autoimmune | Integrative functional medicine blog

How to tell if you have Hashimotos




If your doctor says you have hypothyroidism, this can explain why you might be feeling like crap, experiencing crazy weight gain, and your hair might be falling out in clumps, or your scared to brush your hair for fear of pulling more out.


But how do you know if Hashimoto’s (the auto immune form of hypothyroid) is causing your hypothyroidism?
So glad you asked!

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system is attacking and destroying the thyroid gland.


Hashimoto’s is responsible for more than 90 percent of hypothyroid cases. Chances are strong it’s the cause of your low thyroid function too.

Stay tuned to find out if your low thyroid is due to Hashimoto's or some other reason, such as toxins, adrenal fatigue, or possibly some other unlucky reason. Unfortunately, sometimes it does just happen. You know the saying, $#iT happens!

But if your doctor does not want to screen for Hashimoto’s or if you would like to be sure, here are some tips to help you figure out if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

You may ask, "why doesn't my doctor want to know if I have hashimotos?"

The answer is simple my friend. Because they don't care!

No really, they dont. And it's not necessarily that they don't really care or care about you. It's that from a treatment point of view they don't care because it is not going to change the treatment that they give you. It won't change how they dose your medications if you get any. Nor will it change (most likely) what medication they give you. So from that perspective, it makes sense.

I sometimes tell my own patients the same thing, but in a much nicer way. They may ask about a certain test and I tell them that for right now, I don't care about that test because it wont change treatment at this point.

But!!!!

From a Hashimoto's perspective you should absolutely care because there are a ton of things you can do to help. But thats another topic. Well, maybe not another topic but a different subject of this topic. Back on track!

You feel worse despite taking your thyroid medication
One of the most common signs of Hashimoto’s is you still have symptoms despite taking your thyroid meds. Or maybe your meds dont make any difference at all in how you feel.

In fact, your doctor prescribes ever increasing doses as your thyroid function deteriorates. You may even notice no difference if you forget to take your meds. Why don’t thyroid meds help in many cases of Hashimoto’s? Because the immune system continues to attack and destroy the thyroid gland even though the meds may make your TSH levels look normal.

You swing back and forth between low thyroid and high thyroid symptoms
Swinging back and forth between under active and over active thyroid function is another common sign of Hashimoto’s.

One week you suffer from fatigue, headaches, constipation, depression, and low libido. The next week you have insomnia, a racing heart, anxiety, and tremors. This is because a flare up that damages thyroid tissue causes excess thyroid hormone to spill into the bloodstream. You may be misdiagnosed with anxiety or even bipolar disorder. Or God knows what other condition. Or even worse, maybe they tell you it's all in your head.


If you run blood tests during these surges and crashes you will see TSH also peaks and drops. TSH may even test as normal for short periods as its moves between these swings. This can lead to a misdiagnosis if you drew your blood during that time.


You have pernicious anemia, celiac disease, or other autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s are the result of an imbalanced immune system. It’s very common for people with one autoimmune disease to develop more. This is because the imbalanced system becomes overly sensitive and loses tolerance to new tissues in the body. I tell this to all my patients, an autoimmune disease is not a disease of that system or organ (ie - thyroid, skin, nerves, etc.) it is a disease of the immune system that happens to attack that organ or tissues. And it can and most likely will spread!

If you have hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases, chances are you also have Hashimoto’s. Pernicious anemia (an autoimmune disease that causes B12 deficiency), celiac disease, or a gluten intolerance are all commonly linked to Hashimoto’s.

If you think you might have Hashimoto’s, see if any of these symptoms apply to you.

Under active thyroid symptoms
  • Feeling tired or sluggish
  • Feeling cold — hands, feet, all over
  • Require excessive amounts of sleep to function well
  • Weight gain despite adhering to a low-calorie diet
  • Gaining weight easily
  • Difficult, infrequent bowel movements
  • Depression and lack of motivation
  • Morning headaches that wear off as the day progresses
  • Outer third of eyebrow thins
  • Thinning of hair on scalp, face, or genitals, or excessive hair loss
  • Dryness of skin and/or scalp
  • Mental sluggishness
Over active thyroid symptoms
  • Heart palpitations
  • Inward trembling
  • Increased pulse rate, even at rest
  • Feeling nervous and emotional
  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty gaining weight
Confirming Hashimoto’s
Symptoms are important but a blood test provides the proof you may need to convince doctors or family members. Look for these markers: These are the tell-tale blood markers for Thyroid autoimmunity.


Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO Ab). In most cases of Hashimoto’s the immune system attacks TPO, an enzyme that triggers thyroid hormone production.


Thyroglobulin antibodies (TGB Ab). You should also test for antibodies to TGB, which the thyroid uses to produce thyroid hormones.


Thyroid stimulating hormone antibodies (TSH Ab). This test can identify Graves’ disease (hyperthyroidism), although sometimes TSH antibodies can be elevated in Hashimoto’s. On lab tests, this marker is often labeled thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI). If your autoimmune thyroid condition is advanced, you have multiple autoimmune diseases, and/or you react to bioidentical thyroid meds but not synthetic, you may also have antibodies to T4 and T3.


When your test comes back negative despite massive symptoms
Don’t despair if your test comes back negative even though you have all the classic symptoms. Because the immune system and inflammation wax and wane, you may have had your blood draw during a time the immune system is not attacking the thyroid gland. However, if your test is positive this confirms Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and that the immune system should be a target for therapy.

Knowledge is power, and you're just a little more powerful now. Dont forget that a thyroid test is not just TSH, there are generally 10 thyroid number I run and sometimes 11.

Managing Hashimoto's is about managing an autoimmune disease. A properly trained and certified Functional Medicine practitioner should be able to help. Psst ! FYI - we also do online consultations.

I'm Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!


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Antacids and antibiotics raise allergy and autoimmune rates




Being a parent is hard work. And being a parent of a child in pain can be a very scary thing. I get it, we have all been there. But before you go run out and get that prescription filled there are some things to consider.

A large study shows antacid and antibiotic use in early childhood significantly raises the risk of developing allergies.


Researchers looked at the records of almost 800,000 children born during a 13-year period to families in the military.


Surprisingly, almost 10 percent of the babies were treated with antacids such as Zantac or Pepcid for acid reflux; spitting up is common in infants and does not typically need to be medicated. But it can be scary when you are not aware. After all, adults don't spit up.


Also surprising was that more than half of the children in the study went on to develop allergies, rashes, asthma, or hay fever.


However, the children who received antacids in infancy were twice as likely to develop allergic diseases compared to the rest.


What’s worse is that their risk of developing anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be deadly, was 50 percent higher compared to the non-medicated children.


Children who received antibiotics as babies were twice as likely to have asthma and had a 50 percent higher likelihood of hay fever and anaphylactic allergies. Those are some pretty significant increases in incidence rates.


Why you must take care of the gut to avoid allergies and immune-based diseases

The researchers suggested the negative impact antacids and antibiotics have on gut bacteria, also called the gut microbiome, play a role in the development of allergies and other immune disorders.

Additionally, by neutralizing the acidity of the stomach, which is necessary to break down foods, antacids may be allowing undigested foods into the small intestine. This negatively impacts the gut microbiome and inflames the digestive tract., ultimately leading to a leaky gut type condition. Which if its "like" leaky gut, it's going to become leaky gut. Ever heard the term fake it till you make it?

The health of the digestive tract and gut microbiome profoundly influences immune health. When the gut is inflamed and damaged and gut bacteria is unhealthy and full of bad bacteria, this predisposes a person to bunch of immune-based disorders, including but not limited to:

  • Allergies
  • Food sensitivities
  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Eczema and other skin-based disorders
  • Asthma and other respiratory disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Brain-based disorders

Look for the root cause of childhood illness

Although spitting IS up normal for babies, if a baby is spitting up excessively you have to ask why.

Also, if a child has reoccurring infections that require antibiotics over and over, again you have to ask why.

With any health issue or condition asking why is one of the most important questions you can ask, and one of the things we try to answer in my practice.

These are signs that the health of the digestive tract, the gut microbiome, and the immune system are already in distress.

For instance, the child could be eating a food to which they are intolerant, such as gluten or dairy — two primary triggers of immune disorders.

The child may have been born with food intolerances or autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks the body) passed on from the mother.


A child born via c-section and fed formula is likely to have a less healthy gut microbiome than a child born vaginally and breastfed. This may predispose a child to excess acid reflux or reoccurring infections. Look up Vaginal swab or sweeping for those moms that need to do C-sections. It may significantly help the health of your baby.


However, medicating a child with
antacids and antibiotics only further destroys the gut microbiome and dysregulates the immune system. This makes the child significantly more prone to immune disorders, such as allergies, anaphylaxis, autoimmunity, asthma, eczema, obesity, and other chronic issues.


