Have you ever had a leaky roof?
In college, I lived in an apartment that should have been condemned.
During a storm one day, the roof sprung an enormous leak. Then the wall next to my bedroom just opened up, and I watched black mold spill out everywhere.
At the time, I had been virtually bedridden for over a month with symptoms my doctor couldn’t explain.
Brain fog, low body temperature, and severe fatigue made it hard to do anything. I didn’t even want to play music anymore.
When you get sidelined by illness, your life can go into a tailspin. Dr. Amy Myers is back on Fat-Burning Man this week to make sure your thyroid, hormones, and lifestyle give you the energy and vitality you deserve.
On this show, you’ll learn:
- Why I was bedridden for 1.5 months in college
- How to optimize your metabolism and thyroid health
- The link between leaky gut and cancer
- The devastating hormonal effects of toxic mold
- How to choose your vices
- And much more…
Here’s the show.
DR. AMY MYERS: THE THYROID CONNECTION
Abel: Returning to the show this week, Dr. Amy Myers is a leader in functional medicine and New York Times bestselling author of The Autoimmune Solution and The Thyroid Connection. Dr. Myers originally misdiagnosed herself, and she understands the struggles of thyroid dysfunction firsthand.
Over the past decade, she has treated thousands of thyroid patients in her functional medicine clinic just down the road here in Austin, Texas. Thanks so much for coming back on the show, Dr. Myers.
I really appreciate you having me. Thanks so much. And I’d like to congratulate you, Abel, on all your success starring on ABC TV. It’s awesome.
Abel: Thanks, but I’ll say this: It’s weird to think that doctors are watching me on reality TV!
Well, I knew what you had to say was legit. It was pretty painful to watch some of the other experts and contestants. But to watch you, I was like, “Yeah, yeah. Show them—show them how it’s done.”
Abel: Well, when we filmed that show, I was playing poker. I to be educational on a platform that doesn’t lend itself to that at all. Reality TV is all about drama. Lord knows we have enough of that out there.
So let’s get right to it. Your hormones can actually start to control and even drive your personality, your health, your motivation. Everything in your life can change depending on your hormonal state. And you experienced that yourself firsthand. When you were misdiagnosed, you went through your own health journey in your thirties, in med school. Tell us about that.
My second year of med school, yeah. Actually, I was asked this question the other day about when I first got my diagnosis of Graves’ disease: Was it a sigh of relief? Because so many people, particularly with thyroid dysfunction and other chronic illnesses, they’re going from doctor to doctor, and it’s sometimes years before they actually get their diagnosis. I was somewhat lucky I did get brushed off by conventional medicine, and told it was stress.
I was a second-year medical student, learning different types of diseases and thinking I had them. So I definitely got brushed off, but stood there and insisted, “No, I need a full workup.” And I was also saying how being a med student, and certainly a doctor, I get treated by other doctors very differently than the average person does. I do get special treatment, frankly, even as a med student. It just automatically puts you in a different realm.
But they were asking, once I got my diagnosis, was I relieved? And for many diagnoses, people are relieved because they felt like, It’s all in my head. And I was told for years that I’m crazy. I didn’t feel that way. My symptoms came on pretty abruptly. And with Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism, it is a bit more easy to diagnose than, say, Hashimoto’s. So I wasn’t going doctor to doctor. And with my personal persistence and being a med student, even though I got brushed off, eventually, once they listened to me the diagnosis was easy to come to, so to speak.
With an autoimmune disease, the conventional treatments are so severe—horrible medication, which I eventually took at one point, and got toxic hepatitis. Or you can have your thyroid blown up or have it cut out. They’re so barbaric that, no, I wasn’t happy at all.
But what I was happy about was that I was having all this insomnia, and I was having these panic attacks, and I was having severe anxiety like I’d never experienced. You do think you’re crazy on some level. My parents, my friends, and my family were like, “Who is this mad woman? She’s like, flying off the rail. In a second, she’s freaked out about everything.”
Once I had my thyroid ablated, I was having these dumping syndromes. So I’d be fine, and then I would literally have a panic attack. I had to carry around Xanax with me everywhere I went, for months.
I do have a type A personality, and I’m more goal-oriented as one might say, or high-strung as others might say, or determined or whatever. Successful—whatever words you wanna use. I am that person kind of at a baseline, but it was like that on steroids when I was having full-blown Graves’ disease.
