We recently had a chance to talk with Dr. Amy Myers, author of numerous books and resources dealing with thyroid health including her upcoming book, The Thyroid Connection. Dr. Myers is also the host of the upcoming Thyroid Connection Summit, a free online summit for anyone coping with Graves’, Hashimoto’s, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, cancer, nodules, cysts, I-131 radiation, post-thyroidectomy symptoms or symptoms that could indicate thyroid disease even though labs come back normal. Our Q&A with Dr. Myers is below.
How did your own experiences with Graves’ disease inspire you to begin building one of the most comprehensive online resource collections for people coping with thyroid disorders?
It’s the end result of lots of hard work and many years of effort. My story with thyroid dysfunction began back in 2002 so my books and my site were literally years in the making.
In my second year of medical school I started having panic attacks, insomnia, weight loss, and eventually a tremor, but when I saw my doctor I was told it was stress from medical school and all in my head. I said no, this needs to be worked up and made that happen. From there I went through all of the trials of trying what natural approaches I could find and then different medications. At some point, I felt like I had no options left other than a thyroid ablation, which meant I became hypothyroid and was dealing with a new set of symptoms.
As I continued my medical studies I focused on integrated medicine. I had entered medical school knowing I was going to pursue functional medicine – eventually finding my way into this branch of medicine that looks at the root cause of illness. I knew I wanted to open my own functional practice and my experience with Graves’ disease (an autoimmune condition resulting in hyperthyroidism) inspired my first book, which address curing autoimmune disorders.
Did you ever think you’d be reaching and helping as many people as you do today?
The fact is that the number of people suffering from thyroid disorders has reached epidemic proportions. I wanted to dive deeply into this subject because it affects so many people who are then told by their doctors that their symptoms are all in their head. My work has centered on helping people understand that although their labs may be normal, thyroid dysfunction is still a possibility.
I never envisioned the form my life’s work has taken but I’ve always known that my internal compass was leading me to work that would make a big impact and help as many people as possible. During my years in the Peace Corps that meant helping people in the third world have better lives and in college it meant pursuing opportunities for leadership, but could I have visualized publishing multiple books and becoming a NYT bestselling author? Absolutely not. I’m just driven to help people.
What inspired you to lay out a step by step plan for working with a doctor to diagnose thyroid conditions in your new book, The Thyroid Connection?
The book is a comprehensive resource for anyone who is suffering from thyroid dysfunction, though as you know Hashimoto’s Disease is the most common thyroid disorder. It really encompasses the information you need to address any thyroid condition, whether that’s Hashi’s or Graves or another issue.
Basically, it’s for anyone who has been told by their doctor that they don’t have a thyroid issue – that it’s all in their head. I wanted to give people who are dealing with these symptoms a roadmap to healing. As a physician who works in functional medicine that’s what I do every day – guide people to wellness. But I know how difficult it can be for many people to find a functional medicine practitioner. I wanted The Thyroid Connection to be the next best thing to being able to consult with me.
You shared an excerpt from the book on your blog about how conventional medicine gets thyroid dysfunction wrong. Why is under-diagnosis and misdiagnosis such a problem?
The frequent misdiagnosis of thyroid disease really has to do with five factors.
- Doctors aren’t testing for thyroid disease because thyroid conditions can mimic a lot of different issues.
- And when doctors are testing, they’re frequently only using pituitary function as their benchmark.
- In cases where doctors are ordering the right tests, they’re often using too broad of a reference range – on that actually includes people with thyroid dysfunction.
- They’re not looking at the root cause of thyroid dysfunction.
- And they’re not looking at nutritional deficiencies.
That’s actually one of the biggest reasons I see poor thyroid function in my patients. People come to me not having enough of these nutrients necessary for creating these hormones.
Why do you think the impact of gluten is not more highly publicized? What would you tell someone who is struggling to make positive dietary changes?
It’s about timing. There’s a lot of research we don’t hear about in mainstream medicine because it can take an average of 18 years for research and studies to make their way into medical education.
The reason gluten plays such a big role in thyroid disease is because of molecular mimicry. The molecular structure of the protein in gluten looks like that of various thyroid proteins and so when gluten gets into our bloodstream we create antibodies against it that then can attack the thyroid.
So the number one thing I would recommend to those struggling would be going 100% gluten free for 28 days. There are toxic and inflammatory foods I lay out in the book and then other foods that are important to give up for that period. Remember, 28 days is just four weeks! I track my patients’ labs so we can recheck and they see those antibody numbers coming down. Dietary changes aren’t easy but seeing those numbers change for the better is a huge encouragement.
What keeps you going?
I think it goes back to my internal compass. I get feedback from people every day, whether that’s patients of mine or someone sending an email, telling me their life has been transformed. So many people have given up hope because they’re told there is nothing they can do about their symptoms or that they’re suffering from the side effects of the medications they’ve been prescribed. I know I’m making a difference.
What do you think is the most important piece of advice a newly diagnosed thyroid patient can hear?
Recently diagnosed people should absolutely check out a copy of The Thyroid Connection and give the program I lay out a try. I’ve helped so many people halt the progression of thyroid disorders and even reverse their symptoms. It’s important to know that people can get their lives and vitality back! You’re overwhelmed but take a deep breath and do your research. There are places where you can find communities of support. And whatever your conventional doctor says, do your own research because there are so many holistic and natural approaches to healing that work.
What about patients who’ve been struggling for some time and who feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel?
It’s not too late! Look at me. I don’t even have a thyroid because of the thyroid ablation so I understand. As a physician I can’t get your thyroid back, but there’s still something for you in the book. The root cause of your original issues can still be there and there are still things you can do to feel well. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to take a supplemental thyroid hormone. It doesn’t mean you’re defeated or you failed. It’s just what it is and there are so many things you can still do to address the root causes of how you came to this point in your journey. Like I said earlier, the book really is for everyone who is suffering.
Want to know more about how you can take control of your health while coping with thyroid dysfunction? The Thyroid Connection Summit will give you the tools to change your diet, reduce your toxic burden, overcome infections and make stress relief a daily habit–knowledge that could empower you to regain control of your health and happiness in life.