The key is to address the underlying causes of an inflamed gut, an unhealthy gut microbiome, and inflammation. Some things you should look at are regular blood testing for nutrient deficiencies and excesses, stool analysis, allergy and food sensitivity testing just to name a few.


Thanks for watching. Make a comment and subscribe to my youtube channel.
I'm Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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Viral infections linked to inflammatory diseases and Autoimmunity



Viral infections linked to inflammatory diseases and Autoimmunity



The EBV (Epstein-Barr virus) infects more than 90 percent of people in the United States by the age of 20. At least one in four of those infected will develop the commonly-known disease mononucleosis, or "mono," experiencing a rash, enlarged liver or spleen, head- and body aches, and extreme fatigue.

Did you know?! Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is not only related to mono. It is in the same family of virus’s as Herpes, Chicken pox and Shingles.

Recent studies indicate it may be a catalyst for at least
six more diseases, most of which are autoimmune in nature. These include multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.


EBV isn't the only virus associated with autoimmunity. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) has been linked to Sjögren's syndrome, upper respiratory viral infections and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) have been linked to multiple sclerosis (MS), and EBV has previously been linked to
lupus.


Chronic viral infections can contribute to chronic inflammatory diseases

It has long been thought that viruses play a part in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases, especially autoimmunity. Check out our page on Autoimmunity.


Many healthcare practitioners report there is frequently a hidden infection that either precedes or seems to trigger an initial autoimmune attack, or subsequently appears when the immune system is weakened once autoimmunity is activated.


This creates a vicious cycle of infection and illness.
 Infections are opportunistic and often travel together — many autoimmune patients find they host multiple infections that are bacterial, viral, parasitic and/or fungal, driving the inflammation that leads to symptoms.

Thus the need for testing to find out which ones you may be dealing with. Check out our functional medicine testing page.


The relationship between viral infection and autoimmune disease is multifaceted, involving numerous complex processes in the body. Scientists believe that a variety of factors must usually be present for an infection to result in an autoimmune condition. This includes not only a genetic predisposition but also lifestyle and environmental factors such as:

  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Leaky gut
  • Environmental toxins
  • Dietary inflammatory triggers


It is often said in the functional medicine world - And I realize this may be a terrible saying, but I didn’t make it up.
“Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”.


In a nutshell, chronic disease develops as a result of an improper immune response to a viral infection due to other predisposing factors. The virus acts as the straw that broke the camel’s back.


Chronic viruses can prevent autoimmune remission

Remission from autoimmune symptoms is possible with proper diet and lifestyle management. Notice I said remission, not sure. However, if you already have an autoimmune condition, a chronic viral infection can prevent you from alleviating your symptoms and halting progression of the autoimmunity. In fact, a chronic virus is a deal-breaker in recovery for many patients.


Viral infections can occur years before developing autoimmunity

Viral infections usually occur well before any symptoms associated with autoimmunity develop (sometimes years), so it can be difficult to make a definitive link between a particular infection and a yet-to-be autoimmune disorder. However, if you have not been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition but have had any of these viruses in the past and have unexplained symptoms now, it's worth getting tested for autoimmunity and a chronic virus. You probable also want to check out my previous blog on Autoimmunity and leaky gut.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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Is Heart autoimmune disease possible?




Any autoimmune disease is NOT a disease of the tissues that are being attacked. For example hashimotos is NOT a disease of the thyroid. It is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. They same goes with any other tissue of the body.

Sometimes autoimmunity, a disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissues, can attack the heart and cause heart disease. People with autoimmune heart disease may not have typical markers of cardiovascular risk, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

Autoimmunity is one of the most common diseases today and a leading cause of disability and death. It can affect any tissue or compound in the body, including the heart. The more commonly known autoimmune diseases are Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis (nervous system), type 1 diabetes(pancreas), celiac disease(gut), rheumatoid arthritis (joints), and psoriasis(skin).

In all these diseases, the disorder doesn’t lie in the tissue being attacked, but instead in an imbalanced and hyper zealous or over active immune system attacking the tissue it was meant to protect. It has gone haywire.

Autoimmunity in the heart
You can screen for an autoimmune reaction in the heart with a blood serum antibody panel that checks for antibodies to myocardial peptide or alpha-myosin. If they come back positive, it’s an indication the immune system is attacking heart tissue. If the condition is more advanced, you may be given a diagnosis of myocarditis (heart inflammation) or cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart).

