7 Hidden Triggers That Are Keeping You Sick [Podcast]

PCOS Podcast No. 97 with Dr. Becky Campbell - 7 PCOS Triggers That Are Keeping You SickDr. Becky Campbell is a board-certified doctor of natural medicine with expertise in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. Her new book, “The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan” has great information for women with PCOS whether you have thyroid issues or not. Listen in as we discuss the 7 PCOS triggers that are keeping you sick. Get ready for an “ah-ha” moment or two as she connects the dots.

  • The leaky gut- thyroid link
  • What to do before checking for food sensitivities
  • The stress/sleep disruption/ insulin resistance/ inflammation connection
  • Suggested tests to tailor treatment

Mentioned in this podcast:

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Dr. Becky Campbell is a board-certified doctor of natural medicine who was initially introduced to functional medicine as a patient. She struggled with many of the issues her patients struggle with today, and she has made it her mission to help patients all around the world with her virtual practice. Dr. Becky Campbell is the founder of Dr. Becky Campbell.com and author of “The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan.” She has been featured on multiple online publications like Mindbodygreen, Bustle, Popsugar and more. She has been a guest on the Balanced Bites Podcast as well as many others as a thyroid health expert. Dr. Campbell specializes in Thyroid disease, Autoimmune disease and Histamine Intolerance and hopes to help others regain their life as functional medicine helped her regain hers.

Complete Transcript:

Amy Medling:    Today’s guest is Dr. Becky Campbell. She is a board-certified doctor of natural medicine with expertise in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. She’s the founder of the popular blog, drbeckycampbell.com, and the author of “The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan.”

Amy Medling:    Welcome, Dr. Becky, to the PCOS Diva podcast.

Dr. Becky:            Thank you so much for having me.

Amy Medling:    Well I was fortunate enough to get a copy of your fantastic new book, and I’ve been reading it over the last couple days, and it’s such a great manual, I think, not only for women with thyroid issues, which many of us with PCOS have, but also just women with chronic health conditions in general. So congrats on your book.

Dr. Becky:            Thank you so much.

Amy Medling:    So, you are a functional medicine practitioner and I just wanted you to take a moment to explain to listeners what that means, and what makes you different from your traditional allopath mainstream medical doctor.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, so I think the biggest difference, and the way that I view it, is when you have an issue, and you go to a conventional medicine practitioner, you’re typically going to get more of a minimal blood testing. And it’s gonna be a problem that you find once it’s become really bad, bad enough to show up out of the conventional medicine lab ranges. And typically, you’ll be given a medication to manage the disease, not really any information on diet or exercise to go along with that. And honestly, from what I hear from my patients, a lot of times they experience their doctor saying that diet has nothing to do with it when clearly research shows otherwise.

And then when you go to functional medicine doctor, I think what we try to do is take the testing a step further. Digging in not only to find out do you have … let’s say it’s a thyroid condition. But, doing testing and looking at different ranges to see where it is in the disease. If it’s early, we wanna catch it early. And then not only catch it, but then see well what else could be driving this? What’s going on with other areas of the body that could be making you feel the way that you do or making your body respond the way that it is.

So, following that up with specific diet plans to help support whatever’s going on in the body. Trying to do more natural stuff, like meditation, and even increasing your social life, things that make you happy, and then looking at supplementation for things that your body’s missing. So, I’d say less of a band aid kind of approach. More of like really digging in and figuring out where all things are coming from.

Amy Medling:    Yeah, we often hear, “getting to the root cause of your condition,” rather than just treating the symptoms.

Dr. Becky:            Right.

Amy Medling:    Yeah. And so I thought your book was really interesting because you present this idea of hidden triggers, or what I was thinking of in terms of road blocks, that keep you from optimum health. And I think women with PCOS, we’re dealing with a lifelong condition and these roadblocks, or triggers, that you talk about in your book are so applicable to women with PCOS. I think that’s something that we really need to consider and I would love it if you could give us an overview of what you believe the seven hidden triggers are that are keeping you sick.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, and like you said I think that these triggers really apply to so many different things that people can be going through with their health. And, you know, a lot of people with PCOS have Hashimoto’s, like you said, so it’s another reason why these really apply to both kind of equally.

So, the first thing is leaky gut. Leaky gut is really kind of at the top of the list for issues that we’re finding in people these days that can cause so many negative symptoms and conditions. So …

Amy Medling:    Can I ask you … just interrupt for a second. Can I ask you why is it that if you go to your regular primary care practitioner and mention leaky gut, they’ll kind of roll their eyes at you? Think that that’s all kind of hog wash.

