About 20 million Americans are affected by thyroid diseases, where one in eight women will undergo thyroid dysfunction sometime during their lifetime. Among the most common thyroid disorders is hypothyroidism. Approximately 90 percent of low thyroid function or all hypothyroidism is an autoimmune condition. With Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, however, your body’s immune system is attacking and destroying your own thyroid gland.
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The exact cause(s) of Hashimoto’s thyroid disease and all other autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, type 1 diabetes and Sjogrens syndrome, among others are unknown, nevertheless what we do know is that a range of factors can contribute to the development of immune system dysfunction and finally autoimmune disorder.
These include a mix of several factors like stress (adrenal gland malfunction), viral, parasitic and bacterial infections, estrogen changes (birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy, peri-menopause), insulin resistance, polycystic ovary disease, ecological toxicity, vitamin D deficiency, leaky gut, chronic inflammation, and gluten intolerance and celiac disease in addition to a genetic predisposition or susceptibility.
Before we discuss this, we need to record some of the symptoms of the two hypothyroid and hyperthyroid so we are better able to comprehend thyroid issues. A number of the better known symptoms include tiredness, weight gain, cold hands and feet, thinning hair and hair loss, depression, absence of motivation and constipation. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (Graves Disease) are heart palpitations, increased heartbeat, insomnia, anxiety, night sweats, nervousness and difficulty gaining weight.
Most people with Hashimoto’s thyroid disease will have a blend of hypo and hyper thyroid ailments. For instance, an individual might suffer from baldness, cold hands and feet and fatigue, but when their immune system attacks the thyroid gland, thyroid cells have been discharged and released into the blood flow together with thyroid hormones. Some of the hormones such as T3 might cause heart palpitations, night sweats and nervousness when they are released and are stimulatory of other symptoms.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are on thyroid medication, and you continue to have hypothyroid symptoms or your medical doctor is always changing your thyroid medication dose as your thyroid “just can not be modulated” or your thyroid drug dose is always being increased, then you should be analyzed for Hashimoto’s.
Most doctors do not go far enough when analyzing the thyroid for potential dysfunction. A thyroid gland including TPO antibodies and TGA antibodies should be carried out through laboratory blood testing. Even a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) blood test can never determine whether a patient has Hashimoto’s. Bear in mind, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease. Thus, the most precious test measures autoimmune antibodies TPO (thyroid peroxidase antibodies) and TGA (thyroglobulin antibodies) which show the autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland itself.
Considering that Hashimoto’s thyroid disease is not a disease of the thyroid gland, but rather an autoimmune disorder, therapy must center on the immune system rather than the thyroid gland itself. This is why prescribing thyroid drugs does nothing to help your gastrointestinal condition. Your thyroid will continue to get attacked without controlling your immune system and you will continue to undergo thyroid symptoms in addition to a worsening autoimmune disorder.
Consequently, Hashimoto’s must be treated as an autoimmune disorder and not a thyroid disorder. This means your immune system function has to be monitored via blood tests. Essential lab panels quantify inflammatory cytokines for TH1/TH2 dominance and the ratio of T-Helper cells into T-Suppressor cells (CD4/CD8 ratio). Vitamin D levels are quantified. Testing for leaky gut is also critical in autoimmune disease. When the results are in, an application is implemented to regulate the immune response and stop the destruction of the thyroid gland along with restoring adrenal gland health as well as the resistant barrier of the intestine lining. Since gluten is believed to be a frequent cause behind Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, a gluten free diet is a must for patients with the condition.
Hashimoto’s often goes misdiagnosed and usually mismanaged by traditional medicine. Autoimmune attack are also not addressed by conventional medicine. With time, increasingly more of the thyroid gland is ruined since a patient’s autoimmune reaction is ignored and their illness progresses. Also, when a patient presents with one autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s, if the immune system remains untreated, this individual is more prone to creating additional autoimmune diseases such as pernicious anemia (inability to absorb vitamin B12) and Type 1 diabetes.
Last, but certainly not least, since the human brain is loaded with thyroid hormone receptors, as soon as a person hypothyroid, brain function and chemistry are compromised. Because brain neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine are jeopardized, patients suffering from hypothyroid conditions experience poor memory, diminished ability to learn, increased states of depression, anger, feelings of hopelessness, inability to handle stress and lack of enthusiasm for life, not to mention brain degeneration and Alzheimer’s! Hypothyroidism can increase your chances of Parkinson’s Disease deficiency.
Thus, if you are currently suffering from Hashimoto’s disease it is best to have a proper diagnosis and follow up with the proper treatment. Rather than losing their health into autoimmune disease when a patient is examined, diagnosed and treated in such a way to restore proper function, they could lead a healthier life. Functional medicine has become increasingly popular for treating thyroid issues. A functional medicine practitioner uses natural treatments to alter an individual’s lifestyle and promote a sense of overall health and wellness.
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By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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