According to the most up to date research approximately 90% of patients with hypothyroidism have it as a result of an auto-immune reaction called Hashimoto’s. It’s the number one reason you still have thyroid symptoms despite taking medications and visiting many doctors without finding any lasting relief.
These symptoms include some or all, including: low energy, thinning hair, dry skin, thinning of the outer 1/3 of the eyebrow, depression, constipation, feeling cold all the time, chronic musculo-skeletal pain and an inability to lose weight even on a low calorie diet.
Hashimoto’s: The most common auto-immune condition.
An estimated 24 million Americans or 7-8% of the population are affected by Hashimoto’s.
Auto-immunity occurs when the immune system becomes imbalanced and will attempt to destroy your own body tissues by mistake. There is a subtle balance between not enough immune response and too much response.
How our Immune system works:
Let’s take about basic immune function to help you understand the problem. In your body you have a part of the immune system that destroys cells it’s called the TH1 system or “T” cells, let’s call that part of the immune system the “swat team”. Some of the names of the cells in this system are “cyto-toxic killer cells”, you get the idea.
The other side of the immune system is the TH2 system of the “B” cells some of the names of these cells are T-helper cells and T-regulatory cells. This part of the immune system puts a target, “anti-body” on invading and abnormal cells so that the swat team (TH1) can find the bad guys and take them out.
To have a healthy immune system the TH1 and TH2 sides of the immune system must be balanced. When one side becomes dominate things start going wrong causing an inappropriate response. For example if the TH1 system becomes overactive the swat team is going to go overboard and take out tissues that it shouldn’t be destroying. If the TH2 system becomes dominate the immune system would be overdoing it by putting a tag (antibody) on tissues that it shouldn’t be targeting for destruction by the TH1 cells.
The third side of the immune system is the TH3, Th17 system this part of the immune system if functioning properly helps keep the TH1 and TH2 systems from tilting into dominance either way.
If I have and Auto-immune condition why did I develop it?
If you have an auto-immune condition it’s because you have a genetic predisposition to develop this disorder. This does not mean that those characteristics will always manifest, you have to experience the second part to develop auto-immunity. The triggers!
I always ask my patients on the first visits does anyone else in your family that is a blood relative have similar problems, mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle etc.
If they have similar symptoms or another named auto-immune condition or were just chronic ill but no diagnosis was ever given, this is a strong indication of auto-immunity.
For example my step father has four daughters, his youngest was diagnosed with celiac disease which is an auto-immune disorder of the colon in which the genes are not present to digest gluten,and both of her daughters are Celiac as well. The oldest daughter Karin started experiencing chronic fatigue and chronic pain in her 50’s, with my guidance she was able to find the right doctors and discovered that she had was celiac as well. Their grandmother suffered with chronic health problems but was never given any labels but it was suggested that she might have “lupus” an autoimmune disorder. The other two daughters have been checked and are not celiac.
To develop auto-immunity you have to have the second piece of the equation. The triggers!
There are several metabolic syndromes that will activate the auto-immune genes!
These are the major players:
- Chronic infections- when you have an exposure to a microbe your immune system will initiate a response and typically your immune system wins the battle. However ever there are instances in which your immune system cannot defeat the micro-organism. This can happen as a result of other conditions you have developed that would mitigate a proper immune response. We will discuss some of these issues below.
- Digestive problems– 80% of your immune system is found in the gut, low hydrochloric acid, constipation/diarrhea, gas bloating are all signs that your gut is unhealthy. The chronic infections are often found here which eventually will damage the lining of the intestines causing a “leaky gut syndrome”
- Food allergies/sensitivity– the resulting inflammation of the leaky gut syndrome will cause undigested food proteins and toxins to slip past the barrier in the intestinal lining. These proteins will be detected by the immune system and will be treated as an invader, the immune system will initiate a strong response increasing inflammation and will “remember” the next time you eat the same or similar foods, aggravating the problem over and over again.