Dr. Becky:            I think that if something doesn’t have a medication yet, they don’t believe it’s a real thing because it’s typically go and get a medication. So, if there’s no medication to be given for it, then it doesn’t exist. I mean, that’s kind of my take on it. And I’ve actually heard … I can’t remember who talk about this before, how they are actually coming up with a leaky gut medication and so now that’s why you will actually hear some more conventional medicine doctors talk about it more than they were willing to in the past.

Amy Medling:    Okay, great.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah. So basically, leaky gut is when the lining of your gut has very small holes, as it should, but those holes become larger. And so, essentially, the food that you’re eating is not being completely digested before it’s getting out into the bloodstream. So it’s getting out in large particles and that causes a lot of inflammation. And it also causes your body to mark it as a foreign invader, and so that’s when you start to develop antibodies, and it definitely can increase your chances of getting autoimmune diseases.

So, with thyroid disease, most people with hypothyroidism have it because they have something called Hashimoto’s disease, which is the autoimmune component that causes the body to attack the thyroid tissues and then therefore decrease thyroid hormones. So it’s the number one cause of hypothyroidism. So you can see how leaky gut can play a very big role in this.

Amy Medling:    Yeah, and inflammation is a leading driver of PCOS too and I think that that’s one of the reasons that women do really well on a diet that sort of takes away some of those foods that can make leaky gut worse and then adding supplementation that help to kind of heal the lining of your gut as well.

Dr. Becky:            Right, exactly, yes. I mean it plays a role in so many … because I think inflammation is at the root of all disease, you know? So, with it you have this issue with your gut that’s causing all this inflammation it’s really can be a big problem for so many people suffering with so many different issues.

Amy Medling:    Okay, so we have … I wanted to ask you about the food sensitivities. How do you like to work with patients on uncovering those sensitivities?

Dr. Becky:            So a few years ago, I always started off with a food sensitivity test. And then I started realizing that it was more the condition of their gut leading to the food sensitivities than actual foods causing the original problem. So, what I started to do is test their gut, you know, looking for gut infections, and leaky gut, and then work to fix all that. And then if people were finding they still had issues with foods, then I would start doing food sensitivity testing. So, that’s pretty much how I practice. I do think that certain foods for certain people are a problem whether their guts healthy or not, but I really see it driven by leaky gut so much.

Amy Medling:    Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay, well what is the second trigger that you’re finding.

Dr. Becky:            So the HPA axis, which most people hear about as adrenal fatigue, but it’s really just the axis that controls the adrenals, and the thyroid, and really all of the hormones. So they all work together. Your thyroid function can affect your adrenal function. Your adrenal function can affect your thyroid function. And the symptoms of both issues are very, very similar. So, a lot of times, people will confuse one for the other. Or they’ll have both and think they only have one.

So, I always do the Dutch test on people. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but it’s a really great test that looks at the adrenal hormones, sex hormones, and organic acids, all these really amazing things it tests for. But, it’s just so important to support the adrenal glands when you’re looking at thyroid function and also PCOS. It’s your stress axis basically. Your cortisol is your stress hormone. So any stress on the body, whether its caused by a thyroid issue, PCOS, emotional feelings, whatever it is, it’s going to cause a reaction with this axis.

Amy Medling:    Yeah, and I had done a podcast on the Dutch test with Dr. Carrie … I think it’s Carrie Jones, and I will post that in the show notes. So if you’re interested in more information about the Dutch test, you can listen to that podcast.

Reading your book, you talk about perceived stress, and circadian disruption, and glycemic dysregulation, and inflammatory signaling, all tied in with that trigger of the HPA axis imbalance. And I think that most women with PCOS have some level of all of those dysregulations and disruptions.

Dr. Becky:            Right, exactly, yeah. And this is why when I was saying the difference with conventional and functional medicine, this is why looking into all of these factors is so important. Because there’s no medication that’s gonna fix that. You have to start getting sleep, you have to do the right type of exercise, you have to be controlling your blood sugar with the food that you’re eating, and all of these things come into play. Doing meditation, managing the way you perceive stress, it’s very, very, important.

Amy Medling:    And I think it’s kind of freeing when you understand this because you realize that so much of the healing is in your hands based upon the lifestyle choices that you make for yourself.

