Hypothyroidism affects approximately 34 million people (11%) in the United States, a majority of those being female. Unfortunately, many people and practitioners don’t recognize hypothyroidism as an autoimmune disease, even though 90% of hypothyroid cases are autoimmune! —– The presence of thyroid antibodies in blood work is conclusive for the autoimmune disease, known as Hashimoto’s. These antibodies gradually and continually destroy the thyroid gland, eventually resulting in thyroid failure. Patients are typically offered thyroid hormone replacement therapy or, alternatively, iodine and glandular supportbut these treatments actually add fuel to the fire!
Iodine is an essential nutrient for the thyroid, but supplementation can be detrimental for a patient with Hashimoto’s because it causes the creation of antibodie – most commonly, thyroperoxidase enzyme (TPO) – and furthers the progression of the disease. In fact, recent research indicates populations supplemented with iodine will start having increased rates of Hashimoto’s conditions although the original intent was to reduce iodine deficiencies causing hypothyroid goiter.
But what about the standard care in the medical industry, thyroid replacement? Levothyroxine is the most prescribed replacement thyroid hormone and currently the fourth most prescribed drug in this country. Thyroid hormones are necessary for brain, bone, fertility, energy, mood, and aging, so strong emphasis should be placed on using replacement hormones to avoid the side effects of a lack of thyroid hormones. If medication is the sole treatment, however, the underlying autoimmune condition isn’t addressed. Because the primary function of the thyroid gland is the secretion of hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, the gradual destruction of this gland results in a decline in metabolic rate, mental function, energy, mood, and gastrointestinal function – symptoms requiring additional treatment.
Conditions known to trigger or exacerbate autoimmune hypothyroidism include gluten intolerance, vitamin D polymorphism (the body’s inability to use vitamin D), iodine excess, heavy metal toxicity, estrogen surges, pregnancy (especially postpartum changes), gastrointestinal infections, and insulin surges. Perhaps the most common and most critical is gluten intolerance, to which 80% of Americans have a genetic predisposition.
At least ten high-quality studies have addressed gluten’s role in autoimmune hypothyroidism. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and the like. Its molecular composition is strangely close to that of the thyroid, so, when the gluten-intolerant body mounts an immune attack against gluten, it often targets the thyroid as well, causing the development of more thyroid antibodies and more symptoms of hypothyroidism. Problematically, levothyroxine contains gluten! This issue can be remedied with a simple phone call to your pharmacist requesting gluten-free medications.
How can you find out if you have an autoimmune thyroid disorder? For starters, educate yourself by reading Datis Kharrazion’s Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal?
A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism. This book is the best on the market for clearly detailing the mechanism behind autoimmune hypothyroidism and how to treat it. Next, find a functional medicine practitioner familiar with autoimmunity who will address all the aforementioned culprits and determine the right tests for you. Whatever your treatment decision natural, traditional, or a combination of the two take heart that you’re not alone and that concrete treatments are readily available to help you regain your health and vitality!