If you or someone you know is on thyroid medications or experiencing thyroid symptoms that they just can’t get relief from, Izabella Wentz is sharing some valuable information with us today on this very important topic.
In this episode of Elevate Your Energy Radio I’m interviewing the thyroid pharmacist, Izabella Wentz. She is the author of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause. I’m so excited for this show because I think this is such an important topic.
Also, Izabella, along with two other guests I’ve had on the show – Dr. Alan Christianson and Andrea Nakayama – together created the Hashimoto’s Institute, which is an online summit that starts today. They interviewed many guest experts and Izabella will tell us a bit more about it. You can check that out at here.
Evelyne: My guest today is Izabella Wentz. She is a pharmacist who has dedicated herself to addressing the root causes of autoimmune thyroid disease after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in 2009. She is the author of the bestselling patient guide Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause, and a co-producer of the Hashimoto’s Institute. I will let her share more of her story, you can find out more about her at thyroidpharmacist.com.
Izabella, welcome to the show!
Izabella: Hi, Evelyne. Thank you so much for having me.
Evelyne: Of course! Thank you for doing this, I know you are busy with the Hashimoto’s Institute kicking off today. Actually, can you tell us a little bit more about that right now?
Izabella: Yeah. So it’s been a work in progress. Alan Christianson, Andrea Nakayama and I met back in January, and we just decided to collaborate on producing an event for people that would take them from the beginning of their thyroid journey so they would be able to discover all of the misdiagnoses and diagnoses and what all of that entails – how to deal with the diagnosis emotionally – and move them through the healing process of going from getting on the right medications, to balancing your adrenals, to addressing gut symptoms and figuring out some of those root causes that are associated with Hashimoto’s.
So it’s been eight months in the making. We finally went live today. We have 28 experts that we interviewed for this institute. We’ve developed a whole curriculum and will cover everything from pregnancy to adrenals, to blood sugar imbalances, to brain function. And I’ll be talking about my area of passion which is the root causes of autoimmunity – so, how to basically get yourself into remission if you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition.
Evelyne: That’s awesome. I also love the way that you have it set up so it’s seven days. Like, Day 1 today is all about diagnosis, tomorrow’s about dosage, Day 3 is about diet and digestion, Day 4 is daily rhythms, Day 5 is detox, Day 6 is defense and immune repair, and Day 7 is design your recovery. I just really like how you guys organized that. You can check that out at elevateyourenergy.com/hashi.
All right, so I want to hear a little bit more about your story. How did you get into this? We know that you were diagnosed with it in 2009. Tell us about your journey.
Izabella: You know, in full disclosure, I was never really interested in the thyroid in pharmacy school. It just seemed like everybody was on thyroid medications and they just weren’t that exciting to me, and endocrinology was just not my area of focus. I was really interested more in mental health and some of the innovative therapeutic options for cancer and things like that, and so I didn’t actually get really interested in the thyroid until
I was diagnosed myself in 2009. At that point I had been working as a consultant pharmacist, doing a lot of research for complicated patient cases and really looking at the whole person assessment, and looking at people to see what kind of lifestyle changes they could make to get themselves better. And my diagnosis actually came after about nine years of being really severely fatigued.
When I was in high school and at the beginning of college, I would just sleep for maybe seven hours a day, and I would wake up wide eyed and bushytailed every day and have just so much energy. But all of a sudden after I got mono during my first year of college, that changed. We know that mono is caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus, and a lot of times that causes fatigue in people. Sometimes the fatigue is clinically supposed to last a few weeks – maybe a few months – after you’ve been diagnosed. But my fatigue just never really went away. So I was sleeping for maybe 12-13 hours to feel rested for most of my twenties. And I kept going to doctor after doctor and asking questions and had the usual suspects tested. So I had my thyroid tested, and I was tested for anemia. And I was just always told that there was nothing wrong with me. And it was even suggested that perhaps I was depressed.
So I was offered antidepressants, I was offered stimulant medications to keep myself awake, and for me I knew that wasn’t the underlying reason. I’m a firm believer in cause and effect.
So I wanted to know when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s I thought that I was living a very healthy lifestyle. I was eating whole grains, I was consuming low fat dairy three times a day, I was not smoking, I was exercising. I was just shocked that I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition at age 27. So I wanted to find out what I had done to get this condition, and I wanted to find out if there was anything I could do to make myself better, to prevent other autoimmune conditions, because we know if you have one then you’re at risk for other ones. And I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to put the condition into remission. That sort of kicked off my journey into research and into basically being my own guinea pig and getting on PubMed and looking at the medical journals and all of these innovative treatments that are out there in research but they’re not really used by traditional doctors. That’s how I started, I just really wanted to find out everything that I could do to get myself better.
Evelyne: I would almost dare to say that you’re lucky that you were diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, and that you just didn’t go years and years and years taking thyroid medication for low thyroid but never addressing the autoimmune component, because I’ve known so many people who never get diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. They just get told they have low thyroid and they have to be on meds for the rest of their lives. And then they never really get better, because the treatment by traditional doctors doesn’t change whether you have hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s.
So for anyone listening who maybe doesn’t know what Hashimoto’s is, can you explain it and also explain the difference between Hashimoto’s and regular hypothyroidism?
