Our current medical system seems to be designed mainly for acute care and lacks the ability to treat chronic illness like thyroid disease. With 15 minute appointments, and patients who want quick fixes, doctors usually end up just treating symptoms. Often this comes with a prescription, which may temporarily ease a symptom, but it is still just masking the real reason your symptom(s) is occurring in the first place. The prescription also carries additional potential side-effects which could compound the problem and do more harm than good. The only way to truly heal thyroid disease and alleviate your thyroid symptoms, is to take a root cause approach.
Searching for the root cause of disease is the foundation of functional medicine and the philosophy with which I also support my clients. You could spend the rest of your life trying to treat each symptom of your illness, but that will never actually cure you. You will be left taking a whole host of medications for each individual symptom without your illness ever resolving, or going into remission. You will spend thousands of dollars going to different specialists who address one symptom at a time, such as a GI for acid reflux, a dermatologist for hair loss, or a psychiatrist for anxiety or depression. By taking a whole-body approach, it becomes clear that all of these symptoms are related. Once you uncover and address the root cause(s) of your thyroid symptoms, you will finally begin heal and your symptoms will begin to resolve.
Treating thyroid disease is a classic example of this functional, whole-body philosophy. It takes the average person 10 years to be diagnosed with thyroid disease. By this time your disease has progressed significantly and you are extremely sick because even more parts of your body are being affected and/or your thyroid is badly damaged from the increasing autoimmune attack. After all of these years suffering with symptoms, you may finally receive abnormal thyroid lab tests, such as the TSH test, which your doctor then treats with Synthroid or Levothyroxine. Sure, for some, this may be enough to help ease their symptoms, but if you go off of the hormone your symptoms will return because you never treated the root cause of why your thyroid started malfunctioning to begin with. For those with Hashimoto’s or Graves’, the autoimmune form of thyroid disease, these medications will never stop the attack on your thyroid, resulting in significant irreversible damage to the gland. By removing the trigger, an autoimmune condition can be reversed.
Thyroid disease doesn’t just happen out of the blue. Our bodies are constantly trying to maintain homeostasis, and they will if everything remains in balance. If something such as toxins, or viruses, or unnatural, processed foods enter our system, this can disrupt this delicate balance. When the thyroid starts either producing too much or too little thyroid hormone, there is something else in the body that has become unbalanced. This is the root cause to your thyroid disease.
Every person has their own, unique root cause(s), but there are some common root causes to thyroid disease including leaky gut, toxins like chemicals, mold, and heavy metals, infections, and stress or trauma. I will go into all of these potential root causes in more detail in future blog posts.
This is another founding principle in functional medicine and an extremely important one regarding thyroid disease. To provide a better example of the root cause approach, let me discuss how one could begin to uncover the root cause to their Hashimoto’s.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, which in turn diminishes the production of thyroid hormone. Now again, the current standard of care would include taking a TSH test, notice it was high (which means the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone), put you on Levothyroxine to add additional T4 which your body is not producing, and send you on your way. Meanwhile, your body would continue to undergo an autoimmune attack, damaging your thyroid gland, and further lowering the output of thyroid hormone. Nothing is resolved in this scenario and you remain on T4 hormone for the rest of your life while getting sicker and sicker.
The functional, root cause approach, would identify your autoimmune condition by testing TPO and Ag antibodies. If these are present then you now know that your body’s immune system is actually the problem, not your thyroid. By supporting your immune system, and stopping the attack on the thyroid, the thyroid will be able to function normally again.
Continuing further as to the root cause of your autoimmunity, besides the genetic component which you cannot do anything about, you would want to examine your gut health. 80% of your immune system is housed in your gut, so it is imperative that it is balanced and healthy. Research has shown that the majority of autoimmune sufferers also have leaky gut. This is when the lining of the gut becomes permeable, allowing toxins and bacteria to cross into the blood stream. This in turn, increases inflammation and can cause an autoimmune attack.
Now, there are a whole host of root causes to leaky gut that you will have to examine, but these often include intestinal infections such as SIBO, H. pylori and candida and food sensitivities, including gluten and dairy. The infections will disrupt the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, while food sensitivities will increase inflammation, exasperating leaky gut.
Furthermore, having leaky gut will inhibit nutrient absorption which is so critical to those with thyroid disorders. Vitamin D, B12, iron, and selenium for example, are all important nutrients that you may not be properly absorbing, leading to additional symptoms that you may never have realized were all related. For example, perhaps your extreme fatique is actually from low iron. Without enough iron, T4, the storage thyroid hormone, can not convert into T3, the active thyroid hormone, which ignites to metabolic processes of cells.
Are you beginning to understand the root cause approach? Just think of working your way down stream to uncover why the thing above it has gotten out of balance. I know it can be overwhelming, but isn’t it worth it to heal your whole body instead of sticking band-aids on your symptoms for the rest of your life? Seek the help of a qualified functional medicine practitioner to help you uncover your unique root cause(s). And if you need help implementing the dietary and lifestyle changes that will heal you once and for all, shoot me an email or schedule a free health strategy session so you can start feeling better ASAP.
Don’t wait years until you finally receive an abnormal TSH test to begin tackling your root cause. Ask for your TPO and Tg antibodies to be tested (click HERE for more information on thyroid lab tests) before your body does any more damage to your thyroid. These antibody tests, which determine an autoimmune attack, will show up years before an abnormal TSH test. Don’t settle for just managing your disease. Get to the root cause and eliminate your symptoms and put your autoimmune disease into remission.
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