The thyroid is often the source of many health problems. Low thyroid function or hypothyroidism affects around 20 million Americans. The most common cause of low thyroid function is the autoimmune condition, Hasimoto’s disease. This was the first autoimmune disease to be discovered back in 1912.
Your immune system works to keep you stay healthy by fighting off viruses and bacteria that threaten your body. Autoimmune conditions occur when your immune system mistakes parts of your body as a threat and ends up attacking itself, which is an autoimmune response.
Thyroid related autoimmune conditions affect an estimated eight percent of the population. In conventional medicine it doesn’t matter if you have a dysfunction with thyroid hormone conversion, primary hypothyroidism or autoimmune disease, they will look at treatment the same. That is not helpful for many issues.
The reality is that if your thyroid isn’t working well, nothing in your body will. This master gland that is located in your neck controls many, far-reaching facets of your health, and every cell in your body contains a thyroid hormone receptor.
The following are some signs of thyroid dysfunction.
Your bones are weak: Abnormal thyroid function can decrease bone mineral density, which can lead to fractures.
You have gut problems: Digestion is controlled by thyroid hormones. Low thyroid function can reduce the movement of your intestines, can compromise your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and is linked with gastric ulcers and leaky gut syndrome.
You are experiencing a low sex drive: Thyroid hormones affect the metabolism of estrogen and testosterone in the body and can cause low libido in both men and women. Hypothyroidism in men is linked to erectile dysfunction.
You are having trouble with your weight: When your thyroid hormones are low, your body will be less able to break down fat, which can quickly add pounds or make you resistant to weight loss despite efforts at dieting or working out.
Your energy is lacking: Hypothyroidism will decrease your energy, causing debilitating fatigue.
You develop blood sugar problems: When your body is in a low thyroid state, it decreases your body’s ability to absorb glucose or blood sugar.
You tested positive for high cholesterol and triglycerides: Sluggish thyroid hormone levels decrease the breakdown of cholesterol, which can lead to elevated total cholesterol and triglycerides.
You suspect you have adrenal fatigue: When you have hypothyroidism, it puts stress on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which can produce more cortisol, which further complicates the problem.
You are overloaded with toxins: Your liver and gallbladder do the heavy lifting when it comes to the removal of toxins you ingest. Poor thyroid health causes these two organs to not function to their best ability.
You have estrogen dominance or deficiency: It can unbalance your estrogen metabolite ratio.
You experience brain problems: Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder can be linked to hypothyroidism.
You get hot flashes or cold spells: Thyroid hormone levels affect your body’s temperature control.
You are losing hair: Thyroid dysfunction can lead to hair loss.
In order to successfully treat hypothyroidism, we need to understand what triggers the immune system to attack the thyroid in the first place. There are a number of things that have been looked at, including stress (stressful time in your life), food intolerances (grains, gluten, soy and dairy), nutrient deficiencies (selenium and vitamin D), gut problems, toxin exposure, estrogen imbalances, blood sugar dysregulation, iodine levels, infections (bacterial, parasitic, fungal and yeast), artificial sweeteners, smoking, low vitamin A (boost with fish, shellfish, fermented cod liver oil, liver and butterfat from grass-fed cows), low selenium (eat nuts, seeds and oysters), low iron (eat grass-fed beef, liver and spinach), low copper (eat grass-fed liver, oysters, sesame seeds), hormone imbalances and chronic pain.
There are a few different thyroid problems you could be experiencing due to the fact that thyroid physiology is complex and unique to the individual. A simple thyroid hormone replacement drug is not always the easy fix. Here are some problems to be aware of.
Autoimmune thyroid problems: When this happens, your thyroid is not the source of the problem, but the victim of a misguided immune system attack in which your body mistakes your thyroid for a virus.
Thyroid resistance: This is a cell receptor issue. Every cell of your body depends on thyroid hormones to function the way they should.
Elevated thyroid-binding globulin: This is common when a woman has high estrogen levels.
Hypothyroidism secondary to pituitary hypofunction: Your thyroid only does what your brain tells it to do. If your pituitary gland isn’t working well, the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis will malfunction.
Thyroid under-conversion: This is common with chronic adrenal stress and its related elevated cortisol.
Thyroid over-conversion: Too much of a good thing isn’t such a good thing.
The functional medicine approach can be very helpful. Nutrient-dense foods can boost your thyroid’s health while processed, inflammatory foods promote harmful effects. The following are some diet changes you can make to benefit your thyroid.
Foods: Gluten is one of the first foods to eliminate as it can be very damaging to the thyroid, inflammatory and is very hard on the digestive system. There is a strong association between Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. You should eat anti-inflammatory foods like leafy green vegetables, fruits and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Healthy fats can be found in avocados, olive oil, cheeses, eggs, nuts, seeds and peanut butter. Foods with refined sugar, refined vegetable oil, cow’s milk and unhealthy trans and saturated fats should be avoided.
Vitamins: If it is hard to consume foods with crucial vitamins for thyroid functioning or your vitamin levels are low, you may consider adding nutritional supplements to your diet. Helpful vitamins include: Iodine (found in seaweed, shellfish and eggs), selenium (found in salmon turkey, grass-fed beef, shrimp and Brazil nuts), magnesium (found in nuts, dark chocolate, avocados and spinach), omega-3 fatty acids (found in flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines and trout), vitamin A (found in liver, carrots, sweet potatoes and kale), vitamin D (found in dairy products, mushrooms, eggs and salmon), vitamin C & bioflavonoids and N-Acetylcysteine & Glutathione.
Wellness Approaches: Lifestyle modifications play a role in stimulating your health and reducing risk of further complications. Helpful ideas include doing something about stress relief (walking, working out, drawing, journaling or baking to name a few), be active (stimulate movement like walking, running, playing with pets or playing sports), get adequate sleep (at least seven hours a night), and minimize toxin exposure.