Dr. Chris Heimlich DC, Scottsdale Phoenix Metro Area Doctor Shares The First of 7 Low Thyroid Mistakes Patients and Doctors Make….
Research shows that the most common reason for hypothyroid symptoms is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It is estimated that 80% or more of people suffering with hypothyroid symptoms have this autoimmune disease. If this is the case, why don’t doctors check antibody levels.
Before we talk about that, let’s look how bad an autoimmune disease really is. An autoimmune disease is where the body is attacking itself. The body tries to destroy different tissues inside itself. That is a serious problem.
Now the biggest reason doctors don’t check the antibody levels is because it does not change their management protocol. For thyroid treatment most doctors are going to give you synthetic thyroid replacement hormones, intermittently check your TSH, and call it a day. If you continue to suffer with the same symptoms as before they will be attributed to some other ailment, usually depression or anxiety, and be treated accordingly.
The second reason is that it is seen as a “medical waste” in the eyes of the insurance company. I do agree with the insurance companies on this. Why pay for a test if it isn’t going to change the course of management? The payment for a test that will not alter the course of management is in a way wasteful, but the real waste is in ignoring the underlying cause of the problem and leaving the patient to suffer.
Having no alternative management plan for Autoimmune thyroid, and the resultant medical waste of a test ordered but that has no bearing on the patients management are the two main reasons many Hashimoto’s patients go undiagnosed and ignored in the system.
It is critical to determine if your hypothyroid symptoms are from an immune mechanism. If it is from autoimmune disease, it should absolutely be managed in more comprehensive way, not only including some type of replacement hormone, but it should also include management of the immune systems destruction of the gland itself. A more comprehensive approach by a natural thyroid doctor in Phoenix AZ gives the patient a better chance to feel and function normally.
Dr. Chris Heimlich, DC, DACNB FIAMA Comments:
If you’re suffering from the thyroid problems and can’t get off the extra pounds, we may have a solution for you.
One of the most frustrating symptoms associated with low thyroid is weight gain. Although patients may have several symptoms associated with low thyroid, this is the one they often look most forward to resolving with help and support. It is extremely frustrating to eat like a bird, exercise like an athlete, and still not budge on the scales.
Here is a real conversation one of my patients had with her doctor. (not for the faint of heart)
Patient: “I can’t lose weight. I am exercising every day, watching what I eat, taking my thyroid medication, but still can’t make any progress. What can I do?”
Doctor: “Did you ever see anyone come out of a concentration camp that was fat?”
Doctor: “Did you ever see anyone come out of a concentration camp that was fat?”
Patient: “No. Are suggesting I starve myself? That isn’t healthy.”
Doctor: “You are probably just eating too much.”
How about that for bedside manner? That is the kind of recommendations that some patients are given.
I realize that this is probably an isolated case, but there are many women are told to starve themselves to achieve weight loss.
Now I am the first to admit, starting off in practice I did not pay too much attention to the weight issues of our patients. I felt it was more important to get the body to heal itself so it could get rid of the other symptoms associated with low thyroid, and the weight would take care of itself. My staff had told me that the weight was a very big issue and that I needed to be more sensitive to that aspect of the healing process. I would ask patients how they were doing, and the first thing they would talk about it the weight loss. After asking about their other symptoms, it was common to hear “oh I sleep better now, don’t have brain fog, my IBS is gone, not depressed, but I lost 18 pounds already.” They would forget about the other symptoms they used to have, and focus on the weight loss. It finally hit me, this is one symptom of major importance to the patient, and I needed to address it as such.
The inability to lose weight is often the symptom that prompts patients to seek out low thyroid treatment with their primary care physician. Unfortunately, the inability to lose weight isn’t always resolved once treatment begins.
If you’re in this situation, ask your physician or practitioner this question: why you are still having difficulty losing weight. If the answer is, “You just need to eat less,” or “You need to exercise more,” you should consider other support options and answers.
Although diet and exercise are important for everyone, there are many factors play a huge role in the weight issues.
