The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck responsible for regulating, or helping to regulate, a number of vital body functions like heart rate, energy levels (through metabolism), digestion, and mood, among others, through the release of the hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine).
When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of these important hormones it is considered to be under active, a condition known as hypothyroidism. People who suffer from this issue frequently report feeling sluggish and fatigued, and experiencing symptoms such as a decreased heart rate, feeling cold even in a warm environment, low mood and constipation. The slowed down body processes that result from hypothyroidism affect everything from memory and cognition to menstrual cycles to the condition of skin and hair, and many, many other things.
Several things can cause hypothyroidism including certain cancers, medications, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), radiation, genetics, pregnancy, and Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland.
Some research suggests that approximately 90-95 percent of people with hypothyroidism also have Hashimoto’s Syndrome, and many of them are unaware of it. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, yet many conventional doctor’s never test for it.
Because the symptoms are quite similar, the names for these conditions are often used interchangeably, however they are quite different, and it’s important to know from which you suffer, or if you have both. The conditions, and their treatment protocols, are not the same.
Hypothyroidism is a sign of dysfunction in and of itself, signaled by a state of low thyroid levels in the body, while the other is dysfunction due to autoimmunity. Hashimoto’s Disease could not only be the cause of your hypothyroidism, but increase your chances of other autoimmune issues, such as arthritis, diabetes, Celiac’s Disease, and others.
Autoimmunity, in its various forms, is largely genetic, so identifying whether or not you carry the gene for Hashimoto’s, if the disease runs in your family, and determining which factors trigger it, can guide the treatment protocol in the suppression of it.
Potential triggers include viral and bacterial infection, overexposure to environmental toxins, nutrient imbalances or deficiencies (particularly too much dietary iodine), and a microbial imbalance in the small intestine from food sensitivities or leaky gut.
If Hashimoto’s Disease is ruled out of your diagnosis, all of the possible underlying imbalances that lead to your hypothyroidism should be pinpointed and treated individually.
As with any health issue, finding the root cause of thyroid disease is what a functional medicine approach to under active thyroid is all about. Instead of just treating symptoms with synthetic hormones or other pharmaceuticals, holistic practitioners look beyond the results of standard thyroid tests for genetic, hormonal, or chemical imbalances elsewhere in the body to formulate an integrative and individualized approach to treatment. That’s because treating low thyroid is not one size fits all. Autoimmune induced hypothyroidism involves way more than increasing low hormone levels.
If you have symptoms of a low thyroid disorder, or have already been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, it’s important to know if you also have Hashimoto’s Disease. A whole body approach to treating thyroid conditions is necessary for true healing to begin. Contact us today to discuss your options.