We’re on the show today with Dr. Amy Myers, MD, New York Times bestselling author of The Autoimmune Solution and a leader in Functional Medicine. Dr. Myers turned to the Institute of Functional Medicine after earning her doctorate from LSU and working five years in the ER partly because of her own struggle with autoimmunity.
On this show, we dig into the causes, prevention, and healing of autoimmune issues that you might not even realize you have—but suffer with every day! (You know that brain fog, acne, eczema? Yep. Could be healed with simple lifestyle changes.)
On this show with Dr. Myers, you will learn:
- Why Crossfit doesn’t work for everyone
- What to do if you suspect you have a thyroid issue
- How to reduce environmental toxins to nip disease in the bud
- How to exercise when you are extremely low on time
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Amy Myers, MD: How An Autoimmune Struggle Changed Her Life
In typical MD fashion, you raced across town to do this interview at home and it’s been a long day, but this is so important. What you do as a doctor in functional medicine outside the system is important and needed, and I can only imagine how little time you have for stuff like this. So, it’s really in great service and very much appreciated.
Let’s start with your own personal experience. You encountered some intense struggles that flipped your life on its head and changed you as a practitioner. Can you talk about that?
Let me give you a basic rundown.
The bottom line is that I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease during my second year of medical school— the symptoms were an overactive thyroid, panic attacks, muscle weakness, tremors, and I was underweight. At first, my doctor brushed it off as medical school nerves.
But that didn’t make sense—I had been in the Peace Corp and in other really stressful situations without a problem. Finally, I got the tests done and discovered the problem was thyroid autoimmunity.
I had options of medicine to suppress the thyroid, pull it out, or blow it up with Iodine 131… and none of those sounded appropriate. I already had a holistic view, but I didn’t know how to get there. Even though I was in med school this didn’t really sit well.
So, I tried alternative medicine, and then mainstream medicine, and I ended up with toxic hepatitis and my liver failing. After that I had my thyroid ablated so don’t have one… and I got settled on thyroid medication.
I found functional medicine and learned about food sense, gut problems, heavy metals and how I got this way. That’s what I write about in my book.
Symptoms of Thyroid Problems
My mom is hypothyroid—you have opposite problem—how do people know if they have a thyroid related issue?
I have a great blog post on my website that you can print off and take to your doctor. But there are some typical symptoms you can look for. Your thyroid is like your engine. So when it’s low, things slow down and you can experience:
- Being cold
- Weight gain
- Your hair falling out
- Brain fog
- and depression
When your thyroid is high (hyperthyroid), you can experience:
- Fast heart rate
- Panic attacks
- Weight loss
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you need to push for a thyroid test. Even my doctor wanted to brush off my symptoms as nerves… plus they treat you differently when you’re a doctor or in medical school. I can be more persistent than someone who isn’t a doctor or medical student. Someone else may have been brushed off completely.
Be your own advocate.
Educate yourself… because even if your Free T4 is in normal range, most doctors don’t check Free T3, nor are they checking antibodies. Being in normal range also isn’t the same thing as being in the optimal range, so getting a proper diagnosis can be difficult.
How To Prevent Thyroid Problems
Let’s talk about preventative medicine—How can we prevent ever having to walk into the doctor’s office with these symptoms?
In my book, I talk about this spectrum—at one end is autoimmunity, the other is no problem at all. Then in between is a range of small amounts of inflammation gradually building.
“There are very few people walking around, with the diet that we’re eating and the toxic environment that we’re living in, that don’t have some level of inflammation.” – Amy Myers, MD
Maybe the Dahli lama has meditated all his inflammation away… but that’s about it. The point is to try getting as far down on that spectrum as you can.
You might have asthma or eczema or irritable bowel syndrome—or you might not even perceive a problem and just use this guideline as a prevention.
5 Factors of Thyroid Health
- Environmental Toxins
- Infections (implicated in chronic diseases—often preventable)
- Stress: Most people are not talking about the stress component. But we’re working and living in this area where the cell phone is going off and you’re on the computer all the time. This, that, and the other thing–and it’s stressful.
I address all of these factors in my book to prevent illness. The whole point of the book is to help people prevent and reverse autoimmunity issues.
What are some things our bodies are up against that we’re not adapted to?
There are 80,000 chemicals in the environment that are either not tested or are tested in isolated conditions—but no-one is using just the window cleaner.
“Companies claim that parabens and phthalates aren’t a problem because they are in such small dosages, but you’re using something like ten body products by the time you walk out the door.”
These are the toxins, and they are stressing our immune systems. The intention isn’t to bog you down and freak you out, but to help you understand and prevent.
What can you do to prevent absorbing and ingesting these toxins, and then what do you do to detox?
I use a shower filter. I have one on all the showers in the whole house, and filters on the taps.
What’s coming out of the tap?
From chlorine to fluoride to heavy metals to prescription drugs to TCE’s, toxins are in our water.
