18: Thyroid Health & Autoimmune Disease

Thyroid Health and Autoimmune Disease Podcast with Dr Alan Christianson

The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland in the neck that is intricately involved in body temperature, proper digestion and cognitive function and hormone health. In other words, when the thyroid isn’t happy, the body isn’t functioning properly.

I know firsthand the frustration of living with thyroid disease and how difficult it can be to get the body back in balance. I saw many doctors over a period of 7 years before finding answers and I wanted to bring my doctor on the podcast to help shed some light on thyroid disease and autoimmune disease.

Dr. Alan Christianson

You couldn't wreck your day any more than by having a lot of carbs for breakfastDr. Alan Christianson is a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in natural endocrinology with a focus on thyroid health.

He read his family’s entire set of encyclopedia’s before he went to kindergarten and has always been highly intelligent.

In grade school, he struggled with epilepsy, poor coordination and obesity and after being made fun of in class one day, he resolved to get healthy. He read a lot of nutrition and health books, became interested in fitness and became the fastest runner in his class.

As a naturopathic doctor, he now helps thousands of people a year (including me) with his specialized approach to nutrition and natural medicine.

He founded Integrative Health, a practice of physicians in Arizona whose philosophy is to “Provide smart, safe, primarily natural and scientific solutions for the entire family to live in good health.”

Dr. Christianson also is a competitive unicyclist and enjoys mountain biking and rock climbing.

Thyroid Health

In this episode, we really delve into the topic of thyroid health and Dr. Christianson sheds some light on topics such as:

  • Why so many people are having trouble finding answers for thyroid problems
  • The holes in conventional testing and why “normal” lab results don’t necessarily mean there is not an issue with the thyroid
  • What Hashimoto’s disease is and how it differs from regular thyroid disease
  • Common symptoms of thyroid problems
  • Factors that must be optimized to help the thyroid get back in the balance
  • The unusual test he used to help diagnose my thyroid disorder
  • Why iodine can be harmful in some cases
  • How stress and sleep can have a bigger impact on thyroid health than food

Adrenal Health

Dr. Christianson has also done a lot of research in the area of adrenal health and he provides some unique insight on important factors to get them in balance. He is releasing a book in December about Adrenal/Thyroid health, but talks about some of the core concepts.

I found it fascinating that there are 60 animal species experiencing similar rises in rates of obesity as humans (even in situations where calories are controlled). Dr. Alan talks about his research into longevity and risk of death and how cortisol patterns were a better predictor of risk of death than common factors like smoking, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. In other words, someone with disrupted cortisol patterns would have a higher risk of dying from all causes than a smoker with heart disease.

He talks about unique factors that are not often suggested like making sure to get 30 minutes of outdoor light within an hour of rising to help regulate cortisol patterns and eating specific foods at specific times of day to support the adrenals. A favorite quote from the interview:

You couldn’t wreck your day any more than by having a lot of carbs for breakfast.

Resources we Mention

Have you ever struggled with thyroid or adrenal problems? Listen to this episode!

Thanks as always for listening to the Wellness Mama Podcast. If you’re enjoying these interviews, please subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher and leave a (5 Star!) rating and review if you haven’t already!

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Reader Interactions

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Reader Comments

  1. Hi! I love your site and find it so helpful. Thank you!
    I’m deaf~I was wondering if there are transcripts for the podcasts?

  2. Katie, first of all, I can’t tell you how much I have learned from your website and podcasts! Thank you. I was particularly intrigued with this podcast, as I have been undergoing testing for the past year for thyroid dysfunction. On top of that, I am struggling with infertility. The conventional docs I have seen seem to think levels are normal. After hearing this podcast, I’m beginning to think I might have Hashimoto’s. Any suggestions for where I could start by having this tested (i.e. which type of alternative medicine doc)? And, based on your experience, what medical regimens are typically recommended? Thanks! 🙂

    • A functional medicine doctor might be your best bet. It took a lot of tests and a thyroid ultrasound for me to finally get the diagnosis. The diet was really helpful and that is a step you can start right now even before you find a good doctor.

