This last weekend, I had the honor and the privilege to be invited to a mastermind in Boulder Colorado that was hosted by Michael and Izabella Wentz. It was a meeting of some of the top people in our field and we gathered together to share some of the things we have learned with each other.
In today’s post, I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts (while they are still fresh in my mind) about some of the important takeaways from the event both for deepening our understanding of how to heal Hashimoto’s and also of how we can better serve each other and our world.
If you aren’t familiar with a mastermind (I wasn’t until last year) the basic idea is that you bring together a group of people with similar goals and collectively the brain power of everyone’s minds creates a kind of quantum up-leveling of ideas and understanding on your topic. The sum becomes greater than the individual parts.
For those of us working in the world of thyroid health and autoimmunity, the purpose of this event was two-fold. To share ideas about what we have learned in working with this unique patient population and, also, how we can have successful businesses so that we can have a bigger impact, help more people and improve patient care for the millions struggling with these diseases.
In this post, I’m going to focus on my top five takeaways from the event.
Here they are:
1. The profoundness of your “why”
2. It’s all about the proteins
3. Diet matters times infinity
4. Root cause is plural
5. Hashimoto’s isn’t the end of your life, it’s the beginning of your journey
At the event there were quite a few speakers (the Wentzs have a wonderful, generous spirit and wanted to highlight as many people’s brilliance as they could) and it made for a very rich weekend of content (far too much for me to cover in this single post – which means there’s a lot more to come, stay tuned 🙂 ).
But time and time again, in smaller groups and as introductions to the different talks people shared their “why”. And by that I mean the experiences and struggles that motivates them.
It was truly inspiring to hear story after story of people overcoming some really serious adversity and illness and taking the momentum and mind shift resulting from that and going on to do some really amazing work.
On my way there, I read a book because (being a knucklehead) I missed my flight. I had brought a box full of copies of my book to give to everyone and long story short, I didn’t give myself enough time to check the box and get to my flight.
So I had some time to kill and I finished reading 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. And instead of fighting it, they embraced it and used it to their advantage to do great things.
And this event was a real life example of this. Everyone there has overcome something major and now they are motivated by it. And the common thread was that we are all inspired to help others and do whatever we can to make the world a better place. And that difficulty is daily being transformed into action.
So I encourage you to really spend some time finding your “why” 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 your “why” that you really need to explore, in my opinion, is the physiological “why” of your signs and symptoms. What this event reminded me of, once again, is how complicated this all is and how many different layers they are to these 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 takeaway (see how I did that?):
The keynote speaker of the event was Dr. Datis Kharrazian, who has been a longtime teacher and mentor of mine (and many others in the group). He shared his “why” which was poignant, heart breaking and deeply personal and involved his mother’s health struggles. And it has motivated him to become an extraordinary clinician and researcher.
(I don’t know if you guys are aware of this, but people are going to be talking about the research that he is doing for generations. That’s how important this is. He and Dr. Vajdani of Cyrex Labs are helping to unravel the mystery of autoimmunity – I am not exaggerating when I say this could be Nobel Prize level research in the way that it will transform our understanding of autoimmunity.)
Dr. K shared some of this research he has been doing over the last year or so, which was funded entirely on his dime (and we’re talking a serious pile of dimes) because these issues that are so important to us with autoimmune diseases are not really seen as that important to 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 takeaway (see how I did that again? 🙂 )
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 lie.
Not only does diet matter, ignoring the role of diet can literally destroy you. What did we just talk about? These proteins leading to destruction of parts of your brain.You lose your brain, you’re done. You have no life.
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 quick tidbit 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 the guy who probably has done more research on autoimmunity than anyone on the planet:
Hemp or chia seed pwder
Flax seed powder
Almond milk (You can substitute coconut milk if you are sensitive to almonds.)
As I said above, an 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.
