Dr. Kevin Conners interviews Dr. Jen Pfleghaar, a doctor of Osteopathy who practices functional medicine. Dr. Jen shares her journey into functional medicine, starting with her introduction to the DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) approach during her undergraduate years. Despite specializing in emergency medicine, she still incorporates osteopathic manipulation techniques into her practice. Dr. Jen’s interest in functional medicine grew after encountering chronically ill patients in the emergency room, realizing the limitations of conventional medicine. Her own Hashimoto’s diagnosis further sparked her passion for treating thyroid patients and autoimmune diseases.

Dr. Kevin Conners discusses the growing demand for natural care and functional medicine due to patients’ experiences and the increasing prevalence of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s. He highlights the lack of knowledge and understanding among practitioners in treating autoimmune diseases, especially in the post-COVID era. Dr. Jen reflects on the potential impact of COVID-19 and vaccinations on patients’ health, sharing a case of mold toxicity triggered by the vaccine. She mentions various treatment approaches including removing mold exposure and using immune-balancing peptides.

Dr. Jen also discusses the rise in fertility issues, cycle problems, and Hashimoto’s cases, attributing them to triggers like mold, Lyme disease, and viral infections. She emphasizes the importance of controlling inflammation, rebuilding gut health, and balancing the immune system in managing autoimmune diseases. The conversation highlights the increasing demand for integrative and functional care in addressing chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases.

The doctors express frustration with mainstream medical organizations and highlight the influence of pharmaceutical companies on these organizations. They emphasize the need for more practitioners to help patients with autoimmune diseases and discuss the importance of testing for antibodies and identifying triggers.

We hope you enjoy this conversation!

Dr. Jen’s FREE Online Summit: Heal Your Thyroid & Reverse Hashimoto’s

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About Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

Dr. Jenny Pfleghaar has dedicated her life to delivering holistic health care, which combines conventional Western medicine with evidence-based alternative methods. She’s a graduate of the Ross University School of Medicine and completed her residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Beyond her formal education, Dr. Pfleghaar is a certified practitioner by the Institute for Functional Medicine, which is a testament to her commitment to promoting a patient-centered approach to care.

Her broad expertise encompasses various areas, including environmental medicine, women’s health, chronic disease management, and integrative cancer care. Dr. Pfleghaar’s emphasis on the root cause of disease, bio-individuality, and the dynamic balance of mind, body, and spirit makes her an instrumental figure in the functional medicine field.

Dr. Pfleghaar is not just an expert in her field, but a passionate advocate for her patients. She believes in empowering individuals to take charge of their health through education, fostering a therapeutic partnership that enables patients to cultivate healthier lifestyles and reach their optimal wellbeing.

You visit https://www.healthologybydrjen.com/ to learn more!

Stay tuned for Episode 37 (you can see all episodes on the Conners Clinic Live page!)

Listen to or Watch the Full Podcast Episode

Healing Hashimoto's with Functional Medicine with Dr. Jen Pfleghaar | Conners Clinic Live #36


Dr. Kevin Conners

Hello, everybody. This is Dr. Kevin Conners. Welcome to another edition of Conners Clinic Live. Today, we have a special guest who I met a few months ago when she interviewed me for a summit, and we really hit it off. And I wanted to have her on our podcast. Dr. Jen practices in Ohio. She’s a doctor of Osteopathy, and she really practices functional medicine work. And I’m going to let her tell us about herself. And we’ll have a great conversation. Hi, Dr. Jen.

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

Hi. Hi, Dr. Conners. Thank you so much for having me today.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Absolutely. So tell us about you. How did you get into functional medicine? Getting a degree in Osteopathy, standard. They don’t teach you functional medicine stuff in Osteopathic School these days, right?

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

No, you know what? They don’t. And an interesting story. I was at Kent State for undergrad, and I was loving medicine. I knew I wanted to go into medical school. And then I had this gospel choir class. And one of the ladies that sat next to me and sang Beautiful Sopranos Voice, she was a DO. And she was a family practice DO. And she’s like, Why don’t you come shadow me? And that is how I first found out about MD versus DO, how they see the body more as a whole. And you get more of that ostopathic manipulation where you can help the body go back into homeostasis through using your hands and manipulations of some sort similar to chiropractors, what they use. So I fell in love with DO school. I only applied to DO school. And then I went through DO school, loved the OMT. I met a lot of like minded people in there. There was a massage therapist that was in the military, did a lot of massage work, taught me about trigger points. There was a chiropractor from Canada in my med school class. So really cool things. Then I chose emergency medicine, which is interesting because you don’t use a lot of OMT there, but I do.