  3. This was great! I love the sun but just learned early morning is the most important time of day to take in the sun. Also, I am excited to know about the dinner meal being the most important meal and how this can create weight loss, simply by shifting the times when we eat more food during the day. You are an amazing young woman to share the things you love with all of us. We are never too old to learn and to share with others the things we find helpful. Thanks so much for all you do!

  4. Thank you so for sharing. I appreciate the detail, resources and that you are not selling anything.

    To your highest self, Barbara

  5. What an informative podcast! I have recently switched from eating a Paleo-style diet to a Weston A. Price diet, which has g-r-e-a-t-l-y improved my adrenal fatigue symptoms. I can hardly wait for Dr. Christianson’s book to come out about adrenal fatigue. I stressed myself into this place and now I want to “health” my way out of it :D. I’m curious if the 30-day autoimmune reset diet you did, Katie, might be helpful for people with adrenal fatigue as well while I’m waiting for the full recommendations in the book.

  6. This was a great pod cast! Are you able to work with Dr. Christensen as a patient long distance or do you have to go to his office? I live in KY and I am searching for a good alternative medicine phyisican. Did you say in the pod cast that you had blood testing done to determine that you were sensitive to eggs?

  7. Great podcast; liok forward to his new book. I have just requested testing for Hashimotos. I’ve been on Synthroid since Jan and was starting to feel so much better then all of a sudden fatigued and anxious once more. My TSH has come down immensely and my T3 and T4 had increased somewhat but now have dropped again. In addition to Hashimoto’s testing I asked for some T3. My dr seems at a loss and I am the one having to request/suggest things to try. I appreciate that she listens to me but wish SHE knew more about thyroid health and healing.

    • She is unfamiliar with natural meds and pulled up google in front of me yesterday to try and search for them :). At least she is honest.

  8. I’m wondering what you or the doctor think about using iodine tincture topically in cases of suspected hyporthyroidism. Thanks!

  9. Is this a result of a leaky gut?

  10. Good conversation. Dr. Alan is one of my favorite guys in the health field. Such a passionate and genius dude!

  11. This was a VERY informative pod cast! Love your forum. Thank you for sharing yours and others knowledge! Grateful x

  12. I have had some health problems for a few years and see that many of the symptoms are among the ones mentioned in this podcast for thyroid problems. I live in Pittsburgh. I have not been able to find a doctor who understands health the way you and Dr. Christianson do. Where do I start without a doctor, and not knowing what it is that my body needs, also being a fulltime student with little time on the side?

  13. I love the idea of the Adrenal Reset Diet, and I’m wondering if this is a good fit for someone with both leaky gut and Hashimotos?

    • The basic lifestyle principles are, you’d just be following a stricter version of the diet without the beans. The sleep, light protocols and stress relief are really important for leaky gut and Hashis though.

      • Thanks for the input–with the premise of the adrenal reset plan being to cycle carbs throughout the day, what would be your recommendation for getting the needed amount of carbs? What foods would be good carb sources for leaky gut issues? (is brown rice okay? are there other carb sources that I should consider?)

          • What is in the muffins and bread you occasionally eat?A paleo version or white rice flour? Can you share your recipe for egg free muffins?

  14. The link to the thyroid quiz is not correct.

  15. It appears that the podcast download link is broken? Or doesn’t play?

  16. Great Site BTW – thanks kindly …

  17. Hi Katie,

    I suffered an carotid aneurysm 4 years ago. At which time I was diagnosed with a hypothyroid and hypertension. At first the thyroid medication was too strong; my mind was racing. I was practically labeled damaged goods. However, I didn’t receive those thoughts cause I believe something caused it I don’t know what, but it can be cured. I am grabbing for straws here.

