Dirty Genes & Hypothyroidism: Q&A with Dr. Ben Lynch

Dirty Genes & Hypothyroidism: Q&A with Dr. Ben Lynch

WOW Dr. Ben Lynch, a pioneer in the field of epigenetics and author of the most anticipated new book of 2018 “Dirty Genes”, at Hypothyroid Mom! I had goosebumps on my arms as I put this article together. Now let’s find out how we can clean our “DIRTY” genes (the good news is that our health is not held hostage by our genes!) and reverse disease.

Hypothyroid Mom’s Q&A with Dr. Ben Lynch

Many of us inherently believe, perhaps suggested by a doctor or relative, that we are vulnerable to disorders and diseases based on the conditions that run in our families. However, according to Dr. Ben Lynch, far from being written in stone, our genetic destiny can be rewritten by making simple adjustments to our environment and lifestyle.

Q: What is epigenetics and why is it important to someone with hypothyroidism?

A: First we have to define genes. Genes contain our DNA. Our DNA contains our body’s blueprints for making various things and performing various tasks. In short, genes do work. Epigenetics is everything that influences how our genes express themselves. Many of our genes are dynamic in how they function. One minute they will turn on to do something and when they are done performing that function, they will turn off. We have genes which control production, transport, signaling and degradation of thyroid hormone. If any of these genes are impacted negatively by epigenetics, these genes will not function to the optimal ability and as a result, thyroid dysfunction will occur. If these genes are positively influenced by epigenetics, they will perform well and as a result, the thyroid will function properly.

Q. What are “dirty genes?”

A. Dirty Genes are genes which are not functioning optimally. They are not working as they should. They are either working too fast, too hard, too slowly, or just absolutely stuck and not working at all. Genes are supposed to respond to stimulus and signals. If the signals are constant, genes can get tired and start to slow down in performance just as you get tired running after a period of time and need to stop. If signals are not coming in, then the genes never perform their action and do nothing. If signals are coming in to do work, but the genes don’t have the tools they need in order to perform their work, they will try to work but nothing gets done or very little does.

In short, a dirty gene leads to poor gene function which leads to symptoms and eventually a more serious problem such as Hashimoto’s or Graves disease.

There are two types of dirty genes. The first type is the ‘got dirty’ genes.

‘Got’ Dirty Genes get dirty mainly by what we choose. What do you choose each day? Do you choose to do things which supports your body’s health and thus your genes? Or are you choosing to do things which stress your body and thus your genes? Your choices matter. If you choose activities and things which are healthy the majority of the time, your genes will help you out and get their work done. If you choose activities and things which are not healthy the majority of the time, your genes have to work hard with repairing and struggling with your load. This leads to symptoms and you get sick.

If you make your genes dirty, you get dirty. Done. Your genes are you. They rely on you. You rely on them. Keep them happy and you’ll be, too.

The other type is ‘born’ dirty.

You can be born with genes that are not working as well as they should. Some of us are born with genes which are already weaker than they should be. What happens here is if you make a few unhealthy choices, they will stress out faster and cause symptoms quicker. This is why you may be more ‘sensitive’ than your brother or sister, or not as ‘tough’ as someone else with pain tolerance; or more intolerant to drinking alcohol; or harder to calm down after you get stressed out. These ‘born dirty’ genes just need more care and support. If you don’t give it to them, they’ll let you know. It’s called symptoms.

Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when looking at their genetic report?

A. Assumptions. By looking at a genetic report and seeing that you have X, Y or Z gene variant/SNP/polymorphism/deletion/etc, you make the assumption that it is ‘bad’ or ‘scary’ or ‘THIS IS the REASON why I am sick.’ They then focus on that ONE gene and try to fix it – and fail.

Most genes are not static. They are dynamic. You choose how they function – they don’t act without your influence. As I say in Dirty Genes, ‘genes don’t lay down the law, they negotiate with you.’

Q: Are there specific SNP’s that affect hypothyroidism more than others?

A. No. There are not. Not directly. We all want the direct link to our symptoms and/or condition. We are taught to think this way by medical schools and big pharma. We have acid reflux, we take an antacid; we have seasonal allergies, we take an antihistamine; we have a bacterial infection, we take antibiotics. Everything we take for our symptoms is a 1:1 relationship. Wrong. Now people are looking for the one gene which is causing their one symptom. Also wrong.

