- Alison has Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s and also experiences tons of digestion issues.
- She often feels gassy and bloated and has trouble going to the bathroom.
- She’s tried taking all types of probiotics, eating super nutritious fermented foods, and done several colon cleanses, but nothing helped.
When I met Alison, she explained that she had taken gut-support vitamins and eaten a healthy diet. However, I could see right away that she was missing a few big clues in solving her health mystery.
Gluten, Gut Health, and Hashimoto’s
I’ve talked a lot about the connection between Hashimoto’s and our gut on the podcast in the past. I knew that this was at the core of solving Alison’s issues. To discuss it further, I invited Dr. Vincent Pedre, aka America’s Gut Doctor, to the show. Dr. Pedre is an internist and the author of the upcoming book The Gutsmart Protocol.
One of the first things he brings up is the connection between Hashimoto’s and gut health as well as gluten. We’ve talked a lot about this connection on the Health Mysteries Solved podcast – including my own journey with Hashimoto’s and gluten. Dr. Pedre shared the work of Alessio Fasano, who studied the effects of gluten on the gut and how gluten can trigger autoimmunity. He discovered that gluten triggers the release of a protein called Zonulin, which increases gut permeability. This leads to leaky gut, which can eventually result in autoimmunity. Dr. Pedre also explained that there are three key factors in the development of autoimmune diseases: genetic predisposition, environmental triggers (such as gluten), and leaky gut.
He went on to explain that one of the enzymes that helps break down gluten, called tissue transglutaminase, can create a chimeric molecule that can be recognized by the body’s immune system as an invader. This can lead to an antibody response and cross-reactivity, especially with the thyroid where tissue transglutaminase is found in high concentration.
The Power of a Food Journal
One of the best ways to solve a health mystery involving gut health is to keep track of everything that is being eaten. Dr. Pedre uses this technique to help him diagnose issues but also finds that the activity really helps patients better understand their own triggers. So often we are unaware of all of the things we put in our mouth – especially when we don’t know all of the ingredients in the food we eat. Dr. Pedre shared a powerful story about one of his patients having a complete epiphany after keeping a food journal for just a few days. This mindful practice helps us better connect with our eating and be better advocates for our own health. It reminds us that everything we eat is feeding our microbiome.
Balancing the Microbiome is Complex
Many people think that the answer to balancing the microbiome is to take a probiotic, but Dr. Pedre explains that it’s far more complex than that. And, because our microbiome controls so many aspects of our health, it’s imperative that we keep it balanced.
He explains that, while probiotics are helpful, they are just a small part of the bigger picture. His approach has changed over the years – he used to be quite aggressive in attacking the bad bugs but now he has a more holistic approach. This means looking at the person as a whole, their history, reactions to different things, and taking a gut-body-mind-spirit approach to healing. We’ve discussed this many times on the show (if you want a good overview, check out episode 112). The gut health issue is just a portal into something much bigger and it’s important to approach it holistically.
One of the keys to a holistic approach is to understand what is actually going on. Dr. Pedre will sometimes use stool testing but warns that it can be misleading. Instead, he looks at different types of gut issues, which I love because it has been such a successful way for me to help people with thyroid conditions. We both agree that a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works. There are so many things that could be at play in the gut issue including dysbiosis, yeast overgrowth, histamine issues, enzyme deficiency, leaky gut, damaged epithelium, SIBO or SIFO – and each of these will impact tolerance of probiotics and fermented foods.
Could Toning the Vagus Nerve Be the Answer?
Dr. Vincent Pedre revealed a fascinating connection between the vagus nerve (also known as the vegal nerve) and our gut health issues. He explains that stress is a huge factor in affecting the vagus nerve, which is essentially the connection between the brain and internal organs, with the majority of communication being directed from the gut to the brain.
As you know if you’ve listened to my past episodes, stress in our lives can seriously impact our health. We often think of our mental health when we think of stress but it can cause biophysical stress. This can affect the vagus nerve which can impact our digestive processes. To get the body back to a state of relaxation and proper digestion, it is important to activate the vagus nerve through exercises and mindfulness practices. Dr. Pedre recommends deep breathing exercises where you breathe in and then exhale with a hum (or ‘Ohm’ sound).
Dr. Pedre also stresses the importance of understanding the interconnectedness of the gut microbiome and the vagal nerve, as the gut microbiome stimulates vagal nerve receptors and sends signals back to the brain. He highlights that in order to achieve optimal gut health, one must address all aspects of the holistic healing plan, including stress levels, and not just focus on diet and supplements.
Solving Digestion Issues is not One-Size-Fits-All
Just like I always say about healing autoimmune issues (like Hashimoto’s), the solution is never one-size-fits-all. There are so many factors at play and the same is true with digestive issues. This is especially true when it is in combination with autoimmunity and thyroid health. We have to look at it from all angles and customize the solution as much as possible. This is what we did with Alison.
First, we assessed what was going on. Alison was taking lots of vitamins and eating a ton of fermented foods. This can be great but they do not work for everyone. In fact, fermented foods can sometimes make things worse because of other imbalances in the gut. To get started, we removed those highly fermented foods and started her on a low histamine diet.
We ran a Vibrant Zoomers test, genetic tests and a stool test. The results revealed that gluten was an issue for her – all of the things she was taking to heal her gut were being undone by her gluten consumption. We saw that she had SIBO, and the probiotics she was taking were making it worse because her body wasn’t able to handle them.
This is a classic case of doing ‘all the healthy things’ that turn out to be the wrong things for the individual.
Alison was also always in a rush and didn’t take much time to eat so we worked on slowing down. She also created more time for her. Stress increases our cortisol levels (that’s why it’s called the stress hormone) which, in turn, impacts our immune system and gut health. We supported Alison’s stress through lifestyle adjustments and the supplement PS 150.
Just 2 months after making diet and lifestyle changes, Alison felt calmer, lighter, and was able to eliminate better. As things were improving, we then started to support the SIBO by doing 6 weeks of FC Cidal and Dysbiocide followed by SBI Protect to help bind and remove some of the bacterial toxins called LPS that were creating damage in the gut.
As we were supporting this, I also optimized her thyroid. She was the ‘Low T3 Type’ and so we worked with her doctor to fine-tune her thyroid medication to include more T3 while using Zinc and Selenium to improve conversion.
This made even more of a difference and she has significantly less gas and bloating, and was able to easily go to the bathroom every day which was a huge win!
Eliminating Health Mysteries
For Alison we were able to find that missing piece of the health puzzle and help her regain her health. Could this be the missing clue for you or someone in your life?
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