Millions of people suffer the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction without ever knowing why. Here’s how to recognize and resolve problems your doctor might miss.
Thyroid dysfunction affects our health systemically as any slowing of the thyroid can have significant implications for our overall health. Unfortunately, patients with hypothyroidism suffer from symptoms that are rarely traced to a sluggish thyroid. If you’re feeling blue or unmotivated, you may be prescribed an antidepressant. If you’re constipated, you’re told to take a laxative. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, you’re given a sleeping aid. If you’re overweight and having trouble shedding pounds, you’re instructed to work harder at the gym or consume fewer calories. And even when conventional docs do diagnose hypothyroidism, the drug regimens they routinely prescribe don’t always do the trick.
A whopping 90 percent of hypothyroid Americans suffer with Hashimoto’s. The other 10 percent are afflicted with non-autoimmune hypothyroidism. Its important to know the type of hypothyroidism you suffer from because there are some supplements that are useful in one type but disastrous in the other type. One such example is Iodine supplement, which is good for sluggish thyroid but causes a more aggressive autoimmune attack on thyroid tissue in case of Hashimoto’s or Graves disease. This means that ruling out Hashimoto’s is extremely important before taking any multivitamin supplement or thyroid/adrenal support formula.
The problem is that hypothyroidism is usually diagnosed via a single blood test of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which ultimately reveals little about overall thyroid function. The antibodies that show the presence of Hashimoto’s — thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPOAb) and thyroglobulin antibody (TgAb) — happen to be on the list of thyroid labs that most conventional doctors don’t perform. So, if you’re a hypothyroid patient, and haven’t yet got yourself tested for thyroid antibodies, then its time you get tested.
Many doctors mistakenly believe that TSH over 5.0 is worth treating, when, according to most functional medicine doctors, anyone with TSH over 3.0 has hypothyroidism. It’s estimated that millions more sufferers could be diagnosed if proper testing was commonplace.
Iodine: Although supplemental iodine is generally the correct regimen for those 10 percent of patients who have non-autoimmune hypothyroidism, it is not the treatment of choice for those with Hashimoto’s. Actually, you may be able to cure hypothyroid just by restricting iodine intake in case you are suffering from Hashimoto’s. A study from the Yonsei Medical Journal published in 2003 found that 78.3% of patients with hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis regained a normal thyroid state with iodine restriction alone. [Source 1] If you have Hashimoto’s make sure there is no iodine in any supplement you may be taking for hypothyroidism.
Dietary change: Second line of defense against Hashimoto’s is dietary change. There is a slew of nutritional recommendations you can follow. Start by completely removing gluten from your life. There is no such thing as moderation when it comes to gluten and Hashimoto’s, since even the smallest amount can trigger an autoimmune attack for several months.
Supplements: Eat foods with thyroid-friendly vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, iron, selenium and zinc, and avoiding foods that inhibit thyroid health, such as raw cruciferous vegetables, soy, sugar and caffeine.
Thyroid Medication: Some people have reversed their thyroid condition just by avoiding iodine and gluten. But in some cases, medication is required indefinitely, especially when Hashimoto’s has gone undiagnosed for a long time and the thyroid is damaged to the point that it can no longer produce hormones. If you do need drugs, it’s important to work with a qualified doctor to find what type of medication, and what dosage, works well for you.
What often works is a combination T4-T3 medication. Biodentical T4-T3, known most commonly as Armour Thyroid, for example, comes from dried porcine thyroid. These natural hormones have been successfully used since the late 1800s and, after decades of the prevalence of T4-only prescriptions, are gaining use again. Switching from Levothyroxine to “tried and true” Armour Thyroid has proven extremely effective for many people.