Blood sugar, adrenal function, inflammation, GI function, and how the body is functionally working all could be contributing to your weight issue. If you are suffering with hypothyroid symptoms and still cannot lose the weight, find a doctor that will listen you, dig deep to find out what could be causing your symptoms, and will work with you to achieve your health goals.
Every week I get several emails asking me that question. I usually respond by telling them that to start off with, I am not a Thyroid Doctor or Specialist. If I was, then we would not have the success with our patients that we have and we would not have all the testimonials if we only looked at the Thyroid. Instead, we look at the entire person as a whole, not just parts, and try to figure out why their body is not healing itself the way it was designed to do.
Many patients with autoimmune thyroid have their gland removed surgically. The problem is that the underlying immune dysfunction is still there. This often results in patients having difficulty utilizing their hormone replacement and as a result they continue to have the same thyroid symptoms. If this sounds familiar, there is hope.
Our approach is to focus on the immune aspect of this so that you can actually get relief of your thyroid symptoms.
So Where Do You Start?
1. Identify and remove the trigger(s) that aggravate the immune system (foods, chemicals, hormonal imbalance, etc.).
2. Quench the existing body-wide inflammatory cascade (with diet & lifestyle changes and specific supplements that down regulate pro-inflammatory processes and up-regulate anti-inflammatory processes).
3. Aid in the repair the GI tract barrier
4. Support the damaged autoimmune target with specific supplements and/or medical hormone replacement therapy (as in the case of thyroid and pancreas damage by co-managing the illness with your medical doctor)
5. Re-mediate any abnormal brain and nervous system function with Brain Based Therapy
It is important to consider that the thyroid gland has major influence in all of these areas:
- Enhances a portion of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system.
- Promotes breakdown of blood sugar, mobilizes fats, essential for protein synthesis, and enhances the liver’s synthesis of cholesterol.
- Promotes normal adult nervous system function and mood.
- Promotes normal functioning of the heart.
- Promotes normal muscular growth and function.
- Promotes normal GI motility and tone; increases secretion of digestive juices, particularly that of the gallbladder and the stomach.
- Promotes normal female reproductive ability and lactation.
- Promotes normal hydration and secretory activity of the skin.
Here are a few more key things to remember:
Bone: Deficiency of thyroid hormones lead to a decrease in bone development and an abnormal architecture of the bone that is created. Generally, a functionally low (which means low but not flagged as of yet) serum calcium is noted in hypothyroidism. Elevated thyroid hormones causes an increased serum calcium, as it pulls calcium from the bone, leading to increased risk of pathological fractures of the spine and weight bearing joints.
Gastrointestinal Function: Transit time is affected directly by thyroid hormones as is absorption of nutrients.
Male Hormones: Hypothyroidism has been linked to diminished libido and impotence. Although this condition is rarer in men, it must be considered in treating these conditions.
Liver and Gallbladder Function: Low thyroid function caused decreased liver clearance and gall bladder congestion through thickening of the bile, often also associated with an elevation of cholesterol.
Body Composition: As you may know all too well, low thyroid function causes an inability to lose weight. This is caused by a slowed conversion of glucose and fat into energy, and altering the way Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is metabolized in the body.
Blood Sugar Regulation: Low thyroid slows the insulin response to glucose following eating carbohydrates or sugar and it also slows glucose uptake into cells and tissues, and slows absorption of glucose from the intestinal tract. In other words, your entire energy production system is slowed. It is quite confounding to your body and brain, in that the glucose is in the blood, but the tissues are not able to absorb it. This really confuses the pituitary gland and adrenal glands, resulting in a “stress physiology,” even if life is good.
Cholesterol: As mentioned earlier, low thyroid increases your cholesterol and triglycerides, so your doctor tells you your diet is poor. You become even more strict in your diet, and the tissue starvation (low glucose, low energy) gets worse, which makes the stress physiology worse, which makes your cholesterol higher, which prompts your doctor to put you on cholesterol medication, which interferes with energy production, which further stresses your physiology…whew! You are frustrated!
