway, Dr. Izabella gives a specific protocol for cold laser therapy in this chapter.

Protocols for Overcoming Traumatic Stress.  Dr. Izabella explains how some people will continue to have adrenal dysfunction despite their best efforts to balance blood sugar and reduce present stressors, and she says that this is likely due to a long-standing history of traumatic stress.  She mentioned that 20% of her readers with Hashimoto’s reported that their symptoms started after the death of a loved one.  And while most people will benefit from certain mind body medicine techniques such as yoga and meditation, she talks about how some will need to go beyond these to resolve issues related to traumatic stress.  She gives a protocol for resetting your stress response, and an advanced adrenal support protocol.

Are Specific Supplements and Recommendations Given?

I’m sure some will wonder if Dr. Izabella gives specific recommendations in her book.  The answer is a resounding “YES”!  Not only does she give specific doses, but she also lists specific supplement companies.  In addition, when Dr. Izabella discusses some of the tests she recommends she also names some specific companies that offer the testing.

Does This Book Take The Place Of Working With A Natural Healthcare Professional?

Another question you might have is if you can reverse your Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis condition just by reading this book alone.  Although most people with Hashimoto’s can greatly improve their health by reading this book, even Dr. Izabella recommends working with a natural healthcare professional.  In fact, she recommends working with a team of experts that includes the following:

  • An open-minded and supportive physician
  • Functional medicine practitioner
  • Compounding pharmacist
  • Biological dentist
  • Health coach
  • Support network (family members, friends, a coach, a therapist, etc.)

The reason why she recommends working with a team of experts is because while there are specific recommendations given in this book, the truth is that everyone is different.  For example, while many people notice a dramatic improvement in their health by following an autoimmune paleo diet, this isn’t the case with everyone.  In fact, some people with autoimmune thyroid conditions feel worse when following this type of diet.  And the same concept applies with nutritional supplements and herbs.  There are a lot of different supplements and herbs listed in this book, but this doesn’t mean that everyone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should take all of them.

Plus, while many people can benefit from following the fundamental protocols discussed in the book without doing any testing, in many cases testing will be necessary to detect the underlying cause.  For example, one of the reasons why I recommend adrenal saliva testing is because different people will have different adrenal patterns, and you can’t always rely on symptoms to tell which pattern someone has.  And while one of Dr. Izabella’s advanced protocols focuses on infections, doing certain testing (i.e. blood test, comprehensive stool panel) frequently is necessary in order to detect the presence of a specific pathogen.

Is There Anything About The Book I Didn’t Like?

While I can’t say that there were aspects of the book that I didn’t like, there were a few points I didn’t agree with.  I will say that overall I agree with most of the information in her book, and it’s important to keep in mind that different natural healthcare professionals will have different opinions. But for the most part Dr. Izabella and I take a similar approach with regards to Hashimoto’s patients. I greatly enjoyed reading her book, and I think it is a wonderful resource that everyone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should have.

In summary, I thought The Hashimoto’s Protocol was an excellent book, and if you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis I would highly recommend that you check this out.  If anyone reading this review has also read Dr. Izabella’s Hashimoto’s Protocol book, please feel free to leave your comments below to let others know what you think.  And just as a reminder, you can get a free Autoimmune Paleo Diet 2-Week Recipe Plan by clicking the link below.

Click Here to Get Your Free Autoimmune Paleo Diet 2-Week Recipe Plan


Can Vaccines Trigger Thyroid Autoimmunity?

There is a lot of controversy over vaccinations, and it’s not uncommon for a patient who has a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition to ask me what I think about vaccines.  I’m personally not a big fan of vaccines, and this is not a topic that I have written about in the past, other than a blog post I wrote on the flu shot a few years ago.  And it probably isn’t going to be a topic that I write a great deal about in the future.  However, for those who are interested in learning about the risks of vaccinations, I encourage you to register for the upcoming Truth About Vaccines documentary that is taking place from 4/12/17 to 4/18/17.  It’s from the same creators of the Truth About Cancer documentary series, and you can click here to register for this free event.

Will they be talking at all about autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?  I’m honestly not sure, but I have done some research in this area, and there aren’t too many studies which have looked into the relationship between vaccines and thyroid autoimmunity.  Apparently cases of Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis following hepatitis B vaccine have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), although one study I came across didn’t see an increased risk of Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis following receipt of hepatitis B vaccine (1).  But the problem is that there are very few studies involving vaccines and thyroid autoimmunity, and as sad as it is to say, you can’t trust many of the studies out there dismissing vaccines as being harmful, and the reason for this is because many of them involve a conflict of interest.

For example, there has been a lot of controversy over whether vaccines can cause autism.  In June 2014, a meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies showed that vaccines are not associated with autism, and that the components of vaccines at the time (i.e. thimerosol) or multiple vaccines are not associated with the development of autism (2).  But according to investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson there was a conflict of interest, as the study was created from a firm that lists major vaccine makers among its clients.  I don’t know if vaccines cause autism, but it’s scary when you look at some of the ingredients included in vaccines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following are some of the common substances found in vaccines (3):

  • Aluminum
  • Antibiotics
  • Egg protein
  • Formaldehyde
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Thimerosal (a mercury-containing preservative)

Keep in mind that the CDC is in favor of vaccines, and they claim that the amount of these chemical additives found in vaccines are very small.  While this may be true, this doesn’t mean that they are safe.  For example, the amount of mercury used in mercury amalgams is very small as well, but there definitely is a correlation between thyroid autoimmunity and mercury (4) (5).  And while the current research doesn’t show a direct correlation between aluminum and autoimmune thyroid conditions, aluminum is a known environmental toxin that can stimulate the immune system, and has been linked to neurotoxicity (6) as well as Alzheimer’s disease (7).  Formaldehyde is also a harmful chemical, and many people reading this are aware of the problems associated with Monosodium glutamate (MSG).

If you are interested in learning more about vaccines, then I highly recommend for you to attend the Truth About Vaccines documentary.  Here are some of the questions that will be answered:

  • Do vaccines confer immunity?
  • Are there natural options to vaccination?
  • What questions should you ask before you vaccinate?
  • Were vaccines responsible for the declines in polio, pertussis, smallpox, etc?
  • What about the flu shot and the HPV vaccine?
  • Why do outbreaks occur in mostly vaccinated populations?
  • Why are some states considering implementing forced vaccine legislation?
  • What are possible adverse vaccine reactions?
  • Are vaccines linked to cancer?
  • Can vaccines cause permanent damage?
  • What are all of your options?

Click Here to register for The Truth About Vaccines documentary.  Also, please feel free to share your thoughts about vaccines in the comments section below.

 


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.


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Testimonials

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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