Dr. Becky:            It really, really is. I mean, I went through it myself, and it’s such a difference once I learned the functional medicine approach versus all the different medications I tried that didn’t help me. It’s really amazing too to really learn about what’s going on with your body, and have that knowledge, and then to know what to do about it. And as you know, having PCOS, the same thing with having Hashimoto’s, you have highs and lows, and you know what to do. If you’ve helped your body to heal, you know what to do when you have those issues kind of flare up again. You can actually do stuff and be proactive and help yourself. And it is, it really is empowering.

Amy Medling:    So tell us about the third trigger.

Dr. Becky:            So gut infections. This is, I think, the trigger behind everything really. But, I think most people have some issue going on with their gut whether they have symptoms or not. But, the immune system lies primarily in the gut, most of it does. And so this is one of the reasons this is so important.

But, we have good bacteria, which we want in the gut, but we don’t want the wrong ratio of good to bad bacteria. We don’t want bad bacteria to build up. So, in the large intestine that can happen. You can also have a yeast overgrowth, which is referred to as Candida. You can have parasites. You can have H. pylori. You can have a lot going on in there. And then there’s SIBO, which is the small intestine bacteria overgrowth, and this is something that I really see a lot in a lot of people. And with hypothyroidism, one of the biggest complaints is constipation. But SIBO also causes constipation. So, a lot of people find that, again, the symptoms that they’re having that are labeled as thyroid issue, or as a whatever condition you’re labeled with, it can also be tied to what’s going on with what’s in the gut. And healing the gut can make your immune system stronger, and make you going to the bathroom regularly even if you have hypothyroidism, and really decrease your chances of having more autoimmune diseases.

Amy Medling:    How would you go about testing for these gut infections?

Dr. Becky:            So, I use a SIBO breath test. I’ve alternated between different companies so I’m not gonna name the company because I try different ones. But, they’re a little faulty sometimes. You can’t always trust the breath test. They’re not perfect. But, the breath test, Cyrex Labs has an array that tests for bacteria in the small and large intestine, and it’s kinda looking at leaky gut. So that’s pretty thorough. I do that on a lot of people. And then I do a stool test. I either do the Doctor’s Data three day test or I do the GI Map, which I’m using the GI Map mostly now.

Amy Medling:    And then you can come up with a protocol for healing based on those results.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, the thing is that everyone thinks they have Candida and a lot of times it’s not. It’s just bacteria, or it could be parasites. They all kind of mimic each other. But really knowing which one you have can alter what you should actually be doing to get rid of it. There are definitely broad spectrum natural antimicrobial supplements that work really well. But then, sometimes you need to add something that’s more specific to yeast to really get the yeast if there’s yeast and bacteria. So that’s why I really test, whenever someone can. I always prefer to do the testing. And then I create their protocol based on whatever the results are.

Amy Medling:    I think that testing for gut infections can often be the missing piece for a lot of women and it’s something that I don’t think a lot of PCOS practitioners … it’s even on their radar.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah and it definitely should be because I have a lot of patients with PCOS and almost all of them have gut infections. Even with no symptoms in the gut they would think they had nothing wrong with their gut, and then they … that’s the first thing I do. Besides supporting the liver and changing the diet, the first thing I do is test for the gut. I test really thoroughly for the gut.

Amy Medling:    Well, I think one of your other triggers is something that I see in so many women with PCOS which is vitamin deficiencies. Maybe you could talk to us a little bit about that.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, well it’s actually driven, a lot of it, by gut infections. A lot of our nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine and if you have SIBO, you’re not gonna be absorbing your nutrients properly. So, that and having too little hydrochloric acid can be a problem. And then people are taking proton pump inhibitors and that’s decreasing the absorption of the nutrients. So whatever the cause of their deficiency is, it can be really substantial in causing whatever the issue is. Not having enough iodine, not having enough selenium, especially for thyroid issues, having inflammatory markers high, all those different things from vitamin deficiencies can be a huge, huge problem. So it’s really important to not only to take the right vitamins, but to know which ones you’re deficient in. So, again, that’s where I test so that people know.

And also, if you have a gut infection and just taking supplements isn’t really gonna fix the problem because you have to … taking vitamins for the vitamin deficiency isn’t always gonna solve the problem if you have a gut infection. So that’s why, again, I always start with the gut. So that when we do find out what vitamins your deficient in you can actually absorb them really well.

Amy Medling:    Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Dr. Becky:            Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amy Medling:    Something else that I don’t hear a lot of talk about … I mean, we talk about detoxification and how important it is to help your liver, but I don’t hear a lot about one of your other triggers which is heavy metal toxicity. So, maybe if you could talk about that.

