Whether you have Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the primary key to getting into remission is to find and remove your specific autoimmune triggers. This can be very challenging to do, which is why it took so long to write my new book “Hashimoto’s Triggers” (which is now available on Amazon). Speaking of which, even though the title of the book may imply that it’s specifically for those who have Hashimoto’s, the truth is that the process of detecting and removing triggers is similar regardless of whether someone has Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, or a different autoimmune condition (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, etc.). So the truth is that this book can benefit those people with other autoimmune conditions, although some of the information is specific to Hashimoto’s.
But why can it be so challenging to find your autoimmune triggers? While there are only 4 main categories of autoimmune triggers (food, stress, microbes, and chemicals), there are numerous triggers within each of these categories. And while I mentioned in the opening paragraph that the process of detecting and removing triggers is similar regardless of the autoimmune condition someone has, different people will have different triggers. In addition, it’s common to have multiple triggers.
Dealing With Multiple Autoimmune Triggers
For example, one person with an autoimmune condition might have gluten and an infection as triggers. In this situation, removing gluten alone won’t always result in a significant improvement in the person’s symptoms and/or a reduction in their autoantibodies. As a result, the person might end up eliminating gluten and not notice any improvement in their symptoms, and on top of this their autoantibodies remain elevated, and so they conclude that the problem isn’t with gluten. Perhaps this person even had a negative celiac panel, and they don’t realize that it’s possible to have a gluten sensitivity, even in the absence of celiac disease (called a non-celiac gluten sensitivity).
This example shows why you can’t always rely on symptoms to detect your triggers. Sure, there are some people who have experienced complete resolution of their symptoms and a normalization of their antibodies upon removing gluten, or upon following an autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet. But I don’t find these situations to be common in my patients. Of course one reason for this is because many people make these dietary changes on their own, and some are able to find their food triggers without working with a natural healthcare professional. On the other hand, other people aren’t able to successfully find and remove their autoimmune triggers.
In any case, the reason why I brought up this example is because if someone has multiple autoimmune triggers, then the obvious goal should be to remove all of them. But sometimes not all of these triggers are detected initially, which is why you can’t conclude that food isn’t a trigger just because you don’t feel better upon eliminating it. In the example I just gave, the person very well might have to eliminate gluten AND eradicate the infection before they see a significant improvement in their symptoms and/or a lowering of their thyroid antibodies. On the other hand, others might experience significant symptomatic improvement just by eliminating gluten alone, even in the presence of one or more additional triggers.
How Much Testing Do You Need To Find Your Triggers?
In my book on Hashimoto’s Triggers, I talk about conservative vs. comprehensive testing. Conservative testing involves doing some basic testing, and for many people this is sufficient to find their triggers. On the other hand, some people need more comprehensive testing. How can you determine if you need conservative or comprehensive testing? Some people make this decision based on the costs of the tests, and while I can understand not wanting to spend a lot of money on testing, at the same time you also want to do what is necessary to find your triggers.
Does this mean that I’m in favor of comprehensive testing? Not necessarily, as I actually prefer to take a conservative approach whenever possible, but if after conducting a thorough health history I feel that more comprehensive testing is necessary, then I’ll make this recommendation to the patient. Of course regardless of whether a healthcare practitioner recommends conservative or comprehensive testing, it is ultimately up to you. In other words, all a healthcare practitioner will do is give his or her recommendations, and then it’s up to you to decide how much testing you want to do.
I’ll also add that there are risks of doing either conservative or comprehensive testing. For example, when I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease I personally didn’t do a lot of testing. So I fell under the “conservative testing” category. The risk with conservative testing is that you might not detect all of your triggers, and additional testing might be necessary in the future. While some people are fine taking this approach, other people don’t want to take the chance. In other words, some don’t want to rely on conservative testing, risk not finding all of their triggers, and then have to do additional testing a few months later.
Of course the “risk” with comprehensive testing is that you might end up spending money on testing that you don’t need. For example, there are some healthcare professionals who recommend in excess of $1,000 worth of testing to all of their patients. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, as everyone takes a different approach. And while it can be beneficial to rule out certain triggers (i.e. infections), some people are on a very tight budget, and are therefore unable to spend a lot of money on testing.
Don’t Forget To Heal Your Gut!
Although the main focus of this blog post was to discuss triggers, it’s important to remember that while finding and removing your triggers is necessary to reverse the autoimmune component, you need a healthy gut in order to have a healthy immune system. And according to the triad of autoimmunity, everyone with Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s (and every other autoimmune condition) has a leaky gut. And while in some cases finding and removing your triggers will be sufficient for gut healing, this isn’t always the case.
In my book I discuss the difference between “direct” triggers and “leaky” gut triggers, and while I won’t get into detail here about this, I will say that sometimes the direct trigger and the leaky gut trigger are the same, but at other times they can be different. For example, the research shows that gluten can cause a leaky gut in everyone, and so gluten is a leaky gut trigger. And while it can also be a direct trigger of autoimmunity, this isn’t the case with everyone. Don’t get me wrong, as ideally everyone with an autoimmune condition should avoid gluten since it can cause a leaky gut, and according to the triad of autoimmunity, a leaky gut is a necessary component of autoimmunity.
Now I’d like to hear from you, as I’d like to know what you have specifically done to find your autoimmune triggers. Please leave a comment below and let me know!
Note: by the way, for a limited time the electronic version of my book is available on Amazon for 99 cents. In addition, for anyone who purchases either the electronic version or paperback version of my book I’m also offering 3 free bonus gifts. For more information click here.