Although many people with Hashimoto’s find great success following a gluten-free, autoimmune, or Paleo diet, it’s clear these diets do not go the distance in managing Hashimoto’s for everyone. I recently worked with world-renowned immunologist Dr. Aristo Vojdani conducting research in complex cross-reactive mechanisms. We evaluated molecular mimicry between the entire thyroid axis and more than 200 foods and numerous common chemicals — in other words, we looked at how specific foods or chemicals triggered immune reactions to specific areas of the thyroid.
Molecular mimicry means the antibody of a food or chemical is so similar in structure to that of a body tissue that the immune system confuses the two. For example, processed soy protein has a similar amino acid sequence to that of thyroglobulin, a protein in the thyroid gland used to produce thyroid hormone. If one has an immune reaction to processed soy protein, then the soy antibodies can bind to thyroglobulin due to molecular mimicry. As a result, the immune system attacks both the processed soy protein AND the thyroid tissue in an autoimmune process.
Take a look the picture below. This is the amino acid sequence of thyroid peroxidase (TPO), an enzyme used in the production of thyroid hormone. Each one of those 14 circled amino acid sequences can be the site of molecular mimicry and hence autoimmune cross-reactivity with foods or chemicals. It is our job as researchers to find which, if any, portion of the amino acid sequence can cross-react. In most cases, there is no site of cross-reactivity, which makes combing through these sequences looking for molecular mimicry exhausting.
In our study we used a laboratory method called ELISA to look for cross-reactivity between human antibodies for the entire thyroid axis (TSH, TPO, thyroglobulin, 5’ deiodinase, T3, and T4) and more than 200 purified dietary proteins and over a dozen chemicals bound to human protein. If a cross-reaction occurred the color changed to yellow after. See picture below.
Dr. Vojdani and I found that more than 30 foods, many of which are on the Paleo diet, cross-react — or induce molecular mimicry — with various parts of the thyroid axis. The findings of this research will lead to dietary guidelines that are more specific then the general Paleo or autoimmune diet.
At this time, the data is being formulated into a paper that will be submitted to a scientific journal for peer-review. We cannot disclose the outcomes until there is an independent evaluation of the research process. As soon as the study is validated by independent researchers and published we will post the dietary guidelines to further support our Hashimoto’s readers. We are confident this research could change everything!