It was a relief to find out that it really was just my overactive thyroid. Because I was thinking, like, “Oh my God, is this my life? That I’m going to worry every time I go to church or to a movie theater, that I’m in an enclosed space, that I’m going to have this panic attack, and I’m going to be stuck in the middle aisle, and not be able to get out of the situation?” So that part was a relief to me, to realize that it was my hormones sort of taking over the rest of my body. And after a very long roller coaster, that did go away.
THE IMPACT OF HORMONES ON BEHAVIOR
Abel: And it’s extremely common. One of my friends who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer a few years ago. Before her diagnosis, there was a moment where her friends and family had discussed the fact that her personality seemed to change rapidly. But then the diagnosis made sense.
I read in your book that at least 60 percent of thyroid disorders are undiagnosed. Hyperthyroidism presents very differently in terms of symptoms than hypo would. My mother, Angie, is hypothyroid, as are many others on her side of the family.
What can our listeners do to make sure they’re doing the right tests and getting a better handle on their health?
First, I want to say we’re often speaking of our hormones as these isolated systems. That is, the thyroid hormone, or sex hormones, or progesterone and estrogen, are off if you’re a woman. Or it’s low testosterone if you’re a male, or it’s your adrenal hormones or your blood sugar hormones.
Back in the day, we’d talk about the telephone and the telephone wires all being connected. These signals are being bounced all over the place. When you and I are on Skype, it’s not just you to me. There are signals going out everywhere to make this conversation happen. And what’s going on in the body is not just that it’s your thyroid sitting in isolation, or your thyroid going to talk to your brain or going to talk to your digestion. All of these hormones are talking to one another simultaneously, all the time. So when there’s an imbalance in one, it’s going to lead to an imbalance in another.
It all gets out of whack, and that’s why there are so many symptoms with thyroid dysfunction: For women it would be hair falling out, menstrual irregularities, and infertility or miscarriages. For men it’s low libido, anxiety, depression, brain fog, overactive brain, hair falling out. I mean, it’s affecting every system, and every hormonal system as well.
Obviously, I would tell everybody to pick up a copy of The Thyroid Connection, as opposed to my first book, The Autoimmune Solution. That book was like, “Conventional medicine has that wrong, don’t do that. Read my book, here’s another program, work with your doctor to get off your meds.”
With thyroid, if I didn’t take my supplemental thyroid hormone, I’d die. Most people out there do have hypothyroidism. Or, if you’re like me, and you had hyper and you’ve now had something radical done, and you are technically hypo now, you have to have that supplemental thyroid hormone. Like I said, I would die if I didn’t have it.
There are people in the very early inflammatory stage that maybe don’t have to get on it. Or by going through the program in the book and taking the supplements, and doing the diet. Or they’ve gotten on it, and it was very early in their diagnosis, and we couldn’t get them off it. But like I said, most people see five or six doctors. It takes ten years for the diagnosis, and they’ve been on it for years. The doctor says, “There’s been enough damage that I can’t regrow your thyroid tissue.” So this book is very much a “work with your doctor” book. And I know not everybody can get to a functional medicine doctor, so it’s really written for you to be able to work with your conventional doctor.
It goes through and explains exactly what labs to get. Of course, I can go over those. It covers the optimal reference ranges, because that’s a big problem—60 percent of these people are not getting diagnosed because we’re using outdated reference ranges. It also covers things that you can do to support the thyroid, with nutrients, diet, lifestyle factors… and then things to prevent thyroid problems in the first place.
It’s not like, “Oh, I already had mine ablated and I feel great on my meds, I’m not going to get the book.” It’s like, “Well, why did you get Graves’ or Hashimoto’s?” This is going to help you figure that out and get to that root cause. Maybe I can’t get my thyroid back, but hopefully I can prevent another autoimmune disease coming down the line… or cancer.
So if you have autoimmunity, you likely have a leaky gut. The book walks you through what I call the five factors that are influencing all chronic disease, but certainly thyroid dysfunction and how to heal from those, even if you are feeling good on your meds.
Most likely a lot of people aren’t feeling good on their supplemental thyroid hormone. Or they’ve been told they don’t have thyroid dysfunction, but they actually do. Their doctors may not be checking the right tests, or when they do, they’re interpreting the tests with outdated reference ranges.
HOW TO KNOW THERE’S A SERIOUS PROBLEM
Abel: My mom does this every so often—she’s a holistic health practitioner herself, a nurse practitioner, an herbalist, and an author. But she’s hypothyroid, and has been dealing with that for over a decade now at this point. I know she was originally on Synthroid, and then switched to what she calls “piggy thyroid,” and the differences in her personality and in her metabolism were blatantly obvious to her and the people around her.