Depression: Low thyroid impairs the production of stimulating neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that antidepressants work on. Low stimulating neurotransmitters leaves you, as one of my professors described, feeling “lower than a snakes belly.”
Female Hormones: Low thyroid changes the way estrogen is metabolized in the body, shifting toward an estrogen metabolite that has been proven to increase the risk of breast cancer.
Stress: Low thyroid slows the elimination of the stress hormone cortisol, which leaves you feeling stressed out, not because of “stress,” but because the stress hormone can’t be removed efficiently.
Detoxification: Low thyroid slows an enzyme critical for metabolic biotransformation, or detoxification, the process by which the body binds and removes all environmental chemicals, and normal byproducts of metabolism, including hormones. “Toxicity” further slows your metabolism, and leads to headaches and other toxic symptoms.
Digestion: Low thyroid reduces the release of Gastrin, which determines the output of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, leading to poor protein digestion, sour stomach, and GERD.
Thermoregulation: Regulation of body temperature is affected by low thyroid, resulting in hot flashes and night sweats, which is especially prominent in perimenopausal women. This is often blamed on estrogen dropping, but may be directly caused by low thyroid.
PMS and Infertility: Low thyroid affects the progesterone receptors, making them less sensitive to progesterone, which feels like low progesterone, although the progesterone levels may be normal. Since the activity of progesterone is diminished, the health of the uterus is insufficient for implantation in the second half of the female cycle, leading to difficulties getting pregnant and PMS. Low thyroid also reduces sex hormone binding proteins, leading to an increase in estrogen activity.
Anemia: Low thyroid, as mentioned affects protein metabolism, which then lowers the red blood cell mass, which carries oxygen to tissues for metabolism of energy. Yes, another mechanism for feeling lousy.
Homocysteine: Low thyroid slows a process called methylation, often evidenced by elevated serum levels of homocysteine. Elevated homocysteine in the blood has been proven as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders, and cervical dysplasia.
So if you have had your thyroid removed because of an autoimmune condition, and are still suffering, there is hope for you to get your body to heal itself and get your vitality and zest for life back.
It boils down to finding a doctor that knows what we just talked about and understands that you can still feel crummy, even though you have had your thyroid removed. Find a doctor that knows there are many other factors that play into the health of your thyroid hormones. One who is willing to examine you, look at all your health factors, and help you get your body to heal itself back up the way it was designed to.
Dr. Chris Heimlich, DC, DACNB Comments:
Now before I start getting the hate mail, hear me out. I just had another patient come in and tell me that her doctor had said that to her.
If you are suffering with any of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s, you know that it is a BIG DEAL.
Some of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s include:
- hair loss
- hair thinning
- cold hands and feet
- sleep excessively to function
- brain fog, slow thinking
- dry skin, flaky skin
- occasional HYPERthyroid symptoms
In America the number one cause for low thyroid is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
This means that the number one cause for low thyroid n America is an autoimmune attack. Here are some examples of other autoimmune conditions: MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus.
Meaning—your immune system has turned on you and is targeting your thyroid…and is killing it…. and that’s what’s causing you to be low thyroid.
And taking thyroid hormones will NOT do anything for this attack. You will continue to lose more and more of your thyroid.
But the standard of care for that is giving you thyroid hormones. I think you probably understand now that this not a thyroid hormone problem. That’s not the battle. The battle is an immune system battle; an autoimmune battle.
Here is a good way to think about the autoimmune attack on the body. It would be like coming into my office in shorts. You bring along your dog or cat. And it is just starts biting and scratching your legs, just really attacking you. I look at you and say “Gee, you have a leg problem. Here are some band-aids. Take these and put them on your legs. Here is a script of band-aids for the rest of your life for that leg problem. You may need more or less of them as you go through life. We will check on them every 3 to 6 months.
