During my lectures to patients and doctors, I try to stress that the endocrine system is like a well-tuned machine, always getting feedback from various data points and making adjustments so that we can continue without a major break down. But, as is the case for the 40 million plus Americans who suffer from Thyroid disease, when things do break down, we rely on a technician that may not have a full understanding of the different systems that influence thyroid health. If you complain of weight gain, fatigue, constipation, brain fog, cold feet, and hands or your hair falling out, then more than likely a medical doctor will run a TSH blood sample (thyroid stimulating hormone) to determine if your thyroid is working appropriately.
Two scenarios happen from here. If you are lucky, and that number is high (hypothyroidism – yes, this is confusing I know) the doctor would prescribe Synthroid, Levothyroxine or Armour and recheck your labs to modify dosage. Many people see improvements with those symptoms but may still have lingering problems that continue to worsen over time. When you return to question your doctor concerned about these symptoms, the response is, “it’s not your thyroid because your TSH is within the normal range”. Then you are told to diet, exercise, or take a psychiatric medication because you are depressed. The second scenario is that your TSH comes back normal and they tell you it’s not your thyroid causing the problem. This is also a dangerous conclusion because there are so many other potential issues that could influence thyroid physiology and you have to dig deeper than just TSH to get at these problems – and it can be done!
In each of these scenarios, the most likely culprit is the immune system. Unfortunately, most medical doctors do not perform other thyroid markers including two antibody tests to confirm Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroiditis unless pestered by an educated patient. Autoimmune thyroid, which represents 90-95% of all cases of thyroid disease, has to be approached from a top down, inside out strategy. No matter the country, ethnicity, sex, age or experiences a person has had, there are going to be reasons why the immune system became your greatest lifelong health challenge! This is where functional medicine steps in. Functional medicine is designed to understand the complexity and how each person has a different set of problems that need to be addressed in a unique fashion. Since your immune system is the real culprit for your Thyroid disease, the triggers need to be addressed before your immune system can heal and get your health back on track. Let’s look at the top 10 (11 is a BONUS) I see in my practice:
Top Ten Thyroid Triggers:
- Infectious disease – Viruses, bacteria and other agents can inappropriately trigger your immune system into attacking that beautiful butterfly thyroid gland.
- Foods – Yes, certain foods can break your gut tissue down (more on leaky gut here – link) and just one exposure can cause inflammation for 6 months.
- Stress – Cortisol and adrenaline can suppress your immune system and promote unhealthy bacteria furthering the inflammatory cascade.
- Estrogen – Women especially are at a higher risk to thyroid disease and estrogen when high or low can trigger the immune system’s ire.
- Plastic – Especially Bisphenol-A (BPA) can mimic estrogen activity and also look similar to the thyroid tissue creating massive inflammation (alternatives like BPS are just as bad!).
- Mold – This common toxin can wreak havoc on the endocrine system and immune system if certain species get out of control. Some of the most common that I see with my patients are molds in bathrooms, in older houses, and hidden under carpet and behind walls. Though mold on some foods can be problematic.
- Blood sugar and Insulin – If blood sugar levels dip or spike, a cascade of reactions occur that can activate the immune system.
- Iodine – Consuming high levels of Iodine from foods (salt, sea food) are correlated to the incidence of Hashimoto’s and I specifically recommend <300mcg/day with thyroid disease.
- Trauma – Physical (head) or emotional trauma can activate the immune system and make it difficult to regain control of your immune system.
- Exposure to antibiotics – Although a miracle to mankind when used for serious illnesses, antibiotics limit our ability to regulate our immune system (and make T3).
- SLEEP! – It sounds so simple – yet for many people, sleep is sporadic, not sound, and not long enough. It’s so easy to push bedtime back or get up earlier. A solid 8 hours of sound sleep at night is empowering. It is during your sleep that your body does its maintenance. So when you are deprived of sleep, you are limiting your body’s ability to heal, rebuild, and take care of itself. Sleep affects every cell in your body! Did you know that the time in which you sleep also affects your whole body? And not sleeping during normal nighttime not only affects your brain function and energy levels, but your hormone balance, organ function, appetite, blood sugar balance, parasympathetic/sympathetic nervous system balance, and your immune system. The same goes for people who do not sleep for 7-9hours each night or those who wake during the night. Give your body a break, and let it sleep. If you struggle with sleep, there are many reasons why and a variety of ways to get your sleep back on track.
So, as you can see, there is not one simple answer to why you have a Thyroid Disease. And because there is no one answer to why there is also not one simple answer to how to address it. Every person has a combination of factors that cause health issues. Determining your triggers and the best way to address them and support you is what we do best in our office. We know that a one-size fits all pill is not the answer to your Thyroid Disease. You are more complex than that and your care should mirror your unique complexity.
Only then can your health soar!
If you’re interested in learning more about how our Functional Medicine approach can help ease your Thyroid condition symptoms:
Join us on September 21, 2017, at 600pm for a FREE lecture, hosted by Dr. Ian Hollaman.
Attendees will be invited to enjoy exclusive, new patient pricing.
Call us, OR register with the form below. Space is limited! (p) 303.882.8447
If you’re ready to set up your FREE 20-min consultation with Dr. Ian, give us a call (p) 303.882.8447