Dr. Becky:            Well, so, you know I think if you’re, let’s say, over the age of maybe 35, or I don’t know, maybe 30. You’ve had … if you’ve ever been to the dentist for a cavity, you have mercury. Or you’ve had it, at least at one point, in your mouth. And those little fillings are releasing gas all the time. And putting them in and taking them out is a big point at which they cause a big release. And unfortunately, once they realized that the fillings were made out of harmful material, they started just popping them out and putting in composite. But then, you had all this release of the mercury into the body.

So, that happened to me. I had five mercury fillings from when I was a kid and as an adult I had them all removed in one day. And I can tell you that right after that is when I was at my worst. And the whatever … there’s other heavy metals as well wherever you’re getting them from. But, that can stick into the … it gets into the tissues of the body. And the thyroid is one of the places that that can happen. And that’s how I specifically related it to thyroid disease. But just in the body in general, it can get into any of the tissue.

So, this is really … I think if you … you could list any symptom, you could relate it back to heavy metal toxicity. And this doesn’t mean that I think people should all go out and start chelating because I think chelation can be really dangerous if it’s not done properly.

Amy Medling:    For those who don’t know what that means, can you explain.

Dr. Becky:            Yes, yeah. It’s the process of pulling metals from the body. There’s different ways you can do it. Some foods do it, like cilantro is a natural chelator. But, then three’s really intense methods of doing it as well that can be really dangerous. And you have to work with someone who knows how to not only pull it gently from the body, but also to get it out of the body. A lot of times what can happen is people can start pulling it, and then it just gets moved from once place to the other, and that can really, really cause issues for people. So, I’m always really careful about who I even will do this with and I do it really, really gently. But, there’s heavy metals all over. They’re in the environment, they’re in our makeup products are filled with them if you’re not using certain brands that don’t include those.

And so, it’s really important to not only think about your dental history, but think about what you’re using. What are you putting on your skin that could be putting heavy metals into the body? And then if you think that it could be a cause for one of your problems, again working with someone who’s gonna know if you’re even a good candidate for chelation, and if so, how to do it gently.

Amy Medling:    Mm-hmm (affirmative). So we got two more triggers to talk about and trigger six is something that most of us with PCOS know all about, which is sex hormone dysfunction.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, yeah. And I think what I see mostly with thyroid issues is estrogen dominance. And again, going back to those makeup, and the cosmetics, and the skincare, we see that the proestrogen in those cosmetics really raise the estrogen levels in our body, and that can use a lot of issues. That can definitely directly affect the thyroid, it can affect the HPA axis, it can affect everything. So that’s another reason I really like that Dutch test. It tells you not only what your levels are, but gosh it breaks it down so much into what type of estrogen is high, what does that mean, and why is that happening. And I just think it’s really important to know all this because I could be driving all of your issues.

Amy Medling:    Yeah, and when I took it, I was thinking that I was low in progesterone and now that I’m in my … approaching my late 40s, yikes, that I needed some progesterone supplementation. And I’m so glad that I did that test because my progesterone was normal and you don’t wanna be adding natural bioidentical hormones if you don’t need them. And so, I think that’s another great reason to do a hormonal test like a Dutch test.

Dr. Becky:            Right, yeah. I know. And so many people do. They see it, wherever. They start adding. “Well it’s natural. The natural cream made from yams.” And I’ve had many Dutch tests come back where the progesterone is high. So, you definitely don’t ever … I mean, I think more importantly than any other one of these things we’ve talked about, don’t ever take hormones without knowing what your hormone levels are.

Amy Medling:    Yeah, absolutely. I mean that was a good lesson for me for sure. And the final trigger is chronic infections. Can you tell us what you mean by that.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah. So there’s chronic infections. I think a lot of people are talking about Epstein–Barr now, Lyme disease, those are the biggest things that people are talking about. There’s other viruses. There’s a lot of other viruses though that drive all of these issues. And with these viruses, they’re not … the certain types of viruses, like Epstein–Barr, they kind of lie dormant for a while and then they can flare up. So for me, specifically, I got an Epstein–Barr activation in college right before I found out I had a thyroid issue. I was knocked out every day, exhausted all day, had no idea why, and then I got strep throat I think six times in one year. And after that is when I started to really go downhill and then I started looking for an answer.

But, a lot of people say, and what I talk about it in the book, is how the virus can actually settle in your organs. So for thyroid … people with thyroid issues, it can settle in the thyroid gland and then that can really start to activate Hashimoto’s disease. And same with PCOS. It can do the same. All different places in the body.