If I told you this, you would probably look at me like I had two heads. It wouldn’t make any sense. The animal attacking your legs is the problem, not the legs. It is the same thing with Hashimoto’s. The immune system attacking the thyroid is the problem, not the thyroid.
What most doctors are going to do for Hashimoto’s is monitor your TSH–thyroid stimulating hormone –level. They’re going to try to make it stay within a certain numerical range,—but that’s going to fluctuate all over the place and it’s not really getting to the problem.
The immune system will NOT only attack the thyroid, but it will start attacking the cells in the lining of your stomach that help you to be able to absorb B-12. When this happens you’ll end up getting pernicious anemia. Since 80% of neurotransmitters are created in the stomach, you can also get brain fog, memory loss, and other neurological symptoms.
The brain is also targeted by the immune system. It likes to attack the cerebellum. You can end up having vertigo, dizziness, and balance problems.
The immune system also attacks your pancreas and can make you start having diabetic symptoms, insulin problems, and adrenal issues.
Since every cell in the body has a thyroid receptor site, any part of your body can be attacked when the immune system no longer can tell what is friend and what it foe.
When most patients suffering from low thyroid symptoms learn about the autoimmune attack on the body, it makes perfect sense to them. It makes sense because that is how they feel. Like their body is being attacked.
Focusing the clinical management on slowing and modulating the autoimmune attack is crucial in Hashimoto’s Disease. How can you have a properly functioning thyroid if the body is continually attacking and killing it?
A functional approach to naturally supporting and modulating the immune system in autoimmune cases is the best way to help the body slow down or stop the attack on itself. Natural management of autoimmune conditions is complex. Support that is specific to the individual immune system is essential if you truly want to help Hashimoto’s Disease.
You have to find out how their immune system has shifted. Our immune systems have two parts: TH-1 and a TH-2. They are supposed to be balanced. If they are not, then we have a problem.
You have to find out which one of those has become abnormally dominant and why.
Is it because of an antigen? –something that the immune system has been trying to kill for so long that it’s increased its immune attack on this antigen and then it flipped the scales and now we have an autoimmune condition.
Or has the immune system become imbalanced because of disregulation. Hormonal surges can do this. Stress can do this. Blood sugar problems. Inflammation can do this.
So if you know someone that’s suffering with Hashimoto’s, or with low thyroid, and they don’t feel any better – even with thyroid medication – it is time to get them some help.
It’s time to find someone who can investigate this further.
There are millions of you out there right now that have this problem and you don’t know it.
It’s why you still have thyroid symptoms even though you’re taking medication–you have an autoimmune condition (whether diagnosed correctly or not).
And yes, it is A VERY BIG DEAL.
Dr. Chris Heimlich, DC, DACNB Comments
We all know stress is bad for us. There are thousands of books on the subject. But how does it relate to the way you are feeling when you have low thyroid symptoms?
First of all, when you are stressed, you release interleukin 17, or IL 17 for short. They are pro-inflammatory cytokines. That means they are highly inflammatory in nature. More inflammation means more symptoms and suffering.
As I have talked about in many other posts, the majority of people suffering with low thyroid symptoms in the United States have an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It is a condition where your thyroid tissue is attacked and destroyed by your own body. As you can imagine, when the body attacks itself, there is a large amount of inflammation produced. So when you release these other chemicals in the body that cause more inflammation, it only makes your symptoms worse.
Symptoms that are commonly associated with low thyroid or high TSH are:
- Often feeling cold
- Cold hands and feet
- High or rising cholesterol
- No eyebrows or thinning outer eyebrows
- Exhaustion in every dimension–physical, mental, spiritual, emotional
- Dry Hair
- Sore feet
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- painful bladder
- Heart disease
- Hair Loss
- Requires naps in the afternoon
- Raised temperature
- Headaches and migraines
- Joint pain
- Major anxiety/worry
- Acne on face and in hair
- Breakout on chest and arms
- Bizarre and Debilitating reaction to exercise
- Hard stools
- Less stamina than others
- Less energy than others
- Long recovery period after any activity
- Chronic Low Grade Depression
- Hard stools
- Dry cracking skin
- Brain Fog
- Decreased sex drive
- Aching muscles
- Lack of motivation
- Swollen ankle
- Inability to lose weight (even with exercise and low calorie diet)
- Sleep Apnea
- Inability to get pregnant; miscarriages
So when you have any of these symptoms, and you get stressed out, it is like throwing gasoline on the fire.
