Every year, as we celebrate our anniversary I like to reflect back on what we’ve learned from working together over this last year. (Here’s a link to last year’s if you’re feeling nostalgic.)
Going through this process a great opportunity to review, reflect and build on these lessons this coming year.
What an amazing year it has been! I wrote and published my book, Roadmap to Remission, a mere 436 pages of practical information. My daughter and I personally shipped over a 1,000 copies until we couldn’t stand it any more and had to hire a fulfillment house. Thanks to so many of you who showed remarkable patience through that process. That was a major learning experience!
(I’m currently working on the second edition which has some new material and a foreword by Dr. Datis Kharrazian).
A lot of people have shared with me via our Facebook group and via email how much the book has helped them. And I’ve had my share of haters tell me just how awful they think the book is and how terrible I am for writing and selling it (at cost for no profit on my website). That was something I wasn’t entirely prepared for. It stings when you’re really trying your best just to help people. But it was also a really valuable learning experience.
And I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about what else I learned and I’d like to share them with you, dear readers. Here are my top 5 Clinical Pearls for this year:
1. This is an inside job
2. It’s all about the proteins
3. Oral Tolerance
4. Diet matters times infinity
5. Hashimoto’s isn’t the end of your life, it’s the beginning of your journey
The more I work with people, the more I have come to believe that the vast majority of healing happens between our ears (in both a literal and metaphorical sense). The brain is profoundly impacted by Hashimoto’s and our thoughts and beliefs are so often the the difference between success and failure.
There’s a quote attributed to Henry Ford:
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
And nowhere is that more true than the process of healing. You have to first, fundamentally, believe that it is possible.
I know for myself and for many of the people I’ve worked with that this belief is constantly being tested and some days you really need a powerful inner confidence and faith to keep going.
And there is also no question in my mind that this inner faith is something that for most of us needs to be cultivated and nurtured.
Resilience and the ability to bounce back and overcome difficulties are not always innate skills.
However, like any skills, these improve if you practice them.
For myself, it wasn’t until I started instituting a daily practice of writing my personal vision, writing the things I am grateful for and the also writing the “wins” that I had accumulated that I started to make significant strides in this direction.
Now I recommend this to everyone.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of this practice. It can yield remarkable results because it can shape your entire outlook on everything.
Last year one of the books I read was The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. (You have to read this book!) It’s all about using obstacles, disappointments and adversity to transform the world. And not just in a “glass half empty or half full” accentuate-the-positive sort of way.
This book takes it to a whole new level and it points out the incredible blessing of failure, illness, and disappointment. And, essentially, some of the greatest inventors, thinkers and doers of history weren’t defeated by hard times, pain and struggle they were made possible by it.
Instead of fighting it, they embraced it and used it to their advantage to do great things.
And transforming obstacles and adversity into positive action is a conscious choice. With our health it involves letting go of the victim mentality and becoming accountable.
I discussed this process of accountability in a recent video I made. At any time, you have a choice to be the victim or to make the obstacle your way.
So I encourage you to really spend some time cultivating this way of thinking and behaving and if you are feeling defeated and discouraged know that you are not alone is this and that the opportunity is there for you to accept it, embrace it and use it to create great things of your own.
The other part of what you really need to explore, in my opinion, is the physiological “why” of your signs and symptoms. Hashimoto’s and autoimmunity can be so complicated complicated and there are sometimes many different layers to our health challenges.
If we can find at least some of the “why”, then we can find important clues to getting you better, faster and more deeply. This brings me to my next clinical pearl:
This last year I was invited to attend a powerful gathering of healers called the Thyroid Mastermind, hosted by Michael and Dr. Izabella Wentz. The keynote speaker of the event was Dr. Datis Kharrazian, who has been a longtime teacher and mentor of mine (and many others who attended).
Dr. K shared some of this research he has been doing over the last year or so with Dr. Vajdani, founder of Cyrex Labs. This was funded entirely on his dime (and we’re talking a serious chunk of change) because, while these issues that are very important to those of us with autoimmune diseases, they are not really seen as that important by the powers that be.
There are many layers to this research and it’s going to be released soon, and he’d have to kill me if I revealed the details because it could compromise the study, but here’s the big takeaway: It’s all about the proteins.
Autoimmune reactions are reactions by your immune system to various proteins. Or, really, protein fragments – the sequences of amino acids that make up those proteins.
They are what cause the immune reaction that destroys our tissue.
Proteins are the building block of life. So these proteins and the amino acid patterns that make them up are everywhere. In lots of different foods (and many you don’t think of as proteins like grains and vegetables) and in meat and in the tissues of our body.
And these proteins are the “on switch” for autoimmune destruction. They turn on the antibodies (which don’t destroy tissue) that signal other parts of the immune system to attack, kill and destroy.
