Six Common Factors That Are Destroying Your Thyroid
By Sarah Axtell, ND • February 8, 2015
If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are not feeling much different on your Synthroid or Levothyroxine, I urge you to ask your doctor to test you for the autoimmune thyroid condition, Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that results in destruction of the thyroid gland. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US and accounts for 90% of cases of hypothyroidism. That means if you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyrodism, you likely have the autoimmune form- Hashimoto’s.
Testing for Hypothyroidism
Your medical doctor is likely only monitoring your TSH to assess for thyroid disease. However, simply looking at the TSH does not always catch thyroid abnormalities. TSH does not become permanently elevated until Hashimoto’s is advanced. So if you suspect you have a thyroid condition, ask your doctor to test:
- Free T3
- Free T4
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid Antibodies, such as TPO Abs and Thyroglobulin Abs
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s
People with Hashimoto’s may experience hypothyroid and hyperthyroid symptoms because as the thyroid cells are destroyed, stored hormones are released into circulation causing an elevated level of hormones in the body. So at first, symptoms can include insomnia, rapid heart rate, anxiety, and hair loss. And then symptoms of hypothyroidism sets in, such as fatigue, weight loss resistance, depression, and brain fog.
Conventional medicine focused on restoring normal thyroid function through the use of supplemental hormones, most commonly Synthorid or Levothyroxine. But this emphasis solely on the thyroid in the case of Hashimoto’s is lacking – as this is an autoimmune disease, in which the dysregulated immune system needs to be addressed just as much as replacing thyroid hormones. This will ultimately prevent other autoimmune diseases as well, for once you have one autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s, you are more susceptible to developing another ones. Common conditions associated with Hashimoto’s are: Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple scleorsis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease, Lupus, Addison’s disease, and pernicious anemia.
The Goal with Hashimoto’s is to Identify and Address the Cause:
1. Nutrient Deficiencies and Excesses
- Selenium deficiency
- Glutathione deficiency
- B12 deficiency
- Iron deficiency
- Zinc deficiency
- Excess Iodine-While Iodine is essential for production of thyroid hormone, excessive doses of Iodine can be detrimental in cases of Hashimoto’s.
2. Leaky Gut
When the intestinal lining becomes compromised, gut bacteria and undigested food particles that would not otherwise cross the intestinal barrier enter the circulation and cause inflammation. This can cause immune system imbalance, promoting the an attack on the thyroid. For more info on a leaky gut and my approach to healing it, click here.
3. Poor Adaptation to Stress, or Adrenal Fatigue
Addressing hypothyroidism without helping the adrenal glands (your “stress glands”) is one of the biggest reasons patients continue to feel exhausted, despite being on thyroid medication. When your body is under stress and is in a state of depletion, it will start to shut down thyroid hormone production.
4. Chronic Infections
Various pathogens have been suggested to play a role in the development of Hashimoto’s.
- Bacterial infections- H. pylori, Borrelia (cause of Lyme), Yersinia enterocolitica (an infection of the gut), and Mycoplasma*
- Viral infections- Parvo B19, hepatitis, and EBV* (cause of mono)
- Parasitic infections- we commonly think of these as a 3rd world problem, but I see these commonly in my practice. These can be tested through a comprehensive stool analysis.
- Fungal infections- Candida*
*Researchers have identified Mycoplasma, Candida and EBV as infections most commonly associated with Hashimoto’s.
If you have Hashimoto’s you likely have some degreee of a gluten sensitivity and need to remove gluten from your diet. Celiac disease is 5-15% more common in people with Hashimoto’s as compared to the general population. And even if you don’t have Celiac, you may have a gluten sensitivity that is perpetuating the autoimmune disease process. Gluten causes intestinal damage, causing nutrient deficiencies that can contribute to the development of Hashimoto’s. It dysregulates the immune system. Some researches have found that 3-6 months on a gluten-free diet can eliminate thyroid antibodies, such as TPO and TG Abs present in Hashimoto’s. I have seen dramatic results of a gluten-free diet in cases of Hashimoto’s.
In addition to gluten, other food sensitivities can play a role. Gluten is the most common culprit as a trigger for autoimmunity. But other antigenic substances in dairy, eggs and soy can be problematic. See here for more info on food sensitivities.
There is no doubt that we live in a toxic environment. Impaired detoxification can lead to the development and progression of autoimmunity. The thyroid is especially susceptible to the detrimental effects of environmental toxins. The goal here is to not only reduce our exposure to toxins but also to improve our cellular detoxification.
Common toxins that are harmful to the thyroid:
- Flouride- found in water, black tea, canned food, medications and toothpaste
- BPA- found in plastics bottles, canned food and receipts
- Triclosan- found in antibacterial soaps
- PCBs- found in coolants and lubricants
- Pesticides- used in conventional farming. BUY ORGANIC!
Ways to Improve Detoxification:
- Start the day with lemon water- to promote liver detox
- Get plenty of fiber (through fruits and vegetables) in your diet- helps bind toxins and eliminates them through the stool
- Castor oil packs- to promote liver and intestinal detox
- Dry skin brushing- to promote the lymphatic system
- Herbs- milk thistle, dandelion root, turmeric, beets and berberis
- NAC- a nutrient that is a precursor to glutathione, an important nutrient for liver detox. It has been shown to halso reduce TPO Abs.
- UNDA numbers- a European form of homeopathy that aids in detoxification at a cellular level. Dr. Axtell uses these compounds frequently in her practice with great success!
If you have a thyroid condition and your labs are “normal” but yet you are still symptomatic, find a doctor that truly understands the thyroid and can work you up for Hashimoto’s as well as the potential causes. You deserve to be well and thriving, not just surviving!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.