If the autoimmunity is in its early stages, there may be no signs or symptoms. Which can be a little difficult to know if there is a possible problem unless you test.

Symptoms to watch out for include shortness of breath, chest pain, decreased ability to exercise, fluid retention, tiring easily, and an irregular heartbeat.

Other autoimmune diseases that affect the heart
An unmanaged autoimmune disease raises the risk of heart disease significantly. People with lupus are up to eight times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in patients with lupus and the disease most commonly inflames the pericardium, the sac that surrounds the heart. 

Additionally, Sjögren’s syndrome and psoriasis have been shown to more than double heart attack risk.

Other cardiovascular risk factors of unmanaged autoimmunity include chronic inflammation and steroid use (which are commonly used to treat the symptoms of autoimmune diseases). Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Failing to manage an autoimmune reaction to the heart can cause inflammation, scarring, and, in rare cases, sudden death. It may also affect the lungs, liver, and other organs in the body.

Typically, doctors in the standard health care model do not screen for autoimmunity until the end stages of disease when symptoms are severe. However, you can identify an autoimmune reaction before it’s too late with a blood serum 
antibody panel.

This panel screens for autoimmunity against heart tissue by checking for myocardial (a protein the heart releases in response to stress) or alpha-myosin (cardiac tissue) antibodies. If these come back positive it’s an indication the immune system is attacking heart tissue. If the condition is more advanced, you may be given a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, or disease of the heart muscle.

Heart autoimmunity
If you have an autoimmune condition, you can use functional medicine to potentially slow or halt its progression through proven diet, lifestyle, and nutritional therapy strategies. You should also regularly monitor your heart health.

Gluten also linked with heart autoimmunity
Sometimes a gluten intolerance and celiac disease are associated with cardiomyopathy(which we have talked about repeatedly on my blogs) Many people have seen a gluten-free diet improve the condition, sometimes profoundly. People with heart symptoms should screen for gluten sensitivity with advanced testing.

Ask about my office about functional medicine strategies to manage heart autoimmunity.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!


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Autoimmunity and leaky gut




Autoimmunity, a disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, is one of the most prevalent diseases today, affecting predominantly women. In fact, about 75% of all autoimmune disease occur in women.

Traditionally, autoimmune disease was thought to be primarily a genetic disease, but research increasingly shows that while genetics play a role, intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is also an important factor. This means your diet can determine whether you develop autoimmunity.

A great saying in the the “functional medicine” world is
“genetics load the gun, environment pulls the trigger.”


Examples of common autoimmune diseases include:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Celiac disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Vitiligo

Leaky gut triggers autoimmunity

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestines become damaged and overly porous, allowing bacteria, yeast, undigested foods, and other pathogens into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation and an over reaction of the immune system.

Leaky gut keeps the immune system in a hyper zealous state. This eventually makes the immune system more likely to start attacking the body tissue it was designed to protect, causing an
autoimmune condition. Think of it kind of like the incredible hulk. Once he turns into that raging green beast he is not selective in who and/or what he destroys. He will attack pretty much whatever is in the way.


People can develop leaky gut for a variety of reasons, but the most common is linked to inflammatory foods in the diet. These can include too much sugar, processed foods, junk foods, and fast foods. Also, many people have undiagnosed food sensitivities, such as to gluten, dairy, egg, or other foods. These can damage the gut lining if you have an inflammatory reaction to them.


Gluten, in particular, is notorious for its ability to cause leaky gut and trigger autoimmunity. In people who have a gluten intolerance, gluten triggers inflammation in the gut and elsewhere in the body every time they eat it. In gluten sensitive individuals, gluten also acts on messenger compounds in the intestinal wall to make it more permeable. This allows more inflammatory factors into the bloodstream, including more gluten, in a self-perpetuating vicious cycle.

There are even test we can do to test if you have leaky gut.



For some people, simply going gluten-free can repair a leaky gut and dampen autoimmunity.