So it was definitely a journey, trying to get those hormones dialed in. I think a lot of people might not realize that they’re not feeling optimal. So for you, was it a hard shift into realizing something was seriously wrong? Or was it just a gradual thing, where it’s like, “I’m getting older and this is just the way it is?”
I can speak to this, even about my recent toxic mold exposure. It’s sort of like the frog in the pot; you’re there and you’re not noticing these things.
I had returned from the Peace Corps and moved to Seattle. I didn’t know anybody and started taking prerequisites for med school. So I had an adjustment from the Peace Corps—it is far harder adjusting to home than it was adjusting there. And then I was living in a new city and taking classes, after I’d been living literally in the middle of nowhere, kind of doing nothing all day. I mean, I was working with farmers, but I wasn’t in a classroom studying, with high pressure. Then I came home to New Orleans, and while I was home for the summer, my mother got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she died four months later.
So then I moved all my stuff back to New Orleans and was continuing prerequisites for med school, then got into med school, which was so hard. And so this was the very beginning of my second year of medical school. I’d had two and a half or three years of severe stress right before that. So, when I start to have panic attacks and insomnia and anxiety, I’m kind of thinking, “Well, I don’t know. Is this how I’m responding to this? This is super stressful.”
I remember in med school, the first test we had was on the hand. I think it was the hand. And I’m thinking to myself in class, they went over all the major arteries and all the major muscles. And then kind of on our own, we were expected to get into the hand and know every single muscle, insertion point, every nerve, everything. And I’m studying and I’m thinking, “Surely they’re not expecting me in two days to know every single branch of an artery and every nerve and every single muscle in the hand.” Because you wouldn’t believe how many freaking muscles are in your hand. And I see a friend at the coffee shop, and she’s like, “Yeah, of course we need to know all that.” And I’m panicked. Like, “What? They literally gave us two days to learn every innervation and every insertion.”
For me it was this situation where I’d had all this stress. At first you do think, “Oh, okay, this is stress.” But then it gets out of control. For me it was when I had a hand tremor: I would go get something and my hand would tremor, and I’m like, “Okay, that is not stress. That is something bad. That is not good.” That’s when I went to the doctor.
But, same thing: I recently had this toxic mold exposure that I was talking to you about, which is why it is echoing in this apartment right now. But I had moved in with my husband and he was in a new house, and he had a cat, and there was off-gassing. So I just thought it was all of that. And then, I’m also getting married and I have a book coming out.
So again, you kind of attribute all this stuff to stress, or it’s this or it’s that. And when I’d taken everything away and couldn’t find any other reason, I realized that’s what it was. We still never found anything, but I am so sensitive that I can assure you there was something there. We did look, but we couldn’t find anything.
So I got out for myself, but it’s one of those things. I think we all do this: We kind of make these excuses of, it’s this or it’s that. People don’t want to admit that there’s something wrong with them, or that they have a health issue. So we make excuses that it’s something external, rather than something wrong with us or that your body is broken.
Abel: It takes, at a philosophical level, admitting to yourself that you are mortal, that you can’t ignore it anymore. You have weaknesses and you need to face them.
It reminds me of when I was in college. This was sophomore year at Dartmouth. We were living in a great apartment. I couldn’t believe scored the place as sophomores. It was right above a combined Subway and Ben and Jerry’s. The apartment had been there for a long time, and it had been college students living there forever. So the place was an absolute mess – it should have been condemned. And within a few months of moving there, I got so sick that I really couldn’t get out of bed for more than a week. It turned out I had mono, which lasted for more than a month.
At one point it started raining and the roof sprung an enormous leak. Then the wall just opened up, and you could see black mold spilling out everywhere.
And looking back, I had brain fog. It was really hard to take tests at the time. I was taking piano lessons and it wasn’t really working out. My body temperature was starting to have problems. My thyroid started seeming like it was acting up. My numbers were just going crazy. But I think a lot of people don’t realize that it could be toxic mold, it could be thyroid problems, it could be a lot of different things. So what’s a good way for someone to figure out the root cause of their symptoms?
When I see young men with thyroid dysfunction… It’s far more common in women than it is men, and more in your forties and fifties, with shifts in hormones. And so that’s really one of the things where I say conventional medicine is failing us, particularly men—it’s that they’re not even checking. But when I see a young man with thyroid dysfunction, toxic mold and Lyme are two of the biggest things I’m thinking of.
