Dr. Chris Heimlich DC, DACNB, An Arizona Thyroid Doctor Explains:
For those of you who don’t know, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease which causes your body to attack its own tissue which can lead to tissue damage; thyroid and other tissues.
Sometimes a patient wants to avoid taking thyroid medications, or they’ve tried and the medication made them feel worse. One thing is certain – if the underlying CAUSE is not found, the out of balance immune system can and often does lead to other areas of the body being targeted for destruction. Taking thyroid medication is sometimes necessary due to the Hashimoto’s process causing thyroid tissue destruction.
Why? Because with less thyroid gland tissue there will be less thyroid hormone produced.
It is important to THOROUGHLY EVALUATE each individual’s situation, and where necessary, use a holistic and the medical approach together.
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.
Since so many body functions are affected or influenced by thyroid hormones, it is vital that your thyroid hormone levels are in the normal functional range. With long-standing autoimmune attack on your thyroid, those with Hashimotho’s end up with diminished thyroid gland tissue as evidenced by high TSH and very high TPO antibodies (and at times TBG antibodies). In this scenario, it is likely you will need thyroid hormone replacement AND the Comprehensive Approach For Helping With Autoimmune Illness to prevent or reduce further attack on your thyroid gland (OR OTHER glands and tissues of your body).
Here is an important fact to remember: 15% of patients with Hashimoto’s will show up with a false blood test. This means that when tested, they will not have high antibody markers, even though they have Hashimoto’s. That is another reason you can have “normal” labs and still feel crummy.
Properly co-managing your thyroid condition symptoms with medical care and my comprehensive “get to the root cause(s)” approach can prevent or mitigate many devasting consequences to your health and well-being. Choose to take charge of your health NOW!