Discover your options with functional and integrative medicine if you suspect or have been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder
If you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, or thyroiditis- or if you were recently referred to an endocrinologist, there is more to regulating your thyroid than just using medication. With a functional and integrative approach, it is possible to regulate your thyroid function and manage your thyroid diagnosis.
Medication Alone Isn’t Going to Heal Your Thyroid
Your endocrinologist specializes in your body’s glands and the hormones they produce. Hormones are necessary for regulating several bodily functions including your metabolism, blood pressure, temperature and more.
When imbalanced, you may begin to experience vague symptoms including fatigue, hair loss and brittle nails, weight fluctuations, fertility problems, digestive issues, mood swings, and more. The longer these symptoms continue, without uncovering the underlying cause, the more likely it is to cause damage to the body and potentially develop a thyroid disorder.
An endocrinologist’s approach will likely focus solely on restoring the hormones back to a normal range using medication which essentially replaces the hormones that the thyroid is no longer producing. However, it does nothing to repair or restore the function of the thyroid itself.
And while medication can be a useful part of a comprehensive thyroid care plan, an integrative and functional approach looks at the whole person including your lifestyle, environment and genetics to address the root cause of your thyroid condition.
There is a Root Cause to Thyroid Disorders, Functional Medicine Repairs at the Source
While an endocrinologist is an expert in hormones, they may not be trained in finding the root causes that lead to thyroid imbalance. A functional medicine provider is trained to uncover the root-cause of symptoms, not just treat the symptom itself. This is especially important with thyroid disorders because so many of the body’s functions are impacted by hormones.
Thyroid imbalance is directly related to the immune system and is classified as an autoimmune disorder. To understand how thyroid conditions develop and progress, there are a few things to consider:
- The Immune System and Autoimmunity: Thyroid disorders are autoimmune conditions. The immune system, which is meant to protect your body from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins, becomes disrupted and instead begins to attack itself. In this case, the immune system is producing anti-thyroid antibodies causing damage, deterioration, and malfunction of the thyroid. This affects the thyroid’s ability to produce the adequate hormones needed, either over functioning or under functioning. Because all the cells in your body are affected by hormones, this damage on the thyroid has lasting effects. Understanding that thyroid conditions are a result of an immune condition is the first step to uncover the root cause.
- Poor Gut Health Cause and Symptoms: Gut health and immune health are very closely connected. Often, individuals with thyroid issues and other autoimmune conditions will suffer from gut and digestive problems, food sensitivities and allergies, bloating, weight issues, and more. This could be because of infection, inflammation from diet or stress, and other disorders like leaky gut. The gut is meant to act as a barrier between the food you consume and the rest of the body, transporting the nutrients where they need to go and eliminating any waste product. However, in the case of leaky gut the intestinal walls become permeable, meaning that not everything is staying within the walls. This trespassing can trigger the immune system to defend against these outside substances, causing inflammation in the body and an immune-system response. This environment of inflammation in the body over time causes fatigue and can lead to an overactive immune system that then begins to attack itself – potentially leading to autoimmunity.
- Harmful Environmental Toxins: Environmental toxins, like chemicals in the air, food and water, household cleaning products, and more can also disrupt your thyroid. These chemicals and environmental toxins are foreign substances that are often entering the body through the skin and air we breathe, and can be absorbed directly into the blood alerting the immune system to respond. The more you are exposed to toxins, the more difficult it is for your body to eliminate them and can become overburdened. This saturation can also lead to inflammation and an immune response.
- Deficiencies Selenium and Iodine: Iodine is a nutrient essential to immune function and its hormone production. And since the body does not produce iodine, it is essential that you get it from your diet. However, too much or too little can both have negative effects so working with your provider to determine your ideal levels is the best option. Selenium is a micronutrient and highly concentrated in the thyroid because it is needed to synthesize hormones and aids in proper thyroid function. Selenium deficiency has been found in hyperthyroidism and supplementation is often recommended to help improve thyroid function. Always consult your medical provider before beginning any supplementation as it can also have adverse effects.
A functional medicine provider is trained to look at the big picture of your health and begin to identify where in your body the disease is coming from, often it’s a combination of a few factors.
An Integrative Approach to Thyroid Disorders Includes Lifestyle Interventions
Once you and your provider have identified the factors contributing to thyroid disease and hormone imbalance, it’s important to know you can do something about it. And medication is not the end-all, be-all.
Often your functional medicine provider is also knowledgeable in integrative methods that treat the body as a whole versus individual systems, and can make recommendations to improve your health and thyroid function – often alongside medication if that’s what is best for you.
Lifestyle Interventions for Thyroid Disease:
Studies now show it is possible to recover thyroid function. By improving the environment of the body and reducing the triggers that cause an immune response, specifically anti-thyroid antibodies, the thyroid can begin to heal.
Diet and Food Sensitivities:
- Go Gluten-Free: The gluten protein has an amino acid sequence very similar to that of the thyroid tissue. If you are already sensitive to gluten, consuming it could set off an immune response to eliminate it and thus, also attack your thyroid tissue.
- Eliminate Food Sensitivities: Dairy is another well-known culprit for causing inflammation because the body can also mistake it for gluten. Similarly soy and other foods could be causing inflammation and an immune response. An elimination diet or detox can help identify which foods are specifically triggering for you.
Iodine and selenium, two of the most important nutrients for thyroid function, can be taken as supplements. Finding the optimal level of each is key and can be advised by your functional and integrative medicine provider using blood tests.
Medication that replaces thyroid hormone may continue to be necessary in some patients, even for a lifetime. Using an integrative approach, medication is viewed as part of a care plan for thyroid disorders and not the single solution.
Using a functional and integrative approach, you can regain control of your thyroid function.
To learn more, get in touch with us!