Cyrex labs has a lab test called Array #10 that tests about 200 different dietary proteins and tests them the way we actually eat them. For example, many labs test for IgG and IgA reactions for raw chicken and turkey. When’s the last time you ate raw chicken? I hope it wasn’t recently.
Array 10 tests for reactions to cooked chicken, turkey and other foods because cooking changes the proteins.
And here’s a 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 can slow or stop the destruction.
Digestive enzymes that break down protein have the ability to do this. They break apart the amino acid connections and can render the protein harmless or at least less harmful.
But, here’s the bottom line: This is whole thing is highly individualized and there are a million different causes and variations of causes. Which leads me to my next point ( see how I did that a third time?):
I love Izabella’s main theme of finding your root cause because it’s so simple and obvious, yet it’s so profound. Find the root cause and fix it.
But here’s the thing. You probably have thousands of root causes and you need to keep searching for them. Because they are the root of all your physical, mental and psychological problems.
One example that came up in Dr. Kharrazian talk was the patients we all have to do everything right, take all the right supplements, fix their adrenals, get their thyroid working properly, clean up the inflammation, detox their livers, heal their leaky gut and do the Autoimmune Paleo diet perfectly, but they still don’t get the results we had hoped for.
The problem? Leaky gut is only part of it. There’s the levels of bacteria in the gut. There’s the fact that the dendtritic cells in the intestines can be primed and over excited, the Kupffer cells in the liver can also be primed and over excited.
Another interesting clinical pearl: The dendtritic cells in the intestines actually produce TSH. Another presenter Dr. Allen Christianson shared a case study with a patient whose TSH was all over the place, upend down, up and down.
Well, he discovered that when they treated her for a chronic sinus infection her TSH went done. Dendritic cells are found in tissue that has contact with the outside environment such as the over the skin (present as Langerhans cells) and in the linings of the nose, lungs, stomach and intestines.
I discovered in researching my book that these cells can actually produce TSH. Here’s the study.
See? It totally makes sense if you understand the “why”.
All of this stuff is connected and there are many levels. One of the things that Dr. Kharrazian also brought up was that leaky gut can lead to the loss of something known as “oral tolerance”.
I’m going to explore this a lot more in a future post, this one is getting long :). But, basically, here’s why it matters.
Oral tolerance is what keeps us from having hypersensitivity reactions. This is from an interesting article on this.
Let me translate parts of the abstract:
Oral tolerance is the state of local and systemic immune unresponsiveness that is induced by oral administration of innocuous antigen such as food proteins. (That’s saying you don’t respond to harmless things like proteins., which we have just learned are not so harmless. Because if you lose oral tolerance, they aren’t innocuous anymore).
The local and systemic effects of these regulatory T cells prevent potentially dangerous hypersensitivity reactions to harmless antigens derived from the intestine and hence are crucial players in immune homeostasis.
(In a perfect gut, regulatory T cells, the “good guys” of our immune system prevent potentially dangerous hypersensitivity reactions. Yeah, Hashimoto’s is a an example of a “potentially dangerous hyper-sensitivity reaction”.)
This is just another level of our growing understanding of what is going in our bodies. Which brings me to the last point which Stacey Robbins so eloquently out for us:
The first presenter at the event was Stacey Robbins and she shared something beautiful: 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 attended the Thyroid Mastermind and to say our work now has just begun!
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. I have a feeling it might just be historic, and just think, we all get to be part of it!
Please share this with whomever you can think of. There’s some really valuable stuff in here!
Have a great day! (Unless you have other plans.)
My chicken scratch from the Thyroid Mastermind, Boulder Colorado, 2015. Hosted by Dr. Izabella Wentz and her husband Michael Wentz.
http://www.nature.com/mi/journal/v5/n3/full/mi20124a.html – article on oral tolerance
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2768616/ – paper on the immune system as regulator of thyroid activity
So now, not only is it my profession, it’s my passion, and it’s personal. I’ve been joking with people lately saying it’s a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I really get it, and a curse because I really got it! ?