Another reason that stress is bad for low thyroid sufferers is because the pituitary gland gets suppressed secondary to elevation of cortisol. Cortisol is produce by your adrenal glands and is released when you have stress. The adrenal glands are part of you autonomic nervous system. It is the system that has to do with fight or flight and with all the organs in the body, including the heart, lungs, stomach, GI system, pancreas, etc. What controls the autonomic nervous system? Your brain controls the autonomic nervous system, and the brain doesn’t like large fluctuations in the cortisol either.
Chronic stress can cause elevation in the cortisol which causes suppression of the pituitary and reduces the amount of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) released. I won’t get into all the pathways associated with the brain, thyroid, and adrenal glands because you don’t have to know them. But your doctor does.
Don’t go run out and buy supplements to support your adrenals. That mentality could just rob Peter to pay Paul. You have to look at how all of the body is functioning before you ever start thinking about supporting the adrenals.
The easy answer is to not get stressed out. ….but that is unrealistic.
The key to stress is finding a way to deal with it in an appropriate manner.
Find something that you enjoy and that relaxes you, and then do it on a daily basis. Some of you reading this are probably saying that you love to exercise, but can’t due to fatigue, pain, etc. I understand. There is another key to stress.
The other key to stress is finding out why you are not feeling the way you should. It is not normal to have symptoms.
You need to find a doctor that understands what we have talked about and who can look over your lab results, sit down and listen to your symptoms, examine you, and come up with a way to get your body to heal itself back up, the way it was designed to do. You need a doctor that will look at everything happening in your body- not just your thyroid or adrenals.
Dr. Chris Heimlich, DC, DACNB Comments:
I just read an article on dietary fish oils and thyroid hormones from The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. They discussed the effects of fish oil on thyroid hormone signaling in the liver.
From my other blogs you may recall that 60% of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) is converted to the active form (T3) by the liver. So it is paramount for your thyroid health, as well as the rest of your body’s health to have a properly functioning liver. I will discuss this in greater length in a future post.
Of course cost of fish oils fan fair comes from the benefits it has on the heart. Consumption of dietary fish oils can lower triglycerides and increase “good” cholesterol. It can also slow hardening of arteries and slightly lower blood pressure.
Omega-3 fatty acids are not only good for the heart; they also help to reduce inflammation. This is perhaps one of the most valuable benefits of the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, as inflammation is associated with many serious diseases. Heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, psoriasis, and Alzheimer’s, for example, are characterized by increased levels of pro-inflammatory markers. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil reduce inflammation by preventing production of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules. This may help to prevent serious illness associated with inflammation.
Did you catch the part about autoimmune disease? That is what most people in the United States with low thyroid symptoms have. They have an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. If this is new news to you, check out my other blogs. I talk about this extensively on my blogs.
As if the benefits of fish oil on heart health and arthritis were not enough, it is believed that fish oil also helps with anti-aging as well. Omega-3 fatty acids slow the rate at which protective caps on the end of chromosomes shorten, thus increasing the lifespan of cells.
Fish oils have also been shown to help prevent Alzheimer’s, depression, and other mental illnesses. Omega-3 fatty acids may help to regulate hormones in the brain to help with mental clarity.