Amy Medling:    So, if people … if you’re kind of looked at all of these other triggers, do you recommend that if people are still dealing with … what symptoms would you associate with things like Epstein–Barr or Lyme? I think that you often … those diagnoses are missed so often.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, yeah. I think that when you just can’t get rid of the fatigue. When you have that chronic fatigue. You know when you have Epstein–Barr. You could sleep for 12 hours and you’ll wake up tired still. And it typically lasts for about six months without any type of intervention. So, if you’re feeling like that, and you’ve looked at the gut, you’ve looked at the adrenals, you’ve changed the diet, then I always run a viral panel. So the problem with running a viral panel is that it can be hard to distinguish if it’s a current or a past flare up or onset of the infection. And the same with Lyme testing. That bacteria can be so far into those cells that it can be actually really hard to detect on testing. So I think for me and my practice, it’s my kind of last resort. And I would hate to put someone through a really rigorous protocol of Lyme protocol if it wasn’t that. So, I always try to work with the easier to manage gut, adrenals, that type of stuff first.

Dr. Becky:            But, yeah. If you’re just … you’ve tried everything and you just can’t feel better, that’s typically when you’ll get diagnosed with Lyme or with one of the viruses. And I know even Lyme … a lot of Lyme patients haven’t actually had a positive Lyme test. They just … it’s based on how they feel. With Lyme it’s a little different than Epstein–Barr. Lyme is more serious. You just feel terrible all the time. All these symptoms, nothing you do is working, there’s really no relief. And that’s when you would know, all right, let’s look into some of these more serious infections.

Amy Medling:    Yeah, and living her in New Hampshire I have so many friends that are affected by Lyme and it’s really devastating. But, there’s a lot of hope because I’ve seen them really change their health around with the right type of treatment.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, exactly. And you just have to … with Lyme, I would never, ever look online and be like, “This is a Lyme protocol. I’m gonna do this.” No. Definitely work with a Lyme practitioner. And I am not a Lyme practitioner. I would actually refer people out with Lyme because people who … they’re Lyme practitioners. They know every single in and out of this disease and that’s who you need to see because you can feel terrible or you can get so much help and totally get better. So yeah, definitely.

Amy Medling:    Well, I do wanna talk about who you like to work with. I know that you work virtually with patients all over the world, but you’re based in Florida.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, I’m in Florida. I work … I was working … in Florida I had two practices and I ended up working with so many people out of state, and even eventually out of the country, that I just decided to go virtual so I could really virtually just work with anyone who really needed it. Because in a lot of places there is no functional medicine practitioner locally. So I think that working virtually really allows me to work with those people who don’t have those options.

Amy Medling:    Yeah, that’s wonderful because it is far and few between often to find a functional medicine practitioner. And that’s … when people reach out to me and say, “Who do I … can you recommend somebody” it’s usually … it doesn’t really matter if you’re an OBGYN or not, but if you have this functional medicine training you can usually get to the root cause of your issues with PCOS. And using these seven triggers that we just talked about.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, exactly. I find that it works that way with most problems that people come to me for. It’s kind of just going down this same road. And there is some specific things depending on what it is that I’m might do with diet, or whatever. Or I may look in a different place if it’s something. But, for the most part this book is really for everything. I mean, and that’s what so … the feedback I’m getting from so many people, whether it’s practitioners or patients. I’ve had even a lot of practitioners saying, “I give this book to everybody.”

Amy Medling:    And again, the book is called, “The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan.” And is it available amazon? I’m sure.

Dr. Becky:            Yeah, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, local bookstores, it’s kind of all over the place.

Amy Medling:    Great. And where can somebody listening find out more about the work that you do? And if they’re interested in scheduling a consult?

Dr. Becky:            So my website drbeckycampbell.com is where you can schedule your consults, you can read my blogs, you can learn more about what I do in my practice. And then as far as social media goes, I’m much more engaged on Instagram these days really than anywhere else. Except for I do have a private Facebook group called Thyroid Support with Dr. Becky.

Amy Medling:    Awesome. And your book, again, is really beautiful and some really wonderful recipes. It’s kind of a coffee table type cookbook with beautiful pictures, and just a really nice book, and I’m just so happy that you took the time to come on to the show.

Dr. Becky:            Thank you so much for having me.

Amy Medling:    Well, and I wanted to thank everyone for listening today a well and I really look forward to being with you again very soon. Thank you. Bye-bye.

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