You’re got a family history, which I rarely see in men. I see it all the time in women. But so it was likely that your thyroid was getting out of whack. And just for all the men out there—I don’t know if you have a large population of men that are listening to your podcast—but if you’re having problems with testosterone, with thyroid, certainly adrenal issues are something I think of.
But unless you are super into Crossfit, or a super-duper type A, high-intensity stress person, the likelihood is that it could be something more serious—particularly if you’ve gone to doctors and not gotten the answer of toxic mold or Lyme.
I find in my clinic that toxic mold, particularly if you’re have exposure every day, is more of a constant feeling bad, whereas Lyme is more of a cyclical type situation, because it’s an infection that has a life cycle. So those people are usually like, “I felt great or not great, but okay for these four days. And then the next four days I did the exact same thing. And I felt terrible; I could barely get out of bed.” I would just invite people, if they’re in that boat—particularly young men, and men in general—if you haven’t gotten answers and you have a thyroid issue, you might want to see if you fit some of those symptoms.
Abel: I get excited about all of this, finding the little problems. You have to let your ego go for a second. Even at that time that I had mono, I didn’t know that it was related to mold at the time. But within those few years, my mom had the thyroid problems, I had all sorts of problems with the mono and the mold and all that, and my brother got Lyme disease.
Oh, wow, I didn’t know your brother had Lyme.
Abel: My brother, and eventually both of our dogs got Lyme disease, too. This was back in New Hampshire. And I think a lot of people listening, they might be like, “Yeah, everything’s cool. I don’t necessarily go to the doctor that often or get everything checked, but everything’s cool, I just feel the way that I do.” What’s the best way for people, would you say, to level it up? To suck it up, and say, “I’m not going to be perfect, I’m not going to get perfect results, I’m not going to ace this test.” But to go into, hopefully, a functional medicine practitioner and be like, “Let’s work on this, doc. What have I got?”
The glasses came off for me at the end of the first time I ever did an elimination diet. I was a vegetarian for twenty-seven years, so I was eating a lot of Ezekiel bread, Tofurky, even dairy. And so when I went on an elimination diet, that was pretty radical for me, getting off the wheat. And I just remember I could smell better, I could hear better. The entire world just looked more vibrant. I think it’s that frog in the pot again, or you have on the glasses, and you don’t realize how dirty they are. So I think if you have listeners who haven’t already changed their diet, that’s really one of the first ways that I see. Because diet plays such a big role.
That’s why my book, The Thyroid Connection, has this “work with your doctor” component, but also a whole program surrounding getting to the root causes, plus a 28-day program focused around food and diet and stress reduction. And of course getting to the root of the toxins, and infections, and leaky gut and all that stuff.
If you go get the thyroid medicine, but you don’t change your diet, you’re going to feel better, but you’re not going to feel as good as you could. And if you change the diet but you don’t go get the supplemental thyroid hormone if you need it, or if you’re Graves’ and you’re not doing something to address that…
I have a whole program for those with hyperthyroidism, with herbs and stuff that are more natural, and calming, than doing something that I did. And it’s a great place to hopefully solve your problem, and if not, at least get started so you’re not doing all this stuff. So what I would say is, one great way to really assess is asking, are you that person that thinks you feel great, but you really don’t? Change your diet.
So my diet… although I call it The Myers Way, because it’s what I’ve adapted, that works in my clinic. But at a fundamental, sort of broad perspective, it’s a Paleo, autoimmune program. I’d probably take out some things because of the autoimmune component, but it’s very similar to what you’re advocating as well. And so I don’t call myself Paleo because I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. But for people who are watching you, they kind of understand that it’s Wild Diet-approved.
I think if anybody’s listening and they haven’t gone through your program, or something like mine, that it is a great place to start to kind of wipe off those glasses.
Then to your second point: I think when people get a diagnosis of something, or they’re scared to go to the doctor because they’re scared there’s something wrong, even though intuitively they know there’s something wrong, what I would say is, “Your intuition is typically always right. You’re always going to know yourself better than any doctor will.” Even I don’t ever claim that I know my patients better than they know themselves. Why not go investigate?
It’s kind of crazy to me, when certain movies come out, about GMOs or… I was talking to some people about Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey Smith and they were like, “Oh God, I would never go see that movie.” And I’m like, “You have small children, why would you not want to see it? And then if you choose to do something else, that’s your prerogative.”
