In today’s episode I’m happy to introduce you to Annie Maldonado. She is the creator of the Hashimoto’s summit where she’s raising awareness for Hashimoto’s and really helping people around the world to feel supported in their journey to reversing Hashimoto’s disease.
What Is Hashimoto’s Disease?
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition where the immune system starts attacking a person’s own thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the neck. It produces thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) that regulate metabolism, growth, energy production, mood, heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, and maintenance of bones.
In Hashimoto’s, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, damaging it over time. This causes thyroid hormone levels to decrease (or in rare cases to increase), leading to hypothyroidism.
Common symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, hair loss, constipation, depression, brain fog, muscle aches, dry skin, and irregular or heavy periods.
Hashimoto’s primarily affects middle-aged women but can occur at any age. It often runs in families. Chronic stress, hormone imbalances, pregnancy, radiation exposure, viral infections, nutrient deficiencies, and intestinal permeability may trigger the onset of Hashimoto’s.
Conventional vs Integrative Hashimoto’s Disease Treatment
The conventional medical treatment for Hashimoto’s focuses solely on replacing thyroid hormone levels using levothyroxine drugs like Synthroid or Levoxyl, which are only T4. However, this only partially addresses the low thyroid function and antibodies by taking over for the thyroid gland. It can help some, but there is much more that can be done beyond just thyroid replacement with T4.
In integrative and functional medicine, the treatment approach includes dietary changes, nutrients, herbs and addressing imbalances in the body that have been shown to turn off the autoimmune attack on the thyroid.
A holistic protocol aims to heal leaky gut, reduce inflammation, remove trigger foods, enhance detoxification, balance hormones and blood sugar, improve stress resilience, optimize nutrition and gut bacteria, and support thyroid health. If you want to learn more about this approach you can read my article on the link between Leaky Gut and Hashimoto’s Disease.
The goal is to reverse the autoimmune process and reduce antibodies over time through comprehensive protocols that address what triggers the autoimmune process in the first place.
Studies and clinical cases show Hashimoto’s can be put into remission and the thyroid gland can be supported to function more optimally. And if thyroid support is needed, a more individualized and comprehensive approach, including T4 and T3, is used.
Annie’s Hashimoto’s Journey
Annie shares that she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 5 years ago. It’s been quite a journey for her. She still doesn’t have it all figured out. She struggled a lot and knows there’s so many people out there that have struggled too. It’s not an easy way to live life if you don’t have expert guidance to protect your thyroid function.
Annie has tried all different diets, supplements, medications and lifestyle changes but still experiences significant fluctuations and flare-ups. She hopes to learn more about what will really help stabilize her health.
Annie was diagnosed in Texas right after her son’s birth. She wasn’t feeling good and her primary doctor did some blood work. She was told she had hypothyroidism and was put on Synthroid levothyroxine medication.
A few years later when living in Colorado, Annie saw a new primary doctor who was confused why she was still needing thyroid medication. This doctor ran more comprehensive testing and helped her discover she had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which caused the low thyroid function.
Getting fully diagnosed made things clearer but also raised more questions. Annie had tried eliminating gluten before without being consistent. Now she understood the critical importance of sticking to protocols in order to halt the autoimmune attack.
Since being diagnosed, Annie has learned so much, but realizes there are still gaps. When you’re diagnosed with Hashimoto’s there are many other steps beyond just diet changes. You really have to get your body back into balance on multiple levels.
She discovered previously unknown hormone imbalances she had, including low testosterone and high estrogen. Annie also experienced leaky gut issues and adrenal dysregulation, which required targeted support.
Navigating all the nuances of Hashimoto’s can quickly become complex and overwhelming. There are often financial limitations on testing and treatment options too. Still, Annie educates herself daily, continually connecting dots on her health journey.
What Has Helped Annie
Annie tried transitioning to a strict paleo diet eliminating gluten, dairy, soy and grains initially. She did feel some relief with this change. Exhaustive cardio workouts were also likely causing adrenal strain, so she switched to gentle yoga and Pilates practices.
However, some core lifestyle habits and exposures still require major changes she struggles with. Annie knows significant stress relief, gut healing, hormone balancing and immunity boosting protocols are key missing pieces.
After changing from Synthroid medication to natural desiccated thyroid treatment with Armour thyroid(containing T4 and T3), Annie unfortunately had a bad reaction, gaining 15 pounds rapidly. This triggered her longest Hashimoto’s flare yet, confirming additional factors needed to be addressed first.
Hashimoto’s Disease and Pregnancy
Research shows pregnancy and childbirth can commonly trigger onset of Hashimoto’s disease or exacerbate existing autoimmune conditions. The substantial hormonal shifts involved coupled with physical and emotional stresses often lead to postpartum thyroiditis.
Annie strongly believes her traumatic birthing experience with extreme blood loss played a role activating her Hashimoto’s. Surviving crisis-level challenges requires immense reserves which become depleted afterwards if proper recovery isn’t supported. It took the major toll of bringing Annie’s thyroid issues to surface.
Importance of Ongoing Care
It’s vital for Hashimoto’s patients to keep learning, listening to their body, and continually tweak protocols until they find what is best for them as an individual. Optimal wellness is a lifelong process needing patience and self-compassion. Relief occurs slowly through small cumulative daily improvements.
Getting regular blood panels to assess thyroid hormones, antibodies, nutrients, and other biomarkers allows precise calibration of medications and supplements. Dosages often need adjustment, but many practitioners leave patients at the same dose long term without fine tuning for each individual.
That’s one of the reasons I, Dr. Doni, feel so passionate about helping patients with low thyroid function and/or Hashimoto’s – because most patients are left without adequate help to optimize doses, nor to turn off the autoimmunity. And yet, there is so much we can do to help!
Accelerating self-healing involves recovery from stress and optimizing adrenal function (cortisol and adrenaline), balancing hormones, healing intestinal permeability and imbalance gut bacteria, facilitating lymph and liver detoxification, and reducing inflammation.
Having a solid support system is invaluable when dealing with the rollercoaster ride of Hashimoto’s. Connecting with others traversing the same illness provides reassurance, inspiration, and guidance when family and friends can’t fully relate. Patients remind each other to stick with the process, avoid quick fixes, and trust progress builds through time.
The Living with Hashimoto’s Summit, hosted by Annie, is live Feb 15th to the 19th. You can register here.
This Summit as an online event where those living with Hashimoto’s or those who have thyroid conditions, will gain tools, insights and perspective from top experts to live healthier, live with less or no symptoms at all and live a life they really love and deserve.
The topics that will be covered in the summit are unconventional ways to manage Hashimoto’s disease, dietary and lifestyle approaches to heal, nutrition foundations, balanced meals and blood sugar, discussing different root causes and the importance of finding your root cause, navigating Hashimoto’s and first steps to take, lab testing, mindset and shifting your mindset, weight loss, exercise, and adrenals and stress.
In fact, addressing adrenals and supporting stress recovery is what Annie interviewed me about for the summit! To hear that interview, be sure to sign up!
To learn more about my approach to treat Hashimoto’s Disease and my adrenal Stress Recovery Protocol® which involves optimizing cortisol and adrenaline levels using nutrients, herbs and C.A.R.E.™, my proprietary program to support clean eating, adequate sleep, stress recovery and exercise, you can read all about it in my latest book Master Your Stress Reset Your Health.
For the most comprehensive support, even with the most difficult health issues (physical or mental), it is best to meet with me one-on-one, which is available to you no matter where you are in the world (via phone or zoom). You can set up a one-on-one appointment here.
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