A hot bath with Epsom salts is great at the end of a long day, but what have you absorbed through the water? You have to filter your bath water.
On my website, you can find water filters for cheap– 40% off list price! If you can get a whole house filter that’s great, but if not, the individual filters are fine.
Then you have to look at body products… what is my morning and what is the night routine? It’s all about your skin, and that’s water and body products like lotion, soap, shampoo, deodorant. We could get into mycotoxins, but let’s just stick with this for now.
Limit Toxic Exposure by:
- Eating organic
- Drinking filtered water
- Making sure your body products don’t contain toxins
- Filtering your bathing water
- Breathing clean air
The home environment (because of all off-gassing products) can be 5 to 500 times more toxic than outdoor air. Make sure you’re peeing, pooping, and sweating every day to get all of the toxins out of your system.
Get a water filter, use “clean” cleaning and body products. Dr. Bronner’s is a good one, but there are a lot of websites out there you can find clean products on—or you can make your own deodorant, toothpaste, laundry soap. It’s becoming easier as people are waking up.
How To Heal Your Adrenals
How do you limit stress in your life?
Sometimes it’s hard. It’s my weak link and I’m not always as perfect about it.
“In times when things are more stressful, I make sure I’m eating clean, sleeping, and exercising.”
I’m making an effort to hire more people to make sure that when there’s a problem, I don’t have to be the one to deal with it. But I’m not giving you my routine, because if you try to follow someone else’s routine you’ll just get stressed out that you’re not doing it right.
But, there are some things I personally like to do to relax.
“I like to go walk the dog, or take a hot bath, or get in the sauna. What I do to relax might resonate with somebody else, but it might not.”
For my husband, he golfs to relieve stress. I like acupuncture. If you need more ideas, there’s a chapter in the book that includes some heart math and ways to de-stress.
I’m sure a lot of people would like to see you in the office… but if they can’t, what can you offer as some general information?
If you cannot come see me, it’s in my book. It’s exactly what I do with a patient. I see yeast and SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) in so many people. In the book there are quizzes you can take, supplement and herb options, and more. I’ve also got resources about Lyme and toxic molds on my website.
If you’ve done the program you might be great in 30 days, but if you’re not… You’ve done the diet, fixed the gut, and you’re wondering, “What’s my problem?”
You’ve got to look at the thyroid and the adrenals. Has stress been addressed?
Look into heavy metals, mercury toxicity, mycotoxins or toxic molds, and Lyme disease. Then you bring this information to your functional doctor.
A large number of people on a standard western diet have candida. Brain fog is a really big trigger symptom. I usually take that and look at more clues—like were you a C section delivery? Have you had ear infections? I look for a story about how you got your yeast or candida.
One Major Failure Of The Paleo Protocol
One failure of the paleo community is in the use of fermented foods.
If you eat a lot of fermented foods before you kill off the bad bacteria, you’re going to feed the unhealthy bacteria and yeast. I don’t recommend foods like kombucha and sauerkraut until you kill off the yeast in your gut by: starving them, taking herbal supplements, or antifungal.
Once those bad gut bugs and yeast are killed, you can add in the ferments to repopulate the gut with good bacteria.
How To Exercise As A Busy Woman
How do you exercise as a busy woman?
It depends—I go through periods where I do high intensity workouts–I deadlift, I do kettlebell swings, and this whole thing takes about 20 minutes or sometimes a bit longer. Other times, I walk the dog. It depends on how stressful the day is—lately, the dog has been getting walked a lot!
I’ve also done yoga, but I’ve gotten out of the habit. I think I need to get back into it.
The pitfall of crossfit is that it’s really stressful on the body. I see people who are sick, their adrenals and their thyroids are burned out. For those people, I do not recommend crossfit.
I’m seeing a marathon runner who’s 29 and has already burned out her adrenals and she isn’t having a period. If you’re already spent and on the sofa the whole next day, that workout is not for you. Your prescription is to go on a walk. You need to get back to the place where exercise is energizing.
“Exercise should be there to energize us, relieve stress, and set us right.”
Everybody’s an individual. Whether that’s a toxin, a food, or an exercise, you’ve got to see what works for yourself.
Where To Find Amy Myers, MD
You can find Amy’s book, blog, and tons of other information on her website at www.amymyersmd.com. You can also find her book, The Autoimmune Solution, on Amazon or anywhere books are sold.
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Before You Go
I am stoked to tell you about the Wild Diet Cooking Class that Alyson and I put together for you. It’s a 16-part series showing you exactly how to cook super-easy quick meals for you and your family in less time than it takes to order carryout.
We set up cameras all over our kitchen so you can watch us make the delicious foods we eat every day—like Green Monster Frittatas, Roasted Bone Marrow, and juicy Ultimate Bacon Burgers. If you’d like to see what it’s all about, check out our video here.
What did you think of this interview with Amy Myers? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!