I still put it in there. But I chose emergency medicine. It was just a calling to me. I went go through residency. I’m out as a practicing physician, board certified emergency medicine doctor, and I’m more community hospital. And the patients I were seeing were just sick. They were chronically ill. And I remember this one patient, she was about late 20 s, early 30s, and she saw me every week. And you’re not supposed to see your emergency medicine physician that much.

Dr. Kevin Conners

We were working in the ER. What was she doing coming to the ER.

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

Every week? Yeah. She would come in that much. And with chronic monic abdominal pain. And when you’re in the ER, you can only offer so much. So I had to have a sit down moment with her. And I’m like, look, you’re going to have radiation poisoning from all these CT scans of your abdomen. And I’m like, this is more of a chronic thing going on. And I encouraged her to do a food journal. I spoke with her about exercising, basically just lifestyle things. And that was the light bulb moment that in having my first son, I was like, conventional medicine doesn’t work. There’s this whole other world out there of things like chronic disease like Lyme, Epstein Barr. I started just being obsessed with learning things outside the box. I shadowed someone that while he didn’t do formal training in functional or integrative medicine, he was practicing treating chronic Lyme patients. And I said to my husband, I’m like, I have to go back and do an integrative medicine fellowship. And I’m like, it’s two years. I can do it while I’m raising kids and working in the ER. And he was supportive and he said, yes, I am going to support you doing this.

So shortly after that, I opened my own integrative medicine practice while still working part time in the ER. How many kids? I was three kids in at that time. And I remember I was building up my integrative practice when I was pregnant with my three year old. I was a couple of years in. And then COVID hit, and that was crazy, too. So it just has been this journey of being a conventional medicine doctor and still working in the ER during COVID, still working… I still work in the ER, but knowing that I want to stop people from getting to that chronic disease because most of the patients I see in the emergency room are products of chronic illness. And let that sink in, right? Because we think of the emergency room for things like car accidents, or finger lacerations, or broken bones, but that’s really not what we’re seeing. We’re seeing consequences of chronic disease and illness, which is sad.

Dr. Kevin Conners

But that is a light bulb moment for me because if somebody said, What would you see in the emergency room? I think somebody got caught with a chainsaw or something like that. So that’s sad because really standard emergency room doctors have no idea how to deal with that. And they really… It’s beyond their scope of practice in the emergency room to even be able to deal with that if they do. So Del, what do you see in your practice?

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

Yeah. So one of my main things I love to treat is thyroid patients, specifically, Hashimoto’s and autoimmune problems, because I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease myself, and now I am in remission. I check my antibodies every once in a while, every couple of years now, and it’s still good. So what had happened for me was when I was in high school, it’s actually a really interesting story. So I was having some cycle problems, like a regular cycle, delayed. And my mom read an article in one of those prevention magazines that you should have your kid’s thyroid checked. So she actually went out and asked for a thyroid test from my doctor because no one had offered it. And that led to them getting an ultrasound of my thyroid. And I had this nodule. They played around with thyroid medications to shrink the nodules, never looking for a root cause why. No one checked my antibodies even. So fast forward from high school to medical school, I was feeling my… I was palpating my thyroid because we were doing anatomy. And I was like, Oh, my goodness, that nodule is big. It is like tripled in size.

So that led to another ultrasound to them. Then the doctors did the fine needle biopsy and they’re like, We have to rule out cancer. So I was in my first year of medical school. I had to go to surgery. It was after our final test, I remember, because I had to fast. And I’m like, I’ll take my test and then I’ll go to surgery. And they put me under and they’re like, If it’s cancer, then obviously we have to take out the thyroid and do radioactive iodine treatment. And if it’s not, then praise the Lord. And I woke up and they were like, Good news, it’s not cancer. And then the surgeon, I remember this, he looks at me and he’s like, It was just Hashimoto’s, thyroiditis. And I’m like, Well, I was just a first year medical student. I’m like, What’s that? He’s like, Oh, it’s just a disease. You don’t do anything about it. Eventually, it will burn out your thyroid. And I’m like, Oh, okay, I’m a medical student. I’m going to listen to the conventional medicine doctor. And even endocrinology really offered me no other treatment for Hashimotos. So they actually took out half of my thyroid and the is Smith, which is what connects it because it looked damaged and deceased from the Hashimotos.

