The Autoimmune Angst

Risa Groux, CN
 | Published: 
December 18, 2019

A Nutritionist’s Journey with Hashimoto’s

(also published in Thrive Global)

My hair was falling out, I had many sleepless nights, and was on the verge of a divorce. Does that sound familiar to you? My personal health journey began when I became a mother. I got pregnant instantly upon trying and had a healthy pregnancy and delivery. A few years later, we were ready to start trying for another baby and since we had no issues the first time around, I didn’t doubt for a second that I would have any hurdles conceiving again. After a year of failed attempts and anxiety brewing, it was time to go to a fertility specialist. If you have been through this experience, you can relate how heavy the pressure becomes and mounts each month when the dreaded period arrives. It can take a toll on any relationship and launch a good bout of depression and anxiety. The doctor gave me a full battery of blood tests to see if he could determine why I was not conceiving. There it was—I was diagnosed with a hypothyroid. This
meant that my thyroid gland was an underachiever. Without giving me much information, he handed me a prescription for synthetic thyroid meds and told me to take one every morning. When I inquired about how long I would take them for, his reply was simply “every day.” I proceeded to clarify my question: “How long do I take it every day?” “Oh, forever” was his quick response.

I immediately wondered why my body had failed to produce the thyroid hormone that I was made to produce. Why hadn’t the doctor been equally curious to know the root cause of my thyroid dysfunction? That is when my quest to find the root cause began. Without the medication, I tried acupuncture, herbs, Neuro Emotional Technique (NET), exercises, meditation, and anything natural to heal my thyroid. Hashimoto’s disease was the next diagnoses I received several years later when I went to see a naturopathic doctor. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, which affects 1 in 34 people. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States in which antibodies directed against the thyroid gland lead to chronic inflammation. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis occurs most commonly in middle-aged women, but can be seen at any age, and can also affect men and children. This news landed very heavily on me as I prided myself in living a healthy lifestyle and eating all the right foods. I became focused on taking a stressful situation and creating something positive that I and those I work with, would benefit from.

During the time of the Hashimoto’s diagnosis, I became a Holistic Nutritionist and launched my private practice. I firmly believe that the body can heal naturally. I also believe that weight loss is a side effect of wellness and I focus on wellness. I use functional medicine
guidelines when looking at blood work and perform several basic tests to determine the foundational health of each client. The knowledge I have gained was acquired through my own health maze, but I am overjoyed to be able to give that wisdom to each and every one I work with in my office so they can avoid the chronic frustration and anxiety that can accompany symptoms.

I began taking a desiccated thyroid hormone, which is a natural product made from animal thyroid glands, usually from a cow or pig. It replaces or provides more thyroid hormone, which is normally produced by the thyroid gland. I chose the natural route as the predominant synthetic medication for thyroid, Synthroid, only contains a synthetic version of T4, the inactive thyroid hormone and 93% of the hormone. T4 needs to convert into T3, which is the active
hormone that constitutes only 7% of the hormone. Millions of people take the synthetic version every day and hope they optimally convert. In my clinical experience, some people do convert, but the vast majority do not. I wanted to give my body a fighting chance and not have to rely on the conversion process.

Once I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I became dedicated to finding the root cause and reversing the diagnosis naturally. My thyroid couldn’t have been impaired due to a deficiency in medication, so I had to find the foundational issues causing this state. Diet was the logical first step. I completely removed gluten, dairy and soy from my diet. Gluten triggers an immune response, so that was the logical first step. The protein in dairy is called casein and with many people, it worsens autoimmune disease just as much as gluten. Dairy made me feel inflamed, so that was easy to give up. Studies show that soy inhibits the thyroid’s ability to absorb thyroid medication and iodine, which is critical for the thyroid hormone. T4 and T3 are comprised of 4 and 3 atoms of iodine, therefore, essential to a working thyroid. I became vegan essentially but having fresh fish or eggs once every five to six weeks. I lived on plant proteins
such as legumes, nuts and seeds. My exercise became regular and I reduced the amount of high impact workouts I had been doing, as that can harm an autoimmune disease.

In addition to learning that gluten, dairy and soy could be sparking my thyroid to fail, I discovered that heavy metals in my system could also be the culprit, so I had myself tested. It was surprising to see my mercury was so incredibly high that the line on the sheet of results went straight off the page. While removing fish entirely, I did a year of chelation to remove the heavy metals with great success.

The next root cause to be uncovered was a gene mutation called MTHFR (or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase). The extremely common mutation leads to a high homocysteine level, an inflammatory marker, most often an elevated MCV which is the size of the red blood cell, and low levels of B12 and/or folate. This is due to the inability to methylate B12 and/or folate in the body. Naturally occurring folate is vitamin B9, an essential nutrient. Increased homocysteine will deter the body from detoxifying toxins and decrease impact heart and brain health. It is estimated that 50-90% of the population have MTHFR and is very common among thyroid patients. There is a myriad of symptoms, but the major ones are infertility, miscarriages, depression, anxiety, bipolar, migraines, fatigue, ADD, ADHD, headaches and migraines, nerve pain, heart disease, and colon cancer. There are two different variants of the mutation and it is one hundred percent hereditary. It either came from Mom or Dad or both. I recommend getting tested for anyone that has either a thyroid issue, autoimmune or any of the symptoms. The solution is simple; just take a daily methylated supplement specific to MTHFR with a methylated B12 and folate. It is equally important to avoid the synthetic form of folic acid, as it can gum up your system. Folic acid is found in multivitamins, processed flours, breakfast cereals, yet again, I had the mutation and so do both of my children.

