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Izabella Wentz, PharmD, FASCP has dedicated her career to addressing the root causes of autoimmune thyroid disease after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2009. She is a licensed pharmacist as well as an internationally acclaimed thyroid specialist, and the author of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause and the new protocol-based book Hashimoto’s Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back. Dr. Wentz is not only committed to treating Hashimoto’s but also raising awareness on how to overcome this autoimmune disease that has impacted our lives so acutely.
We’re thrilled that Dr. Wentz will be joining us for our April 18 webinar – RSVP here – and to share her free 2-week recipe plan designed to put you on the road to health! We had a chance to ask Dr. Wentz a few questions about her work and her own experiences with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Our full Q&A is below!
What drew you to functional medicine?
I was never interested in functional medicine until my own diagnosis of Hashimoto’s, after a decade of debilitating symptoms and losing hope of ever getting better. As a pharmacist, I was trained about the pathophysiology of diseases as well as therapeutic treatments. There is a lifestyle intervention for many chronic conditions—except Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune diseases. I believed there must be a better way.
After 2 years of researching Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism, I decided to combine emerging knowledge with my quality improvement expertise to run rapid tests of change on myself. This led me to find the root cause of my disease and to write my first book, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause.
Are there steps people who haven’t gotten a diagnosis yet but suspect Hashi can make to regain their health?
The first step is to get the proper testing. Conventional practitioners, often endocrinologists, usually only use a blood test that measures thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4, an inactive form of thyroid hormone or “pro-hormone.” TSH is a pituitary hormone that sends out signals to the body to make more thyroid hormones when low levels are in the blood stream. In untreated hypothyroidism, you will eventually see abnormally elevated TSH. This is an excellent method for picking up long-standing thyroid abnormalities, but unfortunately, it does not catch Hashimoto’s until the very late stages when a significant amount of damage has been done to the thyroid. In the earlier stages, TSH levels may fluctuate. Because of this, it is completely possible to have a normal TSH and still have Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism.
Antibody testing (TPO and TG antibodies) often reflects whether there is an active autoimmune attack happening on the body. Many doctors do not test antibody levels until TSH is elevated. As I mentioned, TSH is commonly not elevated until the later stages in the progression of Hashimoto’s. Antibodies, on the other hand, can be present for decades before a change of TSH is seen. Patients will also want to get their T3 hormone tested, the “go-hormone” or active thyroid hormone used by the body.
Second, I have found that most patients find the greatest healing by working with a functional medicine practitioner. Endocrinologists are generally not trained in the root cause approach and I believe this approach is necessary to properly treat Hashimoto’s. It is important for patients to recognize that investing in their health is important. In addition to a functional or integrated doctor, they will need tailored testing. Finding a doctor that will listen is absolutely essential.
Another very important step is to make lifestyle changes by adjusting diet and minimizing stress. The ideal diet for treating possible Hashimoto’s is Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), but becoming gluten free is a good first step.
What’s the biggest mistake newly diagnosed Hashi patients make
Many patients rely on thyroid hormone replacement as their only treatment and do not adjust their diet. Unfortunately, this is a message often reinforced by conventional practitioners. If we follow the conventional model and take more thyroid replacement hormone medicine, it’s like throwing more water into a leaky bucket. If you do not fix the leak in the bucket, you will have to continually pour water to fill the bucket. But if you fix the leak, the bucket will fill up. Lifestyle changes that address the root cause to Hashimoto’s allow us to fix that leak.
How important is identifying individual Hashi triggers? Can recovery come from simply making certain lifestyle changes?
After I received my own Hashimoto’s diagnosis and I was beginning my research, I stumbled upon the work of Dr. Alessio Fasano. Dr. Fasano is a world-renowned gastroenterologist, Celiac disease, and autoimmunity expert. He describes autoimmunity as a three-legged stool in which the following three things need to be present in order for it to manifest:
- The right genes
- The trigger
- Intestinal permeability
By removing any one of these three things, we stop the autoimmune attack and the progression of our autoimmune disease. While we can’t change our genes, we can certainly remove triggers and intestinal permeability! The conventional approach accepts the death of the thyroid as unavoidable, but the root cause approach aims to stop it and repair damage. Finding and addressing triggers is an integral part of this process because it has the power to stop the cycle of autoimmunity present in Hashimoto’s. That said, there are protocols everyone can do, regardless of their specific triggers.
Why does diet play such a crucial role in healing?
Those of us with autoimmune disease have leaky gut which results in increased food sensitivities. When we have leaky gut, food particles slip through the wall of our intestines because our intestines have become more permeable than that of a healthy person. When these foods get into our bloodstream, this causes an increase in inflammation, symptoms, and an upregulation of thyroid antibodies. More than 90% of people feel significantly better when they remove common reactive foods like gluten, dairy and soy.
Everyone is different, but are there steps Hashi sufferers can take toward wellness that work for most people?
I have found that the majority of my patients find significant improvement in their health in as little as 2-weeks by following my Liver Support Protocol that is outlined in Hashimoto’s Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back.
A common dysfunction in Hashimoto’s is related to an impaired ability to detoxify, and this results in a toxic backlog in the body which is responsible for many symptoms. This protocol helps us to reduce the toxic burden in the body by removing triggering foods, adding supportive foods, reducing toxic exposures and supporting detox pathways with targeted supplements and practices that support the liver’s ability to clear toxins.
Second, rebalancing the stress response is included in the fundamental protocols in my Adrenal Recovery Protocol. Readers will learn how to support their stress hormones and embrace a mindset and stress reduction techniques that will help shift the body into a regenerative process that allows them to be more resilient.
Of course, the Gut Balance Protocol is included in the fundamental protocols as well. This will help patients to address their leaky gut and help them balance their gut flora.
These steps are enough for many people to eliminate symptoms, significantly reduce inflammation and stop further autoimmune attacks. For others, my advanced protocols are needed.
On Tuesday, Apr 18 from 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM EDT, Dr. Izabella Wentz will be chatting with us about her strategies for healing Hashimoto’s. RSVP here!