Natural Solutions for Hypothyroidism
By Sarah Axtell, ND • May 16, 2012
Hypothyroidism is on the rise, and conventional management of the condition is typically Synthroid or other thyroid hormone replacement therapy. For some, this may make you feel better in the short term; however, you may notice that your doctor continues to increase your dose each time you get your thyroid checked. Or maybe you are on thyroid medication and do not notice any improvements. This is because the cause has not been addressed. Doctors are treating lab tests, not YOU.
Gluten and Thyroid- the Connection
Gluten intolerance goes far beyond symptoms in the gut. Inflammation in the joints, skin, brain and thyroid can be signs of gluten intolerance.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid. 90% of cases are autoimmune!
Patients who have a high incidence of AI hypothyroidism also have a high incidence of celiac disease. The link is so well-established that researchers suggest all people with autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s or Grave’s) be screened for gluten intolerance.
The molecular structure of gliadin (the protein portion of gluten) closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin enters the bloodstream, the immune system attacks it in an attempt to destroy it. Antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. So if you have autoimmune thyroid disease and you eat gluten-containing foods, your immune system will attack your thyroid.
To prevent further destruction of your thyroid gland, it is imperative that you follow a strict gluten-free diet. The immune system response to gluten can last up to 6 months after each exposure. Therefore, you must be 100% gluten-free to prevent destruction of your thyroid gland…not “mostly gluten-free.”
Lab testing is available to test whether or not you are gluten-intolerant. Conventional lab testing includes blood tests to identify antibodies to gluten. This is not very accurate, however, because tests will only be positive in cases of extreme cases in which the gut has become so “leaky” or permeable that gluten can pass through it and enter the bloodstream.
Stool analysis is more accurate, for it detects antibodies in the digestive tract that have not yet reached the bloodstream through leaky gap junctions in the intestines.
Assessing the State of Your Hard-Working Adrenals
In addition to assessing for gluten intolerance in cases of hypothyroidism, examining adrenal function is essential with any thyroid disorder.
Adrenal dysfunction presents as hyperfunctioning and/or adrenal fatigue. High stress places a demand on the adrenals for more cortisol, which requires the pituitary to produce more stimulating hormone. While high cortisol is beneficial for acute stress, chronically high cortisol will downregulate the digestive and immune systems, the thyroid conversion enzymes, and the thyroid hormone detoxification pathways, as well as imbalance other hormones, including insulin. In other words, when the body is chronically stressed, it downregulates the thyroid (among many other systems) in order to slow the body down.
Adrenal fatigue usually results after periods of high stress. High and low cortisol levels can also occur at different times of the same day. Low cortisol may be seen with morning fatigue and insomnia may be caused by high nighttime cortisol.
There is testing available at Lakeside Natural Medicine to assess the status of your adrenals. This is a salivary hormone test, in which adrenal hormones such as cortisol and DHEA are measured. Herbs, nutrients and lifestyle changes can provide the adrenals with support to heal, thereby allowing the thyroid to function properly as well.
The Role of Nutrient Deficiencies and the Thyroid
Nutritional deficiencies should not be overlooked in patients with hypothyroidism. Important nutrients for the thyroid include vitamin D, B vitamins, vitamin C, Iodine, Selenium, and Tyrosine.
You can become deficient in these nutrients if your diet is inadequate. Deficiencies can also occur if you have compromised absorption. This can occur from food allergies (ie. Gluten) and/or a chronic GI infection. Sometimes supplementing with the above nutrients is effective, while other times strengthening the integrity of the gut (and therefore absorption) is required.
Identifying the cause of your hypothyroidism requires some investigative work but ultimately results in you feeling well and prevention of further damage to the thyroid.
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.