Izabella: Absolutely. That’s a really good point that you brought up. It’s really good to know if you have Hashimoto’s or just low thyroid, because Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition. This means that the immune system is off balance and the immune system has decided to attack your own thyroid. This is really significant because when you have one autoimmune condition you’re more likely to develop additional autoimmune conditions if you don’t address the immune system imbalance. And this can manifest as Lupus, as Rheumatoid Arthritis, sometimes as Multiple Sclerosis. But I’ve seen people who have had a diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease and they just took their medications like their traditional doctor prescribed, and they went on to develop more autoimmune conditions within a few years.
So the difference between Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism is that hypothyroidism is actually a state – a state of having low thyroid function. And this can be caused by a variety of different reasons. Some of them could be congenital, some of them could be related to nutrient deficiency. So having an iodine or selenium deficiency can sometimes cause low thyroid function, because the thyroid doesn’t have enough building blocks to create thyroid hormones. And in other cases – and this is actually very significant, because 97% of the cases of low thyroid in the United States are going to be due to Hashimoto’s. So what’s happening is our immune system is attacking the thyroid and causing scar tissue in the thyroid gland, so that our own thyroid can no longer make enough thyroid hormone. And what’s really interesting is that in 2013, Synthroid, which is the medication prescribed for low thyroid, was the number one bestselling medication as far as the number of prescriptions prescribed in the United States.
Evelyne: That’s crazy!
Izabella: This can affect so many people! When I worked as a pharmacist it was prescription after prescription, and the Synthroid medications and the generic versions as well were always in our fast mover aisle. So most pharmacists will dispense a lot of these prescriptions, and most people don’t know that they actually have Hashimoto’s – probably 97% of them.
Evelyne: Yeah, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I remember learning from Dr. Kharazzian – I took all his thyroid classes back in 2010 – that you can have Hashimoto’s – the antibodies against your thyroid – even if you don’t have low thyroid function on tests. Is that correct?
Izabella: Absolutely. So this is a really great point, Evelyne. People can have elevated thyroid antibodies for about ten years before they are actually found to have low thyroid. So what this means is that the autoimmune attack on the thyroid is already starting. And unless you test for antibodies you’re not going to find that because most traditional doctors will only test for TSH, which is thyroid stimulating hormone. And this is basically a hormone that responds to the levels of circulating thyroid hormones. So the best intervention can be made when you discover that you have these antibodies. And depending on whose estimates you look at which literature you read, the estimates are that about 20% of the population – and this was done in a Colorado Health Care screening – has thyroid antibodies. So that means if people have these antibodies but their thyroid is still producing enough hormone, this is the best time to make an intervention so that your thyroid doesn’t get damaged to the point where you have to be on medications for the rest of your life. Thyroid tissue can regenerate to some extent once you address the root causes and you lower the autoimmune attack, but it’s just so much easier to prevent damage than it is to regenerate the thyroid tissue. The regeneration can take many, many years. Some people have a faster ability to regenerate and other people have a slower ability to regenerate. So it’s not a guarantee that if you already are on thyroid medications and even if at that point you address the autoimmune component, you may still need to be on them.
Evelyne: Yeah, when I took that class I was working as a personal trainer but also doing some health coaching and nutritional consulting. So I learned about it and I’d never even heard of Hashimoto’s before. I remember recommending testing to a few people and I was just shocked at how many people did have thyroid antibodies. I didn’t have any, but I still do like to check myself from time to time just to make sure. So in addition to asking your doctor for a comprehensive thyroid panel that doesn’t just have TSH, what are the antibodies tests that they should ask for?
Izabella: So the two main antibody tests for Hashimoto’s are Thyroglobulin antibodies, and you can abbreviate that as Tg antibodies; as well as Thyroid Peroxidase antibodies, and that’s TPO antibodies. And these are basically antibodies that are reactive to different components of the thyroid process and gland. It’s getting a lot of attention nowadays. I know when I was first diagnosed and I was telling people that I had Hashimoto’s, they were like, “Oh, that must be really rare” or “That’s sounds so exotic.” And you know, it was named after a Japanese physician who discovered the condition – as many medical conditions are – and it’s very, very common. I’m just really glad that there is so much more awareness of it.
Evelyne: Absolutely. And I love your book so much. It’s very different from some of the other ones. There are some great resources out there for people with Hashimoto’s, but I really liked yours because you just did all of this research and you tried all of the protocols from all of those other books. Talk a little bit more about the journey of all the diets you tried and all the interventions you tried.
Izabella: Yeah. Oh my goodness, Evelyne. So I made myself basically a human guinea pig and everything that I tried I actually researched for a really long time. So it took me about a year of researching the gluten free diet before I decided that I wanted to take the plunge. I come from a scientific background so I’m very, very big on collecting evidence and then doing tests and trials. So the things that I did were gluten free diet, dairy free diet, the GAPS diet, the standard carbohydrate diet, the elemental diet, the body ecology diet and paleo diet and autoimmune paleo diet and everything in between. And I’ve also tried a variety of supplements. I’ve tried – Dr. Kharazzian’s a good friend – I’ve tried his protocol and I’ve tried protocols of a lot of the other authors and thyroid experts out there. And I also made up some of my own protocols that I just was able to pull from PubMed research.
So for about a period of three years I was a human guinea pig, and I would track all of my parameters. I would track my thyroid antibodies, I would track all of my symptoms, I would track my blood sugar and blood pressure, and all of these metrics to see how the different interventions were making a difference in my health and in my body. And over time it sort of evolved and I was able to figure out what kind of triggers I was having. And as I eliminated the triggers my thyroid antibodies started to drop. They were in the 2000 range and I got them down to 800 and 300, and then I was able to get myself into remission based on a lot of the different tweaks that I made.
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