Epstein-Barr virus is one of the most common viruses in humans and can live in the body’s cells silently for a lifetime. Up to 95% of adults living in the United States have acquired the virus by age 40. It is a member of the Herpes virus family and it spreads mostly through bodily fluid, primarily saliva although possible through blood and semen as well. After you get EBV, the virus becomes dormant in your body. About nine out of ten adults will test positive for either an active or latent Epstien-Barr virus. In some cases, the virus may reactivate. This may not always cause symptoms, but people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop symptoms if EBV reactivates. If you’ve had mononucleosis, you have EBV in the body, the degree is unknown until tested. Typical infectious mononucleosis usually appears four to six weeks after being infected with Epstein-Barr virus. Symptoms may occur slowly and not occur at the same time. In reality, while most people have EBV, many have never developed mono or shown any symptoms of it. Although there is no current science that can prove the connection between autoimmunity and Epstein-Barr virus, there are several theories linking them. However, it is known that EBV infected cells may turn on certain genes that cause autoimmune conditions, the highest connection being Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s and Graves disease. Yep, if you guessed that I had EBV, you were right. I treated that with a supplement regimen that I still use today in my office to eradicate or significantly decrease the presence of EBV.

After regular blood testing, my thyroid numbers were continuing to improve; however, my sugar markers and cholesterol were on a steady climb. I did a specific heart health test and it showed that the marker for having a heart attack was twice the upper limit of normal. At that point, I knew something was still gravely wrong and took some action. I changed my diet from vegan to autoimmune paleo and removed all the lectins and carbohydrates from legumes. Since carbohydrates turn into sugar, I believed that my elevated glucose numbers were due to my diet since I very rarely consumed natural sugars and never had processed sugar. I continued to eat eighty percent of my food from greens and vegetables but replaced the plant proteins with free range, pasture-raised chicken and turkey, wild fish and collagen on a daily basis.

While diving for more root causes, I ordered a comprehensive stool test and found a wide array of bacteria living in my gut. I also showed positive for a parasite blastocystis hominis, which can trigger Hashimoto’s. I knew that heart and teeth health are related, so I went to a wonderful natural periodontist with my stool test results in hand, who took one look at it and found a salivary bacteria. Within minutes, I was taking a CAT scan and we found it. There was a
remnant of a root that had been left there from when I had my wisdom teeth removed twenty-three years prior, now with a cyst grown around it. It had subsided into my jawbone and without any pain, tenderness or symptoms of any kind, it caused chaos in my body for twenty-three years. Once the jaw surgery was completed, my numbers had completely normalized, and I feel terrific to this day.

Through many years, tears, heartbreak, and dollars spent on my health journey I finally found the root causes and contributions of autoimmune disease. With all the books I read and research I performed at the time of my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, I could not locate a comprehensive list of root causes, so I went through each one and am happy to share them with you.

Causes of Autoimmune Disease
● One-third of cases are genetic
● Leaky gut (intestinal permeability)
● Toxins and heavy metals
● Gut bacteria, pathogens and viruses (Epstein Barr Virus Cytomegalovirus, among many others found in the gut)
● Food sensitivities

I call myself a “wellness hunter” because I truly believe that if someone is not feeling well or their blood work or stool test indicates something is not quite right, I go after the root cause. The stool test is one of my main tools and for years now, I have witnessed incredible changes in people’s health and in many cases, a reversal of autoimmune symptoms.

I focus on root causes, which comes down to two things: systemic inflammation and gut health. If a body has one or both, it will break down and experience ill health. I use many tools in my practice to assess a person’s health. Stool and blood testing are among my top choices as it clearly gives the information, we need to assess the situation. I am a big fan of playing darts with all the lights on so I can clearly see the target I am aiming for. Food allergy testing is also an important piece of the puzzle, but it’s partly assumed there will be some food sensitivities with a compromised gut. Leaky gut, or the official name intestinal permeability, will cause a host of problems with a variety of symptoms ranging from malabsorption, poor immune system, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, allergies, headaches, joint pain, and cravings.

Every person has a different genetic makeup and exposure to toxins, diseases, and food; therefore, everybody should be treated independently. People should be eating exactly to what their body needs. Those needs can change over time, which is why you always need to be aware of your current state of health by observing how your body communicates. We do not have headaches, body pain or depression because we have a deficiency in a particular medication. Today, I still live with Hashimoto’s but continue to see my blood work improve. I encourage you to find your root cause and listen to your body as it is always communicating with us.

Not feeling well can affect every aspect of your life. I see people go into a state of depression when they cannot secure a reason for their symptoms. It can break up relationships, drain finances, decrease work performance, and hinder one’s social life. Chronic stress will cause havoc on the gut which will make matters worse. For me, I dealt with my angst by creating drive. Drive to find the answers and take control of my solutions. Surround yourself with supportive people, handle your angst naturally with exercise, Epsom salt baths and the proper B vitamins, and stay strong. Each and every one of us is entitled to wellness so take a deep breath and don’t stop turning stones until you’ve achieved yours.

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