That’s how I feel about people: Knowledge is power. And I love to get a lot of information to people, and then what they choose to do with it is their own. But why would you not want to know? To let something be festering, or to feel like you’re admitting that something happened, and then you need to take supplemental thyroid hormone when you could feel amazing once you do. That is why I call it “supplemental thyroid hormone” rather than medication.
It isn’t that you’re overweight, or you have high blood pressure, or something that you could be controlling on your own. If your thyroid has had so much inflammation and has been so damaged over the years that it’s no longer producing, it’s just like a type 1 diabetic. They need insulin to survive.
So I don’t consider it defeat that you had to get on it or you can’t get off it. It’s just what it is. And then I would invite people to, again, read the book and figure out how they got there in the first place, and what they can do to help optimize their thyroid function, making sure they’re taking a good quality multivitamin, of course. And eating good quality foods that contain things like iodine and zinc and selenium, and what we need to make our thyroid convert from the storage form to the active form, because that’s a huge problem I see for people. It’s just not having the nutrients they need to make that conversion, and therefore, they’re hypothyroid.
SHOULD WE SUPPLEMENT THE THYROID WITH IODINE?
Abel: Now, for people who aren’t eating iodized salt, a lot of people in this community or in ancestral health may have given that up a long time ago, but in some cases, they might not be getting enough iodine. So what’s your stance on kelp and iodine supplementation?
I don’t think any salt is iodized anymore. They’ve removed it from everything in United States. So I think that’s actually part of the problem of why we have such an epidemic of thyroid dysfunction—we’re not getting the iodine through our diet, whether that was through salt or eating sea vegetables and iodine-rich foods—and then we are bombarding our bodies, because we’ve replaced iodine and things with bromide and chloride and fluoride, and these are all very similar to iodine on the periodic table and they have the same charge in our body.
Our thyroid has the largest amount of iodine, and when we’re being exposed to bromides and flame retardants in our sofa and our mattress and our carpets, and we’re being exposed to them in baked goods, and fluoride in our water and chloride in our water, it’s displacing all this iodine.
Part of the epidemic is that we don’t have the iodine coming, and then we have all these things displacing it. So I believe most people are in an iodine-deficient state. Now, there are people out there that are advocating 50 milligrams of iodine. I’ve seen people come into my clinic and swear that solved their thyroid dysfunction, and I have seen people come in and swear it caused it. The jury’s out on that. I don’t use it in those dosages. I’ve formulated a multivitamin, the Myers Way multivitamin, that’s there to support really anybody, but especially those with thyroid dysfunction. I have 300 micrograms of iodine in it. I do think that we need it, and again, that’s thousands fold lower than what I was just talking about. We’re talking about micrograms, not milligrams.
I do think that for people with thyroid dysfunction, typically part of the problem is an iodine deficiency. Of course, you’ll go to your regular doctor and they’re like, “Iodine, don’t take it, it’s going to cause a problem.” I disagree. I think I’ve only seen one or two people ever have a reaction to iodine in my clinic.
I’m not saying you can’t be one of them, and you do need to be cautious. It’s an individual thing, but for the vast, vast majority of people, I do think that they need it. As for sea kelp, I don’t have a problem with eating sea kelp, you just need to be very careful with all the radiation these days and be careful of where you’re getting your kelp. I certainly have some recipes in my book that incorporate seaweed, because it’s a thyroid book, so we want to incorporate iodine-rich foods. The best place to get your nutrients is from your food supply, and not be taking supplements. But unfortunately, I think we live in a world where the nutrients in our food supply are diminished, people aren’t eating optimally, and so supplementation is a great thing.
Abel: Now, a lot of people might be guilty of this, listening to show after show, or reading thing after thing, and not really getting to that ultimate “why.” What are the stakes? Why am I doing this? Why do I want to eat better, get out there, move, sleep better?
They’re all boring when you think about it. They’re things that we know we should be doing, but you might not know why. You provide an excellent example of someone who’s at the advanced end of that.
You went through serious health changes. There were some serious stakes – like panic attacks – that you had to face right then. So could you provide a few words for people out there who aren’t taking action yet, who don’t know what the stakes are? Because it’s not just leaky gut, it’s not just a little bit of a stressor or infection here and there; it can manifest itself as cancer down the road, or death, or something that completely changes your personality if you don’t get a handle on it.