And because these amino acid sequences repeat all over the place, all kinds of different tissue can get destroyed. Really important stuff. One example of this is the affinity of thyroid antibodies (like antibodies to TPO and T3) to tissues in our brain.
Proteins don’t just signal destruction of the thyroid, they can also signal other parts of our immune system to destroy our cerebellum and myelin, the sheath that protects our nerves. (Destruction of myelin is what causes Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
This is one of the reasons “why” some people with Hashimoto’s will develop encephalopathy. Their brain is being attacked and, in some cases, it’s being signaled by TPO. The most common symptoms of this process? Memory loss, fatigue and depression!
These proteins are a really big deal!!! Which leads me to my next clinical pearl:
Another important discovery for me was the importance of something called oral tolerance in autoimmunity and in sensitivity to dietary proteins.
Oral tolerance is defined as your immune system NOT REACTING locally and systemically to antigens such as food proteins.
In other words, oral tolerance is when you eat a certain protein and you become tolerant to that protein.
We can think about this in terms of our own evolution. If you are eating something (a protein) all the time, it would be a really good thing for you to develop a tolerance to it and not attack it.
If we’re only eating certain kinds of foods, we‘d be more likely to survive if we could build tolerance to them.
Proteins are the things we are most often exposed to. (They’re the building blocks of life, after all.)
And it turns out that tolerance to ingested proteins is also really important for the barrier function of the intestines i.e. to prevent leaky gut.
When this tolerance breaks down, chronic diseases follow; like celiac, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis (these all occur locally in the intestines) and other systemic autoimmune disease like Multiple Sclerosis and even Hashimoto’s.
In other words, oral tolerance is a kind of dimmer switch, it turns down the attack. Both in the intestines and in the rest of the body.
When you have oral tolerance, your immune system doesn’t attack as aggressively.
Clinical Pearl: One thing I’ve observed is that some people actually lose some of this oral tolerance after being on an elimination diet for a prolonged period of time.
It has made re-think the reintroduction of foods after the elimination phase of Autoimmune Paleo diet and also to realize that this is an often missed opportunity to both reduce sensitivities and to restore immune system equilibrium.
To learn more about this and why it matters, check out my detailed post on this here.
Diet Matters Times Infinity
The single largest source of these proteins is the food we eat. This is why it makes me insane when doctors say things like “Diet doesn’t matter”.
That is a very dangerous and ignorant lie.
Not only does diet matter, ignoring the role of diet can literally ruin your health. Some of these proteins can lead to inflammation and destruction of parts of your brain. No bueno.
Much of the research that Dr. Kharrazian and Dr. Vajdani have done involves testing the effects of these various proteins on the thyroid axis and the brain. And the results are going to be available to us soon and it’s going to radically transform how we can help you, but for right now here’s what we can tell you.
Dr. Izabella Wentz did a very interesting study of 2, 322 Hashimoto’s patients and she collected some really important data on just how important and effective dietary changes are.
Here are some of the results:
This illustration reveals just how effective diet is in improving symptoms and lowering antibody levels.
And here’s some more important information on some common foods that may cause problems:
Highly reactive foods per IgG test sampling:
100% – Cottage cheese, brewer’s yeast
90%- cola, safflower, whey, baker’s yeast
80%- casein, blue cheese, chicken, cow milk, goat milk, rosemary, yogurt
70%- corn, cheddar, Swiss, licorice, mushroom, sugar cane
60%-pineapple, pinto bean, ginger, oregano, oyster, white potato, sesame, walnut
For myself and my patient population I know that tomatoes can also be a problem. And as we know gluten, dairy and soy proteins can also wreak havoc.
Spinach can also be a problem. One thing I’ve observed with spinach is that it can actually reduce iron levels. I had a patient who was eating spinach salad 3 times a day and she was severely iron deficient.
I tried everything and nothing worked and finally I said stop eating spinach and that turned out to be the problem. Once she stopped, we were able to successfully restore her iron levels to the normal range.
One important thing to understand about these foods is that you may or may not react to them. As I said this is highly individualized. You can use the percentages to make an educated guess about what you might react to, but you are unique and you may not have these same reactions.
Here’s another pearl that’s really helpful: One important thing you can do to strengthen the T regulatory or the “good guy” part of your immune system is to feed them fiber: Here’s what Dr. Vajdani drinks every morning (Pay attention to this, this is a guy who has devoted the better part of his life to researching autoimmunity):
Hemp or chia seed powder
Flax seed powder
Almond milk (You can substitute coconut milk if you are sensitive to almonds.)
One important thing to understand about all of this is that there is tremendous variability and millions of possible permutations of this. So everyone doesn’t have sensitivities to all these foods. But, you really need to figure out which foods you have a problem with.
And here’s another clinical pearl: Since the problem is these amino acid sequences, the affinity that is formed is based on longer sequences. If you can break down those sequences into smaller pieces, then you can minimize their destructive potential.