  18. Hi. I love your blog. I’ve been on thyroxine for about 1 year now and really want off. I read that synthetic hormone can damage the thyroid. What would you advise I take and where do I start

  19. My friend just turned me to your website after I was diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis just last week. A few months ago after a sleep study I was diagnosed with ‘atypical narcolepsy’ or hypersomnia. I now think my excessive fatigue is caused more from my thyroid and possibly my adrenals after listening to this podcast. Very eye opening and the symptoms are me to a T. My TSH is normal but my thyroid peroxidase antibody is 918 so my Dr. Is not treating my hashis yet, even though I am seriously symptomatic. As a nurse, I often leave the house before the sun rises and get home after it sets, do you think a sunlamp in the morning could possibly work for the 30 minutes of sunlight? Plus, I live in Michigan so sunlight is sometimes hard to come by anyhow.

  20. After having my first son a little over a year ago I am still struggling with my thyroid. I live in Nebraska (for now) and can’t find a decent doctor for the life of me. Is there any way I can find a good doctor that will treat me naturally and take me seriously in my area? Thanks

  21. Hi Wellness Mama, thank you for all the work you do to help so many families and individuals get healthy and heal their bodies. God bless you!

    I am undiagnosed and believe I fall under under active thyroid and hashimotos. Last Sept, a week after I stopped breastfeeding my 2+ yr old twin boys, my thyroid gland grew a goiter. I have been eating bone broths, green veggies, meats, healthy fats etc (NT diet) for about 3 1/2 years now. My labs for thyroid function are coming back “normal” and the US last Sept said it was a nodule that was big enough to do a needle incision biopsy. I had a biopsy done in February and it was benign. But the report didn’t conclude if it is Hashimotos. How do I get a test to conclude that? If I recall, from a few of your guest podcasts, that it is hard to get unless advanced stage. Is there a test to determine how much iodine my thyroid needs so I can figure out if I need more or less? It seems that when I started to take nascent iodine only own the goiter grew. Then I backed off and stopped supplementing with it. Then 3 months later a hollistic doctor tested me via kiniseology/muscle testing and said I tested well for a lugols iodine with selenium thiamine zinc vitamin c in the blend, however my goiter seems bigger so I stopped again. I live 2 hrs from Oklahoma City if you know of a great functional doctor. The one I am using is integrative except since my labs are “normal” she can’t tell me why I have a goiter then.

    • I don’t know of any good doctors in your area, unfortunately. My doctor has said that goiters are almost always a sign of Hashimotos. If you can’t find a good doctor in your area, you could at least try to address with diet and improving gut health to see if it would help.

  22. I am desperately trying to find answers to what’s wrong with me. Is it adrenal fatigue? Hypothyroidism? Hashimotos? Leaky Gut? Autoimmunity? Parasites? Cancer? Doctors keep telling me I’m fine. So I take to the internet to find answers. Now I feel just as confused. I cut out gluten and dairy and we already eat clean, but now I’m afraid to eat anything. Don’t eat nightshades if you have this and don’t eat goiteragens if you have that. Don’t eat seeds and nuts. Don’t eat eggs. Don’t eat legumes. Don’t eat grain. And then you hear others say how you need to eat all those things and never eat meat and plant based is the only way. I look at my healthy food and still feel like I’m failing my body and making the wrong choice. So frustrating and on top of being not well I’m pretty sure I’m giving myself an eating disorder worrying about it all.

  23. Hi Katie,
    My question is actually in response to your Adrenal Fatigue recovery blog post, but it seems the comments were closed. I am wondering if you had kidney filtration issues before treating your adrenal fatigue at all? And if so, how did you best treat that? I do plan to also have an entire thyroid panel done, as I know having pre-existing AF can cause thyroid issues.
    I am only 21 years old and have known about my AF since I was 19. I am on stage 3, and we think I have been operating in that stage, since I was about 13. I have been seeing a naturopath for the past 2 years, but my cortisol doesn’t seem to be coming up at all. In the process of treating it, I also got married, pregnant and had a baby, so I realize that was taxing on my body. However, I need some answers as I can’t operate like this. My quality of life has been substantially reduced and it is hard with a little 4 month old. I want to be able to be the best mother and wife that I possibly can, and this is not helping. Any advice would be helpful!

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