Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

Yersinia and Hashimoto's

with 8 comments

Although I have tested negative for antithyroid antibodies, there is no known cause for subclinical hypothyroidism. There is some speculation that viral infections can attack the thyroid and leave it under-active. Some doctors also postulate that there may have been a period of previous autoimmune attack from which the patient has recovered, that has caused permanent damage to the thyroid.

There’s something of an interesting Yersinia connection going on.

I stumbled across a factoid while I was researching Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Though there is no known cause for Hashimoto’s, sometimes autoimmune diseases can be blamed on bacterial infections. Yersinia presents surface proteins to the immune system that are very, very similar to the proteins attacked by the autoimmune process involved in Hashimoto’s. The theory is that infection with Yersinia can confuse the immune system into attacking the thyroid.

Whilst perusing the information about Yersinia, I was horribly struck by the symptoms. My partner and I had food poisoning a few months ago. I don’t know when exactly, I think it may have been just before Christmas. We had a slight miscommunication about the cleanliness of a chopping board, which had been used to cut raw chicken. This resulted in a pretty unpleasant stomach bug with a distinctive characteristic: lower right quadrant pain that resembled appendicitis. Yersinia infections are frequently mistaken for appendicitis. I remember staying in bed for a few days, complaining of how I felt like I had appendicitis because of this persistent pain and tenderness in the right side of my belly.

So I spoke to my Dad and he mentioned that during the fibromyalgia diagnosis process, only one interesting result had been found: he, but not my mum, had been positive for Yersinia antibodies.

It happened like this: we went on holiday to Wales in the caravan with the dogs, and had a great couple of weeks. Immediately that we returned from our holiday we came down with a really nasty sickness and diarrhoea bug. We all felt washed out afterwards. A month later we were really complaining of still feeling ill. It seemed like we were getting worse rather than better. New and unpleasant symptoms started emerging, for example, sensitive skin patches.

During the diagnosis process, my parents recounted our holiday. We had been near a nuclear power station, and we had gone walking in the woods with the dogs. Radiation sickness jokes aside, the doctors freaked and had us tested for lyme disease in case we had picked up ticks in the woods. We were negative. The only thing that came back positive was my Dad’s test for Yersinia.

My Dad is convinced that the bug we had wasn’t Yersinia. He remembers having a Yersinia-like stomach bug a couple of years before, something he says rumbled on for several months, with that distinct appendicitis-like pain. It was however, a very nasty bug.

Still, it’s a very interesting and spooky connection, n’est ce pas?


Written by alienrobotgirl

21 May, 2009 at 11:24 am

Posted in Thyroid

8 Responses

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  1. I think it’s quite possible that you have some sort of autoimmune disorder. In order to validate this suspicion, you could request a c-reactive protein level test. Elevated c-reactive protein levels would suggest an infection or inflammation. If it turns out that there is some reason to be concerned about inflammation levels, you will have at least narrowed down the possible explanations (several of which can be quickly ruled out), and bolstered your case for an autoimmune disorder.

    Besides adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, treatment might be challenging since a number of the more effective anti-inflammatory drugs have been pulled from the market. Fish oil and olive oil have been proven repeatedly to be effective as anti-inflammatory agents, but in your case, they are likely to provoke a reaction. Other alternatives you could explore would be bromelain, querectin, and pycnogenol. Besides having anti-inflammatory properties, each supplement has been empirically demonstrated to inhibit the release of histamine. For me, the effects of pycnogenol were the most immediate and pronounced. To maximize effectiveness, it is suggested that you take 50 mg per 50 lbs for the first 10 days. If you suspect that your have a malabsorption problem, you would be safe taking a bit more. Of course, these suggestions are unlikely to solve all of your complaints, but they may at least help.


    22 May, 2009 at 12:09 am

  2. […] and came back negative. The only test of note that came back positive was my Dad’s test for Yersinia. We kids were spared many of these blood tests, as there was no point repeating them on us […]

  3. Hi beroul82,

    With food intolerance, it really matters what kind of anti-inflammatory you use. Anything that depresses the COX pathway or stimulates the LOX pathway or depresses prostaglandin production can be harmful. I actually don’t tolerate quercetin, pycnogenol and olive oil for that reason. Sadly fish oils have amines, and bromelain provokes massive histamine reactions.

