Hypothyroidism-Gaining Greater Energy Through Functional Health
Almost 5% of the U.S. population suffers from hypothyroidism, a condition that causes the thyroid glands to underproduce thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are responsible for metabolic rate and temperature regulation so a low thyroid can mean a slowing down of many of your body’s organs, for fatigue, depression, constipation, joint pain, heavy menstrual periods, hair loss, memory impairment and a host of other irregularities.
How Your Thyroid Works
The pituitary gland in your brain secretes a hormone called TSH that stimulates the thyroid to make T4, an inactive precursor hormone to T3, the active thyroid hormone. Most medical doctors only check for TSH and some go as far as to check T4, but that does not tell the whole story of the health of the thyroid gland. To gain a true picture you need to collect symptoms from the patient, run a T4, a thyroid antibody test for autoimmune thyroid disease, check for levels of iodine in the urine and probe for selenium adequacy.
What Do the Tests Mean?
A high TSH with a normal T4 is generally indicative of subclinical hypothyroidism. Much disagreement exists as to the evidence base in treating subclinical hypothyroidism although many functional health practitioners believe untreated subclinical hypothyroidism can lead to a breadbasket of other maladies such as fibromyalgia and poor quality of life. Left alone, some evidence suggests, subclinical hypothyroidism MAY go away. The question is, how do you feel while you are waiting for what may never come? Essentially, ignoring the patient’s symptoms will not make them go away.
Low T3 means the body is not making enough active hormone out of T4. This process requires selenium. And, iodine is necessary for TSH to stimulate the production of T4. However, most MDs, unlike functional health practitioners, do not check iodine or selenium status.
Elevated thyroid antibodies indicate Hashimoto’s Disease (HD). Over 90% of hypothyroid patients have Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune condition that is treated slightly differently than primary hypothyroidism or hypothyroidism caused by high TSH, low T4, and normal autoantibodies. Of course, if the antibodies aren’t run, the doctor does not know if the patient has Hashimoto’s or not and many MDs do not run the autoantibodies.
How Does Functional Health Treat Hashimoto’s Disease?
In a functional health approach to healing Hashimotos Disease, one needs to take a look at all the variables affecting the systemic disorder. Since HD is an autoimmune disorder, other autoimmune disorders may coexist and should be screened for. Such autoimmune conditions include celiac disease which would require a restriction of gluten in the diet.
A 4 step process is frequently used in Functional Health to heal Hashimoto’s:
- Remove: remove inflammatory, infectious, parasitic, toxic food and waste from the gut.
- Restore: the enzymes needed for proper digestion.
- Re-inoculate with healthy bacteria.
- Repair: Provide the nutrients and amino acids the gut needs to heal itself.
Optimizing the diet with enough iron, zinc, selenium, and iodine is also essential to the repair process. With regards to iodine, you want to take care not to have too much, but also must prevent a deficiency. Studies have shown iodine excess to have a far greater impact on thyroid health when combined with selenium deficiency.
Functional health helps optimize your energy levels with proper care and attention to all of the factors in one’s life that may be affecting healthy thyroid function and through an individualized care plan may help normalize thyroid function back to its proper state, in some cases, without medication (i.e. cases of pure iodine and/or selenium deficiency).
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