I see many patients that are on thyroid medications for treating their hypothyroidism. When I ask the patient if their cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmune, most patients don’t know. With this article, I am hoping to educate patient’s about hypothyroidism and the different causes, so patients can start taking an active role in their health.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormones, T4 and T3. The pituitary gland produces TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which stimulates the thyroid to make T4 and T3. Your thyroid gland regulates how much T3 and T4 it makes based on the amount of TSH it receives. So, if you have high levels of TSH via your blood work this indicates that your thyroid hormone levels (T4 and T3) are low; in turn, diagnosing you with hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism may be due to a variety of different factors but the number one cause found in the US is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or autoimmune thyroid. This is when the body’s immune system becomes malfunctioned and begins attacking it’s own thyroid gland. To identify this as the cause to your low functioning thyroid, thyroid autoantibodies can be ordered by your conventional doctor.
Conventional medical treatments are the same whether you have autoimmune hypothyroid or just hypothyroidism which is probably the reason why many MD’s do not normally test for the thyroid autoantibodies. Naturopathic medical treatments are different and depend on what the cause of the hypothyroidism is. If it’s autoimmune thyroid, the immune system is treated as well as the thyroid. If it’s not, nutrients helping the thyroid function more optimally are provided.
I often find patients that have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and still feel low thyroid symptoms of fatigue, hair falling out, and constipation even while on conventional medications. This is due to the lack of immune system support. Let’s think about this… if your immune system is broken and is starting to attack your thyroid gland we need to fix the immune system not just the thyroid, right?!
The naturopathic approach to hypothyroidism consists of dietary changes and nutraceutical support. Diet is a huge part in the treatment especially if it’s autoimmune thyroid. Gluten has been linked strongly to being the possible cause of autoimmune hypothyroidism. The link is so well-established that researchers suggest all people with autoimmune hypothyroidism be screened for gluten intolerance, and vice versa. By removing gluten from the diet I have seen patient’s thyroid antibodies reduce significantly in a 3 month time frame. This indicates the immune system is not overactive and attacking the thyroid gland and therefore the TSH and T4 and T3 hormones become more stabilized and patient’s begin to feel the difference symptomatically.
Nutrients like selenium, tyrosine, zinc, and iodine are all important for your thyroid gland. By eating just 2 brazil nuts a day, you will be giving your thyroid enough selenium for optimal functioning. Foods like cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower in raw form actually inhibit thyroid hormone synthesis, so people with hypothyroidism whether autoimmune or not should avoid eating them. However, if these vegetables are even slightly cooked this negates the inhibition, and therefore can be consumed.
Digestive Diseases and Sciences,February 2000;45:403-406.
Iouroi, R, et al. Prevalence of celiac disease in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis. Minerva Endocrinol. 2007 Dec;32(4):239-43.