Prolonging the life of cells is not the only anti-aging benefit of fish oil. Fish oil has also been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Fish oil has also been shown to be beneficial to pregnant women and the unborn child. The benefits to the unborn child are numerous and include: a healthier brain with increased intelligence; good nervous system development; better eyesight from retina formation; fewer behavioral problems after birth; and better sleeping patterns as a new born. The mother also receives benefits from her consumption of fish oil. These benefits include: a lower chance of developing preeclampsia; a decreased chance of preterm labor; and a greatly reduced incidence of breast cancer. The reason fish oil is so beneficial to the unborn child is because 70% of a newborn’s brain, retina and nervous system are made up of the Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. Therefore, increasing the amount of these fatty acids present in the mother’s diet, and therefore being given to her unborn child, aides in the child’s development of the brain, retina and nervous system.
With all that said, that is why I recommend fish oils or essential fatty acids for most everyone in our office. I know that is a bit of a blanket statement, and you should consult your health care practitioner before starting any supplementation, especially if you are suffering with low thyroid symptoms.
Dr. Chris Heimlich, DC, DACNB, Arizona Thyroid Doctor Comments:
If you suffer from low thyroid symptoms, there is a very high chance you have an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. We have talked about it on other posts. Hashimoto’s is a condition where the body attacks the thyroid. Unfortunately, it tends to attack other parts of the body as well. These parts include the brain, pancreas, GI system, and others.
It is common knowledge that most endocrinologists and researchers consider low thyroid symptoms or hypothyroidism synonymous with Hashimoto’s. One thing you have to realize is that if you do have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, you are more likely to have other types of autoimmune conditions because they tend to run in packs.
There are over 100 autoimmune conditions and this number is growing.
We are going to take a look at some of the factors on why these numbers are growing. Now, normally the immune system recognizes what is self and what is not self. And anything, which isn’t self, is not tolerated and it is attacked. The key word here is identified. So we have to see why is the body not identifying itself as normal? That is the million-dollar question.
A big reason is genetics. If mom has thyroid problems, the daughter is probably going to have thyroid problems and the granddaughter is probably going to have thyroid problems. I see three generations of women in here sometimes from all over the place that have thyroid issues. So that is one of the reasons.
Some of the other reasons that cause this blurriness of the line between self-tolerance and non self-tolerance, well, it could be infections. So now I’m referring to chronic types of things: bacterial, viral, or parasitic. You could have bacteria or yeast infections causing these different radicals in the body, causing a whole different cascade of inflammation to go on.
Other factors include old age, stress, and lack of sleep, hydrogenated oils, junk food diet, physical trauma, and systemic acid in your body.
Researchers are also discussing that pesticides could also play a big role on this too. Plastics and food allergies can also contribute to the rise in auto immune. There are some suggestions as far as vaccines and low vitamin D causing these types of problems.
Auto immune conditions can cause poor digestion. Why is that? Because about fifty-seventy percent of our immune system by weight is in our gut, it’s in our gastrointestinal system. You may be able to relate to this if you have constipation, upset stomach, diarrhea, taking medications for heart burn or other digestive problems. These can accompany other thyroid symptoms like your hair falling out, fatigued, lethargy, cold hands and feet, and depression.
You know what, there are things we can do to test to see if you have any of these things going on in your gut. There are tests that you can do. There are stool tests and there are – some of them out there are really great. Others of them out there, you might as well just save your pennies. They are really lacking.
I’m going to be going over that in another post. I have a new post coming out that will talk about the differences the tests. Some doctors will just do a little testing or they’ll do a different type of test that maybe antiquated – why? Well, they probably just don’t know any better. They probably haven’t done any of the recent research in the past five, ten, twenty years – maybe they haven’t really done anything. They may just be doing what everyone else is doing and that is the problem.
You have to constantly educate yourself as a healthcare provider because there is more and more information out there. You’ve got to find someone who understands about the autoimmune conditions.
If you’re suffering with low thyroid symptoms, you’ve got to get tested.
Then once you get tested, you have to find someone who knows how to help you and how to manage that.
Just taking thyroid medication is just a small piece of the puzzle. Is it important? Yeah. But is it going to make you feel optimal? No. If it did, you’d be out there enjoying life right now, you wouldn’t be watching this video. You’d feel as though you had control over your life. So get out there and find a doctor who understands what we’ve talked about and take control of your health.