I wish I could go back in time and say, Please just keep that because I can heal it myself. So then fast forward to when I was getting out of the conventional model into the integrative model, I actually I cut out glutin. I healed my gut health, which had so many problems, and I reversed my Hashimotos. I feel better now than I did in my 20s. Because when you really have that thyroid disease, you don’t feel good unless you’re putting all the different puzzle pieces together and really looking at the whole body. And that’s gut health, adrenal health, mitochondrial health, so hormone health, insulin, glucose, the things that you do. Dr. Conners is like, it all needs to be just running perfectly, like a well oiled machinery. So for me, doing what I do now is just almost redeeming. I wish that there was a doctor like me, and if there was, I’m sure my mom would have taken me to them. But even now, there’s just not enough integrative and functional care. And it really should be the standard of care when it comes to most diseases at this point.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Well, I hear this so often, and I have the same testimony, is that you get into natural care because of your experience. And so many doctors have that same testimony as how they got into care. Because honestly, why else would you want to get into this? Especially in an era… Now it’s more accepted. But when I graduated in the 80s, it was voodoo. And we got so ridiculed and just trying to make it was difficult. There was a lot of negatives, but people did it because of their experiences. But it is really natural care, functional medicine care has grown because of that grassroots efforts of practitioners and the grassroots experiences of their patients. That are now demanding it. So it is a growing profession. I would agree that there’s not enough people out there that know enough about autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s that there should be because Hashimoto’s is exploding. Autoimmune diseases are exploding after COVID, and nobody knows how to take care of these people, or very few practitioners do. What have you seen with post COVID doing to your practice?

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

Well, you know yes, I mean, that is one thing. I was just reflecting on it because I watched a certain Joe Rogan interview and I was in tears. And I’m so glad that I have no regrets. And I’m sure you’re the same, no regrets at how I handled the whole pandemic as a physician. And I treated people that needed treated because what I’m seeing post now is that those that were not treated appropriately and properly when having COVID, that spike protein is just doing major damage. And what is underlying is coming out. So I have a patient that his was actually triggered by not by the infection, but by the actual vaccine, that he had mold toxicity. And that trigger that he got that shot really just brought that mold, like his immune system came crashing down after that. So now now we are removing… We removed him from the environment, from the mold. I put him on low dose naltrexone. We did a little bit of ivermectin. We used some peptides to balance his immune system. And he went from not being able to work, he had to stop work, and now he’s back on his boat.

And he needs to get his strength back because he was in the hospital, he lost a lot of muscle mass. So we’re working on that. But lots of stories like that. In fertility issues, problems with the cycle I’m seeing, an explosion like you said of Hashimoto’s. I actually just had a new patient that had hypothermia for decades and now is having Hashimoto’s antibodies show up. When I tell them, it’s just whatever trigger it is, whether it’s mold or lime or a virus. Epstein Barr used to be the most famous, and now it’s probably going to be COVID is the biggest autoimmune trigger coming up. So it’s all about controlling the inflammation, rebuilding the gut health, which is therefore balancing the immune system. So it’s scary. What are you seeing? I just want to know, in your clinic, is it exploding with cases that you’re dealing with for cancer post pandemic?

Dr. Kevin Conners

Oh, absolutely. It just literally exploded. And anybody that has had the vaccine, it’s just made their problems worse. People were in complete remission. All of a sudden their cancer just took off and exploded again. People that were not diagnosed of cancer now diagnosed of cancer. And like you said, even if a person did get vaccinated, the exposure to the spike proteins from other people has caused ill effect. And they were seeing autoimmune disease go through the roof. At this point, it’s not, I hope I don’t get an autoimmune disease. And more, it’s like, I wonder which autoimmune disease I’m going to get first, because you’ll probably get many. We live in a crazy world. We used to talk about mainly the toxins and the poisons from pesticides and things, and now they’re manmade poisons that we’re dealing as the source of a virus and things like that. We really need a lot more practitioners out there to be able to help these people because, like you said, it used to be like Mst. Barr virus, that would be a trigger. So for the listeners to understand, you may mention somebody with primary hypothyroidism, and it flipped out to Hashimoto’s.