Other causes of leaky gut that trigger autoimmunity
Knowing why you have leaky gut is an important strategy in not only in repairing it, but also in dampening autoimmunity. Below are some known causes of leaky gut that can, in turn, trigger autoimmunity:

  • Gluten sensitivity
  • Inflammatory foods (sugars, junk foods, fast foods, etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Medications (corticosteroids, antibiotics, antacids, some arthritis medications)
  • Infections (poor gut bacteria balance, H. pylori, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, yeast, parasites, and viruses)
  • Chronic stress
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Processed foods, artificial food additives, thickening gums
  • Environmental toxins
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Autoimmunity (although leaky gut triggers autoimmunity, autoimmunity can also cause leaky gut, especially if the immune attack is against tissues of the gut)

If you have an autoimmune disease, you have leaky gut. If you have leaky gut, you have or will get an autoimmune disease. It’s just a matter of time.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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Nitric oxide, Autoimmune and chronic disease



Nitric oxide for autoimmune and chronic disorders


When it comes to autoimmune disease and other chronic health conditions, taming inflammation is the name of the game. This can be difficult because the body creates vicious cycles where inflammation keeps feeding more inflammation. This makes halting the progression of autoimmune disease and chronic health issues difficult…but not impossible.

However, we now know about nutritional ingredients that can boost anti-inflammatory efforts. These ingredients act on two inflammatory immune messengers called “nitrous oxide” and Interluekin 17 or “IL-17.”

IL-17 is a pro-inflammatory immune cell that damages body tissue, such as the thyroid gland in autoimmune Hashimoto’s, the joints in rheumatoid arthritis, or the nerve sheaths in multiple sclerosis.

IL-17 isn’t completely bad—it’s necessary to fight infection. But when the immune system becomes hyper zealous, IL-17 goes out of control and attacks the body it’s designed to protect.

IL-17 destroys tissue by activating a “inducible nitric oxide,” one of three forms of nitric oxide, a gas, involved in various processes in the body. Two other two forms of nitric oxide are beneficial and actually fight inflammation: endothelial nitric oxide and neuronal nitric oxide.

However, inducible nitric oxide is pro-inflammatory and damages body tissue under the orders of IL-17.

Therefore, one way we can stop the vicious cycle of inflammation is to dampen IL-17 and inducible nitric oxide. Luckily, there are nutritional compounds that help the body do this.

But first — perhaps you’ve heard of arginine to boost nitric oxide. Although arginine boosts the anti-inflammatory endothelial and neuronal nitric oxides, it also boosts inducible nitric oxide. So if you are fighting chronic inflammation, taking arginine may work against you.

Arginine is also touted as being good for boosting growth hormone. But, this can have down sides.
Check out my previous post on Arginine and cold sores.

Moving on…
It’s safer instead to take nutritional compounds that studies show support endothelial nitric oxide (one of the anti-inflammatory nitric oxides). These include:

To join our online dispensary to save on all your neutracuetical needs click here.


Adenosine
Huperzine A
Vinpocetine
Alpha GPC
Xanthinol niacinate - a form of niacin
L-acetylcarnitine

These compounds work synergistically taken together in an emulsified liquid form (very hard to find and generally only found in functional medicine offices). But not everybody can or should take a liquid form.

Not only does boosting endothelial nitric oxide tame inflammation, it also helps repair and regenerate body tissue, promote blood flow, dissolve plaques, and dilate blood vessels. Start with small doses to gauge effects and tolerance.

These compounds also support neuronal nitric oxide (the other anti-inflammatory nitric oxide) and thus the health of your brain and nervous system.

Exercise is another excellent way to boost beneficial nitric oxides. In fact, take these endothelial nitric oxide boosting compounds before getting your heart rate to maximum capacity for a few minutes first thing in the morning. This will optimize anti-inflammatory effects and support brain health. Nitric oxide is helpful for those of use that like to lift weights and enjoy that “pumped feeling during and after the workout.

Also, nitric oxide is what is stimulated with certain medications such viagra and heart medications for angina. Taking these supplements can also help men with issues in the bedroom. “Make you strong like oak”

You don’t have to exercise long — just a few minutes of raising your heart rate as high as you can has profound anti-inflammatory and brain supporting effects. Just be sure not to over train as that produces more inflammation. Also, how you get your heart rate up depends on your fitness level and abilities, so keep it safe and doable.

Other tools to tame inflammation include therapeutic doses of
vitamin D3, omega 3 fatty acids, absorbable forms of glutathione, and therapeutic doses of emulsified resveratrol and curcumin. These compounds have been shown to dampen the the inflammatory vicious cycles associated with autoimmune and chronic disorders.

Of course, lifestyle and diet changes are vital too. This includes eliminating pro-inflammatory foods with the autoimmune diet and designing an inflammation-quenching lifestyle.

For help taming your chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorder, ask my office for advice.

Until Next time,
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, Be happy.





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