Hypothyroidism By Dr. Alison Hunter
Serving the Greater San Jose & Santa Cruz Areas
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition currently at epidemic proportions with 1 out of 5 of Americans affected. 97% of cases are caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the immune system produces antibodies to thyroid tissue and attacks the thyroid gland leading to low levels of thyroid hormones over time. Every cell in the body has receptors for thyroid hormones so all body systems can be affected when hypothyroidism is present. Half of patients with hypothyroid go undiagnosed but may be suffering from some of the following common symptoms and should be screened for Hypothyroidism as well as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Cold intolerance
- Irregular Menstruation
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Hoarse voice
- Brain Fog
- Mood swings
Natural Treatments for Hypothyroid:
While replacement hormones are a necessary fist step for many struggling with Hashimoto’s, testing and treatment to help bring the immune system back into balance and address the root causes may also be indicated. Such interventions can slow or stop the progression of the disease, reduce symptoms and restore quality of life for the majority of hypothyroid patients. Because of the complexity of these conditions customized treatment plans that take into account each patients unique history, genetics and lifestyle is necessary, and may include testing for and treating the following in addition to standard thyroid testing.
- Gut issues such as dysbiosis, leaky gut, SIBO, parasite or yeast overgrowth
- Nutrient deficiencies- Many are possible, but commonly Vit D, selenium, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, iron or ferritin
- HPA axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) disorders- adrenal stress can increase inflammatory cytokines, reduce conversion of T4 to T3, weaken immune barriers in the lungs/GI tract/Brain and decrease sensitivity of thyroid receptor sites
- Toxicity-Plastics, chemicals and heavy metals are all common endocrine disruptors
- Food sensitivities-hypothyroid is linked to gluten sensitivity as well as issues with many other foods
- Blood sugar issues
- Therapeutic/ healing diet
- Acupuncture can be used to reduce inflammation and enhance T regulatory cell function to balance the immune system
- Sex hormone issues
- Screening for autoimmune reactions to other body tissues
Testing for Hashimoto’s:
- TSH-A pituitary hormone that responds to levels of circulating thyroid hormone. It may be elevated in cases of hypothyroid
- Free T3 and free T4-Active and inactive forms of thyroid hormone. One or both may be low in hypothyroidism.
- TPO (thyroid peroxidase)antibodies-Present in up to 95% of patients with Hashimoto’s.
- TG (thyroglobulin) antibodies-Found in up to 80% of patients with Hashimoto’s.
- Thyroid Ultrasound- Can help to diagnose Hashimoto’s in cases where antibodies are not detected, as well as screen for nodules and tissue changes in the thyroid.
What is autoimmunity?
According to researcher and gastroenterologist Dr Alessio Fasano, three distinct factors must be present for a person to develop autoimmunity. They are genetic susceptibility, intestinal permeability, and autoimmune triggers. Intestinal permeability refers to a weakening in the cells that line the intestines. Once they are damaged, particles like food and bacteria can get into circulation and create confusion in the immune system. This leads to the body attacking its own tissues as though they were foreign invaders. Once triggers are removed and intestinal permeability has been healed we can expect both symptomatic improvement and slowing or reversal of the autoimmune disease process. Because having Hashimoto’s comes with an elevated risk for developing autoimmunity to other tissues in the body, it’s important to address the underlying triggers that allow the autoimmune process to develop.
Triggers for Hashimoto’s/ Hypothyroid:
- Intestinal permeability
- Environmental toxins
- Imbalanced estrogen levels
- Heavy metals
Western Treatment for Hypothyroid:
In many cases taking thyroid hormone is a beneficial first step in healing from Hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s. The replacement hormone helps to reduce the overall burden on the thyroid, and reduce inflammation in the gland as well as restore thyroid hormones to normal levels. Levothyroxine or Synthroid are the most commonly prescribed medications for Hypothyroid and contain T4 only. Some patients don’t convert T4 (inactive form) into T3 (active form) very well and may feel symptomatic improvement when they add in T3 in the form of Cytomel (T3 only) or switch to natural dessicated thyroid T3/T4 such as armour , naturethroid or compounded T3/T4 medications. While these medications are often necessary, many patients need more than conventional medicine to recover fully and get back to feeling their best.