There’s a difference, like you’re making reference to there’s a very big difference between somebody with primary hypothyroid that is not an autoimmune disease, to now having Hashimoto’s or graves or some other autoimmune component, that’s a big difference in how you treat that. It’s a big difference in what that’s going to do to that person’s lifestyle. Both of us are big proponents of getting people tested for or autoimmune diseases because so many chronic disorders, people can’t figure it out, can’t put their finger on it, but they’ve never been tested for antibodies. You made mention in your life that you went to doctors and they never did your thyroid issues and they never tested you for antibodies, TPO or thyroglobulin antibodies. And that’s just such a disservice. You see that today. I mean, that was maybe years ago for you, but I just had somebody the other day that thyroid issues and did they test you for antibodies? Here, they sent me the blood test. No, they did TSH and T3. I mean, come on. What rock is this doctor living under? This is not even alternative procedures. This is standards of care that doctors are ignoring and to the ill effect of their patients.

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

Yeah. And one reason why they might not be ordering those antibodies is because they think that there’s nothing that they can do or the patient can do, right? So a lot of the times they don’t order that because they still think that you can’t reverse Hashimoto’s disease and antibodies, which is I chuckle at that because I’m like, Okay, so you’re saying my antibodies, it’s just a miracle? No, it’s not. And we see those trend down a lot. But I will say on the other effect, I will have patients that their antibodies will not go down. But a lot of it comes back to trauma, that autonomic nervous system imbalance, traumatic life events, adrenals, and stress. My patient population is a lot of mid 20s to late 40s that women that are burning the candles at both ends, they’re not working with their hormones. So maybe when they’re supposed to actually be relaxing, they’re just staying up all night and getting work done. And this can affect your body and actually precipitate autoimmune diseases. And it’s not a coincidence that women are the ones that have the most autoimmune diseases. Now, this can be for a lot of different hormonal reasons, but I just see burnout after burnout women in my office, and I feel it with them.

A lot of the times I draw on personal experiences on this is what you can do to help. Or I know it’s tempting to stay up until midnight because you only get two hours to yourself a day, but you need to get sleep because if you’re not sleeping, your body can’t repair overnight. You’re not releasing proper hormones between that golden hour between 10 and 12, like growth hormone and your adrenaline and leptin, that’s when they’re getting sorted out. So I think that women who are the main group of autoimmune diseases people that get it, they really have to just pay attention to those lifestyle choices and sleep and diet are the big ones. And unfortunately, they’re running their kids to baseball game s and practices. They’re being ignored. And then a couple of years down the road after doing that for a long time, a couple of years, then an autoimmune disease comes out of it. And we really want to slow down that process especially, like you said, with the spike protein running around. If it’s not when is it going to happen? Not if, but when is it going to happen? We really need to pay attention to how can we battle against this and really with, like you said, this manmade thing going on, we have to be more on the offense, make sure our body is just a good environment for health.

And that’s the pillars of health. You need the sleep, the nutrition, make sure you’re exercising and moving your body, even if it’s just a walk after dinner. So it’s really prevention of the autoimmune disease, because once you get that autoimmune disease, once you get one, you’re more likely to get another. So we’re just trying to prevent those things from happening. And it goes back to the emergency room stories is that we want to prevent the heart attack. We want to prevent the stroke, prevent dementia, all of that. And one thing I’ve noticed that really frustrates me is a lot of these big organizations like the American Heart Association. I remember I went to a local event and there was nothing about prevention. It was all about treatment and what to do after your heart attack. And I’m like, we’re missing the big thing that we need to do, and that’s prevention.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Well, it’s because they’re all funded by the big pharmaceutical companies, and they want you to have heart conditions because then they’re going to get you on a prescription for life and sell you something every single month. And that’s unfortunate. You did mention that lots of times with autoimmune disease, you can’t get their antibodies down. But the key is getting them still in a state of remission so that there’s not as much destruction of that organ by looking at triggers. I think that’s where a lot of practitioners miss that point. They’re just trying to balance a person’s life and Hashimoto’s there might be using a more natural approach like armor or something like that, which yeah, maybe it is a little more natural, but still not dealing with triggers, still not dealing with cause. You’re looking at it, does this person have mold toxicity? Does this person have heavy mental issues? Does this person have gut issues? You have to step far away enough from that person’s body to see the big picture and look at all those things and run the test that you need to run to discover those things and find those triggers that are stimulating further destruction.

