Given the prevalence of thyroid disorders today, if you think you have a thyroid problem, you probably do have an under functioning thyroid gland. Or at a minimum you likely are experiencing the feeling of poor thyroid hormone function.
Surprisingly though, more often than not, your thyroid problem is not a true thyroid issue but rather a consequence of other processes that have gone awry in the body.
Some of the common symptoms of a thyroid disorder include weight gain, dry skin, constipation, irregular menstruation, feeling cold, infertility, mental slowing (brain fog) and stiffness or pain.
The problem in conventional medicine lies both in the diagnosis and the management of the condition. While highly controversial, the range for “normal” thyroid levels is very broad. While a broad range may put you in the “normal” population, it is important to remember that according to the CDC 69% of the “normal” population is overweight or obese. In these individuals, thyroid function is often compromised. Thus trying to be the same as an unhealthy population isn’t the ideal for optimal health.
Management of thyroid disorders by conventional medicine is simply inadequate. The typical scenario includes a test for TSH levels with a diagnosis of hyper- or hypothyroidism based upon this single test. The management typically includes a prescription of synthetic or bio-identical thyroid hormones.
In most “natural” and “holistic” offices, the treatment is usually a prescription of iodine and selenium. While those are natural elements, the word holistic is often failed to be applied because the focus of iodine and selenium is only on the thyroid, not the other processes affecting the thyroid.
Autoimmune disease is the most common condition affecting the thyroid and most commonly creating hypothyroidism. Autoimmune disease simply refers to your own body’s immune system attacking the tissues in your body. Research suggests that 90% of hypothyroid patients create an autoimmune attack against their own thyroid. This autoimmune attack destroys the thyroid tissue and decreases thyroid hormone output.
IMPORTANT: So if 90% of patients have an autoimmune condition and the typical treatment is giving synthetic hormones, while the hormones replace the decreased hormone production, they do nothing to address the underlying condition of autoimmunity. This is highly problematic. The problem with uncontrolled autoimmune disease is that patients that do not address the problem will develop other autoimmune conditions causing problems such as celiac disease or gluten intolerance, neurological disorders, blood disorders, anxiety and even eventually develop type 1 diabetes.
In these patients, which comprise 90%, they don’t actually have a thyroid problem, they have an autoimmune disease. This means we don’t treat the thyroid. This can be one of the many reasons why iodine and selenium supplementation provides little to no benefit.
If you have autoimmune hypothyroidism it is called Hashimoto’s disease. The most common cause of Hashimoto’s is gluten intolerance. Thus, without some kind of testing documenting that you aren’t gluten intolerant (neurological muscle testing or a full IgG & IgA gluten & gliadin test), gluten should be immediately removed from the diet of those diagnosed with hypothyroidism. This means to the degree that you consume gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.
The reason gluten is bad for the thyroid has nothing to do with whether whole grain bread is good or bad for you. It is simply a situation where the proteins in your thyroid and the proteins found in gluten are similar enough that the immune system cannot tell them apart. Thus when gluten enters your body via your blood stream, the immune system creates antibodies (made to kill invaders) to attack the gluten. As the antibodies circulate they come in contact with the thyroid and because the antibodies cannot differentiate between the two, they end up attacking your thyroid.
I will cover medications, immune regulation and supplementation for thyroid health in later posts, but for now it is important to know that once you get on thyroid medications, it is likely you will never be able to stop taking them. While discussing your options with your physician please consider the long term implications of starting a thyroid medication. If you are already on a thyroid medication, and many people are, your thyroid symptoms should be resolved. If you still have symptoms or are putting on weight while eating a healthy diet, there is still an underlying problem.