Now there are genes which may increase the odds for one to struggle with hypothyroidism. These have to do with eliminating chemicals and toxins from our body (glutathione genes – GPX and GST); they have to do with how we respond to stress because if we’re stressed out all the time, we overwork our thyroid and it gets tired and eventually slows down (slow COMT and slow MAOA); they have to do with regulating our sleep and if we don’t get sufficient sleep, we have a tired thyroid (slow COMT and slow MAOA). All these are discussed heavily and clearly in Dirty Genes.

Q: Why is supplementing according to specific SNP’s dangerous?

A. It’s typically not dangerous – it’s just ineffective, expensive and frustrating. I used to do it – for a couple years – and then I realized people weren’t getting better so I had to change what I was doing. People keep trying this approach and so do practitioners. It fails the majority of the time. If it works, you got lucky.

By supplementing to an SNP, you’re making a huge assumption. You’re thinking that that specific supplement you swallow is going to get past your throat, to your stomach, through your intestines, absorbed into your blood and delivered to that one specific SNP on the piece of paper in front of you – without impacting the other 19,000 other genes in your body.

That’s a big assumption.

It’s wrong.

Your body is going to determine what it is going to do with that supplement – not you.

Plus – let’s say you take magnesium to support COMT. Well, magnesium supports about 400 or so other genes. You’re telling me you’re going to control where it’s going? No.

Q: In simple terms, what is methylation and how is it important to those with hypothyroidism? How can “dirty genes” affect hypothyroidism?

A. Methylation is the action your body takes when it takes a compound (methyl group composed of one carbon and three hydrogens) and gives it to another compound (homocysteine, dopamine, serotonin, uracil, estrogen). This action of giving a methyl group to something else changes it to something else – thus changes its function and purpose.

For example, if homocysteine receives a methyl group via the action of methylation, homocysteine becomes methionine. If histamine receives a methyl group via the action of methylation, it becomes methylhistamine. If norepinephrine receives a methyl group via the action of methylation, it becomes epinephrine.

These actions occur instantly – all day, all night – your entire life.

Methylation is important to everyone – not just those with hypothyroidism.

If we are no longer methylating, we get sick – period.

Eventually, we will die if we are not methylating properly.

A big issue with poor methylation and thyroid disorders is thyroid cancer. This is the ultimate of dirty thyroid genes and poor methylation. That’s not a good combination.

Q: Can cleaning up dirty genes have an impact on hypothyroidism and thyroid disease?

A. Yes absolutely.

If you have ‘born dirty’ genes which increase your susceptibility to toxins, chemicals, then you take extra precaution to avoid them and do things to help get them out. If you have ‘born dirty’ genes which predispose you to increased stress and poor sleep, you take extra actions to support your genes here so they don’t work as slowly. There are ways you can ‘nudge’ them to work better – and I tell you how in Dirty Genes.

If you have ‘got dirty’ genes, you simply slow down in making unhealthy choices. Health starts with your next choice. If you choose to stay up late watching a movie, eating candy and drinking wine, you’re making your genes pretty dirty especially if you have to wake up the next day, suck down two cups of coffee and travel an hour to work in traffic and deal with a stressful job and irritating coworkers.

On the flip side, if you eat whole healthy foods, go to bed on time, take a multivitamin with your breakfast, don’t overeat, surround yourself with loved ones and live to your values and purpose, your genes – regardless of born dirty or got dirty, will start to flourish under your new found choices – and they will thank you for it. How? By functioning to their fullest potential which means you function to your fullest potential.

About Ben Lynch, ND

Dr. Ben Lynch received his doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. Currently, he researches, writes and presents worldwide on the topic of MTHFR, methylation defects and genetic control. Dr. Lynch is the President of Seeking Health, a supplement company oriented towards disease prevention and health promotion. He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife and three sons. Learn more at Seeking Health.

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About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.


  1. Hi Dana-

    I’m also a Dana. Love this site! I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s into thousand 12. Since then,
    I had a similar situation with my hypothyroidism at lead to a miscarriage last year.

    I finally got my thyroid under control and conceived again and now have a two month old baby girl.

    My question is, do you have any information regarding Hashimoto’s disease and vaccinations? I keep reading that I should hold off on vaccinations for my child since I have an auto immune disorder. Any insight or research you have done would be great. I’m having a hard time finding anything relevant…

    Keep up the good work this is an awesome email ! I’m so glad that I found you!

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