19 Apr Health hero interview: Izabella Wentz PharmD
Izabella Wentz is a clinical pharmacist, researcher and author. In 2009, she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that’s on the rise—particularly in women. In fact, it’s believed that 1 in 5 women will experience Hashimoto’s or another thyroid disorder during their lifetime.
Izabella threw herself into finding the root cause of the illness and, after three years of research (and two years of testing), she summarised all she’d discovered in her self-published book, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Finding and Treating the Root Cause. It quickly became a New York Times bestseller.
She has since published two more books: 2017’s Hashimoto’s Protocol and this year’s Hashimoto’s Food Pharmacology. Read on to discover what it feels like to suffer from an autoimmune condition, how Izabella has turned her health around, and why we should all be picky about our salt…
How would you describe your job?
I think of my work not as just a “job”, but my life’s purpose. This is to help people with Hashimoto’s to take back their health, whether through researching, speaking, writing or working with people directly.
What inspired you to work in this area?
I experienced almost a decade of mystery symptoms such as chronic fatigue, panic attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, cold intolerance, hair loss, brain fog, acid reflux, and carpal tunnel syndrome. When I consulted doctors about my symptoms, I was often told, “You’re just getting older”…at the ripe old age of 25!
It took a lot of doctor-hopping and almost 10 years to get the Hashimoto’s thyroiditis diagnosis. At that point, I was excited to start on medications but also wanted to know what I could do to be the healthiest person with Hashimoto’s. I started to do my own research and to experiment with various interventions. That’s how I became a Hashimoto’s expert/human guinea pig!
Lo and behold, with a few dietary changes, I was able to eliminate symptoms of acid reflux and IBS, which had plagued me for many years, in just a few days! Further modifications helped me eliminate every single symptom. What used to be sleeping for 12 hours and waking up exhausted became 7-8 hours of sleep and waking up filled with energy.
Eventually, I was able to put my antibodies in the “remission” range. Most days, I feel happy, healthy, calm and fit.
What does your typical day look like?
As a health advocate, researcher, clinician, educator, author, business owner and new mother, there is no such thing as a typical day for me.
Depending on the day, I may be spending time researching or writing a new book, programme or article, speaking on a podcast or webinar about Hashimoto’s lifestyle changes, taking courses in innovative treatment approaches, speaking to clients about their health goals, answering questions from readers on email or social media, connecting with colleagues, reviewing lab results, picking out supplements for my supplement line, meeting with my team, strategically planning the rest of the year.
“I make time for play, rest, movement and connection with loved ones”
The things that remain constant for me each day are:
1. Making sure that my family and I are eating nourishing foods like bone broth and smoothies (even the baby!)
2. Making time for play, rest, movement and connection with loved ones.
In terms of food, I always like to start my day with a green smoothie for breakfast. I have a great recipe on my website called the Root Cause Green Smoothie.
For lunch, I love putting together healthy salads with protein, such as my Greek Salad, Cobb Salad or Salmon, Avocado and Mango Salad. I like to vary up my salads and use a very clean and simple dressing—usually made of olive oil, lemon juice and basil.
For dinner, protein and vegetables are my go-to foods, and I always have a batch of bone broth cooking so I can enjoy a steamy cup when I want to give my immune system an extra boost.
What does health mean to you?
To me, health is freedom. Freedom to pursue the passions, relationships, life and goals we want to pursue. Freedom from pain, fatigue, brain fog, mood swings and other symptoms. Freedom to be our true selves.
What do you think are the biggest misperceptions about health today?
Thyroid antibodies are an early occurrence of Hashimoto’s and along with them, symptoms like anxiety, fatigue and weight gain may often be seen.
However, most doctors don’t test for thyroid antibodies, and patients are told their thyroid glands are “normal” for five, ten, 15 years while the development of antibodies and thyroid gland destruction progress.
I really think overall that people with Hashimoto’s are tired of being ignored by the mainstream medical system. We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired and being told that all of our symptoms are just in our heads.
We’re ready to dig deeper and we’re ready to take charge of our own health. We’re encouraged to see stories of other people’s successes and struggles. I think this is why we form such a close community.
What’s your favourite thing to eat?
The Polish Hunter’s Stew (from my new book Hashimoto’s Food Pharmacology) is one of my all-time favourites. It’s naturally gluten and dairy free and so easy to make—you just throw all the ingredients in a slow cooker and let it cook while you do something else. It actually tastes better the longer the flavours marinate together, so it’s something that keeps well and is tasty even when it’s reheated.
I also love baking. In my cookbook, I often use almond flour or cassava flour to make delicious crusts and use real fruit for the filling. My pies are always a hit at family gatherings!
If you could give just one piece of advice concerning food, what would it be and why?
I recommend avoiding processed food in general, but especially avoiding processed, iodized salt. Excess iodine can trigger and exacerbate autoimmune thyroid disease. Studies done in countries that measured rates before and after the iodization of the country’s salt supplies have shown rates of Hashimoto’s to double, triple and sometimes even quadruple.
“Excess iodine can trigger and exacerbate autoimmune thyroid disease”
Cooking at home is a healthier option compared to eating out, as you’ll know exactly what has been added to your meals. Instead of using iodized table salt, opt for natural sea salt or Himalayan salt.
Whom do you look up to, and why?
My mom. She was able to take care of two kids while working as a doctor and was still an excellent role model for self-care.
Tell us something about you that people wouldn’t expect.
I am originally from Poland and came to the US at age nine.
Aside from good health, family and friends, what do you cherish in your life?
I’m proud and humbled that what started with my own health journey became a movement that is helping thousands of people recover their health! I also find it extremely rewarding to have so many people look to me for guidance. After all, not even a decade ago, I was on the other side looking for answers. I still get teary eyed when I hear my clients’ and readers’ struggles and successes.
You can buy a copy of Hashimoto’s Food Pharmacology here.