Dr. Susan Blum: My Story
The first step of my journey into Integrative Medicine began over a decade ago, when a friend noticed that my hands looked yellow. She was right so I decided to have blood work done to find out why. It turns out, I had hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Because this hormone is necessary to convert beta carotene to vitamin A in the body, all the wonderful yellow and orange fruits and vegetables I was eating weren’t being processed properly. Instead of strengthening my body, they were building up, and one symptom of this was my yellow hands. Further testing revealed that I had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where the body mistakenly turns its immune cells against the thyroid gland and damages it so it doesn’t function properly.
My doctor suggested that I take thyroid hormone replacement medications. My thyroid was under attack, becoming damaged as a result, and not working right so I needed to take the medication. But I wanted to do more than that. I wanted to figure out why I was having those symptoms in the first place so I decided to go to various types of practitioners. First I went to a top New York City-based Chinese medicine/Acupuncture practitioner who prescribed herbs, which helped me feel a bit better but didn’t get to the root of the problem. Next, I saw a specialist in Dark Field microscopy, who, after looking at my blood under a microscope, told me to “eat for my blood type” and take about eight different supplements. Though some would clean my liver while others would support my immune system, I still didn’t understand why I had this disease. Finally, I met a naturopath who tested me for heavy metals and found that I was overloaded with mercury. He put me on a chelation program that I could only continue for a brief time because of the headaches that came with it. Still, he sparked my interest in wanting to know more. How can I treat myself? I wondered. I was about to find out.
I had heard about Functional Medicine from my colleagues at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine—an organization I’d been involved with since 1998—and realized I needed to learn more about it. After attending the intensive Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice Training in 2001, I began using these principles to treat myself.
As a result, I learned that genetically I’m at high risk for autoimmune disease and that my body has trouble clearing out mercury so it builds up easily if I don’t support my liver’s ability to get rid of it. In 2002, I went on a gluten-free diet, reduced my mercury exposure by drastically cutting back and changing the fish I ate and removed my many silver fillings over the course of two years. I began to drink medical protein food shakes that reduced inflammation and enhanced my liver function. Two years after noticing my yellow hands, my autoimmune disease was cured.
That was the first step. The next was healing my thyroid, which can take a variable amount of time for each person depending on how long it has been under attack by the autoimmune disease, and how much it has been damaged by the mercury. Today it’s been ten years that I’ve been free of the antibodies that were attacking my thyroid. I have been weaning myself off my thyroid hormone replacement and am now taking less than half the dose I was on when I started. (Depending on how damaged the thyroid is when you “cure” the antibodies, dictates how much and how long you need to take the thyroid hormone.) I have never felt healthier or more energetic. My health journey has taught me what my body needs, how to ask and how to listen. Reversing a chronic disease takes time and effort, but it can be done. My story is proof of that. I did it for myself, I do it for my current patients, and I know that I can help you do it, too. To learn more about Functional Medicine and how we can help you, please click here.