Digestive enzymes that break down protein have the ability to do this in some measure. They break apart the amino acid connections and can render the protein harmless or at least less harmful.
Finally, remember this:
The last point I want to emphasize is that Hashimoto’s is not the end of your health (or life as you know it), it’s the beginning of your journey.
The good news is that we are all traveling this journey together and there are some really amazing people working on this.
But the reality is we are only in the infancy of understanding what is going on and what we need to do about it.
But there is reason for optimism because there are some great minds and some incredibly devoted people who are working day and night to help you.
So let me end on a positive note and say how grateful I am am to all the people who are working on solving these problems and to all of you that are committed to finding solutions outside the box.
The obstacle is our way and the journey is our path and together we will find hope, help and healing.
I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us and where this year will bring us.
Need help in getting there? Schedule an appointment with me and let’s talk!
This month we are celebrating our 3rd Anniversary of launching Hashimoto’s Healing. I can’t believe it’s been 3 years! I’ve had the privilege to work with speak with over 2,000 people with Hashimoto’s during that time and to work one on one with over 750. And as part of the celebration, I’ll be releasing a new updated version of my book, Roadmap to Remission. And I’m truly honored that Dr Datis Kharrazian (without whom this book and many of my clinical skills would not be) has written the foreword.
I’d like to share it here because it’s a wonderful summary of what I have tried to achieve with this book, the website and our Facebook community.
Few Chinese medicine practitioners are willing or able to explain Chinese medicine concepts in Western terms. But Marc Ryan, LAc, who calls Traditional Chinese Medicine the “original functional medicine,” gamely builds us a bridge between the Eastern and Western arts of healing.
If you’ve read my books you’ll see familiar functional medicine concepts of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism management. Not simply a problem of the thyroid, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland.
Thus, Hashimoto’s is a problem of the immune system that involves a complex web of dysfunction and requires careful attention to the root causes of its debilitating symptoms.
What sets Marc’s book apart is how he takes us on functional medicine journey of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism through the lens of Traditional Chinese medicine.
Where Western medicine concerns itself with science and studies, Chinese medicine tells us a story about the human body, weaving in natural phenomenon and earthly elements.
The Hashimoto’s patient will find herself surprised by the uncanny knowing of this ancient healing art. For instance, in Chinese medicine the thyroid is seen as the place where communications and dreams are generated. When this area becomes clogged due to an inflamed and under functioning thyroid, the patient may feel stuck in her situation and unable to express her needs.
Marc weaves many such examples in, along with Chinese concepts of yin and yang, the five elements, Chinese herbs, and Chinese healing exercises. For the Hashimoto’s patient, this book is a fascinating integration of sound functional medicine with an introduction to Chinese medicine’s view of thyroid and immune function.
What’s more, Marc presents the material in a conversational style that is fun to read. Hashimoto’s is a complex topic that can seem overwhelming at first. Many people with Hashimoto’s have difficulty with concentration, which makes it hard to read a complicated book about the topic.
In response, Marc has gone the extra mile to make his information easy to absorb with short paragraphs, clear descriptions, real-life examples, and helpful summaries. Throughout the book, his warm sense of humor, upbeat attitude, and genuine concern for helping people really shine through.
At the same time, staying true to Chinese medicine’s broad-sweep approach to healing, he continually reminds us of the bigger picture — the spiritual nature of our journey, the connection of our health to that of the planet, and how facilitating the flow of energy through the organs is reflected in our flow through life’s journey.
I have taught thousands of practitioners over the years and I know Marc to be a passionate and dedicated practitioner with clear integrity and humility, one of the few who leaves a seminar and reads and rereads the manuals in order to master the material.
This, combined with his innate ability to incorporate larger life meanings of the Hashimoto’s journey, has moved him beyond the role of practitioner into that of healer.
This passion was born out of Marc’s personal experience as someone with Hashimoto’s and the parent to a child with the disease. Knowing he was sick long before he knew why, his experiences were like that of many Hashimoto’s patients:
Being told he’d have to wait until he was much worse before getting any treatment; being offered immunosuppressant therapy that would disable his body further; being dismissed by doctors; and most importantly, his doctors not getting to the root of the problem.
It was when he decided to step outside of outdated, traditional modes of treatment that he made progress.
He went on to become an experienced acupuncturist and herbalist whose entire medical practice is now devoted to Hashimoto’s.
He truly cares that patients have the opportunity to understand how their bodies work, what is out of balance, and what steps they must take to live in a state of vitality and wellness again.
With the disconnect between conventional hypothyroidism care and the realities of Hashimoto’s, the medical world clearly needs a renewed approach.
In Roadmap to Remission, Marc takes the best parts of both Western and Eastern functional medicine to create a methodical approach that touches all aspects of the Hashimoto’s journey with grace, humor, and firm encouragement.
In doing so, he has empowered patients to better understand their bodies so they can engage as active participants in their own healing.
Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS
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