January is National Thyroid Disease Awareness Month - a time dedicated to raising awareness about the various diseases of the thyroid that affects almost 20 million Americans (and most commonly impacts middle aged women!). The thyroid is centrally located in the neck, just below the Adam’s Apple. It makes hormones that impact body functions such as sleep, heart rate, body temperature, and metabolism. Unfortunately, common factors such as stress, infection and autoimmune diseases can prevent the thyroid from functioning properly and result in impairment of these body processes.
Hypothyroidism (when the thyroid is underactive) and hyperthyroidism (when the thyroid is overactive) are two branches of thyroid disorders. Disorders of the thyroid may be caused by stress due to cortisol, a hormone released in times of stress, interfering with production of the thyroid hormones. Additionally, a leaky gut or food sensitivities may result in inflammation and an increase in the production of antibodies against the thyroid. These factors may play a role in the immune response associated with Hashimoto’s Disease - the most common thyroid disorder.
Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disease, meaning there must be a triad of circumstances that all appear together. First, you must have a genetic predisposition to the disease. Second, you must experience some kind of event that triggers the disease onset. Finally, in order for the autoimmune disease to occur, there must be a partnering condition called a leaky gut.
Clients that come to Great Lakes Integrative Medicine (GLIM) have commonly had experiences at other practitioners in which they are experiencing symptoms consistent with a thyroid disorder, but have received “normal” results from their labs. This discrepancy is because the correct labs were not ordered. At GLIM, we listen to our clients and get to the root cause of complaints such as fatigue, weight gain, and feeling cold by looking beyond the basic labs (TSH and free T4) and actually checking for antibodies to the thyroid itself. This approach is done by acknowledging that over 90% of those experiencing hypothyroidism have an autoimmune disease and that long before irregularities in TSH and FT4 surface the body will start producing thyroid antibodies. At GLIM, we test for associated autoimmune diseases, food allergies, gut health, and nutrient deficiencies and then provide targeted personalized medicine including lifestyle modifications, supplements and pharmaceuticals when appropriate to support the thyroid and work toward reversing the body’s immune response.
One supplement GLIM suggests is selenium. Selenium is found naturally in food sources such as brazil nuts, pasta, whole grain bread, fish and rice. Eating a diet high in selenium is recommended for people with Hashimoto’s Disease and other thyroid issues because it helps prevent thyroid damage and also make sure that the hormones important to thyroid function are produced in the correct amounts. In addition to making sure you’re including enough selenium in your diet, it’s important to reduce the amount of eggs, coffee, alcohol - and avoid smoking - as these all make it less effective.
If you are experiencing any symptoms associated with thyroid disorders, or if you want to discuss possible plans for thyroid disorders, schedule a free consultation at GLIM today!