I certainly don’t want people to live in fear. That is not how I go through things or how I rate my books. I want to you to have enough information to realize this is why you should do something. I hope you do it, but it’s your choice, and here’s how to easily incorporate it into your life—that’s why we call it the Myer’s Way. It’s a way of life; it’s not a diet, it’s not a quick fix.
The program in the book is a 28-day program to get you jump-started, and if that’s all you need, that’s great. If you need to go further, that’s great. And then we show you how to add the foods back in and figure out what are your absolute “no”s and what are your, “Okay, I can do this on occasion,” and, “Okay, I can add this back in, no problem.”
Certainly gluten and dairy I hope everybody with thyroid dysfunction leaves out, because of the molecular mimicry. I talk all about that in the book. I think the thing is that the vast majority of thyroid dysfunction is autoimmune in nature. And of course, the vast majority of that is Hashimoto’s. The book is for anybody with Hashimoto’s, Graves’, thyroid cysts, thyroid nodules, or anyone who’s had their thyroid removed because of cancer, or what I did. Or anybody who thinks they have it but has been told they don’t.
I get asked that question a lot: “There are all these books for Hashimoto’s, do you cover this, that, and the other?” Yes, I cover it all. I had Graves’; I’m not going to leave us out, guys.
I got all kinds of nasty emails from people being like, “You have no idea what I’ve been through.” And I’m like, “Well actually, I do. I’ve been through probably worse.” I wasn’t trying to diminish that. It’s to say, it’s not multiple sclerosis, it’s not rheumatoid arthritis, it’s not scleroderma, it’s not polymyositis, it is not a debilitating or even life-threatening Lupus.
You’re lucky in one sense if you have an autoimmune condition. That one’s the one you want to have.
The solution is to supplement with thyroid hormone, not to take harsh medications to shut down your immune system. I’m not diminishing anybody. For many people they might think, “No big deal, right? I’m on my supplemental thyroid hormone, I feel pretty good. Why do I even need to be listening to this talk? I’ve got it handled.” Well, that’s the point: If you look down the road, if you haven’t gotten to that root cause, you’re three times more likely to have another autoimmune condition, and it might be one of these others. You still have leaky gut if you never healed that, and so you are opening yourself up. You’ve never closed the floodgates.
It’s not meant to scare anybody; it’s just to give them the intelligent information. These are the things that could come down the line, and so I’d invite you to look into them, because don’t you wanna continue, even if you feel awesome on your supplemental thyroid hormone, to feel awesome for years and years to come? For yourself and for your family and everything else. For me, that’s what keeps me going, or what keeps the stakes where they are.
Not to mention that I absolutely practice what I preach, and for me that’s important. And even people that come to work with me, if they’re not doing this, they eventually do over time, because it’s just the culture that I’ve created at the office. I want patients to know that I’m not telling them to do something that I’ve not done myself or that I’m not doing myself.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR VICES
Abel: I can tell you it’s a lot easier to eat a salad when you know what the stakes are. It was really interesting: I was on a trip with a bunch of mostly young men, young entrepreneurs and friends of mine, and just watching the garbage go into their mouths over the course of the weekend was shocking, because a lot of the times I’m hanging out with healthy people like you. I live in a health nut bubble.
Some of them were shocked, even though they know I’m a professional health nut, that I wasn’t eating processed garbage. But especially after doing it this long, I have high standards, and processed food doesn’t cut it.
When I look at it, if it’s processed food, if it comes from Walmart in a tiny little package or whatever, even if I’m hungry, it’s like, “That’s not food.” And I can tell you every time it’s really easy to make that decision.
It’s not like, “Oh, I have to eat vegetables and I’m bummed about it.” It’s like, “I’m empowered by eating the right thing because I know it’s nourishing my body and giving me energy to perform at my best.” That is psychologically where we want people to get.
I was recently reading somebody’s Facebook post about the 100 percent rule, and it’s so true. My life is so much easier with that. Now, I wish I could say that I do that to sugar a hundred percent of the time, and I don’t. I eat sugar on occasion, and I’m like, “If I had the 100 percent rule with sugar like I do with gluten and dairy, it just wouldn’t even be an issue.”
Once you take on this 100 percent rule around whatever it is that you are adopting—and it doesn’t even have to be surrounding food, it could be having negative people in your life. It could be anything. But once you adopt that, it’s that you don’t have to think about it… and it’s true.