So even if a person… Because when you mentioned your antibodies got back down to normal rate, I think there might be some people that might be discouraged, like, Oh, I’ve been trying so hard. My antibodies is still high. You can still be in a state of remission even with having elevated antibodies. Sometimes they’ll never go down. But you got to find the triggers that are stimulating destruction that will then cause symptoms and cause ill health. And that is sometimes you need a practitioner to dig in deep and run some different labs and find out what those are.

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

Yeah, that’s a great point. And a lot of the times patients get frustrated because they want to get off their meds completely. And it depends on what level of destruction there was to those thyroid cells. So sometimes, yes, the goal would be to lower the thyroid meds to get you more imbalanced. But sometimes, or if you had surgery and had to get some removed, you need to be on some of your thyroid meds. But also, I think you bring up a good point, just taking armor is just not the way to go. Just because you go to a doctor and they’re like, okay, I’m functional or integrative because I use armor. And like you said, they need to dig further, look for the triggers. Why is this happening? Not just I’m going to treat it the more natural way, but why is your body mad at itself? What is triggering that? And it could be so many things. And we also have to look at the thyroid is very sensitive. Our endocrine organs are very sensitive to chemicals and heavy metals. Our world is just full of chemicals, whether it’s your moldy coffee at Starbucks, lots of chemicals, or the packaged food you eat, or just the air you breathe.

I know air quality in Ohio is really bad for a week. And I was just giving everyone in my family NAC, and we were just trying to be smart about it. So you have to look at your environment, whether it comes from what you’re washing your clothes in or the makeup you’re putting on your body. So we have to also look at those things because environmental triggers can still be a trigger for thyroid health and damaging it. So it can get complicated. So yes, that’s why you do want someone, a practitioner to work with you. And that’s the nice thing is that Kevin and I, we’re just detectives. We’ve been doing this a long time. My intake form, I love it because it just really brings things out, whether it’s a childhood living environment or emotional trauma or chemical exposure when they were young. So all of these things just put together the big health history because remember, it takes 7 to 10 years for autoimmune diseases to surface. But I would say COVID has really accelerated that timeline, which is interesting. But we need to look in the past, like, what triggered, what happened?

Was it a tick fight on vacation? Was it getting mono as a kid? And you’ve been dealing with this for longer than you thought. But it can get really complicated. So that’s why it’s nice to have someone working in your corner that knows what to do, how to treat these things.

Dr. Kevin Conners

It’s like untaggling a ball of messed up yard sometimes, isn’t it?

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar


Dr. Kevin Conners

Definitely. How do our listeners get a hold of you? Do you work with people across the United States? Tell us a little bit of how your practice runs.

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

Yes. So I have my brick and mortar in Northwest Ohio, and you can come and see me there in person. I’m going to be launching in the end of August, middle of August, a small group program, which will be great with weekly calls and also some health coaching. I do a lot of teaching information for free on my Instagram and YouTube channel, which is the handle @IntegrativeDrMom. And I also have a podcast, The Integrative Health Podcast with Dr. Jen, which was on a little sabbatical last year because things just got crazy with my kids. And then I felt like I was ready to start doing it again. So I’m not good. I don’t do every week, but I try to do it the best I can, which is what I encourage all my patients to do. Do the best you can. If you need to either be at your kid’s baseball game or record a podcast, go to your kid’s baseball game. So I think that is just what I do when I can and when I give when I can. But I try to do as much as I can on my social media, giving real life tips and tricks, because I know as a mother and then seeing my patients, it’s the real life that’s hard to deal with.

Because I’m in the weeds with everyone, I guess, is what I like to say. And I’ve been through it. I know what it feels like to be exhausted as a thyroid patient and go to your doctor frustrated in tears. I was there. So I know how everyone feels if they’re in that position. And you can heal. Your body wants to heal and feel good. So that’s the really positive note about it.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Well, thank you, Dr. Jen. You’ve been a wealth of information. It’s neat to see that your first role in life is to be a dedicated mother.

Dr. Jen Pfleghaar

Thank you so much.

Dr. Kevin Conners

Yes, thank you. All right, we’ll be back next time. Bye bye.