The word “infection” can seem like a dirty word. And it’s such a broad word… infection. What exactly does it mean? Infection. I’ve heard of an ear infection or people saying “It smells like an infection”, which is so gross, btw, but other than that, I have no clue what it really means.
When the words “possible infection” have been mentioned at previous doctor appointments, I’ve really had no clue what they meant. I don’t have an infection. There’s nothing going on with me, except the obvious Hashimotos. So I have always just, kind of, ignored those words and moved on. My doctor has never pushed the subject and has never really elaborated by what he meant. But let’s be real, he has about 30 minutes with me at each visit and I always come loaded with tons of questions! (And I’m usually good for being about five minutes late.) So it’s not like I give him a whole lot of time to speak on any given subject. (Note to self: maybe I should work on this…) But back to the word infection, I’ve always brushed it aside when it’s been brought up. But that is no longer.
“Low white blood cell count”, more words that have been uttered throughout the last seven years. Again, not something that was talked about more than the quick mention. And not something that I have worried much about. The first time I heard them I was either pregnant or it was postpartum, I can’t remember honestly. Either way, there was a lot going on with my body at the time so I didn’t think it was a big deal. However, at my last appointment, he said those same words again, “your white blood cell count is low” (aka “wbc” in white coat terms). He decided that we need to look further into it. So a couple of days ago (about 2-3 months after my last appointment) I had my blood drawn again to see if my count was still low. What comes back from the test will determine where we go from here.
So the reason that I want to talk about infections is because it wasn’t until recently that I even understood what the heck he was talking about, which means a lot of other autoimmune sufferers probably don’t either. Not only that, but I didn’t realize how much having any one of these infections could affect flare ups of my symptoms. And, even more importantly, that one of these infections could be the root cause of my Hashimoto’s. THAT right there is priceless information, and ladies and gentlemen, I’m not charging you, so read on to see if any one of these could be affecting you! (Cause upon further investigation, I know that I for sure have some of these and some of the others are possibilities.)
So why did I not ever understand what infections are? Or even more specifically, what ones my doctor was referring to? Well, that’s because, a lot of times when they are talked about, they are referred to in their “white coat” terms. So most of us who are “plain-clothed patients” don’t have one iota (that word is for you dad!) what the doctor is talking about. We also tend to not ask enough questions and that’s a whole other blog in itself! So, I’m going to give you some of the most common infections, in easy “plain-clothed” terms of course, that could be causing your symptom flare-ups or be the root cause of your Hashimoto’s.
First, Herpes, more specifically herpes simplex type 1 and type 2. In easier terms, think cold sores or fever blisters that you can get on your mouth or sores that you can get on your genital area. If you have either of these, or think you might, blood testing can be done to determine if you have an active herpes virus. Because any of the different herpes viruses (there’s more than just these two) can impact Hashimoto’s, to be safe, I would test for them all.
Second, Helicobacter pylori. You know what this one is? Cause I sure the heck didn’t. I was even affected by this one when I was in high school and then possibly again in college. Instead of doing testing the later time, they just assumed and gave me medication. Regardless, I’ve dealt with it and didn’t even know it. So, Helicobacter pylori, aka H. pylori, is the cause of ulcers. If you’ve ever had an ulcer, you want to address this. But here’s the crazy thing, you can have had an ulcer and not know it… so you want to test for this even if you think you’ve never had one. If you have both an autoimmune condition AND you have problems with your thyroid, then there’s a high probability that you would test positive for this. Testing for this can be done with a breath, stool, or blood test.
Next, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, aka SIBO. This is when your gut bacteria is out of balance. To test for this, your doctor would order a breath test.
Toxoplasmosis, this parasite is one of the infections that I could totally see me having but don’t know for sure. So if you’ve ever been pregnant and your OB told you not to change your cat liter, this parasite is why. This can be a risk to your fetus. I’ve been around cats since the day I was born, living with 13 different cats in my 38 years. So to me, the likelihood that one of them carried this parasite is probably pretty good. However, it not only can be found in cat feces, but also in undercooked pork. I don’t know that I’ve ever had undercooked pork, but I guess it’s a possibility. This one also can be tested through a blood test.
Hepatitis C – this one is pretty tricky, just like the H. pylori (ulcer) because a high percentage of people have it and don’t know it. Another one that I suggest you test for even if you think you are in the clear. It’s another one that can be found through a blood test.
Another one, blastocystis hominis…. ever heard of this one? Me either. So if you have traveled to a developing country, then this one is something that you want to test for. Again, you can have it and not know it as some people don’t experience any symptoms at all and many people clear up on their own. The symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, bloating, hives, abdominal cramping, loss of appetite, and excessive gas. If you’ve been to a developing country and came home and experienced any of these, it’s possible that you may have it. Again, just be tested to know for sure and you can do that with a stool test.
Borrelia burgdorferi – this is associated with Lyme’s disease and can be discovered with a blood test.
Epstein-Barr… this one probably makes me the most mad. I’ve heard the name Epstein-Barr numerous times but never realized it’s the same thing as mononucleosis, aka mono, aka the kissing disease. I know for a fact that I had this in college and had I known that there was any possibility that this could be the root cause or the reason for my symptoms, I definitely would have told someone. Why the heck these all can’t just be called something that we are familiar with, like mono, is beyond me. Per Dr. Amy Myers in her book The Thyroid Connection, “a whopping 95% of U.S. adults have picked it up by age forty, and it can present without any symptoms.” Whaaaatttt?!?! How did I not know this? (insert eye roll here) This one can be detected with a blood test as well and since there seems to be a 95% chance that you have it if you’re over the age 40, I say get tested.
The last one is yersinia enterocolitica. This one can feel like food poisoning…rightly so since you can get it from undercooked pork, or water, meat, or milk that has been contaminated. You might see symptoms like diarrhea (can be bloody in sever cases), low-grade fever, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Again with this one, you typically clear up on your own and don’t require medical treatment. If you’ve ever experienced food poisoning, or food poisoning type symptoms, I would suggest testing for this. It can be done with a stool test. But from what I’ve read, you will need a functional medicine doctor for this.
So, these are the main infections that you want to be aware of. I’m sure there are more and I will definitely add them to my blog as I run across them. But for now, know that if you have any of these, or THINK you could have any of these, I would highly recommend being tested. These absolutely could not only be causing your symptom flare-ups, but could be the root cause of your Hashimoto’s (or other autoimmune condition).
For more information on any of these infections, if they could pertain to you, and testing for definitive answers, speak to your FUNCTIONAL MED doctor. If you would like support with your autoimmune journey, feel free to reach out to me at StacyRawlings@mac.com! Together we can free you from your symptoms so you can lead a beautiful, healthy life!
**Although these are my own thoughts and takes on infections, there are several books, doctors, and websites that I go to for all my autoimmune, digestion, and gut information. Among those are my own doctor, Dr. Kevin Logan at The Logan Institute for Health and Wellness, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, The Thyroid Connection and The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Myers, Dr. Izabella Wentz, Pharm D, Mickey & Angie at Autoimmune Wellness, The Immune System Recovery Plan by Dr. Susan Blum, and Medical Medium Thyroid Healing by Anthony William. These are just the start of some amazing resources for people with autoimmune conditions. I highly recommend them all.