It’s also a hell of a lot easier if you surround yourself with people who have this as their way of life, because then you don’t even think about it. Sometimes I agree, I’m in this bubble. I’m like, “Oh, the rest of the world doesn’t do this?” Because so many of my friends and now my staff, everybody lives this way… So even my family, who were like, “Gluten, gluten, gluten,” we have Paleo Thanksgiving and Christmas now!
It’s so much easier when you don’t have to think about it. I was at dinner with some friends and they had ordered a dessert to share at the table, and it came, and one looked down and she’s like, “Oh, sorry Amy,” and I was like, “Oh! I didn’t even notice it was here.” On some level I did, but I looked at it, and registered, “You’re not going to eat that.”
Abel: Like a bread basket, right?
Yeah. It’s literally there, boom, move on. It wasn’t like, “Oh God, that looks so good. I wish I could have that. I can’t believe they ordered that with me here.”
I love how somebody referred to it as the 100 percent rule. Once you adopt that for whatever your foods are—and I’m not saying everything in the world, but you just pick what you know are the ones that you don’t wanna eat for whatever reason, like GMOs or packaged foods or they have gluten or dairy or whatever your “no” foods are—and once you adopt that, it’s like it’s not even there.
It’s like caffeine: I cannot drink caffeine. My husband’s over there with iced coffee, I smell it, it looks amazing—but it’s like it’s not even in my consciousness that I’m going to pick it up and have that cup, because I know that I will be having symptoms like when I was hyperthyroid. I just wish I could get there with sugar, and I’m not there yet, but maybe one day I will be.
Abel: Choose your vices; that’s part of the fun.
I don’t need a ton of sugar at all, but the gluten-free, dairy-free cupcake on your birthday or special occasion or whatever, yeah.
Abel: It’s so funny. This also came up recently and I saw it. I think someone shared it on our coaching community, but it was a picture of one of those little Chobani yogurts with blueberry preserves. It shows that it’s got 15 grams of sugar, and the specific nutrients in it. “Nutrients”—I’m using air quotes here. And then it compares it to Breyers Vanilla Ice Cream, and they’re almost exactly the same.
And I commented, “I’m going for the ice cream every time.” Choose the right treats and move on.
That’s the thing that people really don’t get. People don’t understand that the Snickers bar is perceived as being bad, but the protein bar that’s the cookie dough formula protein bar might have a couple grams more protein in it (or not really, because the Snickers has the peanuts), so they’re really not that different. When you’re eating real whole food, you just don’t even have to worry about that.
Abel: Especially if you’re making your own desserts, then you can have a heck of a lot of fun with it. So that’s what I usually do instead of having the Breyers—I won’t eat that crap anymore—but you go home, you make your own ice cream, and all of a sudden it tastes so much better. It feels so much better and you don’t get wrecked that night or the next day or anything like that.
But we are coming up on time, so I wanted to make sure we cover one last kind of personal question, which is that you mentioned earlier that you’re type A, which is obvious, and that you’re definitely successful… as an overachiever, I can definitely empathize with that.
As I was saying before this interview, I think, especially as a doctor, you’re trained to punish yourself and stay up all night and really just work and work and work and work. And then when you go out and let off steam, a lot of times there’s even less sleep and you’re partying with your friends or whatever. This is the way a lot of overachievers or type A people are trained over the course of their lives. But if you want to be healthy, you need to untrain yourself from that; you need to take your foot off the gas every once in a while and get a handle on those lifestyle factors and the quality of life.
So on your journey of health, what have you been struggling with recently? What have you learned about how to make your sanity a priority?
In some ways that was me; in other ways it was not. I’ve never been a big partier, a big drinker. I’ve never been that work hard, play hard person. I’ve been work hard, rest hard.
I remember I was talking to Mark Hyman one time, and he’s just like, “Yeah, I have two switches, on and off.” So even in med school, and certainly in college, there were all-nighters and things like that. But once I got to med school I was in my thirties, and I had experienced the Peace Corps. Literally sitting around like, “Wow, it’s hot.” Not much you can talk about with people… in the middle of nowhere.
Sleep is a huge priority for me. I need nine to ten hours a night and always have. So I didn’t compromise my sleep in med school; I don’t compromise my sleep now. My staff knows. We did this interview at 10 a.m. and I don’t do anything before 10 a.m.
I think as I’ve gotten busier, and as I have certainly achieved some financial success, where I choose to spend my money is on things that allow me that time. Rather than doing the three flights to get somewhere and save $200, I take the direct flight. If the 10 a.m. flight is more expensive, I am now in a financial position to be able to do that… That’s what I do instead of buying nice things.