- Low Vitamin D- Vitamin D is really a hormone and is one of the most important substances in the body. You can synthesize enough without any dietary intake by direct sun exposure for 20 minutes. Unfortunately with modern life we spend most of the day indoors and especially if you live in areas where there aren’t a lot of sunny days, like where I live, in the northwest it can be a real problem. Every patient I see gets checked for Vitamin D regardless of the complaint. Vitamin D is also an import part of the TH3 system which helps keeps TH1-TH2 dominance in check.
- Blood Sugar Problems– Blood sugar problems are the #1 health problem affecting Americans. Diabetes and pre-diabetes (insulin resistance) are an epidemic in the U.S. and a growing problem world- wide. When your diet is too rich in carbohydrates, especially grains your body over produces insulin, over time the receptor sites for insulin that allow the blood sugar to get into the cell for energy stop responding to insulin so the blood sugar stays in the blood stream, raising your levels. This will also increase your fat storage because the body will attempt to convert the blood sugar to fat increasing your waistline. Insulin is inflammatory, inflammation damages the intestinal lining, impairs gland to gland communication and further drives more immune imbalance.
- Environmental toxins– heavy metal and chemical exposure from pesticides, xenoestrogens, BPA form plastics to name a few; these toxins are found abundantly in our society through products we use or are exposed too.
- Low levels of essential fatty acids– Every cell has a fatty layer around, the brain is mostly made of fat; low fatty acid levels disrupt cell function and promote inflammation. Americans tend to be lacking Omega 3 fatty acids. These oils are found in fish oil and some algae’s and nuts such as flax and Chia seeds.
- Adrenal gland dysfunction- the adrenal glands sit on the top of the kidneys and preform many vital functions including sex hormone production (estrogen and testosterone thru DHEA production) and progestrone in small quantities. The adrenal hormone Aldostrone is involved in salt balance. Production of cortisol by the adrenal gland is involved in regulating the body’s use of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Is very much associated with blood sugar regulation. Cortisol has a big effect on sleep because it opposed melatonin the sleep hormone made by the pineal gland. Your adrenal gland also makes adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) these substances help you deal with stress. The factors that stress the adrenals gland are all the above factors: digestive inflammation, chronic infections, blood sugar imbalances and food allergies.
To address your condition to must first determine if your thyroid problem is auto-immune, certain test as well as symptoms and your response to previous care will all point to Hashimoto’s.
Run Thyroid Antibody testing positive for TPO and TPG:
If the antibodies are positive you have confirmed auto-immunity, if they show negative it does not rule out the condition. There are several reasons for this: Most Hashimoto’s is TH1 dominate so TH2 antibody production is suppressed so there may not be enough anti-body production to show a positive test. Another factor is that auto-immune attack waxes and wanes to if you are in a waning phase antibodies may show negative.
The next factor that will point to Hashimoto’s is your family history and the onset of symptoms. Auto-immunity runs in families, do other blood relatives have similar symptoms, have thyroid problems? Did your health deteriorated after getting pregnant or after subsequent pregnancies. A lot of immune shifting occurs carrying the fetus. Did peri-menopause or puberty bring on symptoms?
The last factor is your response to past care. You initially started thyroid replacement or you were told your thyroid levels are “normal” yet you had many symptoms.
- Thyroid replacement did relieve symptoms at first but now the dosage has to keep being increased to keep symptoms and TSH in range.
- Your doctor has to lower and raise your replacement because your TSH is unstable
- Thyroid replacement made you feel worse or it was helpful initially but know it’s not working
- Your tried natural thyroid (armour) you felt worse
- You have tried herbal formulas and you reacted badly to them
- You have been to many doctors and no one is helping
Your blood work, history and response to care will all point to auto-immunity. Thyroid replacement may be a component of your care plan but it will not be effective as a stand-alone treatment because thyroid replacement does not address the immune system. Tradition medical care does not have any treatment for Hashimoto’s.
There is no drug you can take to reverse the triggers for auto-immunity.
To get help you are going to have to work outside the traditional medical approach of symptom-drug paradigm and test for an address all the triggers. To get relief you will need to find a doctor who uses a natural, “functional medicine” approach and is an expert in addressing Hashimoto’s.