By Robert Gilliland, B.S., D.C. –
Many people, especially women, continue to suffer with hypothyroid symptoms despite taking medication. Is this still happening to you despite taking thyroid hormone medication? Do you continue to struggle with your weight despite diet and exercise? Is your skin dry and itchy? Do you need to take a sweater with you when you go to a restaurant? Are you too tired to play with your children or go out with your friends? Are you still tired even after 8 hours of sleep? Does hair loss continue to be a problem for you? Are you depressed? Do you lack motivation?
Your thyroid medication was supposed to get rid of your symptoms, right? So why isn’t your thyroid medication working? There are a number of things that can cause your thyroid medication to be ineffective. However, the first thing I think of when someone tells me their medication isn’t working is that they may have an autoimmune thyroid. Why?
Hashimoto’s Is The Number One Cause Of Hypothyroid Symptoms
Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune disorder) is the number one cause of hypothyroid symptoms in the United States. Interestingly, women account for 75% of all autoimmune diseases.
Hashimoto’s Is Often Missed During Routine Thyroid Screenings.
Why? Routine thyroid screening checks your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels. With Hashimoto’s your TSH level can anywhere on the scale. It can be low, normal or high. It fluctuates depending on whether your immune system is attacking or is in retreat. The TSH level of someone with Hashimoto’s will go up and down with or without medical intervention.
When you have an autoimmune thyroid your immune system attacks your thyroid tissue, when this happens, that tissue will release it’s thyroid hormone, causing your TSH level to decrease. When your immune system stops its attack, the remaining thyroid tissue doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, causing your TSH level to go up. Can you see why routine thyroid testing – checking your TSH level, can easily miss Hashimoto’s.
Routine Thyroid Testing Does Not Include Testing For Hashimoto’s
Another reason to focus on an autoimmune thyroid is the fact that, even if your doctor suspects Hashimoto’s, he or she may not test you for it. Why? Because it will not change the way they treat you. Most doctor’s idea of success is keeping your TSH level within a very broad lab range, adjusting and readjusting your thyroid medication as needed. But if the underlying autoimmune condition is not addressed, you will continue to have symptoms.
What Causes An Autoimmune Thyroid?
We still don’t know exactly what causes it, but most researchers agree it’s a mixture of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors such as iodine (excess), infection, pregnancy, diet and intestinal permeability.
Signs That You May Have An Autoimmune Thyroid
- You have other autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis or celiac disease.
- You doctor has to constantly adjust your thyroid medication.
- You are taking a boat load of supplements.
- If iodine makes your symptoms worse.
How Is Hashimoto’s Diagnosed?
A blood test for TPO and/or TBG antibodies will confirm an autoimmune thyroid. With Hashimoto’s, your immune system can attack the enzyme TPO (thyroid peroxidase) which helps package iodine into cluster of 3 (T3) or 4 (T4). T3 and T4 are you thyroid hormones. Or it can attack the protein that transports your thyroid hormone throughout your body, thyroid binding globulin.
Treating An Autoimmune Thyroid Medically
Thyroid hormones are an important part of treating Hashimoto’s – especially when TSH is consistently elevated and T4 an T3 are consistently low. But thyroid medication is only one piece of the puzzle, and it won’t be effective on its own unless the autoimmunity and inflammation are addressed.
Addressing The Autoimmune Aspect of Hashimoto’s
Addressing the underlying autoimmunity is more complex and involves much more than just your thyroid. As stated earlier, as best we understand, autoimmunity is caused by a mixture of genetic susceptibility – unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this, once the gene has been activated it can’t be turned off. Environmental factors – the best way I have found to deal with heavy metals, chemicals, toxins, parasites etc is a good thorough detox. Iodine – stop taking exogenous iodine. Infection – I use natural products first, but there are occasions when a patient may need medicine. Although I believe natural medicine is the best choice for chronic health conditions, I have no problem with patients using drug therapy if that is the best course of action. Pregnancy – pregnancy takes a lot out of a woman and tends to upset her hormonal balance. Diet and supplements are usually all thats needed to rebalance hormones. Diet- people with an autoimmune condition can have both hidden food allergies and sensitivities. I use a blood test for each. With hidden food allergies there are about 25 foods that can potentially cause an antigen/antibody reaction or a cross-reaction which can cause an inflammatory response. With food sensitivities you can have a reaction to over 200 different foods, dyes, additives, molds, chemicals, pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs. The Alcat test, used to test for sensitivities, is the test that really surprises patients. Imagine finding out that you are sensitive to something that you went of your way to eat because you thought it was helping – things like celery,coconut, carrots, kale, or spinach. You think you’re dong the best thing for your health only to find out it is actually making your problem worse by causing an inflammatory response. How shocked would you be to learn that your so-called “healthy foods” were actually causing your immune system to attack? Intestinal permeability- this can be corrected by following the anti-inflammatory diet created from the results of blood tests, along with supplements designed to heal your gut.
Is An All-Natural Approach Right For You?
Most people like the idea of an all-natural, drug-free approach…. but aren’t so keen on making the necessary lifestyle or dietary changes. So beware – if you aren’t willing to take personal responsibility for your own health you won’t do well with the natural approach. After all, correcting the damage takes more time and effort than simply covering up symptoms. The good news is…. when you have certainty about what is helping or hindering your progress, it makes it much easier to follow through. Nothing motivates like RESULTS!!
SWF Natural Health Center (239) 444-3106 – www.swfthyroid.com