I choose to find things that allow me to continue to be successful and achieve a lot of things, but that don’t wear me down as much. And then, like during this time with the toxic mold, I’ve gotten very sick. I was in the middle of writing The Thyroid Connection and obviously, that was extremely stressful. We moved out of our house into an apartment. I literally went over with the mattress on the floor and that was all I had—that and my computer and my phone.
I’m not kidding. And then trying to write a book and all this stuff. And so the book, The Thyroid Connection, has a whole chapter on stress this time, and all the things that I did: heart rate variability, heart math.
I get up every morning, I put on my strap, I see, “Did I recover from the day before?” If not, I try to take it easier that day. I do heart math. It’s a whole host of stuff that I’ve done—acupuncture, float tanks—you name it, I certainly have tried it. Some things I didn’t feel helped; other things did. I write all about that and incorporated it into the program this time, because I did feel like I had gotten sick and then I had gotten well.
I’ve even experienced toxic mold exposure before, but as soon as I got out I just hit the ground running. And this time I got really sick, and it was just kind of a wakeup call for me, that even though I’m living this life, what was the piece that I wasn’t addressing in all of this? Was it more stress? Because of course, we’re busy people and the last thing we want is to slow down and take a few minutes. And I kind of realized if I don’t take these few minutes, I’m really frying at both ends. So fortunately I have always been a person that does hot baths, sauna, nine hours of sleep, if at all possible.
Even in my own life, just starting the day off studying that page or taking a few minutes during the day to do some deep breathing and just restore myself. And it’s hard. It’s not hard to do, but it’s hard when I genuinely feel that my purpose in life is to—I know this sounds super trite, but it’s not, it’s genuine—is to help as many people as possible.
Conventional medicine failed me, and it’s my mission to make sure it doesn’t fail you, too.
When you literally are living a life with that kind of purpose, it is difficult. My husband doesn’t really understand that I am—the minute I think of something, I’m doing it, because it’s a way to help more people. It’s like, “Оh, I just found this person, this celebrity has hypothyroidism. Who do I know that might possibly have their address? I’ve got to get them a book.” He’s literally at the post office right now, mailing off books to some people.
Abel: I love it. And also in your book, you have a really cool explanation of how to structure your day for health.
So the value in having written one book is knowing the feedback of what worked and what didn’t work. Before it was like, “Here’s a sample day, now repeat this every day.” And this time it was like, okay, I heard there were a lot of supplements, so I backed that off. I created The Myers Way Multivitamin, and then of course probiotics, fish oils, vitamin D.
Then, literally every day, it’s like, day one, get up at whatever time. Do this, then do this, then eat this, then do this, then eat this, then do this. And we have twenty-eight pages of exactly what to do every day, because it sounded like people needed a little more guidance than what I had given them in the last one.
HOW TO BUILD YOUR MORNING ROUTINE
Abel: Tell us a little more about your morning routine. How do you start your day?
Here’s what I do…
- Wake up with enough time that you’re not feeling stressed in the morning.
- Drink two big glasses of water with lemon, and take your supplemental thyroid hormone if you do that.
- Sit down and do ten minutes (twenty if you can) of meditation, prayer, or whatever centers you and calms you. You could use Muse, or David Delight, whatever works for you.
- Have breakfast.
And then, this is what I do when the lights go down, and it drives my husband insane. All the amber lights come on in the house—we have lamps all around. I put on my funky glasses that he can’t stand, but that’s what I need to help set my melatonin, putting on the amber glasses. And again, before bed, whether it’s a hot bath, or if you have access to a sauna, and then again just that ten or twenty minutes if you can, of repeating what you did in the morning or finding another activity.
So for the stress activities, we divided them into sort of daily things, many of which are free or might require some kind of app, but minimal charge. Two things that I invite you to try once a week—maybe trying acupuncture for the first time or a float tank. Then there are some things to try even once a month, which might be talking to a coach or counselor, to doing neurofeedback.
WHERE TO FIND DR. AMY MYERS
October 24th through the 31st, Dr. Amy Myers is hosting the Thyroid Connections Summit, which is a free, online event for everybody. Amy is also filming a PBS special that will come out in March for The Thyroid Connection.
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Do you or someone you know experience thyroid-related health issues? Leave a comment below to let us know what you thought of this interview with Dr. Amy Myers.