    I think I’ve had a full autoimmune panel done, because the doctor mentioned she was still waiting for the results of the SLE test (I presume SLE = lupus).

    What I have been doing is taking vitamin A and E, and using my UVB lamp every day. I’m sure the hypothyroidism has made me low on vitamin A (dry skin, eyes, poor night vision for ages), and I didn’t use my lamp much this winter and I suspect my vitamin D levels are likely to be low. Vitamin E is interesting because it suppresses the LOX pathway. All three help bolster the immune system.


    22 May, 2009 at 10:47 pm

  4. A massive histamine reaction from bromelain? I’m assuming this finding is from a personal experience. I’ve been wondering if one the supplements in my regimen was responsible for worsening the muscle twitching in my calves (among other concerns). Perhaps bromelain is the culprit.

    Since their use on test subjects have yielded mixed results, I’m undecided on the effectiveness (for inflammation) of vitamins A and E. If a vitamin E supplement is to be effective, though, it should have a mixed tocopherol formula, consisting mostly of the compound gamma tocopherol.


    23 May, 2009 at 5:21 am

  5. Hi beroul82

    Re: muscle twitching. I would make sure you are getting enough calcium, and avoid food chemicals. Muscle twitching and cramping is almost always caused by a lack of calcium, though other electrolytes can help too.

    Salicylates and salicylate-like herbal supplements, including the ones you mentioned, interfere with calcium channels and prevent calcium from getting into cells.

    Based in personal experience, I find regular vitamin E works maybe 75% as well as mixed tocopherols. Both forms reduce inflammation and redness in my eczema.


    23 May, 2009 at 10:20 pm

  6. […] make me feel more clear-headed, so I kept it in my diet. Then just before Christmas there was that Yersinia-like stomach bug. I remember losing weight and being surprised about […]

  7. As I was attempting to ascertain the possible cause of my ostensible thyroid problems, I discovered an interesting possibility: abnormal fluctuations in cortisol levels. At first, this theory seemed to lack explanatory power, because my blood serum cortisol levels are usually normal. Even when a blood test is administered in the morning, when cortisol levels should be peaking, the results have been within normal ranges. But, what if there are abnormalities in my cortisol circadian rhythm. Or, is it possible that certain stimuli cause an exaggerated hypersecretion of cortisol?

    Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders have been implicated in the changes in cortisol levels. Which, perhaps, means that a morning test of cortisol levels might be an inappropriate means of determining irregularities in cortisol levels.

    In the study below, those suffering from major depressive disorder were found, via saliva testing, to have elevated cortisol levels in the evening.

    Again, there is an odd pattern of cortisol secretion for those suffering from Major Depressive Disorder.

    If my cortisol levels were/are chronically elevated, or during moments of acute stress, it’s possible that my body’s response to thyroid hormone signals was impaired. This condition of thyroid resistance might explain why patients with normal thyroid hormone levels are suffering from symptoms of hypothyroidism. Or, perhaps cortisol spikes damaged my pituitary gland in some way, resulting in Pseudo Cushing’s Syndrome (since my physical condition and a number of symptoms don’t fit the diagnostic criteria). That might explain the borderline low TSH levels.


    3 June, 2009 at 5:59 am

  8. Hi Scott,

    Borderline low TSH levels are usually suggestive of secondary hypothyroidism, i.e. your pituitary is not secreting enough TSH to stimulate your thyroid.

    Hypothyroidism causes stress to the adrenals. Many people with hypothyroidism have adrenal fatigue, and they don’t secrete enough cortisol, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon. Cortisol tends to rise in the evening and people feel better in the evening. I myself experience these problems. I am sure this is caused by the damage to my thyroid stressing my adrenals.


    3 June, 2009 at 4:48 pm

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