By Dr Robert Gilliland B.S. , D.C., DM(P)
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune problem, not an endocrine problem. Therefore, using thyroid hormones to maintain a normal TSH level does nothing to address the real problem – the destruction of your thyroid gland. You will continue to suffer from hypothyroid and possibly even hyperthyroid symptoms until you address the real problem, your immune system.
Allopathic medicine offers no real solution for an autoimmune thyroid. The current treatment option is managing your TSH levels with thyroid hormones, which does not stop the destruction of your thyroid gland.
In order to understand Hashimoto’s it is necessary to understand the immune system and what is happening with an autoimmune response. The immune system has many feedback loops to help keep it in control. When there is an invader or perceived invader the T Helper cells are summoned. These cells call out to the NK killer cells and cytotoxic T cells that are a part of the TH-1 side of the immune system. These are kept in check by regulatory T cells that stimulate T suppressor cells once the immune response is no longer needed. The other side of the immune system is called the TH-2 side. B cells, which produce antibodies, are included here. In the case of autoimmune disease either the TH-1 or the TH-2 side of the immune system gets flared up. In Hashimoto’s it is more common for the TH-1 side to be dominant, but sometimes the TH-2 side becomes dominant. These two sides operate much like a see-saw. If one is overactive, the other is often suppressed.
In order to effectively treat an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s it is necessary to treat the autoimmune dysfunction. There are known substances that support both the TH-1 and TH-2 sides of the immune system. It is possible, through blood testing, to determine which side of the immune system is over reacting through cytokine testing. In this way, proper nutritional support can be determined.
Another key to successful treatment of Hashimoto’s is to determine what triggers have caused the phenotypic expression of the genetic susceptibility. Triggers include gluten intolerance, too much iodine ingestion, pregnancy, perimenopause, heavy metal toxicity, gastrointestinal disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome, insulin resistance and deficiency of vitamin D to mention a few. The most common trigger mentioned here is gluten intolerance, which is an intolerance of the gluten in wheat and flour products. In almost all cases of Hashimoto’s the individual carries a genetic marker so it is always suggested that people who have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s remove all gluten products from their diet. In addition, many studies from around the world found that too much iodine can turn on the genetic susceptibility for Hashimoto’s. As a result, typical thyroid support for a Hashimoto’s patients usually is free of iodine until the immune system is modulated. In the cases of pregnancy and peri-menopause, it is the estrogen surges that exacerbate Hashimoto’s and often give the same symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, insomnia and irritability. The patient’s symptoms are treated as a hormone imbalance when actually they are the result of Hashimoto’s. Gastrointestinal issues can trigger the Hashimoto’s immune response as well.
Women who suffer with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have Hashimoto’s 42% of the time. PCOS sufferers battle with insulin resistance and insulin surges that trigger Hashimoto’s. Insulin surges cause an inflammatory cascade of cytokines that flare the immune response. With the rise in insulin resistance (IR) in the United States population this can have a very real impact on the number of people susceptible to Hashimoto’s. Insulin resistance (high blood sugar) symptoms include fatigue after meals, craving sugar after meals and difficulty falling asleep. Nutritional support for this includes sugar stabilizers and adrenal support. Of course diet and exercise play a key role, as well. Insulin surges are also prevalent in people who suffer from the hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hypoglycemic symptoms include energy after meals, craving sugar before meals, inability to stay asleep and a crash and craving for sweets between 3 and 5 pm. Nutritional support also addresses sugar stabilizers and adrenal support as well as diet and exercise.
Vitamin D improves the regulatory T cell balance. It is important to check vitamin D through the 25(OH)D blood test. Sufficient levels range between 33-80 mg/ml but in the case of Hashimoto’s it is recommended that a high level be maintained as many Hashimoto’s patients have vitamin D receptor deficiency.
Generally for treatment, I recommend addressing all fronts necessary. Foremost to supplement with vitamin D, gut support and support for either the TH-1 or TH-2 side of the immune system, whichever one is deficient. I also recommend detox if toxicity is a trigger, estrogen clearance if estrogen is a trigger and sugar balance if IR or hypoglycemia is playing a role.
I am giving a FREE seminar covering this in more detail on Thursday, March 21st at 6 pm and Saturday, March 23rd at 1 pm in Bonita Springs. If you would like to attend please call 239-444-3106.
SWF Natural Health Center